WON Big Fish Challenge


CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

Captain Merit McCrea is our Saltwater Editor. He covers the Southern California beat for Western Outdoor News.McCrea has been an active USCG licensed captain since 1978. For more than two decades he owned and operated partyboats. He served as a Sportfishing Association of California Board Member and is well-connected within the industry.


In 2000 he transitioned into academia, earned several academic honors and now concurrently works as a research biologist with UCSB’s Marine Science Institute with the Milton Love Lab. His skills include: ecology, fisheries, marine management, technical mapping (GIS), statistical analysis, oceanographic processes, ichthyology, technical writing, modern technological application, data management, small business management, experimental design, mathematical modeling, research diving and journalism.


A resident of Santa Barbara, McCrea is also a skilled boat operator including trailer boats, larger single screw, twin screw and water-jet driven vessels. He can find fish, run a rod and reel and is the current IGFA all-tackle world record holder for catch and release calico bass. Recreationally he has a passion for fishing and hunting.


It is his desire as your Saltwater Editor to assure that we support our advertisers that support us. He can be reached by voice or text at (805) 687-3474 or via email at merit@wonews.com


Second day advantage pays off
I was aboard the Legend Izorline sponsored 2.5-day and this how it went down.

Thursday evening, we have 29 anglers aboard the Legend as we depart for the Everingham bait receivers. I've brought gear for any eventuality, from kelp paddy yellows, to micro-bait yellowfin foamers, to bluefin of any grade on out to 300 pounders on kite and flying fish. It's two armfuls of rods and reels, like I was headed out on a 16 dayer or something.

But it's almost instantly apparent that our best option for both days will be finding that magic kelp and loading up on yellowtail. Friday morning finds us down the Mexican coast some 25 miles or so offshore. It's a torturous morning for the crew, as our kelp spotter swings in the crows nest for hours straining to find a few shards and even fewer fish.


dreampaddy
THE DREAM PADDY had drifted 8 miles south overnight. Bagged and tagged with everything from a simple spar to a satellite beacon relaying its coordinates in real time, Saturday morning saw 4 boats having run over 100 miles to fish side-by-each, with a 5th nearby.


It's a full court press with 4 or 5 boats in sight all heading south on parallel courses spaced 3 or 4 miles apart, in-search-of...


Mid morning we pull up on a kelp, decent sized. Capt. Chuck Taft announces on the PA it's loaded but he thinks it's already been hit earlier in the day. We'll try it nevertheless — see if we get lucky. The crew drops a flag in it — Chris Vollrath and Dominic Spinuzza. Capt. Steve Taft, Chuck's son, Spike's grandson is aboard as well, a third generation SoCal Sportboat skipper. Ed is in the galley.


We pick a fish or two, couple of dorado, a yellowtail.


We try a few other scraps then come upon another decent kelp. It's all tagged up. A small buoy marks it already, as well as a GPS beacon. It's also loaded. But it's already been milked that morning too. So we get a fish or two.


From there we head south another almost 30 miles for nearly nothing, few kelps, even fewer fish. Working offshore and then back north finds no love for us and sunset finds us back at the second of the two kelps that were really holding. The Excalibur is nearby also as is one other bigger boat, the Red Rooster III I believe.


The crew had added a flag to the kelp on our first pass that morning, and now we add a strobe. The sea anchor is put out so we stay stuck in the flow tracking with the kelp as it makes more than a knot in the current.


To this point we have a grand total of 7 fish in the hold, including 2 dorado, a skipjack on the troll and 4 yellows. It's been a long tough day with Ed's meals and snacks as the day's highlights.


I'm up soaking glow iron until 11 p.m. before throwing in the towel, and setting the alarm for 0400.



I arrive back on deck to find 3 or 4 dozen flying fish on the calm side of the boat. There are also a pair of yellowtail cruising together around the rig. I put a glow iron back out on the big gear and stuff the rod but in the hawse pipe, leaving it to jig with the bob of the boat.


hillyardsmarlinHILLYARD'S MARLIN — With Steve, George and Stan Hillyard. This fish was the result of a lucky jig-strike and the Hillyards were well rewarded for their tenacity at the stern, keeping a line in when few others would. The fish was taken on a Mexican flag pattern trolling jig on Izor 80-pound on a Penn red 6/0 and a Calstar rod. PHOTO BY CAS PUIZ

Having spent an inordinate amount of time in past years on deckwatch, observing flying fish in the lights, I have a good idea what they're there for, the tiny red polychaete worms that jet around under the lights and the other littler planktonic weirdos that show up.


Although I've never heard of it before, I dig out the tiniest of the lucky Luras made, the ones with 6, no. 14 sized flies we use for nabbing anchovies, hook and line. It works.


Flyers come up to it and spread their wings as they look at the rig, then I'm bit. But of course the hooks are a bit small and so I flip them up, liftpole style, in hopes they don't tear off before clearing the rail. About half make it aboard and I put three on before the bite backs off as grey light approaches and those yellows get a little too lively for the pack of flyers.


This morning the trap has been set. We pull the parachute back in and stand by for better light. In the meantime one angler nabs 2 of the 4 yellows that were chasing the flyers around.


The previously empty deck comes alive with sleepy anglers. Just after the chute is in a herd of 150 or so yellows and a pair of dorado flash by in the light's glow but do not bite.


A half-hour goes by before it's fully light. A competitor's approaching bow grows larger to the north. We make our move, pulling in on the kelp. The Excalibur is not far behind, as they spent the night nearby drifting and running back up wind from time to time to stay close by.


As the lines go out, chaos erupts, "hook up, hook up, hook up." It's worked and although after a full day of building tension, all anglers are a little on the over excited side, tangling, busting off, sawing off, etc. we ultimately extract a deck box full of yellowtail and some dorado too.


The second pass... We're all a bit more dialed in. The bite is good, but not frantic, eating the 40 no problem. In the meantime there are now 4 boats on scene, including the Grande and Ocean Odyssey.


We're taking turns at the magic kelp and the bite, of course, peters out. As we work our way toward finding that other kelp we pass the Red Rooster III as they fish a small piece of weed.


catchthe
THE CATCH — The aftermath of battle with the carcasses of the defeated stacked like cordwood 'round Legend's rail.


We clearly get first crack at kelp no. 2 also. Wide open! It's kill time. At the end of it we have a grand total of 134 yellowtail, 14 dorado, the one skipjack — a dandy, by the way, and those 3 flyers, just in case. It's still early, but by then we know that's our day and we're extremely grateful for our good fortune.


Spirits are high. Meanwhile Dominic spends a second day in the tower searching the waves for every little shred of kelp we might try. There aren't many and those few only produce a couple more fish, mostly dorado.


By late afternoon we're pretty much pointed for the barn trying for first look in daylight at the upper area while making progress in the right direction, coming from way south. It's about here where we'd had a short strike Friday.


It happens again. I head across the stern toward the rod, just as I get there it's bit again! And it sticks this time. I unclip the rod. Line is pouring off the old Penn 6/0 now. George Hillyard, nephew of Steve Hillyard, who had put the line out is first to arrive. I hand him the rod and tell him it's something substantial, perhaps a marlin.


The line is headed back in the wake, slightly left — and watching far left I see the fish hit the surface for the first time — marlin! Five leaps later, the fish is up the starboard rail headed for the bow. Taft maneuvers the big boat to best advantage, keeping the line long and taught.


It's still on — hasn't thrown the hook. We're actually going to get it! Steve Hillyard takes up position on the bow flanked by the full crew complement. Fellow angler Cas Puiz captures the entire fight on video.


Steve passes the rod back to George, and now at much closer range, the big fish rockets out of the water several more times.


Now nearly exhausted the billfish is near gaff range but stays upright until its final moments. The 90 pounder ultimately comes aboard — a nice capper to a trip that easily might have been much less without the perseverance of all aboard. It's clear our success on day 2 is largely due to some good choices and set-up on day 1.


* * *


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


•   •   •   •   •

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Second day advantage pays off
I was aboard the Legend Izorline sponsored 2.5-day and this how it went down.

Thursday evening, we have 29 anglers aboard the Legend as we depart for the Everingham bait receivers. I've brought gear for any eventuality, from kelp paddy yellows, to micro-bait yellowfin foamers, to bluefin of any grade on out to 300 pounders on kite and flying fish. It's two armfuls of rods and reels, like I was headed out on a 16 dayer or something.


But it's almost instantly apparent that our best option for both days will be finding that magic kelp and loading up on yellowtail. Friday morning finds us down the Mexican coast some 25 miles or so offshore. It's a torturous morning for the crew, as our kelp spotter swings in the crows nest for hours straining to find a few shards and even fewer fish.


dreampaddy
THE DREAM PADDY had drifted 8 miles south overnight. Bagged and tagged with everything from a simple spar to a satellite beacon relaying its coordinates in real time, Saturday morning saw 4 boats having run over 100 miles to fish side-by-each, with a 5th nearby.

It's a full court press with 4 or 5 boats in sight all heading south on parallel courses spaced 3 or 4 miles apart, in-search-of...


Mid morning we pull up on a kelp, decent sized. Capt. Chuck Taft announces on the PA it's loaded but he thinks it's already been hit earlier in the day. We'll try it nevertheless — see if we get lucky. The crew drops a flag in it — Chris Vollrath and Dominic Spinuzza. Capt. Steve Taft, Chuck's son, Spike's grandson is aboard as well, a third generation SoCal Sportboat skipper. Ed is in the galley.


We pick a fish or two, couple of dorado, a yellowtail.


We try a few other scraps then come upon another decent kelp. It's all tagged up. A small buoy marks it already, as well as a GPS beacon. It's also loaded. But it's already been milked that morning too. So we get a fish or two.


From there we head south another almost 30 miles for nearly nothing, few kelps, even fewer fish. Working offshore and then back north finds no love for us and sunset finds us back at the second of the two kelps that were really holding. The Excalibur is nearby also as is one other bigger boat, the Red Rooster III I believe.


The crew had added a flag to the kelp on our first pass that morning, and now we add a strobe. The sea anchor is put out so we stay stuck in the flow tracking with the kelp as it makes more than a knot in the current.


To this point we have a grand total of 7 fish in the hold, including 2 dorado, a skipjack on the troll and 4 yellows. It's been a long tough day with Ed's meals and snacks as the day's highlights.


I'm up soaking glow iron until 11 p.m. before throwing in the towel, and setting the alarm for 0400.


I arrive back on deck to find 3 or 4 dozen flying fish on the calm side of the boat. There are also a pair of yellowtail cruising together around the rig. I put a glow iron back out on the big gear and stuff the rod but in the hawse pipe, leaving it to jig with the bob of the boat.


Having spent an inordinate amount of time in past years on deckwatch, observing flying fish in the lights, I have a good idea what they're there for, the tiny red polychaete worms that jet around under the lights and the other littler planktonic weirdos that show up.


Although I've never heard of it before, I dig out the tiniest of the lucky Luras made, the ones with 6, no. 14 sized flies we use for nabbing anchovies, hook and line. It works.


hillayardsmarlinHILLYARD'S MARLIN — With Steve, George and Stan Hillyard. This fish was the result of a lucky jig-strike and the Hillyards were well rewarded for their tenacity at the stern, keeping a line in when few others would. The fish was taken on a Mexican flag pattern trolling jig on Izor 80-pound on a Penn red 6/0 and a Calstar rod. PHOTO BY CAS PUIZ

Flyers come up to it and spread their wings as they look at the rig, then I'm bit. But of course the hooks are a bit small and so I flip them up, liftpole style, in hopes they don't tear off before clearing the rail. About half make it aboard and I put three on before the bite backs off as grey light approaches and those yellows get a little too lively for the pack of flyers.


This morning the trap has been set. We pull the parachute back in and stand by for better light. In the meantime one angler nabs 2 of the 4 yellows that were chasing the flyers around.


The previously empty deck comes alive with sleepy anglers. Just after the chute is in a herd of 150 or so yellows and a pair of dorado flash by in the light's glow but do not bite.


A half-hour goes by before it's fully light. A competitor's approaching bow grows larger to the north. We make our move, pulling in on the kelp. The Excalibur is not far behind, as they spent the night nearby drifting and running back up wind from time to time to stay close by.


As the lines go out, chaos erupts, "hook up, hook up, hook up." It's worked and although after a full day of building tension, all anglers are a little on the over excited side, tangling, busting off, sawing off, etc. we ultimately extract a deck box full of yellowtail and some dorado too.


The second pass... We're all a bit more dialed in. The bite is good, but not frantic, eating the 40 no problem. In the meantime there are now 4 boats on scene, including the Grande and Ocean Odyssey.


We're taking turns at the magic kelp and the bite, of course, peters out. As we work our way toward finding that other kelp we pass the Red Rooster III as they fish a small piece of weed.


catchthe
THE CATCH — The aftermath of battle with the carcasses of the defeated stacked like cordwood 'round Legend's rail.

We clearly get first crack at kelp no. 2 also. Wide open! It's kill time. At the end of it we have a grand total of 134 yellowtail, 14 dorado, the one skipjack — a dandy, by the way, and those 3 flyers, just in case. It's still early, but by then we know that's our day and we're extremely grateful for our good fortune.


Spirits are high. Meanwhile Dominic spends a second day in the tower searching the waves for every little shred of kelp we might try. There aren't many and those few only produce a couple more fish, mostly dorado.


By late afternoon we're pretty much pointed for the barn trying for first look in daylight at the upper area while making progress in the right direction, coming from way south. It's about here where we'd had a short strike Friday.


It happens again. I head across the stern toward the rod, just as I get there it's bit again! And it sticks this time. I unclip the rod. Line is pouring off the old Penn 6/0 now. George Hillyard, nephew of Steve Hillyard, who had put the line out is first to arrive. I hand him the rod and tell him it's something substantial, perhaps a marlin.


The line is headed back in the wake, slightly left — and watching far left I see the fish hit the surface for the first time — marlin! Five leaps later, the fish is up the starboard rail headed for the bow. Taft maneuvers the big boat to best advantage, keeping the line long and taught.


It's still on — hasn't thrown the hook. We're actually going to get it! Steve Hillyard takes up position on the bow flanked by the full crew complement. Fellow angler Cas Puiz captures the entire fight on video.


Steve passes the rod back to George, and now at much closer range, the big fish rockets out of the water several more times.


Now nearly exhausted the billfish is near gaff range but stays upright until its final moments. The 90 pounder ultimately comes aboard — a nice capper to a trip that easily might have been much less without the perseverance of all aboard. It's clear our success on day 2 is largely due to some good choices and set-up on day 1.


* * *


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


•   •   •   •   •

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Plastiqa
Silver Jet had a briefly popular song called Plastiqa —“Collagen, plastic, silicone... soon they’ll be making girls out of Styrofoam.”

The gist was a jab at popular culture as “plastic” and “fake.” When it comes to plastic in the marine environment, it’s a real problem. We see those Mylar balloons scattered about the ocean in surprising abundance.


But is our response to plastic pollution real or fake? While much of coastal California has acted to ban single-use plastic bags and plastic straws, that same demographic seems to consist of the very individuals who have most embraced the now ubiquitous “K-cup.”


Those little plastic packs of one cup’s worth of coffee grounds are at least as litter producing as plastic straws. Yet, they’re somehow exempt from criticism on account of their cool factor.


While we’ve taken the position the problem is industry and our single-use society, the real problem with plastic bag and straw pollution is actually littering.


Worst of all, it seems we’ve been gaining that good green feeling by simply turfing the dirty work off on others in foreign lands — others who lack our worker protections — our environmental protections.


While we’ve been stuffing our blue bins and feeling oh so noble in our environmental consciousness, fake recycling has been making the system work by cashing in on the CRV, then shipping all the stuff overseas.


There it’s auctioned. Buyers employ the impoverished, paying pennies per day for them to scavenge the good and clean from the rest. It’s acres of picked-over piles of trash with no plan for disposal — no landfill, no effective laws against leaving it lay to blow away, into the river and out to sea.


“E-waste” is scavenged for lead and such using the most rudimentary technology as its vapors poison their air instead of ours. The trash piles have accreted to such a degree that now China has said, “no more!”


Here we are now seeing the results of this as PSAs and posters saying, “plastic bags are trash.” Basically, Asian nations won’t take our mixed dirty plastic garbage any more. Here in the U.S., the economics of re­cycling are much, much different of course, and so mixed plastic is mostly trash.


Here at home, people have better things to do than wash and sort their trash. Workers and safe handling measures cost more than the resulting materials are worth.


But the solutions are simple. We’ve just been a bit too green and righteous to embrace them. Don’t litter. It’s not plastic straws or plastic bags as much as it’s letting them blow away in the breeze.


Our plastic trash is simply fossil fuel chemically linked in novel ways. You can see it in the names — polyethylene, polypropylene. That floating line on your hoop nets is essentially the same stuff as the propane that fires your backyard barbecue, linked end to middle in chains.


Instead of recovering the plastic, recover the energy and substitute it back into the system. “Waste-to-energy” works. If coal and fuel oil exhaust can be scrubbed... Burn the contents of the blue bins and use that heat to generate power. Leave a little extra oil and coal in the ground by it.


Drain off the aluminum. Aluminum is all about energy also — electrical energy. The raw ore is hyper-abundant but the power to convert it is not.


Iceland has an over abundance of geothermal and hydro-electric power. But exporting the excess across the Atlantic is impractical. However, what they do is import bauxite — aluminum ore — and make aluminum instead.


That’s how they export their green electrical energy. It reduces the use of fossil fuels elsewhere. Recycling aluminum works and is actually all about saving the tremendous amount of energy it takes to produce it new.


Plastic products — yes, even the single-use kind — have been instrumental in improving sanitation, keeping filth-based diseases at bay. The degree to which plastics facilitate safe food storage and transportation cannot be underestimated.


While photos of dead charismatic marine mega fauna stuffed with and entangled by plastic trash have driven public sentiments to the extreme, our most popular solutions may not be very realistic, cost effective, sanitary or necessary.


Here we need to own our own trash, not close our eyes as we ship it off to the third world where crooks promise good green handling, then process or dump our waste in ways that are strictly illegal here.


What we’ve been doing is handing off our trash to anyone who will tell us a happy lie, as they litter the earth with it. We need to suck it up and own our environmental costs, adopt ways other than this recycling boondoggle.


Reducing wasteful use works. Packing pounds of coffee into individual two tablespoon plastic cups is an elitist waste.


Re-use works, giving plastic products a second or third life in other duties, from making scoops and funnels from bleach bottles, to re-using those plastic bags until they fall apart, to refilling gallon water bottles — you name it.


Discards don’t have to be biodegradable to be green to bury. In fact, inert may be much better in the long run.


Getting all teary-eyed about some trash item lasting forever in the dirt once buried is ridiculous. It’s actually better than burying a rotting mess that will off-gas for decades, settling and compacting and making that land unstable and unusable.


Own it. Old arrowheads and waste piles of chipped chert and flint lasting for multiple millennia have not been a problem. Neither have entire cities buried in the jungle. Heck, there are entire cities buried under cities.


Unless you’re intent on recovering phosphates and nitrates for the next season’s crops, the inherent goodness of the biodegradable does not apply. As sinful as it sounds, burying plastic sequesters its carbon, while biodegrading, or what they used to call rotting, releases it back into the biosphere.


But in the end, it’s simply all about littering. Don’t leave stuff where it is unsightly. Don’t dispose of it where it can become dangerous for wildlife or people. Letting your balloons float off after a party is littering.


Don’t turf your responsibility onto others you should know better than to trust — especially if you’re running a waste management system for an entire city. Don’t make laws that require unrealistic results and simply displace our environmental cost onto foreign nations and peoples who lack any environmental or worker protections at all.


* * *


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


•   •   •   •   •

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.



Currently speaking
Last week I covered a pair of online sources for water and weather conditions and forecasts. The next on the lineup of online map displays is SDSU's composite of high frequency radar data on current speeds. Incredibly, it is possible to see the surface currents across almost the entirety of the SoCal Bight, real time, hour by hour, all online.

Now, if you're not much of a skipper, the only thing you want to know is where someone else who caught a fish caught it. But those who have the hours on the water behind them really want to know all about water color, temp and current for as much of the area within their range as they can. They don't want to have to guess and go just to find out conditions aren't right, while some other zone they could have gotten to had good water and flow.


I can just about guarantee most don't know there's a way to see the flow all around Catalina island online before they even leave the dock – cordc.ucsd.edu/projects/mapping/maps/fullpage.php has it. The way these data are gathered is via a network of high frequency radar sites scattered up and down the coast, some at the islands and even down into Mexico.


They measure current direction and speed via what's called Doppler shift. Generally it sees the top meter of water or so. My experience is it's pretty darned on the money and continues to correctly capture the primary flow, even in windy conditions when whitecaps cover the surface.


Once on the website the controls are on the upper left. It does run on a phone but touch screen control can get a little quirky at times. On a laptop – never a problem.


When it first opens you'll see the entire world, with the US front and center. You'll notice the West Coast shows a colorful smudge along it.


Zoom in to SoCal and that smudge turns in to a field of arrows – vectors – color coded for the current speed. In the control section you'll see it's set for 24 hour average and speed is as cm/s by default – the standard units used in oceanography.


I turn off the 24 hour average and turn on all 4 resolutions under "hourly." I change cm/s to kts for knots.


Next, I change the map to "satellite" so I can see all the underwater features and banks.


As you zoom in to your area of interest you'll notice the arrows are in several different sets, one for each of the 4 resolutions, and sometimes the sets don't agree exactly. Also there may be holes in the coverage here and there.


That's the nature of raw real data, sometimes signals can be blocked and areas will lack coverage. Some data sets will be at slightly older than others so they won't exactly agree all the time.


For the most part, at least one of the 4 sets will have coverage where you're interested in the flow. For example, this morning I was able to see I needed to angle a little east on our way across to Santa Rosa Island, to avoid a north-bound jet. It was possible to know ahead of time there was a fairly strong easterly flow over the area we would be fishing and plan for it.


Next on the list of online info that's available is the "AIS" data. AIS is the "Automated Information System." Larger boats and ships are required to have some level of shipboard tracking system or AIS. What it does is it broadcasts the vessel's location, course and speed, along with the vessel's basic information, like its registered name and type.


Some smaller vessels have AIS voluntarily, or will have it automatically included as part of their electronics packages. For example, our UCSB Marine Science Institute's fleet of 3, 22-foot Andersons all have it.


There are two levels of AIS – one that's VHF marine radio based, and a second which bigger boats carry that's a satellite system. While VHF can be limited by distance and shadowed behind islands, the satellite system is global and high seas.


Between vessels at sea this info is received and plotted on the boat's chart plotter, so the pilot can see the names of the other boats and their positions and course. But the gist here is you'll find several websites online that plot these same data on a map, with coverage across the globe.


You can spy on the world's fleets from your armchair. This includes the larger vessels in our party boat fleet. The different websites offer different levels of access at no charge and for a membership fee open up even more options, like past track lines, full info on the satellite AIS boats and such.


Because there are several sites that do this, the best I can offer is to search "boat" along with "AIS" and check out what you find. Now, the fleet's not going to love that I put this out there, but all the "Parker" guys are already way up on this anyway and poach yesterday's hot spot, beating the fleet to the numbers the next morning.


For this reason, the smaller non AIS boats in the fleet are not eager to share with the big boats right away anymore, because they bring a rag-tag fleet of spot poachers with them wherever they go.


The way I see it, is it's like your cell phone. Short of refusing to do anything web based on your phone and leaving the thing at home, the data sniffers can basically retrace your every move and online action if any were ever to get the inkling to waste their life retracing yours.


MYSTERY FISH SOLVED!


In the meantime, we have heard back from DNA guy Dr. Matthew Craig at NMFS SFSC in La Jolla on the weird driftfish Greg Mayer caught in the surf a few weeks back. It was a 100-percent match to the longfin cigarfish ( Cubiceps paradoxus) and showed a 94 percent match with the Cape fathead (Cubiceps capensis) — clearly a close relative.


DFW environmental scientist Ed Roberts is the winner with the correct species.


At 42 pounds 50.5 inches it's the largest of these rare fish ever recorded.


* * *


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


•   •   •   •   •

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Online sources — weather and water conditions
One of the major advantages of our modern mass communication system through the internet is the availability to access all kinds of oceanographic info. These are things like sea surface temperature maps, water color images, weather models, high resolution bathymetry, even real-time ship locations. Here I'm going to run through some of my favorite freebies, their addresses, what they show best and how to run them.

Most avid anglers are well familiar with catch reporting websites like 976-tuna.com and Sportfishingreport.com These are great for seeing daily catches from the sport landings. But there's a heck of a lot more available that's all no charge.


Starting with weather models, my fav. is windy.com. They have both a website (computer) and an app (phone and tablet). This powerful map based weather forecast model display offers access to see the very stuff TV weathermen use to base their own broadcasts on.


You can select from the NAM (North American Mesoscale Forecast System), the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) and the GFS (Global Forecast System). Each has its own strengths, weaknesses and personality.


The NAM's strength is its much higher resolution and ability to capture the localized effects of the topography — islands, mountain ranges, etc. Its weaknesses are it's only run forward 72 hours or so and it only includes North America, offshore to maybe 300 miles or so. Running out only 3 days at most, its personality is lackluster as at that point all models tend to agree anyway.


The U.S. counterpart to our high-resolution close range model is the GFS. Covering the entire globe, it has both the lowest spatial resolution and largest time steps. It's run forward as far as 9 days.


Its personality is safe and sane. As you look farther forward in time it's much more likely to show much closer to what the usual weather for the season and date and less likely to let wild model outcomes push the forecast into the realm of the bizarre.


The ECM is also a global model, covering the entire earth. Higher resolution than the GFS, it also is run forward 9 days.


But the ECM is the wild child. If the whims of physics and math project the mildly incredible 8 days from now, that's what it tends to show.


Your news weathergirl tends to do three things with this info. First, she won't stand behind any forecast past 3-days forward, and only so long as all models are saying the same thing. Second, most of the time she'll leave out anything that has to do with wind direction or weather out at sea. Third, all she cares about is rain, red flag warnings, temperature and cloud cover. So if you're wondering whether you'll get smooth seas or the tar beat out of you crossing to San Nicolas Island tonight, you're out of luck.


Once you get to the site, the lower right side shows the model choices. Across the bottom you'll see the time line, and you can let it auto advance like a movie or step it forward on your own.


Along the upper right side there are options including the all-important wind forecast. Down at the bottom of this control bar is "more layers..." Clicking this accesses a full range of observation layers and allows you to customize what you want on that control bar.


Just below that bar is a secondary bar. Here you can select what altitude level you want your forecast map to show, from the surface on up into the atmosphere above the jet stream — fun stuff — but I always keep the forecast clamped to the surface.


There's a login option but you don't have to have an account to use this website and I don't.


Finally, if you click on a spot on the map, it will show you a flag with the value at that point, as in the wind speed forecast for that point at the time you have showing on the time slider along the bottom.


There is a tricky bit. Just above the model selector is a selection bar that allows you to see current observations like wind speed at each of the islands and weather buoys. However, this is actual current data and does not reflect the forecast. Those numbers remain as they actually are right now, even if you slide the time slider to a week from now, unlike the model reader flag.


As for sea surface temperature or SST, my two freebie favorites are tempbreak.com and State of the Ocean (podaac-tools.jpl.nasa.gov/soto). Tempbreak is totally sportfishing oriented and localized for our area, while SOTO is totally science nerd and global.


When it comes to ocean observations it's important to remember those data are totally dependant on clear skies, and it may take several satellite passes before you get a clear shot of the SST or water color.


Tempbreak is broken up into regions. "Southern California BITE ZONE!" and "Morro Bay – Channel Islands" are the two covering our zone. You select these at the top of the page. Because cloud cover regularly wipes out a portion of the map, there are composite views built that use the information gathered over several passes — sometimes more than a week's worth — to build a complete coverage.


Of course that means some of it can be considerably older than others. But you also have a choice of flipping back pass by pass through the more recent images and check them out for yourself.


Water color data are gathered as the amount of green light observed, chlorophyll a to be exact. So you'll see it as Chl-a.


Here the data are illustrated on a "log scale." That's like the Richter Scale for earthquake magnitude. Each number higher relates to ten times as much as the previous number.


The important aspect is the difference in blueness in actual water color at the lowest levels shown is subtle (shown in blues and greens on the map), while the differences at the higher end (yellows and reds on the map) are huge.


For the SOTO there are a great many things to choose from and a great many options for displaying them, in true science geek fashion.


I look at SST, ocean color and Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly — SSTA. The controls are on the upper left, time slider across the bottom. This display runs SST differently than the Tempbreak map. It uses the real data where it has it and fills in the places where it doesn't on the basis of modeling and the most recent data for that spot.


You always see a full map coverage for SST in SOTO for each day, but it loses definition and sharpness where it has to fill in the blanks. As for Ocean Color, that's data only and you'll see holes in the map where clouds covered the water on any given day.


One of the things you can do on this site is called "Squash pallet" and it allows you to make the full color gradient be covered over a small temperature range, giving you very high resolution between temps. Click the 3 vertical dots to see this option.


Finally, SSTA — it's the difference between the observed SST and the average SST for the given day and place. It allows you to see if the water is warmer or cooler than normal and by how much.


There's so much more available online too, swell forecast, past wind obs., real time vessel locations too — but that will have to do for now.


* * *


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


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