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Palos Verdes Dogtooth Snapper? Really!?


Spearfisherman’s take of a dogtooth snapper recently off Palos Verdes is just one of his two rare freediving experiences

TODD BERGENBRING with dogtooth snapper off Rancho Palos Verdes a few weeks ago. PHOTO BY BECKY BERGENBRING


WON Staff Writer

PALOS VERDES – Todd Bergenbring dove 133 days last year and speared only 12 fish, setting the bar high on what he takes. Among the fish he has taken are two rarities, a dogtooth snapper he speared a few weeks ago of Palos Verdes Peninsula, and before that a 40-pound white seabass off La Paz while on a 5-day live-aboard hunt in 2004.

The pictures of the dogtooth snapper on Facebook went viral and was just another example of how interesting and prolific this warm water season has been in SoCal. Wahoo near the coast? Bluefin continuing through winter on the banks? Blue marlin off San Clemente Island? A yellowtail season that may not end?

But a dogtooth snapper, a fish that ranges from southern Baja to the tropics is truly bizarre for this region. They are not pelagic. They do not migrate distances. Panama yes, Costa Rica yes, La Paz? Yes. But the rocky coast of PV? Come On, Man! No one can remember anyone ever catching or spearing a dogtooth off SoCal.

“Can you imagine how I felt as the scenario transpired?” asked Bergenbring. “I had been out for about 2 ½ hours and was getting tired and cold. I was on the way in, just diving under the kelp to travel to the inside, not really even in hunting mode anymore. In the really thick, canopied area about 20 feet deep, I see this head just sitting there stationary about 20 feet away. I was like, ‘Nice! Looks like about a 35 to 40-pound white seabass.’

“I come around the corner to see the short, stumpy body, and thought ’Oh, it’s a black seabass.’ As I’m inching closer and closer, the face is all wrong and looks just like a dogtooth snapper, but it can’t be. It looks totally gray under the shade of the canopy. When I finally get about 10 feet away, a slit opens in the canopy, a shaft of light comes through right on the side and it lights up bright orange!”

He took aim and the spear hit the snapper in the spine.

“I stoned it. It just dropped like a rock,” he said. “When I pulled it to the surface and held it in my hands, I still couldn’t believe it was happening. Talk about surreal.

It truly is a one in a million fish. Can you imagine how I felt as I drew nearer and nearer and it was becoming clearer and clearer what it was? How can you even explain something so strange? I was trying to explain to someone that doesn't know about fish that it was like going out your front door and there's a giraffe standing there. And it didn't escape from a zoo, it's wild.

Bergenbring, 48, has been freediving since 1993 and owns hull cleaning business in San Pedro called The Gleaming Keel.

“I put a lot of time into my diving, keeping it to a minimum of 125 days a year. This past year I dove 133 days and only speared 12 fish,” he said. “Now, that’s conservation! After doing it so long and having been blessed with so many awesome fish, I just set the bar really high and hold off until I see the fish that fits my predetermined criteria.”

Among his select kills are three white seabass 70 pounds, and all, he says, are certified weights at 71, 74 and a 76.6 pounder. The La Paz experience in 2004 was right up there with the dogtooth. White seabass in La Paz are often mistaken with totuava. His was definitely a white seabass.

“We were diving all over the islands down there, and for the entire trip we saw very little. In the last 10 minutes of the trip, I decided to swim way out off this pinnacle out into open water in the hopes of something special happening. I’m down about 20 feet just hanging there looking out into the gloom, when out of the corner of my left eye I see movement. I looked over and a huge amberjack, about 80 pounds comes swimming right out in front of me.”

He said he lined up for the shot when he noticed something was following it. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“My mind was reeling as I was looking at it, because I wanted to make absolutely sure it wasn’t a totuava,” recalls Bergenbring. “As it passed in front of me, I knew it was a seabass and let the spear go. It was a perfect shot, right in the spine, and the fish just dropped. When I handed it up to the pangero who has done this all his life, he says to me, ‘What is it? I’ve never seen this fish before.’”

The fact is, he said, it’s all time in the water. Being selective. Just looking at the environment around you.

“If you put a lot of time in the water and hold off, you would be amazed at what you’ll see. That’s what I love about the sport, you just never know.”

Two rare kills, and now his friends are dubbing him the Fish Whisperer.

“Hilarious,” he says. But who knows, it might stick?


TODD BERGENBRING, right, and his 40-pound white seabass on a 2004 dive trip. RON MULLINS PHOTO

Cabo, Baja updates after Odile
As of Monday:Mexico pushes back against Hurricane Odile devastation

Locals are reporting a massive repair and cleanup by all facets of the Mexican government; airport to reopen no earlier than the 26th; see hotel reopening projections (below)


WON Staff Writer

CABO SAN LUCAS-- The aftermath of Hurricane Odile on Cabo San Lucas Sept. 14 left massive destruction to the marinas and town as documented by the media and Facebook accounts as the horror unfolded.

But by the Friday and through the weekend the military and federal and local government and businesses combined efforts to restore order, repair roads, clean debris, and begin the task of rebuilding.

While Mexico is usually accused of being slow to repair or build, the full force of Mexico’s government was enlisted. Heavy equipment for roads, troops on every corner and patrolling neighborhoods day and night, ground crews and helicopters uprighting transfer line towers and hundreds of downed power poles, a massive evacuation at the airport while jet after jet and ferries from government and relief organizations brought in food and services.

It was all on a scale that no one in Baja had every seen before. Power was restored by Monday to most areas of Cabo, all roads to La Paz and the airport and the East Cape were open in some form in one or two lanes, and markets in Cabo that had been stripped bare in looting over two days were restocked, WON learned. Similar reports were received from the East Cape and La Paz.

In a late report, it appears the airport, which received structural damage, will not reopen until Sept. 26th at the earliest. There is also the question of personnel even when it does open, as many are displaced. So do not expect normal wait times in the coming weeks.

“As it stands now, things are improving by leaps and bounds,” e-mailed longtime Cabo resident Bryan Harris of Solomon’s Landing restaurant in Cabo. He and others have been Facebooking, one of the primary methods of communication after the storm. “All facets of the Mexican government have stepped up and sent help to us in Los Cabos (and beyond). The military is clearing away the debris and rebuilding the town, literally. CFE (Federal electricity company) has sent equipment and teams of workers to help restore power to 100 percent of all of Los Cabos, and for that, we are thankful.” The restaurant reopened Tuesday with a limited menu.

Mike Tumbiero, who owns the Renegade Mike charterboat and is a WON Field Reporter, Facebooked said he was shocked at how violent the storm was as he stayed inside his home in Cabo. His boat, stripped of all outriggers and canvas and outriggers as a precaution, was not damaged. Looting and home invasions by roving bands of gangs looking for anything to steal, were rampant. Then the military moved in. By Monday, Tumbiero said the port was open, power was restored, and markets were stocked with food.

The resurrection of Cabo had begun at warp speed, but many areas of Cabo were without power as crews worked.

”Our major grocery store is up and running,” said Tumbiero on Sunmday night. “Gas stations operational, normal. There’s plenty of drinking water. Just found an ATM open so got more cash. More military showed up. They are everywhere. Going home now but coming back to marina later to see football scores.”

The reports of damage from Odile were widespread and shocking. Several large boats in the marina broke free with docks attached and slammed into others. Smaller boats, water taxis and pangas, without bilge pumps, filled with water and sunk. Several yachts after the storm were taken to Mazatlan by crews, dealing with damaged homes and no food and fearful of looting which for the most part ended after two or three days when troops arrived. In most cases, boats survived the blows, some were damaged. Most charterboats, such as those owned by the Pisces fleet, were pulled and suffered no damage, said Tracy Ehrenberg reported to WON.

“According to our Capt. Marquez, it was the most severe damage he had ever seen in Cabo San Lucas in all his 50-plus years of living there. While we had our share of rain from Odile, it was the wind and inner-harbor surge that caused so much damage.”

Hurricane Polo, on the heels of Odile, tracked West over the weekend, bouncing off the colder upwelling caused by Odile, and brought minimal wind and rain to the area as rebuilding continued.

Relief effort organizations came to the rescue. Wayne Bisbee, tournament director of the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, announced a comprehensive aid plan to help.

“We’re creating a ‘call to action’ throughout the global sportfishing family to help those who have suffered so much in this natural disaster,” Bisbee said. “We’re donating $250,000 in seed money to the Bisbee’s Cabo Relief Fund and are asking our generous fellow anglers to help out by donating themselves. The money will be routed through the Rotary Club International’s Boulder City, NV Club to get where it’s needed the most.”

“The second prong of our plan is to help the sportfishing operators get back on the water, so they can again earn money and support their families,” Bisbee adds. “A portion of the donations will be ear-marked to help independently-owned charter boats, bait pangas and eco-tourism guides repair their boats and replace lost gear. We will be granting small business loans and gifts to help those individuals recover. Our goal is to help the independent sportfishing businesses resume operations as quickly as possible.”

To make a donation to help support the Bisbee’s Cabo Relief Fund, please visit and look for the Donate link on the home page.

In terms of events and tournaments, a wahoo tourney is San Jose Del Cabo in five weeks was cancelled by the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, but the Marlin Magazine tourney, the Baby Bisbee’s, the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Tournament and the WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament Nov. 5-8 will all go on as planned.

-- MULEGE: No report this past week. A mess. Flooding. As with most of those areas, updates will be on as we get them.

-- LORETO: Loreto got very lucky with Hurricane Odile. There was wind damage everywhere you looked but not a lot of serious problems.

“Many of the beach palapas north of the marina were destroyed,” Rick Hill of Loreto Sea and Land Eco Tours said. “People with palapa roofs and composite shingle roofs will be tearing what's left off and rebuilding. Electric service was back by midnight, with some off times the next day. The rain count was not as high as our previous storm. But four inches of rain at 100 miles per hours does get everything wet. Our local road damage was all repaired within 48 hours.”

“We had one trip on the water after the storm,” Hill said. “Some dorado crazy anglers wanted to circle the debris paddies. But a late start and no live bait produced none and they ended up with the Loreto assortment of bottomfish including pinto bass, reds and triggerfish.”

“It will take a week for all the tiny particles to settle out before the dorado will be back in town,” Hill said. “Loreto was very lucky with this past storm, more so than any other part of Baja Sur except the East Cape.”

-- MAGDALENA BAY: Bob Hoyt from Mag Bay Outfitters said as of Saturday they still had no power or water. “We just got cell service back,” he said. “There are a few trees down. But the gas station tank blew over so there’s no gas in town. Otherwise, everything is pretty good. The road to Lopez is always passable accept for the usual pot holes.”

-- LA PAZ: From Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunters in a last-minute report: “We have had pangas fishing the last few days, but catching has been tougher as the waters are all turned up. But we're fully operational and taking walk-in reservations daily. The city took a bad hit, but cleanup was quick once the troops moved in and the evacuation from Cabo was completed. Photos of the bay and hotels and malecon took as though little had happened. An amazing effort.

--EAST CAPE: Like the rest of Baja Sur, there is a lot of cleaning up to do, but things are much better here than they are in Cabo. As of Monday, there was still no power or internet but generators were providing interim power. Markets were restocked and hotels were cleaned up and awaiting visitors. The airport flights were the primary issue.

“We had four boats go out on Wednesday and Thursday and they landed some 40-pound tuna, a few dorado and some sailfish,” Eddie Dalmau from Palmas de Cortez said.

“The hotels are both in good shape,” Dalmau said. “We lost the palapa at Playa Del Sol, which was the small palapa covering the bar. Palmas had five broken windows and minor palapa damage. We are running generators at both hotels so we have internet and the land lines are working but there is no federal power, water or cell service yet.”

“It is sad what has happened down south of us at Buenavista Beach Resort, and our hearts and prayers go out to everyone,” Felipe Valdez said. “But here at the resort the only problems we had were a few downed trees and branches, much of which has been cleaned up already. To look at our place you wouldn’t know anything had happened except we are running our generator.”

- SAN JOSE DEL CABO (LOS CABOS): No power so no report but the marina is said to be 85 percent in order, although it sustained a lot of broken windows. The stackable boat storage sustained little or no damage, WON learned. The panga fleet marina was hit hard, and there was some damage to the rip-rap from storm surge and huge swells.

Club Vagabundos sent these road reports:

-Roads throughout Baja California Sur are flooded and impassable. We highly recommend not traveling south of San Quintin at this time. Below are specific updates are we are hearing them:

-Highway 1 at Cataviña (km 193) is flooded and damaged

-There is no passage through Vizcaino. San Pablo arroyo has 2 meters of water. And one of the bridges near Palo Verde collapsed.

-L.A. Bay is inaccessible with the main arroyo flooded.

-The road from Los Barriles to the San Jose del Cabo airport is not passable as the bridge at Caduaño is down.It was expected to be repaired or passable by the end of the weekend.

-In Mulege the first arroyo south of Coyote on the highway has been washed out

-The road between Loreto and Tripui is open

-The road to La Paz from Cabo is passable, but it’s down to one lane

-In Santa Rosalía, the road is open north to Vizcaíno and south to La Paz but it is rough

-Some bits of road near Todos Santos are damaged, but not completely, so that they can be used with care and order

-Las Cuevas bridge is open, Caduaño bridge is not. Road is open from La Ribera to Los Barriles

-Roads between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are clear and safe to travel

-The road between Loreto and La Paz is open.

-Fuel is another issue for anyone considering driving


Alphabetical Listing of Hotel Damage & Reopening Update as of Sept 20, 2014

Bahia Hotel - Only minimal damage. Oct 30 "or sooner".

Barcelo Grand Faro - Still Assessing. Tentatively Sept 22

Cabo Azul - December

Cabo Pulmo Resort - Minimal damage. Operational.
Cabo Villas - Minimal damage. Sept 27

Capella Pedral - Oct 1
Casa Dorada - Oct 9

Club Cascadas - Oct 15

Club Regina - Oct 31

Dreams - Cosmetic damage and debris - No structural damages. Oct 15.

East Cape Resorts - Minor damage - fully operational.

East Cape RV – Three trees down - no major damage to trailers or palapas - no damage to boats.

Esperanza - October 13

Fiesta Americana - Nov 15 for big corporate group - Nov 23 for individual reservations.

Finisterra (Sandos) - Tentative date of October 1.

Grand Mayan - Significant damage. Closed for approx 2 months.

Grand Solmar - Oct 22

Hacienda Beach Club - Oct 15

Hacienda del Mar - Oct 31
Hacienda Encantada - Oct 15

Hilton Los Cabos - Still Assessing.

Holiday Inn – Nov 1st

Hotel Los Pescadores - Closed for a week or so.

Hyatt Place - Oct17

Hyatt Ziva – Oct 17

Las Ventanas - Assessing damage. Update to be released Sept 22.

Los Barriles - Minor damage. Fully operational.

Los Cabos Golf Resort - Closed for 2 weeks for clean-up.

Marina Fiesta - Oct 15

ME Cabo - Oct 16

Melia Real - Oct 15

One & Only Palmilla - Oct 15

Playa Grande - Oct 22

Pueblo Bonito Blanco (Los Cabos) - No structural damage - . Oct 1

Pueblo Bonito Montecristo - No structural damage. Oct 1

Pueblo Bonito Rose - No structural damage. Oct 1

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica - No structural damage. Oct 1

Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach - No structural damage. Oct 1

Quinta del Sol - Oct 22

Rancho Leonero - Minimal damage. Fully operational.

Riu Palace - No official word at the time of this writing.

Riu Santa Fe - Significant damage. No official info at the time of this writing.

Royal Decameron - Oct 17

Royal Solaris - Oct 10

Secrets Marquis - Cosmetic damage – No serious structural damages. Oct 15.

Secrets Puerto Los Cabos - Cosmetic damage - No structural damage. Oct 15.

Sheraton - Significant damage. Closed until "at least" October 31.

Solmar - Oct 22

Villa del Arco - Oct 1

Villa del Palmar -. Oct 1

Villa La Estancia -.Oct 1

Westin - Oct 31.

Worldmark Coral Baja - Jan 31

Wyndham - Oct 1.

Zoetry - Oct 15.

Cabo Hurricane Odile Photos

Cabo took a direct hit, but the locals are confident they will get the harbor cleaned up pretty quickly.

The gigantic and iconic Cabo arch is pounded by the huge weather.

Downtown flooding in Cabol San Lucas

The electricty is down for most everyone, so the first task is cleaning this up and getting the city powered up again.

The airport was hit hard, but word is there will be flights starting nect week and the word is the Mexican military is already using the airport and is assisting in getting stranded visitors home. Rumor is they expect to have commercial flights in service, to some degree, by next week.
Bluefin tuna fishing now authorized in Mexican waters
The following short text from Sportfishing Association of California Presi­dent Ken Franke was circulated to the fleet on Sunday. It read, “(Mex bluefin) Bluefin tuna fishing now authorized in Mexican waters by Mexican government. Written notice will be available Monday.”

With that, bluefin tuna were back on tap in Mexican waters. At the same time, it was the yellow­fin tuna bite that went from good to full limits on every trip longer than a ¾-day.


PINHEAD GETS FIRST bluefin. Nick Landon with a 101.6 pounder caught aboard the Star

San Diego ¾-day boats also had great scores of yellowfin, as 50 to 100 fish per boat were pretty standard ¾-day results all the way to the weekend, when the bright moon stalled the bite.

Bigger bluefin of 70 pounds to as large as the 150 pounder that H&M Landing Manager Rick Marin reported the Spirit of Adventure having caught, were in U.S. waters to the west toward the Cortez, and long-range boats were fishing alongside skiffs targeting the big bluefin (see long range report).

At the same time, Capt. Scott McDaniels of the Sea Adventure 80 was excited to hear the news on Mexican-waters bluefin and suggested anglers come ready with 40-and 50-pound gear, with 2/0 to 4/0 ringed circle hooks for fishing the bigger blues.

The latest buzz was about the popper bite on the yellowfin. “We had a guy get a limit on those fishing the bow,” said McDaniels. Marin suggested the smaller sizes, like the Halco 130 and 105 and the Yo-Zuri Pili Popper.

“It’s a blast to get bit on those,” continued McDaniels. The fish have to come to the surface and take the floating plug right off the top, exploding on the bait. This writer heard of fish taking the bigger Yo-Zuri Sashimis, too.

“Lately the water has been so flat, about the biggest wave we’ve had is when a fish jumped,” said McDaniels. He noted that the water has really heated up with some pockets of 75-degree water showing up.

THE REAL SEA ADVENTURE 80 finds the fish on a recent 4-day trip and quickly gets into a solid quadruple hook-up. This summer season looks to be the best in years.

This last week saw the fleet start to book solid each day. “Across the three landings it looks to have been one of the best Julys in history. We’ve broken every record for any July we’ve ever had,” said McDaniels.

He continued, “2014 is turning out to be the real deal, best season ever in many, many decades… and the best is yet to come looking at the long range charts.”

With the offshore tuna bite so good the Coronado Islands got little attention, although the few skiffs fishing there continued to whack the yellowtail, according to Marin.

Even the Seaforth Landing ½-day boat ran for the blue water on some of their afternoon halves, getting yellowfin and a few blues, too. Otherwise it was about the 3 Bs: bass, barracuda and bonito.

By Merit McCrea/WON Staff Writer

Manhattan Beach Lifts Illegal Pier Fishing Ban

Pier will reopen, with new regs 

SACRAMENTO — Yesterday evening (Aug. 12),  due to the backlash they received from anglers throughout the State, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted to lift its pier fishing ban and restored anglers’ right to fish off our State’s coastal waters.

However, in direct violation of State law, the City adopted additional ordinances to regulate fishing by the method and manner of take, an authority that is exclusively reserved to the State Fish and Game Commission, and will consider a plan to establish a State Marine Reservethat would eliminate recreational fishing all together in Manhattan Beach and extend to Hermosa Beach.

Additionally, the Council wants to create no fishing zones on the pier and discussed imposing new time restrictions or hours when people can and cannot fish on the pier, an action that will require permits and approvals from the California Coastal Commission.

“Once again the Manhattan City Council exceeded its authority by imposing draconian regulations to address a regretful and isolated shark attack,” said Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Sportfishing League. “To protect access to recreational fishing in California, we will challenge these illegal regulations before the California Fish and Game Commission. The City is also exposing taxpayers to potential costly litigation that will surely result in these illegal regulations being overturned.”

The City also asked Staff to investigate declaring the coastline from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach a State Marine Reserve. While State Marine Reserves are primarily intended to protect endangered marine life, the City Council is now looking to use the designation as a way to eliminate all recreational fishing.

“The City of Manhattan Beach is sending a strong message that recreational anglers are no longer welcome in their city,” said Mlikotin. “The Council simply doesn’t understand that fishing is a safe form of recreation that generates tourism dollars and jobs in their community. We really wished the Council would have respected California’s laws and reached a more sensible solution.”

Since July 31, over 1,000 Californians have signed CSL's online petition opposing any type of ban on pier fishing, including small bait and tackle shop owners who rely upon pier anglers for jobs. Those signed petitions were handed to the Council Members at the meeting where CSL voiced its strong opposition to the proposed ordinances.

In an Aug. 11 letter to the City, the California Fish and Game Commission stated that only the State has the authority to impose limits on fishing practices and gear. The City’s recent actions are clearly at odds with State law.

The California Sportfishing League (CSL) is a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and small business owners devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion annually to California’s economy, a major of outdoor tourism and jobs.

To learn more visit or @CASportfishing

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