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Fish stories – Celebrating an amazing summer of angling in San Diego

David Boylan

John Park fishing
John Park from Fish 101 with his spear caught 153 pound Bluefin tuna. Photo courtesy John Park

While I did write about a fishing expedition a year ago, this summer has blown that one out of the water so to speak. The photos I’ve been seeing for the past few months on social media of friends with monster hauls of Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Dorado have been popping up almost daily. I had an idea to sit down with some of those folks and get some of their best fish stories from this summer and in general. I included one of my own because this type of fishing is still fairly new to me and I still find it thrilling beyond belief. I also included a very simple recipe for mahi-mahi fish tacos.

My story started out at 3am on a friend’s 42-foot trawler, a beauty of a boat that topped out at around 9 knots, which made for fairly slow going. That made no difference as both Dorado and Yellowfin had been hitting as close as 10 miles off of La Jolla. Plus the slow speed enabled us to troll on the way out. We did have plenty of live bait though and we soon spotted a boil of Dorado, the colorful great eating fish also known as mahi-mahi. Our lines went over and within an hour or so we had our limit. I still had a line in and was relaxing on the front of the boat, thinking of a quick nap when I heard the sound of my line screaming out of my reel. I jumped to my feet thinking I had a large Dorado but the more experienced guys on the boat quickly corrected me saying that’s a monster tuna! And so the fight was on, to me it felt like an hour and it was as tough as any Crossfit workout. I finally got it to the point where we could see flashes of color and the size estimates were flowing…one went upwards of 80 pounds. I was freaking out, this was the fish of a lifetime. And just like that it was over. The line snapped and the monster tuna was gone. I felt like crying but they assured me it happened all the time. There was some redemption though, within 30 minutes I had another big fish on, long fight, and we landed this Yellowfin that topped out over 40 pounds. Cruising back to Kona Kai marina with good friends, my son Quinn, and a boat full of fish was killer experience and a fish story I’ll have for a lifetime.

That said, in the world of experienced watermen like John Park from Fish 101, my story would constitute an average day at sea. John is a true waterman, to the point where he had an experience this summer that still has me in awe. John was way offshore with a commercial fisherman friend who had told him of Bluefin tuna that had been congregating at the surface, puddling as they described it. That is like a dream scenario for spearfishing and that’s what John Park was equipped to do. He had a bungee attached to a float and no scuba gear…if he was going under he was holding his breath. He described the sight as surreal, these monster fish swimming all around him and he got a clean shot off and hooked into a 153 pounder that took him about an hour to land. Not many people can pull that off folks and I feel lucky to even know this guy. He mentioned a 220 pounder being taken with a spear this summer also. I can’t even imagine that experience. Oh, and by the way, if you have not been, get to Fish 101, one of the best seafood experiences anywhere.

Tommy Gomes who works at Catalina Offshore, a wholesale and retail fish distributor in Bay Park is as knowledgeable on the topic of fishing as anyone in San Diego. He comes from a long line of Portuguese San Diego fishermen and knows the history of the industry like few in San Diego. He has been at sea for months at a time and has stories that could fill a book so fitting him in a paragraph was tough. One thing that did stick out in our conversation was the fact that it’s been about 30 years since fishing has been this good this close off the coast. It might not get this good again in some of our lifetimes so enjoy it while it’s hot! And if you have not been to Catalina Offshore, it’s worth the trip down to Bay Park as they have an amazing retail counter and you might catch Tommy Gomes giving a demonstration.

Here is my recipe for mahi-mahi fish tacos. Cut your fish into either one long chunk or a couple of smaller ones. Have three bowls at the ready, one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and one with panko bread crumbs. Coat the fish in flour, then egg, then finish in the panko. I also put some Cajun seasoning in the flour for a little kick. Fry them in very hot peanut oil and until super crispy brown on both sides. For the sauce blend mayonnaise, sour cream, and a half a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Add more of the peppers depending on how much heat you like. I like flour tortillas charred a bit on a gas or electric burner then fill them with the crispy fish, chopped cabbage, and the chipotle sauce.

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