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September 15

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

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

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

So _that’s_ what they look like …

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

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

New Fish Unis?

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

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

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

2 Years Ago …

September 14, 2009

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

(cue tourney-edition theme music)

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

Patience, little one …

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

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

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

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

Master indeed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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