OUTDOOR NOTES : Bait Debate Stirring Lunker of a Dispute

The world of bass fishermen is a world divided, and bass fishermen are the first to admit it.

It should come as no surprise, then, that bait fishermen have responded angrily to charges made by lure fishermen, in a feature article on this page last week, that those using live crawfish to try to catch a world-record bass at Castaic Lake are not doing the fishery any good.

Tournament fishermen say that the larger bass, though more likely to attack a live bait, are apt to inhale it and therefore the successful release of the fish is difficult and, in many instances, impossible. And since catch-and-release is the prevalent philosophy among bass fishermen today, the use of live bait should be discontinued, they say.

"They have never fished bait, how can they assess that?" asked Dan Kadota, 38, a bait fisherman who in recent years has been demonstrating bait-fishing methods he says are no more dangerous and in some cases are safer than fishing with artificials.

"In years past we have let the fish run off with the bait (and they would often swallow it)," Kadota said. "We've learned that you miss more fish when let them run, so now we quick-set them. We stand a much bigger probability of landing that fish. And I haven't gut-hooked a fish in three years."

Kadota, speaking on behalf of other bait fishermen, including Bob Crupi, who last March caught and released a 22.01-pound largemouth that was only three ounces shy of the 60-year-old all-tackle world record, said he finds it ironic that a tournament fisherman could accuse him of doing harm to a fishery.

"The guys that are pointing the fingers are the guys who are killing the fish out of 60-70 feet with spoons during the winter time," Kadota said.

Fish often die when pulled from such deep water.

"I've killed less fish in the last three years than they do in a day of (tournament) fishing when they're spooning at 60-70 feet," Kadota added.

Responding to a comment made by former national bass champion Don Iovino, who said that Castaic "is being poached silly" by bait fishermen in search of a world record, Kadota said that Iovino had boasted of trying to catch record bass that would swim up to feed on freshly stocked trout.

Kadota then voiced an opinion shared--but not always practiced--by most within the bassing community: "The bottom line is to help the sport out, and not to bash one side or the other. We can find fault with bait fishermen and we can find fault with tournament fishermen. The bottom line is to release the fish."

El Nino: It's apparently getting stronger by the month, according to Mike Laurs, an oceanographer working for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Laurs, in charge of the El Nino Watch project headquartered in La Jolla, said warm-water conditions associated with El Nino continued to intensify during February and added that sea surface temperatures were from one to more than three degrees higher than normal "in a continuous band along the entire west coast."

Briefly

SALTWATER--Spring is in the air, or at least in the water off Catalina Island, where white seabass and yellowtail have begun to feed. The seabass bite started last Friday, with the best catch reported by the Freedom out of 22nd St. Landing, whose 24 passengers took their limit of one fish apiece. Some pushed 50 pounds. Rockfish and rock cod, however, are still getting most of the attention from the local fleet.

Cabo San Lucas: Overall fishing is rated excellent, with striped marlin, large dorado and tuna hitting lures and live bait from the old lighthouse to Chileno in the Sea of Cortez. Tony Qualyn of Newport Beach and Jack Caswell of Huntington Beach last Saturday teamed to catch three marlin, two tuna in the 70-pound class and four dorado to 40 pounds.

FRESHWATER--Thanks to heavy rain, the Department of Fish and Game is able to stock waters that have been passed over for several years. Among those currently being planted with catchable-size rainbow trout: Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County; Elizabeth Lake and Little Rock Reservoir in Los Angeles County; Trabuco Creek in Orange County and Sweetwater River in San Diego County.

SHOWTIME--The Boat Lover's Boat Show will start a five-day run today at the Anaheim Convention Center. Hours through Friday are 2 p.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cost is $5.95 for adults, $2.25 for children 6-15 and free for those under 6. . . . The Western Fishing Tackle and Boat Show will have a five-day run starting today at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Doors open 3-10 p.m. Wed.-Fri; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Cost is $6 for adults. Children under 12 free.

CONSERVATION--Trout Unlimited is holding its annual banquet-auction Saturday night at 5 at the Disneyland Hotel. Items include equipment and fishing packages. Cost is $40. Details: (714) 673-0910 or (714) 772-5758. . . . Oranco Bowmen, Cherry Valley Bowhunters and Camp Pendleton Field Archers are hosting a benefit archery tournament for habitat improvement for deer in the Cleveland National Forest, Sunday at 7:30 a.m. at Oranco Bowmen range in Chino. Cost is $15. Details: (714) 688-5685 evenings. . . . CalTrout is holding a golf tournament to benefit the state's trout fisheries April 10 at Brookside Country Club in Pasadena.

Details: (818) 799-5011.

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