“All good things …”
The days are getting shorter (albeit just) and there’s the beginning of a nip in the air – or is it just a sense of urgency? Whatever the reason, it means one thing – the offshore season is upon us. Of course, with the good comes the bad – it’s time for a fresh season of the SCMO Fishing News … and it’s our last! (dum-dum-DUM)…
(cue theme music)
About that SST chart …
That aroma you smell wafting from the back of your monitor is my creative juices coming back to life as I climb on the digital beast that is the Fishing News for one last rodeo. I never really know what I’ll find when I sit down to make this first entry – will my blog program still be in place and functional (yes); will the various support tools and sites I use to create the reports still work (not entirely, which is why there’s no SST chart tonight), and most important of all – will the magic flow from my fingertips and result in a memorable reading experience for you? We’ll just have to see …
Each year as I try to decide when to launch the new edition, I do a delicate dance. I don’t want to start so early that you have a half-dozen entries that are little more than my wishes for fishes and bad jokes, but I certainly don’t want to delay so long I miss the first marlin. This year I’d have to say I nailed it, as the first marlin is yet to be seen but there are edible pelagics there for the taking.
No more milk runs to the Tuna Pens …
On the tuna front, we have to start with a piece of shocking news. On Monday, the Mexican government’s National Aquaculture and Fishing Commission (CONAPESCA) announced that, effective immediately, all capture of bluefin tuna in Mexican waters is prohibited through the end of 2014. Frankly, I and others thought this was a joke at first, but several knowledgable individuals (as well as the CONAPESCA web site) have confirmed that this is indeed the new policy. No word on whether it was American boats camping out at the Tuna Pens or commercials raping the resource that triggered the change. We’ll stay on top of the story, however, and bring you what we find.
The good news is that courtesy of our old friend El Niño, you don’t have to run to Mexico for tuna! There have been bluefin caught out at the 43, and both bluefin and yellowfin tuna taken at the 209. The yellowfin are on the small size, but some of the bluefin have been topping 60-lbs. Most public fishing info sources are glutted with reports of private boaters and single day party boats finding success at the Tuna Pens and other Mexican high spots; the closure of those areas is likely to lead to a significant increase on the pressure put on north of the border spots – get ‘em while you can.
The reports I’ve received indicate that there’s not a huge concentration of tuna in any one place, but that if you check floating structure or look for birds, you’re liable to find them. Unfortunately, seeing them doesn’t guarantee you’ll get them, as they’re being typically picky. Put in your time and troll the lucky plug and you should score, though.
On the other pelagic fronts, kelps are holding yellowtail pretty much everywhere and unlike the BFT, these ones bite. No significant dorado reports yet, but that’s due to change. If you’re not quite ready to head offshore, it’s worth noting that there’s been a solid barracuda bite off San Onofre – great opportunity to plug the smoker!
This guy is retiring too, but his parting gifts are a lot better …
As I alluded to at the outset, this is in fact the final season for the Fishing News here at SCMO. To be honest, there wasn’t even supposed to be Fishing News this season – I was perfectly happy to just let it fade from memory after the completion of last year’s run. But I was convinced – or is it shamed – into one last farewell season.
There are in fact legitimate reasons to step aside at this time. The first is age. SCMO evolved from a class project when I went back to college in the ’90s, and it’s had a good run. But as a letter from the HR department at my employer recently reminded me, I’ve reached the age where I can now retire should I so choose. I’m only 55, and I like to see myself at the 2/3 pole of my life, but I have interests beyond fishing – interests I’d like to have the time to explore, which you can’t do when you’re chained to a twice-weekly report.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I’m a fan of architecture, and particularly the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. During the past two off-seasons, I’ve visited over 100 Wright-designed structures all over the country. As I continue to study and learn, I find myself wanting to become the same kind of scholar on this topic that I have on billfish and billfish conservation, a commitment that is incompatible with the kind of effort these reports demand.
Perhaps the biggest reason that this is a good time to stop, though, is that I genuinely believe we are witnessing the end of the local marlin fishery. I’ve always said that had the pioneering fishermen of the Tuna Club not invented the tackle and techniques needed to subdue the first pelagic giants, marlin fishing would be no more than a curiosity in SoCal. We’ve never seen the kinds of numbers other fishing grounds have, and decades of steadily declining catch counts have only exacerbated the issue. The three professional marlin tournaments run in the region all ceased operations last year, and the once fisherman-friendly town of Avalon has become openly antagonistic to tournaments as they instead the well-heeled wine-and-cheese clientele. Combine that with an economy that continues to drive boat owners out of the market, and you begin to see the challenge. There will always be marlin off Southern California, but I fear the days of the dedicated marlin fisherman are numbered …
So, we saddle up and head into the ring one last time. Maybe we’ll have a comeback year and the Fishing News can go out on a high note, or maybe we’ll chronicle the end of marlin days. Either way, you’ll get my best right up until the final word is committed to screen.
As far as billfish reports go, well … nothing, actually. We’re in that early stage when a lot of well-meaning people think they see marlin or swordfish, but it’s probably something else. This is a good time to remind folks, however, of the resources available to you just in case you do see one – or release one!
Sunday night will see the season’s first edition of the Info Ping, our email blast. We’ll include any tidbits we’ve received from the weekend, but the main purpose is to prompt you to report in what you might have seen were you offshore during the weekend. In a competitive marketplace, the IP reports have been invaluable in providing information you can’t find anywhere else for us to add to the Fishing News. The beauty of the IP is that all you have to do is hit “reply” and type out the details of your adventure; old schoolers can still use the Trip Reporter to file their reports. If you aren’t on the IP mailing list, or your email address has changes, send your current email addy to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and we’ll add you to the process.
Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to release a billfish this season, we certainly want to give you the recognition you deserve. This season marks the seventh year for our Release Board, where anglers and skippers can display the details of their billfish releases. There’s also a chance for those whose fish hit the board to win some sweet SCMO swag; all the details are available here.
Facebook is all a-twitter with their “Throwback Thursday” posts, but we invented that long before with our “Years Ago” feature. For our first look astern, we go back 10 years and see a triad of faded icons – Lance Armstrong, SCMO Eye Candy and my big mouth. Ah, the times they truly are a-changin’ …
10 Years Ago …
July 19, 2004
He’s baaaaack …
I’m back at work, having returned from my self-imposed “time-out” a little early. Hey, there was just too much going on!
While I certainly didn’t deserve it, I was showered by nice sentiments in the last week. Thanks to each of you who took the time to post your comments or send an email, even the guy who said I was acting like a cross between a diva and a martyr …
I was able to use the time away for productive reflection, and I believe both I and our visitors will benefit. So now, back to the show!
Even though I was gone, you shouldn’t have been, so you should already know that the first striped marlin of the season was released Friday night by Jason Blower fishing onboard father Mike’s PACIFIC PIONEER. The fish, a bait fish caught on 20-lb test, was hooked on the inside of San Clemente Island off the Dome. Just in case you want to see if the fish is still there, here are the numbers: 32 deg 53.338 min by 118 deg 23.105 min. Hey, when we give numbers, we give numbers!
SCMO veteran Bob Hoose, who along with Jason owns the PROSPECTOR, reports that Jason’s reward for the fish was a gift of the casting outfit he caught the fish on. Bob hopes to put it to good use in the next few weeks as more marlin flood into the region. Looks like we picked the wrong weekend to be on the beach, eh Bob?
As you might imagine, we’re getting a lot of marlin reports, some more reliable than others. Probably the most interesting was word that someone had lost a marlin Saturday off the Head – even if they caught it in their own mind. Apparently, this unnamed boat was checking out a kelp paddy for dorado when they hooked a marlin. My report indicated that they intended to keep the fish, but that after getting a hand on the leader the fish was lost in the running gear. There was chatter on the radio that this should be considered a released fish, but as we all should know, you must declare your intention early in the fight. So sorry … thanks for playing.
One nice thing that happened while I was away from the keyboard is that the cloudiness that has enveloped the coastline the last few weeks seems to have broken, letting us run some good SST charts. I’ve been able to generate good data for three days in a row, which must be some kind of record.
Another thing I remember before I left was that Lance Armstrong was 9 minutes back in the Tour de France and people were starting to talk. Well, they ain’t talking anymore! After back to back days of kicking the backside of the field up two brutal Pyrenean summits, my boy Lance is within 22 seconds of the leader and has dashed the hopes of all but a handful of his rivals. By this time tomorrow, he should be in the maillot jaune – this time for good. See you next Sunday on the Champs Elysees, Lance!
I got a followup message from George Landrum of Fly Hooker Sportfishing in Cabo regarding the 1,110-lb black marlin reported caught at Palmilla a few weeks back. “These scales (Palmilla, Playita and Cabo) are not certified, and most times are not even close to accurate. Here in Cabo a tuna weighed 122-lb at the hanging scale and 2 hours later 87-lb at a certified (semi) butcher scale,” said Landrum in his message. “I have not caught a grander myself but have angled and lost one, have captained on several and have seen a few up close and personal at the docks and scales, and I believe that this fish is in the area of 700 – 800-lbs.” That’s pretty much in line with what most of our SCMO experts has said upon seeing the fish. Of course, it’d look a lot bigger if it was still in the water …
For those of you who just aren’t ready for the torture that is our local marlin season, things are not looking good. The northern albacore bite has tailed off, and several boats spent the weekend making the Great Circle Route – 381 to Dumping Grounds to Mushroom to Butterfly – for nada. Similarly, we haven’t heard too much about the swordfish, although the boats have been working inside of San Clemente – it was a swordfish boat that tipped PACIFIC PIONEER about the marlin they subsequently released. There is talk of dorado under the paddies, but I’ve yet to see it.
If you were afraid that my week of reflection might somehow radically change me, fear not. I still favor biting humor, and I still appreciate beautiful women. This week’s example: Summer Sanders – 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist (200-m butterfly), TV host, smokin’ hot mama. Gotta love those swimmer’s shoulders … sigh …
Now that Jason Blower has taken local honors for the first released marlin of the season, this is a good time to talk about our SCMO Feature O’ The Week – the Online Gamefish Release Reporting System, or OGRRS for short. OGRRS was developed a couple of seasons ago out of my desire to provide some kind of recognition for those who choose to release their marlin that would mimic the catch boards you see in the various weigh-in stations. Anglers can register their fish, providing the pertinent details, and they’ll be entered into our system and displayed for all to see.
The best part of our OGRRS board has been how many worldwide fish have been registered. Our hope is that others will see the released fish, be suitably impressed, and choose to release their next billfish. By providing recognition for the released fish, recognition that otherwise would not be given, OGRRS serves as a positive reinforcement for conservation. If you are fortunate enough to release a marlin this season, take the time to register it with OGRRS, and tell those you know to do so. Anyone can register – you do not need to be a member. If we get enough participation, our goal is to develop a release certificate that can be presented to the anglers.
The Online Gamefish Release Reporting System can be accessed using the “Release Reports” button on the lefthand navigation bar.
OK, that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll be on the water this weekend, but I’ll be here on Thursday with my best guess … er, scientific prediction on where to try. Until then, be good to each other!