By: Danny Jackson
The year 2014 has turned out to be what many are calling a “Mega El Nino” condition; one that we have not experienced since 1983. Yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, dorado and other exotic pelagic game fish have been abundant all summer and will continue well into the fall. For avid Southern California offshore fishermen this year has become a dream come true.
Capt. James Nelson has established himself as “The Fish Icon in San Diego” in and around the harbor area. We have produced several episodes of Angler Chronicles with “Cap’n James” and all have been epic shows with lots of bent rod action. James is definitely the real deal in the border city and a pleasure to fish with. A very hospitable and polished professional.
Recently, I had a chance t fish again with Cap’n James. This time was not so much to film for Fox, but to try to get out and enjoy some of this outrageous fishing and with my long time dear friend, Yoshi Sato. For me personally, I have caught just about everything there is to catch from Alaska to Central America. But even though my friend, Yoshi, loves to fish, he has little time for it and most of our fishing has been for small fish. So, for several years I have been on a mission to get him hooked up with a fish that really pulls back.
Yoshi and were greeted by Cap’n James at the Shelter Island launch ramp at 6 a.m. He had his 22 foot Skeeter center console and Yamaha 250 4-Stroke ready to go. We left the ramp and headed straight to the bait receivers and loaded up with plenty of live sardines.
On the way out of San Diego Harbor, James asked Yoshi, “do you want to catch a fish right now? Like in right now?” Yoshi answered in the affirmative so James pulled us right up close to the very south east corner of the point where the birds were working feverishly. We immediately caught and released lots of short barracuda, bonito and mackerel. Fun for all but we had to be on our way for bigger game.
James told me he wanted to first try a spot 18 miles west of Point Loma that had produced yellowfin the day before. He punched in the numbers on his Lowrance HDS GPS and we were on our way.
We were only about 4 miles short of our destination when we spotted a couple of bird schools. I have to admit I was very excited to see this because I had not yet been out for YFT’s this summer. But the fish were small and not really on the chew. We tried looking around this area for close to an hour with no success and it was a little too bumpy to try to go further.
One thing about fishing with James Nelson is he will always have a plan B and if necessary a plan C. On this day, plan B was to look for kelp paddies on the way back to shore. But kelps were few and far between and the ones we did find were not holding. So now we’re going for plan C.
Plan C was to fish the Point Loma kelp beds on the west facing side of the point. And plan C turned out to be the winner. James had a ridge that he has fished for years and it only took a few minutes to get right on it “anchored” with his Minn-Kota iPIlot Trolling Motor. Nice indeed !
It was only a matter of minutes before we got into the huge calicos. Understand that my buddy, Yoshi had only caught small calico’s before this trip. A “barely legal” would have been big. Yoshi’s first calico was more than 4 pounds. And there were many more to follow along with big Bonito and a few barely short Barracuda. All of these fish were relased.
We also hooked into some small yellowtail which instantly became a neat afternoon snack for the local sea lions. Frustrating to say the least. But hey, life goes on.
Then I hooked a small yellow (about 8 pounds) and told James this one will not go to the seals. I hammered down the drag and started short pumping it to the boat. I was either going to break it off or deck it. And deck it we did. Thanks James!
James then moved his Skeeter a little further to the south hopefully to get away from the sea lions. Yoshi and I each tossed a fresh lively sardine toward the back of the boat and I instantly got bit. I said “Here ya go Yosh. I’ll trade ya.” And the fight was on.
I immediately picked up my video camera and started shooting an epic fight. Yoshi was doing battle with the biggest fish of his life. Being a novice at pulling on big fish, Yoshi listened intently as Cap’n James gave Yoshi plenty of good advice on how to fight a fish this size. After about a 15 minute battle, we could see it was a huge forky.
Having fished Alaska and British Columbia on many occasions for huge King Salmon, I had become quite familiar with the netting of big fish. In fact, I have often wondered why nets are not more popular among southern California private boaters. They only make sense. No meat is damaged if you want to keep the fish or you can release it unharmed. I was very impressed with what I saw next.
When Yoshi’s big “Mossback” was almost to the boat, James reached for his Promar 501 net and into the net the fish goes. A work of art I thought. A quality 24 pound yellowtail. Nice!
I have been fascinated by yellowtail ever since I was a teenager fishing out of San Diego in the ’50s. I love to watch them in the water, to do battle with them and most of all I love to see them come over the rail and onto the barby. I’m sure I have caught a thousand or more yellowtail in my lifetime but I was never more pleased to see one come over the rail than I was with Yoshi’s. The monkey is off our bac! Big fish for Yosh!! You can watch the video at vimeo.com/anglerchronicles. Or check out Angler Chronicles on Facebook.
Our sincere thanks to Capt. James Nelson for yet another incredible day on the ocean. If you’re looking for the perfect bay or inshore fishing charter in the San Diego area then James is your skipper. Cap’n James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (619) 395-0799.
Danny Jackson is the producer of Angler Chronicles on Fox Sports West.