Summer is officially over, but as far as those watching the fish counts are concerned, it's the middle of August.
Actually, it's hotter on the water than it has been all summer as tuna counts in excess of 1,000 have been reported daily for the last week by skippers of San Diego's one- and 1 1/2-day boats.
"The past week has been the best week of the summer by far," said Doug Kern, manager of the Fisherman's Landing tackle shop. "We've had a real variety: We're getting yellowfin tuna from 10 to 40 pounds, bigeye tuna from 50 to more than 100 pounds and selected boats are getting into wide open bites on the bigeye, which is unusual, and then there are the dorado and yellowtail."
Landing operators credit not only the presence of huge schools of tuna breezing about between 50 and 100 miles south of Point Loma, but a better-educated public, which used to think the summer fishing season ended after Labor Day.
Asked how long the bite might last, some speculated that it will probably last until the first storm blows in from Alaska. Others were a little more cautions in their predictions.
"I just ride the horse in the direction it's going," said Ross Hecht, general manager of Point Loma Sportfishing. "It's going to last as long as it's going to last, but my advice is, 'Why wait?' "
It was an eventful two days on the water during last weekend's Drambuie Catalina Classic marlin tournament. Sixty-four teams hooked 58 marlin, killing 40 and releasing 18. The winner? Three teams weighed in marlin at exactly 200 pounds, so they split the first-, second- and third-place purses.
One team, aboard the boat Humdinger, experienced a quadruple hookup, during which one angler fell overboard with rod in hand. He was thrown a life preserver and towed 60 feet by the billfish before he could be retrieved by his partners.
He landed his marlin, which he then released. Another was also released and the two others shook the hooks before they could be brought to the boat.
Free-fishing day: Saturday is one of two free-fishing days designated by the state each year to bring new participants into the sport. Prospective anglers can try their luck without having to buy a fishing license. . . . Recreational diving: Mark Rayor of Vista Sea Sports at Baja's East Cape said divers Monday encountered a large whale shark at Cabo Pulmo and swam with the gentle creature--whale sharks are plankton-eaters and not considered dangerous--for hours before it left them and headed for the reef. "The whale shark was about 25 feet and the divers and the local kids snorkeled and played with him most of the day," Rayor said. "And then in the afternoon it seemed to become disoriented and a large swell pushed him up onto the reef. So the locals became concerned and tied ropes to his tail and pulled him off the reef. He broke a couple of coral heads but swam off and seemed to be OK." . . . Breath-hold diving: Italy's Umberto Pelizzari of the Sector No Limits team set a world record free dive of 430 feet earlier this month in Villasimius, Italy, breaking the previous record of 428 feet, set by Francisco "Pipin" Fererras earlier this year off Cabo San Lucas. Both divers used weighted sleds to descend, and inflatable buoys to bring them back to the surface.
Crowds are down, the weather is cooling and fishing is better than it has been all season in many parts of the Eastern Sierra. It happens every fall.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Bridgeport area, where anglers are battling rainbows and browns in the East Walker River and Bridgeport Reservoir, and where a humongous rainbow was hauled onto the banks of lower Twin Lake.
"Fishing is just outrageous," said Rick Rockel of Ken's Sporting goods in town. "We've had a caddis hatch for three nights in a row on the river and it's a wide open bite. And they're catching brown trout off the face of the dam at Bridgeport Lake for the first time since the middle '80s. And I just weighed in the biggest rainbow trout I've seen since 1967."
That would be an 11 1/4-pounder caught on a Panther Martin lure and two-pound test by Greg Savala of Piru.
LAKE PERRIS--Largemouth bass good, most in 14-inch range. Night crawlers getting most. Joe Nava, Covina, 9-8 bass, on red plastic worm at east end. Other species slow.
IRVINE LAKE--A lake-record 66-pound blue catfish was caught by Chuck Doucot, Costa Mesa, on mackerel at night. Hardly surprising, since lake staff has been stocking giant catfish in recent weeks and because several in the 50-0 range, and one at at 62-0, had been landed in the days leading to Doucot's fish, which was weighed and released. Largemouth bass fair on plastic worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
LAGUNA NIGUEL LAKE--Catfish heavily stocked and feeding heavily, averaging 1-3 pounds, biting on mackerel at dam. Largemouth bass fair to good, with anglers reporting as many as 20 per day, most in sub-3-0 range, according to a lake fax.