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Annual Veterans Village Trip Takes Vets Offshore Fishing

A group of veterans from the Veteran’s Village of San Diego enjoyed a day of “license-free” offshore fishing for the Point Loma Rotary Club’s annual Veterans Fishing Day.

SAN DIEGO— The Point Loma Rotary Club hosted the Veteran’s Village of San Diego (VVSD) for offshore fishing during the sixth annual Veterans Fishing Day on Aug. 28. The captain took the veterans 30 miles off the coast of San Diego, aboard the Malihini, where the crew taught the guests how to hook their bait and cast their lines 700 feet below to go rock fishing.

Veteran’s Fishing Day is the creation of Alan Brown and Carter Shuffler, two Point Loma Rotary Club members, who started the annual event with the support of sponsors in 2018.

The vets crowded around H&M Landing outside of America’s Cup Harbor around 6:30 a.m. before boarding the Malihini at 7 a.m.

After the Malihini’s newest captain, Capt. Peyton Freeman gave a brief introduction, the group set off in search of rock fish with hopes of catching rock cod, ling cod and sand dabs.

The veterans were a collection of amateur and skilled fishermen, some having never touched a rod or fished offshore and some who felt at home on the water with a rod. Regardless of their skill levels, the vets hooked up their bait of squid and sardines, and the boat started rocking when the veterans began to put in the work of reeling up their catches from 700 feet below.

Spiny orange fish started to emerge at the surface as the group cheered.

“Behind!” “Over!” “Under!”  The commands could be heard from bow to stern as deckhands and veterans danced along the starboard side of the boat. Even the captain came down from the helm to help reel in the bites. There were smiles and rock cod galore after the first successes of the morning.

The radar was showing that bluefins and yellowtail were out and about, and reports confirmed they were biting. So, the Malihini and her guests set off in search of the big game fish, stirred up by warm water from Tropical Storm Hilary. It was then that a pod upward of 100 dolphins approached.

“Wooh! Look at that water boil ahead of us,” shouted the captain.

All the vets congregated to the bow to watch the dolphins lead them to bigger fish. Dolphins are known to associate with schools of bluefin tuna in some regions, and fishermen have historically used this association to their advantage. Dolphins and bluefin tuna often swim together because they share a similar diet, primarily consisting of small fish like herring and mackerel.

The boat came to a stop and the lines were dropped with yellowtail swimming 70 feet below the hull, but the fishermen’s efforts were to no avail. The bluefins and yellowtail weren’t biting. So, after the crew went searching for a few more kelp patties, but the big game fish were nothing but a tease— just a blip on the radar.

Fishermen often look for kelp patties, also known as kelp paddies or kelp beds, because they are prime fishing locations that attract a variety of fish species. Kelp patties are formed by floating mats of kelp seaweed, which provide an underwater ecosystem and habitat for a diverse range of marine life. They often serve as shelters and feeding grounds for smaller fish species, such as anchovies, sardines and juvenile fish. These baitfish are a vital part of the marine food chain and attract larger predator fish— like bluefin and yellowtail.

A new cheer rang out – “Fish on hook!” The captain had a bite and passed the line off to Michael, a very excited vet. Blue, green and yellow shimmers began to flash under the water as Michael pulled in his dorado.

“That was just the coolest thing ever,” said Michael. “I need to send a picture of this to my son. The excitement! The thrill!”

After nearly eight hours on the water, the Malihini headed back to the dock. Dolphins and pelicans followed behind as Capt. Freeman and the deckhands fileted all the catches for the veterans. The captain shouted from the helm at a humpback whale off in the distance.

The smiling vets unloaded from the boat with stories and bags of sand dabs and rock fish (and one dorado for Michael).

The cost of the Veteran’s Fishing Day is entirely covered by the Point Loma Rotary Club, including unlimited food and drink onboard and the fish cleaning and filet service. In addition, California Fish and Wildlife allows for a “free” no-license day for the vets.

The VVSD is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and services to veterans in San Diego. VVSD’s mission is to help homeless veterans and veterans in need by providing housing, treatment, rehabilitation, counseling and various support services.

The Malihini is a PT-657, is a retired motor torpedo boat built for the U.S. Navy during World War II. She remains in her original condition both inside and out as she is unrestored. Malihini is the Hawaiian word for “a newcomer” or “stranger.”

For more information on the Point Loma Rotary Club, please visit https://pointlomarotary.org/.  To learn more about Malihini Sportfishing and their charter packages, please visit https://malihinisportfishing.com/, call (844) 619-3474, or email info@malihinisportfishing.com. For more information on VVSD, please visit https://vvsd.net/.

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