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Archive for the ‘2009’ Category.

October 8

We’re playing the waiting game here at the Fishing News … waiting for the season to end. But I can promise you this – it didn’t end today!

This is truly a time of transition. The tournament scene is transitioning from SoCal to Los Cabos, and the first of the big events down there begins next week. Those fishermen who remain behind are in a transition mode as well, as many shift away from marlin to the other fishing opportunities that fall provides – hoopnetting lobster, for example. But there are those who remain on the hunt, searching for that one fish that just might be the last one.

I know where I’d go …

Looking at the temperature charts makes it pretty easy to see where to start. That little storm last week caused the surface temperatures to drop several degrees, and it looks like the water has begun it’s season-ending reverse, with the critical 68-degree isotherm starting to move south. We’re starting to see a definite cutoff warm spot forming, but it remains to be seen if this will be one that effectively traps the fish in the Catalina Bight – it’s still a long way offshore, and there’s colder water near the beach.

Beyond the warm spot, the center of which is just inside the 209, there’s a nice temperature break right at 68-degrees running between San Clemente and Catalina Islands. If there are any fish in the area, you just gotta believe they’re going to be running along that line. It’s a long, luscious break, too, running from the 499 off Cat Harbor all the way down to the 181. Makes a fellow wonder if maybe there’s a La Jolla bite in our future? I’m just sayin’

That said, I can tell you that word reached the Home Office a little while ago that HOOKER released one earlier this evening about a mile off Hamilton Cove. It was a jigfish, hitting everyone’s favorite “don’t leave home without it” lure, a Zuker Bleeding Mackerel. They were actually on their way into the anchorage and were winding the lines in when the fish struck. As Joe Garagiola once said, “Tell your statistics to shut up.” Drive over the fish, and they’ll bite – it’s that easy.

The number of boats ought to pick up this weekend, as the remnants of the fleet hit the water. There is also a tournament for the Dana Anglers this weekend as well, and that ought to add some hot sticks to the mix. If there are fish left out there, they’ll find them – and we’ll tell you about them. The weather reports also say there’s a major storm coming midweek, and while it’s a warm one it could still impact the fishing. Time to get ‘em while you can.

I guess that’s it for now. Monday we’ll have the weekend wrap along with a preview of the upcoming Cabo tourney swing, so you won’t want to miss it!

9 Years Ago …

October 9, 2000

Sometimes, I get it right. I’ll look at the reports, the data, and the history, and I’ll predict where the marlin will go. A couple of times each year, I make the right call and the email reflect the gratitude of happy anglers.

Then, there’s a weekend like this one. I said I thought the fish would head up west, and several people took that statement and ran with it. The marlin did not appear, and the emails were not nearly so complementary.

For what it’s worth, I’m not entirely surprised the marlin did not appear up there. I quite frankly figured the season was over, and winterized all my marlin gear. I even spent the weekend on the beach, catching up wit a lot of long-neglected tasks. So you can imagine my surprise and chagrin when I got a trip report from my father telling me that not only were there marlin being found, but that he had released one over the weekend.

The aforementioned action was on the 267 Sunday. The weather Saturday had been nasty and kept a lot of the fleet in port, but those looking for tuna on Sunday often found marlin as well. Feeders were seen on the 14 Mile Bank and off of Church Rock, but HOOKER, SHOWDOWN and WAIT N SEA all got their fish on or near the 267. To the south MARIE B got a marlin 6 miles out of Mission Bay, but that was the only report we got from down there. For reasons known only to them, ESPADON was working off of San Nicolas Island when they got a swordfish to go. Several hours later, they landed the 210-pounder.

The good news for local fishermen remains the yellowfin tuna. They’re pretty much everywhere you want to look. The hot spots remain the 267 and the 209, which more closely resembled parking lots on Sunday. Further south, the 181 is producing well along with the ridge to the south. There’s two sizes of fish, football sized 6 to 8 pounders and larger fish to 25 lbs. Unfortunately, you don’t know which you’re fishing until you get them. The tuna are hitting most of the standard tuna jigs, but here’s Stan’s tip o’ the week – if you’re looking for the bigger fish, troll marlin lures. The big guys will hit’em and the footballs will leave them alone.

It’s late in the year, and the fishing’s getting tougher. That means its more important than ever that we get your trip reports – whether you catch fish or not. Let us know where you were and what you saw. It just might increase the accuracy of those predictions I make!

October 5

This report is a tale of two days – if you picked the right one you might be happy; if you picked the wrong one you’re probably wet.  It’s late season marlin fishing in SoCal, and we’ve got all the details in this edition of the SCMO Fishing News.

(cue theme music)

Marlin fishing, like all pelagic fisheries, is a cyclic thing – the fish are only here for part of the year.  But during that season, there are segments.  In the beginning, it’s about the search – who will find them where and get that first release.  Then comes the mass of catches as everyone gets out and gets it done.  Next comes tournament season, as the weekenders are replaced by professional club and tournament anglers.

Season ending? Kimberly says no …

We’re in the final stage of the season now, as the days grow shorter and colder, the winds shift from south to north, and the warm water had moved northward reverses course and returns from whence it came – taking the marlin along with it.  We got a good look at the change this weekend, as decidedly fall-like conditions prevailed over the Catalina Bight.

The first hint that change was in the air came with the long-range forecasts issued mid-week.  Small-craft advisories were predicted for the weekend over much of the local waters, and as Friday approached it was upgraded to a gale warning for the waters around Catalina.  A lot of prudent mariners opted out for the weekend, but the lure of the marlin was too much for others and out they went.

When you choose to defy the weather reports, you roll the dice.  Those who went out on Saturday hit their point, and a large fleet worked the numbers north of the 279.  Conditions looked good – “mighty fishy,” as one report put it, but wasn’t until the afternoon that any real action occurred, with bites developing both at the fleet and also out towards the 277 – always someone who wants to find their own fish!  OFFSHORE, HAWK and WILD BILL were among those scoring as the day was ending.

Keeping with the gambling analogy, anyone who thought Sunday would be a repeat of the previous day’s fishing crapped out.  The gale warning was real, and cold winds out of the north quickly trashed the conditions, and many boats were turned back before noon.  While the conditions deteriorated significantly, the bite would seem to have held steady as PROSPECTOR reported getting jigbites in conditions that were barely fishable.  They didn’t stick, which might be just as well …

Common theory states that it’s not the first but the second cold storm to roll through the area that chases off the marlin.  If that’s true, then there should still be a few out there waiting for us … with a little luck, one with my name on it! It’s still early in the week, but my hunch is that the bite out by the 277 wasn’t a fluke and the action is going to continue to move further off shore. Guess we’ll know for sure by the weekend.

OK, that’s a wrap for now.  Not sure how much new information we’ll get between now and Thursday, but if we get it, you’ll get it.  And if you’re one of those lucky ones who opts to sneak out for a little midweek fishing hookey, be sure to tell us all about it!

October 1

As hard as this might be to believe, there are actually people out there who would prefer I skip the philosophical musings and humorous asides and just get to the news. Well, this is your lucky day, Luddites – I’m short on time, patience and creativity. Welcome to the one and only “Just The Facts” edition of the SCMO Fishing News.

The marlin picture is one of change.  With the tourneys behind us – and many of the competitors on the way south – it’s a race to see who can catch what before the season ends.  The inshore bite was pretty good during the week, and several boats made single-day midweek runs out to the 14-Mile Bank and 279 to find success.  There are several good accounts over in the Trip Reporter if you want details.

Meanwhile, the tuna remain close to shore as well, with the 277 being the closest for northern anglers and the 182 for the southern fleet.  Look for the porpoise; you’ll find tuna under many of them.  Getting them to bite is another question.  Further out, the 43 is still good, as are most of the below the border banks for those willing to make the run.

Still waiting for swordfish news … but I suspect we won’t get any until next summer …

The five-day forecast says it’s gonna blow this weekend, and it’s a cold one from the north.  That usually is the beginning of the end of the pelagic season in SoCal.  The battle will soon be on for the last marlin.

There you have it – all news, no filler.  Don’t get too used to it, though, ’cause I think it sucks.  But at least it’ll quiet the critics … until Monday.

September 28

(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 24

What the heck? Yup – it’s an on-the-water version of the SCMO Fishing News! I’m posting this as I pass Avalon, so I gotta type fast before I lose data access. Frakking AT&T …

(Cue theme music – really short version)

I’ve been offshore since yesterday morning , trolling the same waters fished earlier this week by the tourney fleet. Unfortunately, conditions have changed, and so has the bite. It remains to be seen if the marlin have fled the area, taking their cue from the tourney boats headed south to Cabo,

Tuesday, while there were still good numbers in the Classic, it was clear there was a change in the air. Wednesday dawn brought the twin challenges of Santa Ana winds and thick fog which, combined with a much smaller mid-week fleet, translates to less action.

Yesterday, Mark Wisch came one across one on his way home from the Classic, and was able to released it several miles south of the 14-Mile Bank at 18/58. Back at the bite zone outside the 152, HUEVOS hooked one at 13/10, but it wrapped itself in the leader and died. Later, BITE ME released a jigfish at 15/10, taking advantage of an afternoon bite.

Today, there were 8 – 10 boats working along the outer edge of the ridge off the east end of Catalina, mostly between the 152 and the 277. There were a lot of feeder groups seen, but they were too quick to successfully bait. One boat that was successful was HUKILAU, as they got a feeder to bite at 13/10 right at the slack tide, and may have gotten a second later. PESCADOR caught one this afternoon near 17/13, and BIG BLUE reported lots of afternoon tailers north of the 277 at 16/4. There have also been several reports of feeders seen on the 14, but I haven’t heard of any being caught.

One tidbit for our tuna-seeking friends: there’s been quite a few boats catching tuna on the 277 yesterday and today. They’re mostly yellowfin, with some skipjack mixed in (sorry), but they are surprisingly tricky – much of the radio talk has been from frustrated captains tossing bait after bait with no success. There were also a couple of reports of yellowfin being caught this afternoon off Pyramid Head.

We’re almost past the casino, so that’ll have to be it for now. I think I’ll start a fundraising drive this winter to equip the Home Office staff with satphones, but until the we do what we can. I’ll be out until Sunday, so hope to see you out here – and really have some great stories of success to tell on Monday!

September 22

It’s a super-sized, tourney-style, special edition of the SCMO Fishing News!

Oh, who am I kidding – it’s a knock-one-out-quick-between-trips-offshore edition. But who would understand that better than you?

(cue theme music – short version)

Just don’t ask …

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but with today’s completion of the twin Catalina / Avalon Billfish Classics, the SoCal tourney season is officially over. In fact, a certain large lady just finished singing – and with accordian accompaniment, no less. By this time tomorrow, the big players in the tourney fleet will be southbound and down, rolling towards Cabo San Lucas and the next leg of the west coast tourney swing. But before they shove off, let’s take a moment to recap what they did while they were here.

You could certainly argue that one reason to delay this entry until Tuesday is to give everyone’s liver an extra day to stop quivering after the Pesky. The Legend That Is The Los Pescadores Marlin Derby celebrated its twentieth edition over the weekend in style with the largest fleet and most released marlin in the history of the event. With a theme of “Marlin Gras” and a costume that was … interesting … to say the least (see last week’s entry if you don’t believe me), it was going to be epic even if the fish didn’t show up. And man – did they show up!

46 boats headed out on Friday for the first day of fishing, and it didn’t take long for the marlin to be found. The Zane Grey had completed only 48 hours earlier, and many boats were betting that the fish would still be tight to the back side of Catalina along the Palisades. There were some fish to be found, but the real glory hole was down the ridge from the east end on the windward side of the 152. By 9AM Jason Blower had released the first fish of the tourney, fishing on the PACIFIC PIONEER – or, as it was code-named for the event, “FEMA Trailer”. As this was the Pesky, each boat had a code name tied to the Katrina disaster, and you had to follow strict protocol when calling in a fish:

One-Two … you picking me up, Bubba?

Dude … they go on the front … :-)

Derby Control would respond – if you got it right – and request pertinent information regarding the catch, such as what kind of underwear the angler was wearing and what the captain was drinking. The Bonus Point Verification Vessel would insure that the various point-gathering items, such as successfully bageling the fish or wearing the appropriate tourney garb, had been – or not been – completed. Silly as it all sounds, very often the winner of the event is the one who takes the time to understand and accomplish the various point-value tasks.

By the end of Day 1, 24 marlin had been released – not bad for an club event! Steve Shearer of SOUND INVESTMENT … er, “French Quarter” … was the leading angler for the day with a pair of releases. The second day of fishing dawned with flat calm waters on the marlin grounds, making for amazing sight fishing. A number of marlin were caught within a few miles of the end of the island by casting on groups of sleepers, an option available only to those who got there early enough. The day’s bite remained more or less centered in the same place as on Friday (15/14), but there was also a nice late afternoon tailer show around 17/12 – again, an opportunity only available to the few that were present.

When the napkins were all tallied, 46 marlin had been released over the two days. Top Angler was MNAC member Jeff Clary, fishing on MNAC member Warren Gunter’s xJEWEL LURE. Jeff was only paired up with the boat on the Monday before the event, and made the most of the opportunity, winning the tourney with a late Saturday second release that had more bonus points than Day 1 leader Shearer. You gotta read the rules! High boat was MNAC member Bill Hebebrand’s TEMPTATION with three releases.

A happy TEMPTATION crew

Part of the … appeal? … of the Pesky are the Saturday evening events in Avalon, and the tourney participants enjoyed themselves as they moved from the Descanso Beach Club to Armstrong’s Seafood to The Marlin Club. I’m happy to say that most anglers were accounted for after all was said and done, although a number of embarassing moments were captured photographically for posterity. Look for the annual Real Pesky Awards over in the MarlinBlog next week once I return.

Running concurrent with the Pesky – and with much of their fleet mixed together – was the San Diego Marlin Club’s Gene Grimes Invitational Light Tackle Tournament. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find anyone who has the results, including some of the staff at the MC – go figure. I do know that after a slow first day in which only 4 marlin were released, their smaller fleet saw a very successful Saturday. Once I get the numbers, I’ll be sure to pass them along.

The Pesky fleet hadn’t cleared Avalon – hell, some of them probably weren’t even back to the boat – before the kickoff events for the twin Classic tourneys got underway on Sunday. Forced to run concurrent due to schedule constraints, the traditional Catalina Classic was paired with the all-release Avalon Billfish Classic, with fishing on Monday and Tuesday. I could go on at length about these, but it’s too damned late on the night before I’m going fishing, and the final results aren’t available yet anyway. I can say that the release leader was GOOD KARMA with 5 released, and the largest fish boated was a 212.5-lb slob taken by REEL NICE-N-EASY. How that all shakes out with the two tourneys and the money is yet to be seen, but we’ll shake it all out in the Monday edition.

As I alluded to earlier, in a couple of hours I’m headed out for five blissful days of marlin fishing on HOOKER. I can’t remember the last time I got to spend this much time offshore, and I’m looking forward to it. There’s just something about being able to put the mainland out of sight – it’s as if all of the cares of the world are left behind as well. The fact that all this bliss comes right in the middle of a great marlin bite is just a bonus. Hopefully I’ll be able to make up for the one I dumped in the Pesky. Damn … I promised myself I’d get through this without dredging up that bad memory.  It was only the 4th place fish … just don’t get me started on the pint-sized swordfish that would have netted me first …

Because the bite is so close to shore, and we’ll likely be within cell range while fishing or at least at night (AT&T willing), look for On-The-Water updates over in the War Room forum. I’m also working on some tech tricks as well … not going to say just what, but keep an eye on the Fishing News and MarlinBlog while I’m gone …

5 Years Ago …

September 20, 2004

Fritz said it’s be like this …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 17

Smell that? Yup – it’s Pesky weekend here at the Home Office, and that means a quick as-I’m-running-to-catch-the-boat edition of the Fishing News!

Got what it takes to roll like a Pesky?

I’m not going to go on at length about the Los Pescadores Marlin Derby – all you really need to do is search the Fishing News or MarlinBlog for “pesky” or check the pictures at the tourney website to know all you need to know. It’ll have the usual hijinks and cryptic bonus points (this year’s topper: bonus points to anyone catching a marlin with 9 toes, a not to the Legend of Bob Hoose …), plus some pretty damned good fishing. This year’s theme is “Mardi Gras,” so that should only add an additional layer to the potential embarassment – just check out the official angler garb! It’ll be fun, and I’ll be doing nightly posts to the War Room forum to keep you all up to date. What? You don’t have access to the War Room? Hmm … sounds like it’s time for someone to join the MNAC … :-)

The Pesky is the “meat” in tourney sandwich this week, wedged as it is between two slices of money tourney. Next Monday and Tuesday will see the running of the simultaneous events, the Catalina Classic and Avalon Billfish Classic, and this past week included the Zane Grey Invitational. The paired events next week are driven by schedule necessity, but Rod Halperin and the California Billfish Series staff have done all they can to make the best of the bad situation. By running the events concurrently, anglers who might shy away from the Classic, whether for ethical or economic reasons, have the opportunity to experience the pomp and circumstance that surrounds such a prestigious event by fishing in the all-release ABC. From the kickoff at Descanso, to the shotgun start outside Avalon, to the awards dinner at the Casino, they’ll see the best in tourney style – and do it for $200 an angler. A hell of a deal, if you ask me, and I’m ashamed that I couldn’t pull a team together to fish in it. Mark my words – next season, there’ll be a Team MarlinNut …

The field is much larger in the Classic, but they’ll be hard-pressed to meet the action levels of the recently completed Zane Grey. As you might expect, the fleet started working the same basic waters vacated only a day earlier by the MABT / KHMC fleet off of Catalina Canyon. The action started early, and by noon a dozen marlin had been hooked. At the end of Day 1, RUCKUS and the beautiful new C BANDIT were tied for the lead with three releases each.

Dawn on Day 2 saw the fleet begin a migration towards the east end of Catalina as they chased the fish. Now, I don’t know if that means the marlin turned back on themselves or this represents a different “wave” of fish, but the bite was closer to Silver Canyon all day, and relatively tight to the island. The action was hot most of the day, and several boats had huge days. Double hookups were the norm, and Tournament Control was pressed to keep up with the counts. By the time the boats returned to Avalon, EXTA SEA and SCRAMBER has each released six marlin. As there weren’t a lot of fish being boated, it was going to come down to who could have another big day of releases on the final day of fishing.

Day 3 saw the action slide down to the east end proper, and some fish were even caught on the front side of the island. CHASER, manned by a crew new to the boat but definitely familiar with its design, shook off any early tourney jitters and took charge with five releases. It was a slower day than the previous two, but there were still ten marlin released by the time lines out was called.

When the points were tallied, CHASER took the title, with SCRAMBLER in second and EXTA SEA in third. These boats will all be in the Classic and no doubt joined by many more – but will the fish still be there waiting for them?

Go get ‘em, Bob!

I want to take a moment to talk about one of the boats that’s fishing the SoCal tourney trail. Bob and Marylin Stephens and their boat EXTA SEA have been fixtures on the marlin scene for a long time. Bob in particular has taken his share of ribbing over the years, from poor performing hearing aids to mispronunciation of names to the perception that they’re just lucky anglers. This past Tuesday, EXTA SEA was fishing against the best boats SoCal has to offer in the Zane Grey, and they had an awesome day. They released six marlin and had an other DQ’d when it ate two baits, and weighed one in at 195-lbs – huge for our waters. It’s as good a day as you could ask for in our fishery, and put them at the top of the board for the day. It’s worth noting that while other boats were stocked with ringer crews suddenly without a ride (*cough* BADCO on CHASER *cough*), Bob and Marylin did it with friends from the King Harbor Marlin Club. There was nothing lucky about it – just a good plan well executed by a talented crew. Well done, EXTA SEA!

I’m off to the Downtown Long Beach Catalina Express landing to jump on a boat that will eventually allow me to rendezvous with HOOKER. The plan looks something like this: dinner at the Buffalo Nickel, win the Pesky, party at Descanso/Armstrongs/Marlin Club/wherever, try to find the boat. Sounds pretty simple – now let’s see if I can execute. Wish me luck!

9 Years Ago …

September 18, 2000

This report is delayed a bit, since we wanted to bring you the latest from the ongoing Zane Grey tourney. As the bloated Orson Welles might have said (just before the end), “we will post no report before its time.”

Well, leave it to the Peskys to turn off a perfectly fine marlin bite. For the past three weeks, marlin fishing had been red hot in the lee of San Clemente Island. Then the anglers of the Los Pescadores tournament (myself included) arrived on the scene and the fishing shut down. Actually, the causes are more of a natural thing. The remnants of Hurricane Lane generated some particularly nasty swells that made it difficult for even the best to spot and cast to feeding marlin. Combine that with a full moon that made the fish spooky and you end up with only seven fish for forty boats. That left some folks pretty upset – especially those who ran all the way to the Osborn Bank following bogus hookup reports (contributions are being accepted to help pay the fuel bills for REEL LIFE and SPARKLER *grin*) One man who was quite happy with the outcome was our friend Aaron Grose. Aaron, fishing on PELON DOS, maxed out his points by releasing the fish, bagelling it, wearing the skirt, and catching it using a bait from an Offshore tank. The net result of all that craziness was first place honors for himself and High Boat for PELON DOS. Coming in second was Brian Sanford (Double J) fishing on EL SUE„O. In third was Matt Earl with a fish released from FIRST OF THE DAY, otherwise known as the behemoth DONNA C. Congrats to all who survived both the tourney and the after event parties. Just for the record, our top angler did not spend the night in jail, as earlier reported. However, we hear Russ Armstrong would like to speak with him about a particularly nasty stain left on the carpet at his restaraunt … :-)

While the Pesky fleet was busy getting kicked around off San Clemente, others were finding success elsewhere. Friday, renown refrigerator angler Chris Benson released a marlin on the 277 while fishing aboard NO EXCUSES. Steve Bledsoe’s crew repeated the feat the next day fishing off the Dome. Several other marlin were taken on the 277, as well as a pair on the Mackeral Bank. However, the warm water pushing up into the Catalina Channel has chased a lot of the larger bait out of the area, and the marlin are following. Despite great signs (and the aforementioned efforts of messrs. Franklin and Moss), no one has reported seeing marlin off the Osborn or the west end of Catalina, favorite late-season marlin hangouts. It’s just a matter of time …

The Zane Grey tourney is going on as we speak, and the improved weather has made for a dramatic increase in the number of fish caught. Of course, as it was pointed out to me a few minutes ago, it could also be the improved angler talent … :-) Day one saw the fleet working a grid from the middle of San Clemente Island out to the Mackeral Bank. There were 57 fish hooked, 20 boated and 22 released. GENE’S MACHINE was the first day leader with a 225-lb marlin, followed by BAD ATTITUDE at 212 and GOOD KARMA at 202. Of course, good karma should cancel out bad attitude, right! The release division will be tight, since several boats already had multiple releases. We’ll get you the final results as soon as they are available.

I mentioned the negative impact of the warm water on the marlin. Well, it’s had just the opposite effect on the tuna, as huge schools of yellowfin tuna continue to pour into the region. Practically every school of porpoise is carrying tuna with it, as are many of the kelps. Acre-sized patches of water can be found frothing with YFT as they chase the schools of mini anchovies they so love. While a lot of folks have found success, we’ve received a lot of reports of difficulties in getting the fish to bite – particularly those under the porpoise schools. Fishing the school is an art form, and if you’re an expert, we’d like to hear from you over in the Marlin Club. For now, all I can say is chum, chum, chum! The best area remains between the 267 and the 14 Mile Bank, with the region between hot as well. Other areas producing good scores included the 209 and a patch southwest of Church Rock. Unfortunately, the seiners are hitting these guys pretty hard, so I don’t know how long the bite will hold up.

To the south, anglers are finding success on the yellowfin fishing the 425, 371 and 295 spots. There are still albacore being caught outside of the 295, if you’re willing to run that far. So long as you’re down there, be on the lookout for the bigeye tuna being caught just outside of Ensenada on the Lower Finger Bank, among other places. Pete Whitehead and his crew on PETE’S SAKE picked up a 4-pack of the giant tuna on Saturday, with the biggest estimated over 75 pounds. James Bygrave on LUCKY STRIKE did even better, with the three anglers landing 7 tuna ranging from 80 to just under 100 pounds. Those fish were good enough to net them the tuna division championship of the Blue Porpoise Marine Fishoff.

I’m happy to say I made it back from the Pesky in time to appear on Fish Talk Radio Sunday night. I wanted to appear knowledgeable without trying to pass myself off as an expert and, most of all, not make an ass of myself in the process. Hopefully, I succeeded; if you listened, let me know what you think. Thanks to Capt. Ron, Mike, Terry and Wendy for being gracious hosts. Thanks also to my fellow anglers in the Pesky for not calling in and putting me on the spot!

September 14

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

(cue tourney-edition theme music)

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

Patience, little one …

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

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

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

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

Master indeed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 9

A short holiday week – and a shorter tournament week – leads us to a rare Wednesday edition of the SCMO Fishing News. Let’s roll!

By now, you should have long since checked out the Trip Reporter and gotten a good idea of how the fishing went over the Labor Day holiday, but we’ll toss a short recap to those of you who lack any real initiative. The early weekend fishing was back over at San Clemente Island, following the same pack of marlin from the week before. By Friday, they’d moved up to the 499, and WILD BILL had released a pair their on Friday, making it a pretty good starting point for much of the fleet come Saturday. The biggest problem was that the channel between Catalina and Clemente was a real mess, right on the ragged edge of unfishable. Intrepid anglers worked the banks between the islands – the 499, Mackerel Bank and 289 – but more were hooked than released.

Walkin’ the dog

At the same time as the outer fleet was battling the conditions, those working back at Catalina found a nice temperature break that ran down the ridge from the east end of the island towards the 277. Temp breaks usually mean marlin and that was certainly the case this time, as a nice bite broke out on the 277 with scattered catches all the way back to the East End. By the time the long weekend wrapped, there had probably been 25 marlin released by the fleet, with RASTA FISH leading the way with their 4 releases. PROSPECTOR ended up with 2 releases and a third that couldn’t be revived, and JOKER, BOUNER, LEGEND and OFFSHORE each released a pair. FIRST LIGHT, xJEWEL LURE and TEMPTATION were among many boats that scored a single released marlin; that’s the xJEWEL LURE’s fish at left and TEMPTATION’s below.

We’ve got a big tournament weekend coming up, with a couple of club events and the first of the premier money events. Friday and Saturday will see the Balboa Angling Club run their Master Angler Billfish Tournament, and stand by for some amazing light-line billfish action from some of the best in the business. I’m a BAC member but have never fished the MABT; something I need to correct. I tend to steer clear of BAC club politics, but I hear rumblings that the circle hook controversy from a couple of years back popped up again. Personally, I don’t think there’s any reason a leading club tourney like this couldn’t go all circle hook, but hey – it’s just one member’s opinion … :-)

Running against the MABT will be the King Harbor Marlin Club’s annual marlin tourney – in fact, I think there may even be boats fishing both simultaneously. The club’s done a great job at attracting both new members and new anglers, and I think we’re over 60 for this year’s edition. I’m happy to say I’ll be fishing in this one, so if you find yourself wandering the streets of Avalon on Saturday, check the pointy end of the bar at the Marlin Club – I should be somewhere near …

Saturday will see the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge run out of San Diego. With all the great tuna fishing we’ve seen in recent weeks, this year’s edition ought to be a repeat of the great results seen last year. Best of all, proceeds will go to the local chapter of Make-A-Wish, which was able to grant 40 kids wishes with last year’s donation.

Don’t lose the lucky jig!

Come Monday, most of us will have to return to work, but that’s when the serious tournament anglers will step to the fore. The Penn Zane Grey Invitational is the first of the three events in the California Billfish Series, and the fleet will fish for three days. I’m not sure just how we’ll cover the event; last year we used MarlinTweet to send out updates and posted messages over at the Marlin Club; being a one-man operation, and not entirely sure how much time I’m going to have next week, I’d suggest you keep an eye on the forums to see what we come up with.

Tournament season is always one of my favorite times of the year, because it’s time when I get to do something I really love. We all have those things in our lives that make us feel complete, those special passions we pursue just because we can. That’s part of the beauty of being an American – the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it. Not everyone agrees with that idea, however, and eight years ago we received a very visceral reminder of the lengths some people will go to try and defeat our way of life.

Because September 11 falls in the middle of our local marlin season, I always get the opportunity to say a few words about the anniversary. I know it sounds cliche’, but it really doesn’t feel like eight years ago. Think of it this way – kids who had just started high school on that tragic morning are now freshly-minted college graduates. As I look around, it seems that much of the anger has gone, replaced with chest-thumping and rhetoric. I believe that once you forget the pain of an event, you forget its value as well, and I fear that has happened for many people. Somehow, we need to find a way to remember that this was an attack on all of us, and the sacrifice of the thousands on that day, without falling prey to platitudes. I’m just not sure how.

As I’ve mentioned before, I get mixed feelings about 9-11. On one hand, I can remember vividly that day, leaving work early so I could watch the news reports and not believing what I was seeing. I remember being at Armstrong’s Seafood in Avalon the weekend after the attack, surrounded by fellow Pesky anglers, singing the Star Spangled Banner at the top of our lungs (and each in our own key *smile*). And I can remember the third anniversary of the attack, when I caught three marlin off Church Rock – the ultimate exercise of the freedoms those who plotted against us sought to deny us.

No matter what your political leanings might be, take a moment Friday to think of those who perished on that day eight years ago, most for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Think of the passengers on the planes, the office workers in the towers, the firemen in the stairwells. I’ll think of Chad Keller and Ruben Ornedo, coworkers of mine at Boeing in El Segundo who has the misfortune of being on their way home from a business trip. Take a moment to remember, then go out and live your life. The ultimate tribute you can pay to those we lost is to do exactly what you want to do, with no regard to the cowardly and misguided actions by others jealous or afraid of our culture.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering where you should be fishing this weekend. Now, as a tournament competitor, there’s only so much I should probably say about that particular topic, but it’s only Wednesday night and a lot’s gonna happen between now and Friday. I can tell you this much – most of the boats out today were still working the Catalina ridge, and the temperature break everyone was working on the weekend is still there in the SST charts from this morning. As a wise man once said, “Marlin have tails,” but that sounds like a pretty good place to start to me. ‘Nuff said.

Good luck to the many tournament anglers this weekend. Be sure to let us know how you make out, and register your releases – including those caught in tourneys. We’ll get the results from the event organizers, so the fish will make it onto the board, but it only counts for the drawing if you tell us about it!

1 Year Ago …

September 9, 2008

I’m multi-tasking as I write this, reading the incoming texts and emails for tourney flashes, updating the tourney thread over at the Marlin Club, and firing off updates on the temporarily unretired MarlinTweet twitter stream. So, if I sound a little discombobulated, that would be why. Oh, to be on the water …

(cue theme music)

My brain is worn out just trying to get a handle on all the action in the last few days. Clearly, Red Bull and Diet Pepsi Max aren’t going to cut it tonight – I’m going straight to the Shiner Bock …

In honor of my confusion, let’s start with the last stuff first – the Contender Avalon Billfish Classic, which ended just a few hours ago. Despite a paltry entry list (and we should all be ashamed …), you just knew that the cream would rise. And rise it did …

That’s a whole lotta flags.

I’m sure the semi-official results will be out later tonight, and they’ll be available over at the Marlin Club. But you don’t need the results sheet to see who won – just a calculator. With six releases today and another three yesterday, BAD COMPANY rules supreme once again with a winning total of nine released marlin. But while they were clearly the class of the field, they didn’t have it all to themselves as GAMBLER was nipping at their heels right to the end. They had a pair of releases yesterday and five more today – including three in an amazing half-hour of fishing this morning – to take second place in the Pro division. Third place went to RUCKUS – continuing their great fishing that extends back to the Church Mouse – with five releases. I believe PACIFIC EDGE and REEL TIME each ended up with four and REEL NICE AND EASY three, but we’ll wait for the results.

One of the unique elements of this event is the Pro/Am format that allows teams of differing skills – and resources – to compete within their own divisions of the tourney. Yesterday, the teams in the NO FEAR Amateur division were shut out, but that ended quickly this morning as ALY CAT and QUALITY TIME had the first two fish of the day. ALY CAT took the division with a total of three releases, and EXTA SEA and BAD DOG II also released fish today.

It was interesting to follow the action because of the grid callouts – you could get a sense of where the bite was at different points in the event. Yesterday, the released marlin were initially found in the strip between the Avalon and 14-Mile Banks, with the action moving closer to Catalina later in the day. Today, however, there were two distinct fleets working. Most of the boats were on the back side of the island, working similar areas off Salta Verde that the private boat fleet trolled over the weekend. But BAD COMPANY remained on the front side, working towards the Isthmus if the grid calls are to be believed – and you know how that strategy worked out!

I mentioned earlier the disappointment at the low turnout – there were 81 boats in the Church Mouse last week, and there’ll be nearly as many for the Classic later this month. I realize that it’s a relatively new event, and costs more than do the club tourneys, but it’s important to show support for an all-release event, if for no other reason than to send a message to other tourneys. So I’ll make the commitment now – I’m fishing in this event next year, and I’m going to try to do it with a team formed here at SCMO. You heard it here, and can hold me to it. If you’re interested, let me know – especially if you have a boat … :-)

I’ve talked before about just how well things could work if we all just pulled on the same end of the rope once in a while, and today was a perfect example. MNAC member Bill Morris was next to the radio, emailing me radio calls as they happened. Member Jeff Hollman reminded me that the Twitter was still active, so we ran the updates out using that technology. Member James Bygrave was emailing updates from tourney boat ANGEL AND THE BAD MAN – not to mention that great shot of BADCO and GAMBLER. And member Rod Halperin gave us the ultimate insider as Tournament Control for the event. The result was a better, richer coverage than you could find anywhere else – including the corporate web site hired to cover the event or that tackle store site with the radio stream blog.

That’s why I’m always pushing about participation – because great things can happen when we all get involved. Today we felt the excitement of a big money tournament, learned about our sport from the masters, and had a great time along the way. If we use the tools that are available – whether filing Trip Reports, submitting releases for the Billfish Release Board, or sending along your pictures – we all benefit! It’s like the best parts of communism, without the whole jackboot dictator thing.

The ABC was the crown jewel of the tourney weekend, but was far from the only one. At one point on Saturday, there were four separate events using channel 65 as their tourney channel. It was every bit as difficult as it sounds.

MNAC’s Bill Hebebrand released this marlin …

… and MNAC’s Gary Fiamengo skippered this one!

The Tuna Club had back-to-back events, following Thursday’s classic tackle Linen One with their annual benefit tourney Friday and Saturday. TC events tend to bring out the best, and this was no exception. SILVERFISH was the class of the field this year, with a half dozen released marlin. In second place was MNAC’s Warren Gunter and the crew of xJEWEL LURE with three releases.

I had the pleasure of fishing the King Harbor Marlin Club event along with the rest of Team HOOKER. I’d like to tell you that we had a lot of success, but if you’ve already read the Trip Report, then you know that’s a lie. But that’s not to say that others didn’t have the kind of trip we had hoped for.

The High Boat in the event was Bob Stephens’ EXTA SEA with three releases, all on the second day of the event. High Angler was Dara Stotesbury with a pair iof 16-lb jig fish released from husband Greg’s new ride KNOCK DOWN. I’m not sure of the total number of released fish (embarassing, considering I’m on the club’s Board of Directors), but I’m going to say it was around a dozen. Like most of the weekend’s fishing, the best action was around the back side of Catalina, offshore of Salta Verde Point and towards the Mackerel Bank. But there was also solid action on the front side, both down off of Long Point and off the east end of the island.

Congratulations also to Rich Negron, who took Top Angler honors in the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge on Saturday. His winning fish was a 41-lb albacore caught on SEA DUCE ME.

What is it with the tuna this year – don’t they have anywhere to go? In the MAWTC, they just whacked the albacore and yellowfin tuna

We all have bad habits in life. Mine tends to be coming up with my best ideas for the site right in the middle of the marlin season, when I’m at my very busiest. Take the Billfish Release Board, for example – the rapidly-filling BRB, I guess I should call it. What started as a humble attempt to credit those who release a marlin has taken on a life of it’s own, as now several of the local fishing clubs are providing their release info as well as the other sources we have. That’s great, because it helps to paint the most complete picture possible. But remember – if your club tells me about your release, it’ll get on the board. But if you tell me about it, it’ll get you in the drawing – so file that Trip Report or send that email!

September 3

It’s the last holiday weekend of the summer, and the best week of the year to catch a SoCal marlin.  So what are you waiting for?  Oh, yeah – you’re waiting for the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

Running for daylight!

It’s the middle of the week, and the middle of the SoCal tourney calendar, so there’s not a lot of information to pass along.  Most boats are still working the band inside of San Clemente Island between the 289 and the Mackerel Bank.  Several marlin were caught there yesterday and today, with BRAVADO and CRISTINA LYNN among those scoring.  If you haven’t made it out to SCI yet, you can do so vicariously through the shot at right, which one of the pair of marlin released by KNOCK DOWN over the weekend.  The other marlin action has been very much a random, hit-and-miss thing, with the most intriguing report we received was of a marlin caught this morning only 6 miles out of Newport Harbor by a boat headed for the 43 on a tuna trip.

Speaking of tuna, there’s still an amazing tuna run going off on the southern banks.  How epic is it?  Anglers have so much variety that they’re able to target their favorite species, and are getting frustrated when others jump on their hook (“Not another goddamn yellowfin tuna … I want a yellowtail!”).  The north end of the 1010 Trench is a veritable smorgasbord, with albacore, yellowtail and both yellowfin and bluefin tuna being caught.  The 213 sounds like the best place for nice albacore, and the 302, 371 and 425 the best bets for yellowfin tuna.  One problem consistent across  most of the hot spots have been schools of skipjack that jump your baits and force you to relocate.  Most large kelps are holding dorado and yellowtail, and those who’ve drifted down to the 43 from the San Clemente fleet report that’s the case at the 43 as well.  This sounds like a great weekend to fill the freezer for the winter!

I’m not aware of any tournaments running this weekend, so it’s a good last chance to spend some quality time with the family – on or off the water – before we hit the heart of the tourney season.  There will be two or three a week through the end of the month, so this might be your last chance to take a deep breath.  If you’re still looking for an event to fish, may I humbly make a couple of recommendations – the King Harbor Marlin Club Marlin Tournament on the 11th and 12th, and the Pesky on 18th and 19th.  I’ll be fishing both, and can vouch for each being a great event and a fun time.  Tell ‘em I sent you – it won’t get you anything, but maybe the Tourney Chair will pay my tab at the Marlin Club …

Peter’s pride …

We’ve been on something of a themed photo kick here at SCMO lately. Over in the MarlinBlog, our recent eye candy posts have all been water-related, and in the Fishing News we’ve been looking for shots of pretty girls and billfish. I have another example here, with a picture of Katherine Bristow and her blue marlin, tagged and ready for release. If Katherine seems familiar to you, it might be the namesake boat she’s fishing on, KATHERINE B, or her father, Peter Bristow. Peter and both Katherine’s B are enjoying another fine season in the waters around Madeira – if you haven’t been following the story over in the MarlinNut Forums, then you’ve really been missing out!

The mapping process associated with the Marine Life Protection Agency is slowly grinding to its conclusion, and along the way throwing the recreational fisherman under the bus.  I wrote about it today in the MarlinBlog, but if you haven’t been involved in the process, now is the time.

Good news from our friends to the south.  Hurricane Jimena, which at one point was rated a dangerous Category 4 storm, made landfall this week on the Baja peninsula but did limited damage.  The storm passed just west of Cabo San Lucas, but because of its relatively small diameter the winds in town were manageable.  They’re still repairing the damaged roads from last year’s storms, so it’s good to hear they won’t have to start over.

That’s it for now.  No report on Monday – hey, even the Home Office staff gets the holiday off.  After last weekend’s lure debacle I’m not sure I’ll be let back on a boat, but if I get offshore you can look for a Trip Report with all the details.  And if you are fortunate to get on the water this weekend, we’d sure love it if you do the same!  Have a safe and fun Labor Day weekend, everyone!

2 Years Ago …

September 4, 2007

It was a long weekend, but a short trip – stick around and you’ll know why. The holiday’s over and we’re all back at work – and that means a new episode of the SCMO Fishing News!

The weather this weekend was damned hot, and you’d like to think the fishing was just as hot. But you’d be wrong – other than a little flurry of action out of San Diego, the marlin fishing is pretty tame.

By the time you read this, Hurricane Henriette will have come ashore in Cabo San Lucas. As hurricanes go, Henriette is on the small size – barely a Category 1. But even small storms can cause damage and distrupt the fishing. Early reports indicate that there is no significant damage beyond some flooding. Keep your fingers crossed.

Most boats looking to get an early start on the weekend started out Friday pounding the spot off San Onofre that was successful last weekend. But, demonstrating once again why fish have tails, there was nothing to be found – just dead water. There were scattered reports of fish being seen on the Upper 9-Mile Bank and the 178 just north of it, reports that were confirmed when MIRAGE released a pair of marlin on the latter spot. That was enough to attract boats from both the upper and lower fleets, although the only folks finding success there were the San Diego based ones. Lots of fuel was burned by boats out of the northern ports for naught.

We were one of those boats looking off Onofre on Friday, and we got what the rest got – nothing. After realizing the two fish caught on the 178 were talent fish and not indicative of a real “bite” we headed up to Catalina – and ran into some of the nastiest weather I’ve seen in years around the 277. You’d think there’s only so much pounding you can do in a 46-ft Hatteras, but we had anchor chain flying and wheels coming out of the water. That and the lousy fishing were enough to make us call it a trip early on Saturday.

There was a report of one marlin being released on the 209 Saturday, and a boat working a double off of Avalon on Sunday. Unfortunately, they backed over one of the fish (ouch!) although they did get the other. For the most part, though, the northern spots were frighteningly quiet – particularly considering the number of tournaments that will be contested in those waters in the next few weeks.

The holiday Monday was remarkably quiet, which could be attributed to folks heading in early, or maybe the heat. In any case, the only reports were of several San Diego boats scoring on the upper 9-Mile Bank.

The only news from today was of a couple marlin lost on the southern banks, and DONNA C releasing one in the shipping lanes on a Petrolero EAL.

Great line of the weekend: On Saturday, a small powerboat developed a leak down by the 230 Spot in Mexican waters. The VHF crackled with reports of the Coast Guard and various private vessels working together to rescue the crew. The boat, however, was a total loss and was last seen floating bow up.

After the event has completed, someone from Coast Guard Station San Diego got on the private boaters channel to thank everyone for their help, and I quote:

“Thanks for all your help in saving the guy with the hole in his Trojan – his wife is really relieved.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up, folks …

Like any good newsman, I have tools that I use to get the job done. Over the years, the fish have been caught at a lot of different places in SoCal waters – some well known and others not so well known. To keep myself from going crazy, I have a couple of charts on the wall of the Home Office marked up with all of the various named spots that have been referenced in our reports. It’s a good trick you might want to consider as well.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, most of the fishing action lately has been happening to the south, at spots out of San Diego and in waters just south of the border. I have those spots marked as well (that’s the lower chart in the picture), but every once in a while someone comes up with one I’ve never heard of. It happened today, when Jeff Acampora refered to the “101” in a Trip Report. Turns out it’s between the 425 and the Rockpile – and now it has it’s own little flag on the chart!

Tuna fishermen continue to enjoy success both near and far from shore. Out on the Butterfly and Mushroom Banks, anglers are finding good scores of albacore, and they’re even finding some closer to San Clemente Island. The weather out there seems to be turning rougher, though, so we’ll have to wait and see how that impacts the fishing.

If yellowfin are your thing, rejoice – the southern banks are all producing well. The 425, 371 and 390 all seem to be holding, so you can assume those further south are as well. Yellowtail and dorado continue to be found under the kelp paddies, but the combination of fishing pressure and warm water makes finding one to fish quite a difficult chore.

I’ll be fishing the King Harbor Marlin Club Marlin Tournament this weekend with Rob Espinosa on PESCAHOLIC, so no Thursday report. Hopefully, though, we’ll have a great Trip Report come Sunday!