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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!

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