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December 26

Christmas was pretty low-key at my home this year, so I had no problem bailing out the door at midnight to drive to Avila Beach for a rockfish tournament on the Mallard out of Patriot Sportfishing. 17 competing anglers made the most of the good weather window by leaving at 5am and running to Purisma.

On my first cast up at the bow, I pryed a gopher out of his hole. I released him looking for bigger game. I found a vermilion next but he was just a mere two pounder so he went home as well. About an hour later I finally started to hit my groove. I had pocketed a few nice bolinas and kicked back a couple of lingcod, when bang, I had a nice fighter. It was a huge vermilion. My next fish was a canary that I released.

I was starting to think I might have a shot when somebody landed a halibut... and then another one came aboard. I decided to try some new Berkley Gulp saltwater baits. I rigged a 6" cigar minnow onto an Owner 1 1/2 oz. saltwater bullet ultrahead and it got hit like a freight train! I was getting slammed by lingcod and bolinas within seconds of jigging the bottom. The bait held up very well considering the hammering it was taking. I did manage one more bomber red before the end of the tournament, but I only wound up with a bag total of nine fish due to my quest for the really big one that eluded me... this time.

Thanks to Roger, Capt. Sal and our deckhand Dustin for making this trip a wonderful way for me to cap off the year. It was cold, but the mixed bag of entrants made me feel warm and we all had fun. Congrats to the top four sacks:

First place - Alonzo Tomez (Also took largest fish, a 16# halibut)

Second place - Dan Barrios (Also took third largest fish, a 6 1/2 # vermilion)

Third place - Charlie Barrios (Also took second largest fish, a 15 1/2# halibut)

Fourth place - Joe Torres

Total fish counts were:

68 red rockfish, 102 bolina rockfish, 3 cabezone, 2 halibut

October 24

Thank you Doug Gober! My friend and fellow fishing buddy, Doug, chartered the Queen of Hearts as a supreme gesture of appreciation to his regular compadres and the crew of the vessel. Not only did we have Capt. Bob, Heather and Andrea, but Sherry and Randy joined the gang. I hadn’t fished with Sherry aboard since a 5-dayer on the Royal Polaris a few years ago… too long! Harry Boos brought lots of jigs, for which a few of us were very grateful. There's nothing like farming gear on your last rockfish trip of the year.

At one point I thought I’d caught a massive lingcod and hollered for the gaff to be poised and at the ready. Sorry... it was a foul hooked ling of about 9 pounds. You can’t turn their heads around if they’re hooked in the tail. Well that explained that. I went on to land some blue rockfish and gophers before having a couple of beers. A pair of legal lings was caught, as well as some nice-sized cabezons and vermilions.

On the way in, Doug capped off an exceptional day by giving everybody a bottle of his home brewed teriyaki marinade. I soaked a few fillets the next night… good stuff!

October 13-18

Welcome to autumn! I arrived home from competing in the Bisbee Los Cabos Offshore Circuit Tournament just in time for the first major drenching of California. My spirits were already damp though… our team failed to get a marlin hook-up.

We started off by pre-fishing the event on Friday with our chartered vessel, the Gaviota X, and her crew. After putting a few skipjacks in the tuna tubes, we ran for Gorda Banks. It was a long slow day of trolling and getting to know one another as a team. We felt confident that we had a plan by the time we headed for the dock. After attending the general meeting at the Melia Hotel, Larry Lowman and I ran off some new sea temp charts by Terrafin to help us figure out where to go next.

On Saturday we milled around waiting for the 7:30am start, pulling up skipjacks and small yellowfins for bait. Deciding to head to the Pacific side of Cabo we ventured to the Golden Gate bank. Counting only 3 - 4 other boats around, it seemed that most of the anglers had headed to the Cortez side to try their luck. Striped marlin made several appearances in our area, but wouldn’t hit the lures or eat a dropped back bait. Towards the end of the day, Eric Risen landed a 22 pound dorado.

Upon entering the harbor, we saw the Felina with a huge blue marlin on the transom. At the weigh station it came in at 536 pounds. We also saw a 36 pound dorado weighed before leaving to prepare for the final day.

Switching back to the Cortez side again on Sunday didn’t help us. However, towards the end of the day, Larry Risen nailed an amberjack around 35 pounds, and I hauled in a dorado that picked up our whiskey line.

Our team fought off exhaustion long enough to clean up and join the rest for the awards dinner back at the Melia. Larry Lowman and I had also both entered the Lopiccola Billfish Tournament (For Pete’s Sake) which is held in conjunction with the Bisbee as a fundraiser. While neither of us had any qualifying released fish, it was nice to know that we were helping a worthy cause.

September 30

As an extra bonus, the two top winners of my Potluck Tournament (see August 21) climbed aboard “Doble,” a 30' Island Hopper berthed on “V” dock in Santa Cruz harbor, to join me for a day of shallow-water rockfishing. Owner/operator Gerry Brooks has a first class boat, and with a 12' beam we had plenty of elbow room. I hadn’t been on a ride this sweet for a while!

Starting off slightly from the south, the breeze progressed to variable and, at times, quit altogether. Riding soft swells over a strong current, we had Ano Nuevo all to ourselves. Blues, olives
and gophers started us off while we searched for lingcod. Dave Hansen was tending to our needs as our deckhand, but this wasn’t the average group… no, he was dealing with “Team Pro.” We
couldn’t keep him busy enough, so we let him toss a line in and he quickly showed us how to grab a keeper ling off the bottom.

I set a new personal record by releasing five sea trout. The last one was a striking gold color, denoting it was a female. Just as she got to the surface, a ling zipped up and tried to eat her!
After that excitement we started to land vermilions. We wound up taking eleven nice ones to 6 pounds. Just to show us that his winning the tournament in August was not luck, Eddie Hanson
hauled up a 19-20 pound lingcod.

Gene Coombs and I were given Dave’s ling to split, and we all had plenty of expertly filleted rockfish to take home as well. I’ll be looking forward to fishing on the Doble again.

September 24

500 hundred miles to go fishing, and it was well worth it! Joining the gang from Senor Tuna, I was looking forward to enjoying some Southern California action. Landings had been reporting that yellowtail, yellowfin, bonito, albacore, dorado and occasional big eye tuna were all on the chew. The weather was magnificent and it afforded me my last chance to tune-up for the Bisbee Offshore tournament in October.

First I'd like to offer up an explanation for those "closed eye" pictures that made their way onto a few message boards. Driving down from Los Gatos required me to get up at the absurd hour of 4am, as I had decided to pop by Albackore, WON and have a meeting with Axel Valdez of Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort prior to boarding the Endeavor in San Diego by early evening.

The tailgate party was just starting when I arrived, and a cold Pacifico found its way into my hands soon after that. It was nice to see George and Mikey — it had been awhile since I had fished with these guys. I can't remember if I had fished with Baja Chris... I think so; but if not, I had seen him around the annual "Ho" shows. Throughout the night I had a chance to meet many new folks too.

Not wanting to be entirely stupid, I bagged a few precious hours of sleep on the way out to the 12 fathom "rockpile". Around an hour before sunrise, I stumbled out to watch the first few give it a try. We had a quality load of sardines, but I switched to iron after the sun came up.

Field testing a new MegaBait by casting off the bow, I quickly hooked a yellowtail on the drop. Our captain, John Glawson, handed off another rod after I decked my first fish. I put another yellow in the boat and had one of the deckhands give it to someone who didn't have a fish yet. I was feeling confident that the jig would produce, and it did BIG TIME! I caught four more on it as well as kicking back three 'cudas. All these fish were landed on a new Penn Baja Special with 40# Berkeley Big Game. The rod was a custom Seeker 670.

Later I hauled up one more yellowtail on an Emperor live bait hook. That outfit was comprised of a custom Calstar 865 with 30# spooled onto a Pro Gear 540 Albacore Special.

My two yellowfin tuna came on troll rotations using a pearl colored Mylure with an Emperor double tuna hook. A few skipjack also found it tasty. My troll rig was hoping to find a possible big eye tuna, so it wasn't a dainty combo; Sabre stroker cts655 and a Penn 15 KG loaded with Spectra and a heavy duty topshot.

A wonderful time was had by all, and I'd like to thank the crew of the Endeavor, as well as George and Dimitri (dude, where were you?), for putting together a fine charter.

September 19

Having recently returned from 10 days in Ireland, I must have brought back a wee bit of Irish luck. Today I won the Ling Fling tournament, hosted by Brian Darney on the Queen of Hearts. Randy was our skipper while deck duty was shared by Heather and Andrea.

Prior to leaving the dock we encountered a light rain, but it failed to dampen anyone’s spirits. Strong breeze from the south, added to a reasonably moderate swell, did wind up putting a damper on the lingcod. However, the rockfish cooperated, with the predominate species landed being blues, blacks, olives, gophers, vermilions and a copper or two.

Working the bow of the Queen, I landed the winning 8 pound vermilion on one of my first few drifts using an Amoebic jig in shades of blue and white. Jeff Nadeau won second place with a 7 pound brown (AKA Bolina) rockfish. Only six lings were hooked and none were of legal size, however a cabezone and a huge seatrout did score as “keepers”.

With limits all around and the sun shining down on us, we headed in. With a C-note in my pocket and a trophy too, it made that vermilion taste that much sweeter on my dinner plate.

August 22

Just when I thought I might get some sleep… day two of my wide-awake-weekend kicked off on the Wild Wave, leaving Santa Cruz harbor at 4-freaking AM! The good news is, we get to crawl into a bunk for the ride out, which puts us onto the fish quicker while letting us snag a few precious ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s.

Hats off to our fine charter hostess, Beth Smith, who really put together a fun day on the water. We had to travel beyond the normal range for this time of year. Captain Brian Cutting and his crew had a hunch that we’d get the fish at a hard break in temperature about 70 miles out.

Although it was predominantly scratch fishing — trolling, hooking up one or two, dropping in with live anchovies or sardines, hooking a few more — I hooked and promptly lost my first albacore when my 20# fluorocarbon leader broke. I didn’t really want to direct tie to 40#, but when it’s sheer pandemonium on deck you just don’t have the luxury of thinking straight, so I gave it a shot with a sardine.

As we trolled to the next spot, I switched out my reel for one rigged with 30#. I also borrowed a 20# outfit from Alan Matsuno, who was nice enough to bring Sierra Nevada Pale Ale again this year… thanks! During a brief lull I made a foray into the galley to check out the scintillating smells emanating from the grill. As usual, our cook, Salty, kept everyone well fed with terrific chow, while entertaining us with great stories.  

When my first troll rotation came up, I whipped out my Sabre (by Penn) Stroker CTS 655 XHAR & Penn Formula 15 KG. This was rigged with a pearlescent white Mylure (the Dart 5”). I horsed my troll fish to the boat in hopes of having the school follow it, and quickly sprinted for my bait rig. About 15 minutes later, I caught one on a ‘chovie. What would have been my third fish of the day happened along as I was untangling my line from a couple others. While engrossed in this mess, a fish picked up my bait. I tried in vain to hand line the frisky bugger, but he busted off… guess the drag setting on my hands was too strong!

On another stop, Sy Hoff was working on a large fish with a 15# outfit, and it seemed as though the fish was winning. I was determined to get bit on iron or a swimbait. Starting on iron, I tried doing the doink. Sy finally brought his 30# albie to gaff. With time running out, I put the iron away and picked a nice 5” plastic out of my Albackore tackle bag. I had packed it with every color under the sun. I reeled it up on my first drop, saw a fish pass under the bow and immediately sent it back down. Bang!  I was on. The one that worked had a clear belly and tail flecked with silver flakes. Above the clear was a gold lateral line topped with translucent green and flecked with black. (I believe it was an AA lure that I had picked up years ago.) A 1¾ oz silver lead head completed the offering.       

We tallied 61 chickens by the time we had to call it quits. The top fish was a 35 pound albacore that took a little extra effort to land as it was tail-wrapped. Most of the fish fell into the 12-14 pound category. Everyone got to battle a fish and put some blood on the deck.

The ride in was smooth as glass, allowing some anglers to get some sleep and others to enjoy time in the galley listening to Salty spin more tales or watching fishing videos.

August 21

Day one of the minimal-sleep weekend started off with my 2nd annual Bajabev’s Potluck Tournament. This year I decided to benefit the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and, although we didn’t get a chance to fill the event, we managed both to enjoy a nice competition with favorable weather and to donate some money to a worthy cause.

Vessel number one, returning from last year's event; was the Queen of Hearts and captain Bob Ingles. Vessel number two, the Hulicat with Dan Roony at the helm, was added by popular request. Many anglers returned this year to try and de-throne last year’s winners. We also had some new faces, and a few more donated spots so that a kid could fish in their place. Ken Stone was present again to shoot the action, and he will undoubtedly have another fine video available soon.

I positioned myself on the bow of the Queen of Hearts this trip in search of a big lingcod. After kicking back three fish that failed to make the 30” minimum length, I did manage to fight a keeper ling to the surface, but it was lost at the gaff. (Not to worry... the deckhand took very good care of me back at the bar later that day.) We put 10 legal lingcod in the boat and enjoyed playing tug-of-war with 89 others throughout the day. Hitchhiker lings were thick-as-thieves, riding up with rockfish or seatrout firmly in their toothy grasp. While some took advantage of the live anchovies provided, swimbaits proved to be deadly on the rockfish. I'd like to thank Scott Breidenbach for slipping me some very nice plastics. Gene Coombs, fishing to my right, finessed a halibut up to take the second place honors. I landed one of the 17 cabezon taken, and opted to haul home several nice rockfish for dinner and the freezer.

Over on the Hulicat, Pence MacKimmie, fishing courtesy of Full Speed Fishing.com, was giving it his best shot using Fat Bait plastics. After being busted off by his first behemoth he later rigged up with a 24 inch jacksmelt on a 2-speed outfit, still to no avail. Next, pulling a trick I know all too well, when a ling horked up a couple of octopus, he quickly retrieved them for bait. His next heartbreak was a classic…the hook pulled! Noticing that shrimp flies are bringing in nice fish, Pence switches tactics. In Pence’s words, “I kept fishing and using the shrimp fly, and I’m getting much bigger fish. I got 3 or 4 keeper lings that I released (going for the TOAD). I then go through a school of blues and get a perfect bait size. I send him back and bounce the bottom. Then I start to feel a ling down there pecking and pecking, followed by DEAD WEIGHT. So I start reeling up. Halfway off the bottom he lets go. I reel up my blue and send him back down. Again I'm getting pecked, and again dead weight. I start reeling and halfway up, he lets go again. I still have my blue. I did this for the next hour or so and had a 50/50 land rate on nice fish. But there’s still a 20 pounder in the box, and I can feel the force!”

Back in the slips, anyone who felt they had a contender participated in the weigh-off on the dock. The two biggest lingcod were within a ½ pound of each other. The rockfish competition was close too, with a pair of vermilions being just ounces apart. Each boat had landed a halibut, but the one on the Hulicat was brought in by their deckhand and was therefore ineligible.

As for this year’s winners:

Eddie Hanson's 19½ pound lingcod took first place, for a $300 prize.

Gene Coombs’ ~13 pound halibut took second place for $200.

Eddie Wong had a vermilion rockfish that went almost 6 pounds, winning him third place for $95.

All three winners will be contacted to join me on a 4 pack trip on the Doble out of Santa Cruz on September 30th.

I'd like to thank Alexa Foote, the representative for Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, for coming down to Half Moon Bay to meet the boats at the dock. My husband Jeff and I pitched in a check for $100 to help AARBF to continue the great work they do for the children.

Special thanks to:

Bob & Sherry Ingles, owners of the Queen of Hearts, who donated $100 to AARBF.

Tom Mattusch, owner of the Hulicat, who provided his boat even though we didn't have a full charter. He made allowances for the reduced number of anglers to accommodate the tournament.

Eddie Wong, our third place winner, who donated $100 to AARBF.

Dan Waddell/Full Speed Fishing.com who donated a spot for a kid to fish.

IBEW Local # 2376/Jim Bolger who donated a spot for a kid to fish.

Scott Strain who donated a spot for a kid to fish.

Captain Rich Oba/Pacific Pioneer Sport Fishing who donated a spot for a kid to fish.

I'm planning to host the event again next year. Hopefully we'll get enough interest to be able to make it another multi-boat tournament.

August 9

To augment a short report on the rockfish opener, I was desperately in search of some nice accompanying photographs. I needed a better plan than standing around the gas dock in Santa Cruz hoping to flag down a returning boat, so I found myself on the Wild Wave with a small group of anglers also in search of rockfish and lingcod.

Brian Cutting took us to a spot I knew fairly well; Ano Nuevo. We quickly saw lots of gopher rockfish as the first hook-ups made it onto the deck. Nice sized Chinas popped up here and there, plus the occasional large black rockfish made a showing. Blues attacked shrimp flies at a moment’s hesitation, making it a bit of a challenge to get through to the bottom in search of a lingcod.

I put down my camera part of the day and dropped in on a few short lings and a couple of rockfish. I saw two hefty vermilions before we had our limits and, to save the day for me at least, Brandon Caudle hoisted up a fine green lingcod into the boat. It measured 31” and I had no problem getting him to pose with the beautiful fish.

July 30

Today was a web-assisted fishing trip which started out on Ebay. An albacore adventure on the “Ghetto Booty” was engaged in a bidding war. The final bidder, Meili, couldn’t get the day off, so she opted to let me take her place.

This trip, team Booty consisted of Dan Waddell, Richard Kent, Sean Barre, Ben (the tuna virgin) Rojas and yours truly. We left at 4am from Pillar Point Harbor to put the wood to the chickens.
Of course the wind was supposed to come down but it didn’t, so we bucked it out once we got to the grounds. (I actually got in some practice rides on a large Igloo cooler as it shifted around on the rear deck, and found I could stay on longer than your average bull rider.) Since Rojas was still putting his rain gear on he missed the first fish to rise to the troll gear. Sean boated the fish and we resumed the hunt. Ben fought the second albie like he’d been doing it all his life. He declined to eat either the heart or the eyeball, much to our dismay. Contestant number three hit the deck courtesy of me.

With the wind and waves messing up the troll pattern (it was typical “jackass” conditions) and a big blow threatening, we reluctantly headed in early.

Hey Meili, I have some smoked albacore waiting for you…

July 23 - 26

I had two days of fishing in Baja, as a guest of Axel Valdez and Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort. I fished aboard their super cruiser "Careleste" with Steve Carson and Ronnie Kovach. Danny Jackson was filming our fishing for future "Fishing Ventures" shows on the Outdoor Channel.
Axel joined us for my first day with a boat full of professional talent. We knocked the stuffing out of pargo, several types of snappers, amberjack, triggerfish, dorado, yellowfin, needlefish, and Ronnie even had a hook up on a striped marlin!

Day two was a repeat of fantastic inshore action including a huge pargo that I pulled up while we were trying to entice some breezing jack crevalle. Multiple hook ups of dorado kept us busy and challenged our cameraman Danny as he followed us around the boat.

While I was there, the resort also hosted the 8th annual Big Game Blowout. The winning boat in the tournament released two blue marlin, as well as nailing a 47# dorado. Sunday evening, the awards dinner was held on the beach.

The weather was beautiful and I didn't want to leave! Stay tuned, the pictures are being developed...

July 8

Dan Wolford, Ed Lo, Ben Sleeter and I joined Darrell Ticehurst on his vessel Noosacat today. The plan was to do some studies on releasing rockfish — Dan had built some recompression devices. But as soon as we left Half Moon Bay, the breeze hit us from the south. Not good!

We made a couple of drifts over Deep Reef before bailing on that idea. The swell was still out of the northwest at that point, and the weather was sloppy, but Darrell's twin hull had no problem handling the seas. We switched plans to salmon fishing, starting in front of Martin’s Beach where we saw signs of life. There were huge bait balls everywhere, but none of us could raise a fish.

After about an hour of hearing reports to our north, Darrell put the hammer down to run out to the fleet. A few miles short of their position, I pointed out a large group of birds to Darrell and agreed it looked too good to pass up. The kicker was that I had to visit the head. I no sooner had the door shut when they scored a double hook-up. Both 20-pound class salmon hit the deck. Starting off with such a nice grade gave us hope for really big fish. We managed one more on that spot before joining the rest of the herd near Mussel Rock.

Sleeter's rod was the hot stick, which worked out nicely since it was his last day fishing as a bachelor! We tossed off a few silvers and one incredibly small shaker during the day, but most of the fish were very nice. The swell finally shifted to match the wind while the last few fish were being fought. Tired of being pitched around, we headed for the barn with limits for the five of us.

We put the whip to the pony coming in and I cleaned the fish while we were at the fuel dock. Bob Franko met us at the slip, and I proceeded to tell him how I landed my first salmon on a FBR (Franko Bullet Rotator).

June 26

As the wind whistled in just before dawn, Coastside Fishing Club began their 2nd annual salmon derby. I entered under team Ghetto Booty. Dan Waddell’s boat was able to weather the rough ocean that sent at least a third of the derby entrants scurrying back to Pillar Point Harbor, where they were invited to exchange their entry fees for raffle tickets. Those folks got the BBQ and beer going early while the rest of us “went for it!”

For most contenders it was a day of limits, but nothing to write home about. I felt lucky enough to get a nice salmon in the 16 pound class to augment my smaller 5½ pound fish. I did manage to spot several 30 pound hogs at the weigh-in. But for most folks, it was just another nice club turnout and a chance to spend a day on the water doing what we all love to do.

May 13-19

Back in 1995, I spent a bit of time in Alaska (Sand Point and Dutch Harbor, to be exact) on the commercial end of the fishing spectrum. Winter on the Aleutian chain is no picnic, but I found it to be a rewarding experience nonetheless. I promised myself to return some day to enjoy the riches of these beautiful Alaskan waters as a sportfisherman — that is, any time except winter.

After some consideration, I decided to go “pro” this year and start entering some tournaments. I contacted Steve Carson and, on his advice, signed up for the 4th annual Penn Reels Alaska Grand Slam tournament, hosted by Kingfisher Lodge in Sitka, and conducted by him and Ron Kovach. I also managed to talk my husband Jeff into joining me, having so admirably weathered the unexpected 8-10 foot Sea of Cortez during our East Cape trip last November. To fill our boat for each of the three days of the tournament, we hooked up with a father and son combo from Southern California, who came recommended by a friend.

Jeff and I flew into Sitka on a Thursday, a couple of days in advance of the tournament, to tour the town and to promote Emperor Tackle to a few of the local shops. I was rather impressed by the shops I visited Murray Pacific, a huge store that supplies both sport and commercial gear; Fly Away Fly Shop, who cater to the fly fisherman’s every needs; Russell’s (Harbor Drive), a large sporting goods store with a nice array of gear and knowledgeable staff (including the Alaskan Amber sweatshirt I had been looking for); and Orion Sporting Goods (Halibut Point Road), where we dropped by on our way back to the lodge after our last long day of fishing to present Bert with one of our gold-plated 17/0 circle hooks that had just seen a whole lotta action.

During our time in Sitka, we found we really didn’t need a car to get around, as the weather was great and we needed to walk off the excellent cuisine offered up by many of the restaurants in the downtown area. A night of dancing at Ernie’s Old Time Tavern was yet another way to burn some calories and meet a few of the more colorful locals.

Saturday evening we transplanted ourselves from the Sitka Hotel to the Kingfisher Lodge, moving from quaint to plush! I’ve been to a lot of places all over the world, and these guys are definitely dialed in to providing the ultimate fishing experience. Kingfisher is a pleasant marriage of style and efficiency, staffed with friendly, talented and enthusiastic people. On arrival, Jeff and I met up with our boat mates, Dave Marcin and his son Adam, who turned out to be wonderful companions on our fishing excursions. During the first of our sumptuous dinners — prime rib that night — Steve Carson and Ron Kovach explained the rules of the event to the 44 anxious anglers.

Shortly after breakfast, about 6 am Sunday morning (I would have said "the crack of dawn" if the late spring Alaskan sun hadn't been up a couple hours already), we piled into vans and shuttled to our boats awaiting us at the harbor. For the first day of the tournament we drew Captain Casey Gould and the vessel Nautilus. By the rules, each day we would go out on a different boat, which gave us a great opportunity to engage the talents of these fine skippers.

As would be the custom every morning, the boat first ran to the salmon spot where we put our limit of four fish (one per angler) in the box. Standard trolling gear for the salmon consisted of light to medium action rods on downriggers with flashers and hootchies. Over the three days, we found our salmon at depths between 90 and 140 feet.

Next we headed out to a deep spot over 500 feet and anchored up. Medium to heavy outfits loaded with spectra and baited with salmon innards started off our “soak” interval. Halibut have a way of finding you once you send out the invitation to stop by for a snack. But more than two hours went by and we still hadn't got an RSVP. About the time you start to think you may have parked over the Sahara desert, rods start to go tap-tap-tap. But leave them be for a moment. Then they go major league bendo! Now it's time to put that 60-80 lb. spectra to work and haul up these heavy brutes. Our guests continued to arrive at the party for a couple more hours, much to our delight.

While I did boat a nice ninety pound Pacific halibut and an eight pound yelloweye rockfish that first day, I failed to produce a lingcod needed to score a grand slam. Jeff landed both a lingcod and a yelloweye, lucky newbie that he is, and proceeded to one-up-me by getting his slam. In fact, he slammed all three days — I guess I taught him too much! Adam (at thirteen, the youngest entrant in this tournament's history) put a 103 pound flattie into the boat. Way to go, Adam!

Monday was a day for sunscreen and flat ocean aboard the boat Pinnacle with captain Paul Ipolk. After getting our quota of salmon, we went jigging for a couple of hours on a known lingcod spot and totally hammered them. We had to release most of our lingcod, which exceeded the slot limit to take. I had one that taped out at 41” and weighed between 28 - 30 pounds. Jeff nailed a 44” ling, and Dave scored one that must have weighed at least 50 pounds. Jeff also brought in a 13 pound yelloweye. Paul then ran us out to one of his secret honey holes. I boated two halibut at 103 and 127.5 pounds, my personal best to date. Everyone on our boat scored a grand slam that day, and we were worthy of the soreness that comes after a good fight.

Day three found us with Heath Bone on the Intrepid. We got right down to business on the salmon troll with a pair of back-to-back double hook ups. We had our limits of salmon in 15 minutes! Over the course of the event, the salmon averaged 12 – 20 pounds. But Dave surprised us all by landing a 30 pound class fish that day. It was a good thing we didn’t have to devote a lot of time to salmon, because our calm weather was rapidly deteriorating. So we promptly departed for the halibut grounds, leaving virtually all the other tourney boats behind.

We anchored up for halibut and proceeded to bounce it out on what most others would call rough waters. We found a number of butts there, plus some yelloweye, but alas no lingcod. Almost out of time, we made for the inside to drop on some pinnacles where the lings and rockfish tend to congregate. But the drift was fast and hard to fish. We only managed to kick back a few very large black rockfish that hit out jigs on the retrieve. Trying hard not to come apart at the seams, I rummaged through my Albakore tackle bag with a vengeance, groping for something to entice a ling.(I think I was actually rather eloquent describing my demeanor at the time.) Jeff, Dave and Adam all kept well clear of my path during those final desperate drifts. But wouldn't you know it... Jeff, that lucky B------, hooked up the one and only ling in the final 10 minutes to hit his slam. I'm going to have some serious thoughts about bringing him along next time... just kidding!

At our last dinner together, Steve and Ronnie presented awards to the top anglers. For overall points in the tournament, which included one point per pound for the heaviest of each of the four species, plus 50 points per grand slam, the top winners were:

Ken Frisk: 641 points (continuing his reign from the prior year)
Bob Brown: 596
Bill Pisarra: 481
Beverly Seltzer: 462

I also managed to take second place in the halibut division (total of heaviest fish over 3 days). Jeff took 8th in the overall tournament and second in the yelloweye competition. Dave won the honors for best in salmon.

Will I go back again next year? Does Smarty Jones have a good shot at the Triple Crown? Well, I'd like to think so!

May 4

I spent the day fishing with Eudes de Crecy and Robert Gulli from Emperor Tackle, and our guest, Captain Dave Bacon, visiting from Santa Barbara. Dave also brought along his talented photographer, Ramona Lisa. The five of us were treated to a day on the water with our host Billy Roach on his vessel Sea Roach II. We departed from San Diego around 4am to check out the Coronado Islands.

We had some nice live anchovies and we were quickly bit by sculpin, lingcod and a cabezon. I also picked up my first calico bass of the day. Yellowtail remained elusive, so we decided to move north to try a little paddy hopping.

At the 9 mile bank, we showed some fish on the sonar, but they had no interest in us. So again we headed farther north to the kelp beds off La Jolla. I saw a huge calico bass free jumping near some kelp, so we dropped in for some more action on calicos and lingcod. I was hoping for a halibut, but I didn’t find one this time.

We all enjoyed the beautiful day experimenting with Emperor Tackle hooks and lures.

May 2

My first overnight trip of the season was aboard the Tracer from Long Beach; this was the Diane Laufer fundraiser benefiting the Breast Cancer Angels. I fished with a bunch of great gals — most of them from the South Bay Lady Anglers Club— as well as a few nice guys.

We motored out Saturday evening to Santa Barbara Island to anchor up for the night. The galley was filled with all the requisite party food… chocolate covered strawberries, cake, cookies… and they even had my favorite soda, Dr. Pepper. Outside in the bait tanks we had live sardines, anchovies, squid and some macks for good measure.

The weather Sunday was perfect as we loaded up on various quality rockfish, white fish, sand dabs, even a large lingcod and a white seabass. I even managed to hook and release a small octopus. Try as we might we couldn’t find any yellowtail, but I’m sure they’ll show up later in the season.

I’d like to thank Alecia Cornelius and the crew of the Tracer for putting on a fun and successful charter. We donated most of our fish locally to help feed women being assisted by the Breast Cancer Angels. Special thanks to tall Glen for being gracious when I mistook him for a crew member and asked him to fetch me a soda. He was wearing a Tracer t-shirt! He did manage to nail both the large ling and the WSB! I hope to see everybody again next year.

By the way, the Breast Cancer Angels also publish a highly popular cookbook, with most of the recipes donated by survivors and women who did not survive. The price is $10 per book; they make great Christmas gifts! If you're interested in buying a book, making a donation, or becoming a sponsor of the fundraiser, contact Alecia E. Cornelius, Fundraiser Coordinator, The Diane Laufer Fishing Fundraiser, at (818) 482-1772.

April 27

If you had to pick one day to go salmon fishing, TODAY was THE day! What made it even better was pulling off the equivalent of a football “hail Mary” play by gaffing a net… stay tuned, I’ll explain in a minute.
I had an invitation to fish on a boat called “Ghetto Booty” with owner Dan Waddell. Dave Peterson, Don Lopker, and Eric Husman also joined me dockside to board the ex-commercial salmon and sea urchin fishing vessel. We ran out to the Farallone Islands and dropped down three lines. The rods went bendo pretty quickly and we picked up three nice silvery beasts all crazy from eating krill. The salmon were really making nice runs as we fought them on Seeker rods equipped with Shimano Calcutta reels. I traded off running the boat with Don and Dan from time to time and started to help clean fish. During a lull I scanned the horizon, counting no less than 45 boats of all sizes and shapes in the area. We put a few more fish in the box and then it happened. Dan brought a fish within net range where Dave scooped it, but somehow the net whipped out of his hand. To make matters worse the salmon then dislodged the hook. For a brief moment it started to get hung up in the portside downrigger. That was just enough time to scream for a gaff, which Don passed to me, and I swung on the netted fish. We hauled the potential escapee onto the deck and high-fived. By 11:45 we had limits for everybody. None of the fish were less than 18 pounds and most were in the mid to upper 20’s. We never even saw a shaker!

April 20

The wind failed to kick up overnight and although it was a little bumpy heading out of Pillar Point harbor in the light fog, the Queen of Hearts was treated to a flat ocean with sunny skies by early afternoon.

A few minutes into trolling I started to slowly crank in my bait to check it and, wham, I hooked up. After putting the first salmon of the day on the boat I knew my luck was changing. Captain Randy Bankcord juggled keeping us over a nice bait ball while navigating a strong current. Heather was decking and she was kept busy with the net for awhile. We had almost one fish per rod when it slowed down. Shakers started to pop up and I watched as a friend of mine lost weight after weight to the small salmon. The decision was made to make a move so we ran for about 45 minutes and tried it again.

A few more nice fish were added to the box before it quieted down. We returned to our original hunting grounds and steadily picked up more salmon reaching boat limits by around 2 pm. On the way back in I helped Heather clean a few of the fish and tidy up the boat. What can I say except for: I WAS DUE!

April 10

Today I guess I was the statue and the fish were the pigeons. I went salmon mooching again only this time I had a bunch of guys from the Coastside Fishing club to witness my frustration. I got to share humiliation with quite a few seasoned veterans as a kid on board put some nice fish in the box. This trip out of Santa Cruz on the Wild Wave was a pleasant experience due to two things. One, the ocean had flattened out, and two, even if the fishing falls flat, this crowd is worth hanging out with just for the hell of it! I have sworn off mooching for salmon again, and the next time you see me it’ll be on a vessel trolling.

April 8

Well sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield. Every few years I somehow get talked into mooching for salmon. This year is was due to my good nature. I offered to go out fishing on a party boat that was in danger of having to cancel due to lack of passengers. After seeing the ocean that day, I can hardly blame the timid. It was a cold rough ride, but then I’m used to that sort of thing. What I’m not used to is NOT bringing home any fish. I did have one fish to my credit, a shaker, which I had to release.

March 2

About a month ago I accepted an invitation to fish with the legendary Ray Rychnovsky. Normally I don’t wet a line in freshwater until later in the year. However I was not about to pass up a chance to fish with one of the leading authorities on Northern California waters.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir is a stone’s throw from the city of Livermore and just across the Contra Costa county line. The facility is scenic and very clean. I remarked that it would be a wonderful place to ride a horse or hoof it yourself on the many trails. Ray set us up with a rental boat (all of which sport electric motors) and we started to troll from the marina in a northeast direction. As predicted (weathermen are right some of the time), the breeze suddenly popped up. Taking my turn as the captain, I pointed the bow into the wind while Ray set the rods out. Within a short time we had our first bent rod. A nice rainbow trout launched itself and tauntingly flashed us before making a run. I reeled the 2½ pound beauty to the side where Ray netted the fish. As the wind increased, we decided to head back in, but not before we put another two into the ice chest. I processed the catch at the state-of-the-art fish cleaning station while Ray became acquainted with my digital camera. After a few poses with the biggest rainbow we headed off, vowing to return another day.

I also want to mention that Ray has his fourth book out now, Sacramento Valley Fishing Paradise, and I will soon be posting the details on my endorsements and reviews page.

February 12

Today was a little tougher due to a mild southerly breeze building. Back aboard the Queen of Hearts, I used a few strips of ling and rosie skins (from the previous day) to enhance the iron jigs.

The current had picked up a bit and it took a minimum of 6-8 ounces to get down to the fish on the bottom. Up off the rocks, the olives, blues and vermilions were still hanging out waiting to pounce on a shrimp fly, teaser, or small plastic grub. Anybody with a teaser got hammered by the olives and blues. Lots of canaries were around, but I had good releases on both of mine. Lingcod showed a preference for heavy chrome tipped with squid or chartreuse scampi tails. I landed 2 lings to bring home, one of them on “the Big Ugly”, a combination leadhead with a scampi tail and a glow tube over that.

My friends Ray and Robin, who didn’t make it out, joined me that afternoon for another great batch of deep-fried fish before I headed home to catch up on my sleep.

February 11

It’s rare to find the weather and ocean conditions as nice as they were today. Capt. Bob of the Queen of Hearts ditched the coastline in favor of a run to the Farallon Islands. Calm water and a boatload of regulars (including my buddy Gene) made the travel time enjoyable. We fished between 120 and 175 feet of water with drifts so perfect Bob even cut the motors a few times to enjoy the silence… of the boat that is! The screaming, shouting and laughing were still heard. We hit schools of huge olives and lingcod seemed to be everywhere. Nice sized vermilions, quillbacks, and Chinas topped off sacks already holding olive, yellowtail and blue rockfish. Bernie, a Queen of Hearts regular, landed an 8-10 pound cabezon and, while it didn’t win the jackpot, his lingcod did. Back in the stern, Gene and I spent the day castin’ & catchin’. I even pulled up what had to be close to a 2 pound rosie. I only managed one keeper ling, but I released 3 or 4 shakers. Back at the harbor we enjoyed some of our catch deep-fried.

After I drove home, I doled out fish to the neighbors, showered and caught a couple of winks, deciding to go back out again tomorrow.

February 1

It was drizzling at the dock this Sunday morning in the predawn chill as we assembled to go fishing again on the Hulicat for another Fat Bait charter. Capt. Tom ran the Hulicat south to Ano Nuevo. We tried many spots between Half Moon Bay and Ano Nuevo, with the breeze from the south progressing to unmistakable WIND. Southerly winds are the pits when you're rockfishing, but it still beats not fishing at all.

In preparation for this trip, I'd gone to Ly’s Sporting & Fishing Goods and bought some of Dan Waddell’s Fat Baits and jig heads. I used Pro-Tec powder paint (glow) to coat about a half dozen lead heads. I also used Power Pro with top shots for the first time on my smaller reels. (For today it was a Pro Gear 545 and a Newell G220F).

Twelve lingcod hit sacks with a handful of smaller ones getting kicked back to live another day. Only 4 rockfish were bagged, however a few more near-shore species were released.

Congrats to Mike (biggest lingcod), and Craig (biggest rockfish), for their wins, and contributions to the club. (I later saw Mike spending some of his winnings at the Harbor Bar during the Super Bowl game.)

Tom had his hands full keeping us on some very difficult drifts; the ride, in general, was quite a bit smoother than last Sunday. I hooked three fish, but the only one I landed was a small male lingcod that just taped out to 24". I tried just about everything in my tackle box, including Bling Bling and Green Feen colored Fat Baits, but this fish was landed on something new called “the big ugly” that is made at Reed's Sport Shop in San Jose.

January 25

My first fishing foray of the New Year started off aboard the Hulicat on a Fat Bait charter. I woke up the next morning feeling as though I'd been beat with a two-by-four! My hands were swollen and my reflection from the mirror looked like the "before" photo in a Botox ad. BUT I HAD FUN!

Dan Waddell, our charter master and the man behind Fat Baits, reported, "I am not sure how many lingcod we released, but it had to be close to a hundred." I was responsible for 12 of those, and the two I kept were about 10 pounds each. I also released all my rockfish, except for two yellowtails. Rockfish were tougher to come by, but the ones that bit were comprised of blues, blacks, Chinas, quillbacks, vermilions, yellowtails, olives, and I even saw a gopher. Of these, many that weren’t jackpot contenders got to swim home.

Congrats to Debbie (biggest lingcod), and Eliot (biggest rockfish), for their wins and contributions to the club.

Thanks to Capt. Tom for the determination to get us to the islands and put us on the fish. It was rough going, but I didn't spill a drop of the rum & coke I had for breakfast.

Thanks to Dan for putting this trip together. I did catch and release a ling using a green feen fat bait, and I will be buying some of his new jig heads as well.

With 20-25 knots of wind making our drifts very fast, it was difficult to use lighter swim baits, so I’d also like to mention another couple products I tried out. I attached (with a split ring) a 5/0 gold plated circle hook, made by Emperor Tackle, to a large Amoebic Jig marketed by River2Sea. My first three casts all produced Lingcod.

I enjoyed meeting a few new folks and hope to see some of you on the water soon. I guess this would be a good time to tell my webmaster/husband, Jeff, that I will be fishing again next Sunday. (He’ll probably be watching the Superbowl anyway.)

Link to my 2017 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2016 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2015 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2014 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2013 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2012 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2011 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2010 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2009 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2008 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2007 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2006 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2005 Fishing Diary

Link to my 2003 Fishing Diary

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