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Wahoo Was More Than Yelp for Angler

March 03, 1987|MARCOS BRETON | Times Staff Writer

Lou Wiczai has accumulated thousands of fish stories from a lifetime of casting reels, but the 71-year-old retired Navy veteran would rather forget the tale he's telling these days.

The Fountain Valley resident is recovering at the Balboa Park Navy Hospital from a vicious gash on his left arm inflicted by a 60-pound wahoo, which jumped 12 feet out of the water and slashed Wiczai's arm Sunday morning while he was fishing about 230 miles south of the Baja California port of Cabo San Lucas.

"All I thought was, 'What a hell of a thing to happen,' " Wiczai said as he recounted his story for reporters, his left arm heavily bandaged.

"It's tough. . . . I was just starting a 16-day fishing trip," he said, joking.

But the potential seriousness of Wiczai's injury was not lost on the former chief warrant officer, who served 23 years in the Navy.

Wiczai said the wahoo jumped out of the water and he "threw up my arm to the right to protect my face. If I hadn't put my arm up, it would have hit me in the face."

Wiczai estimated that the fish was moving 60 m.p.h. when it grabbed him about 8 a.m.

The wahoo, which is related to the mackerel, crossed part of the deck and and then dropped back into the ocean after slashing a three-inch cut in Wiczai's arm.

When asked about the toughness of old sailors, Wiczai replied: "That old wahoo probably lost some of his dentures after he went back in the water."

Fellow fishermen and crew members of the 92-foot Royal Star, chartered out of Fisherman's Landing in San Diego, immediately placed pressure on Wiczai's wound and took him 200 miles to Socorro Island for treatment.

He said the crew was "outstanding" during the six-hour trip for help.

"The crew really knew what it was doing," he said.

At Socorro Island, he was treated by Mexican doctors, who called in the Coast Guard because the island didn't have the facilities to fully care for Wiczai's injury.

The Coast Guard flew Wiczai to San Diego on Sunday night for treatment at Navy Hospital.

"My arm feels good right now," said Wiczai, who suffered tendon and muscle damage.

Officials said Wiczai will probably be at the hospital all week.

In the meantime, Wiczai said he's not going to give up his favorite pastime:

"I was born a fisherman. My wife says anyone who enjoys it as much as I do should do it."

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