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August 11, 2014

August 11

I had this whole post worked out in my head – the tag lines, the jokes, the breaks, everything. All I had to do was write it down.

And then Robin Williams killed himself.

(cue theme music)

Goodnight, funny man …

People die all the time. Sometimes it’s tragic, like Kevin Webb Jr., who was struck by another dirt track racer Saturday night. Sometimes it’s touching, like James Garner, who passed peacefully at 86 after a long and fruitful life. But how do you explain this? Williams was a youthful 63 and still at the peak of his game. From Mork to Mrs Doubtfire, there was little he couldn’t do and nothing he wouldn’t try. He was the most fearless comedian, the most fearless artist you will ever know.

But, like so many before him, that which drove him to creativity drove him to insanity as well. All too often, the line between the two is blurred. When you spend that much time staring over the edge, it must be tempting to just let go and see what happens, and apparently that’s what Robin did.

Robin Williams was an icon and, to me, an idol. I, too, try to survive with my wits and my humor, and Robin made it OK to take chances and say things and risk failure. I cannot imagine the person I would be if I had not allowed him to influence me the way he did.

I was too young when Jim Morrison died to truly appreciate what we had lost, but I discovered his music in college and can remember being profoundly angry at him for depriving me and so many others of the art he never had a chance to create. I cannot help but feel a similar anger, but it is washed away by the sadness.

Wherever you land, Robin, I hope it’s soft. Thank you for a lifetime of entertainment and wicked laughter …

I know there are some of you who come here for more than just news, who enjoy my humor or the tangents I go off on periodically, and I thank you for that. But I also have to apologize, because I don’t think there will be much of either tonight … there is simply no joy left in my heart. There is news to get to, though, so let’s do that.

xJEWEL LURE’s Laundry out to dry

We figured that the Tuna Club fleet finding marlin near the West End of Catalina would bring a lot more fishing pressure on the area this weekend and we were right. While the fleet wasn’t huge, it was talented, and the additions to the Release Board can attest to it. From East End to West End, the back side of Catalina was the place to be.

Friday saw Mike Elias of ACE HI release a jig fish off the East End, but the pace picked on Saturday. Warren Gunter Sr. of xJEWEL LURE got his first release of the season Saturday morning 9 miles out of Cat Harbor on a course to the 499, only to be trumped by PACIFIC PIONEER and their two Saturday releases – one for Paul Hoofe off the V’s near the east end and the other for Patty Blower near the 125 off the West End. I believe TAPPED OUT also released one, but I have no details.

Sunday saw both PACIFIC PIONEER and xJEWEL LURE releasing one more marlin each – PP’s Jason Blower and xJL’s Jeff Clary with the angling honors. Both were from the 125. The action is continuing today, as I believe CHARISMA has a release, and I know HOOKER does – Kathy Ecklund with a jigfish just inside the 125. I’m sure we’ll have more details on today’s action Thursday.

I’m sorry I don’t have more for you, but this is all I can give you right now. Take the time you might otherwise have used reading a longer update and use it to say a prayer for Robin Williams’ kids and family or, better yet, reach out to someone you know who is in a dark place and just let them know you are there and you care. We all know someone …

August 7, 2014

August 7

Pardon me if I start to sound like a cooking show, but tonight’s report is gonna taste a whole lot like slumgullion – you won’t think there’s much there, but you’ll be full when you’re through. So pull on the the old feedbag and enjoy the midweek edition of the SCMO Fishing News …

(cue tasty theme music)

I’ve got a whole lot of little stuff this week, so I’m just going to dump it out stream-of-consciousness style. Those of you who remember the MarlinBlog fondly will appreciate it. The rest of you have been warned …

Seeing triple …

Not a lot of fishing reports coming our way, but it was pretty snotty the last few days and you have to figure that’s playing a role. It sounds like the tuna bite goes on more or less unabated, with a wide variety of spots continuing to spit out yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, yellowtail and dorado. The one marlin report we received was from OSPREY, who released one yesterday outside the 9-Mile Bank.

Speaking of marlin – the first update to the 2014 Billfish Release Board was made earlier today. Five releases are on the board, with two claimed. For those who don’t know, we put all released marlin on the board, but if you report it to us directly, or take the time to update any missing information, we’ll enter you in a season’s end drawing for SCMO swag. One in ten releases are winners …

The same weather that kicked up the waves blew out the SST charts as well, so I won’t waste your time with that.

If you’ve been following these reports for any time, you know that the Home Office staff loves us some opah. Heck, just do a search for it and see! I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they rare or freakish or no one really knows how to target them – or a combination of the three – but we always smile when an opah catch report crosses our desk.

So just imagine the rise it got when this picture arrived. Taken on the rail of the long-range charter boat EXCEL, it’s three opah – 151-, 180- and 124-lbs, respectively. As amazing as this story is, it gets even better – while fishing down at San Martin, the EXCEL anglers had 5 opah on the hook simultaneously. You could enjoy a lifetime of fishing and never see that again.

As interesting as the opah story is, there’s a compelling social media twist to it as well. Back on August 1st, the EXCEL crew posted the picture to their Facebook page. They have 21,000 people who like their page, which isn’t bad, but managed to get over 8.500 of them to like the picture and another 2,300 to share it. Given the draconian way Facebook controls who sees what these days, that’s amazing.

You have the power …

“Facebook controls what I see? What do you mean??”, I see you ask. Because you’re reading this, I can make two assumptions about you – you like fishing and you came here via Facebook. Over on the evil F-word, we have over 1,200 people who like the SCMO page. You’d think that means that when I crank out an update like this, those 1,200 people would see it on their News Feed … and you’d be wrong. No, FB has their proprietary algorithms that look at a number of factors in the post and determine what percentage of those who like the page will actually see the post. For us, it ranges from 100 to 400, depending on how many of the magic buttons we hit.

Of course, Facebook is more than happy to share my post far and wide if I will only “boost” it – FB-speak for pay them blood money to tweak the formula. So, with each Fishing News update, I slip them a twenty and magically I appear on 7,000 news feeds. Somewhat shameful for a site that’s “always free, and always will be.” But they’re a business, and businesses need to turn something that resembles a profit, so they get you hooked with the free stuff and once they have their hooks in you, start looking for your dollars.

Which brings us back to the EXCEL opah pic. How do you get anything you post to get that sort of penetration? Certainly not with money – but with participation. When those eyeballs that are shown an item tell their fingers to do something about it, it alters the algorithm. So, when we post something you like, you have the power to help it get seen. Hit the “Like” button, leave a “Comment” and, most importantly, “Share” it with your friends. Like that old shampoo commercial where one person tells two people, who tell two people, and so on, you have far more power to help us spread the good word than even money can. I thank you in advance for any help you choose to provide.

Seriously – who can say no to him?

On Monday, we reported the results of the HIBT, but the end of the tournament wasn’t the end of the story. Since 2011, the tourney has partnered with Stanford University to create The Great Marlin Race, in which marlin tagged with electronic tags are tracked over time to see where they go. After joining forces with the IGFA last year, the GMR has been expanded to include other events and other species – and that includes this years Master Angler Billfish Tournament. The sponsoring Balboa Angling Club is looking for donations to fund the electronic tags, and has turned to social media to help. They’re hoping to raise $9,000 to purchase two tags and are using the Crowdrise online fundraising site to help draw in sponsors. They’re currently about one-third of the way to their goal – if you’d like to help, please visit the MABT fundraising site, or you can visit the IGFA’s GMR page to learn more about the event.

So long as you have your wallet out anyway …

The drought has hit all of California pretty hard, but nowhere harder than Catalina Island. It may be surrounded by water, but every drop used for drinking must be produced on the island or tanked in. That creates a problem for the 3,000 thirsty residents of the island – among them, the famous herd of bison. Normally, these former big-screen extras are on their own to forage for food and water, but this year the Catalina Island Conservancy, the organization tasked with managing the wild portions of the island, have been providing food and water to the bison. This isn’t cheap, as you might imagine, and they’re hoping that like-minded individuals might be willing to donate and help defray the costs. Please visit their Bison Project page to learn more and make a donation.

I’ve run out of space and breath and haven’t even talked about this weekend’s Manhattan Beach Open beach volleyball tournament. I’ll probably have something to say about that, but I’ll definitely have both the results of the ongoing White Marlin Open and the weekend wrap-up when we meet again on Monday. See you there!

2 Years Ago …

August 9, 2012

Worried that there’d be a midweek lull? Hardly. We have fishing news of the very best kind, along with a look to what should be a crowded fishing weekend and my take on the best parts of the Olympics. Stick around and join us, won’t you?

(cue enthusiastic theme music)

Follow the yellow brick … er, thermocline …

The weather has been the story this week, with temperatures in the Los Angeles Basin topping 100 degrees in many places. On the water, that’s meant calm and balmy days, once the morning fog burns off. The chatter makes it sound like there’s a few boats working in the Catalina Bight, but they like the marlin are scattered. In fact, we didn’t hear of anyone having any success until our own HOOKER got the job done just before noon today. They were working northwest of the 267 at 19/50 when a marlin came up in the jig spread. It was interested, but not enough to take one, so Kathy Ecklund dropped back a mackerel and got it’s attention. As I said to my dad later, it’s just like riding a bicycle – you remember what to do. It’s the first release for the King Harbor Marlin Club, and one of the first for the region – but you can bet far from the last.

You’ve heard me talk many times about the “marlin freeway” and how any successful SoCal offshore season depends on a solid, consistent band of warm water from the south. Well, the skies cleared long enough to get a decent SST picture and lookie what we have here – a freeway wide enough to drive a fleet through. Any wonder they’re catching marlin on the 267?

If you’ve been watching any of the coverage, then you know it’s been a great Olympics for Team USA, particularly for womens team sports. Now I could talk about the gymnastics team winning a team gold or the soccer team avenging their World Cup loss to Japan or the water polo team winning the gold medal for the first time ever. But we both know that around the Home Office, there’s only one sport and one team that matters

When Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings last graced the Olympic beach volleyball sands, they were playing slap-and-tickle with President Bush and winning their second consecutive gold medal at the Beijing Games four years ago. Life has not been easy for the beach’s most successful team the last few years, however. Taking time off to start families, Kerri gave birth to a pair of boys while Misty’s plans were derailed by a torn Achilles tendon suffered on “Dancing With The Stars”. Kerri returned to the tour with a new partner only to have the AVP implode, leaving teams forced to compete overseas for the points necessary to punch your ticket to the 2012 Olympics. Misty, meanwhile, fully recovered but restless, decided she had more to prove in the game and reached out to the only person she’d consider closing out her Olympic career with – Kerri.

One last time for all the old times

They played together this year on the FIVB international circuit, but looked anything but invincible, and arrived in London as the top American team yet only ranked third in the tournament. But May-Walsh have always played their best under the bright lights, and they shook off slow starts (and their first set loss in three Olympics) to reach the final, where they faced the other American team, Jen Kessy and April Ross. On paper, it should have been a close match but let’s face it – the Sporting Gods weren’t going to let this end any other way than with Kerri crying and Misty dancing and the world celebrating a gold medal in their final match as a team.

So the story of the greatest women’s beach volleyball team in history has been told. Misty will finally get the chance to be Mrs. Treanor and sit with the rest of the players’ wives at Dodger Stadium. Kerri will go on with a new partner, most likely either the woman she jilted to reteam with Misty (Nicole Branaugh) or one of the ones who’s heart she just broke (April Ross). There’s no reason to believe she won’t win many more matches and go on to be the greatest female player in history. But she’ll never top where she was last night, arm in arm with Misty atop the medal stand as the anthem played and the tears flowed.

As a lifetime resident of the South Bay, I’ve been fortunate enough to follow their career from the start, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Thank you, ladies – it’s been an amazing ride …

I haven’t been following the other pelagics as closely as I probably could, but I know that the offshore banks in northern Mexican waters are still kicking out bluefin tuna, and our local spots have dorado – if you can find paddies. If you need to fill the freezer – and if you don’t, you need a bigger freezer – the opportunity remains.

Because we’ve been at this for a while, I have a pretty large selection of previous entries to tap during the midweek report for our “Years Ago” feature. I always enjoy seeing how the fishing and methods have changed, plus how we as people, this as a site and myself as an author have grown, learn and improved. As such, I chuckled when I saw the rant I was on in this particular post. That was a tough point in the life of SCMO. We’d seen a lot of competitors fall by the wayside, but it was becoming obvious that the stakes were getting higher, and the level of effort required to compete – both in terms of time and money – were more than I was willing to invest.

Since then, I’ve come to grips with what SCMO is – a niche site where quality will always have to make up for quantity. But the salient points of my rant remain true. This site, big or small, will always live or die on the efforts of our visitors. We don’t have a staff, and we won’t be hiring one any time soon. No magazine editor is going to ride in to run the place, and we’ll never have our own graphics design company. But we have – and have always had – what the others can’t buy – loyal, knowledgable readers.

When I mentioned last week that I was looking for people to join the info ping network, I got a dozen new members. My phone blew up today with text messages about the HOOKER catch. When someone posts a question in the forums, I may not get 25 replies, but I’ll get 5 good answers from people who actually know what the hell they’re talking about.

So thank you – thanks for all that you’ve done, and all you’ll continue to do as we enjoy what is looking to be an epic season.

August 4, 2014

August 4

When you’ve done anything as long as I’ve been writing these updates, you have times when you feel positively clairvoyant. I’ve had a pair of those moments lately, and we’ll discuss those – and some amazing fishing tales – in this edition of the SCMO Fishing News …

(cue theme music)

From the Fishing News a week and a half ago

Thinking maybe you’d rather take a chance instead of fishing in the fleet? Notice how the warm water heads off the west end of Catalina then hits a cold wall – any pelagics that venture out that way will stop in their tracks and stack up when they hit that break, which looks to be right around Santa Barbara Island …

Wish I was smart enough to take my own advice sometimes. Fortunately, others are.

Greg shows us what it’s all about …

We’ll start today with marlin, since that’s what the “M” in SCMO stand for, after all. Tuna fishermen have been reporting seeing feeders for the last few weeks over a pretty wide distribution, but two places actually produced this weekend. At least three reports were received of marlin being hooked towards the bottom of the 9-Mile Bank, and DOUBLE D landed one – but that’s all we’ll say about that, since whacking 118-lb marlin just isn’t that impressive. OK, it was a pink lure – now that’s all we’ll say.

We’ve talked before about the value of good dope – fishing information – forever around here. Heck, the first article I wrote for the site extolled its virtues. So, while I would like to think that my sage prediction regarding water temps and cold walls that sent the Tuna Club fleet off the west end of Catalina, the truth is it was spotter plane dope. Like most times in life, it pays to have the right contacts …

At least two of the boats that made the run west towards the 499 found the right kind. Saturday morning, George Garrett, at the helm of JOKER, put angler Steve Behrens on a baitfish that was successfully released on 20-lb Dacron tackle. Later Saturday, Dave Pfeiffer snuck his sled TRINIDAD and angler Greg Stotesbury in on an a triplet of sleepers with lighter tackle – 12-kb Dacron! Despite getting the fish close early in the battle, after a nearly five hour battle, the hook pulled. Tuna fishing was pretty good there as well – in fact, it was through chasing the birds marking the tuna that most of the marlin were found. After a four hour battle, Jack Rainwater on JOKER landed a Tuna Club record 32-lb yellowfin on 8-lb Dacron; right behind him was the aforementioned Capt. Pfeiffer with a 28-lber, also on 8-lb Dacron. Live squid turned the tables on boat-shy tuna, as it usually does … ;-)

Perhaps my favorite marlin story comes from Encinitas, where angler Damon Owen was 2.5 miles off the beach when he got a marlin to chomp on a Pacific mackerel offered on 30-kb tackle – from his 15-ft stand up paddleboard! Recognizing he was in over his head and not wanting to risk injuring the fish, he broke it off after a butt-puckering 45-minute fight. Out of his mind, but what a story …

I want to return to the Stotesbury fish for a moment. I’ve often struggled to explain marlin fishing to those who have never experienced it or know it only through some hook-and-hand day trip on a Cabo cruise. To me, it’s all about the fight … the battle of two equally matched opponents, either of whom has a real chance to win. Look for a moment at that amazing picture at the top of this update of Greg during his battle Saturday, as it encapsulates all I – and I believe most of you – believe. Two men in an open boat; late afternoon, building seas. A large fish … light tackle. A dozen times over five hours, only the angling skill of Greg and the seamanship of Dave preserved a fight that had no right lasting that long on such unforgiving tackle. In the end, it almost doesn’t matter the outcome – two champions met on the field of battle in an epic conflict that brought honor and respect to both. That’s why I fish marlin, and that’s why I write about it.

Surf surprise

As a chronicler of the fishing scene, I appreciate the occasional ofbeat story – that’s why I love it when people catch opah or spearfish, species rare to our waters. So you can imagine my joy at finding not one, not two, but three unusual tales to pass along!

We start in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, where Alex Hare managed to free-gaff a obviously lost 100-lb yellowfin tuna as it swam through the harbor at Angler’s Reef. This is one of those tales that no one would believe were it not for the cellphone video.

Next, we’re off to Port Aransas, TX. This is swordfish country – home of BOOBY TRAP and the deep-drop swordie craze. But as this one post over at 2CoolFishing shows, you don’t have to go so deep – sometimes, the swordie comes to you … even in the surf! As the story goes, a couple of guys were fishing for redfish when this thing appears in the surf and was dragged up on the beach. They surmise that it was chasing the redfish, but after seeing the pics of beachgoers posing with the seemingly docile fish – and knowing how powerful they can be – my sense is that it must have been injured or otherwise sick. An amazing sight, nonetheless …

Our last stop is Malibu, just up the coast from the Home Office. We’ve got an epic run of tuna going in SoCal, with the warm water pushing the fish further and further north. So maybe it’s not so strange to think that bluefin tuna might be found offshore from Malibu and its famous Colony. What you don’t expect is to see them chasing bait right up onto the beach, as local resident Diana Armstrong did. Ever resourceful, she charged into the surf and dragged a 37-lb tuna onto the sand. I know that strange things happen in El Nino years, but these three are crazy!

Friday was the last of five days of fishing in the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, and when the points were totaled up, the wininng team was the China Sea Wolf Club, one of four Chinese teams making their debut in the event. So popular was their appearance in the event that there were two Chinese TV crews beaming home the results daily. As Shen Wei, captain of the CSWC team, put it, “We are lucky to be here in Kona! In China, we don’t have this kind of fishing, it’s very exciting.” Demonstrating the truly international nature of the HIBT, Team Friends of Kenya placed second, followed by Japan’s Olympian Dream Fishing Club.

Smooth seas, Joe Houck …

The HIBT is unique in that teams rotate through a series of charter boats each day, with the captains earning points towards their own championship based on the daily catches. Well-known Captain Kevin Nakamaru of NORTHERN LIGHTS won the Henry Chee Award as Top Captain – surprisingly, his first such award. Captain David Bertuleit of KONA SEAFARI took second and Captain Guy Terwilliger HIGH FLIER was in third.

Last Thursday, in discussing a Fishing News update from the past, we listed some of the members of the fleet we had lost over the years. Little did I know as I wrote that update that we would be adding a name to that list so soon, as Captain Joe Houck of EL BORRACHO passed away that very day. To me, Joe always represented an older generation of our sport – everything he did was at full speed, sometimes to his own detriment (let’s be honest – the boat name did translate to “The Drunk”…). But man, could he fish! Flip through pages of the fishing clubs he belonged to and you’ll see him hoisting a series of first fish flags. Joe has been away from the fleet for the last few years, living in the desert and no doubt regaling anyone who would listen with tales of the seas that could only bring smiles to their faces. He will be missed …

I don’t want to say there was a lot of boats out chasing the pelagics this weekend, but … the line for bait at 4AM Saturday morning in San Diego was 40 boats long … yikes!

As the marlin count rises, we’re all hands on deck here at the Home Office. On Thursday, we’ll take a peek forward to the weekend and figure out where to head to do the most damage. We’ll also look at White Marlin Open, currently underway in Ocean City, Maryland and even talk a little bit about my favorite local tournament, The Pesky. Set your DVRs – you don’t want to miss it!

July 31, 2014

July 31

It’s quiet here at the Home Office – too quiet. That can only mean one thing …

Writer’s block – the monster’s at my door …

… writer’s block.

But there’s stories to be told about fish to be caught, so we’ll find a way to plow through.

I guess the best news of the week is that the freak storm that blew through last week, while damaging on the beach, had little impact on the fishing. The places that were hot last weekend are still producing, and there was no significant change in the water temperature or patterns. Midweek reports are always a little scarce, given that most of us have to work, but it appears that the 14-Mile Bank and the 209 saw the most action, with abundant yellowfin tuna and yellowtail, and bluefin for the talented anglers among us. The 14 is not surprise, given that it’s the closest to shore of the northern group of high spots, and you can bet there’ll be one hell of a traffic jam there this weekend. The 209 is significantly more remote, being the spot furthest from land in any direction in the Catalina Bight. But it’s also been the site of some of the hottest fishing in the last couple of weeks as well, and that appears to be continuing.

I’ve heard of bathwater, but this is ridiculous

The 209 was also Ground Zero for the stack of striped marlin reports we received this week. One unidentified tuna fisherman released a marlin there yesterday after it came up in the pattern of tuna feathers and wolfed down an offered sardine. Two other boats reported unsuccessfully baiting marlin and others saw jumpers or feeders in the area.

Looking at tonight’s SST chart, the fact that the 209 is hot figuratively makes sense given that it’s hot literally. Now, I should point out that I do not trust this chart – it was run at the same parameters and scales as the one last week, and I have a lot of trouble believing a 4-degree jump in temperature across an area of water the size of Los Angeles County. But I do believe the breaks, and there’s one very close to the 209. So if you want to start your trip at the 209, well, you can thank me on Monday …

A nicely tagged HIBT blue

You can usually break the local marlin season into three chunks, based on what’s happening. The first segment starts with the arrival of the marlin and the first catches, and runs for six weeks or so. During this time, the focus is on the club anglers and their attempt to get the first fish flags and built their numbers. The second portion of the season comes on the eve of the local tournament season, and sees the focus shift as anglers prepare for their club events and are joined by those fishermen who only compete in the money tournaments, “semi-pro” anglers who will follow the tournament trail south to Cabo San Lucas. The final segment is marked by the departure of the money tourney anglers and the slowly diminishing catches for club anglers until the fish finally disappear for the year.

This year, however, that middle segment is going to have an entirely new feel, as recent events have resulted in the loss of all four of the professional events. A sour economy and slow fishing took its toll on the event organizers, as the California Billfish Series cancelled its three events, and the founders of the Church Mouse Invitational took the opportunity to retire, bringing the event to its end. All of the club tournaments remain, of course, and it will be interesting to see of participation actually increases in the ILTT, MABT or Pesky this year as anglers look to fill the void. Stay tuned …

One event that is alive and kicking, now in it’s 55th season, is the Hawaiian Invitational Billfish Tournament. We’ve talked before about the event’s unique format, where teams shift to a new boat every day, and heading into today’s fourth (of five) fishing day, teams from Japan, Vanuatu and China were all fighting for the lead. There are several SoCal teams in the event as well, and we’ll cover the event and the results next week.

As I finish this Thursday report with a look into the SCMO Archives, I’m reminded of the three members of the fleet lost and mentioned in the 2010 update – Ross Stotesbury, Reed Miller and Jim Madden. There have been others since then – Marty Morris and Ross’ grandson Zane jump to mind – and it seems we lose more friends every year. It’s the inevitable circle of life, of course, something we can’t control. We can control how we respond to it, however, and I say the best way to respond it to go fishing. Get out on the water while you can, because if these lost souls teach us nothing else, it’s that we never know when we won’t be able to fish, so we’d better get out there when we can.

4 Years Ago …

July 29, 2010

Well, I’ve delayed the inevitable for as long as I could. Who cares if they forgot to invite the fish – it’s time to feed another quarter into the horsey ride of my creativity and fire up a new year of the SCMO Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

Arr! Let’s get this season started … and someone needs to check my poop deck.

Every year, it’s a tricky dance as I try to determine when to begin publishing the Fishing News. I don’t want to get caught with my pants down when the first striped marlin of the season is caught, of course, but I also don’t want to spend three months telling the same bad jokes and talking about the latest unfounded rumors of fish sightings.

This year, I’ve been swamped with a pending system rollout for my real job as a software developer, so I haven’t paid as close attention to where exactly the fish were until the days got so long and warm that I just couldn’t help but check. Imagine my surprise when I found they were MIA!

You know, for the last few years we’ve seen Al Gore go on about global warming and the impact it could have on the oceans. We’ve watched the longliners net tuna and marlin by the thousand off Cabo San Lucas. We’ve read about – or perhaps participated in – the scoping process for the potential closures driven by marine scientists and politicians in the name of the MLPA. Through it all, we’ve thought – or hoped – that they were all wrong.

What if they were right?

It’s not just that it’s late for the first marlin – we’ve had later ones. It’s that the whole season is late. There’s a predictable rhythm to the offshore season in SoCal. There’s the cold-water tuna and the sharks, then the warmer tunas, yellowtail and swordfish, and finally the marlin arrive with the 68-degree water. Sure, the marlin are late – but so is everything else! Where’s the albacore? So far, they haven’t made it north of the border. There’s been a couple of swordfish stuck, but the commercial fishermen are crying. Marlin? By this time in the season we might not have the first flags gone, but we’d certainly be seeing them. Not this year. Why?

Before you start listing your trolling gear on eBay, step away from the edge – I don’t think it’s that bad. Yes, we’re screwing the environment as quickly as humanly possible, and it’s very likely that all those doomsday scenarios just might come true one day. But it’s not today, and it’s not why we aren’t seeing fish right now. It’s all about the conditions.

The offshore species we covet are all pelagic, meaning they travel with the seas staying in conditions they favor as those conditions move around. Striped marlin, for example, prefer a specific temperature range of water. The 68-degree isobar remains the most accurate predictor of where stripeys can be found – if it doesn’t make it to SoCal waters, neither do the marlin. So far, the conditions just don’t favor the pelagics – it’s still several degrees too cool for them, and there’s no consistency to the temperatures – more on why that matters in a minute.

What lurks under yon clouds?

Right now, I’d say it all comes down to two simple questions: “Should I be out there this weekend?” and “Where should I go?” If your goal is to catch the first marlin of the season, you have no choice – you gotta be out there. This season has been so unpredictable, with so few of the normal signs, that someone could catch that first one at any time and pretty much in any place. The fishing itself gives no clues where to expect that first one to be found. But that doesn’t mean that some spots aren’t better than others …

In my experience, there are two things that are guaranteed to generate clouds over water – land masses, and pockets of warm water. The satellite can’t see what’s under those clouds off La Jolla, but it sure as hell isn’t colder water. If it was me, I’d be right on the edge of those clouds, pounding the area between the 181 and 312. But that’s me … you’re welcome to burn your fuel wherever you like … :-)

There’s a turd floating in that punchbowl, however, and it’s lurking off the coast of Ensenada. See all that purple? That’s a pool of 61-degree water, and it might as well be a Bearing Sea ice floe for all the damage it does. Every year, the warm water slides up the coastline until it is pushed offshore by land near San Diego. We liken it to a “warm water freeway,” bringing with it the pelagic species we all love. That bolus of cold water is the equivalent to a Sigalert – the freeway is shut down, and traffic is being diverted onto side streets. It doesn’t matter how warm the water becomes in the Catalina Bight – if you cut off the route for the fish to get from Mexico to here, you cut off the fishing.

The fish will arrive at some point, of course, and when they do we’ll be out there chasing them. But when we all head out for the first big day as a fleet, we’ll be down two good people and great anglers.

You know that “Degrees of Separation” game that says we’re all connected to each other by six or fewer people? Well, you may not have known Ross Stotesbury, but I’ll bet you were connected to him by two or less. You bought your fishing gear from his son Greg or fished against his son Mike. Maybe you sat in an audience and clapped as his daughter-in-law Dara or grandson Zane collected more hardware at a tournament banquet. Or maybe you just saw that little aluminum boat, far offshore and out of range of help and thought, “that guy must be crazy”. Perhaps, but it was crazy with a passion – and that passion was fishing. I’m convinced Ross could catch a trophy fish in the gutter, and the records he set prove it. Ross may be gone, but his legacy will live on in his family for generations.

RIP, bruddah …

A couple of years ago, I had to start the first Fishing News entry with the news of the passing of Jim Madden. At the time, I relayed the story of how I, as something of a social idiot, would seek out Jim at events and hang with him. The other person I sought out was Reed Miller, and now we’ve lost him, too. Reed was SCMO’s first rock star – a guy who went out and caught all those fish the rest of us dreamed of. How many of us have caught swordfish in SoCal? Reed had multiple swordies. Spearfish? You betcha – right off the coast. But he worked both ends of the spectrum and was just as happy casting a dry fly as a fat mackerel. Reed had been fighting his cancer for nearly a year when I saw him at the kickoff party for the Pesky last fall, and I was amazed at how good he looked. His hair had returned to its natural color, and he looked to be gaining weight. “Strong like bull,” I said as we bumped knuckles. But the hair color was from dye, and the weight gain a side effect of the drugs he was taking to try and stay alive. We didn’t know it then, but I’m sure he did – the end was near. Reed was too ill to fish the event, and soon was in the hospital for the last time.

We dedicate this season’s Fishing News to Ross Stotesbury and Reed Miller. As competitors they made us better fishermen, and as friends they made us better people.

July 28, 2014

July 28

We promised an epic weekend of fishing and while it may not have risen to that lofty height, I suspect it’s one a lot of people won’t forget for a long time. Why? Jump onboard this careening hulk of journalism we call the Monday edition of the SCMO Fishing News and find out …

(cue freaky stormy theme music)

Rod hanging out the laundry

The weekend actually got off to an early start when we received word from Allan Sheridan that he’d fought and lost a swordfish only 7 miles out of Newport earlier in the day. His only comment? “So sore …” Well, if there was anyone still planning to watch from the beach, that was enough to get them headed offshore. To say that there were a lot of boats out this weekend just doesn’t cut it – one response to our Sunday night Info Ping email reported there were over 100 boats on the 14-Mile Bank on Saturday. “Every float tube, Bayliner and river deck boat was out,” the respondent said. Tuna fever will do that sometimes …

We’ll get to the edible pelagics in a minute, but let’s start with the billfish action. Sheridan’s near miss Friday was just the opening salvo, as a pair of marlin were released on Saturday. CHRONIC, taking its chances on the 14-Mile Bank, released a striped marlin early Saturday morning (and no doubt contributed to the 100-boat suction pump) after it took a well-placed drop back bait. Meanwhile, out towards the Avalon Bank, Rod Halperin and JANICE O were looking to get in on the tuna bite when a stripy came up in the pattern. As they slowed to try and bait it, the marlin hit a sinking tuna feather and the fight was on. Berkeley Andrews got the successful release 40 minutes later.

Savez-vous où le marlin sont?

A recurring theme in our final season will be a look back at things that were and how they’ve changed. A lot of people make a living off the local fishing industry, and many of the recreational anglers making news in our reports are in the business as representatives or entrepreneurs. Back in 2008, the SoCal waters were introduced to a creative – and ambitious – new fishing business with the arrival of the PACIFIC PROVIDER, a North Pacific fishing boat converted into a 156-ft luxury mothership. The concept seemed good, if pricey – you buy a membership in the Eastern Pacific Yacht Club and use the PP like an ocean-going timeshare when she arrived in exotic fishing spots up and down the coast.

Alas, the PROVIDER arrived just as something else made itself known – the Great Recession. It’s economic breath knocked out of it, the PP struggled on for a few years, most of that time for sale, before disappearing from view. So you can imagine the surprise of SCMO regular Rob Webster when he found himself standing on a beach in Saint-Tropez staring out at the anchored PACIFIC PROVIDER. Turns out now she’s a dive support ship, the cranes once used to launch sport fishers now hoisting mini subs in and out of the water. You can follow her ongoing adventures here.

A couple of quick tips of the SCMO cap for the weekend’s sporting accomplishments: Vincenzo Nibali for coming home first in the Tour de France, surviving a grueling event that saw most of the favorites crash out in the first week and a half; Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross for their victory in the FIVB World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach (we knew they’d be good, but they’ve won 7 of the first 11 events they’ve entered – yikes!); and the Dodgers for a three-game sweep of the hated Giants up north. Enjoy the taillights, GiantsFan …

Back out on the water, the red-hot bite continued for tuna and the other eating fish. Both yellowfin and bluefin tuna continue to bite, with the schools mixing such that some stops bring both types. It continues to be a widely spread bite with most of the high spots producing. That said, most of the reports we received were from the 289, 277, 209 and 302. Lots of troll fish were taken, but it was pretty easy to get the fish to take bait, particularly the yellowfin tuna. Many reports indicated that yellowfin, yellowtail and dorado could often be caught on the same stop. My favorite report was of one private boat sitting on a tuna school for two hours and finally having to drive away from it, having worn themselves out.

Too close to home …

While the hot fishing is unusual enough, Sunday saw a weather event seldom seen around here. For the last month, we’ve been seeing moist air from the south pulled into the region, resulting in higher temperatures and humidity. Normally when we see these conditions, thunderstorms can pop up over the deserts of inland Southern California, often causing serious flash flooding. Yesterday, however one of these dangerous storms appeared over the local waters and raked the coast from Catalina to Santa Monica.

I was out running errands when the skies darkened, and I got that strange feeling you get after too many years on the water that tells you “head for port”. We got 45 minutes of hard rain here in Redondo, with the droplets the size of grapes and sounding like hail on cars and roofs. We were fortunate, however, in that all we got was rain and a little thunder. Two lighting strikes injured those who couldn’t find shelter – a golfer in Avalon and a group of beachgoers in Venice where, sadly, one died. I didn’t know it at the time, but a lighting strike hit a house not four blocks from the Home Office, knocking out power and no doubt scaring the hell out of folks.

That’s the latest from here for now. Thursday we’ll be back with a preview of the weekend and a look at what passes for the local marlin tournament season.

July 24, 2014

July 24

How you feelin’?

– Buster Poindexter, “Hot Hot Hot”

If you’re over 20, you know the answer to that and if you’re anywhere in SoCal, it’s what you’re gonna be this weekend. But let the others decide how the phrase applies to your looks or your social life, because if you came here, you don’t care. What you do care about is how it will affect your fishing. Stick around, because it’s a topic of discussion in this brand-new edition of the SCMO Fishing News!

(cue sweaty-sticky theme music)

Call it a hunch, but I think this is gonna be a busy weekend on the water. After the first local marlin of the year was released last Saturday, anyone waiting on the sidelines for some kind of a sign should be diving off the deep end this weekend. With the Mexican bluefin ban still in place, that limits the number of places you can go and focuses that much more fishing pressure on the north-of-the-border hotspots. You can pretty much assume that the popular numbers will look like a parking lot.

On the bright side, it sounds like it’ll be a gorgeous weekend. Often when it heats up on the beach, the weather over the offshore waters can be unsettled, but that’s not the case this weekend – nothing over 10kts before Monday. Whether you can find a place to throw the hook overnight with all the traffic is another story.

As I look back over the time I’ve been doing these reports, I’m struck by how much the tools used to gather information have changed. When I started, I was something of an outcast even for suggesting that information should be shared. I can’t tell you the number of times a slightly over-lubricated captain tried their best to explain why what I was doing was wrong. Fortunately for all of you, they usually lost their train of thought pretty soon. But that was the way it was – secret channels and late night phone calls were the way “dope” was passed to the fortunate few.

Now, of course, half the anglers in the fleet have a GoPro tacked to their foreheads and videos uploaded to YouTube before their heart rates return to normal. Many of those same captains now have adopted the technology they once scorned, shelling out money to websites that have taken the concepts we pioneered and pushed them to commercial success. And frankly, God bless them; when I look at BDOutdoors or FishTrack or any of the large commercial sites that have filled the need of information-hungry anglers, all I can do is feel pride in knowing that we blazed the trails that they have so successfully exploited.

Warm like your soaker tub

Another tool we have today that has truly changed the way we plan our trips is ready access to near-real-time sea surface temperature charts. Back when we were starting, all there was were a few hand-drawn isobar charts that were based more on predictions than fact, and were often days old. Today, of course, the combination of satellites calculating the temperatures and powerful computers crunching the numbers means that every website out there has their own SST charts for their members. Of course, the data is all the same, and there are a number of ways to run your own charts, like the Coastwatch ones we use here at the Home Office.

Speaking of CW charts, here’s one I ran earlier this evening, color biased to highlight some interesting features. That big hook of warm water off the east end of Catalina? It runs right down to the 209, which has been one of the hottest spots for fish as well as water. When you keep in mind that anything in that shot that is green, yellow or orange is at least 70 degrees, it’s not hard to understand why there is such a wide spread of fish being caught. Don’t discount that stripe of hot water just outside of San Diego, either – both the 9-Mile Bank and the 181 have been producers for weeks. Thinking maybe you’d rather take a chance instead of fishing in the fleet? Notice how the warm water heads off the west end of Catalina then hits a cold wall – any pelagics that venture out that way will stop in their tracks and stack up when they hit that break, which looks to be right around Santa Barbara Island

Sunday, the peloton of riders in the Tour de France will swing around the Arc de Triomphe and race down the Champs-Élysées, completing this year’s edition of the world’s greatest sporting event. So let me ask you – got any idea who’s winning? I didn’t think so. Truth is, even for the hard-core fan it’s hard to get news on Le Tour. Coverage this year is by the obscure NBCSN, which means good luck hearing about it on SportsCenter. In the wake of Lance Armstrong’s epic fall from grace, few broadcast entities seem willing to associate them with the event out of fear of being burned once again. Of course, the fact that the event’s two favorites, such as they are, both crashed out in the first ten days doesn’t help. For the record, after 17 of 21 stages, Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali has a nearly insurmountable lead of over seven minutes. To his credit, he’s won four stages, and it certainly isn’t his fault that Froome and Contador both ate pavement …

For our peek into the FN archives, we’re turning the knob on the Wayback Machine all the way over – we’re going all the way back to the beginning in 2000 … doesn’t really sound all that different than now, does it?

14 Years Ago …

July 24, 2000

As we had indicated last week, the season is truly upon us. That point was driven home by reports of both the first swordfish and first marlin of the season. First the swordies. Two swordfish were caught on the 289 on Saturday. Steve Bledsoe on NO EXCUSES got one to take a frozen squid, and subdued the critter after two hours. The fish weighed 228.5 lbs on the DAC scales. Meanwhile, back at the 289, Eric Grennan on TIGER SPIRIT was feeling pretty bad about losing a broadbill earlier in the day until a second sword took the bait. The battle lasted an hour an a half, and Eric’s fish weighed 302 lbs at the BAC dock. Steve mentioned that while he was fighting his fish, he could look off the stern and see Eric fighting his. Clearly a concentration of fish! We have a picture of Eric’s beast in the Galer’a and hope to have the same for Steve’s soon.

As you might expect, such a bonanza of billfish made the 289 look like a landrush as anglers sped out on Sunday to stake their claim. No other swordfish were landed, but Jimmy Kingsmill on WILD BILL spotted a tailer on their way in (no surprise if you saw him at the 7Strand seminar last month) and got it to take a fresh mackie. At the time of release, they were about 13 miles out of Dana Point, off the power plant domes. Earlier in the day, Eric Nelson on ONO had a chance to beat Team Kingsmill to the punch when he successfully baited a marlin in the same basic area (14 miles, 198 from Dana). Unfortunately, the fish was lost just prior to leadering. You’ll get’em next time, Eric!

Lest we forget, the tuna are still running. We got good reports of albacore catches from the 1010 trench, the inner Butterfly, and a spot about 8 miles south of the twin 220s. The numbers for that last spot are 32¡ 39′ / 118¡ 04′. Those are Hoose’s numbers, so blame him if you get skunked … :-) There were some bluefin reported at the 390 spot, along with the first decent dorado reports of the season, said to be stretched from the 9-Mile Bank up the coast almost into Dana Point.

It’s very exciting now that the season is heating up, and we’d like you to help us share the excitement of your achievement. Take a moment after the excitement wears off and write up your experience for our Tall Tales and True Stories section. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just what happened in your own words. Don’t worry – we’ll take care of the editing! Then, once the pictures come back, send them to us for the Galer’a del Pez so we can show the world what a great fish you caught. You can scan them electronically and email them to us, or send them to us here at the Home Office and we’ll scan them for you and send them back. It’s the successful trip trifecta – file your Trip Report, write a True Story and post your pic in La Galería!

July 21, 2014

July 21

We now join a conversation between Stan and his inner voice …

Inner Voice: I thought you said one of the reasons you were retiring the Fishing News was that the offshore scene in SoCal was dying.
Stan: I did.
IV: So how is it that we’re in the middle of some of the best offshore fishing in at least a decade?
Stan: Shut up and roll the credits.

(cue theme music)

If you thought that having Mexico shut off the tap to bluefin tuna fishing in their waters would somehow slow down the action, wow, were you wrong! I heard people make statements that I hadn’t heard in thirty years, and even the old … er, older … guys are shaking their heads.

But, hey – more on the epic bite in a moment. Let’s start with the stuff that’s brought us together lo these many years – striped marlin.

They’re heeeeeere …

The first marlin of the season was released on Saturday. Todd Phillips and his TONNAGE crew were 5 miles east of the 289 when a white cedar plug caught the eye of a marlin. It quickly switched to a drop back bait, and angler Billy Grisham fought the estimated 175-kb fish to a clean release. Well done, TONNAGE – you’ve got the first spot on the 2014 Release Board.

This fish is a reminder of something we see every season – folks fishing tuna but stumbling into marlin. The difference is that these guys had a proper rig set up for the possibility and as a result got the job done. You never know when or even if you’ll get a shot, so you have to be prepared.

One more thing the TONNAGE fish does is make it easier to do a mea culpa for missing the first fish of the season. Back on July 3, while I was celebrating my birthday and eligibility for retirement, Jimmy Linville landed a 185-kb baitfish on the 181. You know that we don’t tend to celebrate dead marlin here at SCMO, but this was the first SoCal marlin of the season, making it worth mention if not necessarily praise.

I was finally able to pull an SST chart tonight and while the picture wasn’t pretty enough to display here, the results were pretty clear. There’s a pool of cutoff warm water filling the SoCal bight from the east end of Catalina to the east end of Clemente and back to within a couple of miles of the mainland. That certainly explains the wide distribution of fish we’re seeing, many in places that make you do a double-take. For example, I was raised hearing stories of catching bluefin tuna off Ship Rock on the inside of Catalina – this weekend, boats were catching 30-lb BFT while transiting home from the Isthmus! I don’t know if it’s the El Nino or the cutoff or just damn good fishing, but the time to be on the water would seem to be now.

Rumor has it it’s gonna get hot later this week – really hot – and that always has an impact on the offshore conditions. We’ll look at that and how it might impact your float plan on Thursday, as well as take another peek astern as we continue this Victory Tour that is the 2014 Fishing News. See you then!

July 17, 2014

July 17

“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 “infoping@marlinnut.com” 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!

October 31, 2013

October 31 – Season Wrap

It’s Halloween here at the Home Office, and the streets are filled with little ghouls and goblins playing their tricks and seeking their treats. We have no tricks for you tonight, but one big treat – the season finale of the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

It’s been a long season, but let’s start our look in the rear view mirror with what just went down at the recently concluded Bisbee’s Black and Blue Tournament.

Winning smiles

You’d think that after thirty years of events, the Bisbee’s would have seen pretty much all the variety of drama that could happen in a marlin tournament … and you’d be wrong. As we reported in the last update, after the end of two days fishing, Martha McNab and her 591-kb blue marlin were out front by a comfortable margin. It was a rich fish, as they were in all of the prize levels, and it had the chance of being a historic fish as well – the Bisbee’s had never been won by a lady angler. But there was still another day of fishing to be contested, and things only got better.

Linda Williams, fishing on II SUCCESS, had a monster blue hit a Hi-5 Petrolero – a classic Cabo lure – and after a two-hour fight, the fish was boated. Back at the scales, it weighed 774-lbs, blowing past McNab’s fish and taking the tournament victory. Williams is the first female winner of the event, and banked a check for $368,675. Don’t feel too bad for Martha McNab, however – her second-place fish and savvy use of the side pots netted her $1,185,862. This was her second time as the event’s runner-up, and only a fool would presume she won’t be a favorite next year. James Long took third place for his 342-kb blue caught on SOONER REELIN’, and he took home $34,762.

In the release division, TITAN, a 57-ft Beneteau sailboat – yes, sailboat – took first place with three released blue marlin. To be sure, this isn’t your typical sailboat or sailboater. Owner Gary Aliengena’s previous rides were a 44-ft Cabo and a 60-ft Hatteras, and his blow boat is the only one you’ll find equipped with tuna tubes. But if you imagine the challenge of backing down on a hot marlin using a little Yanmar diesel, you’ll appreciate the magnitude of their victory. Second place in the division went to COJONES and third to REEL PAIN II, each of which also had three releases, with the ranking set by time tiebreakers. It’s worth noting REEL PAIN boated an undersized marlin that would have sealed their victory in the division had it only been released.

Speaking of released marlin, here’s one last reminder to submit your released marlin for the Billfish Release Board. Use the submission form to send us the details if they’re not on the board, or the missing details if they’re there but unclaimed (no little “$” on the row). Claimed fish go in the drawing for SCMO swag in a couple of weeks, and you don’t want to miss out!

The end of the Black and Blue marks the end of the tournament season for SoCal-based boats, but not necessarily the marlin fishing. Boats returning from the Cape will meet those headed south from Cali to fish the fish-rich waters off Bahia Magdelena – Mag Bay for short. The numbers aren’t what they were a decade ago – sound familiar? – but it’s still a place where you can release a dozen striped marlin and still have time for your siesta.

Fork it … we’re done

Several of the southern-bound boats are providing updates on Facebook, so this is probably a good time to remind you that while we may be shutting down here at the Fishing News, the sun never sets on SCMO’s Facebook page. We talk all things marlin and offshore fishing there, and I encourage our Facebooking friends to swing by and “like” us.

So how should we describe the recently-completed SoCal marlin season? I guess “better than it could have been” would be a start. The last three seasons were brutal around here, and I am one of those who are frankly pessimistic that we’ll ever see a 300-release season again. This one didn’t come close to that, but it does mark the third straight season that improved on the last. We’ve got over sixty releases over on the Billfish Release Board, so you know there has to be at least that many more unreported. It would not be unfair to say that this season was approaching normal.

The signs were good back in July – there were signs of an El Niño forming, and the seas were unusually warm. The season itself started right on time, as Barry Brightenberg and Chris Bailey each released a striped marlin near the 267 on July 21. That inshore bite lasted for nearly two weeks before drying up, and for a couple of weeks it seemed that perhaps that was all there was going to be. It was the last time marlin were seen in any number on the inshore banks, but not the end of the marlin.

Most people who study our fishery believe that there are several paths the marlin take as they head north into our region. The first brings them up the coast of Baja, tight to the shore, only turning west once they hit Dana Point. In years where that is the primary migration route, we see strong fishing off Coral and San Diego, and the 267 is a hot spot. If however, they choose the path further offshore, they might not been seen until they reach the 289, Mackerel Bank or even the 499 north of San Clemente Island.

This year, once the 267 bite petered out, some fish were caught in the traditional places off the east end of Catalina, but it wasn’t really until just before the beginning of the local tournament season that those in the know were told of marlin coming through the traditional tuna grounds at the Butterfly Bank. Smart anglers correctly predicted that the marlin would cross the 43, and there were a number of marlin released there during the MABT. Those marlin slid north and camped out between the 289 and Pyramid Head, and there was a solid three weeks of marlin action to be found there – right in the heart of tournament season.

There was one last blast of action late in September, as the marlin appeared on the inner ridge running from the 181 south to the 9-Mile Bank. This gave the billfish-starved anglers from San Diego a shot, and they made the most of it. The last release I heard of was by Fred Larson fishing on SQUARED AWAY down by the 138 on October 2, but there might have been a few I didn’t hear of.

The story wasn’t quite so rosy for those in pursuit of edible pelagics, particularly in the northern fleet. True, there was a decent pick of dorado and yellowtail at times during the season, but it was hit and miss at best. Tuna fishing was even worse, with most species barely making it above the border. This was something of a reward for those who fished out of San Diego and had little shot at marlin for most of the season, as they could run south to the Tuna Pens for a consistent bluefin tuna bite pretty much all season long.

One thing we saw that was interesting this year was the schooling of marlin. Most people know that marlin are schooling fish and tend to travel in loose packs. In recent years, though, the vision of packs of feeders or a picket fence of tailers has been replaced with the single quick feeder or tailer. This season was an exception that trend, as marlin were often found in packs. Double- and triple-hookups were common, and “Indian Attacks” – packs of marlin crashing the jig spread – were commonplace. Hell, it even happened to us … :-)

As you might imagine, crashing schools of marlin usually bring out the best in the best, and that was certainly the case this year. There were a number of boats with multiple-fish trips, but two stand out above the others. CHIQUILIN, captained by Mike “The Beak” Hurt and fishing in the Pesky, released four marlin below the 289 on September 20th, then backed it up with three more releases the next day. Not to be outdone, Captain Andy Horner and his MIRAGE crew, working the 181 – 182 ridge, released five marlin on October 1 and took another for the smoker. Clearly, there were marlin to be caught, if you were in the right place with the right crew. It bodes well for the future.

The other interesting element of this season was the appearance of rare fish – at least for our waters. We traditionally will have a few opah caught incidentally, particularly in warm water seasons, and this year was no different. What was shocking was the number of short bill spearfish caught alongside their larger marlin cousins. There were at least a dozen of the mini-billfish caught this season – 5 the weekend of the Pesky alone. We usually see one or two spearfish a decade in these waters, so it will be very interesting to see if there will be a resident population of spearfish in our waters in future seasons.

Equally shocking was the lack of swordfish caught by the sport fleet this season. I’m only aware of two rod-and-reel swords being taken this year, and the stick boat fleet had a terrible year as well. We know that swordfish populations are susceptible to fishing pressure – just look at the collapse of the Florida swordfish fishery two decades ago. We always look at harpoon sworfishing as a targeted, sustainable fishing method, far preferable to long lining. I don’t know if it is airplane-assisted harpooners or just the natural rhythms of the seas to blame for the numbers, but it bears watching.

Golden Girl alone at the top

Before we wrap, let me give a tip of the SCMO cap to beach volleyball studlette Kerri Walsh Jennings. We’ve covered beach volleyball here for nearly a decade, through the rise and fall and rise of the AVP and three Olympics. Not coincidentally, all three gold medals in those Olympic games were won by Kerri and her long-time partner, Misty May-Trainor. Misty’s career started slightly before Kerri’s, so when she retired as the all-time winningest female beach volleyball player, it was inevitable that one day, Kerri would pass her. That day came two weekends ago on a beach in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Walsh, playing with new partner April Ross, won the FIVB event there to record her 113th win, passing her longtime partner. Now 35 and a mother of three, Kerri is showing no signs of slowing down. Look for her back on Brazilian sands in the finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic beach volleyball tournament …

This has been a year of transition for the local marlin scene. We saw the end of four marlin tournaments with the cancellation of the California Billfish Series and the retirement of the Church Mouse Invitational. These were the backbone of the Avalon tournament season, and their loss leaves quite a void. Beyond that, Avalon itself has changed in the way it looks at the marlin fleet. Not so long ago, the tourist trade in Avalon was in the dumps, and they readily accepted marlin tournaments – and our dollars. In the last few years, however, the mood towards tournaments has soured. The Santa Catalina Island Company, looking to attract what they perceive as a “classier” visitor, have replaced a number of local favorites – and traditional tournament haunts. Gone are the Descanso Beach Club, Armstrong’s Seafood and The Landing, all of which hosted tournament events. Those places that remain have raised prices to the point where it became a significant factor in the decision by organizers to cancel the CBS. The club tournaments remain, of course, and there’s always a chance new events will fill the void, but the times are definitely a-changin’ …

Truth be told, this was a season of transition here at SCMO as well. We’ve been doing this a long time now – our site first hit the web in 1996. Back then, the internet was whatever AOL let you see, and email addresses were only a few years old. We have content on this site going back to those earliest days, including these Fishing News reports since 2000, and that rich history is what I am proudest of.

We started as a hobby site and, while we’ve always operated with the highest possible professionalism, it’s still a hobby site. The problem is, while most of the other sites that have come along over the years have long since disappeared, those that remain have become very professional. With investors and editorial staffs, they have moved on far beyond anything we’re capable of doing – or, frankly, even want to. For the last five years, we’ve seen a constant migration of visitors away from SCMO to these large and successful business entities.

I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and tell myself that we could compete, but all you have to do is look at the posts – or lack thereof – at the Marlin Club to know that’s just not the case. Folks drop by during the season for these reports, and for that I’m grateful, but other than that we’re as seasonal as a flip-flop shop in Avalon. They’re smart enough to shutter the business during the offseason, and we should be, too.

I entered this season resolved that this would be SCMO’s final hurrah. The reality of it all had finally hit home, helped in no small part by a couple of heartfelt letters I received from some of our regulars explaining why they were moving on. With the end of so many tournaments, the declining marlin fishery and an economy that drove so many away from our sport, it seemed perfect that I should turn out the lights on both our local sport and the site at the same time.

A funny think happened on the way to oblivion, however. Each year, I get a handful of notes from our visitors thanking me for what I do. They’re unsolicited but gratefully appreciated, as they’re the only real “payment” I receive. This year, for some reason, there’s been an avalanche of support. I don’t know if somehow my words tipped my intentions, or there was a fear that with so much else lost this might be next, or it might just be that folks are feeling extra appreciative. Whatever the reason, they helped me realize that I’m just not ready to let go of SCMO quite yet. So, we’ll be back next year. Have a safe and sane offseason, a joyous holidays, and we’ll see you all when the water warms in the spring …

13 Years Ago …

October 30, 2000

Stick a fork in it, folks – the season is over. Yeah, folks are still seeing fish here and there, and the occasional tuna or marlin is still caught, but we’ve reached that point where it’s not forth the diesel fuel you’ll burn to get it.

The storm that blew through over the weekend brought winter-like conditions to the Southland, and the fishing has shown the results. The last marlin we heard of were one taken on the 14 Mile Bank Wednesday by MERRI TYME II and another released Friday by COMANCHE 6 miles south of Dana Point (in the heart of the storm, no less!). Yellowfin tuna reports are still trickling in from the 43 and 302, but the numbers have nearly dropped to zero. If you’re intent on working to get that last marlin of the season, I’d try working from the 14 to the 267 and looking for the sauries.

Before we sign off for the winter, I’d like to reflect back on some of the moments of the Y2K season that’ll stick with me …

Breakout season – They started it with a swordfish, and followed it up with a dozen marlin. Steve Bledsoe and the crew of NO EXCUSES stepped it up and had their best season to date, often catching fish when others couldn’t and being the only boat to get any consistent jig action. Steve was an early supporter of SCMO and one of the first hardcore Marlin Club posters; hopefully, now that the season is over, he’ll be able to come out and play with us again … :-)

Good season, great day – Were the circumstances different, no one would have believed it. But when Bill Kingsmill and his WILD BILL crew caught 14 marlin in one magic day off the dome at San Clemente Island, they did it surrounded by dozens of other boats unable to scratch out even a single fish. Some days, talent and luck collide, and the results are awesome. Like Gary Jasper’s 339-lb striped marlin of years ago, this accomplishment will be long remembered.

Persistence rewarded – Unlike many of his peers, Dave Denholm of ESPADON does not trumpet his billfish successes, preferring to let the achievements speak for themselves. This year, they spoke volumes about his singleminded pursuit of swordfish. In a time when the entire fleet is lucky to catch two swordfish in a year, Dave’s two swordfish are a testimony to his angling skill and willingness to do whatever is necessary to succeed.

So another season comes to an end. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this SCMO’s best ever – the posters, writers, reporters, contributors and photographers whose efforts make this site what it is. Particular thanks goes to my HOOKER crewmates for putting up with my incessant notetaking, and especially to my father, who once again dealt with the unjust accusations from others in the fleet (you don’t really think he’d compromise his secret info here, do you? Puleeeze!).

It’ll be a busy offseason here at SCMO, as we finally have the time to get on with all the projects we have in mind (if you have any suggestions, let us know!). The Marlin Club has developed into a worldwide billfishing forum, certainly far more than I could have imagined, and I look forward to spending a lot of time there in the coming months. With posters in Australia, New Zealand, South America, Madeira, South Africa, and wherever billfish roam, the sun truly never sets on the Marlin Club. We’ll be upgrading the Internet Portal to make it even more user-friendly, and may even tweak the looks of the site – hey, it’s been three years! Most of all, I look forward to sitting back and enjoying this wonderful community of billfish enthusiasts we have created here at SCMO. See you in the spring.

October 24, 2013

October 24

It’s a quiet night here at the Home Office. Tampa Bay is getting beat – again – on Thursday Night Football. Michael Wacha – more on him later – is about to register a win in Game 2 of the World Series. To the south, ninety mates are sharpening hooks in preparation of the final day of fishing in the world’s richest marlin tournament. It can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Fishing News!

(cue theme music)

We’re smack dab in the middle of fishing for the Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament and there’s good news for the organizers – they have a qualifying fish. Yesterday saw two blue marlin brought to the scales – including one by Friend of SCMO Alex Rogers and his PROTOCOL crew – but both fell tantalizingly short of the 300-lb minimum weight. Today was a different story, as a total of three qualifier hit the scales, led by Martha McNab’s impressive 591-lb blue. If she can hold onto first place, it’s estimated that the fish will be worth $1.13 million in prize money – but there’s still tomorrow … stay tuned!

Maybe … just maybe

The story isn’t nearly so good locally. I haven’t heard of any action since the weekend’s flurry on the 182, but looking at the map at right makes me think there’s at least an outside possibility the marlin could still be there. Of course, there has to be someone left to fish them, which is problematic as more and more boats head south for the Mag Bay experience. But someone will stumble around out there this weekend and if they score, you’ll hear it here!

The World Series has started, and my Dodgers are off playing golf – well, all but the front office, which is busy self-destructing. But while I have no interest in the games themselves, I’m a stat geek who loves all those little stories that come out of the Series – like this one:

Remember a couple of winters back when the Angels lured Albert Pujols, then universally considered the game’ best player, to leave the Cardinals for a big-dollar contract? Everyone assumed that would let the Angels punch their ticket to the next series while the Birds, left with only a supplemental draft pick to show for losing their superstar slugger, were seen as circling the drain – particularly after naming Mike Metheny, a recently-retired catcher with no coaching experience, as their new manager.

How’d that all work out? A suddenly-fragile Pujols has played in barely half his team’s games, hitting a few meaningless home runs while Anaheim – er, Los Angeles thereof – hasn’t so much as sniffed the post-season. Meanwhile, Matheny has the Cardinals back in the World Series in only his second year at the helm.

Oh, and that seemingly meaningless supplemental pick awarded St Louis after Pujols bolted for SoCal? That turned out to be Michael Wacha, who twice went toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw and came away with a pair of W’s. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold …

You just knew all the press about the recent recoveries of a pair of oarfish on SoCal shores would bring out the … best … in the media. Now they’re declaring it to be evidence of global warming. Frankly, it’s more likely to be a result of Fukushima than that, but I figure they just got a good look at the state of the oceans and committed hara kiri …

That’s it for now – just a little midweek snack to get you through. Come back Monday as we wrap the B & B and say goodbye to the 2013 season!

7 Years Ago …

October 23, 2006

I’d be perfectly happy to stop writing the reports and get on with my offseason, but you people just keep catching fish …

The fishing is better than it should be up here, worse than it should be down there … oh, did I mention the hurricane about to shuffle the Bisbee deck? Just another day for … the Fishing News!

(cue credits)

We talked about the swordfish sightings, and several anglers were able to convert opportunity into success. On Friday, Randy Wood, fishing with Bob Akers and their families on OFFSHORE, spotted one between the Avalon and 14-Mile Banks. It was hungry, and was soon on the swimstep. The fish weighed 178-lbs on the BAC scales in Newport.

Not to be outdone, SHOWDOWN angler Reed Miller hooked one in the same region Saturday. After an hour’s fight, the fish was also on it’s way to the scales at the BAC, where it weighed 156. We won’t discuss the rumor that OFFSHORE put them on the fish …

Both of the successful anglers are members of Los Pescadores, and we do maintain the club’s tourney site for free, so it would have been nice if they sent us the pics so we could show them in their high resolution goodness. But they didn’t, so you’ll just have to go over to that other site where they have grainy lo-res versions. But I’m not bitter … :-)

There was marlin to be found as well, as boats continue to search further and further offshore hoping for that last fish of the season. Several were seen and a couple hooked, but the only one I heard being caught was released by AGITATOR Friday just north of Pyramid Head.

The talk leading into the Los Cabos Classic was of the variety of fish that were available. What they forgot to mention was that there weren’t any large ones floating around. The two days of fishing saw 311 anglers release 25 striped, 24 blue and 1 black marlin. Unfortunately, most of the marlin were on the small side – in fact, this 401-lb blue taken by REELAXE would have won the event had they been entered. Two small blues were boated, but no one got any of the big girls that can win the cash. Anglers are certainly hoping that’ll change in the Black and Blue.

Of course, that’s assuming the B&B takes place. Wednesday is scheduled to be the first of three fishing days, but that will be less than 24 hours after Hurricane Paul blows through the region. Currently, it looks like the storm will pass south of the tip of Baja, but you can bet it’ll impact the fishing at the very least. Bisbee management are watching the storm closely to see if any modifications to the schedule will be required.

Say what you want about SoCal anglers – they’re an optimistic bunch. I guess you have to be when you fish on the very edge of a fishery the way we do. But our recent InstaPoll shows that a lot of you think there’s life left in this season. While only a quarter thought there was still a glory hole to be found, over half of the respondents felt there’d be at least a few fish caught in upcoming weeks. For the last few weeks, that’s been the case. Will it continue? Stay tuned …