It has been a week since Patrick Walsh caught his fish and he still is reeling.
"I've still got blisters on two of my fingers just from the reel heat," Walsh said Tuesday. "That's how brutal it was."
He was talking about his battle with a black marlin while fishing from a panga in a howling wind on a choppy Sea of Cortez.
Walsh, 50, fishing out of Gordo Banks Sportfishing in San Jose Del Cabo, was trolling a five-pound tuna when the massive billfish struck, taking off on a high run and tail-dancing into the horizon.
"We had to chase it," the Venice resident said. "On the first run it took 350 yards of line and almost spooled me."
The skipper was Marcello Gonzalez, who is known for finding and catching big billfish. He landed one of the few 1,000-pound marlin ever taken in the region a few years ago and reportedly caught another this year.
When he returned from the recent outing with Walsh and his two partners, including fleet operator Eric Brictson, it was dark. But a crowd had gathered on the beach at La Playita, awaiting their arrival. Walsh left them the fish, estimated at more than 600 pounds.
"It was dark when we got in," Walsh said. "So we couldn't weigh it."
A larger black marlin, after a much shorter fight from a much bigger boat, was weighed in last week at the Cabo San Lucas scale. A 720-pounder was landed by Lodi's Kelly Olds aboard the Gaviota III, another boat with a 1,000-pound marlin to its credit.
Black to blue: The season is shaping up well off Cabo San Lucas. Several blue marlin have been seen cruising the clear, blue Baja water.
Notable catches in the last week: a 590-pound blue aboard the Carmelita, a 520-pounder aboard Reel Affair and a 482-pounder--after a four-hour fight--aboard Pisces Andrea.
"This is the time of year everybody's getting spooled with the 80-pound test by these big blues," said Mario Banaga, a spokesman for the Pisces Fleet, adding that the bigger fish usually stick around until mid-November.
The tuna bite south of San Diego is more consistent than it has been all season, as far as the overnight fleet is concerned.
Trouble is, business is nearly as slow as it was when there were no fish, which was not unexpected. Fishermen by and large consider the season over after Labor Day.
But those still fishing are enjoying unsurpassed action. Anglers on the Holiday, returning from a 3 1/2-day trip, found one of the better bites in one-day range while returning Monday.
"We had a quadruple hookup and then picked up 180 tuna on one stop only 37 miles from San Diego," said charter master Ron Kovach, adding that the fish were running eight to 18 pounds.
Whereas small yellowfin are being targeted close to San Diego, much larger bluefin tuna are a bit farther south.
Anglers aboard Dan Sansome's American Angler boated 91 bluefin during a three-day trip that ended Sunday.
"We had 51 that weighed more than 100 pounds," Sansome said. "It's the best bite on the big tuna I've seen in a while."
Apparently. The vessel left Point Loma Sunday night on a five-day trip and on Monday Roger Hawtree of San Diego boated a 230-pounder.
Deception can be costly, the Department of Fish and Game says of anglers who are trying to outsmart the state agency and its new rule requiring fishermen to display their licenses above the waist.
Colored-paper and computer-produced counterfeit licenses have been showing up at Lake Piru in Ventura County and Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County.
"Displaying a bogus license can be a very expensive mistake," warned DeWayne Johnson, the DFG's top warden, adding that the fine can exceed $500.