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Feature Article: Rockfish Rumble Recap

WON/Ventura Sportfishing seventh annual Rockfish Rumble goes deep for lings, reds and more

BY BOB SEMERAU/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: May 09, 2019

VENTURA — They had come to fight it out once again in the Western Outdoor News-Ventura Sportfishing Rockfish Rumble.

Early on the morning of Thursday, April 25, some 75 ang­lers assembled at the local landing ready to do battle in what is becoming a tradition among fishermen across the southland. Prize money, gear, and bragging rights were on the line once again and only the anglers with the right combination of talent, skill and strength would go home with top honors.

1-3 PUNCH ABOARD Island Spirit for tourney first place winner, Bill Sullivan, left, with his 11.4-pound ling, and Mike Oakley, the third-place finisher with an 8.8-pound lingcod.

Ventura Sportfishing landing owner, Greg Ewart, was on hand to get the three boats loaded up and ready for the fight. Anglers signed in and were given packages of VMC hooks and each boat had spools of J-Braid and Sufix monofilament for anglers to load up their reels. Spools of Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon leader were aboard each boat for anglers to use throughout the day.

Island Spirit , the 65-foot sportfisher skippered by Captain Sonny Haendiges, made the first move and got away from the docks right at the 5 a.m. bell, followed up shortly by Pacific Eagle, captained by owner/operator Capt. Mike Mings.

The third boat, Amigo, run by Captain Jonny Ewart, was close in and running hard for deep-water spots along mid-channel.

Each of the three boats headed out into the channel ­between Ventura Harbor and Santa Cruz Island over calm seas to begin the battle at secret spots of their own.

Amigo skipper Capt. Jonny Ewart set up the first drift over a deep-water spot and lines were run out.

“The change this year by California DFW is that we can fish to 450 feet (75 fathoms), opening up some spots we

have not fished in 20 to 30 years,” reported landing owner Greg Ewart before the fight got under way.

HIGH-SPOT COMBO for angler and rail-fighter Cesar Jimenez showing excellent form with a pair of reds that made weight.

From the deck of Amigo, WON associate Ted Reed advised that near-limits of rockfish and a smaller grade of lings came over the rail in the first few hours.

As the day continued, Amigo moved to other spots in hopes of finding a better grade of groundfish willing to take a bait.

Aboard Pacific Eagle, WON rep Chip Cone reported the action steady on reds and chuckleheads, but not so much on the lings. Early on, angler Robert Danelen landed a bigger model ling for the largest fish of the day aboard Amigo. Danelen fished an octopus-sanddab combo on a dropper loop rig to knock out his contending fish.

Lovely Lori, the cook aboard Pacific Eagle, not only sent out delicious food throughout the day to nourish the fighters along the way but helped with fish and photos all the while.

Meanwhile, a few miles away and still mid-channel, Island Spirit was trying several holes that appealed to Captain Sonny.

“This one is loaded, and we should do pretty well here,” announced the skipper over the P.A. as baits were dropped down some 380 feet. With three pre­vious drops not yielding much, anglers were hopeful this would be the one.

Young angler Daniel Meza came out with WON charter regulars Tyrone Terrel and his dad, Bigg Lou Terrel. The two experienced anglers had a tough day of it but Meza, who was out on his first ocean fishing trip, managed a nice bag of reds and chuckleheads for this, his first outing at sea.

lovelyloriLOVELY LORI NESTER, longtime Pacific Eagle cook and all-around hand, shows off a nice red taken by fighter Clay Harrison. The red was second largest fish for the day aboard the 55-foot sportfisher.

The reading Capt. Sonny had seen led to a rush of action and for a short while, all rods seemed to be bent when reds, chuckleheads, canaries and some decent lings came over the rail of Island Spirit. Working the deck, Capt. Sonny’s dad Jim, along with Garret Lander and brother, Nick “the Dump” Lander, managed to untangle, gaff, bag and generally keep up with the mayhem of an exciting bite.

Another few drifts over the 50-foot long high-spot brought quality reds and an 11-pound-plus lingcod for angler Bill Sullivan that looked like a contender. With that spot slowing, it was off to find willing biters closer to the oil platforms to the east.

The long reach needed for deep-water drifts took its toll on some anglers and many craved the relief of electric reels. Dropping down 400 to 450 feet with a pound of weight on the drop and hopefully another ten or more pounds of fish on the retrieve, meant many, many turns of the handle.

Amigo was landing its share of the blows in this battle on the water, and angler Jeffery Wandick found a contender of his own. Wandick, also a frequent WON charter angler, boated the largest fish aboard Amigo with a ling of some size. At the scales for the final weigh-in, the fish would be edged out by just a few ounces from a third-place spot. Dave Morin threw a combination series of hits to get a decent red for the second largest fish aboard Amigo. Jeffery Wandick, a true fighter with the right moves, also slammed a chucklehead that took third for the boat.

Most anglers fished the squid strips on a double dropper loop rig and 16-ounce torpedo sinkers. Some anglers opted for the small anchovies, using #2 or #3 on a hook, or even a combination of squid-chovie for a real tasty offering. Very few fish were taken on the jigs and leadheads in the deep water.

AMIGO LING knocked-out by angler, Jeffery Wandick, and displayed by Capt. Jonny Ewart on the gaff. The lingcod was the largest fish of the tourney for fighters working the decks of Amigo.

With near-limits of rockfish for the boats, the battle raged on throughout the day. Pacific Eagle found some more reds and chuckleheads but could not make weight, with the largest fish being Danelen’s 5.6-pound ling and a 5-pound red for angler Clay Harrison. Angler Larry Johnson scored a couple of punches to get on the leaderboard with a mid-sized red of his own.

But the truth of the scales proved the victorious anglers to be aboard Island Spirit and at the end of the day, the three boats would bring the three heaviest fish from each to the weigh-in ceremonies to have a shot at the prizes for the overall biggest fish, including an Accurate rod and reel combo, SKB backpacks and a share of $780 in cash.

The count at the end of the day for Island Spirit showed Capt. Sonny had really put the contenders on the fish, knocking out 310 rockfish and 7 lingcod. But Pacific Eagle kept swinging and decked 240 rockfish, 1 rock sole, and 1 ling. Amigo made a good fight with 220 rockfish and 1 lingcod on the 65-foot sportfisher.

The ceremonies, presided over by Captain Greg Ewart, representing the landing, would reveal the true champion as the weigh-ins proceeded after the 4:30 p.m. cut-off and all boats had arrived at the Ventura Sportfishing docks.

Weighing in at 8.8 pounds and taking a third-place prize of $100 cash, a brand new SKB backpack, a Madam Lures goodie bag, Yo-Zuri fluoro­carbon and more was a ling bagged by angler Mike Oakley aboard Island Spirit.

Fighting hard gave Pedro Pino the second-place spot on the podium with a 9-pound ling to take home $240 cash, Accurate pliers, Madam Lures gift pack, Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon, Daiwa J-Braid and more.

At the final bell, Bill Sullivan’s 11.4-pound ling, decked while fishing aboard Island Spirit, took top honors and $440 cash. Other prizes for the big fish included the Accurate rod and reel combo, SKB backpack, Yo-Zuri, J-Braid, Madam lures gift pack, Sufix monofilament, VMC hooks and more.

With the prizes handed out and the ceremonies complete, a raffle of prizes provided by WON tourney sponsors sent more anglers home with extra gear and swag.

For the winners, the day proved special; and for the anglers left off the winner’s stand, training for next year’s competition should begin now.

captainsonnyshowsjpgCAPTAIN SONNY SHOWS off an Island Spirit red taken by hard-fighting angler Darren Kolachik.

ALL WINNERS AS the nine big fish from the 2019 WON Ventura Sportfishing Rockfish Rumble come to the scales for final weigh-in.

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