It Ainít Over Til Itís Over
“It ain’t over til it’s over” is a famous quote by Yogi Berra (the catcher for the Yankees, not the cartoon bear). It is an apt description of the fishing this year.
We had a lull in the action around the island, but this last week things have picked up locally and off shore. We are starting to see squid at the island and macs swimming near shore. These critters are bait, they are at the base of the system, and without them the fishing will dry up.
The squid is perhaps the most important organism for our glory fish, the Yellowtail and the White Sea Bass. Unfortunately for local fisherman, squid is now Calamari, which is the fastest growing appetizer on the menu over the last ten years.
Squid live for maybe 18 months. They spawn 3 to 4 times in that life. When the biomass is healthy they come in to areas with hard sand bottom and lay a billion eggs. A large segment of the population is on its last spawn, so they remain with the eggs while the rest head back into deeper water.
Those that stay behind are dying. They live in a state of suspended animation for a number of hours. As the night turns to early morning the big predator fish (our targets) move in to sweep the nearly dead squid from the area.
This is a perfect system. Big fish feast on the high protein, low effort mass of dying squid. This dance repeats nightly until the spawn is over and the squid move on, a process that could take a couple of months.
It is a marvel how perfectly nature has balanced this ecosystem. Unfortunately, alien life forms (man) have moved in to commercially harvest this same biomass for Calamari. Sadly, the nets that man uses do not discriminate between those squid that are on their last spawn (dying) and the rest.
After a couple of years of this type of harvesting, the biomass is reduced to a fraction and the net boats move on to another nesting area. Our hope locally is that the squid replenish in numbers large enough to bring in some fish again, but not large enough to bring in the nets.
Our fishing has changed as a result. Whereas we once had bites that would run for 3 weeks or more, we now have bites that might last 3 days, or even 3 hours. It is hard to target the glory fish with this type of bite.
Still, fishermen are an optimistic bunch. So, when the bait shows in we get excited.
Offshore we have a different system, often driven by fin bait such as anchovy, sardine or Macs. Although you will find some restaurants using sardine and anchovy, you will not find many (any?) restaurants offering Mackerel as an appetizer, so when these fish congregate their numbers are huge.
Marlin, tuna and to a lesser extent, Yellowtail and Dorado follow these massive schools of fin bait. Just this week we had pretty decent marlin fishing in front of Avalon for those who chose to go. But for Afishinados, it was all about tuna.
We put a trip together aboard Catallac to head south of San Clemente Island where massive schools of anchovy and squid have been holding the tuna’s attention. There are two target fish, the Bluefin Tuna (BFT) and the Yellowfin Tuna (YFT).
BFT are the more glamorous fish. They can grow big, they are hard fighters and they make the best table fare. But, they are also very skittish and require a lot of time, energy, skill and luck and often some rather involved techniques, like kite fishing.
Essentially, fishing with a kite presents a bait at the surface with no apparent line attached since it is running up to the kite. This approach has resulted in huge fish getting into the 200+ pound range.
On the other hand YFT will bite a trolled feather or even a piece of wood (cedar plug). They tend to run below dolphin which attract large schools of birds making them much easier to find.
This weekend we covered about 150 miles of ocean looking for BFT and found only small fish that would not bite. On the way home we found a large school of dolphin and hooked 4 YFT in a short period of time.
I am going back tomorrow. Forget the BFT, I am going straight for the bird schools and dolphin. It is time to fill the freezer. Four YFT give nearly the same yield as one big BFT and everybody on board has a chance to pull on a fish.
It ain’t over…
By Capt. John King, Afishinados Charters
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 – firstname.lastname@example.org