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October 27, 2014

October 27

Halloween is just around the corner, and the marlin seem to have disappeared. Have they flown south for the winter, or are they just waiting to jump out and scare unsuspecting anglers? Stick around and find out – it’s the Fishing News!

¡Adios, marlín!

(cue theme music – and evil laugh)

Remember my analogy about marlin fishing being like microwave popcorn? Well, I’m afraid we’re down to the last few kernels and are wondering if it’s time to turn off the microwave. Our last release report came on the 23rd, and while there were a few hooked here and there, I heard of no successful releases over the weekend.

What makes it really interesting is that I’m not convinced the lack of releases has anything to do with the marlin themselves. This is late in the marlin season; anglers interests have turned elsewhere. Hunting season has opened in many places, and a number of anglers have winterized their trolling rods and reached for their 12-gauge. A number of other boats have headed south to Cedros Island and beyond to Bahia Magdelena for the amazing fishing that happens there. Those few striped marlin still roaming our area may have simply gotten off lucky.

Just because there are no marlin being caught doesn’t mean an end of pelagics, however. Amazingly enough, wahoo continue to be found in our waters, and don’t even evoke a second glance when they hit the docks. Yellowfin tuna and dorado continue to be caught at the inner banks from the 267 south through the 9-Mile Bank, as evidenced by this shot of Ali Hussainy’s well-stuffed cockpit. You may know Ali as the proprietor of that little website down the coast … ;-)

If anything were to concern me at this point, it would be the water temperature. It’s still unseasonably warm, but it’s finally dropping – 71 degrees in many areas around the Catalina Bight. I didn’t run a fresh SST chart this week, but you can start to see the 68-degree isobar sneaking into the frame, so you know it’s just a matter of time.

No blood, lots of fish

Goddamn Giants. That is all …

The Bisbee’s Black and Blue marlin tournament is know for having the biggest winnings of any tournament. There are those who would say it’s right up there on the drama as well – and this year was certainly no exception.

When last we visited the lovely waters of Cabo San Lucas, two days of fishing were in the books, and Team Casa Hogar was in the lead with their 394-lb Day 2 marlin. Turns out, however, that an even larger marlin had been caught back on Day 1 – a 394-lb blue marlin brought to the scales by Dan Tosczak fishing on DANITO Y CARLITO. The locals all saw the fish, the internet heard about the fish – there were even pictures of it on the B & B website. But by the end of the day, it was as if the fish did not exist. The pictures were purges, the catch log sanitized – all record of the catch was removed. Rumor has it that the crew determined after the fact that they’d violated some IGFA rule and self-disqualified the fish. That still doesn’t explain the cloak and dagger nature of the deal – they’d have removed all evidence of the fish, had they not missed one place … ;-)

Meanwhile, Day 3 saw the last chance anyone had to take down Casa Hogar – and that’s they all took their shots. After the final gun was sounded and the final fish tallied, Omar Castaneda’s Day 2 385-lb blue marlin held up and took first place. They received a check for $258,325 – and promptly donated the entire thing to local charities.

If you follow big money tourneys, you know that the biggest fish isn’t always the big winner, and that was the case here. The second place fish, a 337-lb blue marlin caught on Day 3 by Carlos Cervontes of Team SPORTY GAME, was in all the pots and reaped the benefit – to the tune of $1,682,612! It takes money to make money, and a willingness to lay that money on the line. SPORTY GAME did just that, and it paid off in a big way.

All of the placing fish were blue marlin this year. Third place was Dennis Bartos of Team Survivor with his 328-lber, fourth was Nathan Visser of Team Baja Banditos with his 320-lber and fifth was Salvador Padilla of Team Tepecayos with the 304-lber we discussed in the last report.

In the release division, the placings came down to who release their fish first. Team Mobius took first and a check for $49,725. Second was Tteam Suzuka A and third was Team Los Tapatios. For the three days of fishing, a total of 60 blue and 6 black marlin were caught.

I mentioned that many anglers are finding other things to do and, truth be told, I’m one of them. I’m leaving tomorrow for annual conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Scottsdale, an area not well known for marlin fishing. As a result, there’ll be no report on Thursday. We’ll be back Monday if there’s anything to report, or shortly thereafter with a season wrap if circumstances warrant.

October 23, 2014

October 23

“It keeps going … and going … and going …”

There’s a temptation sometimes to reach for new levels of superlatives when I describe the fishing, but you have to be careful. After all, if you say the fishing is the best ever, well, that’s a mighty big claim. And yet, that’s exactly how this season seems …

(cue theme music)

This is quickly turning into the Dorian Gray of offshore seasons (look it up, kids) – it simply refuses to acknowledge the flipping of pages on the calendar. Here we are, a week away from November, and there are still all flavors of exotics in our water – water that itself seems to be as warm now as at any point in the season. Someone page Al Gore …

Leadered on HOOKED …

Let’s start with the marlin. Normally, the billfish season has petered out by now – as evidenced by my rapidly shrinking pool of past year reports to use as our look backward. That’s certainly not the case this year, and it appears that so long as the water remains warm and the anglers remain enthusiastic, there will be action to report.

Most of the activity this week came from the inshore waters just off the coast of southern Orange and northern San Diego counties. On Tuesday, Keegan Hicks released a striped marlin on Marc Levine’s AHI NUI in 270-ft of water off San Onofre. Also Tuesday, Geoff Hersch on HOOKED released a jigfish off Encinitas, while earlier today Gary Floyd released a baitfish from his 35-ft Skipjack RELENTLESS, also off San Onofre.

I find the location of these fish to be interesing. Normally, late season marlin fishing is a thing of desperation – the fish are either far to the east or far to the south, and we’re chasing them hoping to snag just one more. If you look at the numbers on these three releases, however – 01/25 for Hersch, 16/35 for Hicks and 21/40 for Floyd – you’ll see these are all very close to shore, some practically in the surf. In a season where the oceans have been so plentiful, I guess it’s no surprise that it can be user-friendly as well.

While I don’t have the reports to back it up, I’m told there was good midweek marlin action on the 9-Mile Bank as well.

The edible pelagics continue to do their part to contribute to this epic season. Yellowfin tuna and wahoo continue to be caught in the same inshore areas as the marlin, while dorado and large yellowtail are producing further offshore. Of particular note are the wahoo, which are appearing in quantities large enough for anglers to successfully target them. Break out the Marauders, boys …

Two years ago, the Lakers were preparing for their first season with the power trio of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. After one contentious season, Howard bolts for the Rockets. Nash, meanwhile, played but a handful of games over two seasons before it was announced today that he will sit out the upcoming season with back issues. I respect the Lakers’ willingness to go for the home run, but there’s just no way you can call this anything short of epic failure …

To the south, it’s hot and heavy on the tournament trail in Cabo San Lucas as 127 teams face off in the Bisbee’s Black and Blue. Fishing was tough in the two events prior to the B & B, but the large number of teams – and larger prizes – always brings out the best in Baja marlin fishing.

In yesterday’s first day action, 24 marlin were caught with 3 brought to the scales. Large fish for the day was a 304-lb blue marlin caught by Salvador Padilla on TEPEYACOS. Today saw another 18 marlin caught and two weighed; the largest being Omar Casteneda’s 385-lb blue marlin caught on CASA HOGAR. Tomorrow is the last day of fishing for the Black and Blue, and we’ll have the final results for you on Monday.

… released on AHI NUI

This weekend will see another band of low pressure roll into the Southland from up Alaska way. If you’d asked me about it a day ago, I’d have thought it had the potential to be a game changer for our season, but now it looks like it’s going to just be another wannabe …

There’s this rumor going around that the World Series is underway and, if you believe the Interweb, the Giants and Royals are tied at a game apiece. As a Dodgers fan, it would be pretty damned hard for me to watch the Giants anyway, but the last straw for me would be having to listen to that horse’s ass Joe Buck. I could dedicate an entire column to just how incompetant he is, but that’s been done by plenty of authors before me. Let’s just say that if they grabbed the voices of the teams in the series – the great John Miller of the Giants or even Rex-Dog Hudler from the Royals, they’d have a much larger audience.

Of course, we Dodger fans have been spoiled for over a half century by the world class voice of Vin Scully. For the last few years, the speculation has begun midseason as to whether the current season might be the last for the octogenarian, only to have the temporary residents of Chavez Ravine breathe a collective sigh of relief when he announces his intention to return the next year.

I bring him up because, like Scully, I’ve been contemplating retirement from this assignment; in fact, I announced at the outset of the season that this would be my last year writing these reports. Each year I spend less time on the water, and other interests have pulled me further and further from the offshore scene, making it increasingly difficult to pull together the bits and pieces of information that are the heart of these reports.

After I made my announcement and the season began to progress, I received a number of kind messages thanking me for the reports over the years. But a funny thing happened along the way – for every thank you note I received several “what are we going to do without you” notes. It’s always bothered me that we never got the readership that some of our one-time contemporaries receive, but clearly ours is a dedicated lot.

At the same time, there are new tools that can be brought to bear on the task of information gathering. We instituted the Info Ping email list a couple of years ago, and without even scratching the surface of its potential it’s become a significant source of news – particularly items that aren’t found elsewhere. Facebook, which a few years ago was the realm of college students, is a growing source of information – heck, when the fish are as close to shore as they are now, you’ll see them on FB before the boat hits the dock. Today, more people read these reports through our links on Facebook than they do from the website itself.

Scully, when asked how makes his decision whether to return year after year, said it depends on how he feels – does he still get excited to come to the ball park, and does he still have the strength to carry on a full 6-month season. That sounds like a pretty sound policy (and who am I to question the great Vin Scully), so I’m going to apply it to myself. I hate nights like this where I’m wracked by writer’s block, I hate working to a deadline, and I hate when the amount of work I put into these reports doesn’t seem to be justified by the response I get (or don’t get) from the public. On the other hand, I love chronicling a sport I love, a sport that is frankly not covered in this sort of fashion elsewhere. I love the platform it gives me to spread my beliefs regarding billfish release and the proper way to do it (even when it periodically gets me in hot water). And I especially love the way I feel when I finish a particularly good update, launching it out into the void like a proud parent sending my child to her first day of school.

In the end, I”m just not ready to walk away. In my earlier announcement, I said “I genuinely believe we are witnessing the end of the local marlin fishery,” which, at least for this season, couldn’t be further from the truth. Clearly, there’s a lot more to be seen and done and reported, and I want to be the one to do it. So come next season, should it start in May or July or whenever, I’ll be here and these reports will continue for another season. Next year at this time, we’ll do the same calculation and decide what we want to do then.

OK, those of you support our efforts can take your sigh of relief now … :-)

11 Years Ago …

October 23, 2003

We’ve got marlin news … and Marlins news …

Good news – marlin are still being seen. Better news – they’re still being caught. It was midweek, so there were fewer boats out, but several marlin were caught and released. The spot with the most action was several miles off the Slide on Catalina. Year in and year out, this is one of the most reliable marlin hot spots in our waters, so it’s no surprise to see it produce now. At least one marlin was taken there on each of Tuesday, Wednesday, and today. Another marlin was caught ten miles east of the 181, more or less on a line to Pyramid Head. Several other marlin were reportedly seen in the same general region.

The weather has been generally nice over the inner waters, although I’m told it’s been getting snotty on the back side of Catalina (hence the fishing on the front side?). There’s a Santa Ana condition forming, however, and it looks like a big gone. That usually means nor’easters, which can make for a lot of change in the local conditions. Be sure to drop by the Weather Center before you head offshore this weekend.

They always hope for great fishing in the Bisbee’s Black and Blue – after all, it’s the world’s richest billfish event. The signs weren’t good after last week’s Los Cabos tourney, and the weak fishing has continued. Yesterday, Senor Moment lead the way with a 442-lb blue marlin, followed by Gato Negro with a 312-lber. So far today, I haven’t heard of any coming in that met the 300-lb minimum weight standard. Not too good for a 165 boat fleet. We’ll have to wait and see if it improves. At least the hurricane that was headed their way has dissipated …

Well, the World Series is all tied – 2 games each. This weekend, we’re off to New York to settle things, and later tonight, we’ll see who gets to make the flight north with a 3-2 lead.

Last night was one of those games that you hold up as an example when you try and describe what makes baseball great. Roger Clemens, in likely his last career start, puts a fastball right under the bill of Miguel Cabrera, who was barely a year old when the Rocket made his first start in 1984. Cabrera stares, steps back in and, two pitches later, puts it in the bleachers. Clemens gets a strikeout with his last pitch, and a standing ovation from the Florida crows – and the Marlins bench. The Yankees tie the game with a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the ninth – and the Marlins win it with a walk-off home run by Alex Gonzalez in the twelfth. Oh, baby!

Of course, not everyone can see the beauty. One Chicago-based writer for a national sports web site (which will remain nameless, but is the web version of a popular sports cable channel), referred to last night’s game as having been won by "Alex Gonzalez’s cheap home run". I guess he forgot that it was just a week ago that those "cheap" hits drove the Chicago Cubs out of the playoffs and running home whining to their mommies. I think the writer had better crawl back under his mother’s skirt …

This time of the season, it’s especially important to have good information, so if you do make a trip this weekend, be sure to let us know what you see – or don’t see …

October 20, 2014

October 20

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Jackson Browne, Running on Empty

The death march that is the Offshore Season of 2014 continues unabated – well, death march from the perspective of those who have to cover it. I guess if you’re out on the water, this is pretty much the greatest season ever – heck, there’s blue marlin and wahoo and Lord knows what else out there right now. But if you have to find new and creative ways to say “it’s still going” twice a week, you start to feel a lot like Ron White at the end of a long tour – you know all my bad jokes, and you know I don’t have any good ones. I’m left with nothing to defend myself but a cigar and a scotch and a scowl …

(cue theme music)

Distant Blue

To be honest, I should really be counting my blessings. If my math is worth a damn, this is the 26th update of the season, and that might seem like a lot. But the truth is, I got a late start this year – I’ve had seasons where we were updating in May and the totals were up around 35 updates. So maybe I should just shut up and write …

Maybe it’s just my perception, but it does feel like things are slowing down a little bit. Of course, with all the excitement the aforementioned exotics are raising, it’s hard to tell. The amazing blue marlin show continued this weekend, as both SNOOPER and SECOND C had 5-hr battles with Mr Blue – and both ended up on the losing end. SECOND C’s fight was Saturday morning off the Isthmus at Catalina while SNOOPER battled on the 9-Mile Bank that same afternoon. Rod Halperin sent along this shot of the SECOND C blue on the run. More and more crews are running larger tackle, targeting the blue marlin and wahoo; while it’s worked well for the speeders the marlin remain elusive.

We received very few responses to our traditional Sunday email ping, which is what has me thinking things are slowing on the striped marlin scene. Our marlin season is a lot like making microwave popcorn – you can’t really predict when it will end; you can only watch as the number of reports slows to a trickle, and stick your fork in it at an appropriate time.

The closest thing there was to a “hot spot” this weekend was off the nuke plant domes at San Onofre. I’m still tracking all the details, but it sounds like there were at least three released there over the weekend and one more today. There was also some action at the 9-Mile Bank as well; it was there that Barry Brightenburg helped his client Jason Jager release the nice striped marlin you see below.

You’ll recall that at the outset of this series of reports, I declared this to be our farewell season. With that in mind, the big announcement comes Thursday … :-/

Enough adventure for this guy

The World Series starts tomorrow in Kansas City and, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t care less. I have never been a fan of the wild card, even if my beloved Florida Marlins did use it twice to win their own Series. In this series, both teams made it in through the WC back door, as it were, and I’m not the only one failing to feel the excitement. I can see how the Royals might be seen as worthy participants in the Series, having gone undefeated in their eight playoff games thus far. But the Giants? Puleeze. I’ll catch it here for being a Dodger fan when I say this, but the Giants were the least talented team in the playoffs and got through more by the self-immolation of their competition than they did through any performance of their own. Yes, there were some “magic” moments along the way, and I’m sure Travis Ishikawa will go down alongside Bobby Thompson in Giants baseball lore. But to all the people suggesting that three trips to the WS in five years is somehow indicative of a dynasty are just idiots. Beyond Buster Posey and a couple of pitchers you’ll find very few players who even played in all three. If anything, it’s a credit to the Giants front office for cobbling together a resilient roster three different times, or to manager Bruce Bochy for getting the most out of what he has. But once the Royals complete their sweep, I guess there won’t really be much to talk about anyway, will there?

There was supposed to be a cold-weather trough running through our area for the next couple of days, but checking the latest report, I see that it has paled in significance. I was prepared to declare it to be the storm to end our season had it materialized; since it didn’t … never mind …

Hurricane Odile be damned, the tournament season has begun in Cabo San Lucas, and a pair of events wrapped up this weekend. In our last update, we talked about the one qualifying marlin caught on the first day of the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament; as it happened, that 365-lb blue marlin caught by Jason Snyder on REEL GOLD was the only qualifier of the event. A total of 25 billfish were caught over the three days of fishing – 18 striped marlin, 5 blue marlin and 2 sailfish.

Meanwhile, the first of two back-to-back Bisbee’s events, the Los Cabos Offshore, was held Friday and Saturday. Fishing was as tough here as in the LCBT, and again only a single qualifying billfish was landed. Local Cabo San Lucas angler Fernando Guzman on LOS RUDOS weighed the only billfish of the event, a Gordo Bank blue marlin that tipped the scales at 322-lbs.

Anglers get little time to lick their wounds and hone their strategy, as Wednesday is the first of three fishing days in the big one, the Black and Blue. We’ll share what we know on Thursday and cover the results on Monday.

October 16, 2014

October 16

Not going to lie to you – this update will probably be a little more shallow than usual. I’m beat from having to defend my decision to talk about the dead blue marlin in the last update, and I’m still worn down from the Release Rant the week before. So, you’ll just have to accept whatever the portion of my brain that is still functional can produce …

Perfect placement

Truth be told, part of my exhaustion comes from this never-ending season. Look back through prior years and you’ll see that more often than not, we’re already done by this time. But don’t tell the fish – they’re having none of it. And with water in the Catalina Bight still a balmy 74-degrees, I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon …

We covered the BADCO blue marlin in our last update, and mentioned that while it was the first one to be landed, it was far from the first to be hooked – nor would it be the last. Tuesday evening, Gus Chabre on SUBCHASER released an estimated 300-lb blue marlin on the 152. But there is so much more to the story …

When Steve Lassley took BAD COMPANY XL out on Monday, he did so targeting big fish – swordfish or blue marlin – and they brought tackle to match. For SUBCHASER, it was a completely different deal. Gus hooked his marlin Tuesday afternoon on 20-lb dacron tackle, hoping the fish would serve as his qualifier for the Tuna Club. As a result, he fought the marlin for nearly 5 hours before it was leadered. Sadly, they were unable to tag the fish – a requirement if it is to be used as a qualifier. Nonetheless, subduing a 300-lb blue marlin on such overmatched and unforgiving tackle is a significant achievement.

The amazing blue marlin stories have been getting all the attention, but the striped marlin bite has quietly remained hot both north and south. As you’d expect for a late fall midweek, there weren’t a huge number of boats plying the waters, but that didn’t stop some of them from posting big numbers. Angler Marc Bacon, fishing on Warren Gunter’s xJEWEL LURE, released a pair of marlin Tuesday near the 152. They backed it up by releasing two of the three jig fish in a triple hookup; I presume it was one release for each of them.

Also releasing a marlin on Tuesday was Jock Albright on KEA KAI; I’m not sure where they got the baitfish but we know it left with some extra jewelry in the form of a Great Marlin Race PSAT. That’s Ryan Griffin’s great shot above showing a successful tag placement.

To the south, the action they’ve seen for the last month seems to be continuing. Mark Cernich released released a marlin yesterday while fishing on SPORTY GAME off San Onofre, and the 9-Mile Bank was friendly to SEA TREK IV with one release and DOS HERMANOS with two. One correction from last week – we had SNOOPER with three released when it was in fact THUMPER.

Bit of an upgrade

These reports have always been more than just fishing, as I tend to pull my other interests into the mix. Whether my favorite beach volleyball girls or Florida Marlins baseball or the Tour de France, I’ve always added a little color to what can sometimes otherwise be a pretty dry read.

My latest time-consuming interest has been architectural touring, with an emphasis on Frank Lloyd Wright and some of his mid-century modern contemporaries. In the last two years, I’ve spent more and more time – and money – traveling to tour various sites around the country. The process generates memories, of course, but also more tangible photographs, many of which I’ve shared here and on Facebook.

Once upon a time, I rocked a Canon AE-1P SLR with a full set of lenses – it was a great camera for capturing action from the auto races I frequented at the time to my fishing adventures. As technology drove photography from 35mm film to 32gb SD cards, I made the leap to digital, but in a lightweight fashion. I knew that more often than not, I let the program mode of the AE-1P do all the work for me, and with even the simplest DSLR being hideously expensive, I opted for a series of point-and-shoot cameras, leading up to my current PowerShot SX-120. It’s a great little camera, about as powerful a unit as you can fit in your pocket, but as I asked it to do more and more I became less satisfied with the results.

Why do I tell you this? Because, with my next Wright tour starting in less than two weeks, I’ve made the leap back to real cameras – a Canon D70 DSLR with a sweet 28-155mm zoom. Not only will I get much better pictures on my tours, but you’ll get better shots when I’m on the water. It might be a while before I start cranking out ones like the one above – I just need to get my stuff together before the tour starts! If anyone knows a way to get really good with a new camera in a hurry, I’d love to hear it.

One more thing on the camera – while checking out the new rig, I got a wave of nostalgia and decided to pull out the AE-1P, which has languished at the back of a closet for more than a decade. When I opened it, I found it in great condition – and with an exposed role of 400 speed film floating around the case! Assuming I can even find someplace that will develop film any more, it will be very interesting to see what’s on that roll …

When Hurricane Odile roared through the tip of the Baja peninsula last month, leaving a trail of significant destruction in her wake, few outside Los Cabos thought they could be ready for the first of the big marlin tournaments, at that point less than a month away. But someone clearly forgot to ask the local residents and the many ex-pats living and working in the area. Led by Wayne Bisbee and their charity relief effort, they’ve done a fantastic job of bringing life back to the region.

The first event of the fall Cabo season, the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament, started on time yesterday with 14 teams blasting out into the blue Pacific. After two days of fishing, a total of 17 billfish have been caught, with a single qualifying blue marlin that tipped the scales at 365-lbs. There’s one more day of fishing tomorrow; we’ll have the results next week. This weekend also sees the two fishing days of the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament, and we should have details on that one as well.

I was cruising Facebook for late breaking news when I stumbled across this picture from Brett Crane of Crane Lures. Yes, those are three wahoo cruising just outside the mid-channel oil rigs just off Long Beach. Any more questions other than … what the hell?!?

As we fade out tonight, a look back a decade to a season much different than this one …

10 Years Ago …

October 18, 2004

"It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas …"

What the heck is this wet stuff coming out of the sky? Could this be rain? Being from SoCal, I’ve never actually seen rain, but I’ve heard the stories …

Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago we were trolling for tournament fish wearing nothing but short pants? Now, seemingly overnight, it’s winter. The first band of a major storm has rolled through Southern California, and the main body of a big Aleutian storm is expected to hit tomorrow.

You know the old saying – the marlin clear out with the first winter storm. This is pretty early, but it is a big, cold storm. I don’t think it bodes well for anyone hoping to pad their count or compete for last fish of the season.

In spite of the impending weather, several boats actually took a shot at the marlin this weekend. As you might imagine, they didn’t find any success. The "fleet" – such as it was – tried to work off of Carlsbad, but the weather was tough enough to pin several of the smaller boats in Oceanside and Dana Point. Just wait until the usual cast of characters file their Trip Reports – they should be interesting …

Wow … I’ll tell you one place that is hot right now – the baseball playoffs. I just saw David Ortiz win the game for the Red Sox in the 15th inning to send the series back to New York, then a couple of minutes later saw Jeff Kent hit a three-run walkoff homer for the Astros. Not as good as watching the Fish battle the Cubbies last year, but pretty amazing anyway!

Our season might be winding down, but down Cabo way things are just getting started. The Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Invitational ended yesterday, and the Black and Blue starts tomorrow. SCMO will be well-represented in the big one, and we should have some great reports in the War Room – if any of them can make it past the bar …

October 13, 2014

October 13

High fly ball into right field, she i-i-i-is… gone!!

Yes, we’re channeling our inner Vin Scully today, for a couple of different reasons. Want to know why? Stick around – it’s the Monday edition of the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

Until a few hours ago, I thought the one who hit the home run was … me. The response to our Release Rules Rant has been overwhelming and 100% positive – the only ones who disagree at all are those who think it doesn’t go far enough. The Facebook page and Twitter feed have blown up, and my email box is stuffed (although I still can’t get anyone to talk about it at the Marlin Club … that rant will wait for another day). Several fishing clubs have approached me about adopting the SCMO Rules for their use, and I’m preparing to present it to the IGFA for consideration. Yes, I kicked some ass, and really thought I’d be the lead in my own Fishing News – something that hasn’t happened in over a decade.

Yes, a blue marlin in Avalon

That all changed when a blast from the past decided to make some SoCal fishing history.

You remember Team Bad Company? Anthony Hsieh’s hand-picked crew with the best of the best of the local marlin guys? He put them in a great boat with great equipment and they dominated the West Coast marlin scene for a half-decade. The economy and the marlin bite both went south a couple of years ago and the team went their separate ways … until today.

Steve Lassley pointed the nose of the latest version of BAD COMPANY – a pretty sweet ride, if you haven’t seen it – for a spot between Catalina and Clemente where the swordfish boats have been working recently. They were experienced at targeting the big stuff and their 130-lb class gear showed it. With that much talent – and that many gyros whirring – you know that if anyone was going to have success it would be them, and it didn’t take long – shortly after 8AM this morning, Anthony Hsieh landed a blue marlin that would ultimately tap out at 462-lbs on the Avalon Pier scales. It’s not a record – a 692-lber was landed back in 1931 – but it’s the first blue marlin anyone has seen in the parts for a very very long time.

As if the blue wasn’t enough action for them today, they also released a striped marlin and baited a swordfish!

Here’s the most amazing part of the story – Steve effectively called his own shot on Facebook last Friday …

Goin fishin Monday and Tuesday. Really fishin. If anybody has any dope on Willy……tryin to get way offshore. Sick looking conditions

You all know my feelings on dead marlin; it’s a measure of the respect I have for the accomplishment that I include the weigh-in shot for all to witness.

Smile, Logan!

October is traditionally the month when our season grinds to a halt – only once since we’ve started the reports has the season limped into November. But the season no one expected to see is giving no signs of even slowing down. Obviously it’s still going off at the east end of Catalina, but the bite to the south is just off the hook. I know ANDREYA released a pair down that way today, and HOOKER released a baitfish between the 178 and the north end of the 9-Mile Bank. Over the weekend, the 9 was hot for SNOOPER, whose crew released three, and SQUARED AWAY, which released a pair. The numbers down there right now are like a video game – I can’t keep up on the Release Board!

It’s worth noting that blue marlin aren’t the only exotics being caught in our waters. With today a school holiday, Logan Tom got a chance to fish with dad Jeff on BLACK FIN and made the most of it – here he is with his biggest fish ever, a 44-lb wahoo caught off Oceanside. Several more wahoo were caught over the weekend, with the 302 seeming to be the best place for those targeting them. I heard of a couple more spearfish being caught, although I’m still waiting for that first release …

For all the justifiable excitement over the fishing, it’s worth noting that this late in the season, even a small change in the weather could have a huge impact on the conditions. We’ve been lucky to not have any real winter storms form yet, and the cooling trend we’ll see later this week shouldn’t mean much of a change. “Shouldn’t” …

That’s going to do it for now. Thursday we’ll take a look at the upcoming Los Cabos tourneys and see how the region is recovering – and how the events are helping with that. We’ll also see what change if any our weather makes on the midweek fishing, and if I’m feeling brave we may even have a few words to say about the Dodgers and their aborted playoff run.

October 9, 2014

October 9

A shocking lack of fishing pic submissions may leave up graphically impaired, but fear not – we’ve got marlin news north and south, and the long-promised Release Rules Rant. It’s Thursday … it’s the Fishing News … let’s roll!

(cue theme music)

2014 has been a freak show on the water, so I guess it’s no real surprise if things are strange here, too. People traditionally send us their Release Submissions, Trip Reports and fishing pics, and they form the backbone of this report. Lately, however, it’s been like the stock market – way up one week and way down the next. This, I’m afraid, is a down week for pics, so I apologize for the monolithic look of just a bunch of text. Fortunately, it’s been an up week for release reports, and hey – wouldn’t you rather have dope than pics, anyway?

Calling Elvis …

In the mean time, here’s a nice shot of something seen far too seldom this season – a swordfish at the end of a line. In this case, the line belonged to Jeff Tom of BLACK FIN, who unfortunately lost the fish at the gaff.

This is the part of the offshore season I hate most. There are still marlin out there – and they’re still being caught – but the days are getting longer and the temperature lower. With each marlin caught you can’t help but wonder … “is this the last of the season”?

The fishing pressure was lower this week, but there were still a few marlin released – and I’m pretty sure none of them are the last. AHI NUI scored a triple-play Tuesday off Oceanside, with Mark Levine and Keegan Hicks converting both ends of a lure-bait double, and Levine backing it up with an additional baitfish later in the day. Yesterday, Kathy Ecklund of HOOKER released a marlin off Lover’s Cove just outside of Avalon. If my math is correct, that’s her eleventh release for the season. I’m also aware of one being released yesterday in the lee of San Clemente Island, but I don’t have details as yet.

At noon tomorrow, the folks overseeing the white sea bass grow out pens in Newport Beach will be releasing their latest fingerlings into the wild, where hopefully a large number of them will grow up to be big and healthy – and caught. The Newport pens are one of a handful of such rigs that dot the harbors up and down the coast, most often tended by volunteers from local fishing clubs.

One such setup is located in Marina Del Rey and is under the care of the Marina Del Rey Anglers. They’ve released nearly 100,000 WSB and have the lowest die-off rate of any of the Hubbs-supplied pens – a point of justifiable pride. Unfortunately, years of use and a recent relocation have taken their toll on the pens, which need to be rebuilt from the water up. The MDRA has turned to Crowdrise to help raise the funds needed to get these pens back in action for 2015. I encourage you to visit their fundraising page and consider helping this worthy cause.

I need to talk about where to go this weekend, how the weather might affect your fishing and what the latest SST charts have to say. But first …

We interrupt this Fishing News update to bring you the following rant:

Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired, but I like rules. I like the idea that I can walk into any environment and, so long as I know the rules I know the situation.

Fishing has rules, of course, from bag limits to size restrictions to protected areas. In theory, these are all designed to preserve the fishery for future generations, although you’ll get a wide range of views on that. Most of these are species-specific, but there is one set of rules that all fishermen strive to adhere to – the Angling Regulations as set forth by the International Game Fish Association, or IGFA.

Before the IGFA was founded in the late 1930s, a number of fishing clubs crafted rules for ethical angling behavior, including the Tuna Club in Avalon, whose late 1890s rules set the standard for the later efforts by the IGFA and others. As stated by club founder Charles F. Holder, the rules were “designed to give the fish an even chance in the battle”. Once the IGFA was established and began to expand the angling rules set down before them, they grew to cover equipment regulations and record catch qualifications. But at the heart of the rules remained the Angling Regulations and the ethics associated with them.

I got something to say …

Over time, a problem developed with the IGFA Angling Regulations, and it grew with each passing year. In the mid-century environment in which the regulations were developed, catching a fish meant killing the fish. It wasn’t until much later that the release ethic began to develop in our sport, and when it did, the IGFA was regrettably silent. For clubs that followed the IGFA Angling Regulations, that left a vaccuum – one that was filled with various local rules and regulations that sought to define what it meant to achieve a “legal release” for the purpose of tournaments and records.

The IGFA eventually took on the challenge of developing universally accepted rules for the release of fish, and in February 2012, they released their Release Rules. At the same time, perhaps in tacit acknowledgment of the challenge they faced in trying to marry together many different release philosophies, they published a list of “recommendations for best practices for safe and ethical release of fish” – things they’d like to see anglers do, but not technically part of the rules. As a result, the actual rules as released are so watered down that they often make a bad situation worse than if they hadn’t existed at all.

The following is an actual example from earlier this year. No names, places or other identifying details, as technically no rules were broken. But, as was expressed by many at the time, a significant ethical challenge nonetheless …

A boat fishing in a tournament gets a hookup and calls it in. Within but a few minutes, the mate reaches out and grabs the leader, signifying a legal release per the IGFA Release Rules. The excited skipper called Tournament Control and announces their successful release.

Forty-five minutes later, a fellow competitor passes by the first boat and sees an angler fighting a marlin. Having heard nothing on the radio of a second hookup, they call the first boat to offer congratulations and support on their new fish. Not a new fish, the skipper tells him – they’re still fighting the first one.

Huh?

After the fact, the rest of the story came to light. During the fight, the mate did in fact grab the leader, but almost immediately the still-hot marlin ripped it out of his hand. It took nearly an hour of fighting to get it back to the boat before they got their first good look at it. When they did, they realized it was a really big fish – either a big striper or a small blue – and they changed their minds. Away goes the tag stick and out comes the gaffs, and they attempt to take the fish. Unfortunately, at some point in the attempt the line breaks and the marlin – quite possible grievously injured – escapes. Nevertheless, they take credit for their IGFA legal release.

As I see it, there are two fundamental errors in the IGFA Release Rules as written – one of commission and one of omission. The first error was in making it far too easy to declare a “legal release”; the way the rules are written, the mate didn’t need to control or even touch the leader – just be “able” to grab the leader. So, in theory, if could simply get close to the leader, the release could be declared. And while the fish might have been “released”, the next hour’s activity showed that it was never conquered.

I understand why they might have set the bar so low. We’ve all seen the reports in recent years coming out of the marlin grounds of Mexico and sailfish grounds of Central America, where literally scores of marlin are released by a hardworking crew in a single day. While we all respect the raw numbers, I think we also know that few if any of those fish were genuinely bested – the sheer numbers tell us that there simply isn’t time to do much more than hook, grab and pop.

These accomplishments were celebrated in print and across the Internet, and widely acclaimed. I’m sure that the IGFA knew full well that if they were to create rules that were too stringent, such events would be seen in a very harsh light as being far outside the newly-defined bounds of ethical fishing. But by making the rules so easy to achieve, they created a disconnect between the act of releasing the fish and what constitutes a “legal release” – a disconnect that added up to an hour in our example.

The second error was in not addressing the intent of the crew with regards to the dispositioning of their catch. Most of the club rules in place in the past included a requirement to state your intention with regards to the catch – either you plan to release or you plan to kill. It wasn’t cast in concrete, of course – if you had planned to release, but saw it was a big fish, you might change your mind; even in the money tournaments with a minimum weight limit, a boat could opt to release a fish destined for the gaff once they understood it was underweight. But you never had the option to switch to the other position after failing to execute – if you messed up the gaff job, you lost the fish. You didn’t have the option to fall back to the release, any more than you did if you failed to resuscitate the fish and it died.

To me, it all comes down to respect – respect for the act of releasing a marlin. More than once, I’ve described catching a marlin to people outside the sport. They would excitedly ask how much it weighed, and when I said I released it, you could practically see them deflate, as if by releasing the marlin I’d only accomplished part of the job. That demonstrated what I believe is a key point – if you want a released marlin to be seen as an equal accomplishment as boating one, the act of the release must be as difficult and demanding as the act of gaffing one.

So where does that leave us? We have a set of rules, from an organization we all look to for leadership, but those rules, when followed to the letter of the law, generate a substandard result. I presume that the current rules, being the first version, are subject to revision. So, here are my revisions:

  1. Forget swivel to the tip or wind-on on the reel – the clock stops and the release is declared only once the mate has the leader in his hand and the fish under control boat side. I don’t care how large the marlin might be – at some point, in order to take credit for a catch, you must demonstrate that you have beaten the fish. If you cannot bring the fish to the boat in a way that allows the mate to take control of the leader and the fish, how can you claim to have defeated it?
  2.  

  3. If, after the mate grasps the leader, the line parts, the release is successful only if the mate retains a portion of the leader. This is a little tricky, because it challenges the ethics of all involved. There could be a temptation, especially on a baitfish, to perform the kind of long-distance release once popular in tournament fishing. But ethics is at the heart of all forms of release fishing, and if I can’t trust you on the water, how can I trust you in life?
  4.  

  5. At some point prior to the mate reaching for the leader, the intention of disposition must be declared – take or release. Once the mate touches the leader, that intention cannot be changed. Again, this is an ethical challenge, as you might be be making the declaration to no one other than your crew. This rule gives the angler ample opportunity to view the fish and affirm or reverse their declaration, but once the leader is touches, you are committed – there is no going back.

Those are the three changes I would make to the existing IGFA Release Rules to move them in the right direction and eliminate some of the issues that exist today. But one could argue that even with these changes, releasing a marlin is still less demanding or technically challenging than boating one. But there are additional requirements that could bring the two closer:

  • Hook Removal – removing the hook is not only the right (and cost-effective, in the case of a lure) thing to do, but it demands intimate contact with the fish – something you can’t do if you haven’t conquered the beast. Credit is given for the release if the hook cannot be retrieve but the leader is properly cut as close to the hook as possible.
  •  

  • Tag Insertion – again, there is an intimacy and skill level required to achieve this that in many ways mimics the act of gaffing, and we all get the benefit of the science generated.

I recognize that these last two ideas will be seen by many as beyond reasonable for the release declaration, and I accept that. However, they are valid discussion points for a discussion that needs to happen.

In an earlier update, I intimated my belief that the Tuna Club was the proper organization to take up the fight for these modified release rules. I am not a TC member, but I have a great deal of respect for the Club and their role in the establishment of the angling ethics that we continue to follow today. This would be a wonderful opportunity for the Club to reclaim its rightful place as a leader in the realm of angling ethics, and I encourage any Tuna Club members who read this to take the idea to the Club membership.

And if you won’t, I’m going after the Balboa Angling Club next … ;-)

Seriously … after all that, you think I still have something left to talk about sea surface temperatures or where the fish might be? Dude, you’re dreaming – you’re on your own. Of course, if you see anything, I want to hear about it … :D

And I really want to hear what you think of the Release Rules Rant …

7 Years Ago …

October 8, 2007

“It’s not that the wind is blowin’ … it’s what the wind is blowin’.”

- Ron White

The wind was a-blowin’ here at the Home Office … did the marlin fishing blow as well? And why are they still catching tuna – don’t they migrate? Must be time for the Fishing News …

(cue theme music)

With the end of the local tourney season, the money boats have headed south or headed home. That leaves only the hard-asses … er, hard-heads … to try and find the fish. Always interesting to see how the fleet does once most of the talent has fled …

Yeah, that’s right – no Thursday report again. Hey, when no one is filing Trip Reports and I’m not hearing of much action, I figure I might as well save the words …

The Home Office staff wants to send along their best wishes to a friend of SCMO who’s on the mend. Ron Johnson, captain of SHOWDOWN, is recovering from heart surgery having had a couple of arteries cleaned out. Like too many of us, he waited until he felt the pain before finally going to the doctor – and they sent him straight to surgery. A lesson for us all. Ron’s the one who tagged me as “Ol’ Dot Com” – a much better name than some that were suggested by others in the fleet – so he’ll always have a seat at our table. Get well soon, Ron!

Oh yeah … the fishing. It’s not that there are no marlin out there any more – heck, WAIT-N-SEA got three last week working outside the 182. It’s just that there 1) aren’t a lot of them, 2) aren’t many boats out there to find them and 3) they aren’t biting much. But they are being seen. Probably the most action is happening around the 182 – after all, everyone loves to fish where the fish were, rather than finding out where the fish are. But marlin were also seen as far north as the Avalon Bank, and boats chasing the still-present tuna reported seeing and/or catching marlin as incidental catch among the tuna – just like the beginning of the season all over again!

In addition to the marlin action on the 182, that’s been a good spot for yellowfin tuna as well. There’s a bizarre mix out there right now, as both warm water and cold water tuna are available – long after both should have long since departed. OF course, that could also explain why it’s been such a crappy marlin year – good tuna years usually are, since the conditions each prefer are pretty much mutually exclusive. Of course, it could also be all those Mexican boats that caught 10,000 marlin each …

As the season winds down, there will inevitably be a last report. Sometimes, I’ll take the time to write a dedicated final report, but sometimes the season just peters out and I realize that the last report is really the last report. So let me take a moment here to thank all of you for your continued support. The emails, the Trip Reports, the Release Reports – they all help me stitch this together, and the thank-you messages keep it all going. Lord willing, we’ll do this all again next season.

October 6, 2014

October 6

Great hook location!

It’s late in the season, but there’s still marlin being caught and you know what that means – you’re stuck reading at least one more edition of the SCMO Fishing News …

(cue theme music)

There’s been dew on the ground and a nip in the air at the SCMO Home Office, but someone seems to have forgotten to tell the fish that autumn has arrived. Fishing action remains strong and is yet to show signs of slowing. The remnants of Hurricane Simon are hitting our shores in the form of elevated surf, but that’s about as much as we’ll see.

Thank you and good night.

Oh … you want details?

The marlin bite continues strong both north and south. Up here, the east end of Catalina continues to be hot while the 267 off Dana Point produced for Mitch Firestein on Sunday the marlin being released at right. To the south, the 9-Mile Bank remains popular, as does the 302 and 371, where on Friday MADRUGADOR released the marlin you see at left.

The early riser gets the marlin

Part of the challenge all season has been the lack of separation between the various pelagic species. When that happens, particularly if you’re targeting the smaller end of the spectrum, your day of fishing can take some strange turns. Jeff Jones reported getting a double on yellowfin tuna in which a marlin popped up in the spread mid-hookup. Thinking it had the corner lure in its mouth, he smartly accelerated and turned away from the fish to tighten it up – which didn’t get the marlin but did hook a third yellowfin. Meanwhile, Bill Carp and Dave Clay were fishing in 25 fathoms of water off of Oceanside for yellowtail when Bill hooked a marlin on straight 40-lb line. Thanks to their skill – and not a small share of luck – they released the 175-lb fish after an hour and forty minutes.

The watchword this season? Be prepared …

Like puppy love, only slimier …

Game 3 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Cardinals started at 6PM, but I’m forcing myself to finish this update before I can watch any of it. It’s been a crazy offseason so far – who thought that the Giants would have won three straight games to be on the brink of the NLCS while the Angels lost three to earn a bus ride home. While it was a little shocking to see Clayton Kershaw get shelled the other night, it can’t be nearly as difficult to watch as it must have been for Arte Moreno to see Zack Greinke spin seven shutout innings, knowing that the Angels had jettisoned him to get … John Hamilton. Ouch …

How strange has this season been? Apparently, 75 sperm whales showed up yesterday off Laguna Beach …

As amazing as the marlin fishing has been this season, it’s the edible pelagics that continue to surprise. Never mind the exotics like wahoo – there’s been a continuous pick of tuna now for nearly six months – it’s crazy! Bluefin and yellowfin tuna continue to be taken in large numbers across a wide swatch of the SoCal Bight, and skipjack are now showing up in large numbers … not that that’s a good thing. There’s even a report that the first three bigeye tuna of the season were landed at the Marlin Club in San Diego. Beyond that, the yellowtail bite remains epic. Earlier this year we saw lots of small but tasty ones being caught under kelp paddies; now it’s more and more large yellowtail that are being caught, like the one getting a little love at right. At least the fish died with a smile on its face …

As I noted at the outset, the changing of the seasons is becoming more apparent every day – hell, I had to put on long pants today, it was so cool. With that change comes more opportunities tugging on those who fish our waters – opportunities to hunt or hoop or just do things onshore. That puts pressure on me to find those of you who are still getting out, and makes me all the more appreciative when you take the time to share with me your fishing experiences and successes. Never forget – you all are a huge part of the success we’ve had with these reports over the years, and I will never stop being grateful.

October 2, 2014

October 2

It is hot – both the weather and the fishing. How hot? Stick around and see in this contrite midweek edition of the SCMO Fishing News …

(cue theme music … and the fans)

Before we get started, an apology – and no, I didn’t piss anyone off this time. Ever have a great plan and have it take a dump all over you? I did tonight. Tonight’s the night I promised the big IGFA Release Rules rant, and I was about 2000 words into it when I realized I wasn’t close to done. Given that it was already nearing midnight, and I hadn’t done the rest of the report, I made the command decision to change direction. So you get a midweek update tonight, and you’ll get a much better rant in the Thursday edition next week. You don’t want to miss it …

It was 101 freaking degrees today in Redondo Beach. I figured that wouldn’t happen until the sun was melting the planet in a couple million years, but apparently I was wrong. God help those of you who live away from the water, but hey – that would be a miserable existance under the best of conditions.

Smile, Pat!

As hot as it was here at the Home Office, though, it was hotter on the water. No, not the weather – the marlin bite. Midweek fishing is usually reserved for the hardcores, but this was a week to play hooky from the office and hit the water – and number of anglers did just that, with fantastic results.

Early in the week, the place to be was the 302. The marlin were so thick there that one angler said you could have jackpoled them if you wanted. DOS HERMANOS was the class of the fleet, releasing one on Monday and five more on Tuesday, but they were hardly alone – SEA TREK IV, LYNN MARIE and DROP BACK each released a pair on Tuesday.

A first release for RELENTLESS

The southern success wasn’t limited to San Diego boats, as a number of craft from the northern fleet made the run south to get in on the fun. Burt Moss released one Monday on the 302 while fishing on Dave Elm’s RASTAFISH, and Pat Holmes brought HAWK south on Monday and released one short of the 302. That’s him at left, walking the life back into a marlin. A couple of hours later, he got a second jig fish on the ride home – and had so much fun that he went back and got a third release Tuesday. Did I mention it was all fishing singlehanded?

I don’t know if it was a case of the bite shifting as much as different boats fishing different places on different days, but later in the week most of the action was off the East End of Catalina. Kathy Ecklund on HOOKER and Kurt Pollard on RELENTLESS each released a pair of marlin Wednesday – hers off the Slide and his off the Can Dump. I know the bite is continuing, as both 1ST THINGS 1ST and CONQUEST each released one today, although I don’t have details on either yet.

The pelagic edibles are still out there, and the cattle boats are scoring. I haven’t heard much lately from private boaters, but to be honest, SoCal may have simply plugged their freezers …

That’ll have to do it for now as my brain is fried. Be sure to check the Billfish Release Board, as that’s where all the details that don’t make the report are found – and with this many fish being released, there’s a lot of details! Look for the usual weekend update on Monday, and then my hopefully-shortened opus on release rules on Wednesday.

14 Years Ago …

October 2, 2000

Your opinion of the current marlin fishing probably depends on your homeport. If it’s Dana Point or north, you think it’s pretty good, and you’re right. But if you’re fishing south of that, I’m sure you think it sucks. You’re right, too!

The epic bite we enjoyed off the Dome at San Clemente Island is well and truly gone, replaced by a weaker (but closer) bite inside of Catalina. Participants in the Tuna Club’s event Friday found marlin on the Avalon Bank, as well as inshore off the Isthmus. Fish were reported close to the island down towards the West End as well. In fact, fishing within a mile or two of the entire island from the slide down past Long Point and then to the West End has been a pretty good place the last few days. Away from the island, there has been a good feeder show on the Avalon Bank and the 14-Mile Bank. One area showing a lot of good signs was northwest of the 14 towards the mid-channel oil platforms. Neal Shaver on OSPREY reported baiting a dozen sleepers there (33.28 / 118.08) Saturday, as well as seeing a half-dozen jumpers. Unfortunately, they weren’t biters. This seems to be a common thread right now, with the fish not really being interested in baits. The exception seems to be on the tides. Jig bites are up as well, which is good news for the rest of us. It seems that the fish are sliding to the west, which is common non-El Ni–o year late season behavior. Look to see them off the West End soon, as well as on the banks around Santa Barbara Island.

Unfortunately, happy things cannot be said for those fishing out of San Diego. The bite we’ve seen the last few years out of Marina Coral simply never materialized this year, and it’s been a long run for those looking for billfish. The 302 showed some action over the weekend, but that was about it. The story is happier for fishing tuna, as a 166-1/2lb bigeye tuna was caught at the 302 and weighed in at the San Diego Marlin Club. That’s one of the largest bigeye in recent memory, and perhaps a sign of good things to come. The big tuna are also being found on the 43.

Yellowfin tuna are being found pretty much everywhere right now. They’re on the banks, under the paddies, and swimming with the porpoise. There’s even a lot of free-swimming schools being seen. Among the best spots are the 267 and 209 to the north, and the 312 and 390 to the south. For those adventurous types (or those with their own oil well), probably the best spot right now is the Butterfly Bank. The challenge remains getting the tuna to bite, as they continue to be very finicky. Try the smallest baits or lures in your arsenal, since they seem to work best.

Rich Hamilton attended the most recent round of planning meetings for the Highly Migratory Species plan last week in San Diego. Unfortunately, he reports that he was one of only a handful of individuals representing the recreational fishing community. That’s sad, because a lot of people (your host included) worked hard to get the word out. After the high attendance at the last series of meetings a few months back, it is disappointing to hear so few turned out this time, particularly in a fishing-rich region like San Diego. We established a conservation forum when we introduced the new Offshore Fishing Forum so we would have a place to post meeting notices, agendas and minutes for such meetings, so that everyone could at least be aware of what is going on. Of course, when you see how few people have viewed the postings there, it’s easy to see why Rich was alone. What happens in these meetings impacts us all, and will determine the future of recreational fishing in our waters for years to come. We all need to make it important to ourselves to be involved. Stop by the RFA Conservation Corner regularly to see what is happening, and learn how you can help. We all need to fight for what we want – you can bet the other side will!

September 29, 2014

September 29

The last tournament results of the season, marlin so thick you can walk on them, and a tip of the cap to the Tuna Club – from me, of all people. All of it coming while I was on the road 400 miles from the action. This should be interesting …

(cue theme music)

That’s why they’re called “Striped” …

I’ll confess right up front that this report just might be a little on the thin side. It’s not that the local marlin season is winding down – far from it; it’s just that my brain is numb after a 1200-mile road trip this weekend and I can only string together so many words before I start to spew gibberish. But, it’s 6:30, I’ve gotten all the help I’m going to get, and this thing ain’t gonna write itself, so let’s go!

The Tuna Club held their Hunt Tournament – which I believe is the last marlin event of the season – this weekend. 12 marlin were caught by the fleet, with most of the action coming down on the 302 (more on that piece of water in a moment)

Johnnie Crean had SEA YA down on the 302 for the event, and it was clearly a smart decision. He released a pair of striped marlin – one on the high spot Friday and a second on the north run home – on 20-lb Dacron to take High Angler honors. Carl Lambert was also onboard, and he released a pair as well.

SEA YA’s exploits weren’t enough to take High Boat, however – that went to KELSEY LEE. I know that three of her anglers, Doug Miller and Calen and Chase Offield, each released their part of a bait triple, all on 20# Dacron, also on the 302. That’s only three fish, though, so there must be at least one more in the mix. I’m sure when I get the Release Reports from Chase it’ll all make sense.

The rest of you turn in Release Reports, right, so you can get your catches on the Release Board? Johnnie and Chase do, and look where it got them! Now, I’m not saying that turning in release reports for your fish will bring you luck in your next tournament, but it worked for these two. The data never lies … ;-)

I don’t have all the details, but I believe that JOINT VENTURE had a pair of releases on the 302, and TOTALLY OUTA’ LINE and CHARISMA had at least one. The lone success coming from the north happened on xJEWEL LURE, where Vince Cecere released one off the Slide.

How’s the view from your living room?

I mentioned that I was a bit out of touch with the weekend’s action, having spent the last 72 hours in Central California. As you know, one of my interests in life is architecture, with an emphasis on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and I’ve travelled extensively in the last few years to experience it first hand.

In addition to visiting the properties, I support many of them financially. It was through being a Friend of Fallingwater, the amazing Kaufmann Summer Home in Pennsylvania, that I was presented the opportunity to tour two Wright-designed residences here in California. Given the rarity of such an opportunity, I wasn’t going to miss out – and boy, would I have missed out!

The two houses couldn’t be located any more differently – the photogenic Walker House on a spit of land overlooking the crashing Pacific in Carmel and Fawcett House surrounded by 1,800 acres of agricultural fields near Los Banos – but having been build only four years apart in the mid-1950’s they shared many design features. I would show you Fawcett House, which is clearly the superior house, but the owners specifically forbade the use of any pictures taken on social media. So instead, I’ll just have to share a view from the living room of Walker House – a 180-degree view overlooking churning surf and sea otters that might just be the best residential view on the planet. Why yes – that is the 18th hole at Pebble Beach in the background. Thanks for asking …

Back at the 302, the marlin action wasn’t limited to those fishing the TC event. We received multiple reports from crews that all said the same basic thing – best marlin fishing of my life. How good, you ask? CRUSADER got 5 there in the last week, and COWBOY got 5 and ENCOUNTER 9 … in one day! The marlin are attacking in packs, and even lures hanging from the outriggers of stopped boats are being eaten. It’s like Mag Bay – in our own back yard!.

Goodnight, Mr Sun

One thing you do want to keep in mind if you run for the 302 – it’s technically in Mexican waters. You know just how much the local Federales love to mess with anyone whose paperwork isn’t Bristol and wallet isn’t open …

I mentioned earlier about the Tuna Club and some kudos of which they are deserving. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the TC for years – I love that they are the oldest fishing club in the world and the original source of many of the angling techniques and rules we use today, yet I hate that they abdicated their role as rules makers to live in a past that is in ways as shameful as that of the August National Golf Club. I have listened in frustration as associate members describe the taking of a marlin only because it was required in order to secure full voting membership.

It was therefore with much interest that I learned earlier this year of a change in the qualification requirements, and complete joy that I heard of two members using those new requirements successfully this weekend. By fighting and releasing a marlin on 20-lb Dacron tackle, and successfully tagging the marlin, Vince Cecere and Curtis Woolsey each gained full voting membership in the Tuna Club. SCMO congratulates Vince and Curtis on their achievement, and welcomes the TC to the twenty-first century.

One side note – if you’re a Tuna Club member, you might want to make a note to check out next Thursday’s Fishing News update, where we will be talking about how the IGFA screwed the pooch on the billfish release “rules” and how there could be a role for the TC to step in and clean up the mess …

Tuna? What tuna? I haven’t heard a sound, but I presume they’re still going strong along with the yellowtail and dorado. I did hear several mentions of “bullet tuna“, a species I’m not familiar with. But one more strange species in SoCal doesn’t even get a raised eyebrow from me any more.

That’s all for now. Join us Thursday for an in-depth look at the rights and wrongs of the new release rules and how they’ve had unanticipated consequences on those releasing marlin. We leave you with a shot from a cyber-friend in New York – it’s a beautiful shot of the sun sinking below the Manhattan skyline on the western horizon. Next stop for Mr. Sun – SoCal!

September 25, 2014

September 25

You’re probably figuring that the tournaments are done, and this being a midweek report, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. And you’d be wrong …

(cue theme music)

Two big smiles

It’s true that with the exception of the Tuna Club’s Hunt Tourney this weekend, the local tournament season has ended. I’ll confess it seems strange not having any of the money tournaments anymore, nor the boats that traditionally only came out for them, but I’d still have to say that the club tourneys did their best to make up for the loss both in terms of angler opportunities and fishing accomplishments. Well done, all you hardworking tournament organizers.

The end of the competition doesn’t mean the end of fishing, of course, and we had some reports trickle in all week. HOOKER was out, as they they have been pretty much every week of marlin season for twenty-five years, and their efforts were rewarded with a pair of released striped marlin for Kathy Ecklund – one yesterday on the 152 on a clone dorado and another today on a black and purple Zuker off the Slide. They did mention that the weather was taking a turn for the worse this afternoon – more on that in a moment.

Another area generating action was the 302, where Rick Maxa (that’s him smiling at left), Doug Kern and Neil Barbour combined for 4 jig strikes and two released marlin. Like many midweek bites, not a lot of folks were in on the action, but those who were there Tuesday and Wednesday scored. Bet I know where the southern fleet will be this weekend, weather pending.

I’ve mentioned the weather twice, and that’s not by accident. So far, all the storms we’ve had to dodge have been from the south, but the first winter storm of the season should roll in this weekend. These storms are important, not just because they present a hazard to those venturing offshore but because of their impact on the fishery. The saying goes that the second storm of the season is the one that shuts down the bite; if that’s the case, we may not have many fishing days left.

In truth, it’s the California Current and it’s various sub currents that ultimately determine how long we’ll continue to see pelagics – and exotic pelagics – in our region. Storms generate waves, but don’t impact currents, so you wouldn’t think that these first few storms would really make a difference. But they certainly seem to, and I’m not going to go against the knowledge of many generations of SoCal marlineers. Get ‘em while you can …

Got yer nose …

In our last report, we mentioned Jeff Clary’s marlin release just 6 miles outside the San Pedro Light, but we didn’t have room to include the picture. Well, we’ve got room today, so here it is – Jeff walking’ the dog on the swim step of xJEWEL LURE. What do you know – another perfectly good picture of a marlin without dragging it in the cockpit. How do they do it … :-/

With tourney season pretty much at an end, this would be a great time to turn in your Release Reports for any billfish you’ve caught. We’re accepting reports for striped marlin, swordfish, spearfish and – amazingly – blue marlin. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, any time we hear about a released billfish we put it on our Release Board. But any time you tell us about your release, we put it on the board and enter you in a drawing for some slick SCMO swag, like the hoodie I’m wearing as we speak. Even if the fish is already on the board, you can claim it by filling out the form, adding any details we’re missing, and stating that you’re claiming your fish in the comments. Next thing you know BAM – there’s a dollar sign by your name! Our goal is to get every released billfish on the board, but we can only do it with your help.

Normally, the end of the local tournament season would spark an exodus of boats from the SoCal Bight south to the warmer waters of Cabo San Lucas. But this hasn’t been a normal tournament year for us, and it certainly won’t be down south, either. By now, we all know the damage done to the region by Hurricane Odile when she slammed into the tip of Baja a few weeks back. The widespread relief efforts have been gratifying (and if you haven’t donated yet, please do), and every day things are looking more and more normal.

I point this out because all the indications we are getting from the organizers over at the Bisbee’s Black and Blue are that the events will take place as usual next month. At this point the airport is still closed and major roads passable only via 4×4, but don’t count out the good people of Los Cabos …

I’ve decided the relatively new billfish release rules and “recommendations” from the IGFA suck and are doing more harm than good. I’ll be writing a lot more about that next Thursday, but if you have an opinion on it, I’d love to hear from you.

Honey, I’m home …

If you were with us last year, you know that I took a week smack dab in the middle of tournament season to go tour Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in Wisconsin. Well, I’m doing it again, sort of. Tomorrow morning around 4AM I hit the road north for a rare opportunity to get a guided tour of two of Wright’s Central California houses – the Fawcett House, set in a Los Banos agricultural field, and the Walker house on the rocks in Carmel – probably Wright’s most photogenic residential property not named Fallingwater (that’s it on the left). With the fishing as hot as it is, you know it takes something pretty special to pull me away from it, but this is definitely it.

You’d think by now there couldn’t possibly be any yellowfin tuna left out there, but there are – and still in big numbers. The 277 was hot over the weekend, and presumably still is, as are the 209 and 302. San Diego boats haven’t had to go any further than the 9-Mile Bank to load up, and while I haven’t heard any more albacore rumors this week, it sounds like the bluefin tuna may have re-entered the mix out on the Cortes Bank. Wahoo and dorado continue to trickle in to the docks, and I’ve even heard that someone has caught some bigeye tuna (although when they started in on explaining how you tell them apart from a yellowfin by bending this fin in that way I just nodded out). Add to that some of the biggest yellowtail anyone has ever seen in years, and you know why everyone is clamoring to get back out on the water.

I was watching one of those David Attenborough “Blue Planet” specials on BBC America a couple of nights ago, and I learned something about one of our local species that came as a complete surprise. We’ve all seen molas before – the big slow sunfish that laze along she surface, slowly waving a fin to move forward or lounging on their sides taking in the warmth of the sun. I’ve also seen them group around kelp paddies and while I never gave it much thought, I certainly never knew why. Now I do …

Turns out that mola – much like marlin and mako and most other open water species in our region – are afflicted with skin parasites. OF course, without opposable thumbs, there’s not much a big slow fish can do, right? Wrong! The mola congregate at the kelp paddies because among the species than hang out there are the lowly Catalina Blue Perch – those same little fish you caught as a kid. The mola will drift alongside the paddy, which serves as a sign to the blue perch to go to work picking off the parasites. The relationship is so trusting, the mola will open their mouths and gill slits and the perch will swim right in to get the most hard to reach invaders. A free meal for the perch and a fresh start for the mola – man, nature is just so amazing!

8 Years Ago …

September 25, 2006

“It’s great to be alive, isn’t it, folks?”

- Ron White

The Pesky is in the rear view mirror, and I can remember the whole thing – which is victory itself. I’ll talk softly for those of you who haven’t reached the far side of your hangovers yet …

Friday and Saturday saw the contesting of the 17th Annual LPNTAINSLTBFT (Los Pescadores Next To Avalon Invitational Not So Light Tackle Billfish Tournament, better known as the Pesky. 48 boats – and a couple of fakes – took to the water under unsettled weather conditions to try and find the marlin which so suddenly disappeared earlier in the week.

Tourney boats honing skills between the money events had found a few fish on the Avalon Bank, and that’s where the few Pesky boats pre-fishing the event concentrated. SCRAMBLER got two of three in a triple hookup, and HOOKER and HAMMER each released one. For HOOKER, I was the angler on a dropback fish – that’s him swimming away at left. For those taking notes, this is what you want to see after you resuscitate the fish – swimming fast, dorsal up. You don’t have that – keep towing.

Friday morning marked the start of the tournament, and with the ceremonial playing of “The Chicken Song” the fishing was on. The fleet was split between the Avalon Bank, the East End, and the 152, and many boats made the circuit between the three. Fish were taken on each, but none had what would pass for a hot bite. At the end of the day, SPRAE IT lead the field with a pair of releases, with PESCAHOLIC, AGITATOR, EXTASEA, SECOND TIME AROUND, HOT SPOT, GERONIMO, TYEE (wearing the bagel at right) and SURVIVOR all releasing a single fish. Best line of the day went to Jerry Austin on GERONIMO, who said he couldn’t bagel the fish since his dog had eaten the bagels – and he was serious.

Saturday morning saw a big change in the weather, with a stiff breeze out of the east that was rumored to become a nor’easter before noon. Fortunately for those anchored in Avalon, that never happened, but the strange weather seemed to send the fish running. Boats seemed to make a rather leisurely start, perhaps because of the proximity of the fish or perhaps a casualty of a night in town. In any case, SHOWDOWN got the day started with a release off Long Point, and many in the fleet slid down the island in the hopes of repeating the feat. It was for naught, however, as the only other fish caught during the day were by HUKILAU on the 277 and JUDY ANN on the Avalon Bank.

In the Pesky, it’s not enough to just catch fish – you gotta take a few extra steps. In this year’s event, the theme was “A Pirate’s Life For Me,” and the VHF emanated with “arrrr”s all day. Points could be accrued – or lost – for the wearing of official tourney garb, making the call to Tournament Control the right way and, of course, the correct placing of the bagel. One obscure bonus point source was the use of a Sevenstrand EAL lure – but only if presented for review to the tourney committee at the banquet … with fresh batteries. No one had ever used that one before, but those points made the difference for Marylin Stephens of EXTA SEA and gave her the title. The lure, of course, was raffled off to the crowd.

Second place went to Jenny Armstrong, fishing on TYEE, who caught her first ever marlin on Friday and lost a second – and potential event winner – on Saturday. “I’m still not able to talk about what happened” she said in her Trip Report. Welcome to the exciting world of lure fishing for marlin, Jenny.

Third place was awarded to Tim Brockaway for his bagelled marlin released from SECOND TIME AROUND. Prizes were awarded to the top ten anglers and, in typical Pesky fashion, when the sixth place angler from SURVIVOR skipped the banquet, his award was raffled off.

The post-tourney celebrations were relatively tame by Pesky standards, but still had their moments. To read about the best of the best – and the worst – check out my MarlinBlog entry, The REAL Pesky Awards.

While a lot of folks nursed post-Pesky hangovers on their cans in Avalon, some people actually caught marlin on Sunday. PESCAHOLIC found one lazing near the Avalon Bank, where it was caught and released by Rob Espinoza. WILD BILL, while not fishing the tourney, was still out and active, and released a marlin near the 14-Mile Bank. And KAWA KAWA, who drew the collar in the tourney, redeemed themselves with a release on the 152.

As usual for the Monday report, I have Monday Night Football going in the background. Tonight is the big return of the Saints to New Orleans, and they’re rolling out the red carpet – U2, Green Day, George H. W. Bush. Tony Kornheiser just gave a great little speech about how before you can rebuilt the buildings, you have to rebuild the symbols. It doesn’t matter if we believe the return of the Saints is important, because the residents of New Orleans believe it’s important. And, Kornheiser said, that’s reason enough for it to be important to us. I’ve given TK grief in the past for his MNF gaffes, but this was good enough to earn him a pass for the rest of the season …

The streets had barely been swept of drunk Peskys before the next event started. Today was the first day of fishing for the Catalina Classic, and 70 boats headed out this morning to give it there best shot. As of 4:30 this afternoon, there had been 11 releases – led by BAD COMPANY with two – and one fish boated. Most of the action continues to be around the Avalon Bank and off the east end, as the tourney fleet searches for the “honey hole”. They’ll get two more chances tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ll have the wrapup on Thursday; keep an eye on the War Room for updates.

That’s it for now. A pretty good tourney season is winding down, and now it’ll be time for the private boater fleet to find the marlin we know are out there somewhere. For me personally, the Pesky probably marks the end of my season, unless I can bum a weekend ride or two from a friend. If it ends now, though, I can’t complain – I got two, which is two more than last year!