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SPORTS WEEKEND | OUTDOORS / PETE THOMAS

Local Fleet Has Edge in 'Tail of Two Fisheries

May 16, 1997|PETE THOMAS

Don Ashley is not one to slight the friendly fleets to the south, but the owner of Long Beach Sportfishing was quick to point out, in essence, that "Our yellowtail are bigger than theirs."

Ashley will get no argument from the San Diego skippers, who have been

putting their customers on five- to 15-pound yellowtail every day for the last two weeks.

Anglers aboard Long Beach boats, meanwhile, have been racing up and down the rails battling the fork-tailed jacks in the 20- to 30-pound class, with a few closer to 40 pounds and one that hit the deck of the Aztec at 46 pounds.

As Ashley points out, anyone who has ever hooked up to a 40-pound yellowtail "knows he's had something on his line."

Indeed it has been a phenomenal week for Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbor vessels targeting the popular game fish. The Toronado a few days ago turned in a count of 118 yellowtail.

"The only bad thing is that all the fish are being caught on the back side of San Clemente Island," Ashley says. "That's a 65-mile run."

Another negative is that the Navy closed the back side of San Clemente on Wednesday for maneuvers, as it often does, which explains the significant drop in the yellowtail count in The Times' fish report.

"They were scheduled to reopen it today," Ashley said Thursday. "But they don't always act according to the schedule. We could get out there [this morning] and they could turn us back. Meanwhile, all those fish are just sitting there . . . resting."

Meanwhile, in San Diego, those boarding any of a number of overnight boats, which are making runs of 40 miles or less, are returning regularly with limits.

Says Ross Hecht, manager of Point Loma Sportfishing, "It's been limit fishing for the last week or so down here. Last year, the yellowtail showed up about the third week of April, and we fished them clear through until the tuna showed up around the third week of July. And when the tuna showed up, everybody started fishing for them."

And when the tuna show up again, which could happen any time, Ashley probably will wish his fleet were a little farther south.

LOG JAM

Yellowtail may be the talk on the waterfront, but those without the means to get to them are being kept busy right here in the San Pedro Channel, locking horns with the slenderist, slimiest, speediest, most villainous-looking game fish in these parts.

Barracuda are so thick in local waters that you need only to hook and toss a poor anchovy over the rail and watch it get snatched up by a five-pound "log," as they are commonly called.

"I heard a radio comment [Wednesday] morning that one of the party boats with his scanning sonar reported he had a sideways spread across of 500 yards wide and 30 feet thick of solid, solid barracuda," said John Doughty of J.D.'s Big Game Tackle on Balboa Island.

Doughty, who monitors local and long-range fishing via marine radio, said most of the barracuda are from the Huntington Flats south to Dana Point.

Ashley says his fleet is catching them as far out as Catalina and as far north as Redondo Beach, and The Times' fish report has them being caught all the way up to Oxnard.

"It was an early winter and an early spring, and now it looks like summer out there," Ashley says. "Everything's on a roll right now."

KING CROAKER

Say all you want about yellowtail and barracuda. Henry Clayton will tell you about the 48-pound white seabass that inhaled his sardine and towed him around the Santa Monica Bay for 1 1/2 hours.

"We were fishing for barracuda and not catching anything and then this thing hits," recalled Clayton, 54, a truck driver from San Bernardino who was fishing on his 19-foot boat with Virgil Adams, also of San Bernardino. "I thought it was a shark, and then I thought it was a seal because he pulled like hell. My whole body was trembling."

Adams eventually gaffed the titanic croaker and heaved it onto the boat. Clayton didn't want to cut up the evidence so he crammed the whole fish into his freezer.

"I had to take out all the racks and give away all my other food to get this thing in there," he says. "I'm going to keep him there a while. I've got bragging rights now."

And one smelly freezer.

CATCH OF WEEK

Despite all of this other activity, the honor goes to Stan Easter of Capistrano Beach, who won last Monday's Oceanside Angling Club thresher tournament with a 241-pound thresher shark that struck a bleeding mackerel-pattern Ballyhood deep-diving lure.

Easter's was one of 12 threshers weighed in at the derby, which also produced 218- and 215-pound sharks. One of 50 anglers competing, Easter was fishing six miles off south Oceanside aboard David Anderson's vessel, Koinonia, with Eric Anderson as skipper. The crew knows its stuff--it won Oceanside's mako tournament last year.

"The makos will fly around on you a bit," Eric Anderson said of the difference between the species. "But the threshers, they mostly just stay down deep and pull like bulls."

Easter's bullfight, on 80-pound test, lasted 1 1/2 hours.

BEWARE OF BAJA

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