Saturday, September 15, 2018

Unfinished Business Part Four: Suzuki

April 13, 2018: Last day in Japan
After failing earlier on this day to get my maruta or even my clopping carp, I left the river to run errands before meeting up with Koji at Yokohama Bay at 10PM.  Last Spring Koji attempted to guide me to my first suzuki (Japanese Seabass) but we failed.  We didn't hire a guide and fished the canals on foot.  It proved a fruitless endeavor despite favorable tides.  This year we would increase our chances and hire a boat.  Koji hired his friend Masuda (Masa), the captain of the Seakuro, arguably one of the most famous seabass guides in Japan.
Just before 10 I arrived at the entrance of the Higashi Kanagawa Station to meet Koji at the entrance.  He'd pick me up and we'd drive a few blocks to meet the captain.  When we reached our destination I started to rig up a Sage Smallmouth Bass rod I borrowed from Luc.  Koji asked if I wanted to use his spare 8 weight instead.  I declined as I figured I brought this rod all the way from the states and I should at least fish it.
In no time Masa appeared and we entertained ourselves with our past fishing conquests.  Masa told me he'd fished Hot Creek years ago and only managed a few small fish.  We waited at the dock for the boat to arrive.  Masa's partner was on a charter with a couple of Minnesotans who were gear fishing.  When they docked they let us know they made a killing on rockfish and said the fishing was fantastic.  Once they offloaded their gear we loaded ours and made our way to the fishing grounds.
Yokohama bay is quite a sight at night especially by boat. On the ride Koji would let me know that anglers all over Japan come to Tokyo Bay to fish for Suzuki. In most of the rest of Japan catching a handful of Suzuki or so would be considered a good day but in Tokyo Bay a handful would be a disappointment.  If commercial fishing numbers are any indication of how many fish are here, then if you don't get onto fish it might just be you.  I don't recall the number exactly but Koji told me something like a ton a day of seabass are caught by commercial boats and its a 250 (or thereabouts) season.
We made it to our first location and Koji gave me the helm. After a few casts Masa gave up on this location and moved us to the next, a well lit section along a walkway.  Within 30 minutes of our launch I was on my first seabass.  While not a big fish by any means it was my first Japanese seabass but not necessarily a suzuki.  You see not all seabass are suzuki but all suzuki are seabass.  Most westerners misspeak in referring to this fish, colloquially referring to them as Suzuki.  The Japanese seabass changes name in accordance to its size.  For any fish up to 30cm (roughly a foot) they are called Seigo.  Any fish in the range of 30cm to 60cm (roughly 2 feet) they are called Fukko.  Any fish larger than 60cm is a Suzuki.
My very first Japanese Seabass, the smallest of the bunch.
To increase your chances of catching a seabass at night look for lighted areas.  These predatory fish hide in the darkness and attack prey moving through the lighted areas.  We used floating lines with sinking flies.  Flies that proved successful were my ASSFly and a zonker style fly that Koji gave me.  Koji tied me and gave me  a 15 foot 16 pound leader.  With a slight wind it proved somewhat difficult to cast with the 7'11" Sage Bass rod.  Eventually about an hour and after struggling to get long enough casts I switched to Koji's spare 6 weight Echo rod for the remaining time on the boat.
We covered quite a bit of distance as Tokyo Bay is quite large.  I forget but I think we areas around Yokohama, Kanagawa and Kawasaki, maybe even Chiba.  The original plan was to fish from 8pm to midnight but Koji let me know he'd have some late meetings so he had to push it back to 10pm to 2am.  This actually worked out much better as the tides were to shift at 11pm.  Overall we had a great night, I lost count how many fish we ended with but I can say it was easily at least 20 to hand.  Koji even lost a few big ones.  Most of the fish were in the Fukko range.  So I will need to come back and actually get my "real" Suzuki.  That said at least I got my species I was wanting to add to the list albeit it may not be the name I wanted.  I did manage a rockfish that impressed both the Captain and Koji.  While not impressive in size, they are extremely rare on the fly.  We were only scheduled to fish for four hours Masa graciously added another hour without charge.  I didn't get home until past 4am only to get a few hours of shut eye before catching a 10am flight back to Taipei.

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