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Archive for the ‘2012’ Category.

October 22 – Season Wrap

And now I must confess, I could use some rest.
I can’t run at this pace very long.
Yes, it’s quite insane, I think it hurts my brain.
But it cleans me out and then I can go on.

Jimmy Buffett, “Tryin’ To Reason With Hurricane Season”

We’ve been wrestling with our own version of hurricane season here at the Home Office, as the remains of Hurricane Paul swept through the basin today, leaving everything sticky and confused. And while the words to the song are definitely a parrothead’s dream, the song we’re hearing about now seems to be sung by a fat lady …

(cue theme music)

I’m almost embarassed to call this a “season wrap”, because that would imply that there actually was a marlin season in Southern California. But, pathetic as it might have been, it was better than the last two seasons, so we have to at least take a brief look back at the season that sorta was …

Her again? So soon??

I think that most marlin anglers in SoCal are pretty much shell-shocked after the last three seasons. You’re heard me say it before, but it bears repeating – were this not the birthplace of our sport, I suspect that striped marlin would be considered a rare albeit fortuitous catch in these waters. It certainly wouldn’t be a targeted species, and we definitely wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars in fuel and equipment chasing them. But, thanks to Messrs. Holder, Llewellyn and Boschen, who caught the first ever rod-and-reel tuna, marlin and swordfish, respectively, in these very waters, we’re practically obligated to follow in their oversized footsteps. As they say, there’s a reason they call it “fishing” and not “catching” …

By anyone’s standards, the 2009 marlin season was epic. Over 300 marlin were released, tournament action was off the hook, it was a good time to be a SoCal marlin angler. All signs pointed to happy times to come, but that was not the case. 2010 was the worst season on record, with barely 30 marlin released in the local waters, and 2011 was even worse – we didn’t even bother running the Release Board last year. Whatever good feeling was left over from 2009 was long gone, replaced with a nagging suspicion that this wasn’t just some random occurence. The local conditions weren’t good, and the consistent streams of warm water necessary to funnel striped marlin into the Catalina Bight never formed. Grumbling about the number of marlin caught out of Mag Bay or harvested by foreign longliners off Cabo San Lucas fueled fears that we might be facing the end of the fishery.

All signs were positive coming into this season, leading many to believe we could see an end to the drought. The water temperatures, so critical to the northward movement of the marlin, came up early and consistently, creating the “warm water highway” that hugs the coastline from Baja northward before turning offshore towards Dana Point. Warm water edible pelagics, such as yellowtail, dorado and several varieties of tuna, all appeared on cue, another positive sign for marlin anglers. Only the swordfish, whose arrival in early summer precedes the marlin, were slow to show.

The first promising sign came at the end of July. Several marlin had been hooked by the tuna fishermen just south of the border, but nothing that led you to believe there was a significant number of marlin headed up the inshore highway. But when Chris Spillers got the season’s first release near the 267 on the 25th of July, it marked the beginning of a solid two-week bite near that high spot. Granted the numbers weren’t spectacular on a historical scale, but compared to the middling results of the last two seasons, it was practically wide-open.

Alas, that was the high point of what turned out to be a season that was lackluster at best. By the second week of August, the marlin had moved on, and never again stacked up in a similar fashion. Tournament season saw small runs off the east end of Catalina and Pyramid Head, but there was never any significant lingering of the marlin – each day was a new day, requiring a new hunt. In the end, that kind of effort led to scattered results at best.

For the record, we have the aforementioned Spillers fish as the first release of the season, and GJ Sacco’s release in the Catalina Classic as the final of the year. Scratching together all of our sources, we have a total of 49 releases, of which 32 include enough information to get listed on the Release Board. Was this year better than the last two? Certainly – better than the two combined. But it was a below average season, and nothing that will quiet the whispers about the future of striped marlin fishing in the region.

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that the increasing population of our planet is having an impact on our lives in many ways, and that’s as true as fishermen as anywhere else. Multiple studies estimate that the portion of the ocean’s biomass remaining today is a small fraction of what it was only 100 years ago – well under 10 percent. Whether you choose to believe global warming is a reflection of the impact of man or simply random cyclic action, it’s clear that the planet is changing. All of these pressures come to bear on the species of the planet – all the species – and it only makes sense that we would see their impact.

I guess the real question now is whether the trend we are witnessing is just that – a trend reflecting the various impacts on the fishery – or instead some kind of cyclic variation that is simply on the downward portion of the cycle. I’m not smart enough to say for sure, but I’d hate to simply bet on chance. There are positive signs out there, if you choose to see them. President Obama recently signed the Billfish Conservation Act, which strengthens existing laws preventing the sale of marlin in the continental United States. The Mexican government continue to toughen and enforce their fishing laws, albeit in a slow and inefficient fashion. And more and more of the successful marlin regions are following in the example of Cabo San Lucas, where catch and release continues to become a larger part of the plan. The fishery remains at risk, but so long as man continues to acknowledge that fact and take positive action to minimize our impact on it, there’s always a chance for recovery.

If you want to get closer, you’re gonna have to come through me

Speaking of Cabo San Lucas, it’s tournament time down there, and the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore event wrapped yesterday. Only two qualifying blue marlin (over 300-lbs) were caught, one by CHUPACABRA (Roy Oliver – 583-lbs) and the other by SNEAK ATTACK (Darin Antin – 565-lbs). Both marlin were jigfish and came on lures from SCMO’s own Bart Miller. Among the other catches were a pair of impressive yellowfin tuna – 314-lber yellowfin tuna caught by 19’S TOY and a 299-lber by C-BANDIT. Next up is the grandaddy of them all, the Black and Blue, which has the first of its three fishing days on Wednesday.

As some of you know, while I find my joy in marlin fishing and reporting on same, I make my money building satellites. I’ve been a space and aviation geek from way back. I can remember being a small child watching the early space missions with awe, and declaring after my first viewing of the movie “Airport” that I wanted to be an airport manager. That didn’t exactly happen, but I am in the business, and proud of the role I play.

Sometimes, being in the business, opportunities arise that remind you how special it really is. I had one such opportunity last spring, when I was able to tour the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and I got another last week when I served as a volunteer for the California ScienCenter’s “Big Endeavour” – the cross-town movement of the now-retired Space Shuttle Orbiter ENDEAVOUR from LAX to their downtown museum. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it over at the MarlinBlog, but let’s just say it was awesome!

As so wraps another season here at the Fishing News. Not the best one, to be sure, but any time you can put your butt on the water and soak a line, how can you declare it to be all bad? As usual, we’ll be busy here at SCMO during the offseason – we’ve got a forum upgrade in the offing and other tweaks and improvements. Of course, we can’t improve on the best part of this site – the amazing people who participate here. I would encourage you to be an active part of the conversations over at the Marlin Club, which inevitably heat up as the fishing cools off. If you haven’t done so recently, swing by the Billfish Release Board and see who managed to get it done this year, and if you don’t see your fish listed, use the submission form so we can get it up there.

Until we meet again, thanks for all your support, have a fantastic off season, and we’ll see you right here next summer as we wait in anticipation of better fishing days …

October 4

I was tempted to use Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” as an example of how quiet it’s been on the marlin report front. Unfortunately, a little quick research tells me that I’ve used that same trick at least three times in the past, so I can’t ride that dead horse again. Did I mention how much easier this job is when someone catches some damned fish?

(cue theme music)

Sometimes, I think the gods just don’t want us to have marlin fishing in SoCal, and by extension, marlin fishing reports. We all know that we’re at the very northern edge of the striped marlin migration, and if the sport hadn’t been perfected in the Catalina Channel, marlin fishing would be a novelty on the order of an opah catch. But we’ve all been to the Tuna Club … or at least past it … so we understand the tradition we’re practically required to uphold, and struggle on.

But here’s where the gods come in. Being a slow week, I don’t have any new pictures to share with you, but we have lots of followers over on Facebook, so I popped over there to see if anyone had any decent pics to … um, borrow. Sure enough, there in the news feed, is a great shot of striped marlin lit up and pissed. The caption indicated it was from the 2009 edition of the Tuna Club’s Hunt tourney, so it was perfect fodder for getting the blood going here at the Fishing News.

Ready … Break!

Picture secured, I moved on to my next task, I looked back through the archives for a past report with some decent fishing (hey, we need something to raise flagging spirits) and settled on a report from 2006. I grab the code, add it to the report, check how it looks … and damned if that report didn’t have the very same image I’d just stolen from Facebook! That picture, located in the “Years Ago” report below (I don’t think you’ll have any trouble figuring out which), taught me two things – the date on the shot in Facebook was off by three years, and karma just isn’t on my side tonight …

Just in case you feel the need to hit the water this weekend, here’s what we know. The best action has been well south, with boats willing to run to the 1010 Trench finding a veritable edible pelagic smorgasbord, with bluefin, yellowfin and albacore tuna mixed in with dorado and yellowtail. Unfortunately, that a long run, especially if you don’t call Point Loma home, and there’s all those silly Mexican rules to abide. But if you have a freezer to fill, you do what you have to do. Of all the southern banks, it sounds like the 425 is the one closest to us where there’s any realistic chance of getting big numbers.

Closer to home, it’s clear the water is cooling but it’s far from cold. The Catalina Channel is still overcast beyond the skills of SST reading to penetrate, but there looks to be some good breaks to chase down the ridge from both the east end of Catalina and Pyramid Head. San Clemente is open this weekend, and with the tournament boats paddling south Avalon ought to be clear as well.

$48 – batteries not included

Hey – have you checked the Billfish Release Board and registered your releases yet? Well, have you ???

Two EAL-7s, one dorado, one Mean Joe Green, both chirping loud and proud – total investment $48. Man, I love eBay …

Speaking as we were earlier of the Tuna Club, here’s a strange but true story from the Pesky weekend. My brother and I were walking back to Avalon from the Casino after the banquet, with a bagelling ceremony at Armstrong’s in our near future. As we passed the Tuna Club, I heard a commontion coming from the general direction of The Landing and the heart of town. Before I could figure out what was happening, here comes a full-size deer hauling ass towards us down Crescent Avenue. We jump out of the way and watch as it continues on towards the Casino, hooves clattering on asphault. As it passed the club, it almost looked like it wanted to make a right turn, but then I realized that was silly – it didn’t meet the dress code … ;-)

I know at least one boat that’s toying with the idea of a tuna run, so hopefully we’ll have a report from them and anyone else who has a couple of hundred gallons of fuel to burn. For the rest of you who stick a little closer to home, we certainly want to hear from you as well. If we do, we’ll be back on Monday with a recap; if not, maybe just a season shutdown. One way or another, we’ll be here … so should you.

6 Years Ago …

October 5, 2006

Change is in the air …

Welcome to fall fishing in SoCal – a world of long pants, dew on the deck in the morning and dodging the occasional rainstorm. But it can also be a world of great late-season marlin action.

This time of year, it’s always a challenge to be successful. There are fewer boats on the water, fewer tournaments, fewer sources of information. You drive around all day unable to find the fish, and you ask yourself, "Am I just in the wrong place – or have the fish headed south." Fear not, dear reader … as my friend here might say, the prize remains in sight if you only know where to look …

The weather is starting to play a bigger role in our fishing, and you can only expect that to grow in coming weeks. Common thought is that the marlin are chased out of Southern California by the winter storms that sweep out of the Gulf of Alaska. Whether it’s the first, second, third or tenth storm of the season that triggers the migration is open for debate, but the impact of the storms is not. We haven’t had the first big storm yet – it was actually predicted for yesterday, but stalled north of here. But they’re certainly coming, so get that fishing in while you still can.

Most of our coverage is about the action in the waters surrounding Catalina, but just to our south is a very successful group of marlin anglers based out of San Diego. I’ve had a somewhat contentious relationship with the San Diego fleet, primarily based on my belief that they simply kill too many marlin. But you can’t deny the success they’ve had this season.

Much like the local action we’ve seen on the 14-Mile Bank, San Diego-based anglers have only needed to travel out to the 9-Mile Bank for much of their action. The 178 has also produced a lot of fish, and has seen some of the best multiple fish days of the season. It must be a gratifying experience, after some of the barren seasons we’ve seen on the southern banks in recent years.

As of the end of last month, the San Diego Marlin Club had recorded 150 marlin caught, with 95 of those released. For you data freaks, the average weight of the landed marlin is 118.5-lbs, with a low of 81.5 and a high of 196.9. High boat at that point was SEA TREK IV, with 15 marlin – 14 released.

It will be interesting to see the results of this week’s fishing. I suspect that there will be several boats that will take a chance and start to explore the outer spots that traditionally produce late in the season – the Dome off San Clemente Island, the 499, the 267. Whether they find anything is another story …

Of course, this is the tough time of the season for me as well, as I have to decide when it the right time to end these reports for the season. I don’t want to spend weeks talking about nothing if the marlin are gone, but I don’t want to get burned like I did a couple of seasons back when I ended the reports and the second season broke open a couple of weeks later.

But you can help – file those Trip Reports! So long as I know there are boats out there, I’ll keep the reports going. Let me know what you see, where you see it, and just how bad it sucks – or doesn’t. The Fishing News update you save just might be your own … :-)

October 1

OK, I don’t think I have to tell you just how slow the marlin fishing is right now. If you’ve been on the water you know it, and if you’ve been here at all in the last few months you know it. But I’m too much of a hard head to write off the season just yet, so here we go again …

(cue theme music)

The conditions continue to be late-season typical, with more of the early-morning marine layer playing a role in the weather. Water temps are cooler, but still plenty warm, and there continue to be scattered reports of dorado, yellowtail and the occasional tuna. But it’s clear that the time to score a marlin is coming to a close – if there’s going to be a late-season bite, it needs to happen soon.

The Tuna Club held their annual Hunt Tournament on Friday, and as has been the pattern for the last month, the fleet worked off Pyramid Head. Unfortunately, as has also been the pattern, no one caught anything, although JOKER and several others found fish to try and bait. The popular theory is that the marlin are stuffed with squid, which would certainly seem to make sense. Twenty of the best boats in the fleet were working the Hunt, and if they came away empty it isn’t just random chance.

Closer to home, we had one report of a jumper in the shipping lanes and another off the Isthmus on Saturday. Several boats were out and about checking different banks just on the off chance the marlin were hanging out, but the 289 and 172 were both dry. Paddies on several of the high spots were reported to be holding a smaller grade of dorado and yellowtail, which makes me think the fishermen – both above and below the water surface – have pretty much cleaned things out.

Pull Up … Pull Up …

Once upon a time, Avalon would roll up the streets like a cheap carpet about this time each year. The tournaments – and the anglers’ money – had departed, and the place went into hibernation until spring. In recent years, the arrival of midweek cruise ships served as a shot in the arm for the tourist business and justified a year-round economy. Now, with the new investment from the Santa Catalina Island Company into infrastructure and facilities, there is no off season for Avalon.

That point was reinforced this weekend, as the town hosted its first-ever airshow, celebrating 100 years of Catalina Aviation. There were aerobatics and vintage planes and even a guy flying from the mainland on a jetpack. As someone who as a child flew to the island in the right hand seat of a Grumman Goose seaplane, the appearance of the slightly larger Grumman Albatross seems particularly appropriate. The shot at right comes to us from Tim Lovoy, who had a front-row seat to the action.

I talked about this in Sunday’s Info Ping email, but it’s worth mentioning again. This wasn’t anyone’s idea of a great marlin season in SoCal, but it’s a lot better than the last two were. As a result, there are actually 35 released marlin on our Billfish Release Board this season – more than even I would have realized. But beyond those, I’m aware of another 15 or so marlin that were caught at one point this season, but about which I don’t have enough information to include on the board. If you released a marlin this season, or someone on your boat did, I’d encourage you to visit the Billfish Release Board to see if it’s there. If it’s not, use the Release Submission form to send us the info and get the credit you deserve. Even if your fish is on the board, there’s still good reason to use the Submission Form. Not only will that help us fill any missing info on the fish, but it also enters the fish in our end-of-the-year drawing for some SCMO swag (the ones with the $ are already entered). As a way of jogging memories, the list of boats that I have catching fish that need more information before the can go on the board includes REEL TIME, BLUE CHIP, INCOGNITO, PESCADOR, POCO LOCO, DISCO PUNK, CARABELLA II, DIALED INN, NO PROBLEM, HALF MOON, SASSY CISSY. Get us those details while you still can!

As I write this, the Dodgers are playing the hated Giants in the first of a season-closing three-game series. A month ago, this looked like it would be the one to settle the National League West, but despite an influx of talent, the Dodgers went in the tank and only came out about a week ago. Now, they’re holding onto a razor-thin chance at being the last of two wild card teams, but in all likelihood are playing for pride. As a life long Dodger fan, it’s good to see the new ownership and all the new faces – and as a Marlins fan for the last two decades, it makes me a little jealous. The Marlins started with high hopes – new unis, new players, new stadium and even a new name, as they hit the field representing Miami instead of Florida. But it was all downhill from there, as the white flag was waved at the All-Star Game and the fire sale started shortly thereafter. It’s still the greatest game in the world, though, and I’m already looking forward to spring training.

That’s a wrap for this week. We’ll be back on Thursday with something reasonably entertaining, and hopefully informing, assuming the fish cooperate. See you then …

September 27

You know, I’d love to tell you that I have good news for you. Luv … luv … luv …

Ain’t gonna happen.

As we saw earlier this week in the Catalina Classic, the water is pretty much devoid of billfish. All the other signs are here, but it’s as if someone forgot to invite the marlin and swordfish. I can’t even offer you a decent sea surface temperature chart, as the marine layer so common this time of the year is blanketing most of the reason. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we can tell from what little surface shows that the temperature has dropped at least two degrees this week. Lovely.

So what can we tell you? Well, the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend – typically overcast in the morning, but clear in the afternoon; a little wind and a little chop, but nothing to speak of. With the exception of that early season blast at the 267, most of the marlin have been offshore, so I think I’d want to head towards Pyramid Head. Unfortunately, it looks like the island is hot this weekend – clearly, God doesn’t want you to catch a marlin.

As soon as I finish this update, I’ll be collating my data to update the 2012 Billfish Release Board. Yes, it’s been an ugly season, but the numbers show it’s better than the last two combined. So far, I’m aware of 45 marlin that have been released this season, and I’m learning of more each day.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of information of many of the fish – too little, in fact, to include them on the board. There’s a lot of information that can be collected on each fish, but for it to make the board I need at minimum to know the date, angler and boat on which it was caught. If you released one this season, or your boat released one, and it’s not on the board, use the Billfish Release Submission Form to get the information to us. Even if it’s on the board, use the form to update the information. Beyond helping us provide better information and garnering recognition for your achievement, there’s another reason to submit your releases – swag. At the end of the year, we take all the fish that were submitted to us by you, or were even claimed by you after it hit the board, and draw winners from the submissions. One out of every ten releases wins one of our cool SCMO hoodies. The more fish you submit, the more chances you have!

Those who’ve been here for a while know I’m quite a lure whore – few things bring a smile to my face than opening an unexpected package to find someone has sent me a lure to try. Just this last weekend I had a pair of test lures in my pattern – a MarlinStar TunaHawk and Makaira Baby Brutus – and I spent a lot of hours just watching them run, thrilled to note the subtle differences in action and movement. Our forums have always been a safe haven for luremakers, and I’m proud to have some of the greatest in the world as part of our little online community.

It’s not too late to save me

You’d think I’d be pretty happy with that relationship, and you’d be right. But apparently I don’t have enough stress in my life, because I’ve decided to try and take it to the next level. Sometime back, I was invited to join a Facebook group dedicated to the art of lure making. Many of those who call our waters home are there as well, along with even more of the artisans whose products we run in the pattern. As I watched the endless string of beautiful lures displayed in posting after posting, I felt a deep rumbling in my soul. So, armed with a brand new copy of Jim Rizzuto’s great book on lure making, and against my better judgement and the advice of others, I’m embarking on a career as a lure maker.

Now let’s be honest – I’ll be happy if I ever make something worthy of even rigging, but I’m hoping that the journey gives me an even deeper understanding into the world I already love so much. I’ll keep you updated on how I do in the forums and MarlinBlog, and will happily accept any advice from those of you have preceded me in this endeavour.

This is the point in the season where I’m obligated to remind folks that as the season grinds to a halt, so will these reports. I’d certainly like to think there’s an amazing October run on the horizon, but that’s probably a long shot. More likely, the season will die a slow death, much like a rock band whose bloated singer last hit a pure note a decade ago. So one of these days, you’ll see the last report for 2012, and the end will likely come with little warning. The good news is that today isn’t that day …

It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that we had some pretty spectacular marlin fishing in these waters. I leave you, therefore, with a little reminder of how things were on this date three years ago. In a word, they were better …

3 Years Ago …

September 28, 2009

(Editor’s Note: Here’s how you know you need more time to recover from your vacation: You spend an hour trying to focus your mind to craft a fresh Fishing News update, then paddle off to bed with a self-satisfied smile. Only two days later do you realize you forgot to hit the “Publish” button. File under “D” for “dumbass” … d’oh!)

I’ve spent eleven of the last seventeen days offshore in pursuit of striped marlin, so you’d think I’d be in a pretty good mood. And you’d be wrong. More on that in a minute, but first … a weekend wrap edition of the Fishing News!

We’ve got a bit of a photographic theme going today, “bond with your billfish”. On your left – Jilly Cove, jammies and all, releasing yet another marlin from FIRST LIGHT. Lower right, it’s Dave Brackmann showing that his new Parker is quite the fishing machine.   If nothing else, it’s a quick way to remind you that if you send me your pics and reports and releases, you’ll get your shout out.  The release board is quickly filling up, and I just received the releases from the big tourneys, so look for it to be updated this weekend.  Are you on there?  Claim your fish and you’ll get a shot at one of our great SCMO sweatshirts

Before I get too far into this thing, a couple of mea culpas. First, we had reported previously that the high boat in the Pesky was TEMPTATION with their three releases. A good showing to be sure, but it was in fact Andy Crean’s BOUNDER that was the true leader with four. Now, considering what a bunch of wiseasses can be found onboard (they’re the tourney boat, and you know what comes with that …), it’d be easy to discount them. But they swear that once all the cocktail napkins were tallied, they came out on top. Probably as big a surprise to them as anyone, but congratulations nonetheless.

She’s at it again!

In that same report last week I made the statement that the SoCal tourney season had come to an end. The folks out fishing in the Tuna Club’s annual Hunt Tournament last Friday and Saturday no doubt found that to be somewhat problematic. Fortunately, they didn’t let my little gaffe get in the way of their fishing … or their gaffs.

As it had been for the Classics that had ended two days earlier, the main bite in the Hunt was off the east end of Catalina. The weather had changed significantly, however, with the water cooling and coastal fog providing a thick blanket and very limited visibility. With gyro-fishing out of the question, anglers were forced to go old school, catching jigfish and targeting marlin in the spread with dropback baits.

It really was an eerie experience, as visibility was less than a quarter-mile during the mornings, and billfish battlewagons would appear out of the fog only to quickly disappear once again into the mist. But the strange weather didn’t seem to slow the bite, and there was a consistent if not spectacular pick of marlin throughout the weekend. The only way the fleet could maintain contact with each other was via radar, and eyes that might otherwise be glued to binocular cups were instead focused on radar screens.

The majority of the action was along the ridge between the 125 and 277, but some boats did manage to sneak away from the fleet, including HONEY which got their pair of releases off Church Rock at 17/14. A lot of boats got single release on Friday, including KELSEY LEE, JOKER, TOTALLY OUT OF LINE and PATRON. This season has seen a particularly large grade of marlin, and several were taken to qualify for various TC angling honors.

As the fog cleared on Saturday afternoon, HONEY still lead the event with two releases, but as the 3PM lines out call approached several boats hooked up. Fred Partridge, fishing on Warren Gunter’s xJEWEL LURE, hooked his “buzzer beater only six minutes before the end of the tourney, releasing it successfully shortly thereafter. The event rules played a role in the late hookups, as those who opted to boat their fish had to beat a deadline to reach the scales in Avalon in order for the fish to count, and several were unable to get there in time. Their decision to boat the fish, and subsequent inability to reach the scales in time, sealed the victory for HONEY.

Here at SCMO we don’t glorify dead marlin, but we do appreciate angling achievement. Chase Offield, fishing on KELSEY LEE, hooked a marlin on 12-lb dacron late in the event, and it was clear that it was a big one. Declaring their intention to take the fish, the crew of KELSEY LEE battled the marlin for nearly 5 hours as the fight moved from the 277 to between the 209 and 181 before the fish was successfully boated. While we certainly would have preferred that it have been resuscitated and released, the catch of this 205-lb marlin on such light and unforgiving tackle is an impressive accomplishment.

Yes, the new boat attracts marlin

In keeping with our theme, let me point out the great article by Charlie Levine in the new issue of MARLIN Magazine. Titled “Just Tag It”, the article is part tagging tutorial, part educational reminder of the value of tagging. As a proponent of billfish tagging, I’ve heard all the excuses people give for why they opt to not tag their released marlin and most of them are pretty lame. They’ll talk about the danger, or the pain to the fish, or the potential of helping out the commercial fishermen, but in the end they just don’t want to take the time or make the effort. I see a lot of boats returning to port flying the traditional white “T” on a red pennant, but if you didn’t stick the tag you haven’t earned the flag.

Beyond helping scientists learn more about billfish and their habits, there’s an additional benefit of tagging the fish. If you boat a marlin, you need to bring it alongside and control it before you can gaff it. No one can question your complete mastery of the fish. It’s never so straightforward when you release one, and there are always those who roll their eyes at the thought of a “long distance release.” But in order to properly tag a billfish, you must do those same steps as if you were going to take it, with the obvious difference in tool usage. Your conquest is complete, science is benefitted, and the fish lives to fight again. That would be your basic win-win-win.

Of the various artifacts I have here in the Home Office, one of the most treasured is a letter from Dave Holts, then head of the tagging program here in SoCal. It was to inform me that a marlin I’d tagged and released had been recaptured and the tag returned to the center – proof that the resuscitation had been a success. There is no prouder accomplishment you can have as a billfish angler, and I hope each of you gets the same opportunity – but it will only happen if you take the time to tag the fish and do it right.

I mentioned earlier that I spent much of September on the water. I was fortunate enough to fish back-to-back tournaments (King Harbor and Pesky) followed by a 5-day trip that concluded yesterday. Considering I left port less than 24 hours after the completion of the Classics and were destined to work the same waters, you’d think I’d have some pretty amazing stories of success to share. Alas, that is not the case – but it is a cautionary tale for anyone who chooses to chase pelagic billfish.

I know a lot about fishing for marlin in Southern California, as much as anyone and more than most. I could easily stand in front of a group of billfish newbies and entertain and educate them for several hours – and have, on several occasions. But as the old saying goes, sometimes those who can do and those who can’t teach. There comes a point when knowledge ends and experience begins and you have to translate theory into action.

I could detail the errors I made, but that would be pointless. The bottom line is that I didn’t put in the kind of effort that is needed to be successful – I knew what to do, but failed to execute. There might be places in the world where you can fish for marlin relying on nothing but luck, but SoCal isn’t one of them. You have to agressively network, review temperature and catch information, and be willing to take a chance on your hunches. You have to hunt the marlin, not wait for it to find you. It’s a lesson I teach but in this case did not perform, and as a result I am without. It’s possible I might still catch a marlin this year and get a chance to apply the knowledge I share with others. But with my opportunities to fish on HOOKER ended and the season winding down, it’s liable to be next year before I get a chance at redemption – which will make for a long, cold winter indeed …

We’ll be back on Thursday with a fresh report. I have absolutely no idea what will be in it, but I can promise it’ll be entertaining – and that alone should be reason to check it out!

September 25

Fred, if you’re afraid, you’ll have to overlook it,
Besides, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it! (cluck, awk!)

Super Chicken Theme

There are some tough jobs in this world – crab fisherman, bomb disposal technician, process server for ugly divorces. Wanna top them all? Try squeezing out marlin information for publication during tournament season …

(cue theme song)

It’s never a good sign when you’re looking to Super Chicken for inspiration, but I suspect it’s because my brain is still on Avalon time. Gonna do my best, but it is what it is …

We had a pair of club tournaments over the weekend, which means twice the opportunity for frustration. The two events, each prestigious in its own right, approach the whole tournament experience in an entirely different fashion. The San Diego Marlin Club’s Gene Grimes Memorial Invitational Light Tackle Tournament is as serious as a tournament can be, with roll calls, grid maps, radio raffles and all the trappings of a tournament with a long history. The Los Pescadores Marlin Derby, on the other hand, has bad jokes, fake hookups and angler costumes. Ironically, with what few marlin are around all hanging out in the same small patch of water, the two fleets found themselves – and their radio calls – almost hopelessly intertwined.

Bringing home the Bacon

The Pesky – what can I say about The Pesky. How about “we survived” … always a good sign. Frankly, the whole event had a different feel to it this year, a sense that change was in the air. With the upscale changes happening to the Descanso Beach Club, we had to look for a new home for the dinner. Always a casual affair, the Casino Dock Cafe stepped up as our new host and, after a little confusion in the beginning (the poor manager thought I was in charge – I can only assume a practical joke was being played) the evening went off pretty much without a hitch. The traditional presentation of the Golden Bagel to winning angler Marc Bacon was performed at Armstrong’s Seafood, but even that was overshadowed by the knowledge that in another month Armstrongs will close its doors for the last time. What some call progress I call bullsh!t, but it is what it is. What was left of the tourney fleet ended the evening at the Marlin Club, wrapping up our evening just as the folks running the California Billfish Series were arriving – another changing of the guard, if you will.

Fishing? Right – the fishing. There were actually some marlin caught over the weekend, although the results don’t do justice to the effort put forth. Bob Woodard on FLYING FISH opened the scoring for the ILTT fleet on Friday, releasing a baitfish on 30-lb tackle in Grid 38, followed a few hours later by Greg Rogers who released his own 30-lb baitfish from OLD BLUE in Grid 47. Both of those fish were caught between Catalina and San Clemente. Saturday saw the winning fish released by Todd Smith on SEA TREK. They found a feeder 4 miles off Pyramid Head and got it to take a bait presented on 20-lb tackle.

Despite several “questionable” hookups by anglers we all knew to be on the beach, the first fish for the larger Pesky fleet didn’t come until nearly 1PM on Friday, when Mark Bacon, fishing on his BIG EASY, bagelled a jigfish in grid H4. The fish, which went from jig to bait and back before settling on a black and red lure, was released at 16/07, along the ridge from Catalina near the 152. That was the only release for Friday, but Saturday saw the main fleet near Clemente finally score. Dell Primrose, fishing on GO AWAY, bagelled a jigfish on 30-lb tackle at 45/13, down the ridge from Pyramid Head. That was followed by Chris Bailey on HAWK, who released a baitfish near White Rock late in the afternoon. They didn’t get it bagelled, which cost them in the points, but kudos for making the early-morning run from Avalon and getting it done. In the end, the scoring followed the sequence of catch, with Mark Bacon winning the Golden Bagel and his BIG EASY crew taking Top Boat honors.

Got some wicked writer’s block going on tonight. Working through it, but damn – this would be a hell of a lot easier if someone would just catch something …

Looks like a winner …

Lines out for the second and final day of the simultaneously fished Catalina and Avalon Billfish Classics was a couple of hours ago, and in the end, this event was more about style than substance – CALIFORNIA STYLE, that is. There were only three hookups for the 27 boat fleet, and they had all three. Yesterday saw angler Christian Peterson land a 142.5-lb marlin around 9:30, giving the fleet hope that there could be some serious tournament action. But that one small fish was the only action anyone saw on Monday. Today, angler GJ Sacco get a pair of shots at glory, first losing a baitfish then releasing a small jigfish just after noon. All three fish were hooked in Grid F-6, which encompasses the canyon running south from Pyramid Head, but I heard the first fish was caught closer to White Rock in the lee of Clemente. In either case, it’s the same basic place the weekend tournaments fished along with those from the week before.

Assuming they were in the jackpots, CALIFORNIA STYLE looks to be about to have a really good night at the tourney banquet. Unfortunately, they were one of the very few boats that didn’t also enter the Avalon Billfish Classic, meaning their release won’t count and there were no releases for that event. The tournament rules allow for the addition of a third fishing day should the organizers opt for it, but I haven’t as yet heard if they’ll exercise that option.

You can’t tramp around this website very long without getting a pretty good idea of just where I stand on marlin conservation. I’ve mellowed somewhat over the years, am less prone to get into vitriolic fights over philosophical points, and even accept the viewpoint of some of those with whom I disagree. But it’s pretty clear that when it comes down to it, I’m on the side of the fish.

It’s been a tough fight, working to change the hearts and minds of those in a sport that for so long celebrated only the death of the marlin. We’ve come a long way, but still have far to go, as was evidenced by a pair of occurrences this week.

The first was the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act by the Senate, mirroring an early passage by the House. The bill, which would ban the import and sale of billfish from the Pacific Ocean, matching the existing ban on Atlantic billfish, only needs the President’s signature to go into effect. As a resident of California, which banned the sale of billfish decades ago, this seems like it would be a pretty obvious thing to do. But like most items involving the government, the path to success is long and convoluted. Even as we celebrate the seemingly imminent passage of the bill, we have to remember that Hawaii was specifically exempted. We celebrate today, while we gird ourselves for the next battle.

On the other side of the conservation coin, we have the recently completed Catalina Classic and its one qualifying marlin, which weighed in at 142.5 lbs. Let’s be honest – by anyone’s standards, that’s a small marlin. I’m going from memory here, but I believe the old qualifying standard was 165-lbs and 84-in fork length, and the fish had to meet the weight minimum – if it taped out legal but was underweight, there was no penalty but it still didn’t count. Now, the minimum weight is 145-lbs with a fork length of 80 inches, and even if it’s underweight but tapes out it’s legal – as was the case with the one fish caught. I appreciate the challenge the organizers must have faced when they realized it was very possible that there would be no qualifying marlin caught for the second consecutive year – they have a business to run, and sponsors to please, and money to make. No one wants to just drive around knowing there’s no possibility of winning a tournament. But taking an already-low standard and bringing it down even further isn’t the answer. Minimum weights are set to insure that those fish that are caught represent a true challenge and something to respect – if you dilute the standard so that weight is no longer important, you effectively say that all fish are equal. There’s a term for that kind of a tournament, by the way – it’s called a release tournament, and that’s the way they should have resolved their dilemma. They achieved their short-term goal, in that they got someone to bring a fish to the scales. Sponsors are happy and there will be pictures available for next year’s advertising (although I’d seriously consider Photoshopping in a real fish). But in the end, you cannot save a tournament by sacrificing the very resource it claims to celebrate.

Buzzing the Home Office

Last week, I mentioned that we’d have a very special guest spotter for the weekend. If you weren’t under a rock on Friday, then you know that the Space Shuttle Endeavour make a safe landing at LAX after a tour that took her over practically all of the Los Angeles Basin. I’d made arrangements with the pilot to swing wide over the marlin grounds and see if he couldn’t find some marlin from 1500 feet – after all, Fujinon Techno-Stabis were carried onboard every shuttle mission. Unfortunately, he apparently misunderstood my request as wanting him to fly over the SCMO Home Office, a task which he dutifully performed. In the picture at the left, if you find the NASA meatball logo on the side of the shuttle, go straight up until you hit the beach, then look inland about half a mile, you’ll be staring right at the Home Office. He completely messed up the special signal as well, as I’m told the only place he waggled his wings was when he flew over NASA’s Jet Propusion Laboratory in Pasadena.

What can I say – apparently $20 doesn’t go as far with a government official as it used to …

We’ve come to the end of the local tournament season, which now shifts south to Cabo San Lucas. Hopefully, though, it doesn’t mean the end of the local marlin season. Every sign out there tells me that there ought to be marlin a-plenty througout October – there’s warm water, bait and all the other pelagics usually seen with marlin. But there’s no marlin. It’s hard to discount the impact that man has on the marlin that would otherwise make the local Cali scene – from commercial fishing off Cabo San Lucas to hundreds of marlin caught a day recreationally up and down the Baja coast to the still-unknown impacts of global warming. This is one time when I really want to be wrong, because I don’t want to have to document the last marlin to come to California. As long as the signs are good and the anglers our out there trying, we’ll be here doing our best to cover it all.

So, when you hear that cry in the sky … you’ll know we’re still out there trying … :-)

September 20

Greetings from the Commodore Lounge of the JET CAT EXPRESS, which is just approaching Avalon. We’re flying solo to the island to catch up with HOOKER, the crew of which is presumably out plotting how to win the Pesky. By the next report, we’ll know how that turned out. For now, I’m just happy to have a drama-free moment, as it’s the first I’ve had in a couple of days and the last I’m likely to see for a couple more.

(cue theme music)

You already know about the Pesky, and if you have any common sense you’ll be out there fishing it alongside me. Last I checked, we’ve got a 30-boat fleet (two more than the MABT, but who’s counting … ) and a crapload of anglers all looking to score. That would be on the water, for anyone wondering – what happens in Avalon, stays in Avalon … unless I catch wind of it and blow you up in the MarlinBlog.

There should be a lot of boats on the water, between the Pesky and the fleet pre-fishing for the upcoming twin Classics. It’s been very quiet this week, as is to be expected for the height of tourney season, but I’m confident that you’ll see action this weekend. We know the MABT fleet did reasonably well in the lee of San Clemente, but there’s continued to be a lot of life down the ridge from the east end of Catalina, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that be the spot either. Combine a highly talented fleet with the relative abundance of mackerel right in front of Avalon, and you can bet it’ll be a tough weekend to be a marlin.

Not a marlin …

I’ve never won this event, but I would certainly love to this year. I can’t imagine a higher honor than being the last person to bagel the marlin at Armstrongs. Knowing the Peskys, we’ll come up with a new tradition (and I’m taking suggestions). But I’m sure the recent demise of the Descanso Beach Club and the upcoming loss of the Watermelon Bank will cast a pall over the proceedings, albeit momentary.

Now there may be those of you who, somehow, fish the SoCal waters regularly yet don’t know about the Pesky and some of it’s … traditions. I’d just like to point out that no matter how much it might look like it, it’s very unlikely that there is suddenly 50 tailers just downswell from the Pesky fleet. The fastest way to turn yourself into a local marlin legend – and not the good kind – is to hit the throttles and burn some dinosaurs running down a plastic marlin. As a group of SoCal lifeguards – not to mention the local media – learned the hard way last year, they aren’t sharks, either. Breathe through your nose, people …

Have you heard about the big-assed tuna yet? Details are still flowing in, but it sounds like a yellowfin tuna in the 420-lb range was caught Sunday 100 miles out of Cabo San Lucas towards Isla Socorro. If it’s certified by the IGFA, it’ll be the new all-tackle record – and potentially take a big chunk of Mustad’s “Hook a Million” contest. Nice …

Dip your wings when you spot one

Here at SCMO, we spare you no expense when it comes to getting you the best information first. So when we saw what we thought was an outstanding opportunity to get some local airborne marlin dope, well we jumped at it. So if on Friday, you happen to see a large aircraft with what appears to be a space shuttle on it’s back, don’t believe that official line about it being the shuttle Endeavour on its delivery flight to LAX to become a museum piece at the California Museum of Science. You know better – you know it’s just the latest version of the SCMO Spotterplane, slowly looking for marlin from 1500 feet. Look closely for the SCMO logo – I’m told it’ll be right below the pilot’s window … :-)

I mentioned earlier that the Home Office has been drama-riddled this week. Sometime around 2:53 yesterday morning (OK, exactly 2:53 yesterday morning …), the database that powers the MarlinNut Forums took a dump, bringing them down most comprehensively. I may have complained in the past about the lack of participation at the site, but nothing points out how many people rely on it as part of their daily routine quite like having it offline. It’s been about a decade since I’ve done any real SQL work in anger, so I was a little timid about digging into it, but earlier this morning we got everything back up.

As Ron White would say, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. On Wednesday of each week, I start to prep the content for the Thursday edition of the Fishing News. Part of that process is figuring out what post from past would be featured in our “Years Ago” section. Yesterday, while blissfully unaware of the crashed nature of the forums, I was digging through the archives and settled on a post from a dozen seasons ago. The main topic of that posting? The angst caused by a failure of the webserver that hosted SCMO. It was the only time – until yesterday – that technological failure kept part of the site offline. An hour after adding the old post to the new as-yet-unpublished Thursday report, I found out about the forums crash. Eerie …

I’d love to stick around, but I’ve got a Luau Larry’s teriyaki burger to down and a shore boat to catch. Hopefully, I’ve also got a tournament to win, but we’ll see. Whatever the outcome, Saturday night we’ll be at the Casino Gas Dock Cafe, Armstrong’s Seafood and the Marlin Club (at a minimum), so if you see me, say hi.

Be there … aloha!

12 Years Ago …

September 25, 2000

Well, this should be interesting. As I’m writing this, the site is currently offline, and has been since Thursday due to an error at our webhost. Hopefully, it will be up soon and you’l be able to use this information!

Now, for the report. The winds shifted late in the week, killing off the mega marlin bite we’ve enjoyed off of San Clemente Island. Both the King Harbor Marlin Club and Invitational Light Tackle Tournament fleets worked the area on Friday and Saturday, with meager results. Congratulations to Chip Langdon, fishing on MARLIN MAN, for taking first place in the ILTT. Bob Woodard Jr on CHRISTINA LYNN took second. Both released a marlin, but Chip took first place on tiebreakers. In the KHMC event, first place went to Linda Wilson of FIRE HATT for a 129-lb striper taken off of San Clemente. It was Linda’s first marlin, and she had intended to release it. However, it came up bleeding profusely, so they did the right thing and took it. Second place in the multispecies event was claimed by Shawn Deeter on REEL FUN with a 50-lb tuna taken on the 277. That’s either a big yellowfin or a small bigeye – either way, a nice fish!

If you’re reading this and thinking that the demise of the San Clemente bite means a dwindling of the marlin, fear not. Proving again the value of access to secret dope, Team Kingsmill and WILD BILL led a fleet of boats that scored on the 277 Saturday. Rumors had been swirling since late Thursday that the 277 might be the next big thing, and it looks like it’s true. Among others scoring there over the weekend were RELENTLESS and PETE’S SAKE with two each, and NO EXCUSES and ONO with singles. Other areas showing signs of life and likely to be worked during the Monday-Tuesday Catalina Classic are the regions between the 14 Mile and Avalon Bank, between the 267 and 277 Banks and just off Church Rock.

The exotic species continue to be caught in amazing numbers despite the late date. Because of the site outage, I don’t have trip reports to rely on, but I’m told that the weekend hot spots were the 425 for yellowfin tuna and dorado, the 371 for nice sized albacore and the paddies just outside of Oceanside for yellowtail. If you’ve heard otherwise, or got into them yourselves, file a Trip Report!

When you run a site that so many people depend upon for late breaking information, an outage is your worst nightmare. I apologize to those of you who were inconvenienced by our untimely departure. On the bright side, you learn quickly how much people value what you do at times like this, and I’d like to thank everyone who sent emails both to SCMO (which were likely bounced, also due to the outage) and Wave Crest Web Design, left phone messages for me here at the Home Office, and even passed the word over VHF channel 5, which is how I finally learned about the problem. We’ll learn from the experience, and will take steps to keep it from happening again!

September 17

Let’s see … got iTunes blasting Earth, Wind and Fire out of the speakers, a six-pack of Shiner Bock on ice, and a stack of marlin lures to rig. Only one thing standing between me and a night of billfisherman’s bliss – gotta crank out this edition of the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

Didn’t like the weather this weekend? No problem – all you had to do was wait for a couple of minutes, and it would change completely, along with the wind direction and sea conditions. Toss in a tournament fleet hot on the tail of some fresh dope, and it makes for a wild weekend.

The lucky guys who got to try and read those tarot cards were the crews fishing in the Balboa Angling Club’s annual Master Angler Billfish Tournament. Everyone has their own opinion, of course, but I’d argue that this is the most prestigious of the club tournaments run each season, and always brings out the best light-tackle anglers to try and show what they can do. With the Zane Grey fleet finding marlin off Pyramid Head earlier in the week, it was no real surprise where the MABT would be contested. After two downright nasty weather days on Wednesday and Thursday, the only real question was who would brave the crossing. That became a moot point when the weather broke Friday morning – one captain working the area said the entire 28-boat MABT fleet showed up pretty much at once in the lee of San Clemente Island.

Just because you know where the fish are doesn’t mean you’re going to catch them, and that was certainly the case on Friday, the first fishing day. MAGELLAN scored first, hooking a marlin below the Head on 20-lb tackle – a jigfish, it hit a Mean Joe Green lure. Angler Ned Washburn successfully sealed the deal for the release, but the fish regrettably could not be revived. FYI – if you want to see an example of an outstanding Trip Report, check out MAGELLAN’s MABT report. KEA KAI and PATRON each hooked and lost a fish later in the day to close out the action for Day One.

Best kind of bycatch

Saturday saw another improvement in the conditions, particular surface temperatures, and the action reflected the conditions. Combine flat seas, dedicated glassers and a tank of bait and good things tend to happen. First to reap the benefits was the crew of OFFSHORE, with Matt Earl releasing a dropback baitfish on 16-lb tackle in just 15 minutes. You might not believe it from his antics at the Pesky, but there’s clearly more to the man than the Mohawk. HAWK was next on the board with a 30-lb baitfish for Shane Hurt, followed by BOUNDER and a 30-lb jigfish for Linda Crean. Closing out the scoring action were a pair of jigfish for Vic Sommers on SLEEPER and Rich Pomo on BLACK FIN. One other notable catch was a 40-kb bluefin tuna caught by Keith Provin on KAWAKAWA – nice to see them so far north! the vast majority of the action came from the lee of Clemente, stretching from below the Head to a few miles off the Dome towards the Mackerel Bank.

The MABT is a club-based team event, and the High Team Award went to Los Pescadores with releases for OFFSHORE and BOUNDER. Second High Club was The Tuna Club out of Avalon, followed by the host BAC. High Angler was OFFSHORE’s Matt Earl, followed by Ned Washburn and Shane Hurt. The best news, of course, is that any remaining angst held by the anglers will get a chance to be exorcised this weekend when many of them fish The Pesky …

Just heard an unconfirmed report that five swordfish were stuck on the 209 today. Caveat emptor, but be sure to tell us how you do;-)

Once upon a time, this site was relevant with marlin fishermen who flocked to our digital waters to learn about our sport. Much of the attraction was the exploits of many of our regulars, who freely shared their adventures with our visitors. Chief among them were the reports coming out of Cabo San Lucas from Chris Badsey and his billfisher REELAXE. The number of marlin they released down there still boggle the mind, and make for a great read still today.

For some time now, Chris has been plagued by health issues that have chased him off the water and back to his home in South Africa. We certainly miss his adventures, but know that his focus is exactly where it needs to be right now. Because of that, it was a surprise to me to receive a note from his business manager asking if I could make a posting on the site on his behalf, a request I was only too glad to honor.

American Hero. Period.

If you know Chris, then you know the business he’s in. Much like Wall Street financiers and multinational oil companies, it’s not a business that’s popular with everyone, but it’s a job that needs to be done, and Chris is very good at it. Along the way, he’s come in contact with many current and former members of the world’s armed forces, many of whom continue to serve in harms way long after leaving the formal military. Such was the case of Glen Doherty and those whose fishing trip with Chris are pictured in the report.

I’ve found it interesting and more than a little disingenuous to watch the coverage of the deaths of Glen and the others in Libya. Ambassador Stevens is correctly called a hero, as initially were those serving in his security detail that perished. With time, however, come the stories wondering how the detail became separated from Stevens and reminding everyone that they were that dreaded term – military contractors – as if somehow they were mercenaries there just for the money.

I can’t speak for all cultures, but Americans can be amazingly two-faced when it comes to getting what we want. We want the best of everything and won’t settle for less, but when it comes to pay the bill, we cry poverty. We want freeways but won’t pay for them, so we get toll roads – and complain about the toll. We want the finest public education for our children but won’t pay for it, so we get charter schools – and complain when there isn’t room for all. We want the ability to defend ourselves and our way of life anytime anywhere but won’t pay for a standing army, so we get military contractors – and we slur them as mercenaries even as they give their life on our behalf.

We should be ashamed.

I’m on the Flyer to Avalon Thursday night, so somewhere along the way I’ll squeeze in a report with anything that happens between now and then. I’d preview the Pesky, but I’ve said enough about that and you know where to go to get all the details anyway. Gotta go – those lures ain’t gonna rig themselves!

September 13

A quiet couple of days between tournaments gives us just enough time to sneak in a Fishing News update. We’re a little light in the “dope” department but hey, it’s tourney season!

Cashing the winner’s check

As noted in our last update, the Zane Grey Invitational kicked off the money tournament run on Monday and Tuesday. We talked earlier about how it was setting up to be a Beak versus Kingsmill showdown on the second day of the event, but that really never materialized. CHASER followed up their Day 1 marlin release with another pair on Tuesday, one each for Keegan Hicks and Pat Holmes. GAMBLER got on the board with a release for Billy Miyagawa Sr, but that was it for the event. When the numbers were tallied, CHASER took first with their three releases followed by CHIQUELIN and GAMBLER with one each. The CHIQUELIN and GAMBLER fish came along the ridge off the east end of Catalina, while CHASER found all of their fish off Pyramid Head. Next up for the pros will be the twin Avalon events, the Catalina and Avalon Classics in two weeks. Expect to see all the same boats plus a few new faces.

For the rest of the fleet, the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament is a chance to demonstrate their light-tackle prowess. Teams of boats representing various clubs will hit the water tomorrow for the first of two days of fishing, and you can expect to see marlin caught on tackle all the way down to 12-lb. Since all of the fish caught in the ZG were baitfish – very rare so far this season – it bodes well for the MABT, where it’s a whole lot easier to survive a baited marlin on light tackle than get them to solidly hook on a lure. We’ll have the details on this prestigious event come Monday.

Did you see the picture floating around earlier this week of Jock Albright’s KEA KAI rolling into port flying 4 release flags? Bad as it is for this column, I have nothing but respect for a man who can release 4 marlin and not feel the need to brag all over the internet about it …

What did you expect – it’s the Pesky!

If you’ve spent any time at SCMO at all over the years, then you know that the high point in my season is the Pesky. This will be the 23rd edition, and I believe I’ve fished in all but two of them. What I find so appealing about the Pesky is the way it perfectly balances fun with angling. Believe me, any tournament is stressful, and there’s plenty of stress to be found on the water as you look for the winning fish. But when the dealing is done, and it’s time to let your hair down, no one does it like the Pesky.

This year’s tournament will be particularly notable. First, I’m reasonably sure there will be some marlin, so we won’t have to raffle off first prize again. But changes in Avalon are bringing changes to the Pesky that will make this year’s tournament more of a don’t-miss event. As part of the gentrification of Avalon by the Santa Catalina Island Company, a lot of money has been put into the Descanso Beach Club, turning it from a seedy beach bar to an upscale spa-on-the-shore. While you might favor tanned cabana boys bringing you your fruity drink, the rest of us prefer something a little more rough around the edge. The feeling is apparently mutual, as we were politely asked to find new digs for our post-tourney festivities. As a result, you’ll find us at the Casino Dock Cafe Saturday night. Interestingly enough, the CDC is owned by Russ Armstrong, he of Armstrong’s Seafood, long a post-dinner stop for the fleet. Regrettably, I’m told this will be the last call for the Peskys at Armstrongs, which by this time next year will be a Blue Water Grille. Sad to be sure, but progress is what it is. If you want to visit the Watermelon Bank one last time, act now.

We’re not proud at the Pesky, and will happily welcome anyone willing to pony up the cash and check their attitudes at the door. If you think you’re that kind of person, or just want to give your liver a good exercise, why not join us? Head on over to the Pesky tournament website and look over our gallery of past winners, along with a rich sampling of the past Peskys. Download an entry form, get it in, and join us!

A couple of weeks ago, I passed on the usual look into the SCMO Archives in favor of a snippet from one of the old fishing books in my library. It seemed to go over well, and I certainly enjoyed going back and reading the books, so I thought we’d give it another go. This week, a passage from “Game Fish of the Pacific,” written in 1931 by the father and son team of George C. Thomas Jr and III – their thoughts on the cyclic nature of marlin fishing in the Catalina Bight …

Until lately our Pacific big game fishing on the American Coast has been restricted to Southern California, and the general opinion has prevailed that this sport is on the wane – that the old days of many tuna and swordfish are over. Commercial fishing rightly has been blamed for decrease of tuna and broadbill, as well as held accountable for the lack of yellowtail and other smaller varieties.

However, two dominant factors recently have obtained which change the outlook and guarantee the continuance of sport. First and most important to the California Coast is that a new migration of marlin swordfish and another of dolphin appeared in Southern California waters during 1929. The marlin came in greater numbers than ever before. For many days schools of these fish passed southward through the channel between Catalina and the mainland. Certain small bodies left the general southeasterly trend and loitered to feed an anchovies and other bait, but most of them did not tarry long. It was not a few scattered individuals arriving and resting in our sheltered islands lees; it was beyond a doubt a great, general migration of thousands of fish journeying southward.

Often these marlin swam on the surface in groups of a half dozen to twenty fish, always headed and continuing east of south. They could be followed for miles as their sickle tails cut the swells. A few large units kept to one location for some days, but even these drifted rapidly south and east.

If a traveling squadron produced a strike on light tackle, the hooked fish attempted to follow its fellows; but if separated from them, nevertheless, always endeavored to maintain the same course. One fish killed on three-six tatckle carried angler and boat over twenty miles in the migratory lane.

The greatest former marlin year in the history of the Tuna Club was 1923, when one hundread and seventy-three specimens were taken. In 1929 well over two hundred marlin were caught. Dolphin have never appeared in as great numbers as during last season. Few have been seen the past ten years, and it is nearly twenty years since they were here in quantity.

Looking into the records of fishing we find periods when tuna disappeared for several years and then returned, and somewhat similar conditions with marlin and broadbill, but these two great visitations of 1929 prove beyond doubt that in the future we will have migrations and lack of migrations, as in the past. Therefore, while we must curtail the commercial netting and live bait depredation to insure our future supplies of indigenous fish, we may rest assured that nature’s provision of recurring absence and appearance promises some protection to the traveling kinds and resulting good years for anglers with such varieties.

September 10

The lies … the tricks … the deceptions … the secrets …

No, I’m not talking about the ongoing presidential election – around these waters, it can only mean one thing – tourney time, baby! We’ll cut through the obfuscation and get to the heart of the matter in three … two … one … it’s the Fishing News!

(cue “secret agent” theme music)

Ah, tournament season. Few things are so serious to those on the inside or look so silly to everyone else. But hey – money and pride are on the line, so we do what we have to, right? Today was the first fishing day of the money tourneys, and we’ll have a wrap on the start of the Zane Grey in a moment. But first, a look backwards …

With a couple of Baja hurricanes blowing their remnants through the region lately, the offshore weather has been a handful to try to predict, and this weekend was no exception. Friday and Sunday were postcard-perfect, allowing the fleet to range far looking for striped marlin. Saturday, however, saw a strong nor’easter blow up before dawn, leaving everyone to scramble for cover in the ever-decreasing pockets of lee. Surprisingly, it didn’t have a huge effect on the fishing, which continues as a middling but consistent pick.

HOOKED release

Several clubs were running tournaments this weekend, and with some boats participating in more than one, it can get a little crazy trying to keep it all straight. The King Harbor Marlin Club and Oceanside Anglers Club both had their annual marlin tournaments this weekend, as did the Catalina Island Yacht Club. In addition, the Channel Island Billfish Tournament saw the first two of their five days of fishing. Did I mention there was a lot of tournament action?

One fish we know was released is shown at right – a release from Geoff Hersch and HOOKED on Friday. I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear about this one until I saw the image, but clearly the picture tells the story. BLUE CHIP continued their hot streak, releasing a pair of marlin over the weekend. The first came Saturday a couple of miles below the 277, a jigfish that bit on their homemade Eye Candy lure (more on that in a minute). The other was released Sunday closer to the 152; it too was a jigfish, but it came on a 7Strand lure. I don’t believe either of these were tournament fish, although the tourney anglers did find some success. Unfortunately, as has been the case lately, there were far more tournament boats than there were tournament releases …

I only heard of one release in the Catalina Island Yacht Club event, by SASSY CISSY at 13 / 08, near the 152. It was the first fish for the new owners of that venerable billfisher and they were justifiably proud. The King Harbor Marlin Club fleet fared slightly better, with their 14-boat fleet releasing two marlin. The first was released Saturday around noon by RUCKUS, down from Channel Islands for their annual tourney swing. Their fish was caught on 50-lb tackle near the 125. Later that afternoon, JEWEL LURE, forced into the lee like the rest of the fleet, released a jigfish on 30-lb tackle just off the Can Dump. Their lighter tackle gave Warren Gunter Jr the High Angler award and their team the high boat trophy.

The Channel Islands Billfish Tournament is currently on Day 3 of their 5-day event, and their participants have caught two marlin. The RUCKUS fish mentioned above counts in this event as well, and the second marlin was a 177-lber taken by STINGRAY after it came up tail-wrapped off the Slide. I haven’t any results from the Oceanside Anglers event, but I’ll try to resolve that before the next update.

Today was the first fishing day for the annual Zane Grey Invitational, first event in the California Billfish Series. Traditionally held out of Avalon, poor fishing drove the tournament to Dana Point, first temporarily and now as a permanent move. Naturally, this year the marlin are up by the island – whatcha gonna do? Not sure if it’s the fault of the fishing, the move, the economy or all three, but they were only able to field a fleet of 8 boats for the shotgun start this morning. Two fish were released today, the first coming to CHIQUELIN’s Rich Rafferty just before 10AM. Based on the grid (B2), that places them somewhere off Church Rock and the backside of Catalina. The other release was by Barry Brightenberg on CHASER; their fish was in C5 off Pyramid Head. The reports sound like most of the boats are working further out than the weekend fleet had – clearly, someone had some dope. Tomorrow will be the last day of fishing and it looks to be an interesting battle – Jimmy Kingsmill running CHASER up against The Beak and CHIQUILIN. Stay tuned …

Use your imagination …

Speaking of tournaments, everyone knows my fondness for The Pesky. We’ll have a lot more to say about it in our next report, but now would be a good time to visit the tournament website and maybe even download the entry form … ;-)

Every year, there’s always at least one side story that provides interest beyond the normal fleet drama. So far this season, the leading boat is BLUE CHIP, with 5 releases, most of which have been caught on a lure made by the boat’s captain, Tracy Merrill. The lure, called an “Eye Candy”, isn’t for sale, but rather is the result of Tracy’s winter projects that he shares with his friends. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of intrigue regarding the lure, particularly among those who haven’t seen one.

Well, count me among those who have. As an avowed lure whore, I love checking out new lures, so I was thrilled to have one in my hand. It was a Mean Joe Green pattern, and looked similar to Zuker ZM2-5 on steroids. In fact, if you were to take the Zuker and sit is alongside a Makaira Cognac, it would slot between the two quite nicely.

Bottom line? It’s a good looking lure that clearly works, but it’s not magic. If you get the opportunity to add one to your collection, do so, but remember that you probably have something in your collection already that will do the same thing …

Hello, swordfish? Paging Mr. Swordfish … no response. Apparently, no one is home.

It’ll get worse before it gets better

The warm water continues to bode well for a long season in our area, and those seeking the edible pelagics are reaping the benefits. South of the border banks continue to produce bluefin tuna, and dorado and yellowtail remain consistent to the north. Both the 43 and the 182 went off this weekend, and most of the high spot kelps were holding until fished (and spearfished) out. The boats working down the ridge from Catalina saw a lot of action, much of it from overzealous dorado commiting suicide on marlin lures. There was even a report of a great white shark lurking just south of the 277.

Each year at this time, we pause to remember the events of September 11, 2001. A lot has happened since that day, both good and bad, but I believe it is important to remember the pain, the shock, the horror and the loss we all felt that day. We can’t get back what was lost that day, from the thousands of innocent victims to the hundreds of brave heroes to the liberties and innocence taken from each of us. But this is one wound we can’t let time heal. Bin Laden may be dead, but there are others just as desperate, just as dedicated and just as determined. Remember the pain, remember the hurt and remember why we remember …

That’s it for now – a busy weekend of tournaments in the books, but a lot more action to come. See you Thursday.

September 5

This here’s the queen of my double wide trailer
With the polyester curtains and the redwood deck
Sometimes shes runs and I’ve got to trail her
Dang her black heart and her pretty red neck

Sammy Kershaw, “Queen Of My Double-Wide Trailer”

Yes, it’s a special double-wide edition of the Fishing News. Monday was a national holiday, and Friday’s a personal one as I hit the water, so this update will have serve double duty. We’ll look back at the holiday weekend action, see if anyone’s getting it done midweek, and preview another busy tournament weekend.

We’ve got a lot of tropical moisture streaming through the LA Basin today, the remnants of Hurricanes Ileana and John. I suspect it’ll clear out before the weekend, but it remains to be seen what effect if any it’ll have on the water and fishing conditions. Weather was certainly a factor last weekend, however, keeping the number of anglers down. It also dropped the water temps as well, as temps on the Avalon Bank dropped from 72 to under 70.

On Saturday, OFFSHORE hooked a marlin on the Avalon Bank, but lost it when it spit the jig in the slop.

Sunday, the weather was better, but still confused. HALF MOON released one on the 152, a jigfish that took a Mean Joe Green Zuker. They reported having multiple shots as they worked up and down the ridge off the East End. Several others reported working the ridge for naught, and worked as far north as the mid-channel rigs without any success. There was a lot of kelp to be found along the ridge, but it didn’t sound like it was holding – most of the dorado and yellowtail that were caught came on the troll. Ironically, two of the reports I received about blind marlin strikes came from people working paddies for pelagics. As is usually the case, neither marlin was caught.

Monday, OFFSHORE bookended the weekend when they lost another jigfish on the Avalon Bank, but most folks were headed for the barn. I’m aware of at least three other marlin that were released over the weekend, but I don’t have confirmation, so I don’t want to guess at details.

I don’t consider it an offshore season with potential until the first opah is landed, and I was starting to get worried that all this excitement we’d had about this being an “up year” was in vain. The good news is that a nice opah was landed on the 14-Mile-Bank on Saturday – 99.1-lbs. Whew!

No one keeps tighter lips than the Tuna Club, so it was with some glee that I learned that members were passing the word that marlin had been spotted off Long Point. No surprise, then that those boats on the water during the week were working tight to the island. HOOKER had a shot at one today near the 125 at 17/11, and HALF MOON was back on the board after releasing another jigfish just south of their weekend success, outside the ridge between the 152 and 277. I think you know where we’ll see a lot of boats working this weekend … I just hope someone sets up a proper traffic pattern …

A quick shout-out to the newly minted Mr and Mrs Jimmy Decker, who tied the knot Saturday in an offshore ceremony officiated over VHF. Clearly, Jimmy, Tracy will be your best catch for many seasons to come – congrats from the staff here at SCMO.

Unfortunately, I do have some sad news to pass along from the weekend. Randy Houghton, “Bones” to his friends in the fleet, passed away over the weekend after a riding accident. He was a key member of the crew of DOUBLE D and BORRACHO before that, and will be missed by all who knew and respected him.

We’re heading into an other weekend of tournament fishing, as the King Harbor Marlin Club will be running their annual marlin tourney Friday and Saturday out of Avalon, and the BD Folks will be holding the Zane Grey in Dana Point Monday and Tuesday. Ironically, they moved there after a couple of years of lousy fishing around Catalina; now the fish are here and they aren’t. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Imagine running a marlin tournament when you don’t live where the marlin are – that’s the challenge for those based out of Channel Islands Harbor. But they don’t let that get in their way, and will once again head south to begin their five-day tournament this Saturday. You have to respect anyone that dedicated to the sport, but hey – who wouldn’t love five days on the water! We’ll let you know how they do next week.

Soon-to-be mud dart …

Ever wonder what happens when a marlin rams a floating oil pipeline? Now you know …

One interesting note from an very useful Trip Report: after providing a comprehensive description of their holiday fishing, they added a quick note at the end –

On a side note I turned up the volume while on this forum… heard crickets.

I know sometimes I get a little whiny, but I’m not the only one bemoaning the lack of reports. We can provide the tools and the opportunities, but only you can use them. I know the old argument that marlin fishermen aren’t like tuna fishermen, and that they don’t want to share. Well, if that’s the case, then this is the only place in the world where they’re like that. I don’t know what else to day but please use the tools while the tools are still here to use …

I’ll be fishing the KHMC event this weekend, so if you see me staggering around in Avalon, point me to the shore boat or the Marlin Club, whichever is closer. Good luck to all this weekend, and be sure to pass it along!

10 Years Ago …

September 3, 2002

This report is a day later than usual to accommodate the holiday weekend. Of course, that means the Thursday report will be a little short, but with a hurricane bearing down on us, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of fishing going on, anyway.

So, I keep hearing rumors that there’s gonna be a marlin season this year, but, much like the thusfar-MIA El Niño, we’re just not seeing it. There were a few striped marlin taken over the weekend, but they were few and far between. I can vouch personally for the fact that there are some really big ones among the few out there (you can
read my tale of woe over in the Trip Reporter – I’m currently on step 5 of the 12-step program for marlin loss), but weather past and future keeps us all guessing about where the real concentration is.

The lack of any real information left the marlineers with difficult choices going into the weekend. Should they stick with the traditional albeit underperforming Catalina or take a chance on someplace further. Most opted to start at Catalina, concentrating on the areas that had seen some limited success during the previous week. On Saturday, there was a nice showing of fish south of the East End, roughly 3 miles off Church Rock. Unfortunately, they were not biters, and we had many reports of anglers repeatedly baiting marlin to no avail. We did get one reliable report that indicated that two marlin were boated in this region on Saturday, but as yet I don’t know by whom.

Those captains feeling adventurous – or anti-social – tried their luck as several spots further offshore, with mixed results. We had heard for several days that the areas around the 499 were looking appealing, and a couple of boats went up there on Saturday. While commendable in effort, they were not rewarded with fish, and soon joined the lower fleets.

The same cannot be said for those who fished in the decidedly tiny lee of San Clemente Island. The weather limited boats to a small slice of ocean 1 to 3 miles off the island, but a total of 6 fish were pried from the strip between the windmills and Pyramid Head, with the majority of the action coming off the Dome. WILD BILL released two on Saturday, one on a drop back and the other a traditionally baited tailer. I should have made it three for the day, but that’s another story. Sunday saw three more caught, one by Bill Urone fishing with Dave Dennis on Dave’s DOUBLE D and another by Greg Tinney onboard HORALE. Top honors for the day, however, go to 9-yr old Grant Garrett, who landed a 128-lb marlin on 12-lb Dacron while fishing with proud dad George on JOKER. A 10-to-1 fish is always an impressive feat, made all the more so by a young angler catching his first marlin.

The weather had been the biggest story for the first two days of the holiday weekend, and fears of being pinned for another day led many boats to head towards home early on Monday. Randy Wood on OFFSHORE might have had the same idea, but a marlin hit his jig early Monday before he could act on it. The fish was successfully released, and was the only fish reported for Monday. The irony is that Monday was beautiful in the SCI lee, but practically no one was there to enjoy it.

Among the more interesting stories from the weekend was the adventures of Sevenstrand’s Electronic Acoustic Lure, otherwise known as "Ol’ Beepy". It is designed to be a marlin attracter, but this weekend, it was mako candy. I heard of at least a half-dozen of the lures being lost this weekend, with most of them going to shark attacks. I know that makos are attracted to electronic fields (remember the "Mako Magnet"?), but is it possible these new lures are having the same effect? Perhaps Sevenstrand should rig them with some of their heavy cable and market them to the sharkers …

If you’ve been in LA for the last couple of days, you know how strange the weather has been. Triple digit temperatures with rain? That’s what happens when a high pressure cap traps the remnants of a hurricane. Our hurricane woes aren’t close to over, either, as Hurricane Hernan (yes, with 2 N’s) is churning his way towards us. See that spot in the picture where he’s aimed? That’s the Home Office. Needless to say, the only people happy to see Hernan are the surfers, who’ll be getting some killer rides (you might want to check out our WeatherCams, since in real life they’re actually SurfCams). While we’ll continue to look for marlin reports during the week, I’m not expecting too many.

This wasn’t a good week to be a tuna fisherman. For our local anglers, tuna season is essentially over. A few hardy (as in "foolhardy") souls tried the Airplane and Butterfly Banks, and got their butts kicked for their efforts while scratching out a meager few albacore and bluefin tuna. At least two boats were lost out of San Diego. There might be fish out there, but damned if we’ll know this week with the impending weather. The inner banks that had produced earlier have dried up save the occasional dorado and some straggling yellowtail.

As you move up the coast in hot pursuit of tuna, you’ll have to run all the way to Morro Bay before you find any to speak of. Both the 311 and Rodriquez Seamount are said to be fruitless. The Avila fishermen are scoring a few, but they’re paying an even higher price – one was killed over the weekend when a whale landed on his boat. I’m not kidding – check it out for yourself!

Since the fishing hasn’t been great, and we’re having to report on fishermen being killed pursuing what they love, I thought I’d end on a happier note. I don’t know about you, but, as a fisherman, I’m an eternal optimist. I think most of us are. How else can you explain the amount of time and money we spend just in the hope of being able to come home stinking of fish guts?

The shot at right pretty much sums it up (click on it to see it full size). Sunrise at Pyramid Cove on Monday morning. It’s a new day, and the fish are just around the corner. It just doesn’t get any better.