The fish weren’t exactly chomping at the bait this past week, but that’s not to say local anglers haven’t had their share of excitement.
Indeed it’s been an eventful week, with three battles with swordfish in the Catalina area, two of them successful; a marlin tournament that netted an Avalon team $20,000 and South Bay anglers aboard 22nd St. Landing’s Islander venturing south of the border to find fish that were very much in the chomping mood.
Long Beach’s Eric Matherly had the top catch of the week, a 317-pound swordfish hooked Sunday at the 277-fathom spot and landed nearly two hours later. Matherly was outdone, however, by La Mirada angler Dennis Starr, who also on Sunday won a rather ugly 7 1/2-hour battle near Catalina against a swordfish that tried to fight back, attacking the boat in the worst possible place--the moving propeller.
“Basically, it’s head was almost cut off,” said Eric Fullmer at Avalon Sea Food, where Starr’s broadbill was weighed in at 332 pounds. “They had to tape the head together for the picture. It was still an awesome fish, though.”
Billfish were in the spotlight on Monday and Tuesday, too, as the Avalon-based Catalina Classic marlin tournament was in progress. There were 49 boats competing and only eight marlin were caught, but an Avalon team used local knowledge to its advantage, catching two stripers, including the first-place fish that weighed 200 pounds.
Avalon resident Jim Hoffman caught the marlin Tuesday morning aboard the Reel Express, about five miles east of the island.
“It stood on its tail quite a bit and danced for us,” Hoffman said.
After learning that his fish had won, Hoffman and his team danced to the bank with a $20,000 check.
Another Avalon team took second place with a 171-pound striper caught by Steve Bray aboard the boat Crofleet, skippered by Tad Crofoot. It was quite a day for the Bray family. Steve’s brother Mark was skippered the first-place Reel Express.
While the aforementioned anglers might disagree, and understandably so, the best fishing aboard a South Bay vessel took place 225 miles south of San Pedro, in the vicinity of San Martin Island off Baja California.
The Islander, with 27 anglers aboard, returned to San Pedro on Monday with its deck literally covered with yellowfin tuna, 392 to be exact. Skipper Mark Pisano had perfect timing as he put his customers on one of the better bites in the area in weeks.
“We had steady fishing for three straight days,” Pisano said. “Basically, we caught some wide open bites and some pick bites. I’d say on the best single bite we put 100 fish on the boat.
“We had good weather, caught fish on the kelp paddies and sonar marks, and we had some jig strikes--basically, it’s like fishing should be.”
A poor bait situation and general lack of interest among fish in the area is making a typically slow business period even slower for area landings.
Most of the excitement has come from the Rocky Point area off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where yellowtail are occasionally making their presence known.
Anglers aboard Redondo Sportfishing’s Sea Spray, while fishing for bonito with light tackle, have had daily run-ins with the stronger yellowtail since Saturday.
“I would say they get one for every two they hook,” said Scott McKelvey at the landing.
A good sign, South Bay skippers say, is that squid are starting to show in the bellies of fish that are being caught. If squid move into the area, more game fish will follow.
If not, look for an early transition to bottom fishing for rock cod and rockfish, an alternative some skippers are already looking into.
Redondo and L.A. Harbor-based landings are still making trips to the outer banks, but having little success. Although a few yellowtail and tuna have been caught, anglers have filled the sacks with rockfish.
“There’s a lot of tuna on Tanner (Bank),” said Gary Norby of Redondo Sportfishing’s Blackjack. “We had right them right to the corner on the chum, but for some reason they’re line shy.”
South Bay catches: Chris Williams, San Pedro, 45-pound bluefin tuna; Bill Simpson, San Pedro, 40-0 mako shark; Rico Curtis, Lomita, 24-0 yellowtail; Tim Sullivan, Long Beach, 10-0 cow cod.
Freshwater: Tucker Nason, Playa del Rey, 6-10 rainbow trout at June Lake; Eric Shono, Redondo Beach, 20 crappie at Big Bear Lake.