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September 16

"Danger, Will Robinson …"

Our topic this week is "lessons learned". But before we get into the report on tournament action, both past and present, a quick public service announcement from the National Weather Service:

It’s only a fish. It’s not worth getting your ass beat up over … or worse.

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Javier, and right now, he’s a hurricane. By this weekend, he’ll probably only be a tropical depression, but he’s still going to be enough to make a real mess of our waters. The last dot on the picture at left is where he’s supposed to be on Sunday morning, but we all know from the last few weeks in Florida just how inaccurate a science hurricane prediction is. One thing you can guarantee is that there’ll be some nasty swells out of the south very soon.

The lesson to be learned? If you’re going to go out this weekend – and I’m not – keep a close eye on the weather and check in with the weather channel on your VHF at least every couple of hours. That’s particularly important for anyone chasing the marlin out to the Osborn, since there’s damned little protection out there.

What’s that you say, Stan … marlin on the Osborn Bank? But I thought they were off Church Rock??

Time for lesson learned #2 – you gotta be where the fish are to catch the fish. It comes with a pair of corollaries – don’t leave fish to find fish, and don’t fall in love with a patch of water.

As you’ll recall, last weekend there was a pretty awesome marlin bite off Church Rock at Catalina. But by Sunday, it was clear that the fish were on the move. When that happens, the only way you’ll catch the fish is if you figure out where they went.

The early clue was a report from of a marlin being caught on the 499, and that was enough for the experienced captains in the Zane Grey event to know where to go. And since they were where the fish were, they caught the fish – a bunch of them. Or, at least the hot boats did …

When it was all over, the 35-boat fleet had released 42 marlin and boated 5. Among the release leaders (and it was hard to keep up with all of them, so I may be a bit short …) were TRAUMA with 5, C-BANDIT with 4, BAD DOG II with 3, and GAMBLER and AFTER MIDNIGHT (last year’s winner) with two each. The biggest of the weighed fish was a 229-lber caught by NIRVANA.

Most of the action came off the west end of Catalina, as the fish moved from near the 125 at the start of the event on Monday to the Osborn Bank by line’s out on Wednesday. Those boats able to adapt to the moving fish continued to catch them; those that didn’t move didn’t catch.

While I’m never a fan of any event that kills marlin, I do want to recognize the organizers for creating a set of rules that seemed to do as they hoped and minimize the number of undersized fish taken. There was only one marlin taken that was under the 165-lb minimum weight, and even this fish met the 84" minimum fork length. And, fortunately, this year they didn’t cave and lower the weight minimum half way through the event to increase the number of taken fish. Now if they’d just make the point system a little more release-friendly, or – gasp – step up and become a release-only event. Ah, perchance to dream …

While our local weather focus os on the breakup of Hurricane Javier, our friends on the east coast are reeling from his cousin Hurricane Ivan. Sounds like it took three hurricanes to do it, but Florida finally got hit hard, and the panhandle from Tallahassee to the Alabama border got smacked but good. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone in the region and those flooding into the area to help.

People always ask me how I can live in SoCal with the earthquakes and fires. Frankly, I’ll take those random freaks of nature over the regular destruction caused by tornados in the midwest and hurricanes in the east. At least an earthquake is something you don’t know is coming until it gets here …

The tournaments, they just keep a’ coming … Next up are the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament and the Catalina Classic. The MABT is Friday and Saturday, while the Classic starts on Monday.

While I have a certain fondness for the Pesky, the MABT is probably the most prestigious of the SoCal club events. It’s a team event, with three-boat teams fishing for their home clubs and fighting to be the "master angler". Of course, since most of the leading anglers in the area belong to more than one club, the allegiances are a bit tenuous …

If I was on the water this weekend, I think I’d be following one last Lesson Learned: Fish have tails. We don’t know why they’re moving so fast, but they’re definitely moving. Don’t be surprised to find the fish up at the 175 above Santa Barbara Island, or even at the Santa Monica Basin Buoy. And if I was based in Channel Islands, I’d be checking out the south side of Santa Cruz this weekend – Footprint, 153, 48

Since I find myself in the unusual position of being on the beach this weekend, I’ll be depending on you guys more than ever for information. If you catch something, add it to the Release Reports, and even if you don’t file your Trip Report. As for me, I’ll be puttering around the house wondering what might have been. At least my roses will get some much-needed attention …

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