Tuna, yellowtail and dorado, the fish so sought after and so eagerly anticipated in this year of El Nino, have arrived within range of San Diego's overnight fleet about a month early. The Conquest and Prowler recorded the first significant catches of bluefin and skipjack tuna, dorado and yellowtail on Saturday, officially signaling the start of another season, one that experts predict could be outstanding because of the warm-water current generated by El Nino.
Sunday, the Apollo checked in with 26 bluefin, 11 yellowtail and two skipjack. Monday, the Searcher returned with 13 bluefin, 11 yellowtail, one dorado and six bonito. The tuna were in the 20-pound class and the yellowtail and dorado slightly smaller.
As of Tuesday morning, the fish were still biting, according to reports from the Searcher and Mascot. The water is reportedly clean and blue, at almost 68 degrees, starting about 65 miles south of Point Loma.
"Each of the landings now have boats leaving every night," said Catherine Miller, a publicist for the San Diego sportfishing fleet. Fishermen's, H&M and Point Loma landings are offering the 24-hour trips for $85.
The showing of tuna near San Diego is big news for Southland fishermen and landing operators, but the really big tuna were caught much farther south.
The Royal Polaris, skippered by Steve Ekstrom, returned to San Diego Saturday from a 17-day trip to Clarion Island, part of the Revillagigedo chain off southern Mexico, an expedition owner Frank LoPreste described as "the best in 16 years."
Seven of the yellowfin tuna weighed more than 300 pounds and 26 were more than 200.
John Gibson of Medford, Ore., caught tuna, weighing 350, 304, 287, 206 and 205 pounds.
Meanwhile, Clayton Ludington, an 11-year-old from Los Banos, single-handedly reeled in a yellowfin weighing 315 pounds. "It took him about an hour," LoPreste said.
During the last four days, fishermen were releasing all fish under 175 pounds, "because there was no more room," LoPreste said.
One exceptionally big tuna, a bluefin that weighed 715 pounds, was recently purchased at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for a record $67,500, according to the International Game Fish Assn., which took the information from an Australian newspaper.
The IGFA says the value placed on giant bluefin--it was estimated that the fish would yield 2,400 servings of sushi, which would sell for about $75 apiece, giving it a retail value of $180,000--points to harder times ahead for a fishery that is already in serious decline.
The 2.9-million hatchery-reared striped bass originally intended for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, under a program canceled recently by Department of Fish and Game Director Boyd Gibbons in an effort to protect the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, will be planted chiefly in San Joaquin Valley waters.
The California Aqueduct, from Merced County to Bakersfield, will be the recipient of one million striper yearlings. Silverwood Lake, meanwhile, will be the lone Southland recipient, as 100,000 stripers are earmarked for the San Bernardino County reservoir.
BAJA FISHING--Cabo San Lucas: Marlin remain active, with skippers reporting at least one fish per day. Small yellowfin, dorado and wahoo are showing regularly at the scales. One wahoo was weighed in at 115 pounds by John McCune of Huntington Beach, who caught the fish offshore in the San Jose del Cabo area. The first swordfish of the year, a 163-pounder, was taken aboard one of the Solmar fleet by Steve Barton of Hesperia. East Cape: Blue marlin, striped marlin and sailfish are showing regularly, as are tuna, dorado and wahoo.
CONSERVATION--Volunteers will be welcomed by the Southern California chapters of Quail Unlimited for wildlife habitat improvement work Saturday in the Deep Creek area of the San Bernardino National Forest. The Boy Scouts of America also will be participating. The project will include fencing riparian habitat, developing springs and installing a concrete guzzler. Details: (714) 247-9251.