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OUTDOORS PETE THOMAS

Intensive Search Finds Albacore Aplenty

June 27, 2003|OUTDOORS

Bill Cavanaugh spotted the big school of tuna on his sonar screen just as he began to announce their presence to the crew. "The fish jumped all over our jigs," he said Thursday morning.

Like that, the albacore season was on again.

Cavanaugh, skipper of the Pacific Queen, has been on an endless hunt for the popular "longfins" for the last month or so. He had hit the jackpot in an area 120 miles west of Fisherman's Landing in San Diego.

As he spoke, his 23 passengers were engaged in a chaotic bite with 20-pound fish and had already put more than 100 aboard.

Capt. Jim Hughes of the Cortez discovered the body of fish on Wednesday. On Thursday, several boats were in the area and reporting similar success.

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The rockfish season opens Tuesday and it will bring welcome relief to Southland landing operators who have been reeling since a series of closures late last year, followed by a total closure that went into effect Jan. 1.

The six-month season -- with strict bag limits -- puts many species of rockfish, as well as cabezon, sculpin, whitefish and lingcod, back on the menu for recreational fishermen. Still off-limits are bocaccio, canary rockfish and yelloweye.

Perhaps even bigger news is that beginning Sept. 1, in waters south of Point Conception, the depth in which people can fish will increase from 20 to 30 fathoms, or from 120 to 180 feet, giving them access to prime rockfish habitat.

This in-season change was announced after a recent study revealed a much healthier bocaccio population than previously believed. Because of the study, more easing of rockfish restrictions is likely when regulations are adopted for 2004.

Current regulations and bag limits are available at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd.

Hunting

Early spring rains have led to a bountiful supply of sagebrush and blackberry patches, thus "rabbit populations are thriving," said Tom Blankenship, a Department of Fish and Game biologist.

This means hunters should do very well when the season opens Tuesday.

The bag limit for cottontail, snowshoe hare, brush and pigmy rabbits is five per day and 10 in possession during a season that lasts through Jan. 25, 2004.

Jackrabbits have no limit and can be shot year-round.

Sailing

Wisconsin sailors Tim Kent and Rick McKenna are fortunate to be alive after a harrowing ordeal last week during the Bermuda 1-2 race 110 miles off Bermuda.

When a stabilizing device on the keel came loose in heavy seas, the 50-foot yacht turned upside down, momentarily trapping both men underwater beneath the vessel. Kent managed to grab a capsule with a flare launcher inside and both men were able to swim to the surface.

They each clung to a rudder as dusk gave way to darkness and 10- to 15-foot seas swept over them.

Despair turned to hope when a light appeared on the dark horizon. Kent launched nine flares into the sky and a crew of the cruise ship Nordic Empress came to their rescue aboard a life raft.

"I was pulled onto the lifeboat like a dead mackerel," Kent said afterward. "I am so happy to be rescued, and at the same time it is a bittersweet occasion because my entire life just disappeared before my eyes. Everything I own in the world is on that boat."

A salvage effort is underway.

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