Like everybody else who enjoys marlin fishing here in Southern California, I’ve been kinda holdin’ my breath about the marlin season. I know earlier I said that it was gonna be more of a normal season as far as the billfish went, and we’d have to wait and see. Well, right now it looks like it could shape up ok.
Lately I’ve been doing more boat work than fishing, but we got a chance to get out there and almost landed the first marlin of the season. Before we had the Rybovich in Kona, Hawaii, Anthony Hsieh had a 55-foot Hatteras over there that we nicknamed Betsy. Well, Betsy had been sittin’ for about three years at the Crow’s Nest brokerage in San Diego for sale. In this economy that’s a pretty tough boat to sell, and it’s a shame because this is one really nice boat. We’ve caught fish over 800 pounds and saw several granders come up behind Betsy.
So we thought we should take Betsy out on a demo run and about two weeks ago we made the decision to go. There wasn’t anything on board. Not a plate, fork, hook, rod, reel, gaff, towel or tool — absolutely nothing. So I went all out getting the girl ready to head out for a couple of days. Boats hate to sit and I got the vibe that she was just as anxious to get fishing again as I was. So after about a week of all-out work and trying to think of anything we might need, we were finally ready… Sorta.
The trip was supposed to be a full day and a morning, but we stretched it out a little and turned the trip into two full days. Jimmy showed up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday to help out and I was stoked to have him. I haven’t fished locally for a couple of years and felt a little rusty. I studied all the sea-surface temperature charts the night before and Lance had told me where he had seen a couple of marlin above the A Bank on a recent trip. The shot of the water that I looked at showed a better piece of water about six miles east of there, so that’s where we started.
First we ran up to Newport, got live squid and caught about 20 macks. The bait capacity on this boat is a bit less than what we’re used to, so we were a little limited (we just ordered a new tank for her). We ran to my favorite corner outside the rigs and put em in. We tacked around looking for the break and found it in about 40 minutes. I set up a tack just barely on the hot-water side and we started sliding towards the island. I went down to bag up the fresh dead and began to put it in the freezer.
I had been off the bridge maybe two minutes when I heard Jimmy whistle — the marlin whistle!
I ran up to the bridge but the fish had sunk out. We stopped the boat and after several minutes I picked up two marlin. They were just scratchin, I mean like one-inch of a fin showing, then down. Back up again, then down. They were swimming so close together and one had a screwed up tail (the big one) and I thought for a second that it might be a sword. Then they popped up about six inches.
Jimmy ran a bucket to the bow with two mackerel. Anthony and Jimmy each set out a nice cast. Anthony’s bait had a heart attack or something and died. Jimmy got bit. He set the fish up and just as it’s head and shoulders came out, the fish came off. What a bummer. It was the big one — I would have said around 200 pounds. We looked around for about two more hours then headed for the island.
I couldn’t believe how many boats were at the island fishing for bass, sea bass and whatever else. Every rock on the front side had a boat or two sitting on it. Many had dive boats. Wow! Culture shock. I finally found a cove with almost no condition but at least the current was moving in the right direction. On the first cast Ron caught a halibut of about 18 pounds, and that was about it. I tried to force myself into a couple of other spots without any luck. Then our windlass started acting up (I fixed that this week), the wind came up and I had had about enough of the crowd. Off to Clemente.
We looked all the way across but saw nothing. When we got to the island, the south swell had the conditions all goofed up. We caught a handful of bass before the sun went down. We woke up to a tank full of dead bait and took off for Catalina looking for kelps. I found loads of mini-macks on the kelps but nothing that was big enough to cast at a marlin or a sword, but man these baits were perfect for calicos. If we had anything big enough to cast, I would have stayed right there in the lee of the Island. It looked epic!
When we got over to Catalina I found a bunch of perfect-sized macks for casting at marlin and swords. Anthony said he would prefer to spend the time looking for bigger species all day. We saw one striped marlin feeder and something underwater that may have been a sword. That was our trip. It was actually a good shakedown for Betsy and we did have the first marlin of the season on for a bit. Bummer that we only got the hook back. That almost never happens with a circle and a perfect-sized bait. Oh well, that’s fishing.
Since then Trinidad, Club Ted, and Mirage have all released marlin. Trinidad and Chaser both lost swords as well. I remember 1991 started out just like this and turned into a pretty good season. Cross your fingers boys, here we go!
Marlin Caught Off Southern California