There are so many tuna swimming around south of the border that San Diego skippers are scratching their heads.
Trouble is, the skippers are more confused than amazed.
Despite ideal conditions all the way up the Baja California coast, the fish have chosen to remain in two primary areas, between 180 and 330 miles southwest of Point Loma.
Thus the dozens of boats that rely on overnight fishing trips--with a maximum range of about 100 miles--are stuck at the docks with no customers.
The smaller fleet of multi-day boats has had no trouble finding schools of yellowfin and the larger bluefin. But the bluefin have, for the most part, been doing a lot of teasing and little biting, breezing beneath the boats but not taking any bait.
"I have never in my life seen as many fish as I have in the last week that do not want to bite," said Frank LoPreste, 50, of LoPreste-Dunn Sportfishing.
There have been some exceptions. On the Vagabond, 25 passengers combined for 13 bluefin--12 of which weighed more than 100 pounds--on a trip that ended Sunday. The Polaris Supreme reported 12 bluefin on Monday on a trip still in progress.
The good news is that the yellowfin have begun to bite in a big way. Included in the Polaris Supreme's Monday count were 360 yellowfin averaging about 15 pounds.
The best news for landing operators, however, would be if the fish moved north about 100 miles. Last year at this time, the overnight fleet was knee-deep in tuna.
"There's lots and lots of bait and blue water," LoPreste said. "The table is set and we're just waiting for the company to show."
The yellowtail bite at San Clemente Island remains the best bet for exotics locally. The popular jacks are biting for anyone who has squid and access to San Clemente Island.
The Blackjack had one of the better bites of the week on Tuesday. Skipper Gary Norby radioed Redondo Sportfishing at 11 a.m. after his 14 anglers had boated 50 fish averaging 12 to 15 pounds. They finished with 78 yellowtail and four white sea bass.
Squid are reportedly in good supply at Santa Barbara Island, so the Channel Islands figure to be a busy place for a while.
Marine biologists call it "the Stingray Surf Shuffle."
But it's not as much a dance as it is a prevention.
An unusually high number of stingrays have moved into the shallows this summer, and the rays are not partial to being stepped on.
"If you step on one, it will get you," says Chuck Valle, a DFG biologist based in Long Beach.
The stingray shuffle, basically plowing the sand with both feet while wading, is the best way to avoid being stung, Valle says. It might seem ridiculous, but it beats being drilled in the ankle by a poisonous barb and suffering for a couple of days.
Hundreds have already been stung, including 20 in one day this month at Seal Beach.
Valle says stingrays enter warm, shallow water to mate. Of four species found on the Southern California coast, the most common is the round stingray, measuring only about 20 inches across but with a serrated barb up to two inches in length.
The fish cover themselves with sand and aren't aggressive, feeding on shrimp, crabs and clams, using their barbed tail only as a means of defense. "These fish aren't purposely swimming through the water trying to find people to sting," Valle says.
BAJA FISHING--Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and the East Cape are reporting excellent fishing. Striped marlin remain the prevalent catch off Cabo, but the first two black marlins of the season, one a 330-pounder, were caught in the last week. Blue marlin are showing at the scales at an average of three or four a day and sailfish are abundant. Two boats in the Gaviota fleet reported three species of billfish in one day. Dorado and tuna to 50 pounds are there in good numbers. Wahoo are showing in better numbers at the scales at San Jose beaches, but dorado are the main offshore taker, along with striped marlin and an occasional blue. Inshore, huge cabrilla, amberjack and roosterfish have been challenging the light-tackle anglers.
At the East Cape, panga fishermen are catching mostly dorado. Cruiser fishermen are traveling north and finding stripers, blues and sailfish. The fishing is hot at times. The weather is hot, too, averaging 100 degrees during the day. Farther north, off Loreto, the dorado fishing is so good that fisheries officials are paying regular visits to enforce the three-fish limit.
CALENDAR--Buzz Brizendine and Ron Kovach will conduct a seminar for tuna fishermen Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at Sports Chalet in Huntington Beach. . . . Northern California fly-fishing guide Dick Galland will give a presentation on the Fall and Pit rivers, Hat Creek, Baum and Manzanita lakes Thursday night at 6:30 at the Encino Glen. No charge. . . . The annual American Boating Jubilee begins a nine-day run Friday at Shoreline Village Marina in Long Beach. . . . The Western Outdoor News Fishing Schools and instructor Kit McNear will have a session Saturday aboard the Islander out of 22nd St. Landing in San Pedro. Details: (818) 762-5873. . . . Mammoth Lakes' annual Children's Fishing Festival, an event designed to introduce children to fishing, will be held July 30 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the ponds at Snowcreek. Details: (800) 367-6572.