Friday, January 28, 2005

Friday? What happened to Wednesday? Wednesdays are reserved for fishing. Friday is TGIF and sleep late in on Saturday. However, January is when they talk about the squid moving in on the back side of Catalina and everyone looking forward to the White Sea Bass bite. Squid? Cute little fellows measuring about 6-8 inches in length - including their tentacles. GR8B8 for the WSB and Yellowtail. Despite their size they still have the potential for a sharp bite.
    But something strange happened this winter. All of a sudden "giant" squid weighing 20-40 pounds began washing up on the local shores. Sport boats out of Dana, etc found that Rock Cod baits were mysteriously disappearing from their rigs and then, a wide open bite on these infrequent visitors to our waters took off. "Giant" - no not the huge creature that attacked John Wayne and Ray Milland (was it "Wake of the Red Witch?") - but an amazing assortment (in extraordinary numbers) of these 20-40 pounders that pull 50 pd. line without much effort. And their beak? They'll take a finger off if you are not careful. And ink? enough to fill the pages of WON many times over. They propel themselves with spurts of water and as you lift them from the water you can get soaked in a hurry if they are turned the wrong way. The trick is to, once gaffed, hold them at the water while they spurt out the ink and blasts of water, and then drop them in the fish bags where they don't bounce around like tuna. And this kind of "fishing" calls for foul weather gear and a good wash-down pump.
    Boats from San Pedro to Dana to Mission Bay have been recording great numbers of these future Calamari steaks, which I am told make for GR8 eating. Recently, the boats out of Mission Bay have been hauling in great numbers and a little research indicated that a good area was the top of the "9" right on the drop-off to deeper water.
    And so, as fishing withdrawal symptoms began to stir the body, I decided that this was the time to give it a try. Unfortunately, this time was not geared to a weather front moving through the southland. Beautiful weather the day before and a Santa Ana condition predicted for the coming week. However, what's a little rain? Helps to wash off the foul weather gear especially when you fish in foul weather. So, enlisting Harry Okuda and Dennis Albert, we slid out at 5 PM to get in on the prime-time twilight bite. The clouds and rain were moving up the coast from the south, the tail end of the current front making the ocean a little choppy ("washboard" according to Harry). A few rain squalls and, as it cleared, a steady 15+ knot wind out of the west slowing switching to the north-west.
    As instructed, we got to the top of the "9," set up the drift just outside the drop-off and got bit within 10 minutes. We a few, but as we drifted up onto the "9" (5-600 feet of water) the bite shut off. So, several times we pulled up, went back outside the drop, and then picked up a few as we drifted back. Drifting was hardly the word - a slow troll was more like us with that wind pushing us. And the squid, as advertised, were right on the drop-off. Meanwhile, the Mission Bay and Oceanside boats, with anglers shoulder to shoulder, were pulling in great numbers of the creatures. Apparently, they were fishing only 3-4 miles outside of Mission Bay, but we didn't have that information at the time. No wonder we didn't see any other boats out where we were.
    About 8:45 the bite shut off (yes, a twilight bite) and the sporties apparently experienced the same for they talked of going back in. At 9 PM we took off with that nice following sea behind us. Interestingly, as those clouds were moving in from the south as we came out, the skies had cleared and the high clouds were now coming from the north-east, indicating the start of the Santa Ana condition. And, of course, today it is beautiful and we should have smooth seas for the next few days.
    We stopped at the bait receivers and took the time to take some more pictures and do the clean up, discarding the head and tentacles, cleaning them out, stripping off the outside skin and cutting up fillets (many an inch in thickness). Today will be further cleaning and vacuum packing before freezing. What a job! Interesting that when I indicated we might be going everyone said: "you're crazy1" When we decided to actually take off (in the rain and wind) they all said: "If you have a little extra we would sure like some. But please clean it first." But cleaning up, getting ice, and all that didn't get home til after midnight. But it was fun and rewarding. We boated 15 and lost at least 3 at the gaff.