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Archive for the ‘2013’ Category.

October 31 – Season Wrap

It’s Halloween here at the Home Office, and the streets are filled with little ghouls and goblins playing their tricks and seeking their treats. We have no tricks for you tonight, but one big treat – the season finale of the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

It’s been a long season, but let’s start our look in the rear view mirror with what just went down at the recently concluded Bisbee’s Black and Blue Tournament.

Winning smiles

You’d think that after thirty years of events, the Bisbee’s would have seen pretty much all the variety of drama that could happen in a marlin tournament … and you’d be wrong. As we reported in the last update, after the end of two days fishing, Martha McNab and her 591-kb blue marlin were out front by a comfortable margin. It was a rich fish, as they were in all of the prize levels, and it had the chance of being a historic fish as well – the Bisbee’s had never been won by a lady angler. But there was still another day of fishing to be contested, and things only got better.

Linda Williams, fishing on II SUCCESS, had a monster blue hit a Hi-5 Petrolero – a classic Cabo lure – and after a two-hour fight, the fish was boated. Back at the scales, it weighed 774-lbs, blowing past McNab’s fish and taking the tournament victory. Williams is the first female winner of the event, and banked a check for $368,675. Don’t feel too bad for Martha McNab, however – her second-place fish and savvy use of the side pots netted her $1,185,862. This was her second time as the event’s runner-up, and only a fool would presume she won’t be a favorite next year. James Long took third place for his 342-kb blue caught on SOONER REELIN’, and he took home $34,762.

In the release division, TITAN, a 57-ft Beneteau sailboat – yes, sailboat – took first place with three released blue marlin. To be sure, this isn’t your typical sailboat or sailboater. Owner Gary Aliengena’s previous rides were a 44-ft Cabo and a 60-ft Hatteras, and his blow boat is the only one you’ll find equipped with tuna tubes. But if you imagine the challenge of backing down on a hot marlin using a little Yanmar diesel, you’ll appreciate the magnitude of their victory. Second place in the division went to COJONES and third to REEL PAIN II, each of which also had three releases, with the ranking set by time tiebreakers. It’s worth noting REEL PAIN boated an undersized marlin that would have sealed their victory in the division had it only been released.

Speaking of released marlin, here’s one last reminder to submit your released marlin for the Billfish Release Board. Use the submission form to send us the details if they’re not on the board, or the missing details if they’re there but unclaimed (no little “$” on the row). Claimed fish go in the drawing for SCMO swag in a couple of weeks, and you don’t want to miss out!

The end of the Black and Blue marks the end of the tournament season for SoCal-based boats, but not necessarily the marlin fishing. Boats returning from the Cape will meet those headed south from Cali to fish the fish-rich waters off Bahia Magdelena – Mag Bay for short. The numbers aren’t what they were a decade ago – sound familiar? – but it’s still a place where you can release a dozen striped marlin and still have time for your siesta.

Fork it … we’re done

Several of the southern-bound boats are providing updates on Facebook, so this is probably a good time to remind you that while we may be shutting down here at the Fishing News, the sun never sets on SCMO’s Facebook page. We talk all things marlin and offshore fishing there, and I encourage our Facebooking friends to swing by and “like” us.

So how should we describe the recently-completed SoCal marlin season? I guess “better than it could have been” would be a start. The last three seasons were brutal around here, and I am one of those who are frankly pessimistic that we’ll ever see a 300-release season again. This one didn’t come close to that, but it does mark the third straight season that improved on the last. We’ve got over sixty releases over on the Billfish Release Board, so you know there has to be at least that many more unreported. It would not be unfair to say that this season was approaching normal.

The signs were good back in July – there were signs of an El NiƱo forming, and the seas were unusually warm. The season itself started right on time, as Barry Brightenberg and Chris Bailey each released a striped marlin near the 267 on July 21. That inshore bite lasted for nearly two weeks before drying up, and for a couple of weeks it seemed that perhaps that was all there was going to be. It was the last time marlin were seen in any number on the inshore banks, but not the end of the marlin.

Most people who study our fishery believe that there are several paths the marlin take as they head north into our region. The first brings them up the coast of Baja, tight to the shore, only turning west once they hit Dana Point. In years where that is the primary migration route, we see strong fishing off Coral and San Diego, and the 267 is a hot spot. If however, they choose the path further offshore, they might not been seen until they reach the 289, Mackerel Bank or even the 499 north of San Clemente Island.

This year, once the 267 bite petered out, some fish were caught in the traditional places off the east end of Catalina, but it wasn’t really until just before the beginning of the local tournament season that those in the know were told of marlin coming through the traditional tuna grounds at the Butterfly Bank. Smart anglers correctly predicted that the marlin would cross the 43, and there were a number of marlin released there during the MABT. Those marlin slid north and camped out between the 289 and Pyramid Head, and there was a solid three weeks of marlin action to be found there – right in the heart of tournament season.

There was one last blast of action late in September, as the marlin appeared on the inner ridge running from the 181 south to the 9-Mile Bank. This gave the billfish-starved anglers from San Diego a shot, and they made the most of it. The last release I heard of was by Fred Larson fishing on SQUARED AWAY down by the 138 on October 2, but there might have been a few I didn’t hear of.

The story wasn’t quite so rosy for those in pursuit of edible pelagics, particularly in the northern fleet. True, there was a decent pick of dorado and yellowtail at times during the season, but it was hit and miss at best. Tuna fishing was even worse, with most species barely making it above the border. This was something of a reward for those who fished out of San Diego and had little shot at marlin for most of the season, as they could run south to the Tuna Pens for a consistent bluefin tuna bite pretty much all season long.

One thing we saw that was interesting this year was the schooling of marlin. Most people know that marlin are schooling fish and tend to travel in loose packs. In recent years, though, the vision of packs of feeders or a picket fence of tailers has been replaced with the single quick feeder or tailer. This season was an exception that trend, as marlin were often found in packs. Double- and triple-hookups were common, and “Indian Attacks” – packs of marlin crashing the jig spread – were commonplace. Hell, it even happened to us … :-)

As you might imagine, crashing schools of marlin usually bring out the best in the best, and that was certainly the case this year. There were a number of boats with multiple-fish trips, but two stand out above the others. CHIQUILIN, captained by Mike “The Beak” Hurt and fishing in the Pesky, released four marlin below the 289 on September 20th, then backed it up with three more releases the next day. Not to be outdone, Captain Andy Horner and his MIRAGE crew, working the 181 – 182 ridge, released five marlin on October 1 and took another for the smoker. Clearly, there were marlin to be caught, if you were in the right place with the right crew. It bodes well for the future.

The other interesting element of this season was the appearance of rare fish – at least for our waters. We traditionally will have a few opah caught incidentally, particularly in warm water seasons, and this year was no different. What was shocking was the number of short bill spearfish caught alongside their larger marlin cousins. There were at least a dozen of the mini-billfish caught this season – 5 the weekend of the Pesky alone. We usually see one or two spearfish a decade in these waters, so it will be very interesting to see if there will be a resident population of spearfish in our waters in future seasons.

Equally shocking was the lack of swordfish caught by the sport fleet this season. I’m only aware of two rod-and-reel swords being taken this year, and the stick boat fleet had a terrible year as well. We know that swordfish populations are susceptible to fishing pressure – just look at the collapse of the Florida swordfish fishery two decades ago. We always look at harpoon sworfishing as a targeted, sustainable fishing method, far preferable to long lining. I don’t know if it is airplane-assisted harpooners or just the natural rhythms of the seas to blame for the numbers, but it bears watching.

Golden Girl alone at the top

Before we wrap, let me give a tip of the SCMO cap to beach volleyball studlette Kerri Walsh Jennings. We’ve covered beach volleyball here for nearly a decade, through the rise and fall and rise of the AVP and three Olympics. Not coincidentally, all three gold medals in those Olympic games were won by Kerri and her long-time partner, Misty May-Trainor. Misty’s career started slightly before Kerri’s, so when she retired as the all-time winningest female beach volleyball player, it was inevitable that one day, Kerri would pass her. That day came two weekends ago on a beach in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Walsh, playing with new partner April Ross, won the FIVB event there to record her 113th win, passing her longtime partner. Now 35 and a mother of three, Kerri is showing no signs of slowing down. Look for her back on Brazilian sands in the finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic beach volleyball tournament …

This has been a year of transition for the local marlin scene. We saw the end of four marlin tournaments with the cancellation of the California Billfish Series and the retirement of the Church Mouse Invitational. These were the backbone of the Avalon tournament season, and their loss leaves quite a void. Beyond that, Avalon itself has changed in the way it looks at the marlin fleet. Not so long ago, the tourist trade in Avalon was in the dumps, and they readily accepted marlin tournaments – and our dollars. In the last few years, however, the mood towards tournaments has soured. The Santa Catalina Island Company, looking to attract what they perceive as a “classier” visitor, have replaced a number of local favorites – and traditional tournament haunts. Gone are the Descanso Beach Club, Armstrong’s Seafood and The Landing, all of which hosted tournament events. Those places that remain have raised prices to the point where it became a significant factor in the decision by organizers to cancel the CBS. The club tournaments remain, of course, and there’s always a chance new events will fill the void, but the times are definitely a-changin’ …

Truth be told, this was a season of transition here at SCMO as well. We’ve been doing this a long time now – our site first hit the web in 1996. Back then, the internet was whatever AOL let you see, and email addresses were only a few years old. We have content on this site going back to those earliest days, including these Fishing News reports since 2000, and that rich history is what I am proudest of.

We started as a hobby site and, while we’ve always operated with the highest possible professionalism, it’s still a hobby site. The problem is, while most of the other sites that have come along over the years have long since disappeared, those that remain have become very professional. With investors and editorial staffs, they have moved on far beyond anything we’re capable of doing – or, frankly, even want to. For the last five years, we’ve seen a constant migration of visitors away from SCMO to these large and successful business entities.

I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and tell myself that we could compete, but all you have to do is look at the posts – or lack thereof – at the Marlin Club to know that’s just not the case. Folks drop by during the season for these reports, and for that I’m grateful, but other than that we’re as seasonal as a flip-flop shop in Avalon. They’re smart enough to shutter the business during the offseason, and we should be, too.

I entered this season resolved that this would be SCMO’s final hurrah. The reality of it all had finally hit home, helped in no small part by a couple of heartfelt letters I received from some of our regulars explaining why they were moving on. With the end of so many tournaments, the declining marlin fishery and an economy that drove so many away from our sport, it seemed perfect that I should turn out the lights on both our local sport and the site at the same time.

A funny think happened on the way to oblivion, however. Each year, I get a handful of notes from our visitors thanking me for what I do. They’re unsolicited but gratefully appreciated, as they’re the only real “payment” I receive. This year, for some reason, there’s been an avalanche of support. I don’t know if somehow my words tipped my intentions, or there was a fear that with so much else lost this might be next, or it might just be that folks are feeling extra appreciative. Whatever the reason, they helped me realize that I’m just not ready to let go of SCMO quite yet. So, we’ll be back next year. Have a safe and sane offseason, a joyous holidays, and we’ll see you all when the water warms in the spring …

13 Years Ago …

October 30, 2000

Stick a fork in it, folks – the season is over. Yeah, folks are still seeing fish here and there, and the occasional tuna or marlin is still caught, but we’ve reached that point where it’s not forth the diesel fuel you’ll burn to get it.

The storm that blew through over the weekend brought winter-like conditions to the Southland, and the fishing has shown the results. The last marlin we heard of were one taken on the 14 Mile Bank Wednesday by MERRI TYME II and another released Friday by COMANCHE 6 miles south of Dana Point (in the heart of the storm, no less!). Yellowfin tuna reports are still trickling in from the 43 and 302, but the numbers have nearly dropped to zero. If you’re intent on working to get that last marlin of the season, I’d try working from the 14 to the 267 and looking for the sauries.

Before we sign off for the winter, I’d like to reflect back on some of the moments of the Y2K season that’ll stick with me …

Breakout season – They started it with a swordfish, and followed it up with a dozen marlin. Steve Bledsoe and the crew of NO EXCUSES stepped it up and had their best season to date, often catching fish when others couldn’t and being the only boat to get any consistent jig action. Steve was an early supporter of SCMO and one of the first hardcore Marlin Club posters; hopefully, now that the season is over, he’ll be able to come out and play with us again … :-)

Good season, great day – Were the circumstances different, no one would have believed it. But when Bill Kingsmill and his WILD BILL crew caught 14 marlin in one magic day off the dome at San Clemente Island, they did it surrounded by dozens of other boats unable to scratch out even a single fish. Some days, talent and luck collide, and the results are awesome. Like Gary Jasper’s 339-lb striped marlin of years ago, this accomplishment will be long remembered.

Persistence rewarded – Unlike many of his peers, Dave Denholm of ESPADON does not trumpet his billfish successes, preferring to let the achievements speak for themselves. This year, they spoke volumes about his singleminded pursuit of swordfish. In a time when the entire fleet is lucky to catch two swordfish in a year, Dave’s two swordfish are a testimony to his angling skill and willingness to do whatever is necessary to succeed.

So another season comes to an end. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this SCMO’s best ever – the posters, writers, reporters, contributors and photographers whose efforts make this site what it is. Particular thanks goes to my HOOKER crewmates for putting up with my incessant notetaking, and especially to my father, who once again dealt with the unjust accusations from others in the fleet (you don’t really think he’d compromise his secret info here, do you? Puleeeze!).

It’ll be a busy offseason here at SCMO, as we finally have the time to get on with all the projects we have in mind (if you have any suggestions, let us know!). The Marlin Club has developed into a worldwide billfishing forum, certainly far more than I could have imagined, and I look forward to spending a lot of time there in the coming months. With posters in Australia, New Zealand, South America, Madeira, South Africa, and wherever billfish roam, the sun truly never sets on the Marlin Club. We’ll be upgrading the Internet Portal to make it even more user-friendly, and may even tweak the looks of the site – hey, it’s been three years! Most of all, I look forward to sitting back and enjoying this wonderful community of billfish enthusiasts we have created here at SCMO. See you in the spring.

October 24

It’s a quiet night here at the Home Office. Tampa Bay is getting beat – again – on Thursday Night Football. Michael Wacha – more on him later – is about to register a win in Game 2 of the World Series. To the south, ninety mates are sharpening hooks in preparation of the final day of fishing in the world’s richest marlin tournament. It can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Fishing News!

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We’re smack dab in the middle of fishing for the Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament and there’s good news for the organizers – they have a qualifying fish. Yesterday saw two blue marlin brought to the scales – including one by Friend of SCMO Alex Rogers and his PROTOCOL crew – but both fell tantalizingly short of the 300-lb minimum weight. Today was a different story, as a total of three qualifier hit the scales, led by Martha McNab’s impressive 591-lb blue. If she can hold onto first place, it’s estimated that the fish will be worth $1.13 million in prize money – but there’s still tomorrow … stay tuned!

Maybe … just maybe

The story isn’t nearly so good locally. I haven’t heard of any action since the weekend’s flurry on the 182, but looking at the map at right makes me think there’s at least an outside possibility the marlin could still be there. Of course, there has to be someone left to fish them, which is problematic as more and more boats head south for the Mag Bay experience. But someone will stumble around out there this weekend and if they score, you’ll hear it here!

The World Series has started, and my Dodgers are off playing golf – well, all but the front office, which is busy self-destructing. But while I have no interest in the games themselves, I’m a stat geek who loves all those little stories that come out of the Series – like this one:

Remember a couple of winters back when the Angels lured Albert Pujols, then universally considered the game’ best player, to leave the Cardinals for a big-dollar contract? Everyone assumed that would let the Angels punch their ticket to the next series while the Birds, left with only a supplemental draft pick to show for losing their superstar slugger, were seen as circling the drain – particularly after naming Mike Metheny, a recently-retired catcher with no coaching experience, as their new manager.

How’d that all work out? A suddenly-fragile Pujols has played in barely half his team’s games, hitting a few meaningless home runs while Anaheim – er, Los Angeles thereof – hasn’t so much as sniffed the post-season. Meanwhile, Matheny has the Cardinals back in the World Series in only his second year at the helm.

Oh, and that seemingly meaningless supplemental pick awarded St Louis after Pujols bolted for SoCal? That turned out to be Michael Wacha, who twice went toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw and came away with a pair of W’s. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold …

You just knew all the press about the recent recoveries of a pair of oarfish on SoCal shores would bring out the … best … in the media. Now they’re declaring it to be evidence of global warming. Frankly, it’s more likely to be a result of Fukushima than that, but I figure they just got a good look at the state of the oceans and committed hara kiri …

That’s it for now – just a little midweek snack to get you through. Come back Monday as we wrap the B & B and say goodbye to the 2013 season!

7 Years Ago …

October 23, 2006

I’d be perfectly happy to stop writing the reports and get on with my offseason, but you people just keep catching fish …

The fishing is better than it should be up here, worse than it should be down there … oh, did I mention the hurricane about to shuffle the Bisbee deck? Just another day for … the Fishing News!

(cue credits)

We talked about the swordfish sightings, and several anglers were able to convert opportunity into success. On Friday, Randy Wood, fishing with Bob Akers and their families on OFFSHORE, spotted one between the Avalon and 14-Mile Banks. It was hungry, and was soon on the swimstep. The fish weighed 178-lbs on the BAC scales in Newport.

Not to be outdone, SHOWDOWN angler Reed Miller hooked one in the same region Saturday. After an hour’s fight, the fish was also on it’s way to the scales at the BAC, where it weighed 156. We won’t discuss the rumor that OFFSHORE put them on the fish …

Both of the successful anglers are members of Los Pescadores, and we do maintain the club’s tourney site for free, so it would have been nice if they sent us the pics so we could show them in their high resolution goodness. But they didn’t, so you’ll just have to go over to that other site where they have grainy lo-res versions. But I’m not bitter … :-)

There was marlin to be found as well, as boats continue to search further and further offshore hoping for that last fish of the season. Several were seen and a couple hooked, but the only one I heard being caught was released by AGITATOR Friday just north of Pyramid Head.

The talk leading into the Los Cabos Classic was of the variety of fish that were available. What they forgot to mention was that there weren’t any large ones floating around. The two days of fishing saw 311 anglers release 25 striped, 24 blue and 1 black marlin. Unfortunately, most of the marlin were on the small side – in fact, this 401-lb blue taken by REELAXE would have won the event had they been entered. Two small blues were boated, but no one got any of the big girls that can win the cash. Anglers are certainly hoping that’ll change in the Black and Blue.

Of course, that’s assuming the B&B takes place. Wednesday is scheduled to be the first of three fishing days, but that will be less than 24 hours after Hurricane Paul blows through the region. Currently, it looks like the storm will pass south of the tip of Baja, but you can bet it’ll impact the fishing at the very least. Bisbee management are watching the storm closely to see if any modifications to the schedule will be required.

Say what you want about SoCal anglers – they’re an optimistic bunch. I guess you have to be when you fish on the very edge of a fishery the way we do. But our recent InstaPoll shows that a lot of you think there’s life left in this season. While only a quarter thought there was still a glory hole to be found, over half of the respondents felt there’d be at least a few fish caught in upcoming weeks. For the last few weeks, that’s been the case. Will it continue? Stay tuned …

October 21

Dammit all, I want to start my winter hiatus, but people keep seeing marlin! This is just like the Mafia – you try to get out, but it just keeps pulling you in …

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Yes, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but there are still striped marlin in the Catalina Bight. We reported earlier about GOOD KARMA finding them on the 182 and wondering if they’d stick around – so far, the answer appears to be yes. Several boats were working the area over the weekend, particularly after early reports got out, and reported not just finding marlin but having Indian attacks – 3 and 4 fish at a time in the spread. SEA TREK 4 is the only boat I know for sure got one, but I’m running down leads on a couple of others as we speak When I know, you’ll know …

We’re well into the tournament season down south, and a pair of marlin events recently completed. The Los Cabos Billfish Tournament saw forty teams fishing for three days out of their choice of Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. When the numbers were tallied, EXTRACTION, owned by longtime SCMO member Tom Lansing, took first place with a 625-lb blue marlin caught on the first day of the event. The Top Release award went to CHUPACABRA for their two blue marlin, two striped marlin and one sailfish released. Second place in the release division went to GALATI with one blue, one striped and one sailfish, and third place was captured by CISCO with their two striped marlin and one blue. The story of the event came from the Tuna division, where a potential division winner was snatched out of the hand of a dockhand by an hungry seal – much to the shock of the angler and crew.

Maybe this is why there’s no big marlin?

Overlapping one fishing day (and, presumably, part of the fleet), the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament fished out of Cabo on the 19th and 20th. A total of 90 boats were in this event, and somewhat surprisingly, there were no marlin that met the 300-lb qualifying minimum weight, although a total of 6 marlin did hit the scales – the closest anyone got was a 282-lb black marlin. Maybe that shot at left, courtesy of Gary Graham, explains the lack of qualifiers. As a result, the big money went to a pair of pelagic edibles – a 33-lb dorado from Team Ultra Seal and a 201-lb yellowfin tuna from Team North Star. In the Marlin Release division, GALATI backed up their second place in the LCBT with a win here – their total included one blue, three stripes and two sails. CARPE DIEM was second with two blues and a sail, while Team Salvatore took third for their one blue and two stripes. Overall, a total of 71 billfish were caught – 24 blues, 36 stripes, 5 sails and the aforementioned black, with 65 being released.

OK, so if you told me that the Dodgers had a must-win game and were handing the ball to Clayton Kershaw, I’d have felt pretty good. If you’d have told me that he’d give up seven earned runs in that game, I’d call you a liar. And if you told me that the Dodgers would get a total of two hits – one an infield single to start the game – I’d call it a typical day for the Dodgers.

Unfortunately, all three of those happened on Friday. We gave the ball to Kershaw, expecting him to carry us the way he did all year. But the guy’s human, and for once, he couldn’t answer the call. Of course, the guys he’d been carrying all season could have stepped up, but that’s not really in this club’s makeup. So, with a whimper, thus ended the Dodgers’ 2013 campaign.

It’s easy to forget the good times in the sting of the loss, but remember that this is a team that posted the most amazing fifty game stretch in my lifetime, going 42-8 and making it look easy. Injuries cost them dearly, as did roster uncertainties at the start of the year. Carry the stability into the new year, and give us back our lame and crippled, and 2014 should be fun. Only real question now is how much of the coaching staff will be back …

From the Department of Really Weird – for the second time in less than a week, an uber-rare oarfish washed up on a SoCal beach, this time in Oceanside. Insert global warming snark here …

The southern tournament swing continues this week. Next up is the grandaddy of them all, the Bisbee’s Black and Blue, which fishes three days, starting Wednesday. I’m sure the tournament organizers are working their ouija boards hoping to attract some fat billfish, all the while with an eye on the weather and the series of storms currently off the Mexican mainland. We’ll have the details on the B & B next Monday.

Be there … aloha!

October 17

Yeah, yeah – I know. With all that’s going on in the world, why on earth am I here talking about marlin? Why – because there just might be a marlin lurking out there, and you just might want to take a shot at it, and you just might come here looking for insight to help you do it. Plus, I couldn’t get a date …

(cue theme music)

Yes, it’s big night in sports tonight. We’ve got the Tigers and the BoSox in the ALCS, the Seahawks and Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, and the Democrats and Republicans in “who are the bigger tools”. The results of that last one are too close to call.

In spite of all that televised excitement, we’re going to take a couple of minutes to see just what’s going on with the local marlin season. The answer, unfortunately, is very little. I have received zero reports, save one from AGITATOR declaring his season had come to an end. When Bill hangs up his lures, you know it’s time.

The Rockstar of the Sea

To the south, today is the first of three fishing days in the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament, put on by the good folks at MARLIN Magazine. Forty boats hit the water first thing this morning, running out of both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo in a dual shotgun start. At the end of the first day, 25 billfish had been caught – a mix of striped marlin, blue marlin and sailfish – and three blues had hit the scale. Top Release boat after Day 1 is CHUPACABRA with two blues and a striped released. We’ll include the final results on Monday.

If you’ve been near any kind of media source lately, you know about the 18-ft oarfish that was recovered by divers out of Toyon Bay on Catalina. Man, talk about a viral event – people who have never even heard of Catalina know it’s the home of this fish! It’s all good, though, as the oarfish is a rare creature and we need to learn more about it. Shame we can’t get John Q. Public as excited about billfish conservation …

One last reminder – get your released marlin on the Billfish Release Board!

I think we’ll bite the bullet and end it here. Just making it past this update marks a milestone of sorts – as I was looking through the old entries for one to use as our look to the past, I realized that in more than half the season we’ve been doing the Fishing News, we were done by this time of October. So for now, I’ll leave you with a last entry from a season past and see you on Monday …

6 Years Ago …

October 15, 2007

Marlin? What marlin? Exactly the reason this is the final report of a lousy season.

(cue theme music)

I’m not gonna lie to you … it’s been tough to write reports this season. So few fish, so little to talk about. So it’s probably time to pull the plug and let this season die peacefully.

There are still a couple of boats out looking for that last fish of the season, and certainly any one that is caught at this point could well be the final one. But the water temps are dropping (down to around 66F on the Avalon Bank), and we keep getting these wannabe winter storms forming, so it’s certainly time for the fat lady to do here thing.

Amazingly enough, the party boats are still catching tuna. I can’t imagine who’s paying for the ride, since there can’t possibly be a freezer in SoCal that isn’t plugged with three kinds of tuna right now.

 The Cabo tourney season kicks off this week with the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament; next week is the first of the Bisbee’s events. Be sure to check out the Offshore Fishing Forum for updates on the events, as I’ve bribed several MNAC members who are fishing the events to provide on-the-spot reporting. For the rest of us, I guess there’s nothing left to do but break down the tackle, ruminate about the lousy fishing, and pray that it’s better next season …

Since this is the last report, it’s a good time for my "thanks and no thanks" rant. First, as always, thank you to each of our MNAC members whose support keeps this place going. There are times when I’m feeling down or are suffering from some kind of writer’s cramp, and it’s the knowledge that you guys are out there that fires me up and keeps me going. That said, there is one area where our membership came up weak this season.

For these reports to be successful, three key things have to happen. I need to be on the water, since the best information will always be that I can collect myself, either by witnessing it or hearing it first-hand on the radio. The second thing that has to happen is I need to pound my regular sources pretty hard to make sure that whatever information might be available makes it into these reports. Finally, our membership – you guys – needs to take the time to file a Trip Report after every – every – trip offshore.

Now, to be certain, I failed in that first category, as I only got offshore twice during the season and didn’t get close to seeing any action. My contacts ponied up the dope as they always do, which leaves the Trip Reports – or lack thereof. We have over 100 members who hail from SoCal home ports, and I’d guess that a total of maybe 10 filed a TR – and the vast majority came from just 2 members. All I can say is thank God for Bob Hoose and Greg Stotesbury, who not only file complete reports but are usually in the middle of the action.

Filing those Trip Reports is optional, of course, but helps so much. It doesn’t matter if you catch fish or not, or if you have mad writing skills or not. All you have to do is say we went here, and this is what we saw – or didn’t see. I just know that there’s at least 25 MNAC members on the water every weekend of marlin season – imagine if even half of them provided a Trip Report describing their action! What a resource. Now, I know that filing a TR will never bring you the ego-boost as posting it over at Bloody Decks or Allcoast, but those posts will never bring the respect you’ll get here. At least the people who read your TR will appreciate the information and understand what it is you’re talking about. Think about it for next season, OK?

October 14

Fishing News Update … Dodger Playoff Baseball … Update … Baseball … oh, the dilemma …

(cue conflicted theme music)

Not the obstacle the Dodgers are facing ..

Yes, it’s true – the Dodgers wasted two of the greatest post-season pitching performances ever and are coming home in an 0-2 hole. It’s 5:20PM, and Game 3 just started out at the Ravine. It’s also true that while there’s not much going on, I owe you an update. So, you’ll get what you deserve, but if I run out of the room mid-sentance, you’ll know why …

It was a quiet weekend off our shores, as only the last vestiges of the fleet poked about looking for that last fish of the season. Most of the big hitters are already southbound, many on C BANDIT, which is ferrying an all-star team of SoCal angling talent south for the upcoming tournaments. Of course, while the fishing is pretty hot in Cabo right now, it’s not all marlin and mojitos – just look at that waterspout that rolled in over the weekend!

I talked to several of the guys were plied the local waters this weekend, and the story was pretty consistent. Last week’s storm didn’t significantly change the conditions – the water is still warm enough to support marlin presence – and there was a lot of life, most notably squid and mammals. But what few marlin might have been around have at the very least moved – the only report I heard was of a pair of releases by GOOD KARMA between the 181 and 182, but that’s still unconfirmed. At least it’s something to hold on to …

Hang on!

As we wind down the season, let me remind you again to make sure your releases are represented on the Billfish Release Board. The last Info Ping of the season caused a bunch of new releases to be submitted, so I’m betting there are more out there. I really want to hear from anyone who may have released a spearfish, as in the six years we’ve been doing the BRB, we’ve never had one hit the board. Just check the board, send in any fish that aren’t on there using the Submission Form, or claim any already there without a $ by using that same form to fill in the missing details. C’mon – you know you’d look great in one of our hoodies!

OK, Hyun-Jin Ryu has survived the first two innings, but Los Doyers have yet to score. Time for me to rock the rally cap and push our boys to victory. But before I go, a little reminder of what might be.

We haven’t had a great season in a long time in SoCal, and it’s possible that you’ve forgotten just what makes marlin fishing so magical. So, a little reminder, courtesy of mi amigo (and SCMO Expert) Paco Saca. It’s a nice blue marlin, running into the sun straining to free itself from the iron grip of wireman Javier Saca. This is what it’s all about – man versus marlin, both giving their all, both living to fight another day. That’s why we fish.

Safe travels …

October 10

Here that sucking sound? Could it be the last of the marlin turning tail thanks to our first winter storm? That and more in this edition of the Fishing News …

(Cue chilly theme music)

This will be sort of brief, because frankly, there’s just not that much to tell.

A couple of boats were out during the week, the hardcore and the desperate, hoping to pad their score or break onto the Release Board. The pickings were mighty slim, though, and while the conditions remain good for late season action, there were no marlin reported. The last few releases came from the ridge between the 181 and 182, so if you are going to heat out this weekend, that’s where I’d start. But there’s a big caveat that goes with that …

We just had a pretty stiff storm roll through the Catalina Bight, and while it wasn’t nearly as large as predicted, it was the winter variety. That’s important, because while a lot of storms move through the region this time of year, most bring tropical moisture from the south and don’t impact the fishing conditions significantly. The first one to blow in from the north, bringing that cold arctic wind, tends to be the one that shuts down the bite. Was this storm that storm? Was there even a bite to shut down? We won’t know until this weekend, but remember … you’ve been warned …

So, the Dodgers managed to overcome managerial booboos and sketchy pitching to roll over the Braves and advance to the National League Championship Series, where they’ll face the St. Louis Cardinals. Personally, I’d have preferred the Pirates, as I think we matched up better against them – and would have gotten an additional home game. Doesn’t matter – we have Greinke and Kershaw going at the start, so we’re in pretty good hands.

Since we’re winding things down here at the Home Office, this seems like a good time to remind everyone to make sure your released marlin are submitted to the Billfish Release Board. If you submit it using the Submission Form, or claim an existing fish on the board by submitting the form with the missing details, you’ll get entered in our drawing for an SCMO hoodie in a couple of weeks. It’s the perfect Christmas gift to yourself – and gets you the credit you’ve earned.

10 Years Ago …

October 12, 2003

C’mon – you knew it couldn’t last forever …

The good news is that the marlin fishing is as good as it was a month ago – maybe even better. The bad news is that it is a mere shadow of what it was last weekend – or for the last three weeks.

There were fewer boats out this weekend, and the fleet was scattered as boats sought the marlin that had been so easy to find only a few days earlier. There were some marlin caught between the 499 and 267, but nothing like earlier. Of course, that didn’t stop WILD BILL, who managed to pull out 5 for the weekend. At least one was on an EAL, so maybe even the best need help sometimes …

Most of the other action was scattered around the backside of Catalina. REELY HOOKED released a marlin on the Farnsworth Bank Saturday, and a lot of sleepers and tailers were seen all the way from Cat Harbor around to the East End, which had a pretty impressive tailer show this afternoon. The real question at this point is whether the marlin are moving to a new area, or simply moving out. I’m worried after hearing that they had been gorging themselves on sauries at the 499 – that’s similar behavior to whales who pig out before starting the big migration. Hopefully, we’ll know more by Thursday.

Hey – the Marlin Club is up to 31 dead marlin! Hip, hip, f’ing hooray … :-(

Here’s a tip – if you find yourself around porpoise, you might want to swap out your long shotgun lure for a tuna feather. Several folks caught yellowfin tuna on the 499, and I’ve heard reports they’re inside Catalina – possibly as close to shore as the 14-Mile Bank!

Speaking of whales, have you ever seen as many whales as we’ve had migrating through the marlin grounds this year? I’m used to the occasional gray whale loping downhill as it heads for Scammon’s Lagoon to calf, but this year it’s been a veritable cetacean superhighway. There have been so many whales that at times you could see a group of gray whales headed south being passed by a pod of larger blue whales heading north. And with the glassy sea conditions of the last few weeks, it’s been possible to see literally dozens of whales at a time – sometimes surrounding your boat!

Man might think he’s the toughest thing to walk the planet, but he not the largest. That distinction goes to the blue whale – the largest creature to ever exist on Earth. Until you see one of these behemoths, you don’t realize just how big they really are. If you should find yourself looking head- (or tail-) on to one, you quickly realize what a small arc of a much larger cylinder is shown – and how massive the girth must be.

We had an interesting experience on HOOKER several weeks ago. We were working the backside of Catalina and had seen several blue whales in the area, but had no idea of where exactly they were. As we were trolling along, one of the smaller ones (fortunately) decided to surface and blow right along side the boat – so close it was inside the tip of the starboard outrigger. Needless to say, that seriously rattled the crew, and we spent the rest of the weekend driving away from the spouts. Personally, I think they’re smart enough to know what they are doing, and this one probably just wanted to take a peek at who we were. I’ll say this, though – few things a foul smelling as whale breath – whew!

I’m pissed. More than that, I’m hungry and pissed. As you probably know, we have a supermarket strike in California. The union decided to strike at Von’s, so the management locked them out at Ralph’s and Albertson’s. Since the grocery industry has gone through the same condensing as so many other business sectors (remember Safeway? Lucky?), that means that 60% of the markets are being struck. At least that’s the official numbers; in my part of the world, it’s closer to 95%. So I have a choice – be a bad guy and cross the picket line (and spend my whole time shopping wondering what pithy sayings are being scratched into the side of my car), or go to the one market within 5 miles that isn’t being struck – and stand in a 2-hour line. I respect the workers’ right to strike, but I wish they’d respect my right to eat. Just because those jackholes can’t get together and hammer things out, I have to go hungry. Screw it – I’m getting a pizza …

It looks like the hurricanes have cleared out of the waters off Cabo San Lucas – just in time for the start of tourney season. According to the reports I’ve seen, the only lingering affect of the storms that battered the tip of Baja is some patches of brown water. The muck has been scraped out of the streets, the bars have been restocked … time to go fishing!! The striped marlin are hitting in decent numbers, and the blues have moved in recently as well – much to the delight of the event organizers … :-)

The string of events starts with the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore tourney on the 17th, followed in quick succession by the Black and Blue, Pete’s Sake, and WON Tuna Jackpot. Since I obviously won’t be there, I’m looking for correspondents willing to supply the SCMO community with news from the Cape. If you’re going to be in any of these events, and are willing to make daily email updates of the goings on, I’ll reward your service with one of our new SCMO ball caps. Email me if you’re interested.

It will be interesting to see what kind of local reports we get in the upcoming days. Now that the "Big Bite of 2003" has ended, a lot of folks will be back on the beach licking their wounds … and crying over their fuel bills. Those of you who do get out, be sure to file those Trip Reports – they really help all of us get a better understanding of where the fish are – and aren’t. It’s just like being a king … or a Kingsmill … for a day :-)

October 7

It’s funny how life sometimes chooses just the right time to cut your legs out from under you then, while you’re down, pile on. That’s been my last few weeks, and it’s why you haven’t seen much in the way of updates lately. But the killer surf of life has let me break the surface, if only momentarily, so here goes a new edition of the Fishing News.

(cue surf theme music)

We’re late in the SoCal season, and in fact many boats have started the migration south towards Cabo San Lucas – after all, the first event of the fall tournament season there is only a week away. But there are still boats working our waters and occasionally finding striped marlin and other pelagics, and we all know that so long as the weather holds and there’s even a remote shot at a marlin, there’ll be anglers giving it a try – and I don’t just mean my dad …

Before we get too far into this report, I have sad news to share. Dr. Russell Nelson, a leading billfish scientist who has long worked with the Billfish Foundation and other groups to advance the cause of billfish conservation, passed away suddenly this past Saturday. Russ was one of the few scientists who could take the facts and data regarding billfish and distill them into something that an average person could comprehend – essential if you want to garner their support. I only had the pleasure of meeting him once, at a SoCal scoping session many years ago, but had enjoyed many conversations with him over Facebook. As I stated over there, those of us who care for billfish have lost a warrior. Just goes to show that we really have no idea the number of our days – enjoy every single one …

SoCal Spearfish

We continue to hear stories of shortbill spearfish catches, both from people who recognize the fish and others who report “really really small marlin”. By my count, there’s been at least 7 released in SoCal in the last month. At left, Charlie Albright displays his Pesky spearfish. While this technically violates my “no dead billfish” rule, they’re so rare around here that I wanted you to at least see what they look like. Unfortunately, most of these mini marlin are hitting the cooler, and that’s not good. They’re still billfish, fellas – let ‘em go!

This past weekend’s weather was a challenge for SoCal anglers, as Friday saw a strong Santa Ana system form in our region. On the beach, Santa Anas mean warm weather and clean air for our inland regions, but offshore they’re a bitch. Strong noreasters blowing off the beach turn wave against swell, creating a washing machine effect, and many of the traditionally safe harbors, like Avalon, find themselves blasted by swells.

This storm was no exception, as National Weather Service forecasters took a break from the government shutdown to predict gale warnings and sustained winds in excess of 40 knots on Saturday. I didn’t get offshore, but if the wind-blown surf hitting the beach in Huntington was any indicator, it was nasty offshore. Sunday saw an easing of the conditions, but the result was few boats on the water and no releases to report.

So I mentioned life giving me the one-two lately. Those of you who saw me at the Pesky know I was fighting a cold at the time – and I still have the damned thing. Clearly, no average cold, as it’s completely trashed my sinuses. Nothing like waking up with a head full of concrete-like snot to take the edge off your day. Then, just to make things really interesting, last Tuesday I had one of those new experiences that come with getting older – my first colonoscopy! The good news is that they found nothing of note, but between the prep, the activity, and the recovery, I was in no mood to talk marlin. Those of you over fifty will certainly understand …

There was one event midweek that certainly bears mention. Throughout this marlin season, the fish have been caught offshore, save a small patch of fish on the 267 to kick things off a few months back. In the last week or so, however, reports had been coming of a wave of marlin that might be heading north and hugging the coast, which meant the San Diego fleet might finally get a shot. For Andy Horner and the crew of MIRAGE, that shot was a mighty roar. Working out of San Diego and hitting all the high spots – 9-Mile Bank, La Jolla Canyon, 181 and 182 – they released a total of six marlin on Tuesday. Working a pair of those new Frazer Volpes you’ve heard so much about, they were all eyeball baitfish. An amazing day, probably the biggest we’ve seen in the last couple of years. Clearly, the fish are moving inshore …

As you may have noticed, my Dodgers are in the playoffs against Atlanta in the NLDS, and after a thorough ass-kicking of the Braves last night out at the Ravine, they look to Clayton Kershaw, best pitcher on the planet, to seal the deal tonight. Now, I could go on about some meaningless minutae from the weekend, or bore you with bad jokes, but I’m going to save you – ’cause it’s tiiiiiime … for Dodger baseball! Back Thursday with a look to the weekend and a look south to the upcoming big money tournaments.

September 26

There’s a definite feeling of fall in the air, and the fleet knows it’s time to get catching before the fish leave the area. The weather’s been holding up, but how long can that last? We’ll talk about that, the change in seasons and who’s doing what in this edition of the SCMO Fishing News.

(cue change-of-season theme music)

PESCADOR release

The Pesky hangovers have for the most part faded, and a number of boats were out mid-week hoping there was more than duck decoys left on the 289. I don’t want to intimate that some folks don’t have to work for a living, but there is a Tuna Club tournament starting tomorrow, so it’s safe to say that more than a couple of their boats are out doing a little pre-fishing.

I’m aware of at least two striped marlin that were released this week, both yesterday, but neither in the same zone where the action was happening last weekend. PACIFIC PIONEER released one yesterday at 00/02, which maps as a couple miles northeast of the 289 – although, they may have just run into one on their way to the weekend bite. Meanwhile closer to home, PESCADOR got their first release of the season inside the ridge between 152 and 277, in that area quickly becoming known as “The Decker Hole” for the success found there by Jimmy Decker and his skater DISCO PUNK.

The interesting story this week has really been the weather, which has been practically summer-like. It’s been in the high seventies all week with a mild offshore flow, which makes for great conditions offshore. It’s blowing like hell here at the Home Office right now, however, so we’ll have to see if that drives the fish down. That’s the risk we all face in this sport – no guarantee tomorrow’s conditions will in any way resemble today’s …

Speaking of weather, we all watch those graphics of tropical storms sliding up the Baja peninsula with a certain sense of security, knowing that at some point, they’ll spin out to sea or die over land. But will that always be the case? From our friends at the National Weather Service:

On Sept. 25, 1939, an unnamed tropical storm hit Long Beach, the only documented tropical system to make landfall in SoCal. The storm resulted in widespread flooding, large waves, and many fatalities. Downtown Los Angeles received 5.24 inches of rain in 24-hours which still stands today as the daily record.

Something to think about during these days of warm water and warmer weather …

Flying to victory

On Tuesday, Oracle Team USA completed what many are calling the greatest sporting comeback in history, winning the deciding race of this year’s America’s Cup regatta to retain possession of the Auld Mug. Remember, these guys were down 8 races to 1, with Emirates Team New Zealand needing to win just one more. Adding to the drama, ETNZ was leading a race last week that would have ended the thing only to have the wind speed go too high, forcing cancellation. Eight times the boats came to the line with OTUSA facing elimination, and eight times they prevailed. These boats are so closely matched that little things make a difference, but I suspect it was the decision to replace their tactician after their last loss that turned the tide for the USA boat. Not sure when the next regatta will occur or who will be involved, but it’s time now to enjoy this amazing achievement. Well done, boys – well done all!

Hang on, Tony!

I mentioned earlier that the hangovers from the Pesky have dissipated, but not so the glow of success from the many anglers who released marlin during the event. We continue to get pictures here at the Home Office from the fleet, and we’re happy to share them with you. Here’s Tony LeBlanc on the bow of AGITATOR, fighting one of the two released marlin that netted him a third-placde finish.

No word on whether any more spearfish have been caught since the weekend, but given the number taken then it’s certain that there should be more. I’ve seen a lot of the catch shots and I’m saddened to see so little respect given to these little billfish. Much like a marlin is damaged by handling, so too is a spearfish – don’t let the small size fool you. Do the right thing and resist the temptation to pull them out of the water for a vanity shot …

Hey, does anyone have $6.9 million I can borrow? The Storer House, one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses I visited recently during the LA leg of my 2013 Wright Tour just went on the market. A guy can dream, right?

That’s it from here for now. It should be interesting to see whether the Tuna Club intel and water time leads to catches in this weekend’s Hunt Tournament, or if the wind and weather conspire to defeat their efforts. Either way, we’ll have the latest here Monday. Good luck if you get out, and be sure to let us know how you do!

1 Year Ago …

September 25, 2012

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 24

The local tournament season’s in the book, and it’s almost time to turn our gaze to the south. Before we go though, we’ve got a recap of the Pesky, a smile for an old friend, and some interesting local catches …

(cue theme music)

Ah, the Pesky. If it doesn’t make your liver quiver, well, you’ve just never done it. The 24th edition was competed this last weekend, and was quite an adventure. In keeping with this year’s “Duck Dynasty” theme, many of the record thirty competing boats were dressed as duck blinds, sporting – and in some cases deploying – decoys. Duck calls filled the VHF air, of course, and bad redneck accents ruled the day. But the goal was to catch striped marlin, and catch marlin they did.

Attagirl, amiga!!

The previous weekend’s bite had been out by the 289, so it’s no surprise that most of the fleet timed their arrival in that area for the 5AM kickoff on Friday. It was a slow morning, leading some to fear the marlin had moved on, but that illusion was destroyed when CHIQELIN quacked Tournament Control to report they were on a triple hookup at 47/08. They only got 2 of the 3, but you just knew there was more to come. By the time the sun set on the first day of fishing, eleven marlin had been released, led by “CHICKEN WING” and their four, two each for anglers Shane Hurt and Shawn Kaus.

Most of the fleet was working in a loose pack between the 289 and CHIQUELIN’s spot 5 miles south of there, but several tourney boats opted to work the ridge off Catalina’s east end, and it paid off. Both CORONA EXTRA and EL PATRON released marlin near the 277, and didn’t face nearly the fleet pressure the rest of us felt.

I don’t normally highlight a single fish from an entire tournament, but I’m going to make an exception here. Mi amiga Jackie Chase was one of my inspirations to start this site, and was its first poster girl (don’t believe me – just check out the Galeria del Pez!). Jackie loved the water more than anyone I know, but as is so often the case, life conspired to send her in a different direction. I’m happy to say that after many years, Jackie got back out on the water this weekend and picked up right where she left off, releasing the CORONA EXTRA marlin – that’s it to the left. Make no mistake – I couldn’t be happier for her …

Whole lotta laundry …

The Pesky’s second day of fishing was clouded by the knowledge that storm warnings were on the horizon. Several boats opted to make an early morning run back towards Catalina, while most of the fleet ran the risk and pounded the 289 once again. KEA KAI opened the scoring for Saturday when Nate Shill released a jigfish just west of the 289. Soon enough, though, the crew on CHIQUELIN stepped to the fore once again. First it was Mike Stotesbury with a jigfish, then Shane Hurt released a tailer, and Diane Hurt closed out their day with a jigfish of her own. Elsewhere, Tony LeBlanc released his second fish of the event on AGITATOR, a jigfish on a clone beeper; EL PATRON released their second marlin of the event near the 277, and several others got on the board late in the day. When the ducks had settled back onto the pond and the numbers tallied up, the fleet had released another 11 marlin to reach 22 for the weekend. In addition to those mentioned above, marlin were released by FAIR GAME, PETE’S SAKE, DREAMER, HAMMER, SPRAE IT, TAILCHASER, SURLY MERMAID, EXTA SEA and SOUND INVESTMENT.

Have you been following the America’s Cup finals from San Francisco these last few weeks? I’ve talked before about my admiration for the sport, particularly at that level, but the current use of high-dollar “Hobie Cats on steroids” had left me cold, particularly as the races seemed to sacrifice sailing skill and tactics for TV-ready action.

Oh myyyy …

I have to confess, however, that after the last week’s action, I’m hooked. Oracle Team USA, the Cup defenders, were in a huge hole, trailing Emirates Team New Zealand by seven races with NZ needing but a single victory to return the cup to Kiwiland. Damned if Oracle hasn’t gone on an epic run, bringing the series even – there’s one race left, and it’s winner takes all. Talk about appointment TV!

One of the more interesting occurances of the weekend was the surprising appearance of shortbill spearfish. By my count, at least 4 of the junior billfish were caught over the weekend, which is as many as you’ll normally see in a decade in our waters. I’m not sure what it all means, but I’d certainly be thrilled to catch one.

Saturday night saw what passed for an awards banquet for the Pesky. If I sound a little less than impressed, it’s not an accident. I’ve mentioned before the challenges that tournaments face in Avalon these days, and they certainly manifested themselves as nearly 150 anglers and guests tried to squeeze into the patio of the Casino Dock Cafe. We’re certainly grateful to Russ Armstrong for doing his best to accomodate us, but the town has really got to do a better job of respecting and honoring its fishing history before its lost …

Anyway, back to the awards. Fresh off his MABT win, the Golden Bagel went to CHIQUELIN’s Shane Hurt for his three releases. He was joined on the podium by his fellow CHICKEN WING angler Shawn Kaus and AGITATOR’s Tony LeBlanc with two releases each. High Boat was obviously CHIQUELIN with seven released marlin, and the gathered masses could do no more than applaud the impressive accomplishment by Captain Mike “Beak” Hurt and his crew.

Of course, the Pesky is knows as much for its after-event frolicking as for its on-water accomplishments. With the loss of so many of the icons of Avalon, including the traditional Pesky hangout Armstrong’s Seafood, there was concern that the annual Passing of the Golden Bagel might be at risk. Thanks to Caleb Lins and the good folks at the Lobster Trap, however, the fish was bagelled and a new tradition begun. Pictures continue to surface, but I’m happy to report that no more damage was done than a few brain cells killed. Check the Pesky website over time to see the best of the worst pics posted.

The Tuna Club has their Hunt tourney next weekend, but for the most part it’s time for the fleet hardcores to head south. The first Cabo San Lucas tournament is only three weeks away, and we’ll be sure to cover the results here. For now, though, there’s still marlin to be caught here. My gut tells me that we still have some time left on this season, and so long as we keep having really warm water (it was running around 73 over the weekend), the fish will remain in the Catalina Bight. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them continue to move north, possibly making an appearance on the banks off the west end of Catalina before it’s all over. And hey – when’s the next time you’ll get a shot at a spearfish?

September 19

Arrrrrr …

Need I say any more? It’s Speak Like A Pirate Day, and the Pre-Pesky edition of the Fishing News!

(cue duck call)

Greetings from the Catalina Jet , as this report is being hacked out mid-channel as I head to Avalon to compete in the 24th Annual Los Pescadores Next To Avalon Invitational Not So Light Tackle Billfish Derby, otherwise shortened to “The Pesky”. That means that the success of this report will hinge on two things – whether my mind works faster than this boat takes to reach Avalon, and how well that iOS7 upgrade I just did to my iPad went …

The Winning Lure

Good news coming out of last night’s Pesky Kickoff in Newport – we’ve got a full field of 30 boats. Nothing like a few marlin flooding into the area to drive up those last-minute entries, I guess. We all know about the outstanding fishing seen south of Pyramid Head last weekend, but it was amazing to listen to some of the folks who had been in the middle of it … “it was like ‘marlin … marlin … swordfish … marlin … hey, is that a tuna?'”. Pretty wild stuff – and it sounds like it’s still going. A number of the boats headed out straight from the Tee Room last night, and more this morning, so if the fish are there, they’ll be found. And remember – one of the few serious rules in the Pesky is that you have to give an accurate GPS location of your hookup, so by noon tomorrow no one will have any excuses.

The theme this year is based on the uber-successful “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and the yearly “bucket o’ crap” reflects. Most notable among the goodies is a special run lure from the good folks at Cousins Lures. The shape looks like their small beeper (sans the circuitry, of course), but it’s the colors that make it special. The head is a special pour to make it look like the famous Red Solo Cup, and the skirt is “duck blind camo”. Given that nine bonus points come for catching a marlin with it – more than for any of the other tricks – I’m betting you’re looking at the winning lure right there … and hopefully on my line …

I’ve got a lot of respect for the folks who fish the Channel Islands Billfish Tournament. A lot of us in Redondo Beach or San Pedro complain about how far we have to go to find the fish, but it’s so far coming dowm from the CI that they practically have to refuel before they can fish. And yet, they get a hearty bunch out every year – this one being no exception. Their five fishing days ran from the 7th through the 11th, and seventeen boats made the run south for a shot at glory. When the dust settled and fuel bills were paid, three boats had released marlin – RUCKUS, TIGHT RIV and HYDROCARBON, with RUCKUS taking top honors. To give you an idea of what these guys go through, one boat reported churning through 257 gallons of diesel during the tourney … ouch!

Our new second home

In our last report, I mentioned the shifting tides in Avalon and the difficulties that it has created for those trying to run fishing events there. Difficulties also create opportunities, though, so I’m happy to report that the traditional Pesky “Passing of the Bagel” – long held at the now-defunct Armstrong’s Seafood – will this year occur at the Lobster Trap. No word yet on if Caleb has a stuffed fish to bagel, or how the watermelon shooters are there, but I guess we’ll find out!

From what I hear, the fish are still out Pyramid cove way, so I expect that to be where most folks will be at lines in tomorrow – us included, I suppose. That other website is reporting as many as three releases for the day, but only DISCO PUNK is confirmed and I can’t say where he was. Doesn’t matter, though – it’s gonna be a fun weekend. Hope to see you out there, or stumble into some of you around town!

8 Years Ago …

September 19, 2005

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year …"

Before you accuse me of channeling Andy Williams, you should know that I’m not talking about Christmas – I’m talking about the Pesky!! I’ve already started building up the aspirin levels in my bloodstream …

Friday and Saturday saw 54 boats representing 9 clubs bomb offshore and brave a nasty south swell to fish in the BAC’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament. The MABT is the premier club event in SoCal, and its team format always attracts the cream of the local billfishing community.

The Friday bite was in relatively unprotected waters below the 289 and outside the 181 Ridge. In spite of the nasty conditions, 20 striped marlin were released. After learning the hard way that Pyramid Cove provides little shelter from a south swell, the fleet was happy to see the seas had calmed for Saturday, when another 12 were released.

The High Club was the Light Tackle Marlin Club with six released marlin totaling 1170 points, followed by the Balboa Angling Club and Los Pescadores. Congratulations to the crews of the winning team boats – WILD BILL, KAWAKAWA, JOKER and PIONEER. High Boat was DONNA C of Los Pescadores with 600 points for 4 releases on 30-lb tackle. The 2005 Master Angler was Brian Schultz, who scored 390 points by releasing marlin on 12 and 20-lb tackle while fishing on WILD BILL.

I’m not the kind of guy to sit down and watch the Emmy Awards. Heck, I can barely watch network TV. But when someone told me today that Marcia Cross was the best looking woman on the red carpet last night, I figured the least I could do was give us a chance to see for ourselves …

Here’s a different kind of exotic sighting – I got a report today of someone releasing a 35-lb spearfish near the 138

Did You Know: Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arr … hand over yer wimmens …

Someone emailed me this weekend to ask why I haven’t been talking about my beloved Florida Marlins. Why? Easy. They’re done … stick a fork in ‘em … it’s over. And this was the team everyone predicted would end the National League East reign of the Atlanta Braves. To quote "the Simpsons" Nelson Muntz, "HA-HA".

I heard there would be moisture moving into the LA Basin from Hurricane Max, but I didn’t believe it until I just walked outside and saw a bolt of lightning. Marlin fishing in the rain – gotta love it!

Speaking of hurricanes (gee – what a smooth segue …), our Katrina Relief auction is continuing, and I am humbled by the response. We’ve had 15 items placed up for bid, and current bids total over $3,600! There’s some pretty cool stuff to bid on, and there’s still time (hint – hint). Of course, we’d be thrilled to have more items placed up as well.

I don’t have any real product to auction off, so let me sweeten the pot this way. Anyone who places an item up for auction between now (Monday night) and the next publishing of this report (Thursday night) for which the retail value is at least $100, I’ll comp your next year’s membership to the MNAC. You can tack on a year to your own membership, or give it as a gift – your call. It’s not much, but it’s something, and maybe it’ll get a fence sitter or two to commit.

Our compatriots in the Gulf Coast may need even more help than planned – Hurricane Rita is beginning to look rather Katrina-like.

Not sure how I feel about this: the next Atlantic storm large enough to be named will be called Hurricane Stan – no kidding. Man, if it’s a big one, I hope it takes a left turn right before New Orleans and wipes out a longline fleet instead …

Today was Day One for the Hatteras Catalina Classic, and if anyone was worried that the bite would wind down, fear not. At lines out, 16 fish had been released and 4 boated. Most of the action remained between the 181 and 289, but the bite seems much more spread out than in the recent events – there was even one fish caught on the Avalon Bank! The "Thanks for Playing Award" goes to the crew of OSPREY, who lost a swordfish after several hours. There’s one more day of fishing, and we should have the results for you on Thursday.

Hey, I’m looking for info from any who knows. The CC doesn’t let released fish compete for the big prizes, but claims that each release angler gets a "major prize". If anyone knows just what the "major prizes" are, email me.

I talked about the Pesky here before. I guess at this point, you either get it, or you don’t. If you do, I’ll see you Wednesday at the kickoff. If you don’t, well, I’d think twice before casting on any tailers this weekend …

Aside from the CC results, the Thursday report will probably be light, since I’m on the 4:05 boat to Avalon. I wonder if they have a Wi-Fi hot spot on the Catalina Jet …