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Archive for the ‘2004’ Category.

October 18 – Final Report

"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 14

Ah … ah … ah … CHOO!

This will be a pretty quick report, in part because there’s not a lot happening, but also because I’m catching a cold …

As you might expect for this time of year, there isn’t a lot of boats out during the week. We talked in the last report about the "hardheads" who are still working at it, and one of the most dedicated – PESCADOR – scored again today, releasing another fish with a satellite tag. They had to go a long way to find it though – they were 5 miles off the beach at Carlsbad. Several San Diego boats reported catching fish in the same general area today.

Further north, there was a report of marlin seen southeast of the 270 (basically, in the shipping lanes between Palos Verdes and Catalina). Several boats pounded the area pretty hard and, while there was good signs, no fish were caught. There have been recent reports of marlin seen on most of the inshore high spots, including the 14 Mile Bank and the 267, but the only other action I heard of was one hooked near the 209.

I mentioned a while back that I was starting a new job. I’m three weeks into the new assignment now, and I’m discovering a whole new level of stress in my life. I’m the lead manufacturing engineer for the Spaceway 1 satellite, a $175 million bird scheduled for launch early next year. Basically, that means it’s my job to document the processes necessary to build the thing from scratch. I’ve been an ME for quite some time, but this is by far the largest project I’ve ever had. Naturally, as the size goes up, the amount of time you are given to develop the manufacturing processes goes done. Add to that the fact that just last week NASA released their final report on the accident at Lockheed where a future weather satellite was dropped. Who did the blame for the $138 million accident? The satellite’s ME. Like I said – just a little stress.

I’m sure that’s playing a role in why I’m catching this cold. Well, that and the fact that ever since marlin season arrived, I haven’t been following my Atkins plan as strictly as I should. Just goes to show you – don’t cheat! Because of the cold, I’ve been slow on some of my duties, such as answering email or participating in the forum conversations. But the important stuff – like this update, and processing new MNAC memberships – are getting what little attention I can muster. Hopefully, I’ll shake this bad boy by the end of the weekend.

The success found by the few boats out this week should insure that there’ll be a fleet this weekend. If you’re part of it, be sure to let us know what you find!

October 11

"Here, fishy-fishy…"

It was a mighty quiet weekend on the water, and the reports are down to a trickle. With the kids back in school and the tourney boats off to Cabo, the only folks left on the water are the hardcore and the hardheads. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which …

What fishing there is is occurring off Oceanside. Several boats, including PESCADOR, released marlin there Saturday, and Dave Pfeiffer and Barry Brightenburg released two of the three fish they had hooked simultaneously off Oceanside (13/33). Note to you newbies – having more fish hooked than you have people on the boat is not necessarily a good thing …

By Sunday, the water had cooled and the bite had as well. Those boats still fishing were searching for the happy hunting grounds, but had not as yet found them. I talked to the HOOKER crew a couple of hours ago; they said it was looking pretty depressing down there.

We received very few reports of action from the other marlin spots; the only other fish I heard of was one that was released on the Avalon Bank on Saturday. I’m still convinced that you could spend all season pulling plastic on the AB and do better than most.

I had a wonderful sighting this weekend. Not a marlin – I was on the beach. No, I saw an old friend – the Goodyear blimp. Ten months removed from a crash landing into a mulch pit, the airship Spirit of America returned this weekend to the skies above Los Angeles, it’s familiar drone a welcome reminder of its presence. So many things change these days … the blimp is about the last thing left from my childhood and, frankly, it’s good to have it back.

Unfortunately, this weekend also meant saying goodbye to a courageous man. Christopher Reeve was seen by most – myself included – as your typical spoiled actor until a riding accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. Faced with the decision of giving up or fighting back, he became a tireless advocate for research into spinal cord injury. He always said that he felt his injury was simply God’s plan for him … perhaps now his job is done.

It’s tempting to assume that the season is over, but remember that in each of the last few years there was a late season blast of fish – last year at the 499 and the season before in the lee of San Clemente Island. Will that be the case this year? Stay tuned!

October 7

"Buy me some peanuts and Cracker-Jacks …"

I’m feeling a little better. Shawn Green and Milton Bradley just hit home runs to tie Game 2 of the Dodgers-Cardinals series at 3 all. We’ll see if it’s still tied by the time I finish this report …

With the tourney season behind us and the weather getting a little nip to it, the end of the season is on the horizon. But just how away that horizon is remains to be seen. Tradition says the marlin will han g out until the first serious winter storm, and I haven’t heard of anything resembling storm clouds as yet.

The bite off San Onofre continues, although the small number of boats makes it a bit of a trickle and., therefore, difficult to quantify. At least a half-dozen fish have been caught there this week, with ONO and COMANCHE among those scoring. If it continues into the weekend, you can bet there’ll be a lot more boats, since the spot is equidistant to both north and south boats and nice and tight to the beach.

Well, that didn’t last long. The Cardinals just scored three runs to take a 6-3 lead. Damn …

It’s definitely heading into winter. The surest sign for me here at the Home Office is having to relight the pilot on the wall heater. Living at the beach, you wouldn’t think you’d need a heater often. But living in a beach house means no insulation, so the inside is just like the outside. Normally, that’s no problem. But there’s one or two days each winter when the temperature drops down and you need a little fossil-fuel driven help.

Of course, if the winter is coming, it must be about time for me to start thinking about those off season SCMO projects. Number one among them is the Marlin Tutorial. In between time on the water and time at the site, I have 8 chapters in various states of completion – some roughed out, and others ready for final proofing. Thus, my first task will be to get those online for your winter reading. I’m still accepting suggestions on what chapters you’d like to see next.

Another winter project is scheduled to be the forum upgrade, but I’m having second thoughts. As you might recall, we upgraded our server about 6 months ago in preparation of future projects. Chief among those was to upgrade to the latest version of the software package that runs our forums. Recently, Allcoast upgraded to the same software (with all their traffic, they had no choice), and the reaction has thus far been mixed at best. So since I don’t really need to upgrade, I’m adrift on the concept. Here’s where you could help. Let me know what you want to see – upgrade or remain the same. Email me with your opinions.

Great … now it’s 8-3 …

So did you see the flight of SpaceShipOne? If you did, then you know why I think Burt Rutan is a genius. Remember, he’s the guy who designed Voyager, the first plane to circumnavigate the world unrefueled back in 1986. It’s hanging from the ceiling at the Smithsonian in Washington now, and you can bet they’re clearing out a space for SpaceShipOne as we speak …

Oh well. Cards win, 8-3. At least we’re coming back to LA, which is more than the poor Angels say. Watching the local teams take it on the chin the last few days makes me appreciate just how great it was when my Marlins won it all last year.

So … got any theories on where the swordfish all went? The last couple of years everyone whined about the lack off marlin while the swordfish – both commercial and recreational – had a field day. Now the marlin are here and the broadbill are scarce. Go figure.

I’ll probably be on the beach this weekend, as the new job has me working long hours. If I were out, though, I’d be down off San Onofre. It shouldn’t be hard to find – just look for the boats trolling among the surfers. If you’re in one of those boats, let us know how it goes!

October 4

You want fries with that?

This is our super-sized catchup/recap update to try and cover what’s been going on while I’ve been away. We’ll look at where the fish are (and aren’t) as well as review the end of the local tourney season. All in an attractive low calorie, low carb product!

I had mentioned before that it would get tough to provide decent updates once I started fishing the tournaments in which I was entered, and that has certainly been the case the last few weeks. I’ve been in Avalon three and a half days of each of the last two weeks (as the bartenders at Luau Larry’s and the Marlin Club can attest) and been struggling the rest of the time to adjust to a new job (which I technically started on Day 1 of the Pesky). I’ve been providing War Room updates via laptop and participating as I could in the forums, but it’s been limited.

To the collective credit of the MNAC membership, most of you understood and were supportive of my efforts. Some, however, were less than pleased with the lack of updates, particularly of the Fishing News. For those of you who took the time to email me your displeasure – in some cases, repeatedly, let me say that I understand your frustration. If I was so lazy that the only way I knew where to fish was to wait for someone at a website to tell me, I’d feel pretty lost, too. Of course, you’re only paying $25 a year for access – a small price compared to the $30 a month for that porn site you hang out at when you’re not here. But, hey – if you’re all that irritated, simply find your news elsewhere. Oh, that’s right – there is nowhere else to find all this stuff. My – such a dilemma.

Now that we’ve dealt with those boneheads, let’s get down to business.

We’re still looking for that late-season concentration of marlin we’ve enjoyed the last few seasons. Unfortunately, thus far the fishing has remained scratchy, with only single fish being caught for the most part. Both Peter Babros on NORSELAND and Doug Daniels on PESCADOR got baitfish near the 277 on Saturday, and HOOKER released one Sunday northwest of the 14 Mile Bank. That’s me dancing with it to the left. Releasing this one for my father almost makes up for the one I lost Friday … almost.

The closest thing to a concentration right now would seem to be down south near Oceanside. KAWAKAWA worked an area off Las Pulgas Canyon this weekend with good success. They lost a pair of dropback fish on Friday before landing the baitfish half of a dropback/jigfish double on Saturday. Just for good measure, "Dropback Dara" released another on Sunday. If you want to check out the action yourself, work between these numbers: 14/33 and 22/34. That last pair is so close to shore off the powerplant that it’s practically in the surfline – 211 feet deep, according to Greg. Just goes to show – you go where the fish are.

Most of the KAWAKAWA action came as part of the King Harbor Marlin Club’s annual event, and is a nifty segue to talking about tourney action.

The KHMC event, running last Friday and Saturday, faced the challenge of a dwindling fish supply. Without a clear indication of where to look, the sixteen boat fleet was spread out over a large area as each team hoped to find the glory hole. That can lead to interesting communication challenges for the tournament organizers, and that was certainly the case for this event.

Most of the tourney boats headed to the west end of Catalina on Friday, where some success had been found the weekend before. Unfortunately, the fish had moved off by then. Worse still, they were so war away that they had no idea that HOOKER and KAWAKAWA, which along with CRACKER JACK had headed south, were finding success. KAWAKAWA was finding – but not catching – fish off San Onofre, and HOOKER was having the same kind of a day off Laguna. It wasn’t until I hooked – and lost after an hour and 45 minutes – a jigfish 3 miles outside Avalon that the rest of the boats even knew there had been any action in the event. Dara Stotesbury’s dropback fish on 12-lb – taking a full 3 hrs, 10 min – won her first prize in the event.

Many of the same boats that fished in the King Harbor event also participated in the Pesky the weekend before, including both KAWAKAWA and HOOKER. Most of the 36-boat fleet worked off the West End of Catalina, where EGG-CESSIVE and CORONA EXTRA each released a fish – properly bagelled, of course. FOXY LADY added a release off Cat Harbor to conclude Friday’s Day 1.

The Pesky has always been about irreverence, and this year’s Jimmy Buffett theme might have seemed a little tame compared to some of the recent selections. But all you need to do is listen to the radio to realize the Pesky is unique:

"Ah, Tournament Control, this is Scott on the Laci P with an angler substitution. Laci is no longer on the boat; her replacement is Amber Frye …"

That and the PVC tailers (one of which was spotted – and cast upon – this weekend off Oceanside) make the Pesky … well, the Pesky!

It was looking like it would be a one-fish-to-win event until Mike Shroesbree on EUREKA released a pair of marlin to sew up first prize. ONO, WREN’s NEST, ESCAPE ROUTE and PESCAHOLIC each released a fish on Saturday, the latter by 8-yr old angler Robbie Espinosa on 20-lb tackle.

I’m happy to report that everyone appeared to survive this year’s afterparties at the Descanso Beach Club, Armstrong’s and the Marlin Club – no "Chip" or bachelorette parties this year. But a lot of good times and great memories. Drop by the tourney web site in a couple of weeks and we should have the most embarrassing photos available for your perusal.

OK, that should have everyone up to date for now. Good news – no new hurricanes to report. Looks like our friends in south Florida will finally have a chance to dry out. Now if we can just keep them out of Baja for a while …

Speaking of idiots (as we were earlier), let me take a moment to talk about hookup etiquette. When another boat is hooked up, everyone wants to get close to them, either to catch a fish of their own, or just to see what’s going on. That’s understandable, but so is the frustration and anger the hooked boat crew feels when you do this. I saw this first hand on Sunday when a fellow boater decided it made sense to make a pass right off HOOKER’s stern while we were fighting our fish.

Anytime a boat is fighting a fish, it’s easy to tell where the angler is and, therefore, where the fish in in relationship to the boat. If you’re going to pass close, always choose the opposite end of the boat from the angler, and never pass within 100 yards. There’s plenty of water and plenty of fish out there – give the guy a break!

With the local tournament season over, a lot of boats have headed south to continue in the events based in Cabo San Lucas later this month. Other boats have hung up their rods for the season and gotten on with their lives. That pretty much leaves the hardcores and idiots – and sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

Being one (or both) of those, I’m still looking for more. But that’s good news for you, because that means more straight from the water information will be available – and with the tourneys behind me, it’ll be a quicker process to get it on the site!

September 20

Fritz said it’s be like this …

The bad news is that the nasty weather we had predicted in our last report materialized, and both the Santa Monica Basin Buoy (above Santa Barbara Island) and the San Clemente Basin Buoy (below San Clemente Island) recorded sustained winds above 25 knots and gusts as high as 50. The good news? The worst of it waited until Sunday, when most of the boats that had been fishing had returned to port for the MABT awards banquet.

Weather offshore is nothing to trifle with, and I spent the weekend working on my roses rather than fishing because of it. The irony is that after I was told to cancel my trip over to catch up with HOOKER at the island, the crew decided to stick it out and fish the weekend. The result? My father indicated that the weather leaving Cat Harbor Sunday morning was the worst he’d seen in the half-century he’s been working these waters.

Remember when we were talking about lessons learned? Here’s another one – when in doubt, go with your first instinct … :-)

You know, I pride myself on my writing skills. but after reading one of the Trip Reports, I clearly have competition. Since he was there (captaining the second place boat, no less!) and I wasn’t, I’ll let MNAC member Greg Stotesbury describe the action Friday and Saturday in the BAC’s Masters …

"Friday morning we started the tournament at daylight just below the Osborn. Punky Langston’s DOUBLE HOOKUP found a sleeper early and Eric Grennan hooked the fish on 12lb tackle. Later in the morning Bob Hoose on Mike Blower’s PACIFIC PIONEER and Aaron Grose on Bill Urone’s BILL JOY caught fish on 16lb tackle. Eric Grennan finally landed a tough 12 lb fish after a 3 hour battle. All of these fish were caught near the Osborn Bank, but the FIGHTING LADY soon reported in with a 30lb release down on the East End of Catalina.

"I had tacked down 4 miles below the fleet on the Osborn at 10am when Dara spotted a fish in our jigs chasing the #1 mean joe EAL on the starboard outrigger. The fish knocked the jig out of the rigger just as Dara dropped back a bait on 12lb tackle. The fish disappeared as I slowed the boat for the dropback. Dara tried to come tight on her dropback bait, but only recovered slack line as I punched the boat back up to speed to help set the hook. Another marlin appeared in the wake and grabbed the mean joe EAL just as Dara came tight to her dropback fish! For a short time we had the jig fish on 16lb tackle and the dropback fish on 12lb. After the jig fish jumped and fell off we fought the 12lb fish from the bow and released it an hour and forty minutes later. It was nice to get on the board early with a 12lb release!

"The fishing was slow for the rest of the afternoon, but CORONA EXTRA and OSPREY both released fish to end day one. Most of the boats in the fleet caught small yellowfin tuna on their marlin jigs late in the day as the tuna were thick on the many meatballs of anchovy.

"Saturday’s fishing started early on the Osborn with Jim Kingsmill landing a sleeper aboard his dad’s WILD BILL on 12 lb tackle. Many of the boats left the Osborn and ran back to the beach where a concentration of fish was found 5-10 miles off Laguna. COWBOY, MOORE FUN, and OFFSHORE all released marlin in on the beach. We stuck it out up at SBI in deteriorating conditions and found a couple of jumpers up by the 117 where Larry Stanley’s SENOR MOMENT released a fish late in the day.

"59 boats ended up releasing 12 fish in 2 days of fishing The Master’s. Eric Grennan aboard DOUBLE HOOKUP was master angler and their boat was top boat for releasing the first 12lb fish. Dara Stotesbury aboard our KAWAKAWA was 2nd place angler and boat with her 12lb marlin, and Jim Kingsmill on WILD BILL with his 12lb fish was third angler and boat.

"The top club team was Balboa Angling Club team #1 with KAWAKAWA, WILD BILL, JOKER and EMPRESARIO with 480 points. Tuna Club and Los Pescadores were 2nd and 3rd clubs.

Man – I gotta put that guy on the payroll! He’s set a high standard for me in coverage of the Pesky …

I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to replace your favorite weather girl, since, frankly, that may the only guilty pleasure some of you are allowed. However, I feel it is my obligation as a dedicated reporter to remind anyone planning to fish the Pesky this weekend that there is a good chance of a large Santa Ana blowing into the region later this week. You remember Santa Ana’s, right? Strong, hot winds out of the northeast? The kind that have a nasty habit of blowing boats on the rocks when they’re poorly anchored outside of Avalon while their crew is at the Marlin Club …

We talk about our little weather woes, but they’re nothing compared to what our friends on the East Coast have faced. Last time I checked, they’re up to Hurricane Lisa. That’s twelve named storms, and half of them have hit the States.

We have several MNAC members who live in the region hit by the most recent – and most destructive – storm, Ivan. Today we received a message from Hal Lovato, who lives near Pensacola, relayed through Paco Saca:

"I am in New Orleans dropping my wife and baby Lucie off so they can have power and air conditioning. My house is almost a total loss. There is a clear view of the sun from my bed and the lower floors caught the water. It’s a 100 yr old historic house and all the plaster is ruined as is the old slate roof."

"My Pensacola store, which is downtown and only a block from the site you’ve seen on the news as Pensacola Bay Bridge, was spared. There was no damage while the surrounding buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged. My other two stores are in Destin and Ft Walton Beach and we can’t get to them to check yet, but the managers of both stores say they’re only minor damages. We have no power at any of the stores and no water at home so I had to get the wife and kid out. According to the local utility company, it will be 2-3 weeks for water and electricity. The beaches are totally destroyed and 80% of the homes on the barrier islands are severely damaged or gone. Damages are more serious than Opal or Erin and from what the old timers say, they’re similar to Camille in that there is total devastation in the effected areas."

"The only bright side is that I now have a totally unobstructed view of Pensacola Bay (and the damaged bridge) from my house where I used to see forest!"

"I will be heading back in the morning with a trailer full of ice and supplies donated by my brother’s church and I’ll be trying to help those around us who can’t help themselves. As you may know, I am a general contractor specializing in large insurance disaster claims by trade, so business is good, but things around here will never be the same."

"Thousands of trees and homes are destroyed. Several of the oil rigs we fish were lost and/or misplaced. One was found intact and floating several hundred miles from its base. Luckily, I sold XANADU 2 months ago as the marina is trashed and basically all of the boats are ruined. You may have seen Bahia Mar and Harborview Marina on the news. They are both on Bayou Chico which is where I kept XANADU. JADED LADY is alright, but most of the other boats around here are in bad shape! Beware used boats from Florida."

"In the morning I’ll be heading back to Pensacola and won’t be on the computer for a while, so please tell the SCMO folks I said hello and that we’re alright. I appreciate your concern and hope to be back to normal as soon as possible."

We’re still waiting to hear from Frank Herrington, who lives in Mobile. Hopefully all is well with him and the other MNAC members in the Gulf Coast region. the last few storms after Ivan have petered out before reaching us … hopefully that trend will continue.

Today was the first day of fishing for the Catalina Classic, the second of the pair of local big money events. As Greg indicated above, the fish are much closer to shore, and I heard that there were at least 1 released and 3 landed marlin. Most of the action is between the 267 and 14.

Well, it’s that time – Pesky Week! I’ll certainly be at the Pesky Kickoff on Wednesday, if for no other reason than to see what in the famous bucket of crap. It’s that last opportunity to tell lies and try to fake people into wasting half a tank of fuel running over the horizon after marlin that don’t exist. All in all, a don’t miss event. There may or may not be a Thursday report, depending on when I head offshore. But, hell, you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t …) believe anything I told you right before the Pesky, anyway!

September 16

"Danger, Will Robinson …"

Our topic this week is "lessons learned". But before we get into the report on tournament action, both past and present, a quick public service announcement from the National Weather Service:

It’s only a fish. It’s not worth getting your ass beat up over … or worse.

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Javier, and right now, he’s a hurricane. By this weekend, he’ll probably only be a tropical depression, but he’s still going to be enough to make a real mess of our waters. The last dot on the picture at left is where he’s supposed to be on Sunday morning, but we all know from the last few weeks in Florida just how inaccurate a science hurricane prediction is. One thing you can guarantee is that there’ll be some nasty swells out of the south very soon.

The lesson to be learned? If you’re going to go out this weekend – and I’m not – keep a close eye on the weather and check in with the weather channel on your VHF at least every couple of hours. That’s particularly important for anyone chasing the marlin out to the Osborn, since there’s damned little protection out there.

What’s that you say, Stan … marlin on the Osborn Bank? But I thought they were off Church Rock??

Time for lesson learned #2 – you gotta be where the fish are to catch the fish. It comes with a pair of corollaries – don’t leave fish to find fish, and don’t fall in love with a patch of water.

As you’ll recall, last weekend there was a pretty awesome marlin bite off Church Rock at Catalina. But by Sunday, it was clear that the fish were on the move. When that happens, the only way you’ll catch the fish is if you figure out where they went.

The early clue was a report from of a marlin being caught on the 499, and that was enough for the experienced captains in the Zane Grey event to know where to go. And since they were where the fish were, they caught the fish – a bunch of them. Or, at least the hot boats did …

When it was all over, the 35-boat fleet had released 42 marlin and boated 5. Among the release leaders (and it was hard to keep up with all of them, so I may be a bit short …) were TRAUMA with 5, C-BANDIT with 4, BAD DOG II with 3, and GAMBLER and AFTER MIDNIGHT (last year’s winner) with two each. The biggest of the weighed fish was a 229-lber caught by NIRVANA.

Most of the action came off the west end of Catalina, as the fish moved from near the 125 at the start of the event on Monday to the Osborn Bank by line’s out on Wednesday. Those boats able to adapt to the moving fish continued to catch them; those that didn’t move didn’t catch.

While I’m never a fan of any event that kills marlin, I do want to recognize the organizers for creating a set of rules that seemed to do as they hoped and minimize the number of undersized fish taken. There was only one marlin taken that was under the 165-lb minimum weight, and even this fish met the 84" minimum fork length. And, fortunately, this year they didn’t cave and lower the weight minimum half way through the event to increase the number of taken fish. Now if they’d just make the point system a little more release-friendly, or – gasp – step up and become a release-only event. Ah, perchance to dream …

While our local weather focus os on the breakup of Hurricane Javier, our friends on the east coast are reeling from his cousin Hurricane Ivan. Sounds like it took three hurricanes to do it, but Florida finally got hit hard, and the panhandle from Tallahassee to the Alabama border got smacked but good. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone in the region and those flooding into the area to help.

People always ask me how I can live in SoCal with the earthquakes and fires. Frankly, I’ll take those random freaks of nature over the regular destruction caused by tornados in the midwest and hurricanes in the east. At least an earthquake is something you don’t know is coming until it gets here …

The tournaments, they just keep a’ coming … Next up are the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament and the Catalina Classic. The MABT is Friday and Saturday, while the Classic starts on Monday.

While I have a certain fondness for the Pesky, the MABT is probably the most prestigious of the SoCal club events. It’s a team event, with three-boat teams fishing for their home clubs and fighting to be the "master angler". Of course, since most of the leading anglers in the area belong to more than one club, the allegiances are a bit tenuous …

If I was on the water this weekend, I think I’d be following one last Lesson Learned: Fish have tails. We don’t know why they’re moving so fast, but they’re definitely moving. Don’t be surprised to find the fish up at the 175 above Santa Barbara Island, or even at the Santa Monica Basin Buoy. And if I was based in Channel Islands, I’d be checking out the south side of Santa Cruz this weekend – Footprint, 153, 48

Since I find myself in the unusual position of being on the beach this weekend, I’ll be depending on you guys more than ever for information. If you catch something, add it to the Release Reports, and even if you don’t file your Trip Report. As for me, I’ll be puttering around the house wondering what might have been. At least my roses will get some much-needed attention …

September 13

“‘Til those lights come up, and we hear that crowd, and we remember why we came …”

Jackson Browne, “The Load Out”

In case you hadn’t heard, there was a pretty good marlin bite this weekend. How good was it? Huh-huh-huh …

Every once in a while, a reporter gets a little too close to the action and becomes a part of the story he’s trying to report. My personal favorite is the local NYC reporter doing a live shot from the base of the burning Twin Towers. He was saying, “This is as close as the police will let us get” when his cameraman panned upward to see the first tower falling on top of them. Somehow, they survived.

I’ve been at this marlin game a long time, but I see myself as a chronicler first and an angler second. I want to catch fish, but it’s more important to me that I convey the excitement of the sport and pass along knowledge. I know what I’m doing out there, but no one is going to write tributes to my mad marlin skills.

This weekend, though, I became my own story. Somehow, I caught three marlin on Saturday. I won’t bore you with the details, since by now you should have read the Trip Report – because you should have been there writing your own – or heard the story. It was an amazing day, but just part of the bigger picture.

The real story was the movement of marlin into the waters around Catalina Island. HOOKER found them 3 miles off Church Rock Friday, and was able to get a pair of releases. In addition to my three HOOKER releases Saturday, ISLAND PRINCESS released a pair and several boats got single fish. Further off the island, KAWAKAWA released a pair on the 152, and FREIGHT BEGGAR was among those who found success on the Avalon Bank.

The lesson to be learned from this weekend is that where there is bait, there might be marlin, but if there’s no bait, there’s no marlin. By Saturday, the abundant bait seen earlier off Church Rock (300 feet of solid bait at some places) had moved on, taking the marlin with it. Initially, the fleet found marlin on the Avalon Bank, but the majority of the fish slid up the backside of the island.

Finally, it appears that the San Diego bite has petered out, particularly the one off Pukey Point. Of course, it’s been so warm, it may just be that the stripes are moving out to make room for the blues:-)

So … which one of these guys looks more like a leader to you?

You may recall that we reported a “healthy population of marlin” seen off the west end of Catalina last week. Part of the surprise of the weekend was the lack of fish caught there, although AGITATOR did release one near the 499 on Sunday.

The tourney guys pay too much to be surprised, so when the Zane Grey kicked off Monday, they knew where to go. While some fish were taken on the Avalon Bank, the majority were caught between the 499 and 172 spots between Catalina and Santa Barbara Islands. On Day 1, 12 marlin were released, with TRAUMA, BAD DOG II and C-BANDIT leading the way with two released each. fortunately, only one marlin was killed, a 181-lber by C-BANDIT.

I haven’t seen the final results yet today, but I believe there were 15 more fish released, with the only weighed marlin being a undersized fish by CHASER. It should be interesting to see how the results shake out, since the point system used in the event gives 378 points to the one legal weighed fish and 100 points to each release. How sweet would it be for released fish to win …

Sportsmen are a superstitious lot. Many athletes have their own special rituals they perform to insure their success (or so they believe). Fishermen are no different, I suppose, and many of us have our own little superstitions.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a superstition, but we do have a little victory ritual we perform when we catch a marlin, and we’ve been fortunately enough to do so several times this season. Anytime we catch a marlin during the day, we play the Jackson Browne tune “The Load Out/Stay” on the way to the anchorage. I have no idea how it started, but none of us would dare mess with it. For the longest time, I wondered why that particular song seemed to resonate so with the team. A couple of years ago, though, it dawned on me that it is a perfect description of the challenges a marlin crew faces. The song describes the life of the touring musician, moving town to town and killing time between shows. The reward, of course, is the all-too-short time spent on stage.

That gypsy life has a lot of parallels with the marlin fisherman. We spend a lot of time on the water, often away from family and friends, in the singleminded pursuit of marlin. People who have not lived the life don’t understand it, and it is not something you can explain easily. Like the character in the song, there is a lot of long, empty hours, punctuated by those sweet moments when you fight the fish.

When I hear that song on the way in, I am reminded of all that has gone into the moment – the work and luck, success and failure. I don’t know if I could ever really explain why I consider this sport so special; all I know is that I was incredibly aware of just how special those moments are this weekend …and I remembered exactly why I came …

Remember when the Los Angeles Times Outdoor section used to be a great source of fishing information? I used to love Pete Thomas’ column. I was reading the Generation-X version it has become today – all I can say is “pathetic” …

Often, SCMO is much like the Kingdom of Oz – so much so, in fact, our motto ought to be “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” We work very hard to make things look smooth and professional, and most of the time, we succeed.

But the reality is that this is a one-man operation – me. If it’s going to get done, I have to do it, and if I don’t, it won’t.

It’s always a challenge for me to keep up with the site at this time of year, but this season is particularly tough. We’re getting a lot of new MNAC members, each of which must be manually added to two different computer systems, and this is the busiest season for the Fishing News. Making things even more eventful, I’m right in the middle of a particularly contentious job change at Boeing, and the hours are particularly long as I transition from one assignment to the other. And, now that I’ve found myself in the middle of the race to catch the most fish, I’m spending a lot more time on the water than I’d imagined.

The point? I understand that things aren’t getting done, and wanted you to know that I understood. I get a lot of emails from members with questions that don’t get answered quickly; membership applications that aren’t processed quickly; and tutorial chapters that aren’t getting published quickly. The reality is that it won’t get much better in the next couple of weeks as I prepare for two tournaments, but I’ll do all I can to minimize the inconveniences.

September 9

Ah, tourney season …

This week, we start into the hardcore money tournaments and anglers lips are tighter than Angelina Jolie’s … well, lips. Wait a minute … what did you think I meant …

All the big guns – you know, those boats you never see or hear of until tourney time – are pre-fishing this week, and aren’t about to tell anyone where they are or what they find. Thank God for the MNAC!

We do have some new stuff to report. Tuesday, MNAC member Jim Bygrave on AMANTE released a marlin on the 125 off the west end of Catalina. Dope Alert – he reported seeing a "healthy population of marlin" up there.

Today, I know of two fish being released. Gary Massamino, fishing solo on ANDIAMO, released one on the 277 after detouring over the high spot on his way down the coast. I’d say that detour paid off, Gary! Also, Kathy Ecklund released a marlin this afternoon on HOOKER. The crew reports they were on their way into Cat Harbor when a marlin "tried to commit suicide on the short corner." Fortunately, we believe in tag and release, and the fish was sent on it’s way with nothing more than advice to get counseling.

With the tight lips in the fleet, info is pretty hard to get until the events start and boats are forced to report. (As an aside, when HOOKER was bit, they promptly put the numbers (08/33) on the air. I’ll bet you could hear the a$$holes pucker throughout the Catalina Bight …). Of course, we’re different. If I hear anything, I’ll post it in the War Room, and you should do the same. This is particularly true for those of you fishing the events who have access to the daily statistics.

First up is Rosie’s Marlin Tournament, followed on Monday by the Zane Grey. Of course, if you know Avalon, then you surely know Rose Cadman. She’s been a fixture at the end of the pleasure pier in Avalon for more years than I’ve been on this planet, and I suspect she’ll be there after I’m gone. Her event is a small one, with usually only 20 or so boats, but is a great way to honor a great lady.

As for the Zane, this is big money all the way. They still only pay lip service to releasing marlin, but it’s as big an event as you’ll see on the west coast. In years past, I’ve been able to provide daily updates in the War Room; I’m hoping to do the same this year.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in South Florida as yet another hurricane bears down on them. This time, it’s name is Ivan, and he’s a Category 5 packing 140-mph sustained winds. This is a serious, no-screwing-around storm. If they tell you to go, go – you can always keep up with us on your laptop.

A lot of great fishing grounds are in the path of this behemoth storm – Islamorada, Marathon Key, Key West and many more. Here’s hoping Ivan takes the long way getting there. Remember – chin up, and head down!

I’m on the 2:00 boat out of Long Beach for Avalon tomorrow afternoon, so if you see a lost looking fisherman wandering the streets of Avalon, it’ll probably be me. No laptop this weekend, so I’ll be out of touch, but look for all the latest and a weekend wrapup right here Monday!

September 7

When I say anyone can do it, believe me …

This weekend turned out to be good for some, bad for most, and shocking for at least one. The marlin didn’t arrive in the numbers we had predicted (hey, I can’t be right every time …), but there were some to be had.

The northern fleet started Saturday between the 14-Mile Bank and the 267. There had been some action earlier in the week, but nothing to write home about. So it’s no surprise that when the fish didn’t show, the fleet split. Those with the "secret dope" headed to Catalina Canyon on the backside of Catalina Island. The rest of us DF’ed them and wandered up later.

The canyon bite wasn’t red hot either, but THREE SEAS did managed to get a tailer to go for angler and MNAC member Si Taylor. It was successfully released. More boats arrived on Sunday morning, but the only one to find success was again THREE SEAS, who released a marlin taken on a dropback bait.

Bill DePriest and the crew of 1 HOT TUNA showed they do marlin as well, as they released one on an EAL east of the 289 on Saturday. This might have caused a fleet shift had not the Navy been using San Clemente Island for their own private Labor Day party all weekend …

Sunday saw a second bite open between the 152 and 277, courtesy of PESCADOR, who got a jig double. The good news is that one of the released fish is now carrying a satellite tag. Unfortunately, you apparently could only catch fish there if your name was PESCADOR, as their released fish later in the afternoon was the only other one caught.

Monday was a short day and the fleet wasn’t too adventurous, a fact made worse by a nasty south swell courtesy of Hurricane Howard. At least the bite was a little more democratic, with DREAMER and HOOKER each releasing a jig fish, with your humble host the angler on the latter. Proof positive that anyone can do this …

Late in the day, there was a bit of a tailer show, but only Jim Madden’s ONO was able to score, as they released a baitfish late in the afternoon.

There continues to be some swordfish seen, but none that will bite. The freezer crowd is happy, though, because there are still yellowtail and dorado under many of the kelp paddies.

To the south, the San Diego fleet continues to enjoy one of the best seasons they’ve had in years. The La Jolla bite is still popping out a couple of fish a day, and the bite off North Coronado remains red hot.

Ross Stotesbury apparently didn’t get the secret dope and launched south. It paid off with a marlin release on Saturday. MNAC member Costa Haramis took his skiff out Saturday to see if anything was left off La Jolla. He got his answer in the form a marlin caught and released using a cut-down black and purple Collector. As he put it in his Trip Report, "Not a boat in sight. No camera, no passengers, no witnesses, only my own unforgettable memories." It just doesn’t get better than that.

Many of the usual characters found success in the waters off Pukey Point, as GADGET III, SEA TREK IV and GROWLER all scored. More on those last two in a moment.

I’d like to pass along my thanks to everyone who’s registered their released marlin using our Online Gamefish Release Reporting System. Not only does the information help us all and provide the angler with some much deserved recognition, but each marlin listed sends the message that releasing fish is important. Considering the behavior of some anglers in SoCal, it’s a message that needs to be heard more often. Remember, the marlin you release today could be the one I catch tomorrow …

Having provided recognition to our release anglers, I’d like to provide appropriate recognition to the actions of another group. As I’ve said before, if you catch a marlin, it’s your right to kill it if you so choose. But there are limits to anything, and people who go far beyond any reasonable limit.

This weekend, GROWLER caught and killed three marlin, and SEA TREK IV caught and killed two. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you their home port. For those keeping track – and I’m one of them – that puts their season totals for dead marlin at 5 and 4 fish, respectively. I understand Neanderthalic tournament rules and big egos and even a taste for marlin flesh, but there is absolutely no excuse for behavior like this. I can only describe it in one way – fucking obscene. End of story.

Charley, Gaston, Frances and now Ivan. I’m thinking that Floridians must be really sick of this hurricane season.

Some of my best – and worst – ideas come when I’m on the bridge alone. You have time to think, and sometimes, the mind wanders.

On Sunday, an angler throwing an iron jig on a kelp paddy hooked a marlin. He lost it, but it got me thinking there on the bridge. I looked back and two of my rods sitting side-by-side in the rocket launchers – the one I use for casting iron and the one I use for casting mackerel. Both are 8-ft, both about the same action. Could you actually target marlin with an iron jig? The more I though about it, the less silly it seemed. After all, the lures are about the same size and shape as the small mackerel we use as pitch baits, and the hooks very similar to those on a marlin lure. And I can certainly throw iron a lot further than a mackerel. It’s just wild enough to work, so I’m going to prepare to try it. I’m going to find a 6 to 8 inch jig with mackerel colors and rig it with a free-swinging stainless hook and a 15-ft wind-on leader. Next time someone on HOOKER casts a mackerel on a marlin, I’m going for the iron. I’ll let you know how it goes …

HOOKER is heading back out tomorrow morning, so I should have some decent info for updates on Thursday. We may also have early coverage of Rosie’s tourney, which starts Thursday. I’ll be shuttling over to Avalon to meet up with the boat on Friday night … and I’m bringing iron!