CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Pat McDonell's Blog



EDITOR'S NOTES /
WONews Column by Pat McDonell

Pat McDonell is the Editorial Director of Western
Outdoors Publications and has fished and hunted all over the world, from Brazil’s famed peacock bass waters to Morro Bay for albacore.

A graduate from San Diego State University in Journalism, he coordinates the staffs of the weekly newspaper and magazine. He was a founding member of United Anglers of SoCal. He’s an avid saltwater and freshwater angler and hunter. He is also the director of the annual Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament held each November in Cabo.  McDonell, 52, is married with two daughters and resides in Carlsbad.

Clearing the desk
A week in La Paz and Cabo and now a week back here in SoCal and it’s time to clear some items off the desk.

The yellowfin tuna are in an area 70 miles long, says Fisherman’s Landing-based Prowler Captain Buzz Brizendine. The swath of fish, as of Monday, “officially” ranged from the 425, which is 22 miles from Pt. Loma, to the Hidden Bank 70 miles down. It’s that dream season. And, inside and north in U.S. waters, the temp is 71 and crystal clear blue. This will be a season like no other in a decade. By now the tuna should be into U.S. waters, and the rumors are there they already are. Start running, trolling and looking. Go.

Speaking of tuna, Sept. 5-6 will be a unique opportunity for Yamaha outboard owners. The WON/Dana Landing Jackpot out of Steve Pinard’s place in MB the weekend after Labor Day is a Tuna/Yellowtail tourney, Friday check-in, Saturday weigh-in. It’s $50 a person, no limit on team members, but if you fish on a Yamaha powered boat in the event, your entry for a two-person team is FREE. Zip. Nada. If you want to add more, it’s $50 a person like everyone else. A cheap entry fee, nada if you run with a Yami. The prizes are $2,000, $300 and $200 1st to 3rd guaranteed. Plus $100 optionals for tuna and yellowtail, with those winnings paid in at check-in and doled on site at the awards. Details coming.

I had a window of opportunity on Sunday and fished S.D. Bay alone for three hours on my Robalo skiff. I know it sounds stupid to fish the bay when things are so epic and tuna are so close, but you fish when you can. It was wide open on the 2-pound sand bass on the long cast with 5-inch swimbaits at virtually every spot. Time to look for tuna. Skip Mexico. They are closer than you think. If you see porpoise and birds or a kelp, stop, even if just five or six miles out.

A familiar name over the years for WON readers has left the building. Brad Schweit has gone on to expand his photography event business in San Diego and freelance. Good luck to Brad, who was our “freshwater guy” and WON BASS editor.

At the La Paz Summer Slam, a first-time event I dreamed up this year with Tailhunter International’s Jill and Jonathan Roldan, came off beautifully a few weeks ago. It was pretty cool to have a lot of friends at the event out of the La Concha Beach Resort, especially having our two Baja columnists Roldan and Gary Graham on a panga the last day when the big dorado showed up to 31 pounds. Gary got a 29 pounder. It was a whirlwind of parties and fishing, and whoosh, it was over. Next year I plan to stay a few more days to dive the local islands and savor its spectacular bays. I used to fish La Paz often, but the Cabo Tuna Jackpot stole my attention when we stopped the annual La Paz Yellowtail Shootout. The Summer Slam will be an annual trip, a casual tourney that is detailed in this week’s issue by Gary.

donsouthard
DON SOUTHARD

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GARY GRAHAM at the Slam.

One emotional aspect of the Slam and its three days of fishing was that on the third day longtime friend Don Southard of Huntington Beach and his buddy Bill Refice and their girlfriends Paula and Rhonda spread the ashes of Marty Burch. It was Burch and Southard who started a rollicking drinking and fishing group called Team Borracho. Marty organized and ran the club out of his family-owned Burch Ford dealership in La Habra. The motto of the group with Burch as the ringleader was “Fish, Party and Puke.” Marty passed away a year ago of a heart attack and he always told Southard on their many fishing trips that if he “went” first, he wanted his ashes spread at Isla Ispiritu Santo. He got his wish.

Only the best Options
Six-pack trips don’t have a way of working out for me, at least when it comes to white seabass, but there I was, on the 50-foot six-pack Options last Monday evening after I put another issue of WON to bed on a production day. You know how it is, you have these expectations of such trips, and when your image of how the trip will turn out is gripped too tightly, the crap hits the fan.

theoptionsgroup
THE OPTIONS GROUP scored limits for us and crew to 50 pounds. The final fish came at about 9 a.m. on drifts for halibut. The guys (left to right) are Avet’s Rick Ozaki, Specialty Marine’s Eric Peterson, Turner’s Mike Ngyuen, WON editor Pat McDonell and Ben Secrest of Accurate. WON PHOTO BY BEN BABBITT

Far be it for me to tell Options Capt. Wes Flesch he was fighting the current of my history on six-packs. I just don’t catch white seabass on these trips. I get on skiffs, mine or someone else’s, and I catch my share of fish. Let’s see, I have quite a roster of captains who have seen me fail. There’s Capt. Allyn Watson of the Dreamer on two runs over the years, Flesch on two trips, Capt. Joe Bairian on the Bongos II. Those come to mind, and that’s an A list. Me getting a six-pack charter seabass comes around less often than the Triple Crown of horseracing.

So, I was on another trip, with WON customers and friends, on a trip set up by ad rep Ben Babbitt. There was Ben Secrest of Accurate, Avet sales rep Rick Ozaki of West Coast Marketing; Mike Ngyuen, a top calico bass tourney guy and a buyer for Turner’s Outdoors­man; Eric Peterson, owner of Honda dealer Specialty Marine in Oxnard; Ben and me. Those other guys are all good guys and great sticks, take my word for it. Now, weeks ago, I was sure we were going to Catalina or San Clemente, the Flesch and the Options forte, but when we boarded the 50 footer at Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach around 6:30 for a 7 p.m. departure, Capt. Flesch outlined the basics. Bad weather outside, good white seabass fishing off nearby Huntington Beach with 30 to 40 pounders. Or, run south to a bigger grade seabass off the Barn Kelp where a crowd had formed for the past month as the squid nests multiplied.

With a one-fish limit, the chance at 50 to 60 pounder — or bigger — despite a much longer run — is what we voted for. Flesch steered us to that unanimous decision the way he described it, and he said even if we had to fish in the crowd, he also knew a few spots we could check out on the sonar. Tackle was also discussed. Big fish demand heavy leader. Sixty-pound fluoro was the minimum, and at night, he said, 100-pound is fine on the dropper loop. A white, 4-ounce jig with a couple squid on the bottom was another easy rig, and if the current was not too swift, a leadhead or a sliding egg sinker could work.

thesquidwent
THE SQUID WENT on a major float. The screen showed a massive nest, top to bottom.

Long Beach to the Barn Kelp is a four-hour cruise downswell and we’d get there at about 11 p.m., just in time for the still-rising tide to complete its cycle, which from all our Barn reports in recent weeks, seemed to be a good switch point for the seabass bite. We hunkered down for the run. All of us were tired and seabass fishing is an all-night thing. A few miles from the Barn we felt a jolt, a gear shift, and the Options went from 10 knots to a standstill in seconds, the anchor went down and when we’d staggered on deck, Flesch said the meter was clogged with blue — squid top to bottom, with fish mixed in.

“Get the light out, quick,” ordered Flesch to his crewmen Doug Brink and Cal Link (really, Link and Brink?) as they flew down the rail to get things set up. Awesome crew. I am not kidding, within 5 minutes of stopping, we had a nice float and in one drop of the crowder, a massive clump of the candy bait raced into the net. We were set with full tanks of live squid and a trash can full of black-inked chum.

“I wish it were always that easy,” said Flesch. “Sometimes it’s like that.” The spot was a little outside and a few miles north of the blinking lights of the rest of the skiff fleet, and that was a nice feeling that just maybe we’d have our own territory staked out. Going into 30 to 40 boats with a 50 footer is not fun, and Wes is aggressive. He will do what it takes to find a spot and put his stake in, even if it’s in the heart of a few skiff guys. He’s competitive and ruthless, my kind of six-pack captain. It’s often a war out there, with tempers flaring and yelling, all of them secretive and jealously guarding their spots, and the sight of the Options would be as welcome in that nervous gaggle as a turd in a tub.

Instead, we were alone, with live squid coming out our gills, and marking fish. I set up a dropper loop with a 10-ounce torpedo and 7/0 squid hook. I use a Hayward Twist (also called a Roy Rose or Figure 8) knot, and a Palomar for the loop/hook connection. The current was swift so we all, I think, used the dropper loop and held the rods.

ericpetersonof
ERIC PETERSON OF Specialty Marine with the trip’s biggest seabass, the final fish caught north of the Barn Kelp last Tuesday on the Options.

The game commenced when, of all things, I got bit first. It was about 12:15, and despite being wrapped around the anchor twice, I actually got the fish in, a 30 pounder. Not a 40 or a 50, but I had my limit. The stink was off and I could relax. I put my rod away after Wes took my picture and waited for another hookup, and Mike Nyguen was next, as they came about every 30 to 40 minutes, and it seemed each fish was bigger than the last. Eric’s fish, the final specimen, was over 50 pounds.

At daylight, the bites came more frequently as we fished for the boat limit, nine fish. Ben, of WON, had hooked a nice fish early on and lost it when the Spectra broke, likely from a tiny nick in the line, and he couldn’t get another bite. This is a guy, ironically, who keeps his 22-foot boat in a slip in Oceanside Harbor and seriously spanked the Barn Kelp seabass in the previous weeks. Up at 2 a.m., fishing until 7:30, showering at the Harbor facility, driving to San Clemente to be at work by 8:30. An animal.

During this time when we were hooking them here and there, a few boats would come close, look us over, and see nothing going on. Even if we were hooked up, we never showed a bent rod and gaffed two fish on the other side to block the view.

“All I’m trying to do is protect my next two charters with this weather on the outside,” said Flesch. “That’s all you can hope for, two trips at a new spot. The word just gets out.”

As we were finishing off and pulling anchor, former WON guy Brandon Hayward came up. He’s a charter guy now. Very secretive, like Wes. They grew up fishing together, but they don’t share as much as they used to, due to competition for fish and customers. Hayward shot off a few texts to us. Mine was something like, “so you found my spot. Been on it for six days.”

The word got out quick. I fished Friday alone on my 18-foot skiff at the south end of the Barn, which had maybe 8 boats on it. The Options spot we had four days earlier had 40 boats. It’s why spots are guarded so closely. But folks, it wasn’t me. I told a few friends how we’d done, and they wanted numbers. Sorry, I told them, I never used my phone app to lock them in, although it would have been easy. Can’t do that to a commercial captain. I could never look Wes in the eye again. Anyway, I’ve had enough bad karma with white seabass and six-packs. I think my slate is now clean.

People have calling me about how to contact Camalu pangero Lee Moreno. His number is 011 521 616 10731. The seabass have arrived, but then, they’re up here, too. One thing Lee offers is amazing variety, even if the WSB don’t cooperate.

SEABASS SWITCH: In last week’s edition, I wrote that on or after June 15 the limit for white seabass goes to three fish. Technically, it’s midnight the 15th, so the actual date is the 16th, and wardens will be out looking for early birders.

* * *

Pat McDonell is editor of WON. Reach him at Pat@wonews.com.
Sages and science
Don Ashley is 68, has built and bought and run more sportfishers on the coast than just about anyone else still on the water, and owns Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach and four now (City of Long Beach, Southern Cal, El Dorado and Toronado). His experience and knowledge is dead center in the SoCal Bight. His sons Richie and Jamey are in the commercial bait business, so his family is in tune with just about every nuance of fishing on our coast. El Niño? Don been through three of them, ’57-58, then ’83 and ’84, and ’97-98.

We’ll if it’s coming, you can’t stop it, he said in an interview last week, and truth be told, warm water super El Niños are devastating for us in the long run. Merit McCrea, our saltwater editor and a scientist, said it’s like cashing in your chips. Rich now, nothing for the mortgage later.

latestsst
DURING THE LA NIÑA the central north Pacific waters are warmer than normal, and sends Japan sub-pop albies north as they cross in the late spring. During El Niño that area is cooler, so not only do the southern fish get farther north but the albies hit the beach here farther south following a more southerly track across the Pacific, leading to an early, short albie season for San Diego, and transition to others, yellowfin, dorado, and bluefin, and marlin. It also leads to albies up in the northern Bight and lots of yellowtail and sand bass inshore all the way up to Santa Barbara. It totally hoses rockfish spawn survival, and bait production though, leading to crappy local rockfishing after a prolonged period of several warm water summers.

“Ask any captain and whether he’d prefer another five years of a cold water cycle and he’d say ‘Absolutely’,” said Ashley. “The one perspective is that we are now ending a cold water cycle over the last five years and the boon to that has been a phenomenal increase in the biomass of squid, and bait and kelp.”

Squid, he said, has been a game changer for half the state’s coastal fisheries. It has just gotten better and better, and brought tanker seabass up from Baja. I suggested that the abundance of squid is a combination of colder water and the quota restrictions by the state. True, he said, but the commercial fleet is being smart.

“Up until four years ago the squid boats never reached their quota of 118,000 tons and after three great years, the state suggested it be increased, and the guys were smart and said ‘No thanks.’ They told the Department that a warm water cycle coming and we won’t be able to fill it anyway, so let’s err on the side of conservation instead of finding out later we caught too many,” said Ashley, who admitted there’s no question the squid fishery will be deeply impacted by an El Niño.

The commercial squid fishing, which starts April 1 these past three years, has been so good the commercial squid fleet filled their quota in September three years ago, then November, but last year they were done by October. As a result, said Ashley, there’s been no commercial squid fishing since October. “So there’s a massive biomass out there even though we haven’t been able to catch them in the deep water,” he said.

How can he be so sure?

NOAA’s trawlers, he said, have been outside the islands trawling for microscopic larvae and indications are it’s going to be an epic squid production year. We are seeing the advance scouts of the spawn now. “The squid have to come into the shallows to spawn; they don’t have a choice.”

Cold water, warm water. You can’t choose, you just deal with it. The bottom line is that cold water has more nutrients, and it starts all the way up the food chain, and critical to the charterboats is the health of rockfish stocks.
El Niño won’t do us any favors in that regard. But it is likely to come, with perhaps a push of albies for a quickie run, followed by exotics of tuna and dorado close in and moving north, as well as striped marlin, which would be a change since that fishery has been on life support for three years. Plus the warmer waters to Santa Barbara would draw in barracuda and sand bass.

It’s certainly exciting short term, but devastating long term. The sea lions are gonna get a rude awakening. Their numbers are prolific due to a number of factors; bait production will fall off the shelf, and that means a lot of dead seals on shore. Let’s hope we don’t get blamed for Mother Nature’s culling methods, said Ashley.

Capt. McCrea our WON Saltwater editor, is also a longtime captain and now a professor at UC Santa Barbara. He concurs with Ashley across the board. Now, I’ve been through two of these
El Niños, but the science of it escapes many. When I called last year, Merit suggested a hard look at the NOAA site (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/enso.shtml) where he showed me there are several color satellite temp graphics that we then discussed over the phone. To keep it simple, he said, take a look at the SST graphics for April of 2012 and 13. There you see the thin strip of cooler water right at the equator, west of the Galapagos. This year’s graphic shows no green line.

“There you have it, that's the precursor to
El Niño that's most easily seen,” said McCrea. “The other is the deepening of the equatorial thermocline, which is actually the same thing underwater.”

NOAA’s prediction models indicate we have a 50 percent chance of
El Niño developing in late summer or spring. Right now the situation is holding, in what is called ENSO-neutral, but there are above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific as well as near the International Date Line. What is happening now is that warm water is building, like a water balloon, and if it “breaks free” and spreads, the warm water push is on.

How will we know? The first sign that
El Niño is officially kicking in, said McCrea, is always when that hook of green water off the tip of South America  is gone. It’s still there, but maybe not for long.

Notes/corrections: A couple mistakes I should clarify. The Lake Skinner striper catch by Art Gutierrez on the cover April 25 was caught at Lake Silverwood. Our mistake. Second, the fantastic Dreamer white seabass catch of big fish on a 5 for 6 hookup success rate reported last week with a page 1 photo was caught either Friday or Thursday. My mistake. One other problem: Brandon Hayward’s client’s coastal yellowtail in PBer Spotlight was a 46 pounder, not a 43 pounder. Sometimes the relaying of information gets skewed in transit or misunderstood.

Young stick Capt. Evan Salvay has been added to our band of field reporters and will be writing features on calico fishing tactics, and writing a monthly column that begins in a few weeks. Welcome aboard.

La Paz: There’s a few, maybe four or six spots left on the
WON La Paz Summer Slam June 17-21, which is really less of a tournament and more a three-day panga/four-night party. It’s limited to 40 folks. Go on the trip and stay a few extra days in La Paz or Cabo. Lots of cool parts to the trip. Any questions, e-mail me.

* * *

Pat McDonell is editor of Western Outdoor News and directs four Jackpot events in La Paz, Cabo, Catalina and San Diego; Pat@wonews.com

Expert or enthusiast?
Do you want to be an expert or just an enthusiast, someone who wants to catch a 40-, 50- or 60-pound white seabass just to say they’ve done it?

I thought I was in the last group for several years. This goes back 10 years. I couldn’t get all excited about going after them, the big ones, until I started going to Camalu, gaffed a 74 pounder for my guide Lee Moreno and then I saw the light.

On our coast, at that point, there weren’t that many “tankers” that we heard about. That might be because they were rare, more rare than now, and when someone fished near the kelp for bass or halibut, they got bit off or wrapped or spooled. Information was not “out there” for public consumption. The handful of guys who really had them wired were obsessed, and weren’t talking about them – ever. Not coastal fish, not islands fish.

the50pounder
THE 50 POUNDER.

But the fishery has changed, tackle and braided line kelp cutter rigs (braid, short fluoro leaders) have evolved out of necessity as bigger fish are being taken on the coast and islands now that the commercial nets are out of the shallows on islands and the coast. Squid is being commercial controlled with quotas and has come back. It only took 20 years of proper fish management through the initiative process, but here we are.

And here I am, in the thick of nut cases who will sit out all night jigging up squid in a sort of surreal coastal dance with commercial squid light boats, kayakers, charter boats, skiff guys. What is the big draw? Why do we do this?

There’s a host of reasons I do it. You might find some of the reasons sounding all-too familiar.

It’s more hunting than fishing. Take away all of society’s trappings and our DNA still makes us hunters and gatherers.

The big-fish club is prestigious. It’s a thrill to get a big fish in your boat, and while they don’t pull all that hard for long, that first violent strike and initial battle on a big fish is a helluva thrill. That’s because you targeted them specifically, your intel or instincts were dead-on, all your connections held and you coaxed it in despite seals, anchor lines, bull kelp, and other fishermen screaming at each other for encroaching.

The beauty of this fishing “scrum” out there is that everyone hates everyone else, until you hook up, then people yell “Yeah! Alright! Then courteously pull in their rigs a bit or move out of your way (you hope). But after you land it and want to go back to your anchored spot you’ve had overnight, you get the sh..t eye again. No respect among thieves and seabass guys over squid nests.

The other day a friend (few of you know him) said he appreciated the talent of skiff angler Greg Trompas who guides but also commercial hook and lines for seabass for a living. But he added that he hates fishing within a football field of him. So much screaming, intensity and drama. How true. But kinda fun in a sick way. I’ve been yelled at by the best and I thought I was being super cool, giving people lots of room and quietly dropping the anchor as though I was slipping into a pew late for church.

the39pounder
THE 39 POUNDER.

The beauty of white seabass fishing is that its techniques and protocols are diverse. I know, I’ve done them all, seen them all. I’ve fished with Ouidin, Hayward, Wisch, Flech, Watson and Camalu’s Moreno when he caught that 74 pounder, and I place our own Ben Babbitt here at WON in a high-level tier with a bunch of others. My first look at a big seabass was via a Spanish mackerel flylined at Eagle Reef at Catalina, a 38 pounder for now retired Two Harbors Harbormaster Doug Oudin on my boat one evening. My first 30 pounder came nine years ago on backside of Catalina on my old aluminum skiff on the outside edge of a fleet of sportfishers and skiffs near Seal Rock. Live squid, and I almost had a heart attack. I’ve lost a ton, struck out endless times, caught a 39 pounder on Ben’s boat off the PB Pier, a 30 something with Brandon on my skiff, a few others that size here and there these past few years, and was starting to think I’d never get into the 50-pound club.

Until last year when I got good intel mid-July on a text alert from my buddy Bob Vanian at 976-BITE.com. It being last-minute, I went alone, jigged up squid on the kelp line, and when the “worms” turned out to be tankers and slammed the squid offered 20 feet below the surface balloon, I did about everything wrong in the dark off Mission Beach, but I got it in. My 18 footer’s tackle was trashed in the fire drill in the dark.

But I was one happy guy when I stuck that fish, and called home to say I got a big one and was headed in. I had taken a chance and acted on good information, and went for it the night before a morning flight to Puerto Vallarta for a vacation. Near the launch ramp, the Sea World fireworks went off as I came back into the back bay, and when I tied up at the dock at 10 p.m., a guy materialized out of nowhere to take my picture at the launch ramp. A great night, but perhaps a lucky night. Or had I achieved a level of expertise that put me in that spot.

Who knows, and who cares? I just know you can’t catch the grey ghosts of SoCal sportfishing sitting on your couch. My artificial hip is now strong, and I’m ready to get back in the saddle, wherever that might take me to a 60 pounder. Don’t laugh, it could happen, to anyone.

* * *

Pat McDonell is editor of WON and directs four Jackpot tourneys at Catalina, San Diego, La Paz and Cabo. Contact him at pat@wonews.com.

Shogun and the Lacy Act
Lloyd Rosier of Ontario and I chat once in a while. The last I heard from him was when he gave me a phone number of father/son rescuers of the Erik survivors a few years ago. The interview with Mike Kallicki made for a helluva story. Rosier called late last week to say he was on the Shogun on the “freezer special” trip from Fisherman’s Landing the weekend of March 7. It had been rescheduled from a few weeks earlier when weather hammered the coast.

It was a good trip, fishing the Baja coast. The 30 or so passengers had their sacks of fish, and as they came to the dock there was a Sheriff’s Deputy and three state DFW wardens waiting for them at the Fisherman’s Landing dock when the boat backed in.

“They told us nothing,” said Rosier. “They told us to stay on the boat. A lady warden looked at my paperwork, and she didn’t care too much about my state fishing license, just wanted to see my drivers license and wanted to know how many days I fished.”

Rosier said the 30 or so passengers waited while Frank Lopreste, owner of the landing, went to talk to them. Meanwhile, the fish were laid out on the concrete, like all trips.

“They took us one by one and I was lucky, I was No. 7, but the guys who had the later numbers had their fish sitting out in the sun a long time while they checked them.” Rosier said he didn’t see any citations being issued, and that correlates with a story in San Diego Union-Tribune that reported that fish were checked, no anglers were cited and the matter was still under investigation. And the DFW source confirmed the investigation is still pending.

So, essentially, the wardens in this big “sting” operation, backed by the Sheriff’s Department were checking Mexican limits and fishing licenses and permits (FMMs) — not U.S. licenses since the boat was fishing only in Mexican waters.

Although over the years we have told people of the laws concerning bringing Mexican fish back into the U.S. it can still be confusing. Plus, a letter writer, Mr. Wong, heard about the “bust” in the San Diego Union-Tribune and asked about carcasses and whether they count into the limits.

No one from CDFW could comment on the Shogun case as it is an ongoing investigation. But it’s common knowledge that authority over fish and game coming into California is dealt with in Fish and Game Code 2353. It basically says, you can’t bring any fish or game into the U.S. that is illegally taken in foreign waters, a violation of the Lacy Act.

Game and Wildlife wardens are crossed deputized by the Department of the Interior to enforce federal fish and wildlife regulations like those set forth in the Lacy Act and the Magnusson Act, and wardens are not enforcing Mexican regulations. They are enforcing FGC 2353 or other federal regulations that may apply.

The sticking point? It might be that in the U.S. a day’s limit cannot be added on unless you are fishing 12 hours into the day. Thus, the two anglers cited were overlimits for two days, but not three, and the anglers had permits for three days of fishing. Whether Mexico also has that 12-hour caveat In Mexico is likely the Lacy Act sticking point.

Then there is a question of carcasses. It’s a good one. Many Asians at cleaning tables on sportfishers ask for fish carcasses for soup, and it’s great they do, utilizing the resource to its fullest extent. Unfortunately, it’s illegal if it causes you to go overlimit.

If you have a fish carcass but no corresponding fish fillet to go with it, that would count as part of your bag limit. If you can match up each pair of fish fillets to a corresponding fish carcass, then the carcasses should not count as part of your limit. If you can’t, and you have bags of carcasses, you’re busted. Or could be. Frankly, wardens probably could care less, but that’s not “official.” Never heard of a bust on that because common sense at the dock usually comes into play with wardens.

Finally, while charterboat sportfishers handle this, private boat guys bringing fish back to the U.S. need the Declaration for Entry form, available in the fishing regulations booklet and online. And, a California license is not needed as long as anglers on boat don't fish in U.S. waters on way to Mexico or on return.

It’s a crazy world. Just know the regs on both sides of the border.

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