Tragedy averted after angler’s boat capsizes

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Tragedy averted after angler’s boat capsizes
Fishing out of Moss Landing, Joe Surwald landed this 80-pound bluefin tuna on a solo trip Wednesday.

by Allen Bushnell

Fishing for rock cod remains very much a sure thing for boats all around Monterey Bay. Chris’ fishing Trips from Monterey continue to post full limits of rockfish for all their forays. Lingcod counts are going up as we near the spawning season. Other Monterey anglers are going for sand dabs petrale sole and Halibut on the flat sandy areas from Pacific Grove to Sand City in depths of 70 to 150 feet of water. On the North side of the bay, Stagnaro’s sportfishing reports near limits on all trips, up to 250 cod, plus a few lings. Rodney Armstrong from Santa Cruz Coastal Charters headed north on Saturday and reported, “Today we went up the coast for rock fish and lingcod. We had all the limits of rock fish, two nice lingcod, and a nice halibut. We could not shake the short lingcod..they were everywhere today. We also had a couple halibut come off the hook.”
Bluefin tuna are still in the area, but the bite has been very picky. “There are some boats who catch one or two and there are others with none. It seems like the tuna bite is hit and miss but the tuna are big. There are fish in the 100-200 pound range,” says Bayside Marine owner Todd Fraser. Things heated up over the weekend, which might be just a result of more boats out there on the hunt. On Saturday Fraser added, “The tuna were on the bite today in the afternoon today near the Davenport Fingers. There were some fish caught in the morning trolling Nomads and mackerel. There is a boat claiming that they are seeing albacore at 36'54/122'14. The blue fin seem to be getting bigger and anglers are breaking fish off.” Sunday’s report indicate a large group of bluefin are actively feeding on big balls of anchovies, with a good number of big bonita in the mix.
Tragedy was narrowly averted on Friday when a small center console boat overturned on the tuna grounds while fighting one of these behemoth bluefin. Tow Boat US Santa Cruz operator Monte Ash explained the number of factors that resulted in a capsize. “A small boat plus a heavy load of equipment and ice plus six to eight-foot wind blown chop while winding down on a big tuna close to the boat. Add one big wave over the transom and that’ll do it!”  Ash and crew successfully located the boat, righted it, and returned it to port the next day. Tow Boat US Santa Cruz elaborated on the recovery saying, “Luckily, the two anglers aboard were plucked out of the water within minutes by other nearby fishermen.We had to wait for first light this morning to mount a search for the overturned vessel. Once the search pattern was established, our crew located the vessel within 30 minutes, approximately 20 miles west of Santa Cruz Harbor. Working in open ocean just on the edge of the continental shelf, Captain Ash bravely swam around and under the boat to rig for parbuckling. A quick and powerful down swell pull resulted in a righted but still water logged vessel in tow. The remaining two and a half hour tow was enough to drain more water and stabilized the skiff for an uneventful harbor entrance. This is a prime example of how quickly conditions can deteriorate into an emergency situation. These guys had less than 30 seconds to call for help before their boat flipped out from beneath them.” No, they didn’t get the bluefin, and this is a perfect example why boaters and anglers always need put safety first. Know the limits of your equipment in regards to conditions, and wear your PFD with a hand-held VHF radio secured to your person.

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