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Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Where are them keepers?


California Youth Adventures aboard the Sum Fun!
It's midday Saturday when Wendy Tochi and I arrive at Dana Wharf Sportfishing. As Tochi goes to park the car, I cruise into the Dana Wharf landing office to inquire about the Sum Fun charter — kinda clueless as ever, not knowing who's in charge. The line for the afternoon half-day and whale watch stretches out the front door, so I find the only desk not currently taxed to the max and ask if they know what's up. It happens to be the Catalina Express desk, but that doesn't stop me. Of course, they have no clue either. Just then, Dr. Mike Woo with California Youth Adventures spots me and saves the day.

cyagroupphoto
CYA GROUP PHOTO — The California Youth Adventure p.m. half-day trip aboard the Sum Fun was a huge success. These youths scrambled to grab the first bass they could get a hold of out of their bags before fillet time, not an easy task for some — check out those looks on their faces!


He points out two folks in hunter-orange caps, paperwork-in-hand just outside. How could I have missed them. They have a stack of orange hats and a sign-in sheet. It turns out to be Tom Knie and his granddaughter, and a few parents have arrived to drop off their kids for the trip.


Slowly I begin to put the pieces together. You see, I was just tagging along with Wendy and knew little more than the name of the group and that it was a kids trip. This was actually the same group Howard Coolidge with Friends of Rollo had told me about way back in early March at the Long Beach Fred Hall show. They had put in a request for funding to help pay for the trip and in the end, had managed to put it all together, garnering support from various sources including major support from FOR.


Soon we are out on the water, with a group of rent rod-wielding youngsters. The Sum Fun crew, Zack and Jason, and ourselves have our work cut out for us. Capt. Brian Woolley himself is at the helm.


As we pull in off a Salt Creek kelp bed, the water is blue and 72 degrees. One of the guys sprinkles a few of the beautiful large anchovies along the weeds. Bass literally erupt from the surface. A few smaller scooters join in. The anchor slides over and we settle back into a wide-open, every-bait-bit-upon-hitting-the-water bite. The only difference between a bad bait at the end of a short cast and a good one on a long one is the size of the bass that bites it.


Suddenly it's clear. If you can pick a bait and cast, the chances of pulling a limit of keepers is high. But no matter what, hundreds of bass will be caught. The kids have a blast. It's chaos —dangling bass to be unhooked and released, kids pulling, fish caught in kelp, kids needing help getting tossed back out.


natesyellowtail
NATE'S YELLOWTAIL — Izorline's Wendy Tochihara tossed the anchovy out and handed Nate the rod. He hooked this Dana Wharf 1/2-day yellow, which of course hid in the weeds.


A few minutes later one can see the blue-green backs of several hamachi-grade yellows squirting around among the bass. Then, young Nate has one on. Soon it's in the net buried in a ball of grass. Dragging it closer, Woolley nets it, ball and all. Yellowtail, too!


The bite goes on for about an hour, and with the fish still pretty active, Woolley has a plan now that our charges have been initiated and are effectively baiting their own hooks and casting for themselves if we can't get there fast enough.


We make a short move. Our next stop is near a wash rock, and we've beaten an advancing line of green water working its way along the inshore area. We toss the baits back into the whitewater and hand off the rods, getting everybody out there as quickly as we can. Soon, it's bigger bass coming out to play, fish to 4 pounds or so.


Among the anchovies are a few 6- or 7-inch sardines. Zack tosses back each one as it comes up and the big bass come out and tackle them. The kids take turns wrestling the big checkerboards to the boat. It's awesome!


One more stop out in open water and suddenly the afternoon is gone. Half-day is over and it's time to head for the barn. The kids line up at the fillet board to have their fish cleaned. Every kid has 2 to 4 nice keepers. One or two actually have a limit.


The most popular cut ends up being gill and gut! They're so excited to show their parents what they've caught, they want to make sure the fish stay looking intact.


It's a sure bet these kids will remember this trip for a long time to come. So will we.


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Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California party boat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at: merit@wonews.com.


sumfuncrewman
SUM FUN CREWMAN Zack with the assist on this dandy boiler rock bass.


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