A full slate of WON events await in the New Year
From the U.S. Open of bass fishing to the biggest tuna tournament in the world, there’s plenty on the docket for 2018

SAN CLEMENTE — Each and every year, a smorgasbord of some of the most fun, exciting and lucrative fishing events you’ll find anywhere are put on the schedule by Western Outdoor News, and 2018 will certainly be no different. Starting in April, myriad fishing contests will kick off, running right on through the year and culminating with the biggest tournament in the world: the WON/Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot.

From freshwater to saltwater, WON has the fishing tournament gamut covered, from prestigious bass fishing events to all-for-nothing, big-fish showdowns aboard some of the most popular sportfishers in the Southern California fleet. From novices to seasoned veterans, from hard-core anglers to family fun, Western Outdoor News has the event for everyone on the ledger. Here’s a look at what’s to come in 2018: (check out the complete listing of WON events below online at by clicking on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page).

APRIL 11-13: WON BASS California Open, Clear Lake, Calif. — Now heading into its sixth year, the California Open continues to gain notoriety and prestige with each annual contest. Held at arguably what is the best big-bass lake in the country in Clear Lake, the potential of massive, record-breaking bags and thrilling weigh-ins is always a possibility at the Cal Open. A “bucket list” fishery for many West Coast bassers, Clear Lake is the Holy Grail for big-bass potential, and with a Bass Cat Sabre FTD / Mercury 150hp OptiMax ProXS prize package and ample cash up for grabs, it’s a no-brainer draw that brings both talent and excitement to the Northern California bass haven each and every spring. Set for mid-April amid pre-spawn conditions, the 2018 Cal Open is a total crapshoot in which anything can happen.

To secure your entry for the 2018 WON BASS California Open at Clear Lake, sign up online by clicking on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page or contact WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan at (949) 366-0248, or via e-mail at ($1,000 pro entry fee, $400 co-angler entry).

THE ROCKFISH RUMBLE is the first WON saltwater event of the year (April 26), pitting four Ventura Sportfishing boats and their anglers against each other in a battle for the biggest bottom biters.

APRIL 26: WON/Ventura Sportfishing Rockfish Rumble (5 a.m. departure, 4 p.m. return), Ventura Sportfishing, Ventura, Calif. — Four of Ventura Sportfishing’s top sportboats will battle it out, as over 100 anglers vie for top honors, prizes and cash awards in this annual one-day event. With the Pacific Dawn, Pacific Eagle, Island Spirit and Amigo heading out to the famed Channel Islands for this springtime big-fish contest, you can expect huge rockfish and lingcod to come flying over the rails, with any angler on any boat able to garner that one big bite and take all the marbles (i.e. cash and prizes), plus there’s a winner on each individual sportfisher for the biggest fish.

To sign up for April’s Rockfish Rumble, click on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page or contact sales rep Austin Jones at (949) 366-0726, or via e-mail at ($105 per angler).

NO CHOR-TAGE OF fun at the annual Lake Havasu Striper Derby, as longtime competitors, the Chor family, are among the many who fish the two-day WON derby each May.

MAY 19-20: WON/Lake Havasu Striper Derby — By far the largest striped bass fishing tournament of its kind in the western U.S., Striper Derby has drawn well over 18,000 teams over its 36-year run as WON’s longest-standing fishing tournament. This two-day family-friendly event is always a blast and great time had by all under the Havasu sun, with plenty of giveaways, raffles, prizes and awards slotted to go out to Derby competitors at the Sunday award ceremony, highlighted by a Klamath 16EXW aluminum and Suzuki 40hp motor package as the grand raffle prize. Two-man teams battle it out over two days’ fishing to try and amass the heaviest possible striper weight to take top honors. Plenty of cash is also on the line with randomly-drawn Blind Bogeys along with General Big Fish and High Roller .

Big Fish optional cash pools, giving anglers plenty of ways to win (besides all of the usual great giveaways and post-derby raffles).

To sign up click on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page, or contact Tournament Director Billy Egan at (949) 366-0248, or via e-mail at ($175 for basic team entry; $275 for team entry, Sat./Sun. Blind Bogey and General Big Fish optionals; and $375 to enter the High Roller optional).

CAPT. MARCUS MEDAK of the New Lo-An poses with the 2017 San Diego Offshore Jackpot champion Charlie Hashimura of Las Vegas and his 111-pound bluefin tuna.

JUNE 28-29: WON/San Diego Offshore Jackpot — Now entering its 4th year, the San Diego Offshore Jackpot is the biggest sportboat tournament on the West Coast, with potentially 400 anglers fishing it out aboard up to 18 San Diego sportfishers from H&M, Point Loma and Fisherman’s Landing for bragging rights and cash and prizes totaling in excess of $10,000 for the three largest fish that are weighed in.

This exciting extended overnight tournament will pit some of the best and most experienced captains in the SoCal fleet against each other, who will all be vying for pride and the hopes of securing the perpetual Jackpot trophy at their home landing until the 2019 tournament rolls around — the coveted trophy currently calls Point Loma Sportfishing home after the New Lo-An claimed two of the top three spots this past June with big bluefin tuna into the triple digits. The trip departs the evening of June 28 and returns the following evening.

Entry fee for the event is $275 per angler, which also includes the $20 jackpot buy-in. To book your spot for the 2018 Offshore Jackpot, contact the three landings directly:

H&M Landing: (619) 222-1144,; Fisherman’s Landing: (619) 221-8500,; Point Loma Sportfishing: (619) 223-1627,

MASSIVE PRIZE PACKAGES await the overall winners in six species categories of the 10-week WON/Big Fish Challenge.

JUNE 29-SEPT. 6: WON/Big Fish Challenge — When it comes to unique, all-inclusive fishing tournaments, there are none bigger, better or longer in duration than the one-of-a-kind Big Fish Challenge. Entering its third year, this unique 10-week fishing contest is open to anglers up and down the coast from the Channel Islands on south into Mexican waters. Each week, anglers from all over the Southland battle it out in attempt to land the week’s largest fish in each of six different species categories: white seabass, tuna, yellowtail, dorado, lingcod and halibut.

Weekly winners in each species category are awarded an array of top-shelf prizes, while the overall winners for each species category when all is said and done at the end of the 10-week contest score a massive haul of top-of-the-line sponsor prizes valued at over a whopping $5,000 apiece for each winner! At the top of the list of the many great things about the Challenge is that anglers can fish whenever they want, wherever they want, and however often they want… whether on a private boat or sportfisher.

Another great aspect of the Challenge is the cost to get in on the action — or lack thereof — as it’s just $10 to enter each individual species category for the duration of the 10 weeks, or just $40 to go “all-in” for all six saltwater species. With huge prize packages feature some of the best gear from the industry’s top names up for grabs, this is one contest you won’t want to miss!

To sign up for the 2018 Big Fish Challenge, log on to in the weeks leading up to the event.

WADE WELLS’ WINNING WSB in the 2017 Channel Islands Shootout, based out of Ventura Sportfishing.

JULY 5: Channel Islands Shootout — Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in early July, 2018, the Channel Islands Shootout out of Ventura Sportfishing is only second in size and scope to the Offshore Jackpot as far as big-time sportboat fishing tournaments go. What started off as a single-boat event one decade ago has now grown to include four sportfishers (Pacific Dawn, Pacific Eagle, Island Spirit and Amigo) and over 100 competing anglers.

The fantastic fishing grounds of the Islands provides the perfect backdrop for anglers duking it out and targeting big white seabass, yellowtail and halibut. Always slated for early July, great weather and great fishing are often the rule rather than the exception. Take your shot at the top spot in the 10th annual Channel Islands Shootout next summer and battle it out for bragging rights and thousands of dollars in cash and prizes — not to mention the troves of sponsor-provided swag to be doled out to anglers.

With a 5 a.m. departure and all boats returning by 4 p.m. for the always-exciting weigh-in, big fish can certainly be expected at the scales.

To enter the Channel Islands Shootout, click on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page, or contact WON sales rep Austin Jones at (949) 366-0726, or via e-mail at

inauguralchampionINAUGURAL CHAMPION OF the Morro Bay Central Coast Lingcod Championship, Bryan Reed (left), with his 12.6-pound ling aboard the Rita G out of Virg’s Landing.

JULY 21: Morro Bay Central Coast Lingcod Championship — Based out of Virg’s Landing in beautiful Morro Bay, the gloves are off and all eyes are set on the Central Coast’s huge lingcod fishery in the second annual Lingcod Championship. Anglers aboard sportfishers Rita G and Fiesta — and possibly a third boat — will vie for monster lings and top honors in the one-day event that will bring with it a load of cash and prizes. There will also be plenty of great giveaways going out to all Championship anglers.

Entry fees are just $105 per angler. To lock up your spot in the second annual Central Coast Lingcod Championship, click on the ‘EVENTS’ tab at the top of the home page, or contact WON sales rep Austin Jones at (949) 366-0726, or

OCTOBER 6-7: WON/Big Bear Lake TroutfesT — Moving back to its rightful place in the first week of October for its 14th annual installment, this family-friendly event is always a blast for adults and kids alike. Each fall, family and friends head “up the hill” to take part in the annual two-day trout derby amid the beautiful alpine setting of Big Bear Lake. Hundreds of anglers vie to make the top 5 in four different divisions (Adult Male/Female and Junior Male/Female), while also gunning for the Big Fish Award of the event and the bounty that comes with it (last year’s winner took home a 2½-day sportfishing trip, a $250 Yo-Zuri lure assortment, Lew’s rod and reel combos, Costa sunglasses and a Global Fish Mount of her winning fish).

TroutfesT is also known for its plentiful post-event raffles and giveaways at the Sunday awards ceremony, which also features 10 randomly selected Blind Bogey winners and the grand daddy raffle prize giveaway of them all… a Klamath 16-foot aluminum armed with a Suzuki 20hp tiller motor that will go out to one lucky TrouTfester. Early fall in Big Bear in the middle of the alpine city’s Oktoberfest always makes this a popular fishing event with returning participants year after year.

ARIZONA PRO JUSTIN Patti swings on a Lake Mead bass on his way to going wire-to-wire to win the 2017 U.S. Open, earning nearly $120,000 in cash and prizes after topping the 207-boat field, the largest in the prestigious tournament’s 35-year history.

OCTOBER 15-17: WON BASS U.S. Open at Lake Mead — Coming off the heels of one of the most exciting tournaments with the largest-ever field (207 boats) in its 35-year history, the most prestigious bass fishing tournament returns in mid October: the U.S. Open at Lake Mead. Known in fishing circles as “the great equalizer,” Lake Mead draws hundreds of anglers out to the Nevada desert every year — including some of the top names in the sport — to duel it out for the coveted and prestigious Open trophy.

Up for grabs to the victor is over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a Bass Cat Puma equipped with a Mercury 250hp OptiMax ProXS motor. With payouts to the top 40 spots (based on another 200-plus boats) along with Big Fish and Big Stringer money at stake, there’s plenty of cash to be awarded at the Open as always.

The unique three-day, shared-weight format of WON BASS Opens is also a draw, allowing co-anglers to fish with a variety of seasoned pros, with both a chance to claim the AAA title and tremendous learning opportunities and forging bonds with other anglers that last often last a lifetime.

Widely acknowledged among the toughest and most challenging bass fishing tournaments in the world in terms of both fishing skill and endurance, the U.S. Open draws competing anglers from throughout the United States and beyond each and every year.

Entry fees for the U.S. Open are $1,600 per pro angler and $600 for AAAs.

To secure your entry in the 36th U.S. Open at Lake Mead, log on to, or contact Tournament Director Billy Egan at (949) 366-0248, or

THE CABO TUNA JACKPOT is as much a huge party as it is a huge fishing tournament.

estrelladelnorteESTRELLA DEL NORTE poses with their Cabo Tuna Jackpot-winning yellowfin, a 338-pound super cow.

OCTOBER 31 – NOVEMBER 3: WON/Cabo Tuna Jackpot — The biggest tuna tournament in the world returns next fall for its 20th annual edition, primed to be the best Cabo Tuna Jackpot yet. This Cabo event’s slogan, “Fish hard and party harder!” is always on full display at the Jackpot, with myriad parties and festivities to accompany the exciting big tuna fishing of the tournament.

The Jackpot features over 150 teams of up to four anglers who venture into Cabo’s waters in search of monster tuna — along with wahoo and dorado — in the hopes of a huge payday. The 2017 installment of the event was witness to the tournament’s largest-ever cash payout, a whopping $747,500!

Along with all the great parties, the thrilling fishing and other festivities surrounding the Cabo Tuna Jackpot, the event also raises $50,000 annually for local charities in Mexico.

For more information, visit For additional Cabo Tuna Jackpot information, e-mail Tournament Director Pat McDonell at, or to enter, contact Lori Twilegar at (949) 366-0827.

THE SALTWATER BASS SERIES kicks off with a spotted bay bass event in Newport Harbor on Jan. 13.

Mercury Saltwater Bass Series: 11 event dates through 2018 — Added to the 2018 schedule will be the “Kings of Calicos” 3-event series in which the total accumulative weight wins the crown.

The SBS will also offer Masters and Rookie/Family divisions with both divisions fishing simultaneously in the same events, and awards will be given out to each division at the post weigh-in BBQ.

The first event is coming up on Jan 13 in Newport Harbor. That will be a spotted bay bass-only tournament, and the rest of the SBS schedule will continue all the way through the 2-day championship in June.

The popular Lucky Craft “Hardbait Open” will be returning in 2018, the date for that is TBA.

For more info head over to

Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

Coci … my fish spotting dog
When I first met Coci, he was a little bundle of white fur, huddled underneath a rusty car fender in the muddy yard of a rental we owned in Southeast San Diego on a rainy day. Soggy, but personable, out he came with his tail wagging with no fear of either me or the pouring rain.

Over the next few months, I fell in love as I watched the puppy grow into a young dog. When I would stop by on the first of the month to collect the rent, the white, mostly-Bichon terrier mix with hazel eyes would race to the gate, his whole body wiggling as though to show me how happy he was to see me. It became harder and harder to leave him behind to his very dirty food bowl and often-empty water bowl.

regardlesscociREGARDLESS, COCI SECURED his reputation as an extraordinary fish spotter, and I spent many hours with my best buddy by my side.

The tenants were a couple that I had originally met when they rented the small one- bedroom house … they soon started a family and within a year they decided they needed a two-bedroom unit.

As luck and fate would have it, I suppose — we did. I gave them the address and after looking at the apartment in a complex with other units, they called to see when it would become available. They loved the spacious complex, however, pets were not allowed in the building.

They didn’t know what they would do with their pet, Coci, and I immediately offered to take him off their hands. Little did I know the role he would play in my life.

A few days later, I arranged to pick him up. Dirty and smelly, Yvonne and I took him straight to a DIY Pet Spa and bathed him several times before the water running off him was finally clean. We guessed he had never been inside a house, because we had to begin the basics of house training him when we brought him home.

Beach fishing was a big part of our lives at our Baja home, “Rancho Deluxe,” and I couldn’t wait to share it with Coci. On our first trip down together, he seemed to share my passion for the beach, racing into the water and discovering “fish.” After being coaxed onto the ATV the first time, riding with me became his right. He would leap into his “seat” — a basket I had fastened on the front, and lie in wait for me to come and start the bike for our miles of exploring and fishing the beach. Before long, Coci became a fish-loving dog who spent many hours by my side, not leaving if he had spotted anything in the water.

OVERLY EAGER, AS we were winding our fish in for a release, he would paddle out and bring the catch to shore in his mouth, dropping it at our feet.

By the time we began offering guided trips to our Baja on the Fly anglers, Coci had become quite at home on the beach and in the water. He developed his own set of fish-spotting skills, and stood at attention at the very least commotion in the water, sometimes leaping from his perch in the basket, barking and racing toward the feeding fish within a few feet of shore if I was driving away.

When clients or I hooked a fish, Coci would be at our feet coaching us along. However, Coci didn’t always share the “catch and release” ethic. Overly eager, as we were winding our fish in for a release, he would paddle out and bring the catch to shore in his mouth, dropping it at our feet.

Regardless, Coci secured his reputation as an extraordinary fish spotter, and I spent many hours with my best buddy by my side.

He never had to be told it was time to head for the beach in the morning nor did I have to find him for trips in the evening. Often, he would already be in his basket while I still had coffee or a drink in hand, waiting for me. He was perfectly willing to spend as much time as I was on the beach, never leaving my side until the last fish was spotted or the evening turned to night.

Even as he aged, his enthusiasm for the Baja beaches we prowled together never waned.

Back on our beloved porch as the silence of the warm Baja night wrapped around us, an exhausted Coci would sprawl on his belly on the cool terrazzo floor, surveying his kingdom.

Yvonne and I chuckle over the number of photos our clients and visitors had taken of our marvelous “Fish Spotting Coci” … he even had a full page in “The Drake” magazine! Not many anglers can boast of that!

Both Coci and Rancho Deluxe have been gone for many years now but he left behind memories that are priceless. We are so very fortunate to have shared a few years of our lives with Coci!


Northeast Santa Ana winds
The past week we saw our first really strong, extended northeast conditions. It was dry, and winds ripped offshore. Fires that started, barreled downwind toward the coast, taking out everything in their path and sending thousands running for refuge.

At sea, it's a complete role reversal. In most areas, the places known for glassy weather were the roughest, while outer

islands and offshore banks had halcyon conditions, greasy-flat calm. While our prevailing westerly winds rip hardest in the afternoon, dying down at dawn, these easterly Santa Ana winds crank up at night, rip through the morning hours and die down in the afternoon.

How does this work? Why does this happen? And what do you do about it at sea? Well, the natural ebb and flow of highs and lows across the Pacific tends to kick start changes, but it's really the local conditions that are the primary drivers. It's these that cause one or the other scenario to persist or intensify.

The first thing to wrap one's mind around is the three dimensionality of atmospheric air flow. Mostly, surface wind patterns flow like water over land and sea. They go around mountains and islands when they can, and over them when they can't. Cresting ridges, air/wind cascades down-canyon.

Lower air layers are more dense, heavier than those above. It's a function of their temperature and air pressure mostly. When this fails to be the case it rains, storms form, and at its worst, cyclones and tornadoes, too.

Normally we have northwesterly winds, especially in late spring and early summer. This is because waters offshore are considerably cooler than inland deserts, and these deserts are heating up way faster than the water. Water not only holds more heat than land, but it circulates around, forcing the sun to heat a lot of it to raise the temperature even just a little. The air temperature above the ocean matches the water. In the desert, the sun heats just the top inch or so and the air temperature soars.

Warm air is lighter than cold air. The cool, heavy and moist marine air offshore wants to flow ashore into the void. Along the way, the spinning earth twists its trajectory to the south some, causing the wind to blow from the northwest rather than directly ashore. This onshore effect is strongest in the afternoon as inland areas heat.

Typically, when winds blow, in the lee of the islands an eddy of calm water forms. But sometimes, when wind really rips, it can come straight over the top of low lying islands like San Miguel, San Nicolas and even Santa Rosa, accelerating to cover the extra distance and landing on the water with tremendous force. Yet, without fetch there is no sea. Waves are small but vicious and getting the hook to hold can be a chore.

Santa Anas are exactly the opposite situation from westerlies. The land holds less heat than the water, and cools faster as the autumn nights get longer. The air spills off the land as it cools in the night, and by dawn the flow is maxed. Yet, it's offshore momentum continues until the land heats enough to stem the flow.

Moisture – moisture, or lack thereof, is another reason Santa Anas get going. Normally it takes just a calorie per gram of water to heat it a degree centigrade. But to vaporize a gram of water, it takes 540 calories. So when a gram of water condenses as dew, it dumps off this hill of heat along the way.

What does this mean? It means, if the air is moist and cooling, the dew falls and this keeps the air temperature from dropping much below the "dew point" temperature.

Marine air is moist, keeping offshore areas relatively warm after sunset. Desert air is dry. Although it heats easily during the day, the temperature drops like a rock after dark. Air density skyrockets as it cools and this dense air spills toward the coast, taking the lowest path possible, but the sheer volume of it fills the canyons and passes, screams over mountain tops and buffets the waters to leeward.

Geographically speaking, this means the air spilling out of the high desert, from as far away as the Four Corners, careens around the south end of the High Sierra, screams through the Antelope Valley, bounces down the I-5 corridor, and through the passes and canyons of the San Gabriels.

From there, winds splash down the Santa Clara River Valley, smash into and over the Santa Monicas and spill out to sea, blasting Anacapa Island and screaming up the backside of Santa Cruz Island. Northeasters typically run out of steam out towards Santa Rosa Island.

Most recently, our Santa Ana conditions were so strong and gathered from so far, deep into the deserts of the Southwest, winds whistled through passes as far south as northern Baja.

Evening Santa Anas can be warm along the coast. As this extremely dry air falls to sea level, it compresses and heats (following Lussac's law).

When Santa Ana winds blow, you'll want to run for calm waters. But the usual hiding places can offer no shelter at all. Boats at Avalon have been ripped from their normally peaceful moorings and cast ashore. Areas out of the wind include the normally challenging San Miguel and north Santa Rosa islands. San Clemente and San Nicolas islands are usually out past the buffeting breeze, as are the outer banks. It's a boon for those who fish up west, far offshore or along the Central Coast.

If you are pinned into a hole, hiding somewhere along the west side of an inshore island with winds blowing from the east, hunker down until early afternoon, when Santa Ana winds will typically die down as deserts heat up. It's quite the opposite of hiding from our prevailing westerlies, staying overnight in some named anchorage, waiting for the calm of morning to boogey on home.

While northeasters typically skirt the Santa Barbara coastline, sometimes they blast straight up the Channel. If you're wrong in reading the forecast, you can find yourself facing a 20- or 30-mile uphill nightmare, with nowhere to hide. Instead, I'd opt for the epic fishing off Santa Rosa's Talcott Shoals, or Simonton at San Miguel. Fish there until at least 1 p.m. and amble in after the wind has died for the day.

* * *

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:

Surf Fishing Round-Up

Perch bite was shaping up before the winds
Anglers were finding more quality fish in greater number along many beaches, reported Hook, Line and Sinker in Santa Barbara. Gaviota, Goleta, East Beach and Carpinteria have been consistent. Because the offshores have cleaned up the water, the bite has bounced right back after winds. The fire situation, however, complicated things more seriously throughout the week. The hard jerkbait throwers have been scoring a mix of short to legal halibut with the occasional striped bass showing. The Graveyards, East Beach and the harbor spit have been top spots. More cabs are starting to show on the rocky spots mixed with calico bass, johnnie bass and chocolate rockfish. Squid has been a best bait.

MALIBU — Conditions were good early in the week, but the wind was too much by the end of the week, reported Wylie’s. The perch bite has been the talk lately, with a 2-pound-class fish taken last week. Conditions up off Oxnard and Ventura have been shaping up. Anglers were scoring fish on grubs, Gulp! Baits, ghost shrimp, and small Lucky Crafts. But the wind and fires have made fishing untenable. Because the water is clean, look for the bite to bounce back as soon as the winds back off. The mackerel have been thick off the Malibu pier. Malibu beaches have been holding decent numbers off smaller halibut.

REDONDO BEACH — Still some bonito and firecracker yellowtail popping up in and around the harbor, reported Just Fishing. The birds and the bait are the tip off. Bubble and feather combos with green and yellow or red and white feathers have been taking fish. Small spoons like feathered Kastmasters have also been effective. Beach anglers soaking cut anchovy have been taking a mix of short to just-legal halibut and a few chunky yellowfin croaker. Torrance Beach has been a good stretch but the fish are scattered throughout the South Bay. A 6- to 7-pound striped bass was taken off El Segundo on a swimbait.

SEAL BEACH — A few corbina were still being taken this week, according to Big Fish. Anglers reported finding biters along Bolsa Chica and Sunset beaches. The late-season fish were hanging in some warmer, mid-60s water — lugworms have been the top offering. More and bigger perch have also been in the mix. The rubberlips were also on the bite off Bolsa Chica. The holes and trench off the Jack in the Box was a hot spot, kicking out fish on fresh mussel. A few more bonefish were reported taken along the shoreline of the Colorado Lagoon and Marine Stadium. The fish are taking fly-lined shrimp.

NEWPORT BEACH — Anglers are finding more and better quality barred perch all along the peninsula, reported Ketcham Bait and Tackle. The classic Carolina-rigged grub has been hard to beat. A fluorocarbon leader is a good idea in the clean water. Clear/red flake, motor oil/ gold flake and root beer have been top colors. The stretches from the Wedge to the piers and along the street jetties have been good spots to look at. The halibut bite has been a sleeper due to few anglers targeting them, but there are some legal fish to be had. Cut anchovy has been a best bait. Slow-rolled spoons and hard jerkbaits have been tops for lures.

DANA POINT — With windy conditions, the bait soakers did better this week, according to Hogan’s Bait and Tackle. Mussel and lugworms were the top baits as anglers scored a mix of yellowfin and spotfin croaker, barred surfperch, small leopard sharks and a handful of late-season corbina. Doheny and the stretch off the San Clemente Pier were top areas. The pier also kicked out a few bonito on the small spoons. Anglers targeting halibut found plenty of fish along Capo Bay. The trick was to find a legal one. Anglers fishing small plastics in the harbor found some good action on a mix of bay bass, sand bass, yellowfin croaker, halibut and a few short white seabass.

OCEANSIDE — The barred perch are showing in better numbers but the summer species are still hanging on, according to Pacific Coast Bait and Tackle. The bait bite has been best on the beaches with anglers soaking mussel and lugworms and scoring a mix of yellowfin croaker, barred perch, spotfin croaker, leopard sharks, a few corbina and the occasional short white seabass. The incoming high tide has been best. The lagoon and river mouths continue to be the top spots on the beach. With cleaner water, the hard jerkbait bite has been good for a mix of mostly-short halibut. Put in your time and you can get a legal one. Again, the lagoon and river mouths have been the best places to look. The lagoon bite has been mostly spotted bay bass.

SOLANA BEACH — The bait bite continues good off Del Mar and Torrey Pines, reported Blue Water. Clam and mussel have been the top offerings for a mix of yellowfin and spotfin, leopard sharks, barred perch, shiner perch and the occasional corbina. The bean clams have been on the spawn drawing the fish into the breakers. Ponto and Del Mar have been good spots to look for a legal halibut. Flash Minnows, X-Raps and Coltsnipers have all been effective. Another striped bass was taken at Dog Beach — the 6-pound fish was taken on a live smelt.

Compiled by Gundy Gunderson

Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

A better fish fillet
In addition to having our fishing fleet here in La Paz, we also commercially pack fish as well. During the season, I’m personally in our “fish cave” two to five hours a day hand­ling the fish for our clients.

Needless to say, I see a heck-of-a-lot of fish. We get fish that belong to our clients, as well as other anglers who fish elsewhere or have their own boats.

IT ALL STARTS with a well-placed gaff shot.

It’s very rewarding to send folks home with some really nicely done fish. Whether they fish with us or not isn’t important. I like seeing the smiles knowing they’re taking home the very best memories that go along with those packages of fillets.

Even better to get calls or e-mails from folks months later. Or, even longer!

They tell me how surprised they are that the fish still tastes stellar and just as good as the day they got it. It’s gratifying. YESSSS!!!

I love it when folks bring me their fish. Most of the time, it’s at least already cleaned by the captain or deckhand and I’m just fine-trimming, weighing and portioning it so we can vacuum seal it.

However, there are times when I simply cringe seeing the fish that’s brought to me. I literally hate to send it home with folks.

What’s that old adage? “Poop in… poop out?” (add in your own derogatory expletive).

It’s like anything else. If you start with good stuff, you end up with good stuff. If you give me great fish to work with, I’m gonna send you out with some good stuff too.

If only folks would think a little bit and take better care of their fish, it would make a big difference. That starts long before they bring me their fish.

flawlesstunaFLAWLESS TUNA

For example, I know you don’t always have control over it, but whenever possible, go for… or ask for head gaffs on a fish. Not always possible. And it takes a certain level of skill between the gaffer and the angler.

A lot of anglers don’t realize that it takes a bit of finesse to lay out a hot fish “just so,” whereby the captain can gaff it in the head. Sometimes, a captain is just anxious to get the fish in the boat so the client doesn’t lose the fish. I get it.

But, sticking the fish in the head avoids damaging the tasty and valuable meat. When a fish gets stuck in the body, it continues to pump blood into the flesh. It “bruises,” if you will. A big, ugly bruise. Especially, muscular fish like tuna.

So… I get these gorgeous chunks of valuable fish and so much of it is ruined by huge, bloody “bruises” in the meat. It has to be cut out and discarded. I’ve had to toss out 10 to 20 percent of otherwise perfectly good meat due to bleeding.

Along those lines, even if you don’t get a head gaff… Once you do get your fish in the boat, give some thought to “bleeding” your fish. Time constraints in the middle of a hot bite will sometimes prevent this, but if you can do this, or ask for it, it makes a huge difference.

Simply, while the fish is still alive, cut it by the heart and bleed it. If you can, hold it in the water, and the heart will pump out excess blood.

When any creature dies, it starts to deteriorate immediately. Logically, so does the blood.

When you let a fish pump out its blood, it greatly enhances the quality of the meat and taste. You’ll notice a fresher, less-fishy flavor and the flesh will have a lighter color to it.

Of course, the worst kind of fish I receive is when the fish has not been kept cool after it dies. Ice is critical. If not ice, at least, don’t leave it out in the hot Baja sun as some folks do. When you do, it’s literally cooking!

SASHIMI FROM YELLOWTAIL that was swimming that morning.

The fish comes to me and it almost “dissolves” in my hands. It falls apart. It’s mushy. It falls off the bone. It’s grey and discolored.

Tasty tuna, wahoo, snapper… it doesn’t matter. It might already be starting to stink. I wouldn’t serve it to our cats. Unsalvageable.

Often, so much of it, I can’t even pack. In all fairness, I have to throw it away.

If it’s somewhat salvageable, I know it’s gonna be crap when the folks eat it and there’s no way to explain once they walk out the door and go home with their fish. Just such a waste.

Another peeve is letting fish sit in water after it’s cleaned. No plastic bag. Just sitting and floating around. Often it’s in the melted ice. Maybe it’s cool. Maybe the water is already tepid and warm.

Just floating and maybe getting warm. A lovely “soup” in the making. But either way, two things are happening.

It’s breaking down into mush. Maybe not so fast as just sitting out in the sun, but it’s still on its way to falling apart.

Second, the fresh water is getting infused into the flesh. For one, it might not be the best water to begin with. But, sitting in fresh water, the natural saltiness that makes ocean fish so tasty is getting lost. Want bland-tasting fish? Let it soak in fresh water.

A quick fresh water rinse is okay. Letting it soak is tragic.

Lastly, you would think it is common sense, but avoid the urge to put your fish in the same ice chest as bottles of beer! If you must join them, use canned beer.

You can imagine what happens when beer bottles break in an ice chest full of fish fillets.

I’m good, but not that good. Impossible to pick little pieces of glass out of your fish fillets. I have to tell you all your fish is headed into the trash unless you want to eat pieces of glass!

A little thought is well worth it.

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