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The Coast News

The life aquatic with Lick the Plate

David Boylan

Walt Virack and Mark Mihelich with a nice size Yellowtfin Tuna
Walt Virack and Mark Mihelich with a nice size Yellowtfin Tuna. Photo David Boylan

I grew up fishing, boating, waterskiing, sailing and yes, surfing on the lakes of Michigan so I consider myself somewhat of a waterman. My time as a First Mate on a 64’ Hatteras summers through college cruising around the Great Lakes was an experience of a lifetime. Fishing was and still is very high on that list of water activities. Be it the thrill of catching and releasing a largemouth bass on an inland lake or going for Walleye and enjoying this moist, flaky, mild fish lightly breaded and fried up for dinner.

While I have embraced the surfing lifestyle in North County, I’ve not done a lot of fishing out here. That changed about a year ago when a conversation about fishing with business associate Mark Mihelich led to the discovery that he had also worked on big yachts through college and had a boat docked in San Diego and was out on the ocean fishing every opportunity he had. It helped that Mark and his wife Joan are big foodies who enjoy joining me on the occasional Lick the Plate research dinner so it turned out to be a mutually beneficial relationship with good people. And so my foray into the world of ocean fishing had begun.

Our first few trips out were just off the coast of La Jolla, going primarily for halibut, rockfish and cod. While the excursions did not produce a bounty of fish, it was so cool just to be out on the water, seeing San Diego from a different perspective and enjoying the plethora of marine life that exists around the kelp beds. As an added dose of excitement, we were even boarded by the Coast Guard on our way back to the harbor on one trip. I guess they thought we had a boat full of illegal immigrants crammed into the cabin.

Over the past month Mark kept telling me that the tuna fishing had picked up to levels not seen in the area in years and it did not take an overnight trip down to Mexican waters to find them. We finally connected on a day that worked for both of our busy schedules and joined his friend John Thornton and Walt Virack on John’s boat equipped specifically for chasing down tuna, the prized catch for most anglers in the area.

We headed out around 6am on a Sunday morning with a full tank of fuel and a live bait tank filled to the brim with live sardines. It was a 35-mile cruise with our eyes peeled for birds perching on the kelp patties where the baitfish hang out and attract the tuna we were after. Along the way we spotted whales, dolphins, seals and several large military ships so the trip out went quickly.

We ended up with several Yellowtail and Yellowfin tuna and from the first moment I heard “fish on” I was anticipating a meal of the freshest sashimi and Poke possible. While Yellowtail is not technically considered part of the tuna family, it’s definitely sashimi grade and served and better known as Hamachi on menus. The Yellowfin is definitely tuna and the dark, meaty flesh is a beautiful thing to behold…and even better to eat.

Mark filleted up our catch dockside and I was contemplating my Poke dinner. While there are hundreds of ways to make Poke, this is one that I came across that includes avocado and cucumber that really makes me happy. This makes about 6 servings. Start with about a pound sashimi grade tuna steak, diced then add 1/2 cup diced cucumber, 1 avocados - peeled, pitted and diced, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons sesame oil and 1/2 cup soy sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, cucumber, avocado, green onion, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds. Pour in the lemon juice, sesame oil and soy sauce, and stir carefully to blend so as not to mash the avocado. Place this bowl into a larger bowl that has been filled with ice. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. Once chilled, remove the bowl from the ice, and invert onto a serving plate. Serve with toasted bread or your favorite crackers. I also like it with brown rice.

Captain John from the boat we fished on is fully licensed and offers half and full day fishing for small groups of up to 6 people. Find him at and for larger groups and overnighters down to the prime fishing in Mexico go to for a nice selection of options. Either way you do it, it’s so great to be out on the water and always a bonus when the fish are biting.

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