|Catalina seabass and seminar collide at the perfect time for the Western Outdoor News/Yamaha Catalina White Seabass tournament
As I write this Sunday night, the weekend will be over, my boat repairs have been completed and I’m ready for the “season.” You know, I’ve got a great boat, but it’s an 18-foot 1994 Robalo with the original 2-stroke Mariner 150 hp engine. In its day, it was a great engine, now it’s a bit of a question mark, and an obstacle to some fishing plans.
Yes, I know, 4 strokes have been around a while, and next year I will invest in a new engine. Meanwhile, my little baby has its bugaboos, and one thing about 2-strokes, if you wait until the engine is running lousy to tune it up, there’s already damage. It’s just the way of the world of 2-stroke technology. Not so with the 4-strokes. So, I had a little damage that had to be attended to, plus I spent a small fortune in West Marine updating some other systems, all of them tied to safety. Yesterday my wife asked me if I was going to spend another $300 at West Marine to get the boat ready for traveling across the channel to the Catalina tournament. Just a question. “Of course not,” I said. But she gets it and always has. Boats have to be in top shape.
So, I’m ready for battle, as long as my gas allowance and kitchen permits hold out.
I’m pretty optimistic about our inshore/offshore season. As any charterboat captain will tell you, this year’s water quality and “sign” inside and outside is so much better than last year it’s not even comparable. Warmer water, cleaner water, a large volume of yellowtail down the coast, and now …. the white seabass are finally biting on the back side of the island. Even if they were small fish taken this past weekend, it’s a start, and good timing for our annual Catalina White Seabass tournament at Two Harbors.
Part of the job of being director of the tournament this year was to organize a seminar, and the event went off beautifully at Sav-On Tackle in Santa Fe Springs. We had a crowd of 150 and Sav-On turned 75 people away on the phone. You had to pay $10 and pre-register so we could plan for catering the food, chair rental, etc.
In reality, 90 percent of the people at the seminar acknowledged they were not fishing in the Catalina event. They were there for the sale at Sav-On, the information by staffer and book author Brandon Hayward, and the science of PIER Institute’s researchers Chugey Sepulveda and Scott Aalbers, who know more about white seabass and catching them than anyone in the world.
While Brandon’s knowledge of techniques and tackle needed to catch the white seabass was the focal point of the seminar, I am always mesmerized by the science and Chugey and Scott’s discussion on the Seeker stage, and a slide show with some of the data, was just as riveting. We are blessed with this burgeoning resource, and while learning their migration patterns and tendencies is key to hunting them, the science of observing thousands of hours of data from electronic tags also provides our most important lesson. That is, we have to protect this resource that has bloomed in the past 20 years since the demise of nearshore gill and trammel nets.
To learn more about PIER’s work, go to the PIER’s website, www. pier.org
When I came up with the concept of the white seabass tournament a decade ago, it was the first kill tournament for white seabsss in the state. I thought there might be some resistance, it was a fishery still in recovery 10 years after the gillnet initiative of 1992. But, WON has a pretty good track record of supporting sound conservation, and we asked and got support from United Anglers, clubs, the Catalina Conservancy, Hubbs and other agencies.
We also listened to concerns. The tournament is always slated for early in the season where we have a one-fish limit. Hubb-SeaWorld was invited to scan fish heads to check for hatchery fish outfitted at release with binary coded wire tags in their cheeks. PIER Institute and Hubbs scientists will be on hand in Catalina, as sponsors and researchers, scanning heads of fish at the pier, and collecting broodstock for the hatchery facilities.
PIER has again offered a special “reward” for one team. That is, the first team in the tourney to return one of PIER’s electronic tags during fishing hours will get a check for $5,000.
With a week to go before check-in at Two Harbors May 19 I’m hoping for good weather, good fishing for white seabass and halibut and yellowtail – they all count the same in the standings. And I’m hopeful we’ll finally scan a tagged white seabass. More and more are showing up each year, and it would be pretty exciting for the tourney to be a part of the scientific process.
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Pat McDonell is editor of WON, and director of the WON saltwater events at Catalina May 19-20, Ensenada (July 27-28) and Cabo San Lucas (Nov. 7-10). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org