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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!

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