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NOTES

Albacore Bite Is One of the Best

August 01, 2003|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The first-time fishermen aboard Bad Company on Sunday were treated to a day of albacore fishing that probably will spoil them forever.

"I told them it's always like that," said Anthony Hsieh, owner of the 60-foot Hatteras and the chief executive of Home Loan Center, Inc., of Irvine. Hsieh (pronounced SHAY) rewards his top employees with periodic fishing trips and Sunday's ranks as one of the best albacore trips ever logged by the boss, a seasoned angler who has traveled the world aboard a boat he named after a rock band.

He and five guests, fishing 110 miles south of Point Loma, spent two hours in chaotic struggles with fish averaging 20 to 30 pounds, not stopping until their arms grew weary -- and the official tally at 71. (Those boated after each angler had secured their five-fish Mexican limit were released.)

"We could have caught more but some of the guys wimped out and started watching instead of fishing," said Hsieh, 38, during a speakerphone interview with his fishing companions present and laughing.

Jason Landon of Fountain Valley, on his first albacore trip, contributed only six fish to the final score but landed the largest, a 45-pounder. Peter Patzakis of Dana Point tied Timothy Hoyt of Stanton, Calif., with 18 of the prized longfin tuna.

Their day highlights a fantastic albacore bite that remains in progress for private and party-boat anglers able to make the 90-mile-plus run to the fishing grounds. (Captains of multi-day boats out of San Diego are reporting remarkable fishing for albacore and bluefin tuna as far as 210 miles down, showing how far this volume of fish stretches).

The presence of albacore has for several weeks been a boon for San Diego overnight fleets and for people such as Hsieh, who spent $2.5 million to build what he says is among the best private sportfishers ever constructed. But it remains a frustrating time for those with smaller boats that can't travel as far, and for landing operators closer to Los Angeles.

Normally at this time of year, anglers aboard overnight boats from Newport Beach to Los Angeles are either swimming in albacore or catching yellowtail at Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands.

But all of the offshore areas, including the islands, remain largely unproductive for at least two reasons. One is the great abundance of bait south of the border, keeping most of the predators there. The other is unusually green or "off-color" water in offshore areas off the Southland coast, serving as a deterrent for many species of game fish.

Meanwhile, albacore entering U.S. waters from the west have appeared on schedule off Central California. Darby Neil, owner of Virg's Landing in Morro Bay, reports encountering schools as close as 18 miles offshore.

"It's not the big solid meat yet, where they're all balled up in one place," he said. "But there are small schools of fish everywhere."

*

Today marks the beginning of the CITGO Bassmasters Classic on the shifting waters of the sprawling Louisiana Delta. The world's most prestigious bass tournament pits 61 top pros in a three-day scramble for a share of the $700,000 purse. The winner will earn $200,000 and perhaps more lucrative sponsorship and endorsement offers.

Michigan's Kevin VanDam won the Classic the last time it was held on the delta in 2001 but says, "The only advantage I have is that I've fished four tournaments here in hot times of the year like this [so] I've got a little bit of experience in what to do when things change."

Texas pro Jay Yelas is the defending Classic champion, having won last year at Alabama's Lay Lake.

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