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Archive for September 2014

September 29

The last tournament results of the season, marlin so thick you can walk on them, and a tip of the cap to the Tuna Club – from me, of all people. All of it coming while I was on the road 400 miles from the action. This should be interesting …

(cue theme music)

That’s why they’re called “Striped” …

I’ll confess right up front that this report just might be a little on the thin side. It’s not that the local marlin season is winding down – far from it; it’s just that my brain is numb after a 1200-mile road trip this weekend and I can only string together so many words before I start to spew gibberish. But, it’s 6:30, I’ve gotten all the help I’m going to get, and this thing ain’t gonna write itself, so let’s go!

The Tuna Club held their Hunt Tournament – which I believe is the last marlin event of the season – this weekend. 12 marlin were caught by the fleet, with most of the action coming down on the 302 (more on that piece of water in a moment)

Johnnie Crean had SEA YA down on the 302 for the event, and it was clearly a smart decision. He released a pair of striped marlin – one on the high spot Friday and a second on the north run home – on 20-lb Dacron to take High Angler honors. Carl Lambert was also onboard, and he released a pair as well.

SEA YA’s exploits weren’t enough to take High Boat, however – that went to KELSEY LEE. I know that three of her anglers, Doug Miller and Calen and Chase Offield, each released their part of a bait triple, all on 20# Dacron, also on the 302. That’s only three fish, though, so there must be at least one more in the mix. I’m sure when I get the Release Reports from Chase it’ll all make sense.

The rest of you turn in Release Reports, right, so you can get your catches on the Release Board? Johnnie and Chase do, and look where it got them! Now, I’m not saying that turning in release reports for your fish will bring you luck in your next tournament, but it worked for these two. The data never lies … ;-)

I don’t have all the details, but I believe that JOINT VENTURE had a pair of releases on the 302, and TOTALLY OUTA’ LINE and CHARISMA had at least one. The lone success coming from the north happened on xJEWEL LURE, where Vince Cecere released one off the Slide.

How’s the view from your living room?

I mentioned that I was a bit out of touch with the weekend’s action, having spent the last 72 hours in Central California. As you know, one of my interests in life is architecture, with an emphasis on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and I’ve travelled extensively in the last few years to experience it first hand.

In addition to visiting the properties, I support many of them financially. It was through being a Friend of Fallingwater, the amazing Kaufmann Summer Home in Pennsylvania, that I was presented the opportunity to tour two Wright-designed residences here in California. Given the rarity of such an opportunity, I wasn’t going to miss out – and boy, would I have missed out!

The two houses couldn’t be located any more differently – the photogenic Walker House on a spit of land overlooking the crashing Pacific in Carmel and Fawcett House surrounded by 1,800 acres of agricultural fields near Los Banos – but having been build only four years apart in the mid-1950’s they shared many design features. I would show you Fawcett House, which is clearly the superior house, but the owners specifically forbade the use of any pictures taken on social media. So instead, I’ll just have to share a view from the living room of Walker House – a 180-degree view overlooking churning surf and sea otters that might just be the best residential view on the planet. Why yes – that is the 18th hole at Pebble Beach in the background. Thanks for asking …

Back at the 302, the marlin action wasn’t limited to those fishing the TC event. We received multiple reports from crews that all said the same basic thing – best marlin fishing of my life. How good, you ask? CRUSADER got 5 there in the last week, and COWBOY got 5 and ENCOUNTER 9 … in one day! The marlin are attacking in packs, and even lures hanging from the outriggers of stopped boats are being eaten. It’s like Mag Bay – in our own back yard!.

Goodnight, Mr Sun

One thing you do want to keep in mind if you run for the 302 – it’s technically in Mexican waters. You know just how much the local Federales love to mess with anyone whose paperwork isn’t Bristol and wallet isn’t open …

I mentioned earlier about the Tuna Club and some kudos of which they are deserving. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the TC for years – I love that they are the oldest fishing club in the world and the original source of many of the angling techniques and rules we use today, yet I hate that they abdicated their role as rules makers to live in a past that is in ways as shameful as that of the August National Golf Club. I have listened in frustration as associate members describe the taking of a marlin only because it was required in order to secure full voting membership.

It was therefore with much interest that I learned earlier this year of a change in the qualification requirements, and complete joy that I heard of two members using those new requirements successfully this weekend. By fighting and releasing a marlin on 20-lb Dacron tackle, and successfully tagging the marlin, Vince Cecere and Curtis Woolsey each gained full voting membership in the Tuna Club. SCMO congratulates Vince and Curtis on their achievement, and welcomes the TC to the twenty-first century.

One side note – if you’re a Tuna Club member, you might want to make a note to check out next Thursday’s Fishing News update, where we will be talking about how the IGFA screwed the pooch on the billfish release “rules” and how there could be a role for the TC to step in and clean up the mess …

Tuna? What tuna? I haven’t heard a sound, but I presume they’re still going strong along with the yellowtail and dorado. I did hear several mentions of “bullet tuna“, a species I’m not familiar with. But one more strange species in SoCal doesn’t even get a raised eyebrow from me any more.

That’s all for now. Join us Thursday for an in-depth look at the rights and wrongs of the new release rules and how they’ve had unanticipated consequences on those releasing marlin. We leave you with a shot from a cyber-friend in New York – it’s a beautiful shot of the sun sinking below the Manhattan skyline on the western horizon. Next stop for Mr. Sun – SoCal!

September 25

You’re probably figuring that the tournaments are done, and this being a midweek report, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. And you’d be wrong …

(cue theme music)

Two big smiles

It’s true that with the exception of the Tuna Club’s Hunt Tourney this weekend, the local tournament season has ended. I’ll confess it seems strange not having any of the money tournaments anymore, nor the boats that traditionally only came out for them, but I’d still have to say that the club tourneys did their best to make up for the loss both in terms of angler opportunities and fishing accomplishments. Well done, all you hardworking tournament organizers.

The end of the competition doesn’t mean the end of fishing, of course, and we had some reports trickle in all week. HOOKER was out, as they they have been pretty much every week of marlin season for twenty-five years, and their efforts were rewarded with a pair of released striped marlin for Kathy Ecklund – one yesterday on the 152 on a clone dorado and another today on a black and purple Zuker off the Slide. They did mention that the weather was taking a turn for the worse this afternoon – more on that in a moment.

Another area generating action was the 302, where Rick Maxa (that’s him smiling at left), Doug Kern and Neil Barbour combined for 4 jig strikes and two released marlin. Like many midweek bites, not a lot of folks were in on the action, but those who were there Tuesday and Wednesday scored. Bet I know where the southern fleet will be this weekend, weather pending.

I’ve mentioned the weather twice, and that’s not by accident. So far, all the storms we’ve had to dodge have been from the south, but the first winter storm of the season should roll in this weekend. These storms are important, not just because they present a hazard to those venturing offshore but because of their impact on the fishery. The saying goes that the second storm of the season is the one that shuts down the bite; if that’s the case, we may not have many fishing days left.

In truth, it’s the California Current and it’s various sub currents that ultimately determine how long we’ll continue to see pelagics – and exotic pelagics – in our region. Storms generate waves, but don’t impact currents, so you wouldn’t think that these first few storms would really make a difference. But they certainly seem to, and I’m not going to go against the knowledge of many generations of SoCal marlineers. Get ‘em while you can …

Got yer nose …

In our last report, we mentioned Jeff Clary’s marlin release just 6 miles outside the San Pedro Light, but we didn’t have room to include the picture. Well, we’ve got room today, so here it is – Jeff walking’ the dog on the swim step of xJEWEL LURE. What do you know – another perfectly good picture of a marlin without dragging it in the cockpit. How do they do it … :-/

With tourney season pretty much at an end, this would be a great time to turn in your Release Reports for any billfish you’ve caught. We’re accepting reports for striped marlin, swordfish, spearfish and – amazingly – blue marlin. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, any time we hear about a released billfish we put it on our Release Board. But any time you tell us about your release, we put it on the board and enter you in a drawing for some slick SCMO swag, like the hoodie I’m wearing as we speak. Even if the fish is already on the board, you can claim it by filling out the form, adding any details we’re missing, and stating that you’re claiming your fish in the comments. Next thing you know BAM – there’s a dollar sign by your name! Our goal is to get every released billfish on the board, but we can only do it with your help.

Normally, the end of the local tournament season would spark an exodus of boats from the SoCal Bight south to the warmer waters of Cabo San Lucas. But this hasn’t been a normal tournament year for us, and it certainly won’t be down south, either. By now, we all know the damage done to the region by Hurricane Odile when she slammed into the tip of Baja a few weeks back. The widespread relief efforts have been gratifying (and if you haven’t donated yet, please do), and every day things are looking more and more normal.

I point this out because all the indications we are getting from the organizers over at the Bisbee’s Black and Blue are that the events will take place as usual next month. At this point the airport is still closed and major roads passable only via 4×4, but don’t count out the good people of Los Cabos …

I’ve decided the relatively new billfish release rules and “recommendations” from the IGFA suck and are doing more harm than good. I’ll be writing a lot more about that next Thursday, but if you have an opinion on it, I’d love to hear from you.

Honey, I’m home …

If you were with us last year, you know that I took a week smack dab in the middle of tournament season to go tour Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in Wisconsin. Well, I’m doing it again, sort of. Tomorrow morning around 4AM I hit the road north for a rare opportunity to get a guided tour of two of Wright’s Central California houses – the Fawcett House, set in a Los Banos agricultural field, and the Walker house on the rocks in Carmel – probably Wright’s most photogenic residential property not named Fallingwater (that’s it on the left). With the fishing as hot as it is, you know it takes something pretty special to pull me away from it, but this is definitely it.

You’d think by now there couldn’t possibly be any yellowfin tuna left out there, but there are – and still in big numbers. The 277 was hot over the weekend, and presumably still is, as are the 209 and 302. San Diego boats haven’t had to go any further than the 9-Mile Bank to load up, and while I haven’t heard any more albacore rumors this week, it sounds like the bluefin tuna may have re-entered the mix out on the Cortes Bank. Wahoo and dorado continue to trickle in to the docks, and I’ve even heard that someone has caught some bigeye tuna (although when they started in on explaining how you tell them apart from a yellowfin by bending this fin in that way I just nodded out). Add to that some of the biggest yellowtail anyone has ever seen in years, and you know why everyone is clamoring to get back out on the water.

I was watching one of those David Attenborough “Blue Planet” specials on BBC America a couple of nights ago, and I learned something about one of our local species that came as a complete surprise. We’ve all seen molas before – the big slow sunfish that laze along she surface, slowly waving a fin to move forward or lounging on their sides taking in the warmth of the sun. I’ve also seen them group around kelp paddies and while I never gave it much thought, I certainly never knew why. Now I do …

Turns out that mola – much like marlin and mako and most other open water species in our region – are afflicted with skin parasites. OF course, without opposable thumbs, there’s not much a big slow fish can do, right? Wrong! The mola congregate at the kelp paddies because among the species than hang out there are the lowly Catalina Blue Perch – those same little fish you caught as a kid. The mola will drift alongside the paddy, which serves as a sign to the blue perch to go to work picking off the parasites. The relationship is so trusting, the mola will open their mouths and gill slits and the perch will swim right in to get the most hard to reach invaders. A free meal for the perch and a fresh start for the mola – man, nature is just so amazing!

8 Years Ago …

September 25, 2006

“It’s great to be alive, isn’t it, folks?”

- Ron White

The Pesky is in the rear view mirror, and I can remember the whole thing – which is victory itself. I’ll talk softly for those of you who haven’t reached the far side of your hangovers yet …

Friday and Saturday saw the contesting of the 17th Annual LPNTAINSLTBFT (Los Pescadores Next To Avalon Invitational Not So Light Tackle Billfish Tournament, better known as the Pesky. 48 boats – and a couple of fakes – took to the water under unsettled weather conditions to try and find the marlin which so suddenly disappeared earlier in the week.

Tourney boats honing skills between the money events had found a few fish on the Avalon Bank, and that’s where the few Pesky boats pre-fishing the event concentrated. SCRAMBLER got two of three in a triple hookup, and HOOKER and HAMMER each released one. For HOOKER, I was the angler on a dropback fish – that’s him swimming away at left. For those taking notes, this is what you want to see after you resuscitate the fish – swimming fast, dorsal up. You don’t have that – keep towing.

Friday morning marked the start of the tournament, and with the ceremonial playing of “The Chicken Song” the fishing was on. The fleet was split between the Avalon Bank, the East End, and the 152, and many boats made the circuit between the three. Fish were taken on each, but none had what would pass for a hot bite. At the end of the day, SPRAE IT lead the field with a pair of releases, with PESCAHOLIC, AGITATOR, EXTASEA, SECOND TIME AROUND, HOT SPOT, GERONIMO, TYEE (wearing the bagel at right) and SURVIVOR all releasing a single fish. Best line of the day went to Jerry Austin on GERONIMO, who said he couldn’t bagel the fish since his dog had eaten the bagels – and he was serious.

Saturday morning saw a big change in the weather, with a stiff breeze out of the east that was rumored to become a nor’easter before noon. Fortunately for those anchored in Avalon, that never happened, but the strange weather seemed to send the fish running. Boats seemed to make a rather leisurely start, perhaps because of the proximity of the fish or perhaps a casualty of a night in town. In any case, SHOWDOWN got the day started with a release off Long Point, and many in the fleet slid down the island in the hopes of repeating the feat. It was for naught, however, as the only other fish caught during the day were by HUKILAU on the 277 and JUDY ANN on the Avalon Bank.

In the Pesky, it’s not enough to just catch fish – you gotta take a few extra steps. In this year’s event, the theme was “A Pirate’s Life For Me,” and the VHF emanated with “arrrr”s all day. Points could be accrued – or lost – for the wearing of official tourney garb, making the call to Tournament Control the right way and, of course, the correct placing of the bagel. One obscure bonus point source was the use of a Sevenstrand EAL lure – but only if presented for review to the tourney committee at the banquet … with fresh batteries. No one had ever used that one before, but those points made the difference for Marylin Stephens of EXTA SEA and gave her the title. The lure, of course, was raffled off to the crowd.

Second place went to Jenny Armstrong, fishing on TYEE, who caught her first ever marlin on Friday and lost a second – and potential event winner – on Saturday. “I’m still not able to talk about what happened” she said in her Trip Report. Welcome to the exciting world of lure fishing for marlin, Jenny.

Third place was awarded to Tim Brockaway for his bagelled marlin released from SECOND TIME AROUND. Prizes were awarded to the top ten anglers and, in typical Pesky fashion, when the sixth place angler from SURVIVOR skipped the banquet, his award was raffled off.

The post-tourney celebrations were relatively tame by Pesky standards, but still had their moments. To read about the best of the best – and the worst – check out my MarlinBlog entry, The REAL Pesky Awards.

While a lot of folks nursed post-Pesky hangovers on their cans in Avalon, some people actually caught marlin on Sunday. PESCAHOLIC found one lazing near the Avalon Bank, where it was caught and released by Rob Espinoza. WILD BILL, while not fishing the tourney, was still out and active, and released a marlin near the 14-Mile Bank. And KAWA KAWA, who drew the collar in the tourney, redeemed themselves with a release on the 152.

As usual for the Monday report, I have Monday Night Football going in the background. Tonight is the big return of the Saints to New Orleans, and they’re rolling out the red carpet – U2, Green Day, George H. W. Bush. Tony Kornheiser just gave a great little speech about how before you can rebuilt the buildings, you have to rebuild the symbols. It doesn’t matter if we believe the return of the Saints is important, because the residents of New Orleans believe it’s important. And, Kornheiser said, that’s reason enough for it to be important to us. I’ve given TK grief in the past for his MNF gaffes, but this was good enough to earn him a pass for the rest of the season …

The streets had barely been swept of drunk Peskys before the next event started. Today was the first day of fishing for the Catalina Classic, and 70 boats headed out this morning to give it there best shot. As of 4:30 this afternoon, there had been 11 releases – led by BAD COMPANY with two – and one fish boated. Most of the action continues to be around the Avalon Bank and off the east end, as the tourney fleet searches for the “honey hole”. They’ll get two more chances tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ll have the wrapup on Thursday; keep an eye on the War Room for updates.

That’s it for now. A pretty good tourney season is winding down, and now it’ll be time for the private boater fleet to find the marlin we know are out there somewhere. For me personally, the Pesky probably marks the end of my season, unless I can bum a weekend ride or two from a friend. If it ends now, though, I can’t complain – I got two, which is two more than last year!

September 22

Our season for the ages continues, and I’m running out of superlatives and expletives to describe it. But describe it we must, so onward we go …

Another rarity appears

(cue theme music)

There were several billfish tournaments this weekend, and we’ll get to those in a moment, but the real story of the weekend – as it has been all season – is the continued presence of exotics in our waters. At least three, and probably more, wahoo were landed this weekend by both private boaters and cattle boats. At this rate of capture, they hardly bear mentioning any more. John Noble, fishing in the ILTT on LIVELY ONE, released the first shortbill spearfish seen in our waters this season (that’s it at right). LIVELY ONE doubled down on the exotics Saturday, as they also released what is believed to be a 200-lb-class blue marlin – one of at least five solid blue marlin sighting from the weekend. It’s just amazing stuff, and it keeps getting better.

For the last weekend of the open tournament season, there were three events contested – the Pesky out of Avalon and the ILTT and Charity Heart tournaments out of San Diego. I haven’t heard the results out of the Heart event, but the ILTT was won by OSPREY with a pair of released striped marlin by Wayne Slahor and Jim Konzai. Slahor also took Top Angler honors for his effort. Second place was OLD BLUE followed by LIVELY ONE in third. It sounds like most of the action centered on the 9-Mile Bank.

The theme of this years Pesky, or properly the Los Pescadores Next To Avalon Invitational Not So Light Tackle Billfish Derby, was “Looking for Elvis”, and there was no lack of suspects – I haven’t seen so many bad Elvi since my last trip to Vegas. Fortunately, good as the costumes were, the fishing was even better.

A total of six marlin were released, all striped and all coming from the ridge off the East End of Catalina. Chris Halliday of TURTLE was High Angler with one release that won based on all the bonus points that can be scored. His team also took High Team honors with a pair of releases. Second place angler was Alyson Gillett of BOUNDER with Mike Tikunoff of SOUND INVESTMENT, each with a single marlin release.

Just a little bling

While they didn’t score in the tournament, KEA KAI nonetheless had an eventful weekend. During the Thursday pre-fish, Aaron Grose released a marlin on the 152 that they were able to fit with one of the Great Marlin Race satellite tags – that’s a shot of the tag to the left. On Friday, something big – and presumably blue – hit one of their trolling lines and spooled them in 15 seconds flat – quicker than they could get the boat turned around. I’m telling ya, it’s one of those seasons.

In other billfish news, the first swordfish of the season has finally been caught – but this ain’t your daddy’s swordfish. ANDREYA was trolling home from Avalon Sunday, marlin spread deployed “just in case”. As they passed through the Shipping Lanes, something hits a black and purple lure. Figuring it to be a tuna or small marlin, you can imagine their surprise to find it is … a 34.2-lb swordfish!. The pint-sized prize was in over its head and quickly dispatched, scoring the First Swordfish flag for angler Nate Schill.

Some have questioned the propriety of keeping such a petite swordfish, but I’d remind everyone that unlike marlin, swordfish are a commercially harvested species with no size limit. In the end, it’s the angler’s call, and I’m sure it’ll taste great on the grill. Personally, though, I’d have let it go and forced them to sew me a release flag … ;-)

Off the water this weekend, the AVP beach volleyball tour concluded its season with the AVP Championships on the sand at Huntington Beach. In keeping with a chanpionship mentality, both the mens and womens top seeds were victorious. Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb defeated Tri Bourne and John Hyden while Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Heather Hughes and Whitney Pavlik to complete their perfect season.

Long-time readers of the FN or MarlinBlog know we’re huge fans of the AVP (particularly the womens’ bracket), but it’s disappointing to see the state of the sport now. Just six years ago, the tour consisted of 18 stops, played on stadium courts packed with fans and was riding a wave of new fans from the Olympics. Now, there are only seven events, played on courts surrounded by free bleachers that could hold but a few hundred fans and, as one media outlet pointed out, most of those seats were empty. A sad state of affairs that I hope finds a reversal, as it’s a great sport!

Running north

In the last update we included the results of the Channel Island Billfish Tournament; the release by Andrew Dal Pozzo on HYDROCARBON, shown at right, was part of that event. What makes this marlin important is that it was caught well north of the rest released this year – almost up to Santa Cruz Island. We’ve had years where the warm water ran so far north that the marlin passed the 17 north of Santa Barbara Island and were caught on the Footprint Bank and 153 in the lee of Santa Cruz, and this could certainly be another one.

Remember, while striped marlin enjoy warm water and are still widespread throughout the Catalina Bight, their preference is 68 deg F – warm enough for them, but cool enough for the baitfish they crave. The 68-deg isotherm has already moved far north of us, and there’s every reason to believe the marlin followed it – when was the last time you saw any baitfish out there? We shall see …

I have this terrible feeling that I’m leaving out something important, but my addled brain just does’t remember what it is. And, as the great Vin Scully says, “It’s tiiiime for Dodger baseball!”. If I remember what it is, we’ll cover it Thursday …

September 18

It’s the mobile edition of the SCMO Fishing News, coming to you live from the Commodore Lounge aboard the Catalina Jet, midchannel and headed to Avalon for the Pesky. But fear not – we still have all the good stuff for you …

(cue theme music)

Please dig deep …

We start this update on a somber note. With a few days’ clarity, it’s clear that while the human toll is gratefully small, the physical damage done to the tip of the Baja peninsula by Hurricane Odile is massive. Those who have seen it compare the level of devastation to what was seen in the Gulf Coast after Katrina. It’s clear that the Cabo San Lucas we love will not be herself for a very long time.

It’s true that looting has become a problem across Los Cabos, but it’s also true that good people – locals and foreigners alike – are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work putting the place back together.

Chief among those taking on the fundraising side is Wayne Bisbee, of Bisbee’s Tournaments. Using his existing organization, he was able to quickly set up a donations website, and seeded it with the first $250,000. They’re taking a two-pronged approach to recovery, working to finance new housing while also helping to rebuild the fishing fleet that is so important to that region. I made a $250 donation on behalf of SCMO; I encourage each of you to visit the donation website and do what your heart demands …

Speaking of Bisbee’s, we’re only 4 weeks away from the start of the Bisbee’s events out of Cabo San Lucas. It seems nearly impossible that there could be that much improvement by then, but I wouldn’t bet against Bisbee or the resilient people of CSL …

Just keeps getting weirder

Our friends in the Channel Islands Billfish Tournament wrapped up their 5-day event yesterday. We’d heard that RUCKUS was having a good week and apparently we were right – they took first place in the event with a pair of marlin released on Wednesday. The remaining places went to VALKYRIE, BAD HABIT and HYDROCARBON with one release each. Frankly, with the water as crazy as it’s been, I was hoping these guys would find a raft of fish on the lee of Santa Cruz, but apparently not.

While on the topic of crazy, yes, that is a man on a jetski with an opah. Ben Hyun was trolling for tunas on his specially-modified fishing machine off Dana Point when the fish finder went off. He dropped down a mackerel, hoping to snag a big tuna. Instead, an hour later, up came a 147-lb opah. Just when you think it can’t get any stranger …

Back when I was but a little billfisher, I dreamed of one day owning a boat like my dad. I’d listen to the radio and here the exploits of all those boats with their powerful names … SEAWAY and CUCAMONGAN and ROOSTER and such. As someone interested in Marine Biology, I was particularly attracted to those that used the scientific names of the fish they pursued: “MAKAIRA”, the proud blue marlin; “XIPHIAS”, the strong swordfish; “THUNNUS”, the powerful tuna.

I thought to myself, well, we chase striped marlin … when I get a boat, I’ll use that! Running for my catalog of species I found the scientific name for striped marlin was … tetrapturis. Doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue, does it?

Well, as Ron White would say, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. A few years back, I had the great pleasure of attending the public sessions of the Fourth International Billfish Symposium in Avalon, where I met many of the leading billfish scientists and conservationist. The keynote address at the symposium was a group of scientists presenting DNA findings from billfish and proposing a realignment of the species along genetic lines, a realignment that was subquently adopted.

I mention this because while recently cleaning up the pages in our Fish Facts section, I realized that a number of the scientific names, both genus and species, had changed over time. Among them was the striped marlin – no longer Tetrapturis but now Kajikia. Now there’s a mellifluous name! So while, unlike my brother, I’m no closer to boat ownership than I was in my dreaming days, at least I have a name … ;-)

It’s like the Beatles said …

I got no car, and it’s breakin’ my heart,
But I’ve got a driver, and that’s a start …

Something hot this way comes …

We move forward a bit, and as I’m writing this I’m swinging gently on Can 182 in Avalon Harbor onboard HOOKER. As I said at the outset, I’m here to fish in the 25th edition on the Pesky, and I’m pretty sure I’veve fished in all of them – although, I don’t pretend to remember them all. It’s supposed to blow pretty good to the northwest, putting SBI and the 172 off limits, and our events’ 40-mile range means running south is t s good option, either. No worries, however – TEMPTATION, WHISKEY SAUER and KEA KAI all scored Marlin releases around Catalina this afternoon. Interestingly, the KK Marlin was one of the two marked with sat tags in last weeks MABT. Not sure if it was CHARISMA’s or HOOKED’s, but someone should be very proud of their release talents.

I’ve included the latest SDT, but seriously – do you really need it? Just head offshore – you cam’t possibly go wrong …

2 Years Ago …

September 20, 2012

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

(cue theme music)

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

Walking the ZG winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 15

The weather is hot and the fishing is hotter, and we’ll have all of that in this update of the Fishing News. But first, a little damage control …

(cue theme music)

We’re into the peak of the tournament season, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Before we begin, however, there’s one item I need to take care of.

In our last update, I spoke at length about the proper handling of billfish. To illustrate my point, I used a picture with modifications and comments that, in retrospect, were unnecessarily hurtful and opinionated. I took a lot of heat for it this weekend, mostly justified, and want now to publicly apologize.

What the anglers did was wrong. Pulling a marlin into the cockpit for a pre-release photo is unjustified whether it is here or Cabo or wherever. I stand by that belief, and I have billfish science on my side. It is a hot button item for me, one that I have written about repeatedly in the past. Because this incident happened in our waters, and was compounded by the widespread distribution of the photo, it was an appropriate teachable moment for me to use to help educate the billfish anglers who frequent the site.

But that’s where I should have stopped. It was reasonable for me to say, “this is wrong, this is why, this is what you should do”, but to go beyond that wrong on my part. I should have simply taken the photo and placed a black stripe across the faces. The picture would have stood for itself with no need for any additional commentary on my part, either via the image selected to blur the faces or the statements that I made to accompany them. That additional commentary not only caused a lot of unnecessary drama but undercut the very message I was attempting to make regarding the proper treatment of billfish.

I am neither a PETA supporter nor a tree hugger, but for fifteen years I have worked to educate the thousands of anglers who visit the site on the proper treatment of the resource. Sometimes, I let my enthusiasm for the mission overwhelm my sense of common decency and this was one such case. For that, I sincerely apologize, not only to the three individuals pictured but to anyone – and there were many – who thought I went too far.

With that, let’s move on, and hopefully do a better job in the future.

Dangerous visitor

While we enjoyed a weekend of tournament fishing, our neighbors to the south had a very rough Sunday. Hurricane Odile, a Category 3 storm came ashore right on top of Cabo San Lucas last night. We’re still getting details on the damage, but while it is substantial it doesn’t look unrecoverable. I’ve not heard any reports of deaths or significant injuries yet, but they are inevitable Keep the good people of Baja California Sur in your prayers.

Looking at the 5 Day track, Odile should be a tropical depression somewhere over the northern part of the Sea of Cortez by Friday, when the next round of tournaments kick off. That’s good news, in that we won’t get another repeat of Hurricane Marie and her waves, but we should be seeing an impact to the weather nonetheless. Something to keep an eye on if you’re going to be offshore.

There were two billfish tournaments this weekend, organized by a pair of South Coast fishing clubs. While the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament may have big numbers and big history, it was the Oceanside Anglers Club’s Billfish Tournament where the big news was made. Angler Brent Thalisinos, fishing on REEL NICE N EASY off the East End of Catalina Island, released an estimated 400-lb blue marlin yesterday morning. Yes, blue marlin. We’d been hearing reports that blues were being seen by spotter planes, and with whale sharks, manta rays and even wahoo seen in the SoCal waters, this isn’t a complete shock. What it is, however, is an amazing story – and the tournament winning fish.

See you in six months …

In the MABT, the 49-boat fleet was spread far and wide, from the 172 in the north to the 371 in the south and out to the 43 in the west. Weather conditions were difficult, particularly for the northern fleet, and the marlin fishing was surprisingly pedestrian. The MABT is a light tackle tournament, and in normal year sight fishermen will be throwing mackerel on 12-lb tackle or lighter, hoping to pull in a winning baitfish. But there’s been scant few sight marlin caught this year, leaving the door open for the lure guys to have a shot in the MABT.

In the end, it was one of those sight fishermen, Jock Albright on KEA KAI, who won the event with a baitfish released on 12-kb tackle up at the Osborn Bank. Second place went to Bill Buchanan on POCO LOCO for his 16-lb release, and in third was Rod Halperin of HOOKED with his 20-lb jigfish. Top team for the event was Los Pescadores #1.

The HOOKED release, which is shown at right, is particularly important because it, along with a second marlin released by Brian Fox on CHARISMA, were tagged with popup satellite tags, the first two SoCal fish to take part in the IGFA’s Great Marlin Race. We should hear in about six months where these two fish have been when the tags surface. Stay tuned …

I have a lot more to say, like talking about the Pesky being sold out or the whale shark spotted in SoCal waters, but I just got word that Dave Brackmann is spearheading a relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Odile, and I’ve volunteered to research online crowd funding options. Frankly, that’s a hell of a lot important than this, so I’m signing off now. When we have the plan in place, you can bet that you’ll hear about it.

September 11

It’s a big tournament week and there’s little to report, so you know what that means – a report heavy on editorials and jokes. Since you’ve all heard most of my jokes, prepare for the editorials. If you like that sort of thing, stick around; if not, suck it up – Monday will be here soon enough …

(cue theme music)

I wondered how the fleet would react with the money tournaments a thing of the past – would they still go into stealth mode even though there were only club tournaments to be entered. Well, we got our answer this week, as you’d think the whole bunch had been abducted by aliens. My weekly Info Ping usually gets a dozen or so replies, more if the fishing is hot. This week? Zero … zip … nada.

Chilly SBI

So what exactly do we know? Well, we know the marlin fishing was hot west of Catalina as late as Sunday, and with Norbert swinging east of us through the Valley of the Sun, he had no real effect on the conditions. HOOKER released one marlin this morning on the Osborn Bank, and AGITATOR got one Tuesday and and a pair Wednesday, so there are clearly still fish there. I will say this, however – the water appears to have cooled significantly to the north (if you can call 72.5 cool) while remaining much warmer on the inside. See that lonely dot amongst all the blue? That’s Santa Barbara Island. Now, its still sitting in 71-degree water, plenty warm for marlin, and we know there are still at least some fish there. But with all that warmth inshore, don’t be shocked if the fleet ends up working inner banks – 267, 209, 181, 182

The edible pelagics seem to go on forever, and even all the fishing pressure being brought to bear can’t seem to dent the numbers. Yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and dorado remain the catch of the day. Interestingly, I’ve heard of several catches of hammerhead shark at some of the banks outside of San Diego – one more warm water species making an appearance.

When I first started this website, I was hard core about dead marlin. I was willing to fight for every fish, and if you hung one, you were an asshole – period. With age, a little wisdom and the opportunity to speak to fellow conservationists around the world, my stance has softened considerably. I still don’t like dead marlin, will never celebrate them here, and will never kill one myself, but I recognize that it is the angler’s right to disposition their fish, and a single marlin taken for the table or to win a big tournament isn’t the end of the world.

One area where I haven’t softened is in the proper treatment of the fish by the angler. If you choose to interfere with a marlin’s life by hooking it, and you do not intend to kill it, you have a obligation to return that fish after the battle in as close as possible condition to how you found it. If you are unwilling to do that, you do not have the right to catch the fish; moreover, you and I are going to have a problem.

Once upon a time, we killed marlin without much thought, stacking them on deck like cordwood; eventually, conservation took hold and we started to release some of them. In those early days, there were release practices developed that we later recognized as flawed and discontinued. Unfortunately, I’m starting to see a rise in some of those old, inappropriate behaviors, and believe we need to stop them now before they get a foothold.

Wrong way …

In the picture at left, we see three anglers celebrating their marlin catch. One of them has caught a nice marlin and they’ve pulled it out of the water for a picture to celebrate the moment. Their goal is to release the fish after their moment of glory, and I’m sure their intentions are sincere – but what they’ve most likely done is killed it. This idea of pulling a billfish out of the water for a picture is a behavior that I’m seeing more often, often in places like the media that would lead you to believe that it is acceptable – and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the ultimate alpha species on our planet, we’ve done a very effective job of emptying the seas of fish. I have every confidence that we won’t stop until the last fish is dead, and that’s a shame. But at least sport fishermen realized at some point that killing everything you catch makes no sense – and thus was born the concept of “Catch and Release”.

Now, C & R is a great idea – you get all the angling challenge you’d normally get, and if you take the time to properly revive and release your fish, the amount of skill required by the angler and crew is equal to – possibly even greater than – that required to gaff and land the fish. But there’s a fundamental problem with C & R that the angling community continues to wrestle with – anglers have egos, and egos demand satisfaction.

Most of us who catch big fish don’t pay to have them stuffed, so the only real souvenir we have of the experience are the pictures taken of the fish. If you kill the fish, that’s pretty easy to do – you hang the dead fish on a hook, surround it with the victorious crew, and voilà – instant souvenir. That same challenge becomes more complicated, however, if you choose to release.

A couple of years ago, a new spin on C & R appeared – C-P-R … Catch – Photograph – Release. Much like the backwoods edict “leave only footprints”, the idea was that you would catch your fish, get your photographs, and then carefully release them. Conceptually, that works out well if you’re catching brook trout, but the bigger the fish, the tougher it becomes to get your pictures without doing damage to the fish.

My hunch is that this “cockpit drag” behavior started in Mexico and migrated north. For years, American anglers have enjoyed the marlin-rich waters of Cabo San Lucas; beginners can get the experience of the catch, and experienced anglers can see what it is like to catch great numbers of fish in a day. As conservation grew north of the border, though, more and more anglers grew concerned with the wanton killing of billfish – often just for the free advertising that a stack of dead marlin on the dock might bring – and urged their local crews to release. But the captains still needed that advertising boost, and C-P-R seemed to be perfect – just drag the fish in the boat, snap a couple of shots of glowing fish and angler, and toss it back overboard!

I could quote dozens of scientific papers (and will, if you email me) that describe the catastrophic damage done to a billfish when you lift it out of the water. It should be obvious to anyone who studies the morphology of a billfish, but the elongated height of the bodies means they don’t have the same kind of protection a tuna or shark has for their internal organs – when you hold a billfish out of the water, you are literally crushing their organs with their own body weight. And I’m sure I don’t have to explain to any rational angler the kind of damage done when you drag a 150-lb fish up and over the gunnel.

… and the right way

Somehow, the same behavior that anglers recognized as flawed and worked with their Mexican capitans to eliminate has migrated north. It’s not just the occasional picture like this one – leading angling magazines are including shots like this claiming that the fish was later “released unharmed”. But that’s simply not the case, and this kind of behavior cannot be allowed to be considered acceptable by anyone.

In 2003, I got to release a marlin for the first time, and it was a spectacular experience. The picture of that moment, along with many others, are over in the MarlinNut Galleries. These Fishing News updates are peppered with shots of happy anglers and their releases. Clearly, pictures can be taken. Are they as professional as those of a fish in the cockpit? Usually not – they’re action shots, taken in the heat of the moment. But they insure that the moments you capture aren’t the final moments for the marlin you worked so hard to defeat. They represent the respect you have for your opponent, and your commitment to the resource.

Let me be clear on one thing – I have more respect for an angler who sinks a gaff in a marlin to put it on the table than I do for someone who drags it across the gunnel and crushes its guts for a glamour shot, only to “release” it as the mud dart it will inevitably become.

If you think that it is appropriate to drag a marlin into the cockpit for a picture, knowing the lethal damage it will do, you really need to ask if this is the right place for you. Your ego is clearly more important to you than the safety of the fish, and you need to move on to another sport

As an aside, I’m told it’s now illegal to pull a billfish out of the water for pics and such – $2000 fine!

Late marlin report – CHRISTINA LYNN released a pair today … on the 371. OK, maybe a little bit out of range …

Each year around this time I try to include some thoughts about the 9-11 attacks, particularly when the report comes out on September 11th, as it does today. I’ve written of anger and sorrow, of loss and even triumph. Today, however, I’m going to write about renewal.

I’ve been fortunate enough in the last two years to be able to visit both the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA and Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Very different in style but linked by emotion, I highly recommend you see them if you can. For me, the National September 11 Memorial in New York was particularly powerful. As I wrote about in the MarlinBlog long ago, I collected pictures, videos and stories of the attack, thinking somehow if I could just catalog them it would all make sense. It never did, of course, but it gave me a strong sense of the neighborhood around the World Trade Center, even though I’d never been there. So to actually walk onto the site, and to see the iconic buildings that surround it – notably the World Financial Center and it’s Winter Garden Atrium – brought a strange sense of deja vu.

Gone, never forgotten …

But visiting the memorial does more than force you to look back, although the twin voids of “Reflecting Absence” spectacularly memorialize the loss. There is a real sense of growth, of moving forward present there. You see it in the new Fire Station 10 across the street from the site and in the renovated buildings that survived the disaster and today thrive. And of course, you see it in the new World Trade Center towers, notably the 1776-ft tall “Freedom Tower” which rises defiantly only a few feet away from the northern pool.

And so, we move on. It’s been thirteen years since that dark day – long enough for widows to remarry and children to grow and parents to die. A friend who is a high school teacher remarked that his class of freshmen were only a year old when the towers fell. They don’t know a world before the so-called “War on Terror”.

I’d like to tell you that we’re further along than we are; that we understood why the attacks had happened and had made the changes to insure that they will never be repeated. I’d like to tell you that your children are safer today than in 2001.

But I can’t.

It’s clear that our government does not understand the Middle East, but will not let that stop them from trying to determine the direction of that part of the world. Even now, as we continue to celebrate the seeming downfall of Al-Qaida, we watch a new threat rise in the form of ISIS and their terror beheadings. Someone will one day say enough is enough and pull us out of the region, allowing it to ferment into whatever rotting soup it chooses. But it won’t be this President, and I doubt it will be the next.

OK, 3700 words later and I’m done. The MABT starts tomorrow; we should have results on Monday. We’ll also take one more look ahead at the Pesky and how it will survive the continuing changes in Avalon (like the Marlin Club losing it’s bathrooms to urban renewal … seriously). Until then, tight lines …

6 Years Ago …

September 11, 2008

Can you hear the silence?

Nothing quite as quiet as midweek during tourney season. The club guys are on the beach, shaking their piggy banks and hoping enough change falls out to fish another weekend. The big guns are pre-fishing the next event, and the last thing they’re gonna do is blow radio silence to tell you what they see – usually. More on that in a minute.

We’ve got another long tourney weekend coming up, with two of the big club events followed by a big money showdown. Friday and Saturday, we’ll see the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament, based out of Newport, and the San Diego Marlin Club’s Gene Grimes Memorial Invitational Light Tackle Tournament going head to head – and, most likely, fishing some of the same water. These two tend to bring out the best of the best of the private boater fleet, and with the number of marlin we’ve seen in our waters this season, should really rack up some big numbers.

By the time the club fishermen are back on the beach and digesting their tourney banquet feasts, the big boys will have rolled into Avalon for the next chapter in California Billfish Series, the Zane Grey Invitational. Limited to 40 boats, it’s the only the cream and the fishing should reflect that. Like the recently completed Avalon Billfish Classic, fishing days for the ZG will be Monday and Tuesday. After that, we get a couple of days before starting it all over on Friday with the Pesky … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

During the ABC, the bite was on the backside of Catalina, as it’s been for the last week or so. One statement made last weekend was that the fish had started near the west end of Catalina and were sliding SE at about 5 miles a day. I think that was true until they got around the Farnsworth Bank, but it seems to me that they’ve stalled somewhat and were stacking up between Catalina Canyon and Church Rock. The grid numbers given in the event don’t necessarily paint a real picture of the action, and I’ve heard several people who were working in the same fleet say that by the time it was over most of the action was closer to Church Rock than the actual grids being reported. Blame Pete Grey and his lack of a reporter’s diligence for that one, I guess. The bottom line is that if I was heading out this weekend, that’s probably where I’d start.

You call that SST data??

We all search for information that will help up find the fish, but there’s information and then there’s information. Steve Lassley paid a visit to the Marlin Club earlier today, and provided some amazing insight. He said that he currently knows of a half-dozen large areas of marlin – and if the skies would only clear enough to get a decent SST reading, he’d probably find a lot more. He also mentioned that BAD COMPANY had run out to the Tanner Bank yesterday and had released four marlin – including a real tanker.

Now, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Tanner run was precipitated by the report from the weekend of the party boat PACIFIC STAR, which anchored up on the high spot and had to beat away the marlin. What it should hammer home to all of us is this: when you have the information, can interpret it correctly, and have the resources and desire to make it happen, success is the inevitable result.

Information is a big part of what we do here at SCMO. I like to say that we provide three things for our visitors – news, education and entertainment – but at this time of year, news dominates. Unlike many parts of the world, we have a very limited billfish season – seldom more than three months – and knowing where to go to increase the chances of success is huge. That’s why I push so hard to get people to take advantage of the tools we offer to share information.

But sharing information is a real issue for some people. I am often approached by people whose basic thought is, "Share information? Are you out of your frakking mind?" While I don’t agree with their philosophy, I understand that it is what they believe. So let me talk a little about information, and why you should share it with us.

When you return from your offshore trip, successful or not, there are things that you know that would help the next guy heading out. For example, I was out a couple of weeks back and released a marlin on the back side of Catalina. I know exactly where I released it: 33° 23.08′ N, 118° 35.87′ W. You can plug it straight into your GPS and drive to very spot. But it won’t do you a damned bit of good, because it’s old data, and fish have fins. However, if I as the guy gathering information for this site know that a marlin was released yesterday at 23/35, that’s important because it helps me develop a larger picture of the scene. I know that fish isn’t sitting there waiting for me, but maybe that piece of data – along with many others – will help me predict where the marlin will go next. And that’s the whole idea – to help you have your best shot at success if you were going out tomorrow.

Let’s go back for a minute to your just-completed trip. Maybe you’re that guy who doesn’t want to share his information. To me, you probably fall into one of two categories. You may be that guy who just doesn’t want anyone else to succeed – the poker player who isn’t satisfied winning unless he also sees the other guys at the table lose. If you’re that guy, then there’s probably nothing I can do to reach you and, frankly, I feel sorry for you.

But let’s say your the other guy. You’re not philosophically opposed to sharing, but it doesn’t come natural. You’re OK with people fishing in the general area where you were, but maybe you don’t want them to know your exact spot. Or perhaps you’re OK with the information being out there, but you just don’t want to be identified the source.

No problem. Take a look again at the fish I released. Plot those numbers, and you’ll see they’re right on top of Catalina Canyon offshore from Little Harbor at the 300-fathom curve. I could write that "Stan Ecklund Jr. released a marlin yesterday over Catalina Canyon at 23/35. It was a jig fish that hit a Pakula Lumo Medium Sprocket on the stinger line." Or, I could say "Stan Ecklund Jr. released a jigfish off Cat Harbor." Or, I could say "We have a report that one was released yesterday on the backside of Catalina." How it’s reported is a reflection of the wishes of the reportee. All the time I get snippets of information sent to me with a request to keep some portion out of the report. "This last part is just for you – could you keep it off the site?" – I totally respect that, and will always follow those wishes.

Bottom line? Unless you’re Mr "I Only Win When You Lose", there’s no reason to not file that Trip Report, or submit that photo, or tell us about your released fish. And frankly, if you’re that other guy, you’re just here leaching off the generosity of others, and can leave now. Go on – git! Shoo!

Speaking of the Billfish Release Board, have you seen it lately? Nearly 150 releases – and that doesn’t even count the 28 from Day 2 of the ABC! Leave it to me to roll it out for the season of the decade … :-) On the positive side, we’ve added a custom Release Submission Form to facilitate sending in those releases. Anything we can do to take away your excuses …

They can fill the hole in the ground, but not the one in our hearts.

I know it’s been a long time, and we Americans have the collective attention span of a gnat, but I hope you took a moment to reflect on the meaning of the day. So much has happened in the last seven years, and at the same time so little progress have been made – at Ground Zero and elsewhere in the "Fight On Terror". All we as individuals can do is be supportive of those who put their lives on the line on our behalf – whether in the armed forces or as first responders stateside. May we never face another day like 9/11, and may we never forget the value of the freedoms those who took the planes sought to take from us all.

Based on the feedback we got, we did a pretty good job with our ABC coverage, so we’re going to try it again this weekend, starting with the events tomorrow. Like last time, though, it has to be a collaborative effort if we’re going to succeed – success, of course, being defined as doing a better job than that tackle store site. If you’re near a radio with Ch 65 going, you can email what you hear to stan@marlinnut.com – and don’t be afraid to overwhelm me. On Tuesday, I was getting updates about every 3 minutes from the different sources. If you’re on a boat in the fleet and have an email-equipped phone, you can do the same, or you can text updates to the Fishing News Submission Line at 13106830034. The method is up to you – what’s important is getting the information. We’ll provide periodic updates over in the Marlin Club, and the real-time (or nearly so) info will go out via the Twitter and be viewable at the MarlinTweet page. It should be fun …

September 8

The remnants of Hurricane Norbert are making the southland soggy (although not nearly as wet as Phoenix), but it can’t dampen spirits after another great weekend of local offshore fishing. Stick around and I’ll tell you all about it in this brand-new edition of the SCMO Fishing News …

(cue theme music)

POR VIDA release

If you were on the water this weekend, chances are good you saw some action as the bite was on for pretty much all of the pelagic species. The marlin bite returned to the waters between the west end of Catalina and Santa Barbara Island, with around 20 marlin released in the region. For the tuna fishermen, yellowfin were found in good numbers in several places, while the bluefin continued to be line-scarce and small yellowtail were crowding most kelp paddies.

Friday and Saturday saw a pair of events run out of Avalon, one by the Catalina Island Yacht Club and the other by the King Harbor Marlin Club. Most members of both tourney fleets were up on either the 172 or Osborn Bank, although fish came from as far as the 277 and 43 as well. In the CIYC event, a total of seven marlin were released, 4 by the prolific crew on PARADISE DOT CALM. Their reported position was off the west end, but I have it on good authority (my eyeballs) that they got their three marlin Friday and one Saturday closer to the 172. Among the other boats releasing marlin in the event were BAD DOG II, SASSY CISSY and DIALED IN.

In the KHMC tourney, eight marlin were released, three by RUCKUS (although one was disqualified for too heavy tackle) to give them High Boat honors. The first place angler was Kirk Provin, who got the first release of the tournament on his dad Keith’s POR VIDA. Also releasing marlin in the KHMC event were xJEWEL LURE with two releases and DON PATROL and END OF THE LINE with one released marlin each. That’s Drew Haynes at right spending some quality time with his soon-to-be-released xJEWEL LURE marlin.

Best strategic move of the weekend goes to the crew of xJEWEL LURE, who opted to spend the night Friday at SBI rather than run back to Catalina. Not only did they save fuel, but they were rewarded with one marlin Friday night on the way to the anchorage and a second Saturday morning on the way back out … :-)

Walkin’ the dog …

Outside of the tournament action, PESCADOR had a pair of releases on Thursday – a sleeper caught near the toe of the Boot Bank and another released near the Osborn Bank. BLUE CHIP had one release Saturday off the west end, a jig fish that hit a purple and black lure (can you say “Eye Candy”). Well to the south, SNOOPER had a pair of releases Saturday, one each out of a triple then quad bite. I’m not sure exactly where they were, but I believe it could have been the 182 or 9-Mile Bank.

As I’m writing this update, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is doing what he always does – mow down the opposition. I just don’t understand how anyone can be that good at anything. Here you have a guy who last year won his second Cy Young Award (in a landslide), and all he’s done this year is top it. He’s going to lead the league in ERA for the 4th consecutive year, and probably lead all MLB in wins – despite missing 6 weeks with a back strain after the Australia trip. He’s pretty much a lock to be a unanimous repeat for Cy Young, and there’s serious talk of MVP as well. I’d feel bad for Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, a favorite player of mine, but Kershaw would get my vote. We are watching a Hall of Fame player in the prime of his career, and we should be grateful …

Interestingly enough, Kershaw’s given up 3 earned runs through 8 innings thus far, meaning his 1.70 ERA will actually go up for a change. But when you read how two of those three runs scored, you’ll understand how little help he’s really getting:

R Rivera flied out to center, Y Solarte to third, Y Solarte scored, R Liriano to second on throwing error by center fielder Y Puig. R Liriano to third on throwing error by catcher A Ellis. R Liriano scored on throwing error by shortstop H Ramirez.

23-lbs of yummy!

For those of you keeping score, that would be three errors on one play. He might be the best pitcher on the planet, but they’re not even the best team in SoCal …

We continue to see some of the best fishing for edible pelagics ever in our waters. How amazing is it? One boat left Marina Del Rey at 6:30 AM, heading for the 172, but never made it. They found a paddy 10 miles short, loaded up on 30-lb class yellowfin tuna, and were back in port by 2PM. Crazy.

Most of the marlin boats off of Catalina snagged a couple of YFT on the troll (even your smiling host, it would appear), but the best fishing was to the south. Most of the spots out of San Diego, including the 181, 182 and 209 continue to produce. Further out, the 43 was a solid choice for tuna, but there were also marlin released there as well. The 277 was a parking lot as boats set up their chum lines and whacked the tuna until they were limited out. It’s mostly yellowfin, with a few skipjack and bluefin mixed in. All along the backside of Catalina you could find puddling tuna, little guys around 5-lbs. They’re so cute at that age …

Interesting note of the week – a half-day party boat out of Ensenada snagged an albacore along with all the other varieties. An albacore run is just too much to ask for … or is it?

Quick update: The Dodger game just ended, and the scorer reversed field on the two runs scored in the debacle mentioned above. Kershaw’s corrected line: 8 innings, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 2 walks, 8 strike outs. His new ERA after 24 starts (18 of them wins): 1.67. Un-freaking-believable …

The next tournament on the calendar is the BAC’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament, and we’ll talk more about that on Thursday. Also Thursday is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 Attacks, and we’ll have more to say about that as well. More than a few people are worried that the baddies have destructive plans set for Thursday, plans that we are ill-prepared to deal with. I’m among them … hopefully, circumstances won’t preempt talk of fishing …

September 2

It’s Tuesday evening as I write the beginning of what will become a special double edition of the Fishing News. I already lost one day to the recently completed holiday weekend, and this coming Friday I’ll be fishing the first of two tournaments, meaning I’m on the boat tomorrow morning at 6AM. Since I don’t know for sure just what sort of access I’ll have later in the week, I’m staging things now for one big bonus sized Fishing News.

No JOKERs they – that’s a wahoo!

There was a whole lotta fishing action this weekend, but I have no choice but to cover two catches of note …

You have to sympathize with Eric Kim, because we’ve all been there. He’s out with his friends on JOKER Saturday, and the fishing is hot – yellowfin tuna are hitting the deck. It’s smiles all around – all but Eric, who was 0-for-3 on the big tuna. As they moved from one spot to another, inside and below the 267, they dragged lures – one being a Rapala X-Rap. When the X-Rap went off his friends, figuring it to be a dorado, nodded to Eric, “Take it, dude”.

That’s when a trip Eric would rather not remember became one he’ll never forget. It wasn’t a dorado, and it wasn’t a tuna. It was a wahoo! At the Balboa Angling Club scales, Eric’s prize weighed in at 50.1-lbs. It’s believed to be the first one ever weighed at the BAC, and one of very few ever caught in Southern California waters. Enjoy the moment, JOKER crew – you’ve done something the rest of us likely never will.

A couple of lessons come to mind from this fish. First, assume nothing this year. Clearly, anything that can be caught will be caught in our crazy fall fishery – I’m waiting for the spearfish.

The second lesson is a cautionary tale about the role of social media. Other sites that shall remain nameless blew up Saturday night with the news of this catch, and were completely wrong. You’d have thought from their “reports” that the thing was caught by an ISIS operative. So the lesson is the value of a moderated, digested fishing report in a world full of lightning quick scattershot posts. Good thing you have one right here …

I’ve moaned more than I probably should about not getting in any water time this season. Work, travel and life itself have conspired to keep me on the beach, so when Hurricane Marie caused the cancellation of my first trip last week, I was more than a little irritated. Consolation came in the form of an invite to join my brother in a one-day run on his 24-ft Skipjack SEAHAWK.

Hello, old friend …

We headed for the 152, figuring that while we’d heard of no action there, it was central enough that it would be a good staging point once the radio reports came in. We’d gotten a late start, and by sunrise hadn’t yet reached the high spot. I’m taking full credit for the decision to stop short and drop in the lures, because it was not a half hour later that my outrigger line went off. Before I could establish the fight it was off, but just as quick the other rigger popped. Rick grabbed the rod, figuring like JOKER that was a dorado, but his voice raised two octaves when the marlin made its first jump.

Rick and I are both experienced marlin anglers and crewmen, but we were on a boat that had never even hooked a billfish, and we’d not yet had a chance to discuss roles or where things were. Fortunately, SEAHAWK is a well equipped little fighter, and everything we needed was in reach. Half an hour later, and after a momentary scare with the outdrive, I had the leader in one hand and the bill in the other. I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll repeat it – I like to catch marlin, but I love the experience of releasing them even more. I’m embarrassed to say that the only thing we really messed up in the whole process ws the pictures – we got several of me releasing it, but none of Rick! But, my brother has the skunk off his boat and I got to walk a marlin. All said, a pretty special Sunday.

At this point it’s still early, but I know that among those releasing marlin this weekend were Mike Hansen on KAWAKAWA at the 172, Bruce Collins on MAKAIRA at the 43, and Patrick Tooley on BILLFISH at the 277. I’m aware of release off the Can Dump on Saturday and another off the Palisades, but I don’t have additional details on those yet. More as it comes …

Kate Upton is famous for a lot of things. She’s famous for being “discovered” at a dancing at a sporting event. She’s famous for appearing on multiple covers of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. And now she’s famous for her recently-leaked ability to hand-bra both of her impressive assets while simultaneously flipping a double bird. Kate is one of a large number of celebrities whose iCloud accounts were hacked … allegedly … and the pictures therein spread all over the Internet.

So here’s the one thing I don’t understand … well, two things. The first is why on earth she would be dating Justin Verlander, but I don’t expect there’s a reasonable answer to that. The real thing is why, in such a transparent, insecure world, you would ever allow pictures like that to be taken – you just know that somehow, some way they’ll become public. Of course, having made the stupid decision to take the pictures, please don’t compound it by denying they’re you or making snarky comments, the way Mary Elizabeth Winstead did, only to have it thrown back in her face …

Winstead, via Twitter:”To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.”

Twitter respondant: “”Stop posing nude on camera, dummy. Your husband not know what you look like nude? #LessonLearned”

Mother Nature’s wrath

Learned? I doubt it. But schooled indeed …

We talked earlier about Hurricane Marie and her trail of destruction; Sunday afternoon, I got a chance to see it up close and personal. Returning to Huntington Harbour, we could see that the last 50 or so feet of the southern break wall had been blown out by the waves, and the marker at the end was at a precarious angle. Remember, this is a storm that never came within 500 miles of land. You really don’t want to mess with Mother Nature …

The edible pelagics were once again the story this weekend, and there were far more boats pursuing them than marlin. The bite was so widespread and so wide open that Rick and I were legitimately disappointed that we were unable to back up his marlin with a freezer full of tuna. While there was a lot reported off the East End and down the ridge, most of the action was much further south. Out at the 43, the yellowfin tuna were plentiful and limits were easily had, while closer to the beach there was a nice bite 10 miles off of Oceanside. But truthfully, once again any high spot or kelp was likely holding fish.

I’ll be fishing this weekend in the King Harbor Marlin Club’s annual Marlin Tournament, one of a number of club events that happen in September. Most of the events are run by clubs located in the local marlin area; KHMC’s Redondo Beach home port puts it at the northern edge of the bunch. But there’s one event that sees the plight of the KHMC and think, “How cute” …

The Channel Islands Billfish Tournament will be held for the 44th time from September 13 through 17. The long length of the event is a nod to the distance the combatants must go just to get to the marlin ground, running from Channel Islands Harbor south. Once a strictly swordfish event, the great Ted Naftzger landed a 443-lber in the 1875 edition. Today, marlin is the targeted species, but the competition is no less stiff, as several of the competitors are among the best marlin boats in SoCal. If you’re based out of Channel Islands, or are willing to make the run up for the start, this is the event for you. You can email for more information, or visit the tournament website.

That’s all I’m going to add to this report for now, but assuming I have connectivity Wednesday or Thursday night, I’ll come back and add more. In the meantime, I’ll be posting to the Facebook page and Trip Reporter as applicable, so follow along!

5 Years Ago …

SEptember 3, 2009

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!