Ken's Independence Trip



8 Day Long Range Trip on the Independence Summary

(not to be confused with the U.S.S. Indianapolis)

May 23rd-May 31st

Saturday, May 23rd

After a day of preparation, fresh line and a few extra hooks, I loaded up my Dad’s SUV with 11 rods, a reel bag, 2 tackle boxes, an ice cooler filled with 3 x ½ gallons of Lactaid, a large duffle bag filled with clothes and extra tackle, a pair of boots and a back pack filled with odds and ends.  One would have thought I was going on a 16 day trip as I have always been know to bring too much in lieu of too little.  As it turns out, this was the type of trip that you wanted to bring lots of extra gear.  I arrived at the dock at about 9:20 for the 12:00 noon departure to find out that I was only 1 of 4 people who hadn’t checked in and were not on the boat.  It turns out that some people had been at the docks since 5:00AM.  I had better things to do like sleep in the morning and give my nearly 3 year old daughter Amelia a fond farewell.  Given that this was the Independence’s first trip of the year, all were eager to leave the dock early. 

As it turns out that at 10:00, only 1 passenger was not on board.  There is always one isn’t there?  Later in the trip, I learned that it was long range veteran Jason Hong who under the guise of returning his rental car, snuck off to a Korean market for some last minute tasty refreshments (Sake, rice wine and various Korean delicacies).  In any case, Jason returned safely and we motored away at 11:00 AM to the bait dock. 

One benefit of taking an early trip was that the bait had been sitting in the bait dock for a while curing.  We filled two huge slammers with some beautiful sardines in addition to the bait tanks up high.  I did note a few small mini macs and a handful of very fresh looking anchovies mixed in.  After 2 hours at the bait dock, we cleared “the point” just after 1:00PM. 

Captain Jeff Debuys introduced his crew of Kyle, Frankie, Jesus, Dave, Justin along with cooks Tom and Ed.  Next up was the obligatory fishing seminar on how not to farm fish along with the proclamation that Jeff predicted tangles as they have happened on every trip in the past 30 years.  He was right. 

The game plan was to “straight line it” to the Alijos Rocks (a volcano upcroping about 450 miles south of San Diego that sit 200 miles offshore).  The good news was that the Shogun had been there 1 month prior and had 66 degree water with good fishing.  The hope was that the water would be blue, warmer and with eager fish.  We were also introduced to photographer Barry Wiggins who has worked out a sweet heart deal and provides professional photography services to the clients on the boat.  Basically, he helped with a few odds and ends and took pictures (for purchase) the entire trip. 

After the seminar, trip sponsor Dick Shaffer owner of Purfield’s Pro Tackle in Marina Del Rey gave out tackle goodie bags and embroidered hats to all on board in addition to having a separate tackle raffle.  Dick bought Purfields a couple of years after we moved to San Diego and we frequently bought various odds and ends pre-Dick.  As it turns out, I was bunking with Dick and an older gentleman named Jeff who was a pilot.  While I had been assigned one of the lower bunks, I gave it up as neither one of them would have had an easy time climbing the upper bunk.  Fortunately, both traveled very light, because I was armed with a stateroom full of crap. 

That evening we had a beautiful prime rib dinner while watching my beloved Lakers on satellite.  Unfortunately, the satellite took a crap during the game and that was the last we saw of it the rest of the trip. 

That evening I woke to what I thought was a lumber yard dream.  Alas, it was Dick sawing wood so awful, that it penetrated my ear plugs.  Unable to sleep, I went to the galley at 1:30AM and watched the movie “Norbit” starring Eddie Murphy and Eddie Murphy.  It was pretty dumb and probably will not make anyone’s top 10 list.

Sunday, May 24th

We woke to great weather, calm seas.  I immediately put my black and purple cedar plug in the water after downing a hearty breakfast.  As it was, I was on trolling team 1.  Dick also sent a black and purple jet head out down the middle and damn if he didn’t get bit at 7:30 AM on a 20+ pound albie.  As it turns out, this would be the only fish of the day.  Basically, we had the entire day to tune our tackle. 

Jason and his Canadian contingent had some of the nicest collection of reels that I have seen.  Avet reels, Accurate boss reels and Tiburon smart shifts made up the collections.  Everything was impeccably packed, marked and organized.  All reels were filled with spectra to be completed with top shots.  I searched in vain the entire trip for a single mark of corrosion and I am still searching.  Tackle bags were beautifully organized, it was like looking at a Henry Ford assembly line in harmony.  Upon surveying the rest of the tackle and anglers, it was apparent that the trip had a strong contingent of anglers with excellent tackle.  I only spied a few potential farmers on a crew of 31 anglers. 

My other note is that I managed to land myself on a boat load of smokers.  From young to old, there must have been a dozen smokers.  As I came to learn, some managed to keep their cigarette lit even while they fought their tuna.  My other great discovery of the day was that I discovered that my electric shaver accidentally discharged during the boarding process and I didn’t bring the charger.  To the rescue came Jason who had a shaver and was trying to sport a gotee during the trip.  No shaving cream though so I used the soap dispensers in the bathroom.  Given that I break out pretty bad, it saved me big time. 

Monday, May 25th

Memorial Day.  We awoke once again to calm seas and 66 degree blue water that was inching up by the mile.  An air of anticipation filled the deck as everyone double and triple checked drags, hooks, etc.

By 9:30 AM, the rocks were sighted from afar and we expected our arrival by 11:00 AM.  Up nearing the rocks, we decided to troll and look around for fish signal.  Within 5 minutes, we had a double on very nice tuna on the troll.  One of the two females on the trip Jenny Smith fishing with her father Charlie hooked a nice bait fish along with tackle shop ace Chris Wise who was fishing with his father Alan.  Several of us hooked yellowtail including myself and I tagged my first of many 15 pound yellowtail.  Since we were still on the slide, we drifted precariously close to the rocks.  At one point, I viewed an underwater rock below the surface and Jeff had to slowly motor the boat away. 

Chris and Jenny both got their fat 50+ pound tuna after long fights.  Chris loved using “the rail” and Jenny really put the wood to her fish. 

One small anecdote.  Jenny used to fish with Buzz Brizendine on the Prowler for many years and was his cook for 2 years as well.  She was a very well-seasoned angler.  As many of you know, I have ridden the Prowler more than any other boat and Buzz was a great mentor to her. 

Back to the fishing, we anchored up on the chosen spot and almost immediately, we started hanging fish.  As the afternoon wore on, the fishing only got better.  From the onset, hordes of yellowtail hung out under the boat eating anything in sight.  Unfortunately, some of the “rats” or “shakers” were good at wrapping around bigger fish and causing terrible tangles.  I grabbed my iron and went to the bow and every drop was a fish on the drop or on the retrieve.  On the second drop, I tied into a very good fish.  Unfortunately, the fish worked to the back and somebody sawed me off after 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, the tuna started foaming off the back and boiling everywhere.  I heard Jenny and her father remark that they had 5 tuna on the boat.  Meanwhile, I couldn’t get bit on the tuna.  Nearly every cast I would be bit and another yellowtail would grab the bait.  Some big, some bigger.  Finally, after 11 yellowtail in a row, I finally hooked a tanker tuna, 45+ pounds. 

Soon, they announced first call for lunch.  Who the hell eats in a bite like that?  Anyways, I went to rest, had a half a sandwich and downed some fluids.  From there, the bite got silly, I land a couple more tuna and then tuna started just sitting off the starboard corner about 50 feet back munching on the chum.  The guys with the long rods and Salas 7X and 4X lights started tossing them and the fish absolutely blew up on them every cast.  After a while of watching them, I threw my 7X jig on 40lb out there with my Sumo Special/Blue Accurate Reel combo.  Crappy cast with a few loops of line on the reel that came free.  No matter, before I turned the handle, a tuna inhaled the jig and I got my first tuna ever on the skip (sort of) jig.  I decided that I had enough embarrassing casts and went back to a mix 30, 40 and 50lb and ended up with 11+ tuna to 55lbs for the day (I lost track) in addition to near limits of tagged yellowtail (I had over 20 yellows between tagged and released). 

Later in the day, I hooked a big yellowtail on a fly lined ‘dine that swam deep.  The yellow slowly peeled off line and rocked me on 50lb.  By the time we finished, there was only 4-5 people fishing on the stern at a time, because the rest were too tired or hooked up along the sides of the boat.  About 6:00PM, the bite shut down and they quit chumming (or they quit chumming and it shut down).  Everyone looked like they had been through a war and the tackle looked worse.  The boat had tagged over 300 tuna and 300 yellowtail in 7 hours of fishing.  It is rare that I have described fishing as Epic, but this was one of those days.  The only thing I can compare it to was the 35 marlin that Daniel, Mike and I released in 6 hours of fishing at Cabo a couple of years ago.  Needless to say, it looked like everyone had been through a war.  Blood was everyone, reels were destroyed.  I got an ulcer on one of my fingers on my cranking hand from knicking it against the star controlling the drags.  There were so many saw offs that a couple of my reels were left with 20 yard top shots.  I ended up taking our Avet 30 and stripping the 30lb top shift and replacing it with a 50lb top shot and moving it to another rod, I replaced a 40lb top shot on another reel and moved the 30lb line to the 25lb torium reel.  Half the boat looked like it could barely move, the other half couldn’t move at all.  I have no idea what I ate for dinner, only that I ate pre-shower and I was filthy.  I also only know that I could barely close the stateroom door that evening and I don’t think that Dick woke me up for at least 4 hours with his snoring.


Tuesday, May 26th

Despite being told that we would be awoken to catch bait, nobody awoke us.  A couple of guys stayed up late catching bait and put 100-150 pieces in the well ranging from smallish to fatsos.  Chris was one of the guys catching bait and threw one out on 50lb and then rather pedestrian like quietly wound in a yellowtail that later hit the scale at 50.5 pounds back at the docks (biggest yellow for the trip).  He managed another that was 40+ on the big baits that AM.  I more or less fished for tuna and shook off rat yellowtail and tagged a few bigger units.  I could barely move my lifting arm and decided to throw out a bait first thing so that I could actually hook something to stretch out my arm.  It didn’t take long to hook a decent fish that did the trick.  I think I managed 4-5 tuna for the day and plenty of yellows.  I dumped several tuna in a row right after hook set, which I can only attribute to some bad line possibly due to all the burn offs, knicks and tangles.  The skip jig only had a couple of fish taken on it.  The boat had a “slow” day for 125+ tuna and 125+ yellows.  Normally, that would be a very good day at the Alijos Rocks as the bite can be touchy.  The highlight was when we decided to move to the shallows for the night to fish yellows and catch bait.  Upon kicking the boat forward, the bait that had been congregating all day slid out and there was a full on foamer going behind the boat.  Daniel would have been proud.  A couple more tuna got landed and I had enough and merely just watched the foray.  Upon setting up on the shallows, several people got rocked on yellows while fishing the iron.  Due to my roommate waking up the boat with his snoring that night, I got up at 1:30 and fished bait until 3:15 catching 150+ pieces myself.  Bait was from mini sized to jumbo 2+ pound sized scads.


Wednesday, May 27th

Hell if the bait catching karma didn’t work first thing in the morning for me.  The first big bait I threw out landed me an 18 pound yellow.  The 2nd bait got me a 25-28 pound yellow and the third one got me my biggest yellow ever at 38 ½ pounds (as weighed at the dock).  I fished one more big bait for naught and managed a couple more tuna.  1 was a good one and the other was a paltry 25 pounds that I released.  At about 11:00, we were pretty much limited out on yellows and tuna and the captain pulled anchor at 11:30 and decided to go to a heralded grouper spot.  We set up on a spot 380 feet or so with 80lb dropper loops.  Jason dropped down right next to me and got hammered.  He deftly brought the fish off the rocks and then coasted it in from ½ way up when its bladder got full.  At the docks, it weighed 45 pounds.  4 others got nice grouper from 15-30 pounds and then someone got a yellowtail on a jig.  I decided that I had enough and started cranking up when about 25 feet off the bottom, my pole got heavy all of a sudden.  I couldn’t believe my luck that I nailed one cranking off the bottom.  Unfortunately, the sucker fought all the way to the surface and as it got close it turned out to be a 30+lb yellowtail that I had to fight 350 feet to the surface.  It made for a nice picture and is the one in the trip DVD.  We took off at 1:00 or so from the Rocks and from there, the plan was to go to Cedros Island and fish for White SeaBass, fish offshore on Friday and Halibut on Saturday at San Martin.  That night, I huddled in the Captain’s bridge and listened to the Lakers take a 3-2 series lead against the tattoo studded Nuggets.


Thursday, May 28th

We awoke once again to stellar weather.  I don’t think we ever hit 15 knots of wind the entire trip.  Overnight, the game plan changed as Cedros was said to be cold and we decided to go to San Benitos, which is further West.  We arrived mid-morning and anchored up on a spit mid-island.  Yellowtail fishing took a little bit of work and several nicer ones were landed.  I only really half ass fished, because I didn’t need any more fish.  Of course, when I would get bit, I kept getting Calico bit and suckers kept diving for the kelp.  About noon, there was no wind and the captain decided to make a move to his secret Red Snapper spot West of San Benitos.  Would you believe that I actually had a 2 hook shrimp fly gagnion with me.  I attached a glow in the dark Salas PL-68 that I specially brought for such an occasion.  I also had the foresight to bring 2 packages of Berkeley Gulp (the slimy baits that are said to work good for cod).  Well, I never actually pinned on a sardine the entire time.  On the first drop, I got hammered on the jig with a really nice red.  2 or 3 times I had 3 fish on the hooks and jig.  Unfortunately, a couple of boccacio climbed on and I donated those.  I think I ended up with a dozen snapper or so.  It was the most wide open snapper fishing on quality reds that I have ever seen.  1 cow cod and 2 ling cod also came over the rail before we moved back to the Island.  We fished a couple more spots.  On the last stop, I decided to fish the big baits.  I pinned on 2 of those 2 pound Spanish mackerel and would you believe I caught 2 calico bass on them.  The bass were barely bigger than the mackerel.  During the day, someone managed to catch a bonito.  Daniel would have been thrilled.  Jason made short work of it carving it up and the table had fresh bonito sushi.  It is the second time that I have had it and it was quite good.  It needs to be bled and chilled immediately and it was quite tasty.  On the last spot, we anchored up for the night.  I tied on a seabass jig and was bouncing it around in hopes of finding a nice seabass.  On the flop, I actually got bit and it turned out to be a 15-20lb yellow.  That evening, a gentleman named Bill was fishing and hooked a tanker yellow that took him around the boat and weighed in at 47+ pounds.  Alex the Dentist also got a nice one that was over 35 pounds.


Friday, May 29th

After leaving San Benitos at 4:00AM, we worked offshore 25 miles to the West where a seiner was seen working previously.  We managed one albie off a meter mark and then we managed a single jig strike and a bait fish shortly thereafter.  We worked the area a bit for a few stops on single albacore meter marks.  What does it mean to meter “a single albacore?”  After crapping around we worked North and at 6:00PM, we got a couple of short bites and then my roommate Jeff got a 18 pound BFT on the troll.  Charlie managed a sole baitfish and that was it for the excitement of the day.  Next stop, San Martin Island.


Saturday, May 30th

We arrived at San Martin Island at around 1:00AM or so.  I got up and jigged a few times with no action.  At 6:30 AM, we pulled anchor and began drifting on the Southeast side of San Martin.  We had a wonderful meal of Eggs Benedict that my father would have surely enjoyed.  Each drift, we would get 1-3 bites and slowly halibut came over the rail.  Midmorning, someone hooked a nice one and one of the resident fur balls took off with a 20 pounder and scarfed it down.  Meanwhile, I could not buy a bite with 30lb fluorocarbon.  I worked the front, the back and the side with no luck.  Of course, I was the only one who had those flat halibut sinkers with a special rig.  A lot of good that did.  At 2:00, the captain announced 1 more drift with only 8 halibut hitting the deck.  He set up just outside the kelp in a new area and 8 hours after soaking my first line, I got absolutely hammered as my bait hit the bottom.  I let it run and unfortunately just sort of slowly lifted the rod up instead of doing one of those Ray Hsieh hook sets.  I came tight however.  Right away, I could tell it was a really good one.  The 30 pound rod was doubled over big time.  The captain came down and I babied the fish up with loose drags.  Slowly it came into color and it was a really good one.  It looked to be 40 plus!  As it swam closer to the boat, it did one shake with its head and wouldn’t you know, the #$%$&*@ thing unbuttoned.  I have never caught one locally bigger than 15 pounds and this would have easily eclipsed that.  After several more quick drifts, 12 more halibut came aboard in a flurry and alas that was my only bite of the day.  One other gentleman fishing next to me never had a single bite for the day.  Chris Wise caught 3.  That is halibut fishing.  At about 3:30, the captain announced that it was time for home and everyone needed to breakdown their tackle.  Off came the hooks, sinkers and reels.  I loaded everything into my reel case for a hose down the following morning at the house.  I must say that I was mesmerized by Jason and crew’s rod and reel breakdown.  Each rod had its own rod felt condom.  The reels were brought into the galley where all received Corrosion X spray, some greasing, internal cleaning, rub downs and massaging.  I have never seen such mastery in reel maintenance, but the reels looks like they came right out of the box.  I continued to put my tackle collection away and started to pack all of my crap, which was borderline excessive.  The last supper was a yellowtail concoction and tasty like the other meals.


Sunday, May 31st

Awakened at 5:00AM, anglers hastily scarfed down a last meal and lugged their baggage to the top deck.  We arrived at the docks at 6:15AM and unloaded rods, reels, tackle boxes, etc.  Meredith and Amelia were just awakening so I carted my stuff over to Fisherman’s Landing and temporarily stored everything in the rental tackle room.  It helps to have connections.  Soon afterward, the anglers were split into two groups.  Those with muscles were ordered down to the docks to start pushing cartload after cartload of fish.  Those more seasoned anglers (or those with injuries both fishing related and non-fishing related) stood by at the top of the ramp and unloaded the carts and distributed the fish to the 31 distinctive piles demarcated by cones with numbers on them.  As the piles grew, the fish spilled into respective piles.  I met Mike Burns from World Famous at the docs and his crew piled my fish into a dock cart.  By the end of the day, I had completely filled a dock cart full of red snapper, yellowtail and yellowfin tuna.  I pulled several of the bigger units out of the cart to weigh in for Jackpot.  4 of the tuna weighed in at 51+ pounds and the top 3 places in the jackpot ranged from 54.5-56.5 pounds so it looked like I was going to be aced out of the money.  After 2 hours, the last cart was unloaded and 1 last tuna made it to my pile.  One of the other anglers remarked that it looked like a good one and I said, “what the heck.”  I dragged it over to the weigh in scale and wouldn’t you know that it weighed in at 55 pounds even edging into the 3rd place money.  Along with Chris Wise’s 50.5 yellowtail and Big Tony’s 34.5lb halibut, Dave (2nd Place), Bob (1st place) and I shared some final limelight.  At the scales, my cart load of fish weighed in at an obscene 1170 pounds.  I said my goodbyes, gave a few hugs as the epic trip had ended.  After dropping off the tackle, I went to Mike Burns fish processing warehouse where he had his crew cut a yellowtail, tuna and 4 snapper for me.  We had fish tacos that night and I had seared tuna the following evening.  The fish was beyond tasty.  Mike brought the balance of the fish to my father’s house on the Thursday following our arrival to our docks and I brought a huge ice chest of tuna to the clinic staff who were foaming at the lips in anticipation.

I have since received my Barry Wiggins trip DVD and CD Photo collection.  I will send out a few photos for those that are interested.  For $150, it wasn’t a bad deal.  The DVD is basically a series of photos with music.  Several of us wait with baited breath for Jason’s video DVD.  He was kind enough to capture several classic moments in between catches and we all know that the finished product will be a classic.

For more information on the Independence, go to  If you click on the “fish reports” link you will several of us, yours truly included with pictures of fish, food and folly.