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Archive for the ‘2010’ Category.

October 7

It’s raining here at the Home Office most of the week – hardly a good sign. But I’m feeling almost back to normal, so I think we’ll crank out a Fishing News update – ‘cuz you never know when it might be the last one …

(cue back from the grave theme music)

If this were a normal marlin season in SoCal, we’d be looking at the final few weeks. Ironically, while no other part of this season has been anything resembling typical, this part is playing out pretty much by the script. We’re hearing of scattered sightings and even rarer bites, and those still dragging a lure are all hoping to catch the last marlin of the season. Now, I’m tempted to chuckle at the thought, knowing in my rational brain that what few striped marlin were here have long since turned tail and paddled south. But strange things happen – particularly this year – and I’m willing to play along and hope against hope.

SpongeBob NoPants … :-)

A funny thing happened to me when I got home from the Pesky a couple of weeks ago. I was nursing a bit of a cough – typical after a couple of days on the boat – but by the time the action had wrapped up on the two Classic tourneys, I was sick as a dog. Not quite the flu, but something dammed close, and it had me down for over a week. Even now, I’m only back up to about 50% operating efficiency – thank God I have a job that can let me work from home occasionally. The only thing worse than getting so sick is getting well only to find I didn’t miss a damned thing on the fishing scene …

One of the unique elements of the Pesky is it’s fundamental irreverence. From the theme costumes to the silliness on the radio to the bagelling of the marlin, you won’t confuse it with any other SoCal tourney. Rare among our local events, this mixing of fun and fishing is pretty common elsewhere. For example, this past weekend, the Bluewater Babes Fish For the Cure event was contested in Jupiter, Florida. A charity tournament benefitting breast cancer research, the organizers make this a fun event – theme costumes riffing off the “breast cancer” theme, boat parades, even a cocktail recipe contest. As you can see from the shot at left, the Bluewater Babes have found just the right mix of giving the finger to cancer having a good time – with great fishing mixed in as well.

As Ron White would say, “Now I told you that story so I could tell you this one.” I was all prepared to explain how this weekend would be the inaugural edition of the Just For The Anglers Marlin Tournament and how like the FFAC it too is a benefit tournament for breast cancer research, and rejoice at the thought of the legendary Rosie Cadman coming out of retirement to serve as their honorary weighmaster – even though the marlin division is all release. And then they go and cancel the thing due to the crappy fishing. Man, if that isn’t this season in a paragraph, then I don’t know what is.

I mentioned earlier about how after all this time the season was starting to look almost normal. In a typical year, the SoCal marlin season is like a four-quarter game, each of which lasts about a month. The first month has a bunch of guys driving around looking for the first marlin of the season, and someone usually finding one. The next month, everybody gets all they can, pads their stats and waits for the tourney boats to arrive. In the third month, a lot of boats that no one has seen all year mysteriously arrive on the scene – the tournament fishermen. They spend the month running tourney to tourney, fishing pretty much non-stop – an offshore orgy of pre-fishing and tournament fishing.

As we know, none of that happened per schedule – not even close. But the last month is starting to look a lot like normal. The tournament boats head south to Cabo, and the only folks left on the water are the hard-core anglers all looking for the last marlin of the season. The interesting thing about this last month is that you never really know when it’s over – it just dawns on everyone that no one has caught a marlin in a while, and maybe the season had already ended a couple weeks earlier.

Two years ago, the last marlin of the season was caught on October 9th. Last year, we thought the last one was caught on October 11th – until Dave Elm stumbled across one on the 24th. Considering that’s exactly how this season started, maybe we should have seen the signs …

One last thing before I head off into the sunset – over in the Marlin Club, one of our regulars is collecting names for a potential IGFA Certified Observer class. Blain Tomlinson is new to the sport, but comes with a pedigree – his grandfather founded the ABMT “Boy Scout” tournament back in the ’70s. If you’re interested in signing up, email Blain and tell him I told you about it. Because my lazy ass never attended any of the three sessions the IGFA has run in SoCal in the last few years, so I’ll be the guy in the front row for this one … :-)

3 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.

September 27

It’s the hottest day in the history of hot days in LA, and I’m sick as a dog – you can just imagine how wonderful it is to be me right now. So I’m gonna take all the richness and texture that would have gone into this report, and blend it in on Thursday for a SuperSize edition of the Fishing News. For now, just know that the tuna are gone, the marlin are leaving, and they caught nothing in the Hunt Tourney. That’s the whole news part of this Fishing News – for the filler, come back Thursday. Until then, can someone remind me where I left the NyQuil?

September 23

“Our long nightmare is over.”

– Gerald Ford, 1974

– Rod Halperin, 2010

Your humble host is totally under the weather tonight, so not sure how long or creative this post will be – but we’ll definitely get the facts covered!

It might not be on a par with the Watergate scandal, but we’ve reached the end of the trials and tribulations that have been the 2010 SoCal tourney season. Actually, I’m hesitant to even refer to it as the “SoCal” season, as few striped marlin were caught in US waters, and those were only on this side of the border due to the vagarities of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Unless you were one of the small number of anglers that got to pull on a marlin during the last month, the tournament season flat-out sucked.

Team AHI NUI released the first marlin of the ABC

The last anglers who’ll pull on tournament marlin this year did so on Tuesday, when the twin Catalina and Avalon Billfish Classics wrapped up their second day of fishing out of San Diego. Those who made the long trek to south for the tourney then west for the fishing were rewarded with some of the best marlin fishing we’ve seen all season – almost up to normal standards!

As the only two fish caught on the first day of the event ended up at the Marlin Club scales, the conservation-minded among us were relieved when AHI NUI started the Day Two scoring with a released baitfish. Turns out that was a sign of things to come, as SHANNON ROSE, PACIFIC EDGE, LA DULCE VIDA and END OF THE LINE all had single releases, and GOOD KARMA released a pair. The only marlin taken on the final day was by SHARK’S PARLOUR, and it tipped the scales at just over 177-lbs – largest fish of the tourney. That fish gave the SHARK’S PARLOUR the overall win in the Catalina Classic, followed by REEL NICE N EASY and END OF THE LINE. In the release-only Avalon Billfish Classic, GOOD KARMA’s pair of releases took top prize, followed by AHI NUI and SHANNON ROSE. Despite the small fleet, the relocation and the last-minute arrangements, these events were a big success, and credit should be given both to Rod Halperin and the staff at the California Billfish Series, as well Bill Woodard and the Marlin Club of San Diego for stepping in and serving as able tournament hosts.

As tourney seasons go, this has been a strange one. From the Church Mouse top prize being won by a boat that never left the harbor, to the only SoCal swordfish being caught in the Pesky, to the relocation of all three of the big money tourneys from Avalon to San Diego, this is one season that won’t soon be forgotten. I’ll use Rod’s own words to put a final, optimistic nail in this season’s coffin:

The traditional last raffle of the tournament is for the Pompanette fighting chair. As I sat in the chair and pulled the final drawing ticket, I took a moment to reflect on this years’ tournament season. In the beginning of the year there was so much promise, with talk of El Nino and tremendous fishing on the way. We had heard from many of the teams eager to fish again this year, and a good number of brand new teams looking to try the tournaments for the first time. As the season progressed, the fish failed to arrive. When August drew to a close and still no marlin, the stress level was building by the minute. Finally, some fish showed below the border and there was some hope they would make it in range of Avalon in time for the events. Ultimately they didn’t, but they did move in close enough to San Diego to allow us to hold the tournaments there. No, it wasn’t Avalon, and that was a very tough decision. Thankfully the community in San Diego welcomed us and made us feel at home. I couldn’t have dreamed for more. As I looked around the room at all the happy anglers, I knew we made the right decision.

As the final winning ticket was pulled, the winner was from a team with so much history in these events, GOOD KARMA. Fittingly these tournaments also received a dose of good karma by allowing us to host the tournaments for our anglers, and in a year with almost no fish, we got a good shot at them.

Next year, I look forward to sitting in the Pomanette chair and pulling the winning ticket while in the Casino Ballroom in Avalon.

Well put, and well done, all. I’ll be there in that ballroom next year, hopefully surrounded by dozens of anglers each with their own tale of marlin glory.

Waiting for you in Cabo …

With the end of the local tournaments, the focus of the tournament trail shifts south to Los Cabos, where the next series of events will occur in October. Many of the same boats that competed in SoCal will be in those events as well – in fact, many boats skipped the local events entirely to focus on lengthened pre-fish time off Cabo San Lucas. The Bisbee series includes the richest marlin tournament in the world, the Black and Blue, and you can bet this is one event even the tanked economy can’t slow down.

Something else that couldn’t be slowed down is the black marlin at right, estimated at around 900-lbs, which won the battle against the crew of the Pisces Sportfishing Fleet’s FALCON. It’ll be out there waiting for the next angler, and if caught during one of the upcoming events, could result in a life-changing payday for some lucky angler.

Of course, just because the tournament season is behind us doesn’t mean the local search for marlin has ended. While local water temperatures have hit as high as 70 degrees in places in the last week, there are signs that the reversal of the warm water has already started, likely ending any further northward movement by the pelagic species. I would expect anyone hoping for a shot at a 2010 marlin to work the same general area as was trolled by the tourney fleet – from roughly 10 miles below the 43 to the 302. Some marlin have been found closer to the beach, but not in any real concentration – other than the second day of the Classics, there hasn’t been any real sense that there is a concentration of marlin to be found anywhere. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a shot – just don’t get your hopes up.

Fortunately, hope tends to spring eternal for marlin fishermen, so there will certainly be some out this weekend. If your one of them, be sure to take a moment upon your return to file a Trip Report. Alternatively, if you’re as lazy … er, time challenged … as I am, you can just reply to the Info Ping email that goes out on Sunday night. Don’t get the Info Ping? Then you need to join our mailing list!

5 Years Ago …

September 22, 2005

Greetings from the CATALINA JET, where we’re just passing the QUEEN MARY in Long Beach. I’m on my way to the island for the Pesky. But I never forsake my loyal readers, so there’s the latest edition of the Fishing News …

We’ve had a strange couple of days of weather here in LA – thunder … lightning … rain. It definitely had an affect on the fishing during the Catalina Classic; it remains to be seen if the affect will continue into the Pesky …

Because of the difference in the rules between the Zane Grey and the Catalina Classic, I was concerned that we’d see a large number of striped marlin weighed in in the Classic. Fortunately (particularly for the fish), there were only 5 marlin boated, while 20 were released.

The Day One action was mostly between the 289 and 181 as it had been for the Masters. Five fish were boated, the largest coming just before lines out to AFISHINADO. At the scales on the Green Pier, it weighed in at 198-lbs. GAMBLER, ERIN MARIE and DONNA RAE also weighed in qualifying fish. Fifteen marin were released, led by GAMBLER with two.

Tuesday was a whole different beast, as moisture from Hurricane Max flooded the Southland. Along with a lot of rain, there was a significant amount of thunder and lightning, all of which made for pretty difficult fishing. This was reflected in the numbers, as only five marlin were released and none boated.

That left angler Steve Spira and the crew of AFISHINADO as the big winners, taking home $135,400 in prize and side pot cash. According to captain and owner John King, "We got lucky when that big marlin came up and bit a “Mean Joe Green” E.A.L. lure so late in the day. Things just worked out for our team." That’s John on the phone in the phone, no doubt trying to get a hold of us at the Home Office.

Based on their first day catches, GAMBLER and DONNA RAE placed second and third. GAMBLER also tied FIRE HATT in the release division with 3 each. At least, they would have tied, if there was a release division. As it is, I’m sure they’ll enjoy their "fabulous prizes."

So, did you see the new SCMO spotter plane circling Catalina yesterday? We were only able to get it for a couple of hours before the pilot flew off. He said something about having to make a "hot landing in LA", whatever that is. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get him back for the weekend …

I mentioned in the last report that Monday was "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Someone told me this joke that afternoon and, while it’s a little off-color, I just couldn’t stop laughing:

Pirate Pete walks into a bar with a steering wheel stuck on the end of his dick. The bartender says, "Hey Pirate Pete, did you know you have a steering wheel stuck on the end of your dick?" Pirate Pete says, "Arrrr, it’s driving me nuts."

What can I say …. I’m a simple man …

Our Katrina Relief charity auction continues to go strong. Every time I think it might be tailing off, a couple more products appear for auction. Last time I checked, we were approaching twenty items up for auction, and the total amount of committed bids totaled over $5,300. Amazing what we can do when we work together …

Ah, the Pesky. What can you say about an event where the best come out to fish hard and play hard. No one gets short-changed, that’s for sure. Of course, our hard working Pesky Tattoo Team will be there to make sure all the strays get a proper brand …

Rumor has it this year’s event has something to do with "Down Under", so we should have fun with that. If the weather holds (and that’s certainly an issue), there should be a lot of fish released. I say that no only because of all the quality anglers in the event, but the sheer number of anglers in the event! I’m told we’re approaching 200 … yikes!

It should be interesting to see where the fishing happens in the tourney. There’s a 40-mile radius limit from Avalon, so that means the 181 is in, but the 138 out. A shame, since I heard Ross Stotesbury released two 5 miles below the 182 today …

Well, the terminal is on the horizon, so I guess it’s time to pack up the PowerBook and prepare to disembark. After this, it’s a quick stop at the Marlin Club, then Eric’s on the pier for a burger, and out to the boat. With any luck, in a couple of days I’ll be bagelling a billfish at Armstrong’s … at least that’s the plan!

September 20

It was a big tourney weekend, but who were the winners – anglers or fish … or neither? We’ve got it all for you, so this must be the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

This is the weekend everyone was looking to on the calendar – the biggest weekend of the tournament season, and the moment when the 2010 marlin season would either be saved or discarded once and for all. And, much like a political debate these days, the results are murky. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s just dive right in – and we’ll start first with the events going on right now.

Today was the first of two fishing days for the relocated Classics – Catalina and Avalon Billfish. Forced from Avalon when the striped marlin forgot to show up off the Slide, the 19-boat fleet instead started the morning off Point Loma. To no one’s real surprise, they headed right back where most of the action had happened over the weekend – south of the 43.

Is that a bagel? Gotta be the Pesky …

A lot of people were looking to these last money tournaments to see if there was a season to be had. After all, if the best of the best can’t find fish, the rest of us are pretty much screwed – and after Day One, I’ve gotta say things don’t look good. Two marlin were boated, one each by END OF THE LINE (145-lbs) and REEL NICE N EASY (170-lbs), and while several others were hooked, none were caught or released. In past years, the smaller fish would have been undersized, but the tough conditions led to the tourney organizers decreasing the minimum size from 84 to 82 inches and from 165 to 150 pounds – decisions I’m not happy about, but understand. At least they didn’t drop down to the lame limits some events are using – more on that in a minute.

One of the challenges facing the organizers – and those of us who cover the events – is the long distance the action is happening from the beach. Tournament Control is based on a charter sportfisher, and they found themselves in a difficult position – stay in touch with the fleet or in touch with the rest of the world. Rod Halperin and his team opted for the former, so most of us had to wait for them to return to cellphone range to get the updates. I have two words for you, my friend – “sat phone“. OK, a couple of more – “sat phone with the SCMO Home Office on speed dial”. We’ll have the final results for both Classics on Thursday.

The current tournaments have the benefit of no less than three major club events having been run over the weekend, giving them a pretty good idea where to go – particularly since all three were fishing in the same basic area. The San Diego Marlin Club’s Gene Grimes Memorial Invitational Light Tackle Tournament was contested on Friday and Saturday, and a total of four marlin were caught. Three of those fish were caught on CONCUBINE, with the event winner being a 157-lb marlin landed by Mark Henwood. CONCUBINE released the other two marlin, as did Chris Meeker on DOGHOUSE, whose released marlin scored second place in the event. In a perfect world, Meeker’s marlin would have won the tournament; however, the ILTT has a pathetically low 130-lb minimum weight, meaning the CONCUBINE fish outpointed any release. It’s worth noting that even after adjusting their rules for the poor fishing, the money events still had a minimum weight twenty pounds higher than the ILTT – pretty embarrassing for a club event to have a lower minimum than the professionals. Really need to work on that, fellas …

Not your father’s Pesky …

Chris Meeker’s marlin really ought to be named Rodney, because it got no respect at all. DOGHOUSE was also entered in the Mission Bay Marlin Club’s Charity Heart tournament on Saturday, and their aforementioned fish was one of the two marlin released in the event. The other was released by Bob Ard on LISTO, fishing on the Upper 9-Mile Bank – a rare close-to-the-beach marlin! The point totals left the two anglers tied for the lead, and a random drawing gave the win to Ard – and left Meeker with a pair of second-place trophies for the weekend.

Another event that was recently completed was the Channel Islands Billfish Tournament, with its unique five-fishing-day format. As you might imagine, they paid the highest price this year by being the farthest from the marlin, and even those boats making the long trek to Mexican waters came up empty. In the end, it became the battle of the yellowtail, as FINATIC’s 27-lber edged DAWN PATROL by a single pound. Both fish were caught at Santa Barbara Island. But the tough fishing couldn’t dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic competitors, and all fifteen boats are looking forward to better times next year.

And then there’s the Pesky. Despite the pissy fishing and cratering economy, nearly forty boats headed out on Friday with pirate flags aloft. One of the few events to remain in Avalon this season, the Pesky fleet was left with the difficult choice of making the long run south of the 43 or working the local waters and hoping some of the marlin had drifted north. Very early on Friday, it became clear which was the right decision, as MNAC member Jeff Clary on JEWEL LURE released a pair of jigfish on the southern grounds (the last one at 41/58). Despite a lot of boats pounding the area, Clary’s fish held up as the only releases of the event and netted first place for him and high team for Warren Gunter’s JEWEL LURE. Jeff is the event’s second back-to-back winner, and has already thrown down the gauntlet, declaring his intention to earn a third Golden Bagel next year.

Nothing fake about that!

The Pesky being the Pesky, it can be hard to take some things seriously. After all, this is a group that salts the waters with fake marlin (including a balloon-laden golden tailer) and conducts an entire tournament using nothing but pirate-speak. So when word came out that the tournament control boat BOUNDER – chief among the Pesky’s merry pranksters – were ceding control to focus on a swordfish, there was more than a little skepticism. As you can see from the picture, however, the fish was very much real. The 230-lb broadbill was hooked near the dorsal fin, making it damned near impossible to defeat – in the end, it took the efforts of three anglers to defeat it. Alyson Gillett spent the first nine hours battling it on 80-lb tackle before turning it over first to Jeff Wood and then his brother Randy, who brought the fish to the gaff nearly 16 hours after hooking it. Multiple anglers prevented it from counting in the event, but a mighty fine achievement nonetheless – and the reaction of the fleet was a good example of what happens when you cry “wolf” … or “hookup” … in jest …

The same strange conditions that have derailed the striped marlin season continue to result in bizarre local catches. Two more opah were caught in the last week, bringing to at least six that have been reported to the Home Office this season. Even stranger, a wahoo was caught in Alamitos Bay on Saturday – go figure! Unfortunately, the tuna seem to have stopped their excruciatingly slow march northward … not sure if this means the end of a pretty good tuna run or not – we’ll see in another week or so.

That’s it for now – join us again on Thursday for a wrap on the Classics and a look forward to the weekend prospects … or perhaps a discussion on the best time to start winterizing your tackle … :-)

September 16

And it’s all over
For the unknown soldier
It’s all over
For the unknown soldier

The Doors, “Unknown Soldier”

I really hate to be the one to point it out, but this tournament season might as well be that unknown soldier, cut down in his prime. I fear we’ve seen the best this season has to offer, and it isn’t very much.

Good water for sanddabbin’ …

Wasn’t it just a couple of days ago we were celebrating the seemingly resurgent striped marlin bite found at the Hidden Bank in the Masters? Weren’t we all giddy at the thought of some kind of a marlin season, delayed thought it might have been? Might as well have been a year ago.

In our last report, we discussed the first day of fishing in the Zane Grey Invitational, in which SHANNON ROSE had the only two marlin of the day. We were blindly optimistic that Day Two would bring even better results; truth is, the results at the end of the day were the same as at the beginning – no more marlin were caught. Those two days were a hell of a bucket of cold water on the hopes of anyone who wanted to see any marlin caught north of the Mexican border. Any sense of elation was quickly replaced with desperation and a certain resignation at just where this season was headed.

Those feelings were confirmed yesterday, as it was announced that the remaining events in the California Billfish Series, the twin Catalina and Avalon Billfish Classics, would be moved from Avalon to San Diego as had the ZG before them. This is a huge blow to the pride of the City of Avalon, not to mention their economic footing. While the Zane tends to be a limited field event, the Classics can easily attract fifty boats and crews, along with all the support folks. But with the marlin not within 100 miles of the Casino, there was really little that could be done to save the events other than move them to the fish.

While it’s easy to feel bad for the merchants or anglers (myself among them) who will be impacted by the relocation, the guy you should really pity is CBS Tournament Director Rod Halperin. Imagine what an undertaking it is to plan three events like these, with all the logistics involved – and then have to replan them all in a new city on the fly. As he said to me earlier this week, “this season is just killing me.” The events will go on as planned – save the relocation – on Monday and Tuesday. Kickoff festivities will be on Sunday at the Kona Kai, with the awards banquet on Tuesday at the Bali Hai on Shelter Island. If you’re a tournament entrant – or considering entering now that it’s closer to the fish – you can email Rod or call him at (714) 258-0445. When you see him, buy him a cold one – Lord knows, he’s earned it!

So, is there any good news we can cling to? Not much. There have been a couple of reports of marlin down at the 302, including at least one that’s supposed to have been hooked. And, as you can see from the temp chart, there’s a little blast of warm water off Avalon, and an at least lukewarm ribbon of water running from there south through the 43 that theoretically could give the marlin a pathway. But will they follow? Stay tuned …

For the events that were already based out of San Diego, all the hand-wringing by the northern tournaments must be somewhat amusing. For the last few years, it’s seemed as though the marlin had bypassed the 9-Mile Bank and somehow arrived up north without even checking in with the San Diego fleet. Now the tables have turned, and it’s the southern fleet’s turn to shine.

What be this bilge?

There are two events this weekend in San Diego, and from what I can discern neither plan any changes to the format. Friday and Saturday will be the San Diego Marlin Club’s Gene Grimes Memorial Invitational Light Tackle Tournament, which will be joined on Saturday by the Mission Bay Marlin Club’s Charity Heart Tournament. Both are targeting marlin, so you can imagine most of the fleet will make a hard left once they clear the jetty. We’ll have full coverage of the results in our next report.

Meanwhile, back up at Catalina, there’ll be The Pesky. Now in it’s twenty-first year, Los Pescadores’ annual marlin derby is facing the same challenges as the rest of the events. In Pesky style, however, the response to that challenge is markedly different.

Groans turned to giggles at the Wednesday night kickoff when Andy Crean announced that the event was going to be relocated to … the 277. Technically, the fishing radius will be a 40-mile circle around the high spot, but it’s unlikely there’s going to be any marlin found there. Naturally, the Peskys have a backup plan – sanddabs! Points will go to the boat that can produce the heaviest tourney bucket of the mini-flatfish, along with a whole raft of new bonus point-generating items. Frankly, when it’s all done I think they’ll probably end up raffling off the prizes and heading off to the Watermelon Bank, which is just fine by me … :-)

As I mentioned in the last report, this is our first iPad-powered Fishing News update. To be honest, I planned on being on the island by now, which would have forced me to go mobile. The schedule changed and I ended up on the beach today, but that’s no excuse to abandon the experiment. My evaluation? While there are little quirks that I need to get used to, the iPad rocks as a blogging platform. I had no problem processing images or assembling the post from the multiple templates I use for things such as image insert or the “Years Ago” feature. And I have to admit, even as a Mac head, this thing is so far up the “cool” scale it’s obscene. I’ll have it with me this weekend; swing by the boat and I’ll give you a demo.

10 Years Ago …

September 14, 2000

Tournament season continues, and the marlin continue to cooperate! Monday and Tuesday was Rosie’s tournament out of Avalon, and multiple fish days were common. Congrats to GAMBLER, who nipped WAIT N SEA at the very last minute. All the top fish were well over 200 pounds, continuing the trend of large fish being caught off of San Clemente Island. Of course, if you’re releasing them like you should, size doesn’t matter … :-) The center of the marlin action continues to be off of the northern lee section of San Clemente Island. It moves slightly from day to day, but is usually between Wilson Cove and the Dome, anywhere from 5 or 6 miles off to right on the beach. It is primarily a bait bite, so make sure you plug the tank before you leave the beach. Mackeral are available in Cat Harbor for those who need them. Rumour has it there is a bite developing off of Church Rock as well – we’ll see!

The demise of Hurricane Lane pushed a lot of warm water into the Catalina Bight, and with it large numbers of yellowfin tuna. The best spots have been the 14 Mile Bank, 267, 209 and 289 Spots, although breezing schools have been found close to the beach out of Newport and Dana. If you see a school of porpoise pretty much anywhere, you can assume there are tuna under it. Cedar plugs, CD-14 Rapalas and jet heads have done the job, along with mini macks and sardines.

To the south, the 295 has been the main action spot, with yellowfin, albacore and now bigeye tuna being caught there. Further south, bigeye up to 90 pounds have been caught on the Lower Finger and Worm Banks. Sounds like whatever you want this weekend, it’s out there. The full moon will make the fish act funny, but it should still be epic.

Sorry about the brevity of this report, but I’m on my way out the door to fish the Pesky. It’s always a blast, and this year should be no exception. If you’re in it, I’ll see you at Descanso Saturday night. If not, you blew it, but can still fish with us next year! See you on the radio Sunday night!

September 13

You have no idea how nice it is to talk about actual, honest-to-God marlin fishing – and only one country away! It’s tourney time is SoCal and there’s only one place to be – right here – and one reason – the Fishing News!

(cue upbeat theme music)

It was a huge tournament weekend in the Catalina Bight, with no less than six different events running simultaneously. The good news is that there were more striped marlin caught than events run, and that’s a lot better than we figured it’d be only a week ago. We’ve received results from some events, are waiting for others, and expect to be snubbed by at least one. What we have is in this update; the rest comes on Thursday in a special edition of the FN – more on that in a minute.

As we indicated in the last update, most tournaments modified their rules to allow competitors to have a shot at a marlin. Some did a pretty good job with it, others stunk it up, but in the end, most tournaments got the action they were looking for. Anglers were left with the ultimate risk-reward dilemma – spend the dinosaurs and Benjamins to run far south and hopefully score big, or fish local, conserving resources and time, hoping against hope. But it’s one thing to accept the challenge, and another to execute the plan, and the Hidden Bank saw both winners and losers this weekend.

The big event of the weekend was the BAC’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament, and as expected most boats made a beeline for the Hidden Bank, which was now within the tourney grid. It didn’t take long for them to find the fish, either, as MAGELLAN was wired before most of us had finished our morning coffee. Before the sun set, the 40-boat MABT fleet had released six marlin, and MAGELLAN led the pack with three. Day two saw another five releases, and MAGELLAN once again setting the mark with two more released marlin. That gave Rob Webster and his MAGELLAN team the High Boat award, as well as the Team Award for the Tuna Club. Curtis Woolsey was the Master Angler, having released three of the MAGELLAN fish. Second high angler went to Jim Sieminski for his marlin release on KEA KAI, and MAGELLAN anglers Colby Durnin and Bill Jahn took the third and fourth angler positions.

I’ll let Rob tell the story of MAGELLAN’s magic weekend, as he does it much better than I could in his outstanding Trip Report. I’ll just say that there’s a lot you can learn from their experience, in terms of preparation and commitment to the goal. A much deserved victory – and not entirely surprising, considering they took the Church Mouse and MABT back in 2008. Good news for the rest of us – MAGELLAN is done tourney fishing for the season … :-)

The Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge went off on Saturday as a whopping 91 boats did their part for a great cause. Lyle Hall on REEL-EZE was the Grand Prize winner with his 50.8-lb yellowfin tuna, which also helped his REEL-EZE teammates take the High Boat award as well. Maggie Osburn was High Lady Angler with a 38-lb YFT, and Jim Vorgensen received a Special Award for his 128.4-lb opah caught on SEALIFE. Points are awarded for released marlin in this event, and one marlin was released by Danny Shay on LOKI. A second marlin was caught by another team but disqualified after they opted to take the fish, as it was apparently the first dead marlin of the year for the Marlin Club (c’mon, fellas … it’s 2010 …).

Normally, tournament anglers like to think of second place as being “first loser”, but it was a little different in the Tuna Challenge’s 12 – 15 Year Old category. Meagan Shea placed second with a 28.6-lb albacore caught on her family’s boat EHUKAI, but how she got the opportunity is the real story. Meagan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and only recently completed her chemotherapy. With the disease in remission, Meagan made the most of her opportunity on the water and served as a wonderful example of just what this charity event is all about.

One other tournament note – the Just For The Anglers event was initially scheduled for this past weekend, but has moved out until October 1 and 2. This sounds like a pretty shrewd maneuver, as it slots it at the very end of the local tourney season and banks on the fish continuing their northern movement. Hey, you have to respect anyone willing to take a chance!

For those of us who see the Hidden Bank as a little out of our range, there are some glimmers of hope. The KEA KAI fish referenced above was released near the 43 Fathom Spot, and on Saturday BLUE CHIP released one near La Jolla Canyon. Those are the first two marlin taken in US waters in quite a while, and I’m hoping they have friends. I also received a report earlier today of a commercial swordfish boat spotting a sleeper near the 43 – more positive signs for those of us entered in tournaments this weekend.

There’d been some discussion about just where exactly the Hidden Bank was located, as it’s basically the open space between other better-known spots, but as one wag put it, “you just turn on your radar and look for the fleet”. Between tourney sportfishers, privateers and party boats, the HB was a very popular place, and a lot of fish were caught there. Beyond the marlin discussed above, the area was turning out a nice mixture of tuna, and most boats returned from the area with albacore, bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna in their bags. Most of the tuna action came on bait, as boats would chum on porpoise pods and hope for the best. Based on the sport boat fleet numbers, I’d say the tuna are starting to stack up there, and it’s possible they’ll continue further north – we’ll have to see.

SAMURAI’s skipper contemplates joining his wife on HOOKER

I don’t know if you’re a big believer in karma or not, but I’m thinking that HOOKER is due for a little on the positive side sometime soon. This weekend, while the rest of the SoCal fleet was busy burning through fuel and Mexican beer in an attempt at marlin fame, we were plodding around the old familiar waters off Catalina. I suppose we could have simply gone home and waited for the marlin to get closer, but we opted to give marlin fishing a shot – long as it might be.

Such were the circumstances that found us about five miles off the Slide on Saturday, trolling slowly down the line. It was September 11th, and the thoughts of the day took us back to that day in years past – both bad (2001) and good (2004, when I released three marlin). As we trolled, we saw another sportfisher nearing our path a mile or so in front of us. As we adjusted course to avoid them, we noticed what seemed to be a white fog surrounding the stern of the boat. As our crew wondered what might be going on, the question was dramatically answered as one of the folks onboard the other boat ran to the bow and threw the inflatable dinghy over the side. Clearly, something was wrong.

As anyone who has ever spent time on the ocean can testify, the ocean can be an unforgiving place, and no worthy mariner will ever fail to render assistance when needed. As we hurriedly wound in the trolling gear and headed for the stricken boat, a call was placed to the Coast Guard, who dispatched Baywatch Avalon. In another minute we were alongside the sportfisher, SAMURAI out of San Diego, and could see white smoke billowing out of her cabin. A female passenger was climbing into the dinghy while the skipper assessed the situation, which was quickly getting worse. We took the woman onboard HOOKER (clutching her MacBook – my kind of girl … *smile*) as a pair of rescue boats could be seen charging in from Avalon. The captain didn’t want to leave his vessel, which while continuing to smoke from belowdecks didn’t seem to be in any imminent danger of foundering. We stood by until the rescue boats arrived on scene, passed our grateful passenger onto one of them, and continued on our way.

Yummy …

I’ve been on the wrong end of a boat fire once before, and I can tell you it’s not an experience you want to have. I’m happy we could be there to provide comfort and a dry place to stay, if nothing else, and am confident if additional action had been required, we were prepared. Take a moment to consider just how prepared you are to deal with such a situation the next time you are on the water – if you don’t like the answer, this is the time to do something about it …

Today was the first day of fishing for the location-modified Zane Grey, as the event was relocated to San Diego to accommodate an fishing range extended to include – surprise! – the Hidden Bank. The combination of two elements fighting to see which will stink more – the economy and the marlin fishing – have really hit the money events hard, and the ZG kicked off with only seven boats entered. Fishing was slow for all but one boat and angler – Barry Brightenburg fishing on SHANNON ROSE. Barry had one released marlin and weighed another at the Marlin Club in San Diego, temporary tourney host, that tipped the scales at 204-lbs. We’ll have the Day Two action and a full wrapup in our Thursday report.

Speaking of which, our next update on Thursday will be a little different. Here at SCMO, we love our technology, even if we don’t have the financial footing to invest in it quite to the extent we’d like. The Mac servers that run the joint back at the Home Office date back to 2006 and 2007 respectively – a long time in computer years – and the PowerBook laptop we use on the boat is positively ancient at seven years old. As a result, it wasn’t entirely surprising to me when the display on my laptop suddenly decided to go black while I was trying to update the MarlinBlog last week while in Avalon. But, as they say, technology taketh away, but it also giveth. I still had my BlackBerry and, a few keystrokes later, an order was placed. A little while the results of that order were delivered, and we now have a shiny new iPad to power SCMO on the go! I’m still getting things set up, but plan on a fully iPad-generated report from Avalon come Thursday!

Be there … aloha!

September 7

“It’s the most wonderful time of the …”

Oh, screw it – this sucks. I know it … you know it … there ain’t no point in trying to sing about it. This marlin season is over, and we might as well get used to it. Unless …

(cue dirge-like theme music)

So long, tough guy …

Welcome to a special double-issue of the Fishing News. The combination of a long holiday weekend and my impending departure for places offshore means we’ll squeeze in the weekend’s action and the upcoming tournament information in one update – and while there’s not a lot of action to report, there’s a whole lotta change on the tournament horizon to pass along.

First, though, a personal note. The entire Home Office staff is a little glum today, as we lost a member over the weekend. He didn’t have a name, because real men don’t name their pet fish, but the little red crown betta had spent the last year sitting on my desk, watching me bang away on the keys and puffing up every time he saw his reflection in the tank wall. He may not have been a gamefish, but he was a living example of the value a fish can bring into a life, and a constant reminder of why we fight to save every marlin so it can bring the same value into your children’s lives one day.

In a normal SoCal offshore season, things tend to get a little strange once tournament season approaches. Lips become sealed, conversations become strained and dope becomes unreliable. Imagine just how bizarre things could get in a year like this …

For the last two months, it frankly looked like there wouldn’t be a reason to run marlin tournaments at all, since there wasn’t a striped marlin within shouting distance of Avalon. But just when all hope seemed to be lost, we started receiving reports of scattered marlin being seen by the tuna boats fishing off Ensenada, with several being caught as incidental catch by the party boats. By the holiday weekend, private boaters out of San Diego were mingling with the tuna hunters hoping to tag a stripe, although I’m unaware of any having found success.

Hidden no longer

This, as they like to say, changes everything. Suddenly, tournament organizers were caught in a quandry – maintain their original formats and risk losing entrants, or alter the formats to make things a little more fishy. I surveyed the major event coordinators to see what they were thinking, and found a lot of concern and indecision. Early in the holiday weekend, there was a sense of wanting to hold the line, but by Monday, with the report of marlin on the Hidden Bank near Ensenada, things began to change.

In a general sense, most events are either expanding their lower boundary to include the Hidden Bank region in their fishing area, adding new species to provide more opportunity for scoring, or a combination of the two. Here’s the details of what I found:

BAC Masters: The MABT, which is run out of Newport Beach, has increased the radius of the fishing area to 115nm from the Newport bell buoy. Not surprisingly, this puts the Hidden Bank region just inside the arc.

KHMC Marlin Tournament: They added halibut, yellowtail and white sea bass as additional point-garnering species, and increased the fishing area to the 31st Parallel, which runs right through Punta Colnett, again bringing the Hidden Bank into play.

The Pesky: Who the hell knows … the response came back in Pirate … :-) I think they’re sticking to the original plans, with a possible attaboy for anyone who makes the long run, but we won’t know for sure until the kickoff on the 15th.

California Billfish Series: In probably the boldest move of the bunch, the Zane Grey will relocate from Avalon to San Diego to be closer to the fish. The final fishing area is still being determined, but will likely be large enough to include the Hidden Bank. In addition, swordfish will be included in the tournament for the first time. So far, no changes to the Catalina or Avalon Billfish Classics, but stay tuned …

MCSD Invitational Light Tackle Tournament: The Grimes ILTT will have an “alternate target species” of tuna should no marlin be caught.

MBMC Charity Heart Tournament: No changes to targeted species, but daily lines out can be done on the water rather than having to run back to a weigh station, effectively increasing the fishing range.

Make-a-Wish Tuna Challenge: No changes, but you can bet there’s a lot of sighs of relief.

So with all of these changes, the question becomes “where the heck is this Hidden Bank?” Problem is, you just might get a couple of different answers. I’ve had a Hidden Bank listed in the Hot Spot table for a couple of years, going back to when the 91-day plan still brought a lot of people to Marina Coral. But others have their own idea of just where the Hidden Bank is, and have suggested that there might be more than one. That’s a real problem – all of the good geographically-located spots are long gone, so now people have to come up with new ones to describe where the fish are when they’re between the previously-established ones (remember the Tanker Bank? The Compass Rose?). Hence, the Hidden Bank.

For now, I’m going to adopt the method used by Eric Nelson at TempBreak.com and a couple of others, and go with the Upper Hidden Bank (32.03/117.29) and Lower Hidden Bank (31.54/117.30). Through the miracle of technology, we bring you the graphical representation of their location relative to some of the other spots in the region via the big chart on the wall here in the Home Office. For reference, that’s Bahia Todos Santos and Ensenada at the left of the picture, but as one wag put it over the weekend, “just head south and when you get close switch on the radar – you’ll find the fleet”. Truer words never spoken.

As everyone scrambles to lash a fuel bladder to their bows for extra range, it’s worth noting that by no means is the marlin bite on the Hidden Bank spectacular. If it were a local bank in a normal season, it’d barely rate a mention. But this is a decidedly abnormal season, and we know that someone – and probably multiple someones – will be making that long run south.

As I indicated at the outset, I’m heading out tomorrow for the first of three tournaments. First up will be the King Harbor Marlin Club tournament, followed by the Pesky and the Avalon Billfish Classic. Now personally, I’d have fished these events with the rules unchanged, just for the social value, and I’ll admit to some disappointment at the changes. I understand why the money tournaments change their rules to insure success – they’re a business, and have a vested interest in keeping their anglers happy and their entry fees unrefunded. But that’s not the same for the club events. By increasing the lower boundaries to give access to marlin that are over 100 miles away, they’re giving those with big fuel tanks and bigger wallets an opportunity to do something the rest of the entrants couldn’t do, even if they wanted to. Effectively, my entry fee will subsidize the winner’s fuel bill in the form of the first place prize money, and I’m not happy about it. But it is what it is.

The changes bring up another point, and one that ‘s going to fuel some controversy. Here at SCMO, we have a Release Board for all marlin released in SoCal, but what do you think about a marlin that is caught far below the border – does it belong on the board, or is it out of bounds? At what point does is it too far to go to qualify for the board, or will we eventually be listing those caught at Mag Bay? Let me know what you think!

Our next edition of the Fishing News will be next Monday or Tuesday, depending on how quickly I get back on the beach and get the information gathered up. In the meantime, our digital world means we’re never really out of touch – look for On-The-Water reports and updated information in the War Room forum as I learn it …

6 Years Ago …

September 7, 2004

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!

September 2

Remember back when you were young and marginal, renting your first place? Remember how you used to cringe when the landlord knocked on your door, knowing you’d spent the rent money on pizza and beer? The way the offshore fishing has been this season, that’s how I’m starting to feel when I realize it’s time to sit down and write a new Fishing News update. But you have expectations, and I have obligations, so here we go!

(cue theme music)

S’pose this’ll win me a t-shirt?

The Season That Never Came To Dinner continues unabated, and the offshore species remain for the most part a no-show. No change in the marlin or swordfish counts, although the tuna scene seems to be looking up. The few marlin that are being seen seem to be found primarily by accident, and usually by people totally unprepared for the fight, although it appears that someone may be salting the marlin grounds with fake tailers a little earlier than usual (it wasn’t mine – it’s still right there on the ceiling over my head).

On the tournament trail, or that which passes for it this year, the Church Mouse wrapped up the fishing “action” on Tuesday, with the fleet catching a total of zero marlin. There were 77 boats entered in the event, although several participants told me the actual number of boats that showed up for the event was under 50, and some of those never even left Avalon to fish – what would have been the grand prize was raffled off, and won by an entry that never left the mooring can. Between sketchy weather and no fish, it’s hard to gauge just how hard those who actually fished really pushed themselves, but no one saw anything of any significance. With the Church Mouse being a charity event that supports several causes in Avalon, I’m sure there were crews that decided to save the fuel money and simply write off their entry fees as a donation to the cause. If this dry spell continues into the bigger events, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues – or even expands.

The Labor Day holiday gives us an eight-day break before the next round of events begins, and we need every one of those days. The arrival of pelagic tunas at the southern boundary of the SoCal fishing zone gives us reason to be hopeful that the marlin might be on the verge of making an appearance – possibly in time for the next group of tournaments. Certainly, the tuna guys are all a-twitter at the news that partyboats are starting to bring in yellowfin, bluefin and even a few albacore. But the truth is that the tuna haven’t come any further north than the Twin 220’s, and that’s well beyond the range of all but the most dedicated – and well-equipped – private boaters.

Going the wrong way …

The news gets worse, I’m afraid. The SoCal offshore season depends on a lot of factors, but none so heavily as the tug-of-war between the warm and cold water currents. Warm water pushes northward, bringing with it the offshore species we covet. Its movement is challenged by the colder water from the north, and the winner dictates the kind of season we have. If the warm water wins, the marlin flood into the Catalina Bight and gorge themselves on the mackerel and other baitfish they find on the margin between the two currents. But if that warm water battering ram is stopped short, the season suffers.

Earlier this year, a cold water blockage south of Ensenada interfered with the warm current, preventing the migration of the pelagic species. In recent days, we’ve seen that bolus break up, and a more consistent flow of warm water began to course north of the border, raising hopes for a decent if late-arriving season. But the warm water’s delay meant that the cold flow would have a head start, and would likely intercept it sooner than normal, and further south.

We received several reports from the Church Mouse fleet, and they all indicated that the water temperature had dropped several degrees right before the event began. Looking at the latest SST chart and comparing it to one from last week, you can see that is definitely the case. If it were just the charts that showed the drop it might be written off as an anomaly, but combined with the on-the-water reports, I fear it may be a trend. By this time next week, we’ll know for sure.

Thanks, Dad!

I was joking with a couple of fellow anglers this week about why no one could find the marlin, saying it was “because BAD COMPANY isn’t here to show us where they are.” It’s true that the big yellow boat isn’t with us this season, but that doesn’t mean that Team Bad Company isn’t finding success. Captain Steve Lassley, having just returned from a stint in Kona, is down running the boat out of Cabo, and participating in the great season that they’re having down there. A good example of just how good it is came recently when his son Ryan joined him for a couple of fishing, and was rewarded by scoring a Grand Slam in a day – a black marlin, a blue marlin and a striped marlin. Ryan had in that one day more action that the entire fleet has seen up here all season. Hat’s off to Steve, and saying “wish we were there” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

As I write this, Hurricane Earl is bearing down on the North Carolina coast. A strong Category-4 storm, Earl may not actually make landfall but is expected to rake the eastern seaboard within the next 24 hours. The barrier islands are being evacuated and the smart people are all headed to higher ground. Beyond being the home of many of the world’s great sportfisher manufacturers, the region is home to a great many marlin fishermen and charter operators, and our prayers are with all of them as they face this challenge.

These Fishing News reports are posted twice weekly on our main SCMO site, and cross-posted at the Marlinnut fan page at Facebook. As a result, I don’t really know who is reading these words or where they came from. All I can say is that if you are reading this now, thank you – you’re the reason we do this. I would ask one favor, though – if you appreciate what we do, share it with a fishing friend. We don’t do this to get rich, but we certainly want as many people to benefit from our efforts as possible. Thank you in advance for helping us spread the word!

I think we’ll grind this mess to a halt right here. This is going to be an interesting weekend – normally, Labor Day is a big marlin weekend, but many people I’ve talked to are looking forward to spending the holiday as far from the water as they can. Personally, I’ll spend the weekend sniffing paint fumes in a renovated bathroom, but by this time next week I’ll be back on the water – and even without any fish, I can’t wait … :-)

2 Years Ago …

September 1, 2008

What a long, strange week it’s been. Hard to believe it’s only been a week since the last edition – more like a month – but here we go again …

(cue alternate theme music)

Woo, hoo
We’re learning the hard way
Woo, hoo
It just don’t matter what they say

Gin Blossoms, “Learning The Hard Way”

This is probably going to be a long report, since we’ve been away and a whole lot of stuff has happened. So, for those of you with short attention spans, let me cut to the chase:

The marlin are pretty much everywhere, but only going off in certain spots and only for a short time. Tuna are still available for those who want to make the run, and there’s a pretty good run on swordfish.

OK, now that they’re gone, let’s talk details.

Some mighty fine laundry you’ve got there, Rob.

I was able to spend six days offshore last week on HOOKER, and while we were happy about the two marlin we released, there was a definite feeling that we’d left something on the table. As the reports from the weekend continue to filter into the Home Office, that’s appearing to be the case.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first go back and talk about the 18th Church Mouse Marlin Invitational, which was competed last Monday and Tuesday. In our last report, we theorized that the fish might pop up west later in the week. Little did we know they were making an appearance on the Osborn Bank at that very moment!

But the jungle drums were beating, and the sat phones ringing, and those in the know knew to be on the Osborn Monday. And, boy, did it pay off! Twenty-eight marlin were released on the first day of the tourney, with the majority coming for those who made the long run west.

Leading the group was MNAC’s own Rob Webster and MAGELLAN. They only had a 3-person crew, so they had their hands full when the action came – and it certainly came! But when the other two on board are John King of AFISHINADO and Mark Wisch of PACIFIC EDGE, I think it’s probably the fish who were at the real disadvantage. They worked the Osborn for 4 jigfish and a baitfish to lead the pack at the end of Day 1 (you can see Rob’s great Trip Report here – see how helpful it is? Think about it …)

Behind MAGELLAN was AFTER MIDNIGHT with three releases, and a whole raft of folks with two. Everyone went to sleep with dreams of the O-Bank and the glory that awaited …

… And most of them were disappointed. While there were still more fish caught to the west, it wasn’t nearly the bite it had been only 24 hours earlier – such is the nature of the beast! RUCKUS had the best day, releasing a baitfish and both ends of a jigfish double, and would have taken third place in the event had they been willing to run from the Osborn to Avalon and then home to Channel Islands. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. AFTER MIDNIGHT added another release, but no one was going to catch MAGELLAN which took first prize on the strength of their amazing first day performance. AFTER MIDNIGHT had to settle for second with 4 released, followed by CLUB TED with three. A total of thirty-eight marlin were released – an event record – including one by ACE HI less than a mile out of Avalon to take the “closest to mooring 231″ award. Another great event for a pioneering all-release tourney.

As you might imagine, there was a fair amount of fishing going on during the week, as many of us played hookey to strike while the opportunity existed. From Wednesday through Friday, there was probably 10 – 12 boats working the various banks in search of a marlin bite that became less concentrated over time. The OB continues to produce a couple of releases a day, and PESCADOR and BAD COMPANY were among those finding success their. But there were still marlin to be had closer to shore. SHOWDOWN and REELY HOOKED each released one west of the 14-Mile Bank on Wednesday, and HOOKER released a pair on the backside of Catalina. I was lucky enough to be the angler on one, and the leaderman on the other. Still the greatest feeling in the world.

It’s just how we roll here at SCMO.

Kelly’s rollin’, too!

How wide open is the marlin bite? Matt Mullaney landed a 123-lb marlin Thursday while trolling the 9-Mile Bank in his boat DOLLARS & CENTS – a 13-ft aluminum skiff! Out of his mind, but I think we’d all like to have those kind of balls …

With the weekend came the fleet, and the local boats were joined by the tournament contenders pre-fishing for the upcoming events. Some boats headed back up to the Osborn, where the bite was consistent if diminished from earlier. Others opted for the short run to the 14-Mile Bank, where the warmest water in the region was found. But a new spot of fish attracted the most attention. Stretching from a point between the 152 and the Avalon Bank, to a point just off the Isthmus, both Saturday and Sunday saw an impressive feeder show. They were a picky bunch, though, and were more show than go. Some boats did find success, though, including JEWEL LURE and HIGH TIDE, who got 3 on Sunday. That HT’s Kelly Grose at right with a big smile and an handful of marlin. With the arrival of the tourney boats, you can expect the numbers to go up, even as the information goes down …

We’ve had a pretty good start to the marlin season, and there have been some epic days. But with all the striper success, it’s easy to lose sight of how good the fishing has been for the other pelagic species.

By now, tuna season ought to be in the rear view mirror. And yet, the bite is holding steady – even for albacore and bluefin, the cold water species. Heck, we ran through some 75° water on Saturday near the 14-Mile Bank – only a few miles of an ongoing yellowfin tuna bite on the 267! For the fleet out of San Diego, it’s been like manna from Heaven – they were able to fill up by running no further than the 182. Those looking for larger fish headed to the 302, where several yellowfin in the 80-lb range were caught. The bigger boats, or those seeking the cool water tuna, headed to the 43 or out to the Butterfly and 60-Mile Banks. There was even another opah caught – I can’t remember the last time there was two in a single season. All we need now is a spearfish

It’s also turning out to be a pretty good season for swordfish, but not necessarily in the way you might expect.

Broadbill can be a tricky foe, and it’s always a highlight if you can catch one. There’s a subset of the billfish fleet that actively seek them, and even among the best of them it is a rarity to catch one. Even BAD COMPANY, good as they are, were unable to achieve their goal of catching one for owner Anthony Hsieh (although they got damned close Saturday on the Avalon Bank).

A very happy Todd Kumasaka.

But luck always plays a role in fishing, and several lucky anglers got their dream fish this weekend – all without targeting them! First, Mike Lofy, who was fishing with his son on their boat SHARKMEAT west of the 302, gets a swordfish to take a frozen mackerel in the middle of the night. There to night drift for sharks, they didn’t even know what they had until they got it to the boat a little over an hour later – it weighed in at 128-lbs.

Then there’s the story of Todd Kumasaka. He heads out with the girls Sunday for a leisurely day of sharking off Oceanside. Along comes Elvis, and three hours later, they put the hook to a 297-lb tanker of a swordfish. That is just a beast.

People have spent their entire careers hoping for the kind of days Mike and Todd had. It just goes to show that good things can happen unexpectedly – if you are ready.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Enough about the fishing, Stan – tell us about the MarlinTweet experiment!”

The good news is that for something thrown together at the last minute, MarlinTweet rocked. Over 6 days, we were able to post nearly 90 mini-updates, covering everything from things heard on the radio to weather conditions to our own successes. Several times people came on the radio on 65 to talk about how cool it was, and a dozen users signed up to receive the Twitter stream updates to their cellphones – amazing, considering 1) it requires a certain technical prowess and 2) we didn’t have time to hype the experiment very much.

Then there’s the down side. Because I was scrambling to get it in place before we headed offshore, I didn’t take into consideration the negative reactions MarlinTweet might raise in the fleet – particularly among those sharing the boat with me. The realization that they effectively had a live broadcast from the bridge didn’t sit very well at all – in fact, had they realized the nature of MarlinTweet as is was occuring, instead of after returning to port, I may well have spent the week in the brig.

Like any experiment, you learn as much from failure as success. I learned that there is a desire for this kind of information to be available, if we can find an appropriate format and forum. I also learned that sometimes, too much information isn’t a good thing. I’m currently looking into some microblogging software that will allow multiple users (ie – someone other than me) to post information from the web, email, phone, etc – I’ll keep you updated.

As always, remember to file those Trip Reports, and especially remember to tell us about your released marlin. The Billfish Release Board is filling up fast, and with all the releases from the Church Mouse, I know there are a lot of you with data to provide!

August 30

You have no idea how much I’d like to bring you good news right now – really, I would. I’d love to tell you the long-delayed offshore season finally kicked off with a bang, and marlin and tuna are being caught a-plenty.

But I can’t. What I can do, however, is give it to you straight, honest and complete – the hallmarks of this happy train wreck we like to call the Fishing News, so let’s go!

Spotter jet incoming!

If you’ve been following along with us so far, then you know this season sucks – when it’s all over, there’s every possibility it’ll go done as one of the worst SoCal offshore seasons on record. Only three striped marlin have been released so far, and no swordfish or tuna have been caught north of the border. At SCMO, we’re doing all we can to help – the spotter jet is airborne daily, landing only when needing to fuel or wanting to terrorize the tourists – but so far, it’s all for naught. Whether it’s the failing El Nino or global warming or overfishing … or BAD COMPANY not being here to find the fish for us … the terrible conditions will be debated long into the winter … but for now, we have tournaments to, um … “fish” …

The Tuna Club ran a pair of events back-to-back – the Linen One, in which antique tackle is used, and the Avalon Benefit tournament. To say that there was very little action is an understatement. As we reported on Thursday, JERAMAR provided the only real excitement for the Linen One, hooking a swordfish in the lee on San Clemente Island that was unfortunately lost after several hours when the fish tailwrapped itself. The Benefit wasn’t much better, as much of the 22-boat tourney fleet found itself targeting the secondary species that traditionally take a backseat to billfish. CAZADOR took a chance on the developing yellowfin tuna bite and made a very long run far below the border, a risk that was rewarded with a handful of small tuna. They were enough to take high boat honors, with JEWEL LURE being the only other boat to score points with a nice yellowtail. If you read the Trip Reports, you can practically smell the desperation.

Today is the first day of the Church Mouse tournament, and the fishing is unfortunately just as slow. One swordfish was hooked for about a minute several miles off Church Rock at 18/13. One of the tournament anglers told me this evening that over half the fleet was still in the harbor at 7AM, and a large number of boats opted to not fish the event, letting their entry fees go to the charities supported by the tournament and saving the money on fuel. Tomorrow is the second and final fishing day, and we’ll wrap it up in the Thursday report.

As I’m writing the Fishing News, I’m watching the start of the Dodgers-Phillies game, and all the talk is of the departure earlier today by Manny Ramirez, who was claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox. All weekend the talking heads wondered if the Dodgers would actually send Manny packing, and I think that for a while, there was a real possibility they might keep him in Los Angeles. We’ll never know for sure, but after watching Manny’s one-pitch-ejection last night, I can’t help but believe it was his way of nudging the team in a certain direction. All I can say is that it worked. The Manny Experiment is done, and there are those who will declare it a failure, but no one can take away the magic of 2008 when Manny single-handedly dragged the Dodgers deep into the playoffs. All we can do is wish him the best …

No, Bob – you can’t write off the cutlass as a ‘business expense’ …

If there is any good news to share, it’s that next weekend being the Labor Day holiday, giving the fish one more week of northerly movement before the tournament schedule resumes. For the last 10 days or so, charter boats have been running south and picking small yellowfin tuna, and there is a sense that they are continuing northward. If the tuna are coming, it’s reasonable to assume that the marlin aren’t far behind – the only real question is whether they will make it this far north before meeting the retreating cold water from the north. The way this season is going, I could see them getting stopped at the border and turned back for lack of paperwork. At the same time, we’re hearing reports of dorado being seen as far north as the 181 – again, a warm water species. The warm water fish are definitely coming – it’s just a case whether they get here before the winter storms force them to turn tail.

I’ve always said that had the sport of billfishing not originated in Avalon with the Tuna Club, no one in their right mind would target marlin in the Catalina Bight. Because we’re used to low numbers in our tournaments, they’ve developed as social events that insure the participants have a good time whether fish are caught or not. That’s certainly the case for the Church Mouse underway now, and definitely the case for the Pesky. If you’ve never fished in the Pesky, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of every one of them, including our upcoming 21st edition, and the list of stories I could tell you could keep me going all winter long. All you really need to do is check out the gallery of winners on the tournament website to understand the ways the Pesky differs from some of the more straight-laced events you’ll find elsewhere.

Some events might be panicked right now, fearing a revolt from the participants because there’s likely not going to be any real concentration of marlin to catch. But for the Pesky, while we love catching fish as much as anyone else, a lack of fish just leaves more time for planting fake tailers, water balloon attacks and all the other unique elements that make the Pesky, well … the Pesky. I encourage you all to give it a shot – with the way this season is going, you’ll really appreciate an opportunity to blow off a little steam, and nothing fits the bill quite like the Watermelon Bank … ;-)

That’s the latest from here. We’ll be back Thursday with a recap of the Church Mouse, but if we hear anything important before then, look for it in the War Room or the Twitter feed. Until then, pray for fish …

August 26

It’s blowing here at the Home Office, which means it’s blowing offshore as well – but that won’t stop the tournament fleet. The fishing blows as well, but that won’t stop the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

Here I go again, gathering up my scraps of sow’s ear and stitching them into something that resembles an edition of the Fishing News. Before we get started, I’ll warn you – if you were hoping the marlin bite had blown wide open this week, well, you’re gonna be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some useful tidbits to pass along.

Normally, a Thursday in tournament season would be a dry socket when it comes to information. Fortunately, the Tuna Club was contesting their Linen One event today, where vintage pre-WWII tackle is used to try and subdue billfish the old-fashioned way. Most boats were running tourney-silent, but there was some interesting information that we could glean from the fleet.

Heating up … but where are the marlin?

It sounded as though the boats were scattered across a large area of water, with several fleets working different high spots. PESCADOR was part of a fleet that started down at the 209, which makes sense when you see the spiral of warm water in the today’s SST chart at left. They didn’t find any action there, however, and paid a steep price on the run uphill – at one point, they reported burying their pulpit in the oncoming waves near the 152.

As you might imagine considering the lousy sea conditions, a lot of boats opted for the safety of the lee of Catalina, although the conditions there weren’t that great – 70 degrees, but dirty green water. Several boats took the advice we gave on Monday, and were working inshore using deep drop tactics for swordfish. They weren’t successful, but you have to respect the courage … even if borne of desperation.

The most intriguing reports we received here at the Home Office were the hardest to confirm – action off to the west. We know that DOUBLE HOOKUP reported seeing a tailer this morning off the west end of Catalina, and several other tourney boats were hard to hear on the radio – a dead giveaway for being somewhere further west. Something is going on up west on the backside of Catalina – I just can’t confirm it. In the lee of San Clemente, Marv Garrett and Dave Denholm on JERAMAR were fighting a swordfish hooked on 24-thread linen this afternoon, and as of press time I hadn’t received an update on the battle. The key takeaway for me is that they, too, were moving out further in search of marlin – the broadbill was just a wonderful bonus.

The Tuna Club fleet will be out again tomorrow fishing their Friday-Saturday Avalon Charity tourney, and will likely be joined this weekend by boats pre-fishing the Church Mouse. There’s currentlya long period south swell colliding with a shorter wave pattern out of the west, turning the Catalina Bight into one big washing machine. Expect to hear a lot more on the radio this weekend about the weather than the fishing … :-)

One tidbit for those of you looking to restock the freezer – and after the season we’ve had, it’s probably getting pretty empty – there were several reports of yellowfin tuna on the Twin 220’s. That’s the first warm-water tuna report I’ve heard this season, and a good sign that the pelagics might finally be approaching.

Real men wear pink … ribbons!

Here at SCMO, we try to stay abreast of the latest tourney happenings, and maintain a comprehensive schedule of events for anyone looking to step and challenge the best. It was a surprise, therefore, to get a note in the mail today about an event that I hadn’t heard of – and is going down in just a few weeks! The Just For The Anglers Marlin Tournament will be run out of Avalon from September 10 through 12, and has a couple of items that ought to make it stand out. First, it’s got a charity angle, as the proceeds are going to the fight against breast cancer – certainly something we can all support. What’s more, Rosie Cadman – a fixture on the Catalina marlin scene for many decades – is coming out of retirement to serve as their official weigh master. Now, they have a release division, so I certainly hope she doesn’t get a lot of business, but it’ll be great to see her at her post on the Green Pier once again.

For our weekly blast-from-the-past, I’m not looking too far astern – just back to last year. From this report, you can take either hope or despair, depending on whether you’re a reel-half-full or reel-half-empty kind of person. The good news is that the season kicked into high gear as almost the exact same time last year, and turned out to be a decent, if not awesome, season. The bad news? In the “suicide-inducing” season that had come to pass by this time last year, there were seventy marlin on the SCMO Release Board. This year? One.

Have a nice day.

1 Year Ago …

August 24, 2009

You can cancel the suicide watch for SoCal billfish anglers – it looks like there’s gonna be a marlin season after all, and we’ve got all the details. After all, this is the SoCal billfish site, so this must be the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

For the last few weeks, it was pretty hard to talk with most of the local marlin anglers – you couldn’t understand what they were saying because they kept tripping over their lower lips as they pouted about the lack of fish. I’ll add right here that I was among the group. After an early-season, close-in blast of fish had everyone dreaming of epic fishing, conditions changed and the fish disappeared.

Last week brought a glimmer of hope, as reports continued to be received of some marlin caught and even more hooked out by San Clemente Island. The challenge for the weekend was deciding whether the signs were worth the long run, or perhaps it made more sense to continue to search locally. Adding to the dilemma was the presence of a blast of tropical moisture in the Catalina Bight, making for humid, unpredictable weather – and you know how sailors hate unpredictable weather!

Bob Hoose on the loose

As they say, “he who dares, wins,” and this time the facts bear out the saying. The San Clemente bite exploded over the weekend, and nearly every boat that made the run got at least one fish. Leading the way was WILD BILL, crewed for the weekend by Jim and Bill Kingmill. They found tailers in a small area about 7 miles NE of Pyramid Head on Friday, and were able to release a pair. POCO LOCO and BANDIT had been working the same area earlier in the day and each released a fish as well. One challenge for the boats heading out early was the weather, as the anchorages at both Catalina and Clemente were battered by swirling warm breezes that spun the boats and kept everyone on their toes.

Saturday saw the expected increase in boats, and the additional eyes helped better define the location. HOOKER, xJEWEL LURE and KNOCK DOWN each released one Saturday, HOOKER between the 289 and Mackerel Bank and while xJL and KD found their fish closer to the 289 proper. Not to be outdone, WILD BILL backed up their Friday numbers by releasing three more on Saturday, one jig fish and a pair of tailers. Jim said that while there was a lot of fish, they weren’t always interested in the presentation and seemed to be on the move in a northwesterly direction. He said that they chased the fish nearly 13 miles before the day was over, breaking off the pursuit inside of the Mackerel.

The conditions were better Sunday, but there were fewer fish for the Clemente fleet. Word got out that a second batch of fish had been found off Church Rock at Catalina, and several boats relocated to join the growing fleet there. Among those making the shift was PROSPECTOR, and it paid off well with a pair of releases, a dropback at 14/19 and a jigfish at 15/19. Several others were caught in the same area, including one for Reed Miller on SHOWDOWN. Frankly, I can’t think of anything better than hearing Reed is out on the water catching marlin! It sounds like this pack may be moving up the backside of the island towards Cat Harbor, mirroring the movement of the Clemente school. Hopefully, they’re going to slow down, but with a tournament fleet on the water today and tomorrow, we’ll soon know for certain.

I heard discussion of a group of marlin being seen south off La Jolla, but I haven’t received any hard reports … yet.

Let me take a moment to thank everyone who helps make this Fishing News happen by providing tips, information, and reports. I like to complain about the lack of participation at the site, but every week during the offshore season my email inbox piles up on Sunday night and Monday morning with items passed along. Often, those items include a line at the end that goes something like this: “Use this however you want, but keep my name out of it.”

I’ll be honest – I’ve never understood all the secrecy associated with SoCal billfishing. The same anglers can be catching tuna, and you’ll hear it all over the radio and read it all over dead fish websites – with pictures. But once they shift to marlin, you’d think they were guarding the crown jewels. I used to think maybe it was just me, but as I’ve met marlineers from other parts of the world they all get the same chuckle at all the cloak and dagger silliness. To them, the honorable method is to share knowledge with your fellow angler and then beat them with your skill, rather than allow deception and luck to try and decide the matter.

Toot – toot!

I guess the issue is trying to keep information away from the other fishermen that you consider your competition. But what your actions really say is that if you have to go up against those guys mano a mano you’ll get beat, so you’d better not let them know where the fish are. Well, I’ve got news for you: they already know. In all likelihood, they’re the ones that found the fish to create the bite in the first place, but even if they didn’t know where the fish were they will long before you reach the beach and spread the word. The only ones you hurt with your silence are the other guys, probably not so different from yourself, who are trying to learn and establish themselves as billfish anglers. They read these reports and absorb the knowledge in an attempt to better themselves as fishermen. They’re guys just trying to find their way forward in our sport, and maybe get a shot at a marlin, but you won’t share with them. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Today was Day One of the two-day Church Mouse Invitational, and don’t you think those folks are happy the marlin made a timely appearance! What only a few days ago looked to be a quiet event suddenly is action packed, as the fleet spread out over several areas and found fish in all of them. From the frequent radio reports – each punctuated by the traditional train whistle – we know that there are boats working in the established spots near the Mackerel Bank and Church Rock, as well as another fleet on the 277. At lines out this afternoon, CLUB TED was leading with two releases (the first and last of the day), and REEL NICE N EASY, FULL CIRCLE, KNOT WISE, REELY HOOKED 3, BROADBILL and SABBATICAL all released one. We’ll have a full wrapup in the Thursday edition.

That’s a wrap for now. If you were successful this weekend and we left you out of the FN, all I can say is that if you tell us about it, you greatly increase your chances of seeing your name in lights. File those Trip Reports … submit those Billfish Releases … lather … rinse … repeat! Join us Thursday for a recap of the Church Mouse and a look forward to a very busy September tournament calendar.