Catalina Island News

Mystery Fish

Afishinados Charters

While waiting for Cummins to send me a new engine, I have been upgrading those who book Afishinado to Catallac. For those of you who know the boats, it is a major upgrade.

Picture yourself checking into a nice hotel and being told that there was no room so the hotel was upgrading you to the Presidential Suite.  It is that kind of upgrade.

It’s not that Afishinado is a second rate boat, she is a top notch sportfisher.  But when you are standing at the dock waiting for a 6 person boat and a 49 passenger boat pulls up for your charter; that is a big change.

We have run a number of small group fishing charters this year on Catallac, but the charter on Friday was not one of these.  We had a group of 30 on board…to go fishing!

I do not like to fish more than 14 on Catallac because it just gets too crazy, and we do not have the bait carrying ability of a large party boat.  So, when folks call with large groups we offer Catallac with the caveat, you can have 49 on board, but we can only fish 14 at a time.

The group on Friday was a Boy Scout Troop and their Dads.  My first instinct was to turn down the charter.  Thirty folks, all camping out at Little Harbor is a logistic nightmare, but the Scout Master was persuasive (turns out he is a Special Ops dude).

We agreed to motor around from Avalon to Little Harbor and have the group kayak out to Catallac in twos until we got everybody off the beach and on board.  We deck-loaded the last duo and their kayak.  Quite a feat in itself, and not one many other operators would/could do.

Little Harbor is on the back side, the weather side, of the island and it was being true to its reputation.  Wind and swell.  I am not sure I can describe this scenario, but let me give it a whack.

Picture Catallac, a 50’ power Catamaran with a full complement of rods and reels, a tank full of live, ink-squirting squid, a group of VERY ENERGETIC boy scouts and a group of fathers, none of who had ever really fished the ocean before.

I motored out of Little Harbor and we dropped anchor in Shark Harbor.  This is a run of about 400 yards.  The charter master looked at me in disbelief, with that “I paid how much to fish within spitting distance of camp?” look.

No Pressure.  I explained that the weather was bad, the group was novice and I had caught plenty of nice fish in this cove.  Besides, after learning to fish with me, they could paddle right back to the spot and hook fish on their own.

I assembled the group on the front deck and started asking questions.  “Who knows how to tie a fishing knot?”  “Has anybody ever caught anything other than a trout?”  “Who has never fished?”

By the end of my questions I had split the group into those that had zero experience and those that had seen a fishing rod.  I instructed them all to team up with one person from each side of the boat, newbie and novice.

I then went into my training regimen.  “This is a rod, this is a reel...etc.”  “Now, this is a live squid, they squirt black ink and will bite you if you do not hold them correctly.”  That always gets their attention.

I baited the hook and cast it out, illustrating the method.  While showing the technique of ‘walking the dog’ I hooked and landed a Calico Bass…always impressive during a training session.

It took a good hour, but soon the group was hooking fish.  We had most of them on spinning gear with light line.  Inevitably, a bigger fish came along and sure enough the group was yelling excitedly as one of the anglers was struggling to hold a fully bent rod.

“Follow your line” we instructed.  This means nothing to somebody in full-scale panic over the fighting strength of their first ocean fish.  I grabbed the angler’s shoulders and started leading him around the boat to follow his fish. 

Over and under a myriad of lines, around the back of the boat, back up the side and then the fish showed as a nice Yellowtail, the angler jerked the rod, the fish dove under the boat, the line broke and our first really nice fish had escaped.

Big Bummer, but soon we had more Yellows biting around the boat and miraculously landed three of five, not bad.  We also hooked and released 12 Calico, a barracuda, a halibut, a sea bass, 9 yellowfin croaker and an eel.  But that was not the oddest catch.

One of the anglers hooked and was fighting a fish that I could not recognize.  We brought it on board and took a bunch of pics.  I told everybody that there were 3 professional anglers on board with a combined 80 years of fishing and none of us had ever seen such a fish.

It just goes to show you, no matter how much experience you have with Mother Ocean, she still has a few mysteries to share for those who have the time and the interest to pay attention.

Check the pics.  We still do not know what it is…do you?  The first correct answer will win two tickets to our Flying Fish Tour where we are currently seeing thousands of fish each night.  Join us!

Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 –