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Yellowbellied Perch Jerker
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Discussion Starter #1
If you are considering booking a trip on the Big E and cannot seem to gather all of the information you think you might need, hopefully I can tell you some things you might not have already known. I have only been out once, but I will tell you what I know.

To start, just about anyone here who's ever gone on a long tuna trip can tell you what gear to bring, so I will only tell you what I took and it worked for me, but next time I will take less, a few different things, more of some stuff and much less or none of other things. I understand that not every trip will be the same as far as tackle or lure requirements, but much of what I took was really not needed at all.

I will start by telling you that the trip left the dock at 11am, just like the website states, and started boarding at 10am. Parking was on the backside of the levy, even though there's a big sign that states "no parking".

We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn in Clute, and it was only 6 miles from there to Captain Elliot's, just past Velasco Blvd. We probably could have driven down the day of the trip, but we wanted to be well rested and not be pushed for time, but we still were pushed for time. Without really thinking about it ahead of time, we (I) booked our room and ended up getting something upstairs, at the back of the upper floor, so we had to drag all of our gear, large coolers and all up those stairs and to the room. That took a lot out of us. Then, we had to take it back down the next day. More energy wasted (I will get to why that's important later).

We arrived at the boat around 10:20 or so, and the parking was full except one space at the end of the lot. We took it (I have a pretty big truck, so it was a tight fit). Then we had to unload all of our gear again and drag it to the dock, several feet away (maybe 50 yards or less). Not a big deal, but it took several trips and it was really really hot, plus we had one 120qt cooler packed with drinks and ice, and it was incredibly heavy.



After getting all of our gear to the dock, with everyone standing around just like we were, I realized by talking to others that we had to go to the office to sign in and get our fish tags. Once in the office, I was told there would be a 25 dollar per person surcharge, which I had expected already and their website clearly states may occur. All this time, the office is pretty hectic, so get in there early and get yourself signed in so you can relax. They also sell tackle and rent rods there, and the tackle they have there is about all you will need on that trip (poppers, knife jigs, diamond jigs, terminal tackle, etc...). It doesn't look like Cabelas or anything but the small amount they have is whittled down to be efficient and, contrary to my preconceived notion, was on par with pricing elsewhere.



On this particular trip, before the crew started loading the boat, the Captain spoke to the group about the complaints they had received on the previous trip, and in no uncertain terms, made it clear that all tackle and coolers were to be stored on the top deck, that no tables were reserved for anyone, and that the only time tackle could be kept inside the seating area was when the boat was moving between spots and people were re-rigging. Subsequently no one in my group experienced any issues in that regard.

Once the boat started loading, the Captain called out numbers. If he called your number, you went onto the boat and picked a spot for bottom fishing around the rigs and reefs and such (day fishing). Then you wrote your number on a bag that hangs on the rail where you chose to fish. This bag is for your smaller keepers. This would be your spot for the entire trip. This spot became fair game for anyone after the final run of the day at the deep water rigs when tuna fishing started. So, being numbers 25 and 26, my friend and I picked our spots and our bunks. Your number does not correspond with your bunk, necessarily. Bunks are first come first serve, but there are enough to go around. Just remember that a few bunks don't have storage beneath them, so if you have stuff you need to put there, like your luggage bag, pick one that has space below it. It's best to carry a soft bag that will mold easily to the space if need be. I brought a bed roll (sleeping bag) and a pillow. It was much welcomed, and my friend who didn't bring one will bring one next time. Since we didn't sleep at the same time, we pretty much made it a community bedroll. In that A/C cabin, you will appreciate it. I also took an MP3 player, to drown out the noise of the people in the galley and the boat noises. It worked like a charm and didn't take up much space. I also had a small flashlight with me because once people start crashing out, they turn out the lights and unless you want to wake everyone up when you have to get something from your bag, a small light works well. Some people actually borrowed my light while I was down there a couple of times. I have a headlamp I use for night-fishing that works well in that situation, but I didn't have it with me that time. No food or drinks are allowed in the galley. Make sure you use the head before you sack out, because it's a pretty good and eye opening walk to the head from the bunks, and although our seas were calm, I can imagine that in rough seas, it could be pretty slick and a sleepy person could fall easily coming out of the seating area. The doors from the seating area to the outside are not held by pneumatic cylinders, so you have to be careful if going into a headwind or if the boat is moving at all, because that door could really get you if you or someone ahead of you released it early.

After selecting our bunks we had to carry our gear to the top deck. Once again, we are expending lots of energy to do this, but the deck hands will help if you are elderly, disabled or having difficulty with your gear. Be careful on the stairs. Use the handrails.

Once this was accomplished, I helped a couple of people get their gear aboard, and we shoved off.

On the way out, it's easy to just watch the land go by and explore the boat, but we had stuff to do. We started using a spring scale to set our drags. Others saw this and got in on the act. I was surprised at how many people had their drags set at 4lbs or less. We are all so accustomed to fishing fresh water. We were not the only newbies aboard by far. In fact, I would guess that there were as many first timers as veterans, probably more. Everyone seemed cordial, we started breaking the ice right away and everyone was comparing gear and getting acquainted with idle chit-chat. Beers were opened all around :D



At the first stop, about 3 hours out, we stopped at a weedline to try for hardtails for bait, but nothing doing. We went on.

The second stop was a reef that produced a good number of small snapper and a few keepers, but the overall was too small so the Captain moved on (don't need to keep killing snapper). Most people were using a double drop rig and about 20 ounces of weight. There was some current, so the weight was needed. This is some of the bait that we would be using for bottom fishing:



We stopped at our first rig and right away people were hooked up. I put a few snapper on board and my friend hooked up as well. That spot lasted about 25 minutes and we were moving again.

We probably hit about 6 drops before making the run to Gunnison for tuna. This run was about a 3 hour run so we all got food and drink and caught whatever nap we could.

Once at Gunnison, being new to the scene, my friend and I really had no idea what to expect. I tied on a diamond jig and he was chunking (using large bait chunks freelined). The Big E drift fishes for tuna, so we get close to the rigs, then set our drift and start fishing. The sun is setting, and the view over the calm water was an awesome sight.



A few minutes into the drift and I was seeing large tuna breaking the surface just beyond casting distance. I ditched my diamond jig for my spinning rod and reel with a Tsunami Surface Cruiser. I made a few casts to the fish but there were no takers. Then, suddenly a guy next to me had a hook up, then another and it was on. My friend hooked up with his chunk bait and landed his first YFT. He was pretty stoked. I should have stayed with the popper, but I was pretty excited and couldn't decide which method I wanted to use. I wasn't doing anything with the diamond jig,and never did get the hang of that jig until the second night. Once you figure it out, it's easy after that. Before that, it seems like whatever the fellow next to you is using must be the only thing the tuna want. That simply isn't the case. However, I found out on the second night, when I was really putting the wood to the blackfin tuna, that other people aboard felt that whatever I was using was the only thing the tuna wanted, because plenty of people offered to my my jig, the same jig I couldn't get bit on the previous night using the wrong technique. I showed people the technique someone else showed me and they were catching fish suddenly. I learned to trust my gear and my lure selection.

Early the next morning, the YFT topwater bite turned on and I got my first hookup. Now I have hammered fish on topwaters plenty of times, but this was nothing like that, nothing at all. After a good long fight and some help from the deckhand in the way of coaching, I had my first YFT. At that point I really didn't want another one right away. That's really never happened with any fish I have ever caught. Generally, if you hook up, you want another hookup right away, but this time I was resting for awhile. In fact, never before had I almost feared the repercussions of casting a topwater bait to fish busting the surface. This time I felt that fear, but I overcame it after a brief rest period.



My friend and I ended up with 8 YFT and 30 or so BFT and several large snapper. We felt it was a really good result from our first tuna fishing adventure (to call it a trip really doesn't do justice to how we felt about it).

My gear choice, somewhat limited by funds and lack of knowledge was as follows:

Shimano Trinidad 30 on Calstar 700M with 30lb Big game, Sampo swivel and 120lb test flourocarbon leader. This was for vertical jigging. I never actually did any casting, but my friend cast his a few times. They cast good but I prefer the spinning rig for casting.

Shimano Spheros 14000 on Shimano Tallus spinning rod, 65lb test Powerpro braid, Sampo swivel and 200lb mono leader. Not the most expensive setup, but I wasn't sure if I would even need this combo, so I went with something I could afford just to get the feel for it. The next time I will have a Stella 20000FA, probably on a Calstar spinning rod. I used this for casting plugs. I caught my first YFT on this setup. Had I not gone with the braid, I would not have landed this fish, because it took me across the bow and rubbed the anchor a few times. I am sure I would have lost this fish on mono.

These were my primary rigs. I had a Calcutta 400, Penn Live Liner 4500 and an Abu Garcia 6500 for bait fishing. I never really used the Calcutta, but I did catch a few hardtails on the Penn spinning gear with a small bait hook and a piece of squid. The sabiki rigs didn't do much. I still plan on having them with me however, since they are cheap and don't take up much space. It's a good idea to remove any terminal tackle once you store your rod on the top deck, especially sabiki rigs, because that's a lot of hooks blowing in the wind, and in the heat of battle, someone could get hooked. Also, before removing the rods at the end of the trip, make sure you have the terminal tackle removed. Too many people moving up and down the stairs, one loose hook could spell disaster quickly.

The fishing ended about 5am the last day, and we put everything up and headed in. It was about a 10 hour run back in, so we got some shuteye after cleaning up and storing our gear.

Once we were close to shore, the crew starts handing out large bags with your number on it, just like the ones attached to the railings during the day fishing, and numbers are called as fish are handed out. We had heavy bags, so that's good. Anyone with a good size fish, and most YFT are kept for pics at the dock. You will be able to claim them after the pics.

The docks are another story. With the dock temp being nearly 110 degrees, the fish won't last long out there, so it's really important to get your fish on ice and cleaned quickly. There are professionals there who clean fish for a per-pound fee. We paid a fellow to assist us, because we had so many fish and the sun was not on our side. This guy knocked out most of the fish before we could clean one of them, he was well worth the money (I believe the price, at that time, was 30 cents per pound gross). Probably 80 bucks to get most of the fish cleaned and bagged. Not bad in that heat. Then we had to buy about 9 bags of ice to keep it cool, and the office has plenty of ice.

One guy almost lost a YFT at the dock because someone walked away with it, but he recovered it. Keep an eye on your fish. It's really really hectic at the dock afterwards, so try to keep your sanity and get out of there in one piece.

We had a room at the La Quinta for that night as well, because we were beat and didn't feel like making that drive back to Austin. This time we were smarter and got one on the bottom floor.

If you got this far in this story, you might feel like we did at the end of that trip! :D

The reason I keep mentioning conserving energy is because, on day one, you will be up several hours and will expend lots of energy fighting fish. Unless you want to peter out early, try to keep cool and drink plenty of liquids. I don't drink alcohol while I fish, so I tanked up on Gatorade and water and always had water with me. I also kept a pair of pliers and a filet knife on my side at all times. Be careful with the knife, as I said, it gets really really hectic when the bite is on.

I realize this a a lot of information (or at least a lot of yapping) but I would have liked to have had more information before my trip, and many people aboard were full of questions on the way out (and full of beer on the way in).

Good luck

Donnie
 

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very good and informative report.. ive never been on any kinda charter.. hopefully i can go someday.. but this really helps if i ever get the chance to go out on one of those charters.

tight lines
 

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Yellowbellied Perch Jerker
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Discussion Starter #3
In all that rambling, I forgot to mention that the deck hands come around with a jar for tips during the run back in. We tipped 100.00 each, because we felt they earned it. I don't know what everyone else tips, but whatever you feel it's worth to you I am sure they will appreciate it.
 

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Senior Mumbler
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Thanks for the great info! I have never been on the BigE but have fished some 12 hr and one 25 hr trip and never was exactly sure what to bring or expect. If I do decide to make the BigE I'll be sure to pull this thread back up. Thanks again for the great info.
 

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Phantom Fisherman
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DMC,

Great report. Your experience was similar to mine except I didn't get any YFT. Seems like I was snakebit on my first Big-E trip. Hope to go again next year,

Phantom Fisherman
 

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fish control my brain
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DMC said:
In fact, never before had I almost feared the repercussions of casting a topwater bait to fish busting the surface. This time I felt that fear
Favorite Quote !!!
 

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Next time you can pull up to the dock area unload your stuff and then go park as far away as you have to instead of having to carry it so far and sometimes there are carts on the dock to help you. Also no food or drinks in the Bunk area. Galley is OK to have food and drinks. Great advice. You did great getting a big yellowfin on your first trip. I hooked into a couple of big ones, but have yet to land a Big one. Just a couple of small schoolies. I'm learning through the mistakes I made. I fix the problem that occured and try again, and keep getting closer to nailing one on the next trip. Thanks for the advice for everyone!
 

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Something else for newbies....

I strongly recommend that you change out the treble hooks and split rings on your poppers for something that is 4X strong. I lost a pretty good YFT because he chomped off the rear hook and split ring. I was told that they can easily twist off weak split rings....and sure enough...it happened to me.
 

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Since I have never been, this was really great information. It was a long read, but the details are what us Big-E virgins need.

Only problem was the pictures didn't show up. At least, they didn't show up for me.
 

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2Cool Sponsor
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Hey DMC- Excellent report and perspective and thanks for sharing!

What are some of the things that you won't take next time and the things you will take next time.

BTW, I'm glad to see you mention a next time!
 

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F.Y.I. I had 4x strong 4/0 trebles from FTU (VMC) I think and had one straightened with only 80 pound line when the fish started diving towards the bottom when he got along side the boat. It was strong enough to pull him in to the boat when he got scared he took off and was ripping line and eventually straightened the hooks. One of the problems I fixed is not using those hooks again. I will go with the assist hooks from now own on my jigs. If you have to use these treble hooks 22lbs. of drag will straighten them. Lighten up on the drag if using them it may save you a fish! SPRO split rings are good ones. I never had a problem with them. Just make sure they match the size tackle you are using i.e. 80# 150# etc. Good luck
STxFisherman said:
Something else for newbies....

I strongly recommend that you change out the treble hooks and split rings on your poppers for something that is 4X strong. I lost a pretty good YFT because he chomped off the rear hook and split ring. I was told that they can easily twist off weak split rings....and sure enough...it happened to me.
 

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Higher Ed Honk
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Thanks, DMC

D, that's a very helpful post. I look forward to having the shwag to go on one of these trips...
 

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Yellowbellied Perch Jerker
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Discussion Starter #19
Bluewater Dawg said:
Next time you can pull up to the dock area unload your stuff and then go park as far away as you have to instead of having to carry it so far and sometimes there are carts on the dock to help you. Also no food or drinks in the Bunk area. Galley is OK to have food and drinks. Great advice. You did great getting a big yellowfin on your first trip. I hooked into a couple of big ones, but have yet to land a Big one. Just a couple of small schoolies. I'm learning through the mistakes I made. I fix the problem that occured and try again, and keep getting closer to nailing one on the next trip. Thanks for the advice for everyone!
Thanks for the correction, I initially wrote that, but in my editing I somehow deleted it. Food is allowed in the galley! :D
 

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Great Post , I might just have to try one of these trips. Might just be more fun than cutting up Shrimp Boats in the summer with Mont and crew. LOL


Jim
 
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