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SPORTS WEEKEND

Baywatch: Big Seabass Hit the Beach

May 19, 2000|PETE THOMAS

It takes only two to tangle, so what do you get when you have a dozen party boats with elbow-to-elbow crowds, and more than 50 skiffs gathering in a small area of the Santa Monica Bay?

"In a word, a nightmare," answered Mike Fadely, a Redondo Sportfishing relief skipper, who has had plenty of work lately. "But this is not to be unexpected when the big dumb fish are biting only five miles away."

The big dumb fish in question are white seabass, a top draw at Santa Catalina Island for weeks. Now they're almost literally a stone's throw from Torrance Beach, and they're bigger, averaging 35 pounds. Some have tipped the scales at more than 60 pounds.

"I've been around since the 1950s, so I've seen some pretty radical seabass bites off [the Palos Verdes Peninsula], but this is the first time I've seen fish of this size out there," Fadely said.

It didn't take long for the news to spread. The skipper of the half-day boat City of Redondo was tipped off by a private boater Monday afternoon, put his seven anglers on the fish and returned to the landing with seven seabass to 55 pounds. The limit is one per person per day.

Tuesday morning, even with bad weather expected, there were 24 anglers waiting to board the vessel. They returned by mid-morning with 24 fish, the largest weighing 50 pounds.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a circus atmosphere prevailed as party boats from Long Beach to Marina del Rey were on the scene, surrounded by 50 to 60 private boats.

Many of the powerful seabass, once hooked, made their trademark surface runs and invariably became tangled with the lines of fishermen from other boats.

It might be a fun-while-it-lasts affair. Heavy boat pressure typically shuts down a good seabass bite after a day or two. And with the fish so close, the pressure only figures to increase during the weekend.

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* FISH REPORT, PAGE 13

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