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Archive for the ‘2011’ Category.

September 28

Hardly seems worth the effort, but here we go … smiles, everyone!

(cue theme music)

To be perfectly honest, it’s Wednesday night and I’m just now writing the weekend wrapup. It’s not because there’s so much news that I had to sift through, or that I was waiting for that one key photo to come in. It’s just tough having to write about one more written-off weekend, and it took until now for me to find the motivation. Frankly, that’s why this’ll probably be the last update of the year; but more on that in a minute.

The only tailers seen this weekend

This was the last weekend of the local billfish tournament season, with the Los Pescadores and Tuna Club each having club events. To say the fishing was poor really doesn’t do justice to just how bad it was. Like most of the season, the water was cold and mottled, with birds and sea mammals far outnumbering marlin. There were a few seen off Church Rock, but like most baitfish this season, they weren’t hungry. Despite the best efforts of all, both the Pesky and the Hunt fleets went 0-0-0.

The Pesky being the Pesky, it was a themed event, with the Wild West being the style to get skewered this year. The traditional “Bucket o’ Crap” was replaced by a feedbag, and cowboy garb was provided for angler and crew. Bonus points were available for all the usual shenanigans, including bageling the marlin, but unlike last year there were no alternative species.

One change the Pesky Tournament Control instituted had to do with the fishing area. Normally, the grid is a 40-mile radius from the 277, slowly decreasing in the last few hours of the tournament to insure that all participants are near Avalon when the gun sounds. This year, while maintaining the same grid, boats were allowed to fish off the grid if they chose with a penalty of half their points for any fish released off the grid. The thinking was that it would create a risk-reward scenario where someone might want to fish the Finger Bank but would pay a high price to do so. Unfortunately, no one opted for the long run.

He swears the first one was a “mistake” … right …

Of course, if you know the Pesky, then you know we have waaaay too much fun abusing our winner to not have one, so we picked a winner Pesky-style. Congratulations to Sara Holmes of HAWK, who held the winning ticket in the “Raffle off the Tournament” drawing and get the … um, honor … of starring on the Pesky tournament website next year. Since Sara is 8 months pregnant, her husband Pat graciously stepped up and drank all her celebratory drinks for her. And they say chivalry is dead.

I don’t know if it was the lack of fish, the low attendance or the thought that this could be our last year bageling the marlin at Armstrong’s Seafood, but there was a definite malaise to the event. Of course, that didn’t keep us from having a good time, or from learning some valuable lessons. First, at least one member of the Pesky Tattoo Team can’t tell up from down, or it is left from right. Second, never give out squirt guns and small bottles of stinging liquor in the same goodie bag. Finally, we learned that a Pesky tailer can drift from Catalina to Encinitas in less than a week. More important than all, however, we learned something that those of us who participate in the Pesky every year already knew – fish or no fish, it’s a lot of fun.

I just watched Matt Kemp of the Dodgers hit his league-leading 39th home run. He’ll end up the year leading in HRs, RBIs and runs scored and third in average. I feel compelled to remind you that I predicted this some time ago; if he doesn’t get the MVP I’m calling “fix”. And while you’re at it, Kershaw deserves the Cy Young. How bad must the rest of the team be to have these two and still only place third?

One piece of unfortunate news came out of the weekend. GAMBLER, a 65-ft tournament fisher and charter boat well-known in SoCal, ran hard aground on San Clemente Island early Sunday morning. Damage to the forward hull was significant, and the boat’s below deck spaces, including the engine room, were flooded. She’s back on the mainland now for evaluation of the damages. It appears that crew exhaustion is the preliminary cause of the accident, a circumstance that happens all too often. As a friend of mine said earlier today, “Most people have never been part of an operation where you’re working 22 hr days onboard a vessel for weeks/months on end. There comes a time where your body just takes over and shuts down. Occasionally that can be behind the wheel.” A lesson for us all …

You weren’t the only one to bite on the fake tailers

We hate to go out on a downer, so we’ll balance the bad news with some silliness. If you live (or have lived) in SoCal, you know that our local media specialize in panic; two clouds on the horizon, and they’re breathlessly on “StormWatch”. Lately, the big deal has been sharks – ever since one ate a swimmer a couple of years back, the sight of anything even resembling one brings a frenzy of news activity.

Last weekend, during the Pesky, the usual suspects were doing their usual things, and part of that was deploying “casting decoys” as shown above. Well, as much fun as it is to watch someone burn the dinosaurs running to one and firing a mackerel only to realize mid-cast that the target is PVC, it’s a lot more fun to see a Pesky tailer make the local news. Apparently, a yakker found one in the kelp just offshore of Encinitas and brought it home; in the midst of what must be an excruciatingly slow news day, the tailer hit the big time. They managed to track it back to the Pesky, and even got a quote from Randy Wood, one of the event’s directors. Good stuff.

As I said earlier, this might be the last update of the season. I tend to prattle on for a little while after the season dies out, but since this year never really got started all I’ve been doing from the start is prattle. If something happens this week, I’ll stick in another one, but just in case I don’t, let me thank all of you who’ve stuck by SCMO this year. It’s not hard to be a website about marlin fishing in a year when the marlin opt to stay away, but each of you who’ve taken the time to email, call, or comment either here or on our Facebook page help make the process a little less painful. They say next year is a La Nina season, which means we’re likely to see more of the same, but don’t worry – like a squirrel I’ll stock up on bad jokes over the winter.

September 22

Once again, we find the Fishing News coming to you from the lounge onboard the CATALINA JET, as we’re enroute to Avalon for the last weekend of tournament action. I’ve got my spurs packed and my hide chapped, as the Pesky is sporting a Wild West theme this year.

On the run

As you might imagine, the enthusiasm level isn’t too high going into the weekend. It’s pretty hard to imagine any marlin being caught in the vicinity of Avalon, so the Pesky adopted some special rules to accommodate reality. most notable is a rule that, while maintaining the original port and grid, allows you to fish beyond the grid (ie- where there might be fish), but hits you with a 50% point penalty for anything you catch. It’s your classic risk-reward – are you willing to run to the Finger Bank and back. That would have been a much better answer for the Zane Grey …

If you’re willing to run down there, though, there are supposedly at least some marlin to be found – like this one hooked recently at the Tuna Pens.

I’ve got spurs, that jingle, jangle, jingle …

I’d like to send out a quick shout out to all of you who’ve opted to renew your support of SCMO through membership in the MarlinNut Angling Club. This is a tough year for all of us, but that makes it all the more important that we do what we do to let you do what you do. Your support helps us do just that and insures we’ll be back next year. If you haven’t joined MNAC yet, I would humbly ask that you consider it – your $25 annual membership fee helps us keep on keeping on. you can use the “join” link at left, and will have my eternal gratitude.

That it for this brief edition of the FN – assuming I survive the Pesky, we’ll be back on Monday with a wrap-up of all the action on and off the water. You know where most of it will be.

8 Years Ago …

September 23, 2003

This report is a day late (Tuesday) so I could include the latest from the Catalina Classic. Good thing, too, because this Classic is a real classic!

I try to be eloquent and sophisticated when I write these reports, but there’s only one way I can describe the just completed Catalina Classic Marlin Tournament:

W F O … wide f’ing open!

As the old Carson show line went, “How open was it?” Judge for yourself – there were 45 marlin hooked, 18 released and 11 boated – and that was just Day One!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those of us who remember Saturday night in Avalon after the Pesky recall talking with Classic crews that couldn’t wait to get up to the 499, where the hot dope said marlin were waiting. Presumably this came from swordfish boats working the area. We had heard similar tales, but no one could have predicted the billfish explosion that resulted.

The first hookups were reported shortly after 9AM on Monday, and continued every few minutes throughout the day. The fishing was predominately between the 499 and 267, with the fishing sliding closer to the 267 later in the day. When all was said and done, AFTER MIDNIGHT held the Day One lead with a 195-lb marlin followed by ERIN MARIE and FIVE-A-DAY, both with 182’s and REEL AND DEAL with a 168-pounder. CAPTAIN HOOK led the release division with 4 released marlin. The list of boats catching marlin was extensive – GAMBLER released 3, AFTER MIDNIGHT released 2 to go with their boated fish, and MIL-SO-MAR released 1 and boated 2. WAIT-N-SEA, OZZY, and HONCHO also got marlin.

So far this season, great fishing days have been followed by meager ones, but that was not the case this time. Day Two was windier than before, and some boats opted to fish calmer waters. But those that made it to the hotspot were richly rewarded. SOUTHWOOD boated a marlin that barely met the 84-inch minimum, and weighed in at 156-lbs. Later, GAMBLER hit the dock with a 188-lber. Among those releasing fish were OSPREY, FULL CIRCLE, GOING DEEP, MIL-SO-MAR, CHASER, CLICKER, BILLFIGHTER, DONNA RAE, REELY HOOKED, and STINGERAY … whew!

Unofficially, it sounds like the AFTER MIDNIGHT fish is leading with GAMBLER leading the release division. I should get the official results later this evening, and I’ll post them over in the War Room. Man, what a tournament!

Hey – what are you doing reading this, anyway – shouldn’t you be headed for the 499? ;-)

Of course, the Classic wasn’t the only event since our last report. Friday and Saturday saw Los Pescadores and friends invade Avalon for their 14th annual event. Considering the dismal results in the Zane Grey earlier (and having no idea things would explode only days later), we weren’t optimistic about improving on last year’s one-fish event. Nevertheless, at first light Friday the Pesky fleet headed for San Clemente Island, site of the most recent action.

MNAC member Mike Tikunoff started things off by hooking a marlin just after 8AM onboard Rich Palys’ SOUND INVESTMENT while fishing about 6 miles off Pyramid Head. The fish was tail wrapped, and Mike had to struggle to get the fish to the boat. Meanwhile, new MNAC member Greg Hickman, fishing on HAUL N ARC, hooked a marlin at 10:40 – while Mike was still fighting his fish. Pesky tiebreaker rules dictate that the first points scored take precedence, so it was critical for both anglers to get the fish in as soon as possible.

Mike won the battle by releasing the fish at 11:42, but with no bagel – good for150 points. One minute later, Greg announced they had released their fish – with bagel – for 159 points. Both were wearing the necessary hookup garb of cleric robe and wooden cross (that’s Mike modeling it at right) and flying the tourney flag – the traditional marlin flag flown in the upside-down “distressed” manner.

With all the swordies that have been seen lately, we all figured one would play a role in the event, and we were right. At 11:20, Jeff Wood, fishing on BOUNDER, hooked what seemed to be a smallish swordfish. Barely an hour later, he landed the fish, which weighed 206.5-lbs on the scales in Avalon. Shortly after that, Lynn Jasper on WAIT-N-SEA hooked a marlin. It took a while, but it was worth it. The fish was boated, and weighed 168-lbs. BUSHWHACKER was next, as Mark Mitchell released a marlin in only 14 minutes. Burt Moss, fishing on MNAC member Greg Stotesbury’s KAWAKAWA, released a no-bagel fish at 1:58 to close out scoring for the day. Most of the first day action took place between 4 and six miles off of the lee side of SCI. The BUSHWHACKER fish came from the 499, though – foreshadowing the amazing weekend to come.

Day Two opened with a bang, with Reed Miller on SHOWDOWN releasing a greylight tailer at 7:55 after an hour long fight. Unfortunately, that was the only fish of the day, and we all headed for Avalon and the real festivities.

The hard luck story of the weekend goes to the crew of EUREKA, who hooked a large swordfish shortly after 3 in the afternoon on Saturday. Because of the decreasing radius rule used in the event, the fish was DQ’d as out of bounds. However, they continued to battle the beast into the night. In the early morning hours of Sunday, after an 11-hour fight and three gaffs sunk into the fish, it was lost. Never underestimate a pissed off swordie …

In the end, Jeff Wood was the runaway high angler, followed by Lynn Jasper and those releasing fish. BOUNDER took high boat honors.

Often, the best part of the Pesky tends to be the after events. The awards banquet was held as always at the Descanso Beach Club, The irony is that while BOUNDER was fighting their tournament-winning swordfish, they had 250 swordfish steaks on ice below decks for the banquet. Prizes were distributed, a ton of raffle prizes were given away, and we headed to Armstrong’s Seafood for the traditional passing of the Golden Bagel.

Like most things in life, some years the fishing in the Pesky is more memorable than others. The same is true for the after parties. Usually, if it’s going to be a wild year, there’s some kind of sign. One could argue that finding a bachelorette party sharing the bar at Armstrong’s could be a sign. The bagel was passed, watermelon shooters were downed in honor off MIA Mike Blower and folks scattered to such nightspots as the Marlin Club.

Being a gentleman, I’m not going to detail too much of what went on afterwards. Let’s just say that we ran out of Pesky tattoos, and at least fifty women woke up Sunday morning with tattoos in places they shouldn’t have them, and no idea how they got there. If you catch me in person, ask me some time about little Nicole and here stunning display of tattoos and cleavage … :-)

The casualties were minimal – we actually managed to get out of Armstrong’s without damaging any of the mounted billfish. Brock Mitchell, or as he will forever be known in the future “Dirk Diggler” (that’s his back with the bachelorette at right) was last seen under a bench. There was also an embarrassing incident when one crew (which will remain nameless, since the boat is owned by a MNAC member) got hammered at the dinner and made asses of themselves by howling at the women – most married to other anglers – and trying to steal one of the bicycles given as a raffle prize. If you’re gonna survive an event like this, boys (not to mention be invited back), you really need to learn to pace yourselves. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I had a chance to meet up with quite a few MNAC members over the weekend, both old and new. To me, that’s the best part of both the Pesky and the MNAC – I have all these relationships I’ve made online and finally get to meet the people in person. That’s what makes the tournament weekends so special – whether there’s fish to be caught or not!

All told, it’s been an amazing week of billfishing. It seems like every time we’re ready to stick a stake through the heart of it, it provides us with even more thrills. Obviously, the place to go right now is the 267, even if the water is still only 65 degrees. Remember, however, that the remnants of Hurricane Marty will roll into the southland this weekend, and that could change everything. Unfortunately, Marty continues to cloud the SST data – as soon as we have decent charts, they’ll be available at the site.

I’ll be heading out Thursday night to fish this weekend in the King Harbor Marlin Club event out of Avalon, so there’ll be no Thursday report. Look for On-The-Water reports in the War Room, though.

September 20

So I had this great idea to delay this edition of the Fishing News one day to get the final results out of the twin Classics. Yeah, that worked out well …

(cue theme music)

Everyone who said that we couldn’t possibly have a marlin season worse than last year continues to be proven wrong, as another weekend of tournament fishing comes and goes with barely an appearance by the targeted species. This was the busiest weekend of the tournament season, with no less than 5 events running and the largest fleets of participants entered; surely if there were marlin to be found, these guys would find them, right?

Walking the ZG winner

The weekend actually started on Friday, with the kickoff of the BAC Masters and San Diego Marlin Club’s ILTT events. I’d love to regale you with the stories of angling prowess and fishing success that these two legendary events provided, but there are none. The only marlin hooked in the Masters, a tailer hooked on OSPREY 4 miles off Pyramid Head, was disqualified when they were unable to either get a tag in the fish or retrieve a portion of the leader. The ILTT faired even worse, pulling the collar – 0-0-0 – for the event. To say conditions are brutal is an understatement.

We know there are at least some marlin out there, because we have a picture of Jesse Henry releasing his Zane Grey winning marlin at left. But they’re few and far between. Kevin Bohannon found one of them on Saturday while fishing on ENCOUNTER in the Mission Bay Marlin Club’s Charity Heart Tourney, and it was the only one caught in the event.

While the club events played out, the money tourney boats were pre-fishing for the twin Classics – the Catalina and Avalon Billfish. Bright and early Monday, the fleet blasted out of a foggy Avalon Harbor looking for success and glory. The fleet was a skinny 21 boats – testimony to both the weakness in the economy and the fishing, I suppose. The grounds where a day earlier the Masters fleet worked off Pyramid Head was closed for naval operations during the week, making the tough fishing conditions even harder. CHASER has a brief encounter with a swordfish on Monday, but that was the lone action for the fleet. Tuesday was even worse, as pea-soup fog made difficult conditions even more daunting. With lines out scheduled for 4PM, eyes strained in the gyros looking for anything, and with less than 15 minutes to go, Lance Keller of CHIQUILIN hooked a baitfish – only to lose it during the initial run. A costly loss to be sure, as even an extra hour of time allotted to the fleet resulted in no more action. As I write this, the party is on at the Casino Ballroom. If you see Lance, offer him your hearty condolences and a stiff drink.

One other event of note was completed recently – the Channel Islands Billfish Tournament. Most of us with homeports in Los Angeles, Orange or San Diego counties complain about the long run to the fish, but it’s nothing compared to the guys fishing out of Channel Islands Harbor. Their event runs 5 day, and a good portion of that is spent in transit. I’d like to tell you the long runs were rewarded with success, but they achieved what most of the other tournaments have – nada. A tip of the SCMO hat to the entire CIBT fleet, though – perseverance runs deep!

The Classics may not have fish, but they sure have nice, um … trophies

With the fishing as tough as it has been this season, every shot at a marlin takes on additional meaning. Ours is a sport that demands a high level of personal ethics, and in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen several cases where crews have run afoul of the rules with what is one of the few marlin that are being caught. When you know the fish on your line could very well be a tournament winner, and things don’t go as planned, there can be incredible temptation to rewrite history to match expectation – but it is a temptation that must be refused.

One of the unique things about release billfishing is the demand it puts on the individual and crews to act in an ethical manner. Much like golf, where plauers are called upon to penalize themselves for activities that only they saw, the crew of a billfisher far over the horizon is expected to follow the IGFA and tournament rules and if a rule is violated, even inadvertanly, is expected to stand up and report the infraction as such. But that’s not always as easy as it sounds.

When I was a young billfisher, I found myself lying in the pulpit of HOOKER, reaching for the leader of a potential tournament winning marlin. Inexperienced and impatient, I reached for the line too soon, catching the main instead of the leader and causing it to break. Horrified, I was asked if I had at any point had the leader in my hand, which could have qualified the fish as a release. Much as I would have liked to say otherwise, I reported what I’d done and the fish was disqualified. Ironically, the next season I had the very same thing happen – with the same angler – and the same results. And I made the same heart-sickening admission, with the same disappointing results.

At about the same point in my career, I was sitting at the awards banquet of a tournament as the winners were announced and the prizes awarded. For a lot of reasons, there had been some confusion over just who had caught what, as the fleet had been widely scattered. The committee did their best to get accurate results, but as the winners were announced, one team was given credit for a catch that many of us had watched and knew should be disqualified. But the team in question kept their truth to themselves and collected a prize they – and us – knew they had not earned.

To me, the ethics of a release tournament dovetails perfectly with that of a release angler. When I’m offshore, far from the fleet, and I say I released a marlin, you have to trust my word that I really caught and released the fish. In a tournament, while video cameras and lie detectors may help separate fact from fiction, you still need to depend on the personal ethics of each fisherman. To go back to the golf analogy, there’s an old saying that someone who will cheat on you during a round of golf will in all likelihood cheat on you in business as well. I’d say that applies to releasing marlin as well – and if I can’t count on your ethics when you’re on the water, why would I do so on the beach?

Well, we’re down to our last tournament of the season, and it seems all too appropriate that this season, the Pesky is the last event of the fishing year. Our theme this year is the Wild West, and I’ve polished my boots and sharpened my spurs in anticipation of a couple of quality days on the water. Do I seriously think there’ll be fish? Probably not, but I’ll be disappointed if the fleet goes skunked. We’ll find out tomorrow night at the kickoff if there’ll be any “alternate species” shenanigans (remember last year and “Southern California Sanddab Online”?), but this much is guaranteed – we’ll have more fun than any of the other events, fish or not.

Our next report will come Thursday evening from the placid waters of Avalon Harbor – until then, think of marlin!

September 15

You know, there’s only so many ways I can start out one of these updates with “gee, no news” before I start to sound repetitive, so I’m not even going to try. The fog is here, so there’s no decent SST data. There’s no one on the water, and the few that are out there are pre-fishing tournaments and aren’t talking. I don’t even have any decent pictures to share, since you have to catch fish in order to take pictures of fish. But I hate gaps in the update sequence, so we’re going to do what we can do.

The last marlin I’ve heard about was Jesse Henry’s release in the Zane Grey. I know that the tournament boats were working this week, looking for their honey holes in advance of next week’s twin Classics, but the only real data I heard was a couple of boats indicating that the 209 was looking good. The weather sounds good for the next few days, so there’s every reason to believe that if there are fish to be found, they will be found. If …

I don’t have any real news to pass along, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to talk about, so let me touch on a couple of things while I have your attention.

So _that’s_ what they look like …

This will be a big weekend of tournament fishing, if not necessarily tournament catching. Tomorrow and Friday, the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament will be run out of Newport, as club teams compete against each other in one of the west coast’s premiere light tackle events. To the south, the Marlin Club of San Diego will be holding their Invitational Light Tackle Tournament, the west coast’s _other_ premiere light tackle event. I’d give the edge to the southern event if for no other reason than proximity to the fish, but I haven’t seen the grid for either event as yet. Sunday will see the Mission Bay Marlin Club’s American Heart Association Marlin Tournament, which usually attracts much of the ILTT fleet as they fish for charity.

Come Monday, the second and third legs of the California Billfish Series will be competed simultaneously. The Catalina Classic and Avalon Billfish Classics will be competed from Avalon this year, keeping the promise made by the new tournament organizers. Frankly, when you see the caliber of boat and angler in these events, you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t really matter where the fish are – these guys will run to them and find them. We plan on providing real time updates for these events as we did last week’s Zane Grey, so if you haven’t done do yet, you might want to follow @marlinnut or bookmark our Twitter page for all the latest.

New Fish Unis?

Those who have followed my scribblings over time know that I’m a baseball fan, and particularly a Florida Marlins fan. Some years it’s easy to be a Fish Fan (1997 and 2003 World Champions, baby!), but it’s mostly a struggle. I’ve been a fan from before the club even hit the field in ’93, in part because my local Dodgers were sucking so bad at the time (remember Eddie Murray as a Dodger … eek!), but also because the logo was just so damned cool – hey, it’s a _marlin_!

Next year, the team will finally move into a baseball-only stadium in downtown Miami on the former site of the Orange Bowl. As part of the move, the team will be formally renamed the Miami Marlins, better reflecting their geographical home. Somehow, though, I feel a sense of melancholy – it’s as if the name change means abandoning the history of the team … the history of my team. We’ll see once Opening Day comes next year. Of course, it could also be that the team is limping towards the end of the current era with a last-place finish …

When the fishing is as bad as it is right now, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, it was just two years ago that we had one of the best marlin seasons on record. So, for our trip into the Wayback Machine, a reminder of good times not so long ago …

2 Years Ago …

September 14, 2009

Tournament weekends are crazy under the best of circumstances, but throw in bumpy seas, scratchy communications and a bunch of marlin and it’s just nuts. Someone’s gotta fish ‘em, and someone’s gotta cover ‘em – and this weekend I got to do both But in the end, you’re the beneficiary, courtesy of this new edition of the SCMO Fishing News!

(cue tourney-edition theme music)

There was a lot of marlin tournament action this weekend, so let’s just jump right in. We lost a weekend on the September calendar this year, and it’s caused a problem with the traditional tourney calendar as the various organizers try to squeeze in their events without overlapping each other. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, as we saw this weekend. No fewer than four tournaments were running simultaneously on Saturday, with two of them involving some of the same water, anglers and fish!

Patience, little one …

Those two events, the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament and the King Harbor Marlin Club Marlin Tournament, started with a bang on Friday morning right from the “lines in” call at 7AM. Boats “in the know” had pre-positioned themselves before dawn at a couple of presumed hot spots, so it only took literally seconds for the first hookup call to cross the VHF airwaves. Distance between the various fleets and the committee boats added to the challenge, and for most of the morning there were many frustrated captains as they struggled to communicate their hookup data while at the same time maneuvering to catch the fish.

At the outset on Friday, the boats were split among three main areas. The safe bet from the midweek action was the ridge off the east end of Catalina, and there was a group of boats working the 152 and 277. Over at San Clemente, a second group were working a half-dozen miles off the middle of the island near the golfball-like radar dome. For some boats in each fleet, the decision would pay dividends. However, the largest – and most successful – group of tourney boats were working an area on the back side of Catalina roughly between Catalina Canyon and Ribbon Rock. There were perhaps a dozen boats there at lines in, but that number grew quickly as the number of hookups increased.

I’m not going to even try and recount all the action that occurred during the next four hours, as it was non-stop – there were at least a half-dozen boats hooked up at a time, and MABT tournament control Bob Markland deserves a lot of credit for keeping all the data straight. By the midday roll call, there were already more marlin released than are normally caught over the two-day event. and many of the boats that had achieved decent results elsewhere – particularly in the lee of Clemente – had picked up and run to be part of the Catalina fleet.

There was a bit of a lull during the midday hours, and the fleet began to spread out in search of the fish. Before long, however, the action had picked back up and the boats once again balled up. When the fishing ended for day one, 42 marlin had been caught by MABT anglers, of which all but one were successfully released. Another eight marlin had been released by the smaller KHMC fleet. Everyone bedded down for the night with dreams of another epic day on Saturday.

Master indeed!

Funny how it works sometimes, but those dreams were not to be. While the fishing on Saturday was still good, it was a far cry from the reel-burning action of a day before. The tourney boats off Catalina were joined by other anglers out for the weekend, but the increased numbers didn’t translate to more releases. After a short morning flurry turned into a periodic hookup or two, many of the boats in the fleet opted to search for more productive areas. Several headed for a pair of spots (12/34 and 17/35) where marlin were reported to be, while others began the slide down the backside of Catalina towards the east end and eventually Avalon. Both resulted in some success, particularly late in the afternoon after the 4PM end of the KHMC event. As is all too typical, there was a flurry of action before the MABT lines out, leaving the tourney boats to total up the numbers as the anglers tried to catch their breath.

A total of 69 marlin were released during the MABT, and history was made as well. Dara Stotesbury of KNOCK DOWN was declared the Master Angler with one marlin release on 12-lb tackle and two more on 16 – the first time in the twenty-eight year history of the event that a woman topped the field. John Holmes of HAWK took second and Jeff Wood of OFFSHORE third in the individual angler category. Dara’s performance helped her Tuna Club team of KNOCK DOWN, PACIFIC PIONEER, JOKER and CHARISMA take Top Team honors, while OFFSHORE was High Boat with five releases, followed by PESCADOR, BOUNDER and VERTIGO with four.

As mentioned earlier, several boats were fishing in both tournaments, and KNOCK DOWN’s performance gave them the Top Boat and Dara the Top Angler awards for the King Harbor Marlin Club tourney. A total of 12 marlin were released in the event, including two by Rose Moran on ALBACOD, giving her second place in the angler standings and made the boat runner-up. Even HOOKER got in the act with a release – that’s my black-gloved hand working a well-placed hook out of our marlin just before release.

On Saturday, the southern fleet got into the act as the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge was run out of San Diego. It’s a mixed species event, with marlin, swordfish, tuna, and other pelagics all garnering points towards the championship. Tuna ruled the day, with albacore and bluefin being caught by tournament anglers, but it was a 44.2-lb yellowfin tuna that secured first place for Greg Fine fishing on SNOOPER. The real winners from this event, though, were all the kids whose wishes will be granted thanks to the funds raised.

But wait – there’s more! Today was the first fishing day of the three-day Zane Grey Invitational Marlin Tournament, the first of the California Billfish Series. To no one’s great surprise, most of the action was off the backside of Catalina, and by day’s end there had been 14 releases and two boated. We’ll have full coverage in the next report, but if you computer settings – and company security policy – allow, you might want to check out the all-too-addictive tourney web cam.

Whew – made it through! Nothing as much fun as tourney time in Avalon, but it can be a challenge to try to simultaneously be a participant and a reporter. We do our best, though, and hope you appreciate the results. We’ll face the challenge once again this weekend, as I’ll be fishing in the Pesky on Friday and Saturday. I managed to avoid the Marlin Club trap last weekend, but come Saturday night after the tourney there’s just things that have to be done – dinner at the Descanso Beach Club, watermelon shooters at Armstrongs, and last call at the MC. You just gotta do what you gotta do; with a little luck, I’ll do it as the winner of the Golden Bagel. But whatever happens, you know you’ll find the best coverage right here in the Fishing News. We’ll have a quick report Thursday before I paddle across the channel, followed by another comprehensive tourney weekend wrap next Monday. Good luck to all our tourney anglers!

September 12

Most folks have given up on this marlin season, but someone has to cover it, and that someone is us. All the weekend’s “action”, and the results of the recently-completed Zane Grey Invitational – all that and more in this special Tuesday edition of the SCMO Fishing News.

(cue theme music)

If you’ve been holding out for a late-arriving marlin season, it just might be time to throw in the towel. The only thing different this weekend from the last 10 was the strange weather and the presence of yours truly on the water. Yes, it was good to get some deep water under my keel, but I’ll confess to feeling the same sense of hopelessness with regards to this year. After all, we didn’t just not see any fish; we didn’t see any one who saw any.

I was on HOOKER for the King Harbor Marlin Club’s annual marlin tournament, one of several events going on up and down the coast. The good news is that there were some marlin found by tournament participants; the bad news is that there weren’t very many.

The KHMC tourney was based out of Avalon, and after Thursday night’s kickoff meeting at El Galeon, most of the fleet headed towards the 209, as this is the closest anyone has seen to a “hot spot” in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, the closest any of the participants got to a marlin was a jumper spooked by JEWEL LURE as it passed near. Like the Church Mouse before it, the KHMC tourney included “alternate species” – yellowtail, halibut and tuna – but the fishing was so bad no one could even get one of those. It made for a pretty glum tournament banquet, but a very nice raffle.

The rest of the weekend’s events had a common thread – catch the one marlin and win.

You’d scowl if there were no marlin, too.

Friday and Saturday, the Catalina Island Yacht Club held their annual marlin tournament, and the pickings weren’t much better. The one marlin caught for the CIYC was taken by REEL TIME, who started Saturday morning waiting for a diver to pull the mooring line out of the running gear, and ended up the day with a release and a tournament win. Once the pesky line was out of the way, they bombed down towards the 209, dropping in the lures just past the 277. A marlin came in on the short corner as they passed 10/59, and after more than a little boatside drama, angler Kenny Knight had the tournament’s only release.

While the REEL TIME crew were juggling their leader, another fleet was competing in the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge out of San Diego. As you might imagine, most of the action was to the south, with most of the fish caught below the border. Grand Prize Winner was John Ashley of LANAI KAI, who released a marlin on the Hidden Bank. Most of the other prizes went to those catching bluefin tuna in the 15 to 20-lb range below the Tuna Pens.

Once the weekend events were out of the way, the first event of the California Billfish Series was set to begin. Moved to Dana Point from Avalon, purportedly to take advantage of the “hot bite” near the beach, the Zane Grey Invitational attracted a fleet of 10 boats – smaller than usual, to be sure, but made up of many of the boats that have worked the money event circuit the last few years. No on seriously believed the press releases touting the local bite, and it was no surprise to see the modified grid map that opened up waters south to the Mexican border. Nor was it a surprise when the first hookup of the event came Monday morning from Grid E-6, southeast of the 43 and at the very bottom of the grid. Jesse Henry on SHARK’S PARLOUR was the angler, and his release got them on the board with what would turn out to be the only marlin of the event. RUCKUS had a baitfish on this morning in grid E-4, but when they lost it a couple of minutes into the fight, it gave SHARK’S PARLOUR a clean sweep of all the prizes. They’re still counting the money, but it sounds like that one released marlin will net the team over $80,000.

Spouts at sundown

The tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks has come and gone, and frankly, I was a bit surprised at how understated the coverage was. We all know how our media loves to glamourize and dramatize even the smallest of things (I’m talking about you, Kim Kardashian), and I was frankly afraid at just how cheezy the coverage might be. Sure, there were the occasional silliness (Animal Planet’s “The Pets of 9-11″ comes to mind), but for the most part, the media behaved itself and did it’s job. The Naational Geographic Channel, in particular, did an outstanding job, with the first interview with former President Bush about the day and an entire week of new programming about the anniversary.

I was on the water on 9-11, which has happened several times over the years. Through the wonders of technology, I was able to show my respects through Facebook, and once I was back on the beach Sunday night I watched several documentaries I have on DVD, particularly the amazing film “9|11″ by the Naudet Brothers. If you haven’t seen this film, which shows the attack through the eyes of a pair of French filmmakers who accidentally became the most important witnesses to the event, you really should. It will remind you of the fear and the confusion and the pain of the day, which is something we should never allow ourselves to forget, no matter how much time passes.

It’s easy, really, to let things get out of proportion. As the time since the terrorist attacks grows, our perception changes and it’s just not as important as it used to be. That’s natural, I suppose, and part of the healing process. But in life, it’s important to not lose sight of the important things just because whatever is in front of you at the moment has you irritated.

As someone who’s job it is to chronicle the local offshore season, it’s a real bitch when there’s nothing to talk about. The marlin are scarce, the swordfish even rarer, and the tuna haven’t come within a day of any SoCal fishing port. It’s easy for me to get angry. But then yesterday, as I walked along the Esplanade in Redondo Beach, I saw three pods of blue whales spouting not a half-mile off the beach. I get pretty jaded about things and forget just how lucky I am sometimes, but the look of joy on the faces of people who had never seen a whale before reminded me that I can’t let the little things get in the way of what’s important – and sometimes, what’s important is a whale’s joyful spouting.

We’ll be back on Thursday with a look at the weekend’s busy tournament schedule – until then, pray for marlin …

September 8

This entry comes to you direct from the lounge of the CATALINA EXPRESS, mid-channel between Long Beach and Avalon. Yes, I’m finally on the water and will be fishing the King Harbor Marlin Club tourney tomorrow and Saturday. But Avalon won’t be nearly as boisterous as usual – more on that and other good stuff in this On-The-Water edition of the SCMO Fishing News!

(cue traveling theme music)

The big news of the week isn’t the lack of marlin, but the impact that lack is having on the tournament schedule. You’ll recall that last year, when the marlin didn’t make it across the international border out of Mexico, then-Tournament Director Rod Halperin made the tough call to move the California Billfish Series events from Avalon to San Diego. The move cost them some entries, and some feelings in Avalon were hurt, but ultimately it led to the events avoiding a shutout. Rod put on a happy face and declared that the events would be back in Avalon where they belonged in 2011, but we all wondered what would happen if the fishing were poor again – especially when the events were sold to a new group during the offseason.

The CBS events are now part of the BloodyDecks empire, and new Tournament Director Ali Husseiny found himself in a strangely similar position to his predecessor. There’s been some scratchy catches around Catalina, and a little bit of a pick at the 209 last week, but nothing that would make you think good things were coming for his events. It was just a week ago that Ali was squelching rumors that the Zane Grey Invitational, first of the three events, would be cancelled, and now comes word that they’re moving the event from Avalon to Dana Point.

There are two kinds of teams that get into the money tournaments, and a Tournament Director has a delicate dance to do if he wants to please both. The first are the teams that are there for the experience – they want to fish with the big boys and have a shot at the prize, but they appreciate all the pomp and circumstance that goes with big time tournament fishing. The second are the hard-core competitors – there to win and only win; gamblers, if you will, whose only real interest is the class of the field and the size of the check. It’s hard enough to please such disparate interests under the best of conditions, but when you are facing an event move it’s nearly impossible. Hold the event with no chance at fish and you face a boycott from those there to win; move the event and you risk losing those who want the trimmings. It’s a no-win situation.

Personally, I’m not convinced the move was the right call. Despite the glowing fish report in the memo from the Tournament, the bite at the 209 wouldn’t even register in a normal year. What’s more, while the run from Avalon and the run from Dana only differ by a few miles, there’s a big dip in the amenities and surroundings. But it was Ali’s call to make, and a brave one at that. We here at SCMO wish them the best with the Zane, and we’ll stay on top of any changes to either the locations or rules for the upcoming Catalina and Avalon Billfish Classics.

And just in case there wasn’t enough bad news for you … oh look – La Nina is back

Reflecting Absence – the 9-11 Memorial takes shape

Ten years already … wow. I remember sitting in my driveway, listening to the 6AM news on KNX as my car warmed up. They were talking about a plane that had run into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, presumably a small private job, and recalling the incident in World War Two when a B-25, lost in the fog, slammed into the Empire State Building. Then, live on the air, the second airliner slammed into the WTC. America would never be the same.

I recall some of the words I wrote on the first anniversary of the attacks, a post which is repeated below as our look to the past …

In the next 24 hours, there will be lots of teary speeches and glitzy programs to tell about the event and the heroes and the aftermath. They’ll do a good job of putting it all into a slick package that will make some forget the magnitude of the tragedy. Don’t be one of them. Never let yourself forget the real costs of September 11, 2001. Entire planeloads of people incinerated. Entire fire companies crushed to death. Nearly 3,000 dead. Nearly 13,000 body parts found. Feel the pain, feel the anger – and never, ever, let yourself forget.

The wound was still very fresh at that point, and I was still very angry. We all dealt with our feelings in different ways; being a computer geek, I chose to collect pictures, videos and first person stories of survival. I ended up collecting nearly 2 gigs of data – 8300 files. Somehow, I guess I thought that I could catalog my feelings, sort and organize and file them with all the images. I couldn’t, of course – the only thing that helps is time.

A lot has happened since that terrible Tuesday in 2001. Two different presidents … two different wars. WMD and waterboarding; 3-ounce bottles and shoe checks. The sense that somehow oceans could protect us stripped away for ever.

I’ll leave it to those wiser and wordier than me to decide whether the steps taken were right or wrong, but it’s true that there have been no further attacks successfully committed. That record comes at a price, in blood and treasure and reputation and liberty. Like most things, compromise seems to be the correct answer, but compromise is a rare commodity these days.

The important thing to remember is that it was an attack on each of us, an attack on our way of life. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know we cannot allow them to win. I didn’t dance when they shot Bin Laden, but I shed no tears, either. At some level, it’s us or them, and I’m always going to pull for us. For now, be grateful and say a prayer for those lost.

Before we go, a quick update on the conditions at the 209: “69 dirty offcolor grass everywhere – nightmare”. Good luck to all of you heading down to Dana for the ZG – we’ll see you at the Marlin Club … not!

7 Years Ago …

September 8, 2002

That sound you hear is me writing 100 times on the blackboard …

“I will not update my software during marlin season”
“I will not update my software during marlin season”
“I will not update my software during marlin season”

As an IT guy, you’d think I’d know better. Bottom line is that it’s taken me 3 days to get my Mac back to its old self. Not the fault of the software – rather, because I am anal and need to know everything about an operating system before I will use it. Good thing I was unexpectedly left on the beach this weekend. (BTW – you Mac users who haven’t upgraded to OS X should – it rocks!)

Of course, as many of you know, there is no news to report of worth mentioning. Very few marlin were seen (and even fewer caught), and the tuna fishing is essentially over. I’ll cover what little action there was in the Thursday report.

Frankly, tonight I’m not in the mood to think about fish or fishing, or much else for that matter. Tomorrow is September 11, the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC. I can’t imagine that there is anyone who has not been affected by those senseless acts. So much death, so much destruction, so much grief. The real irony is that most people can’t even tell you what point the terrorists were trying to make, other than to tell us that nowhere is safe any more.

I guess everyone reacted in their own way to the tragedy. I turned to the two things I know best – the Internet and fishing. The first weekend after the attack I was entered in a tournament, and there was a lot of talk about whether to cancel the event. In the end, we decided to celebrate life and freedom the best way we knew how by continuing with the event. I never saw so many flags streaming from tuna towers! I also collected images and video snippets from around the world. I told myself it was to put together some kind of multimedia CD-ROM, but I guess it was really just my own way of trying to make sense of it all. After all, if I can catalog the images and video, then I ought to be able to make sense out of the events themselves, right? Wrong.

I live all the way across the country from the attack sites, but I felt as if it was my own neighborhood that had been attacked. Of course, I did feel it personally – two people I worked with were on the plane that slammed into the north tower. I also had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by a member of the FDNY to the members of the Redondo Beach Fire Department. He described things in the unvarnished tone of one firefighter to another, and he pulled no punches. The things he saw would literally make you sick. Because of those two things, I feel a very strong sense of pain from the event, stronger I suspect than those who simply watched the endless replays of planes hitting buildings

More than anything else, my heart goes out to the firefighters and their families. While many people lost their lives, most were just unfortunate victims, someone at the wrong place at the wrong time. But the members of “New York’s bravest” were there by choice, doing what they do best, trying to save lives. Running up the stairs as everyone else ran down. Many make the ultimate sacrifice that day, but many more were saved because of them. Because of them, no one will ever look at a firefighter the same way.

In the next 24 hours, there will be lots of teary speeches and glitzy programs to tell about the event and the heroes and the aftermath. They’ll do a good job of putting it all into a slick package that will make some forget the magnitude of the tragedy. Don’t be one of them. Never let yourself forget the real costs of September 11, 2001. Entire planeloads of people incinerated. Entire fire companies crushed to death. Nearly 3,000 dead. Nearly 13,000 body parts found. Feel the pain, feel the anger – and never, ever, let yourself forget.

September 6

“I’m puttin’ on my top hat
Tyin’ up my white tie
Brushin’ off my tails”

Fred Astaire, “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails”

Yes, it’s a holiday weekend edition of the Fishing News, and as you might have already gathered, I’m ready to put on the ol’ song and dance …

(cue theme music)

Hard to believe it’s the middle of tournament season based on the lack of marlin catches so far. Harder still when you look at the number of people who’ve either opted to stay on the beach until the bite gets better or have just plain given up on the season. Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the biggest weekends in the SoCal marlin calendar, but you’d never know it from the radio traffic or the number of boats on the water. It’s as if the season just never happened …

But some hearty souls braved the weather and the wimpy marlin counts to head offshore, and a few were rewarded for their efforts. The first sign that a new vein of fish may have been found came on Friday, when SCMO Expert Steve Lassley reported good signs, seeing both swordfish and marlin, and even having a hookup just inside the 209. It didn’t take long for that jungle drum to attract others, and several boats were working in the general area of the “Tanker Bank” Saturday. This being the week before 9-11 and the world being what it is, a couple of boats had run-ins with the security patrols, much to the amusement of anyone listening. No one was laughing when TOUCHE’ releasing one marlin out of three that came up in their jigs NE of the 209 (08/46). Interestingly, the lucky winner passed up the lures to eat a rigged ballyhoo.

Sunday saw more boats running for the Tanker Bank despite worsening sea conditions. TRINIDAD, which earlier this season showed a willingness to run wherever the fish are as fast as is necessary, made the run pay off with a pair of jigfish. The morning fish was taken on a Mean Joe Green near the 209 and the afternoon release was on a goatfish at 09/44 as they trolled for home.

The extra day in the weekend did nothing for the billfish count as nasty weather kept the fleet for the most part in port. Several boats that had spent the weekend in Avalon were pinned down, leaving their crews with no alternative but to hang out in the bars … ;-)

Fill ‘er up!

Those of you not familiar with our fishery or region may be scratching your head as you pour over a nav chart looking for the “Tanker Bank”. Let me save you the trouble – it doesn’t exist; at least, not in the traditional sense. Allow me to explain …

After the um … “liberation” … of Iraq – and it’s vast crude oil supplies, said supplies began flowing once again to the West. Massive tankers would load up in the southern port town of Basra then make the long run to Southern California to offload. Unfortunately, these 1,000-ft behemoths are too large to pass into the Los Angeles / Long Beach harbor complex, so they must undergo a lightering process offshore, passing their cargo to smaller tankers capable of docking.

One of the preferred locations for this process is near the 209-Fathom Spot. It’s outside the traditional shipping lanes and centrally located to both the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach and San Diego. As you might imagine, this process can take some time – as long at two weeks – and the pairs of tankers doing lazy circles become a familiar site to the anglers; so much so that they become their own landmark in an area bereft of others. Hence, the “Tanker Bank” – and now you know!

This coming weekend the tournament calender continues, and your humble host finally gets to spend a little time on the water. I’ll be fishing the King Harbor Marlin Club tourney Friday and Saturday, so if you find yourself in Avalon those nights look me up – I’ll probably be holding court at the Marlin Club. Saturday will also be the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge out of San Diego, and it’ll be interesting to see just how far they have to go to find the winner for that event.

Monday brings the kickoff of the annual California Billfish Series with the start of the Zane Grey Invitational, and I’m afraid conditions don’t look much better than they did last year when the then-organizers were forced to relocate the entire series to San Diego just to get a sniff of marlin. No such changes have been announced as yet, but I’m sure if they do Ali Hussainy and the CBS staff will let us know. We at SCMO appreciate how frustrating it must be right now for Ali and the boys and hope for the best. We find ourselves reminded of the immortal words of Super Chicken, however …

“Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it …”

Not sure how large the Thursday report will be as I’ll be enroute to Avalon, but so long as they still have a bar on the CATALINA JET, we should be just fine … ;-)

September 1

It’s the last holiday weekend of the summer, and you know what that means – BBQ, beers and billfish. Unfortunately, while there may be beef on the barbie and cold ones on ice, someone forgot to invite the guest of honor …

Let’s start out with a little good news for a change. The weather, which recently has kept a lot of people off the water, is beautiful and should be throughout the weekend. The coastline is being pounded by 8 to 10 foot waves, but the offshore swells will seldom reach 5-ft and the winds are balmy. I spoke yesterday with boats on both the 14-Mile and Avalon Banks and they confirmed the reports – sunny, flat calm and beautiful. If there’s anything out there to be seen, you’ll be able to see it this weekend.

Unfortunately, what’s being seen isn’t what’s being wanted. Most of the local banks are stocked with bait and all sorts of life, from mola to seal to multiple species of whales, but very few billfish. Some swordfish are being seen but none hooked, although the stickboats appear to be doing OK. But overall, the marlin numbers remain way way down, with no signs that would give you hope for improvement.

Incoming!

Micro sail

Since no one’s catching anything and, therefore, taking pictures of same, here’s a couple of shots from our inbox – on the right, a charging blue marlin from SCMO Expert Paco Saca in El Salvador and on the left, the smallest sailfish you’ll ever see take a trolling lure from Tracy Ehrenberg in Los Cabos.

One more piece of bad news – they’re starting to get albacore at Morro Bay. Once again, the tuna bypassed the Catalina Bight altogether.

This weekend is the rare open date in the local tournament schedule, giving organizers of upcoming events a chance to regroup or stare into the abyss. There was a rumor afoot earlier in the week that the new owners of the California Billfish Series were going to cancel the Zane Grey Invitational, but I was able to confirm with Tournament Director Ali Hussainy that the event remains schedule to compete as planned. But it’s tough running a marlin tournament when there’s no marlin, and sometimes a little creativity and an open mind is required.

Last year, the Church Mouse Invitational was one of several events where the fleet came home skunked. A charity event benefitting Avalon charities for the last two decades, tourney organizers Bob and Carol Butte weren’t going to let a lack of fish ruin the fun, so they opened up this year’s edition of the Mouse to include additional species, including white sea bass, halibut and yellowtail.

Well, wouldn’t you know that bright and early on Monday, the first day of the tourney, THE OZ found a marlin between the Slide and Avalon and got it to go, and Tuesday saw CHASER release one on the Avalon Bank. Those releases were good enough for first and second place in the tournament, with the remaining two places going to a pair of nice halibut. Two marlin may not seem like much, but after a shutout last year, I’ll bet it looked mighty nice to Bob and Carol!

We’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, and most of us who fish the local waters will always remember what it was like competing in tournaments days after the event. Today’s look back is a look waaay back – back to a time when marlin were plentiful and planes didn’t fly into buildings.

11 Years Ago …

September 4, 2000

Let me start by making the following statement: Yes, they really did catch 14 marlin. The "they", of course, is Team Kingsmill of WILD BILL. Fishing in the lee of San Clemente Island 5 miles off the Dome, they released an amazing 14 striped marlin on Saturday. Now, there have been times in the past when really amazing marlin bites have resulted in some incredible scores. I recall a bite up at Santa Cruz a few seasons back when one boat (the WILD BILL crew fishing on a trailer boat, I believe) rolled up an incredible score of something like 8 or 9. But this has to set some kind of record. The feat is made all the more amazing by the fact that, for most of the day, they were at the eye of a very large, tight fleet of boats trying to emulate their success. The next closest boat was NO EXCUSES, with 3. Normally, that’s a great day. But they have to realize they came in second by 11 fish! As Jim Kingsmill, who wound in 7 of the stripes, put it, "it was just like Mag Bay!" Indeed!

Between fits of incredulous headshaking, other boats did manage to find marlin of their own. On Saturday, TIGHT LINES released a pair fishing in the pack off the Dome, and THREE SEAS and PESCADOR each released one. Sunday, the fleet split into several smaller groups, driven primarily by predictions of nasty weather on the horizon. HOOKER, having moved to the region off the east end of Catalina, released a marlin 4 miles short of the 277. SLEEPER moved in on the numbers and found a pack of feeders, and managed to catch and release one of them. Back off the Dome, WAIT N SEA released three, WILD BILL two more, and LEGEND, NO EXCUSES and OFFSHORE one each. A bit to the south, PESCADOR got a jigfish on the 289, and GERONIMO released one just north of there. The weather was picking up pretty good on Saturday, chasing a lot of the boats off. One suspects it might have had the same effect on the fish. We’ll soon see.

While we were out playing with the marlin, a lot of folks were still trying to get their fill of the exotics we’ve enjoyed all summer. Alas, just as Labor Day indicates the end of summer, it has meant a significant lessening of the food fish, as well. The 209 was notable as a spot to catch yellowfin tuna, as they were being found in good numbers running with the porpoise. Between there and the 277, a large herd of dorado was reported to be available to those who had the mini-mackeral we’ve been seeing lately. To the south, spots that have been producing all summer, such as the 302 and the 181, were reported to be empty. However, Those willing to run down to the 220’s and the 213 found the exotics triple play – yellowtail, yellowfin tuna and dorado. We also received a report of really large bluefin tuna on the Cortes Bank, but haven’t had that confirmed. Anyone? Bueller?

I was fishing this weekend, but managed to get the new Interactive Hot Spot Chart up and running before I left. Based on the feedback I’ve received, it is rapidly becoming one of our most popular features. It was suggested that some way to determine distance between points would be a good addition, so we added a Course / Distance Calculator to the chart page. I’ll be interested in getting opinions and suggestions for improvements.

As I mentioned last week, I will be an upcoming guest on Fish Talk radio. However, the date has been moved back one week to Sunday, Sept 17 from 8 to 10 PM on KPLS, AM 830, Orange/Los Angeles. That’s the Sunday after the Friday/Saturday Pesky tourney, so it should be an … interesting … show. Those of you who were at the post-tourney party last year know why. Finally, I’m happy to pass along that we finally got some good satellite shots today, so we’ve got nice new SCMO sst charts – just in time to prepare for the upcoming tourney weekend.

August 29

Interesting things afoot … the weather may be clearing, the marlin might be biting, and marlineers are so desperate they’re willing to help each other. All that and a Church Mouse update in this edition of the SCMO Fishing News!

“Toot-toot” means “we got marlin!”

(cue hopeful theme music)

OK, let’s cut to the chase – they got a marlin on Day 1 of the Church Mouse, which means they won’t be raffling off the top prize like they had to last year. THE OZ, working off the Slide at the east end of Catalina (20/13, if you want to just punch ‘em in and run) got a baitfish to go early Monday for the first and so far only fish of the event. A number of boats are working the same area, and another fleet is pounding the 279 – with a total of 60 boats in the event, you’d think if there are marlin to be found, they’ll find them. But at the end of the first day of fishing, only THE OZ’s release and a couple of halibut on their way to the scales are on the scoreboard.

The weekend itself was kinda sad, as a lot of boats were out fishing for charity but got nothing in return. The Tuna Club’s Linen One and Avalon Charity events ran back to back, but despite a large number of contestants no marlin were caught. Nearly 25 boats plowed through some choppy waters and while no marlin were caught – or even hooked – money was raised to support Avalon charities, and in the end that’s what counts.

Weather conditions played as much of a role in the weekend’s numbers as the fish did themselves. Most tournament fishers reported seeing more sheep than anything else, and the proliferation of boats in the relative comfort of the ridge off the East End speaks volumes. Several boats made it up to the Mackerel Bank and one even slogged out as far as the 499 without success. We received several reports that while the weather made it tough sledding, the Mackerel Bank still had a lot of life and good signs, although I haven’t heard of any of the CM boats finding success there despite nicer weather.

The best areas were down the ridge from the Slide, with the 277 looking particularly juicy, and the area between the 279 and 14-Mile Bank. Unfortunately, nice conditions don’t necessarily equate to fishing success. We also received a report from down south of a solid hookup 6 miles off Torrey Pines – “good old-fashioned blind strike”. I think right now most of us would be thrilled with that …

Still winning … just not here …

If you’ve following my scribblings for long, either here at the Fishing News or at our currently-on-hiatus MarlinBlog, you know my love for beach volleyball. The demise of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour hit the SCMO Home Office pretty hard, and even though others have tried to pick up the slack, it’s just not the same.

Last weekend, USA Beach Volleyball held the first of three Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball events, the classic Manhattan Beach Open. The MBO has always been considered the Wimbledon of the beach, and when the AVP folded days before it was to be held last season, the city scraped something together just to keep the tradition alive. This year’s event was much more like the tourneys of the past, from the 35,000 spectators (all free) packing the bleachers to the familiar voice of Chris “Geeter” McGee on the PA.

What was different, though, were the names that will be added to the list of winners on the Manhattan Beach Pier. Sean Scott and John Hyden won the men’s bracket, while Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik took the women’s honors. Now, unless you’re a serious BVB wonk, you’re asking yourself, “Who dat?” – and with good reason. The last time the pros swung through the South Bay, the big names in the sport were Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. They’re still among the leading players in the world, and they’re still winning events – just not in America. With the demise of the AVP, the only way to earn points towards the Olympics is to compete in the FIVB Swatch World Tour beach volleyball events, which are held all over the world – but not in America. So while newbies were earning their place on the MB Pier, the real players were all over competing in … the Hague?

I don’t know what it’s going to take, and I don’t care – the powers that be of American beach volleyball need to get their stuff back together and get some world class events back on the sand where it all began … (UPDATE: And it looks like someone is trying …)

Before we go, a quick tip of the ol’ SCMO cap to everyone who’s been helping us keep up with a very tough marlin season. When I talk to marlin fishermen from around the world, they’re always amazed at the cattiness of our local fleet – the attempts to mislead other fishermen about where the fish are, the secret channels and code words to keep others from finding where they’re fishing, all the spy-vs-spy intrigue. This year, though, I think everyone’s figured out that alone you won’t survive, and if we don’t work as a group to try and find some fish, everyone will end up with no fish. As a result, I’ve had more cooperation than ever – twenty different reports came into the Home Office this weekend, either through the Trip Reporter or replies to the SCMO Info Pings, and I thank each of you for them. The Info Ping goes out ever Sunday night, and gives the recipient multiple quick and easy ways to let us know how they did – if you’re not on the list and want to play along, just let me know!

August 25

Hear that sound? Listen closely … that’s the sound of sweat rolling down the foreheads of the local tournament organizers as they pray for marlin …

So, heard the one about the marlin tournament season with no marlin? Oh yeah – it was last year. Unfortunately, this year is starting to look more and more like that. But fish or not, the events go on.

We’ve got ‘em surrounded, boys …

Last year, it was the cold water current blocking the marlin’s access to the Catalina Bight that was the culprit for the poor fishing. This year, while I’m sure the thousands of marlin being commercially harvested in Mexico are having an effect on the numbers, it’s starting to look like the water is conspiring against us again.

Earlier this week, there was a big drop in the sea surface temperatures, and you can see the impact on the most recent SST shot. The warmest water in the region remains in the lee of San Clemente Island, the most consistent spot so far this season for marlin spotting. But look at the way that area has become isolated from the rest of the warm water that would normally bring more marlin into the area. There’s sub-65-degree water blocking the inshore highway as well, which could well result in the only marlin available to catch being those already in the area. The good news is that the areas are relatively small and isolated, so the fishing might well be good along the temp breaks, but there can’t be that many fish in those pockets. But the tourney’s are on the calendar, the bait is in the tank, so a-fishing we will go …

Kicking off the weekend’s events early is the Tuna Club and their Linen One tourney. This one-day event pairs modern anglers and boats with pre-World War II tackle as a nod to the heritage and history of the oldest fishing club in the world. Bamboo rods and unforgiving natural fiber lines are a test under the best of times, and with so few opportunities each will be that much more precious. The same fleet will be back on the water Friday and Saturday for the Tuna Club’s Avalon Benefit tourney. I don’t expect to see a lot of fish caught, but hopefully by getting the best of the best on the water, we’ll at least locate the fish.

Come next Monday, the first of the season’s open events, the Church Mouse Invitational, starts its first of two days of fishing. This is a wonderful charity event, benefiting multiple sources in Avalon, and they won’t let the lack of fish interfere with the fun and fund raising. They added multiple species of fish to this year’s event to avoid having to raffle off the prizes, and if you know Bob and Carol, you know it’ll be a great event whether the marlin choose to make an appearance or not.

Hunker down, Hatteras!

Of course, maybe we shouldn’t complain so much about the fishing, as we at least get to fish – that’s a lot more than our brethren on the East Coast can say right about now. Hurricane season has been pretty benign so far, but it sounds like that’s all about to change as Hurricane Irene prepares to dance her way up the coastline in the next few days. She’ll likely stay just offshore, sparing the area the normal wind-borne damage, but insuring they’ll see an awful lot of rain – as much as 10 inches 100 miles inland. Beyond the impact to the Outer Banks and other marlin regions, it appears that it could be the strongest storm to hit the northeastern metropolitan area in a century. Lower Manhattan could well be underwater by Sunday, with subways flooded and transportation infrastructure in chaos. It should be an interesting weekend …

One last thought before I go … is it just me, or does it seem like there’s a whole lot fewer people chasing marlin this year? I realize that the fishing is slow and the economy is sicker than Steve Jobs, but that’s nothing new. Yet every measurement of interest I can see – traffic at our site, comments on the radio, or just people telling stories at fishing club meetings – makes me think that there’s a lot of people who have decided to hold off on their offshore trips, or perhaps hang up their rods altogether. What do you think? I’ll post a thread over in the Marlin Club on this topic – I’ll be interested in your opinions and personal stories if indeed you’re one of those staying on the beach.

5 Years Ago …

August 24, 2006

For those of you who worry that the information found in these reports isn’t fresh enough, try this one on for size …

I spoke with the HOOKER crew this evening not 10 minutes before writing this report. They released two marlin this afternoon fishing off the Slide near 19/13. One fish came on the stinger, and another on a black/purple #1 beeper. They mentioned that at least ten fish had been released today, with ONO, BRAVADO and several others all scoring. When I spoke with them, they were still trolling the spot, so the count may have gone up again.

Fresh enough?

I had planned to begin the report with some stunning prose about how wonderful it was to get back on the water earlier this week, but now that I hear the boat’s scoring without me, all I want to do is sulk. But I can’t do that, because it’s time for … wait for it … the Fishing News!

Actually, I’m just glad to get through a week without a server crash …

For the last ten days, the bite has been centered a couple of miles off the eastern edge of Catalina, from the ferry lanes outside Avalon down to the Slide. It’s been the most consistent bite I’ve seen in this area in a couple years, and it shows no sign of stopping. There will be some savage pressure applied to the area in the next few weeks as the money tourneys arrive, so we’ll have to wait and see how it lasts. I’m lovin’ the fact that the fish are so close to home, though.

There are several other areas where marlin action is occuring, and boats prefishing the Churchmouse are sure to hit them in the next couple of days. MIRAGE was fishing between the 181 and 289 today and released three fish, prompting several boats to abandon the closer bite. There also continues to be chatter about marlin that have been seen along the string of banks behind Catalina from the 499 to the 267 to the 711. I haven’t heard any great number of fish being released there, though, and since you have to pass the closer fish to get there, I’d seriously wonder about anyone to made the run.

There are still dorado and yellowtail under many of the kelp paddies, particularly as you head south. The numbers seem down, though – it could be the water temperature, or it could be the number of boats hitting them pretty hard. Best bet it to try and find your own kelp early in the AM, but be prepared to share.

Swordfish being still being seen, and a lot of boats and planes have been working the same general area as the marlineers. You could hear several examples of stickboats being called in on swordies that just wouldn’t bite. They got the point, as it were …

I mentioned the Churchmouse tournament earlier – it traditionally marks the beginning of tourney season. There will be several events each weekend from now through the end of September. You can always get the latest info by checking out our Tourney Schedule; there are links to the event websites if they exist.

I have this love-hate relationship with the money events. I hate all the money in the sidepots, as that seems too much like betting and makes me wonder if the entrants are here because they love angling or love money. I also have heartburn with the whole dead fish wins thing, although credit must be given to the event organizers for taking solid steps to minimize the number of marlin killed.

This year, the event organizer was purchased by Anthony Hsieh, who owns the tourney boat BAD COMPANY. It will certainly be interesting to see the dance he has to do when his own boat dominates the events, as it did with the WCBRT earlier this year.

A much bigger story, though , will be the introduction of a true all-release event based at Catalina. The Avalon Billfish Classic is a 100% release event requiring circle hooks for all baitfish. I’ve banged on the drum for years about the need for someone to step up and organize such an event, and I applaud Offshore Tournaments for putting this together (although they should be sending a check to Chris Badsey and The Committee for giving them a blueprint with the WCBRT and shaming them into doing this one). I’d be happier if the prize money was on par with the Zane Grey and the Catalina Classic, but hey – it’s a start.

I’m on the beach this weekend, so when I’m not in the rose garden, I’ll be snarking for news. Keep an eye on the War Room, ‘cuz that’s where I’ll be posting anything I find.