Ted Naftzger of Los Angeles has probably caught more broadbill swordfish on rod and reel than anyone, but it was nine years between his 47th and 48th.
Not that he wasn't trying.
"I've been out several times a year," he said, "once or twice a week in the summertime."
Some days he targets yellowfin tuna or marlin, but "we're watching for (swordfish) all the time," he said.
Naftzger, 68, finally broke his slump Sunday when he took one weighing 234 pounds on the west side of Santa Monica Bay about 10 miles off the beach. He had taken his 37-foot boat Hustler to the Channel Islands to look for swordfish last Friday, and after a fruitless two-day search headed home in a cold, miserable, flat-calm drizzle.
Around 2 p.m., as the boat approached the the 503-Fathom Spot, one of the deepest areas of the bay, Naftzger's boat captain, Tom Furtado of Florida, spotted the fish cruising on the surface. Naftzger grabbed a Spanish mackerel he had in his live well for three weeks, impaled it on a hook, threw it out on 50-pound test line--"and the swordfish ate it," he said.
"The fish was very active . . . jumped several times and made one real long run, which was thrilling to see. It got all the way out of the water and did this scissors jump where they almost touch their bill to their tail."
Within 45 minutes Naftzger had it to the boat. It was a triple-flag fish: first of the year caught by one person, for the Avalon Tuna Club, the Balboa Angling Club and the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.
Naftzger is a past president of the Tuna Club, the oldest sportfishing club in the world. Its records show that this was only the second swordfish caught by a member since 1986 and the seventh since 1978.
"They've been depleted pretty heavily by commercials," Naftzger said, "especially the driftnets and longliners."
But he is still hoping for 50.
"I've been hitting them for 30 years, every chance I could," he said. "But it's like big-game hunting on the ocean. You're hunting for one individual fish."
One of the most unusual fishing stories of the year was reported by Dave Elm and Bill Thompson of Huntington Beach. They were three miles offshore north of Laguna Beach fishing for thresher sharks last weekend when they caught a deer.
"It was a 100-pound doe swimming out to sea, so we figured we'd better do something," Elm said.
They lassoed the animal, tied it to their swim step, released it close to the beach, then herded it ashore with their boat. They speculated that it may have been a refugee of the recent fires, looking for a new home.
JURISPRUDENCE--Of the 12 adults arrested in the California Department of Fish and Game's Operation King Rosy crackdown on illegal snake trafficking last month, three pleaded guilty in Riverside County and were fined from $509 to $811 and in lieu of 60 days in jail were given three years probation, during which they can't possess reptiles. Seven pleaded not guilty. Those included George Pallas of Arcadia, who protested when he received a letter from the DFG telling him his license had been revoked--even before his preliminary hearing next Monday. But under the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 185.5 (b) (5), the DFG can do that, as it could revoke on the spot the license of a hunter or fisherman suspected of committing a violation. However, Pallas and the others may request a hearing before the Fish and Game Commission, which meets in Long Beach next Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, some of those arrested also face charges in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
WORLD RECORDS--Not only is David Manella of Toluca Lake having trouble getting last February's all-tackle world record yellowfin tuna of 395.3 pounds approved by the International Game Fish Assn., but Richard Minor of Granada Hills has had his 100-pound-test line catch of 363.9 two weeks earlier rejected. The IGFA rejected Minor's catch because Capt. Tommy Rothery, poised to push the fish away from the propeller with a pole, if necessary, momentarily touched the line. Although Minor and Rothery appealed, IGFA President Mike Leech said, "That's the rule. Who's to say whether it had an effect on the catch or not? As soon as he touches rod, reel or line, it's disqualified." Leech said Manella's record has not been accepted because "we have three other people who say one other person touched the rod. If we get one call, we don't give it much credence. We (also) have some very reliable people saying the catch was legitimate. It puts us in a position where we're not sure. At this stage of the game, the record is rejected."
MEXICAN FISHING--Cabo San Lucas: Dorado still going strong, and blue marlin counts up (29 caught, 26 released). Top catch 550 pounds by Leonann Morrison. San Jose del Cabo: Dorado running 25-35 pounds; pangas averaging 4-5 while releasing up to 20. Wahoo consistent. Top catches: Tim Williams, San Clemente, 45-pound wahoo, four dorado and one 200-pound blue marlin (released); Steve Khersonsky, Huntington Park, three 40-pound-class wahoo, one striped marlin (released); Dave West, Fullerton, 112-pound sailfish, six dorado, four tuna; Jose Chavez, Los Angeles, 300-pound black marlin. East Cape: Dorado running 10-35 pounds, sailfish 50-75. Loreto: Yellowtail and some roosterfish. San Diego Long-range: Capt. John Grabowski's Red Rooster III, 10 days to Alijos Rocks, Thetis Bank and Hippolito with 32 anglers, took 321 yellowfin tuna, 290 yellowtail, 192 dorado and 62 wahoo. Jackpot: Steve La Rue, Riverside, 111.1-pound yellowfin.