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Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018
Where to begin


Chasing Loligo – aka “The juice” – aka Live Squid
This is a tale of the mysterious fleet dynamics regarding the most prized live bait in all of SoCal, LIVE SQUID. One of my good friend Earl Warren's favorite stories centers on this chase, and the enigmatic dynamics of acquiring live squid – the bait that can change the outcome of any fishing excursion from mediocre to memorable.

Now, most readers are unlikely to recognize the name of the Executive VP of Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Costa Rica, but believe me, the legends of the industry all do. As an outstanding and quick witted attorney, Warren's facilitated many a vessel transaction and saved many an operator's bacon when misfortune came knocking.


ultrafullfloat
ULTRA FULL FLOAT — 22nd Street Landing charter boat Ultra on light boat duty during the off season. Notice the small "bumming receiver" floating alongside, starboard. This floating net pen is used to safely pass squid between boats. A second larger one can be seen on deck beside the open boarding gate. A large "squid brail" is atop the port bait tank while a more standard "pass brail" sits on the starboard tank behind Capt. Jacob Moreno. CHARTER BOAT ULTRA PHOTO


He's gone to bat for those in both the commercial and recreational sectors. Among many other successes, he proposed and got passed the first regulations allowing the filleting of sport caught fish at sea. But he's lost a battle or two along the way too.


Years ago he went to the podium for an old-school plank-boat sword fisherman for continued spotter plane use and against an emerging drift gillnet fishery targeting the billfish. He lost.


In the following decade the mom and pop plank boat operations languished. Drift net fishing boomed. An abundance of lower grade product flooded the market, reduced demand and bottomed out swordfish prices.


It wiped out the plank boat fleet, such that only those able to run at a loss, for the sport of the hunt, remained in the pulpit. Now fisheries managers wish Warren had won way back then.


But back to Earl's story and squid getting. It began like this... Earl was in the wheelhouse. We settled into a drift in the middle of Bechers Bay, Santa Rosa Island. It was pitch dark. The waxing moon, just nearing full, had set, as it was just a few hours before greylight.


Mover and shaker, Dan Felger was down on deck with his ever apologetic son Brad, both excellent anglers. A few squirters flashed through under the light. Both broke out the getters and were snagging a few pieces — slow singles at best.


Felger, never at a loss for forceful advice to crew and captain, insisted we should wake all hands to participate in the bait getting. Warren's brow furrowed at Felger's unmitigated gall. He informed Dan that he should cool it. If the captain decided that was the best course of action, the captain would make that call. That was me.


Son Brad, edged away, to the other side of the squid light and kept working his squid getter. Snagging got a little better, but not much. Soon Felger boomed back: As they were the only two up on deck snagging squid, all those baits were theirs — and they weren't sharing!


Meanwhile a seiner nearby was just finishing up a wrap, and unbeknownst to Felger, they had agreed to pass off a few dippers full. We stood well out of the way as their crew worked the heavy hydraulics.


The last thing I wanted was a whole boatload of anglers dragged out of their cozy bunks at 3 a.m. — tangling jiggers at the railing, all sleepy-eyed while my crew struggled with lines, bumming receiver and heavy brails full of squirting squid.


Felger was further infuriated when he was told to wind in. We were moving from his hot spot!


Soon, we were breaking out bait brails and passing off the receiver. The seiner crew filled it in 4 or 5 heavy sloshes of their huge squid brail, up and over the cork line. It was a tiny fraction of their haul, but as much squid as we could possibly handle.


We pulled the heavily laden receiver alongside and loaded brail after brail, filling our tanks to capacity with the premium-grade bait. Such "seiner squid" usually outlives "float" squid.


As we wrapped up the operation, Warren informed Felger: As Felger had caught about 6 squid and proclaimed exclusivity, that's all he was going to get for the day!


So, what is the deal with the sport fleet and squid, sharing info vs. keeping secrets – sharing squid between boats one might think of as competitors? It's like this, and follows the age old seagoing philosophy of saving anyone from a ship wreck no matter who — even teepee creeping Sancho the pirate. It's the Golden Rule.


Basically it's a big ocean out


* * *

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