Close Encounters on Catalina Island
Our business is named Afishinados Charters, and it is true that I started my business on the island as a fishing charter business. We have come a long way since 2003.
Back then it was all about fishing. I had built Afishinado, my idea of the perfect boat, and was using it as a truck to haul materials and construction buddies while building our island home. I offered my buds a fun project, crummy wages and fishing trips. We got the house built in under a year!
Once I had completed construction it was time to go fishing full time. I started out by taking buddies and ended up creating new fishing friends by offering my boat and time to charter customers. It was a dream job.
In the space of a few years I had shared my boat with all kinds of folks from major celebrities such as George Clooney and Paul Newman to sports figures such as Rick Dempsey and Davey Johnson to business tycoons who never let us mention their names.
My customers ranged from 4 years old to 94. I am pretty sure that Lee Grey (nephew of Zane Grey) caught his last yellowtail aboard one of my charters. After the fourth fish I remember Lee calling out, “You’re killing me Capt. John, what a way to go!”
I have seen a few things during my time as a charter boat captain. Enough to write a book, Fish Tales and Long Sails (available at Afishinados Gallery Store). Regardless, I know that I have not seen it all. Proof came last week with a close encounter of the Eagle kind.
We had a group of gents on board who had chartered with us a few times. These guys ranged in age from 65 to 83, and they were a hoot. Since Afishinado is out of commission, I picked them up aboard Catallac…nice upgrade.
We went to the backside, past Ben Weston in search of the squid boats that were making bait. We found the Pacific Carnage and bought a load of squid. Since we were on the back side we decided to fish Shark Harbor.
Shark Harbor is a small inlet right next to Little Harbor. It has a rock that exposes at low tide right in the middle of the bay. I have caught Halibut, White Sea bass and a number of other fish near this rock in the shallow, turbulent waters.
We set up for some fishing and immediately started catching a variety of fish. In fact, the first 4 fish were all different species, a Barracuda, a Calico bass, a White Fin Croaker and a Sargo.
Conditions looked good, so we continued in the hopes that we might find a nice fat Halibut. One of the guys deep-hooked a Calico bass that was not going to survive after it hit the deck. Charlie was working as deckhand and held the fish high.
We do this because the eagles have learned to keep an eye on our fishing activities in the hopes of an easy meal. Charlie wiggled the fish and I gave a shrill whistle. Soon a juvenile eagle came swooping down from the cliff.
We had seen the seagulls pestering this bird earlier, so it was not a surprise to see the bird. We all got out our cell phones and started taking shots of this bird coming toward us. And still coming toward us. And then flying right at Charlie with the fish in his hand.
I still do not know what to call the noise that came out of Charlie’s mouth when the fish pulled up only a foot or two away. It sounded awkward and shrill. Maybe it was Eagle talk, although it might have been one of those noises that simply escape from your body when fear has choked out a noise from deep within.
Charlie ducked behind the BBQ and the bird pulled up with talons at the ready, then spun off to the starboard side of the boat, made a big circle and finally saw Charlie throw the bass into the air and away from the boat.
This eagle came so close that we could see it was tagged with the #46 on each shoulder. I later discovered that this eagle is named Tiana and is known to be very human-friendly. I am not sure that Charlie feels the same about Tiana.
I posted the eagle encounter video on u-tube (Afishinados Channel) and later learned that Tiana has had a run of bad luck, breaking both of her legs at an early age. Thanks to Dr. Peter Sharpe of the Institute for Wildlife Studies and local vet Dr. Denny, Tiana has recovered and is living the dream on Catalina Island terrorizing deckhands and thrilling us all.
By Capt. John
Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – firstname.lastname@example.org – 888-613-7770