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September 09, 2003|PETE THOMAS

Pass the wasabi

Fishermen aboard San Diego boats are in sashimi heaven, rocking and reeling atop schools of unusually cooperative bluefin tuna 90 to 110 miles southwest of Point Loma. The run has made highly prized albacore almost commonplace.

"I wouldn't go that far, but when we're on the bluefin, the response from the anglers is outstanding because it is such a nice grade of fish," says Shawn Trowbridge, skipper of the Legend, operated by Seaforth Sportfishing. "Besides, people have been fishing for albacore all year, and we don't usually see a lot of bluefin."

The bluefin, biting on and off for nearly two weeks, are averaging 30 to 50 pounds, with much heftier models also chomping.

Schools begin

Meanwhile, satellite images show a large band of warm water moving north off the Baja California peninsula, and with it a flood of yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and dorado (mahimahi) may soon be within range of 1- and 1 1/2-day boats.

Trowbridge says conditions were last like this in 1997. "And the bite lasted till Christmas."

A sport hazard?

Tuna can pose health threats other than the mercury risks suggested in June's Health magazine. Texas angler Chris Wager, 50, an ex-Navy SEAL, suffered a heart attack and died recently after an hourlong fight with a 120-pound tuna aboard the Ni Modo out of Cabo San Lucas.

Although no one keeps official records on this, there's no doubt that sometimes people die after struggling with fish. "With us, it's always with tuna, because they're so powerful -- and always during our hottest months," says Tracy Ehrenberg, owner of Pisces Sportfishing, which books trips aboard Ni Modo.

Marlin Grando

A Puerto Vallarta resident last week reeled in a 1,270-pound black marlin -- reportedly the heaviest billfish ever caught in Mexican waters. Or did he?

Juan Jamie Fernandez used a seven-pound skipjack tuna for bait and fought the monster for only 1 1/2 hours because the tuna was lodged in its throat.

"The angler and crew all freaked out," according to a report in the Vallarta Mirror. There is no debating it was a big fish -- in the photo, it appears to weigh at least 1,000 pounds -- but its exact weight is debatable because there's no big-fish scale in the resort city's marina. The poundage was tallied based on measurements of its length and girth.

The all-tackle world record is a 1,560-pound black marlin caught off Cabo Blanco, Peru, in 1953.

Bird's the word

Last week's dove-hunting opener went well throughout the Imperial Valley and the lower Colorado River area, with quick 10-bird limits for most.

Rod Brady of Montrose chose to shoot near Yuma, Ariz., and ended up winning the annual Biggest Breast contest at Sprague Sports.

The breast of his biggest dove weighed 81.1 grams, edging 248 others, netting the hunter $600 in prizes. Dove season runs through Monday.

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