Waterman's Journal

May 12, 2016

Intro to Long Range Fishing: Part One

Red Rooster

Nearly 35 million people in the United States fish, in both fresh and salt water, and that number is rising quickly due to the popular trend of the fishing industry right now. Of all the well-known fishing locations in the US, San Diego, California, may be one most famous because of its’ unique and iconic fishery. San Diego has multiple landings, which are home to hundreds of charter boats that specialize in trips ranging from ½ day coastal trips to 25 day international trips. The fishing trips that these charter boats offer are very different from one another, and if you have never been on one, then you may not know what to expect. If that is the case, then this article may be of use to the fisherman out there who would like to fish a multi-day or long range trip.

Excel Dorado

Types of Trips

5-8 Day Trips

If you’re new to the fishing scene or have been fishing for years and have never done a long range trip, then the best option for you to get a taste of this style of fishing would be to book a trip around 5-8 days. This kind of trip offers the most bang for your buck in terms of the variety of fishing that you will do. These trips will fish a number of locations along the Baja coastline and offshore where you will encounter many species, such as wahoo, tuna, dorado, and yellowtail just to name a few.

excel yellowfin

Two of the most well-known long range fishing vessels in San Diego are the 105’ Red Rooster III and the 124’ Excel. These vessels were specially built to be fishing machines that can travel thousands of miles and fish 30 people comfortably. If you’ve never been on one of these trips, then spending 5-8 days at sea on a fishing boat may sound like it would be austere, and if you thought that, you’d be wrong. These vessels are fit with 16-20 private air conditioned state rooms, hot showers, satellite TV, and some of the best food you will ever eat. The captain and crew aboard these two fishing vessels are some of the best in the business and they are there to make you trip as comfortable as possible. Luxury is the name of the game when fishing on these two top notch operations.

red rooster [The 105' Red Rooster III is designed perfectly for long range fishing]

excel [The 124' EXCEL is one fine fishing machine]

If you’re on a diet then or trying to lose weight, then maybe you should reconsider going on one of these trips, not really, but just be prepared to eat very well while you are onboard. From the second you wake up in the morning till the time you go to sleep, there is always food available. When you roll out of your bunk in the morning, there is a full spread of fruit and breakfast pastries waiting for you in the lounge followed by a sit down breakfast. A few hours after you stuffed yourself, there is some kind of snack that is served up before lunch. Then you go back out to fish for a little longer and then the chef will alert everyone that over the PA system that lunch is served. Feeling like a stuffed pig at this point, you will go out and fish for another couple hours, if you are up for it, and then what most people do before dinner is put away their gear and take a hot shower to freshen up. The dinners on these boats are something you would expect at a formal restaurant because the service is great and the food is of excellent quality. Fillet mignon, seared ahi, pork chops, and pasta are just a few of the many amazing dinners you may experience aboard these boats. If you like food and lots of it, then you will really enjoy fishing one of these trips.

sushi [With the abundance of fresh fish aboard, the sushi platters are plentiful]

Steak [One of the many fine dishes that gets served up for dinner aboard long range trips]

What to Expect While Fishing

The San Diego long range fleet relies heavily on live bait to catch most of their fish, so these boat are specially designed to carry hundreds of scoops of bait because when you’re on those ripper bites it goes quickly. Being able to flyline a live bait is crucial when fishing these trips and having the right tackle to match the bait makes all of the difference. Most of the live bait fishing you will be doing on a trip like this will be with sardines, anchovies, and the occasional mackerel. The majority of fishing will be done with 20-50lb test rigs, so make sure that you bring a variety of setups because fish can be finicky at times and you may need to play around with your gear until you figure out what they are biting best. Having options is always better than be shorthanded when your hundreds of miles offshore, so having two of everything never hurts. Be sure to bring a variety of quality hooks ranging from #4 – 8/0 to properly match the bait, a selection of flouro carbon leaders ranging from 15-80lb, and an assortment of weights to cover all the possible depths you may encounter. This may sound like a lot of gear, but when the fishing is hot and you don’t have the right stuff, you will be kicking yourself that you didn’t come prepared.

alijos [Alijos Rocks are a common place to visit on trips like these. This seamount is home to a healthy population of wahoo]

Wahoo score [Here's a nice score of wahoo caught aboard the EXCEL ]

yellowtail [Yellowtai are a common species to catch on these 5-8 day trips]

The other style of fishing that can be very effective at times is fishing artificial lures, such as jigs and wahoo bombs. You will want to bring a variety of surface irons in an array of popular colors, as well as some heavy jigs for yo-yo fishing. These trips frequent the islands off Baja, which are home to a number of jig eating species, such as wahoo, yellowtail, and grouper. This style of fishing requires a 7-10ft rod to be able to cast far away from the boat and you will either let the jig sink out and then retrieve it, or start winding it back to the boat immediately after it hits the water. You will repeat this process until you get bit and if you aren’t having any luck, just watch the people who are hooking fish and see what lures they are using and watch their technique, as they may be doing something you are not. For those who have never fished the jig, there’s nothing like winding full speed and getting hit like a freight train by an aggressive fish that stops you in your tracks. Make sure to load up on a good assortment of colors and sizes because loosing tackle is inevitable with some of these toothy critters.


Trolling is another style of fishing that you will be doing a fair share of when on a multiday trip. These boats will troll anywhere from four to six rigs at a time while they are traveling from zone to zone because it is a great way to locate fish in open water. Once a fish is hooked on the troll rig, the boat is stopped and the trolling outfits are put away, and while this is happening the people who are not trolling will either cast out a live bait or jig to try and catch a fish that may be surrounding the boat. All of the long range boats have designated rods that they troll with, so it is not imperative for you to bring a trolling outfit. If you would like to use one of your own trolling rods, the crew usually doesn’t mind as long as you know what you are doing.

Marauders [Marauders are a productive trolling lure to catch a variety of pelagic species]

These boats are outfitted with giant refrigerated salt water fish holds, also known as RSW systems, which keeps your catch in a cold water slushy for the remainder of your trip. The fish get put into the RSW as they are caught and then when you arrive back at the dock, the fish are gently offloaded into carts. The RSW system is one of the best ways to keep you catch fresh and firm, so when you get back home you will have pristine looking, sushi grade fish. If you are intimidated to clean your own catch, there are a number of fish processing companies that will meet you down at the boat to handle and process your fish. These companies are reasonably priced and do an excellent job of processing your fish into nicely packed, vacuum sealed bags.

If this article sparked some interest for you to fish a multi-day trip, then click the links below to check out Red Rooster III and EXCEL for more information and trip schedules. If you are interested in fishing a 10-16 day trip for giant yellowfin tuna, then stay tuned for part 2 of this article.

kevin mattson [Pelagic Pro Kevin Mattson and the EXCEL crew show off his 300lb + trophy yellowfin]

Click here for more information on the Red Rooster III and EXCEL