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Fishermen's Journal

 

CHARK'S 
TRIP REPORT

Fishing With Fred - 08/23-26/02

Aboard Captain Fred Leinweber's Lethal Weapon 
- Guadalupe Island via Private Boat

Trip Video: Windows Media or Real Video

08/22/02 - We hooked up at Fred's dock by 9:30PM Wednesday.  I was the last arrival, closing up the shop in Huntington Beach and driving on down to San Diego.  From the dock  we headed over to Hooters, just for the food of course.  But, there was this gal working there that would have made a dandy deckhand...! I made the suggestions, she just couldn't pry herself away for the five days we required.  So, we lost a dandy little deckie.  We'd have to suffice with Ron Deforest, Ron McDonald, Anthony Gioia and Brian Fredrickson on this trip.  These were some of Fred's buddies that jumped at the opportunity to share Fred Leinweber's hospitality aboard his boat, the Lethal Weapon. I've fished with a couple of the guys before, and definitely enjoyed the company. 

Fred and I go back a few years, meeting by way of another mutual friend and fishing buddy Dennis DeBruin.  We had a number of fun trips together in years past, a few written up here and on FinAddicts pages.  The most memorable was Smoke on the Water.  That spelled the end of Fred's last boat, and impetus to move up to the Luhrs.  Back on our first trips I remember Fred talking about his goals, like me he had a dream he was working on bringing to reality.  He's just about pulled off his dream.  Fred had a goal of developing a six-pack charter business over time.  At this point, five years later, he's well on track.  His boat will do the job nicely, very spacious accommodations, nice smooth ride, plenty of deck space for fishing.  He's also passed his skippers license.  So, he's going to be taking on passengers very soon. I have an easy time recommending his services.  You'll find him humorous and lighthearted, and very eager to put you on fish.  He's got some great connections in San Diego, strong private boater background and network of associations that will keep him pointed towards the fish.

 

map2.jpg (66311 bytes) Guadalupe Island is an amazing place. It lies 210 miles south of San Diego and 150 miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.  It's a desolate area, with no one living on the island except for a few thousand unwanted goats.  There is a Lobster Camp village of sorts which is occupied seasonally.  The island creates it's own map1.JPG (115558 bytes)weather pattern, with strong currents flowing around the island it can be treacherous. The fishing can also be excellent for a variety of fish, from various species of tuna, sharks, calico bass that have never tasted the plastics, big hungry yellowtail and a variety of bottom fish.  It's a special place to anyone who's been there, a magical place indeed. 

GuadWeather.jpg (119608 bytes)The island is volcanic in origin, making for some fantastic sights, from the partially blown out crater, the flows of basalt, craggy mountains and sheer cliffs.  It's an amazing place for many folks and critters, geologists, botanists, biologists, elephant seals, great white sharks...not to mention those goats that have done their part to help devastate the vegetation of the island.  Because of the high elevation in parts of the island (islands), the fact that it's the only hunk of land within 150 miles and more of open sea, the island creates it's own weather patterns, vortices are actually created there. Things can get rough weather-wise, and fishing can be spectacular or downright tough depending upon the weather and currents. Our hope and expectation was to find good bluefin, perhaps yellowfin to 80 pounds. We hoped to get a glimpse of a great white, and tussle with tuna! Fred had the boat ready, rigged and waiting for this very well planned trip.  The other boats that joined in on this adventure also engaged in a lot of pre-planning.  Ron checked thousands of pages of information over the Internet, Anthony readied his arsenal of gear, Brian manipulated his day-job and helped get things prepped for the trip, and Ron's brother-in-law Also-a-Ron tore himself away from his daughter's first day of school to enjoy this adventure.  Our group was set, we're ready for a trip of a lifetime! 

This trip benefited from one of the greatest things about boat ownership, the comradery and friendship of folks sharing a dock.  Four boats made the trek, all guys that shared space in the same marina.  These same guys are each others resources throughout the year, sharing fishing spots, boat maintenance tips, equipment feedback... It's a great resource that many boat owners appreciate, the shared commitment to boating and learning. The four boat owners held a few captain's meetings prior to the trip, each planning, sharing plans, benefiting from one another in shared experience.

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 001.jpg (125624 bytes)Day One - We loaded up fuel, lots of fuel, close to 500 gallons of diesel was pumped into the main tanks and four 55 gallon drums strapped and braced in the stern. On this kind of trip you can forget about fueling up.  There's no place to go. You can see the added drus secured to the back of the boat.  These were an essential part of succeeding in our quest of reaching Guadalupe via private boat.  But, they also limited our ability to keep fish on the way down. Heck, what did we care, we're going to Guadalupe, famed for big tuna! Our goal, Guadalupe Island is about 220 miles south of San Diego, and about 160 miles off Baja...a stretch of Baja that really doesn't offer amenities or necessities. We're heading off into the middle of nowhere. If we conserve fuel by running at a slower pace we should be in great shape in terms of range.  For the trek down Fred figured we'd average about 9-10 knots, and see the island after about 22 hours of transit.  

 

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 015.jpg (137969 bytes)Copy of LethalWeapon082202 014.jpg (90114 bytes)Fred made lots of changes to his boat since I saw her last.  For this trip he added a good size freezer, vacuum sealer, extra tanks, helium canister (we're going to run some balloons), more rod holders, and who knows what else.  Space is fixed, limited even on this big a boat.  So, we weren't planning on keeping fish on the way down.  But, we still wanted to do some fishing.  We put out three lines at 1:30, I got my first albacore at 1:35.  After that fish was released, I put my rod away for a time, but we had a pretty consistent bite on the albacore as we headed south. There are a lot of fish along the way, and here's to hoping they all move up our way! Fred is pictued left, I'm grinning on the right.  We released almost all the fish, even including 30# plus albies, on the way down to Guadalupe, except for a bit of dinner... I think it was Ron (Uncle Fester) who said it's a bad omen to be releasing all these great fish on the way down.  The fish gods may not look too favorably to running away from a great bite...Copy of LethalWeapon082202 009.jpg (129129 bytes)

 

At  about 5PM we crossed a great looking kelp paddy.  Sure enough one of our troll lines goes off, a nice size bull dorado.  The fish came off right at the gaff.  That's one we would have kept for dinner.  Anthony dropped back a bait, boom a nice 20# plus yellowtail.  This fish was released, as was a 25# albacore from the same area. Copy of LethalWeapon082202 010.jpg (102868 bytes) So far we caught 8 albacore, one dodo and one yellowtail, all released (one unintentionally).  At 6PM we hooked and landed our first bluefin, this one will become dinner.  Jeeze I wish I'd picked up the wasabe and soy sauce!  With all the stops, we still have a good 139 miles ahead of us.  The cedar plug brought in this fish, and several of the albies.  Brian reeled in the first bluefin, and he's now a believer in just how much harder these guys fight than the albacore we'd been bringing in, and letting go. 

 

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 005.jpg (135908 bytes)Dinner was sweet! Here's Ron (Uncle Fester) with our first bluefin, our first night's dinner. Nothing but bluefin and Gatoraide, and that's all we needed...except maybe some lemon and Dos XX.  This wraps up day one.  A full day's leisurely fishing, and running the boat.  There are three other boats with us, and they're still moving.  All systems are a go.  We've got about 125 miles left before we reach Gaudalupe.

Day Two - One of the boats had some trouble last night.  One engine quit.  There was thought given to towing 'em, but that was quickly forgotten, that wasn't in the plan, and it was considered prior to heading out.  Copy of LethalWeapon082202 020.jpg (125684 bytes)The other boat limped along on one motor.  That's not going to be a good situation on the ride back up to San Diego.  It might have been a good idea to give up the trip for the limping boat, time will tell the tale.  In the morning we ate like kings again, with some homemade burritos that really hit the spot. Brian's wife cooks a great burrito. We started fishing at dawn, were rewarded with plenty of albacore, and a great grade of penguin they were averaging 30#+.  No more bluefin showed on the troll to the island. (Pictured right: Ron and Brian at the helm, no finer deckhands and friends could be asked for than these two solid fishermen and boaters.)

 

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 003.jpg (61183 bytes) We made Guadalupe by 2PM, plenty of time to  begin the task of transferring fuel from the reserve tanks to the mains.  This was a manual pumping job, that took a fewCopy of LethalWeapon082202 021.jpg (139847 bytes) hours time to complete.  We burned about half our fuel from the primary tanks on the way down.  We also got in the mood for the evening by watching the classic Jaws, the first one, and the only one worth watching, again and again... While pumping the fuel we saw a school of tuna crashing the surface. From out of nowhere the birds were hitting the water, feeding on bait pushed to the surface by the leaping tuna.  This really wetted our appetite for fishing.  But the fish were outside our casting reach, and we couldn't move the boat while transferring diesel.  Just as quickly as the tuna arrived, Copy of LethalWeapon082202 026.jpg (126202 bytes) they departed.  We stayed on the hook this evening.  Caught some yellowtail tight to the beach, nice 20# fish, fish with shoulders.  

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 022.jpg (124380 bytes)I brought along a few gizmos for the trip: laptop computer with MapTech navigation software, running realtime with my Garmin GPS12, the best addition to the trip was a Garmin GPS 176C loaded with their Blue Chart data.  The Blue Chart paid for itself.  The detail on these new map products was super, better than what I was using on the computer, better than the charts Fred brought along, better than the Furuno plotter provided.  This new generation of maps from Garmin really made a big difference.  Not only could we see more detail, there were sub-islands missing from the maps that were included with the Blue Chart. Depths, information about Copy of LethalWeapon082202 006.jpg (102352 bytes)shorelines, much better information is available on the new product from Garmin. The added detail gave us more confidence in picking a spot to spend the night, and moving around the island.

 Copy of LethalWeapon082202 044.jpg (102833 bytes)We settled in for the evening after finishing transferring fuel and getting acquainted with the island. , watched a bit of Ron's (Uncle Fester's) favorite movie Joe Dirt  (with him reciting all the "important" lines.  What a character!  Anthony and Fred set up a couple lines for the night.  Fred really did some planning, brought along a canister of helium to use with balloons, fished a couple giant squid.  Along about 12PM one of the lines went off, blew up two of the three balloons when the fish took the bait down. Unfortunately, the fish came unbuttoned, never did get to see what it was.  We also kept one of Copy of LethalWeapon082202 042.jpg (117934 bytes) the albacore caught on the way down to use as CharkBait.  When we got up, we still had the tuna.  Maybe tomorrow tonight...

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 032.jpg (103870 bytes) Day Three - We awoke to beautiful conditions and sights, and a taste of wind.  The islands would make a geologist come to orgasm, fantastic sights, each rock different than the other, basalt, sandstone... We trolled around one of the sub-islands for one small mako, nothing else.  So, Fred made the call to head out about 5-10 miles and work a warm water break that looked to be near 70 degrees verses the 67-8 degree water we were in at the island.  We've seen some tuna here, just not landed any.  We'd hoped to hook up with one of the long range boats a friend had chartered (John Casey on the Supreme), but didn't see the boat.  We heard a radio report a couple days ago probably from that boat saying they'd moved off the island, nothing happening. Copy of LethalWeapon082202 040.jpg (99391 bytes) That's something Guadalupe is known for.  It can be very good, or good for nothing more than sightseeing.  But, the sightseeing is darn good!  I'd love to walk around on the island, hike and explore.  Really some very interesting geology, and the beach combing would be fantastic.  

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 053.jpg (114705 bytes)10:35AM - Weather is building, storm to the south and winds from the north making today a bit tough, and making Fred's call tougher.  Do we wait it out for a couple days?  Time will tell.  The ride back north will be a wet one, would have been anyway, but with conditions getting worse should we give it up a day early or spend a couple days riding it out in a nice cove?  Tough call. But, we're here for fishing, so that's what we did.  Once we got around the island, it did become fishable.  Here's Brian contemplating the meaning of life while waiting out a strike.

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 062.jpg (118126 bytes)Later in the day... We made a trip around the island, found some good grade yellowtail on the troll, some bottom fish too.  White fish, one of the other boats got a BIG sheepshead, saw a manta ray, lots of fun stuff to see, but no tuna. With the exception of last evening we haven't found any tuna down this way.  So, with the building conditions and the lack of much tuna our flotilla is arriving to the conclusion that we should give up Guadalupe and head back up for the tuna. Here's Hank and Phil dropping by to discus our next move, stay and wait out the weather, head back to port, fish some other spots...? Perhaps we'll find those big bluefin?

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 023.jpg (96754 bytes)7:00PM - The debate continues.  One of the boats has a plan that heading to San Martin Island, which is close to the coast, might help out other struggling boat that's running on one motor and no autopilot.  Downside, they'd be taking the weather across their side instead of at the bow.  Returning on our original course will put us quartering or dead on (poor choice of words).  Now my own poor planning comes into play.  I sure should have asked Beth to call my day job and let 'em know if I got stuck due to weather or some other problem.  Next time, I'll take that possibility into account.  But, this time, well, we'll do what we can. We'll figure that out tomorrow morning.

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 057.jpg (115047 bytes)Day Four - We depart early in the morning.  Guadalupe lies out in the middle of nowhere.  It raises to 4000', runs 20 miles long.  It's 150 miles off the coast of Mexico.  The islands create their own weather patterns. The place is known for being rough and unforgiving, with some very difficult seas.  That's what Capt. Jason Henderson, the guy that makes Wildlife Lures, told me.  Jason transports a lot of boats from San Diego to Cabo. When I told him of our plan he laughed, and told me to "have fun." But added, "I wouldn't do it unless I had to." 

It was a tough ride.  Even with all the hatches buttoned down, we still take some water.  This is going to be a tough ride today, maybe we should turn back?  But, with a strong boat like this one, conservative man running her, fresh from completing his Captains License, we have some confidence in Fred's good judgment - even with the blowing seas. This is going to be a rough one.  Forget the camera's, no video of this day, it's too rough to move much.  We've all got a few bruises from collisions with objects on the boat.  I've sprained one wrist trying to stabilize myself while getting some stuff from the v-birth. Can't use my right hand too well.  Took one good slip on deck, luckily I had plenty of cushion on the part of me that hit first.  This is indeed an E-Ticket ride.  If we were in Anaheim folks would be paying good money for 3 minutes of this exercise.  But, we've still got 200 miles to run!

We motored through the day, and headed towards a couple banks which were on the way to San Martin.  There Ron and Brian hooked a couple albacore, and I landed a nice bull dorado.  That's my first dodo in a couple years!  It put up a good fight, until I turned it's head towards the boat.  Then the two speed International did it's thing and swiftly brought the fish aboard.  Conditions were tough, really tough.  I'd hate to be on a boat any smaller than this 40' Luhrs in this kind of water.  Even with this strong boat, the seas are unforgiving.  We're taking a real pounding.  Everything that's not buttoned down is flying (that's not much since Fred really did some serious planning for this trip and Ron and Brian are the best couple deckhands a boat could ask for).  About 8PM we hear on the radio that there's a mayday call.  A 24' Bayliner is taking on water, it's dead in the water.  This raises everyone's concern.  Later we find out the boat's about 100 miles from us, there's nothing we can do.  The Coast Guard responds.  Since the boat is within 100 miles of San Diego and it now appears it's not going down the CC relays to Vessel Assist the distress call.  They'll take care of this one. It's a major wake up call. We're in the middle of serious weather, with heavy seas, steep swell and virtually no period betwen 'em.  Things are rough. We're again remembering the lines from The Perfect Storm, every time we take a wave over the bow, every time we get a roller at our side, every time we list 30 degrees or so because of a wave.  This is serious stuff.  But, the boat keeps on rolling, the diesels keep purring their sweet sounds, and we keep on making headway, slowly but surely.  This is going to be a long night.  We all forget about dinner.  There's no way to stand still long enough to cook up any grub, and none of us could hold it down for long anyway.

Copy of LethalWeapon082202 058.jpg (87880 bytes) Copy of LethalWeapon082202 059.jpg (113830 bytes)Day Five - 4:00AM Monday things are finally beginning to flatten out.  The seas have smoothed to a nice roll, we're making headway.  We're still heading inside towards Ensenada, but we're not going to park the boat no matter how badly everyone wants/needs a shower...five days and we're all getting about as ripe as our dead bait!  We're going to make it.  That will I left with Beth and Tom won't be needed it appears. (Sorry guys, you almost had yourselves a store).  We did come inside Todos Santos to transfer the last of our extra fuel, but we're not going to go into Ensenada.  We're whooped, done, ready to hit the dock back in San Diego and clean up the boat, and get set for our day-jobs on Tuesday.  While we didn't hit the big fish at the island, we did have ourselves a great adventure.  Fred's planning was perfect, his boat strong, reliable, very seaworthy, and now battle tested tough.  While we were all pooped, especially the guys who really did the work on this trip, Fred, Brian and Ron, we were all just itching to get our butts out there again and hit those spots of fish we traveled over and passed up on our way down south.  The tuna are here, and we're again rested and ready!!! 

 

 

 

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