14th Annual PFIC/UPSAC Catalina Get Together — 2015

Garibaldi in the island waters; the colors present an almost surreal scene

Derby Day — Saturday, July 18, 2015

“Well, first time that’s happened.” Only once in 14 years had the PFIC/UPSAC Catalina Get Together experienced rain and never during the day of the derby. That would change. What started as a beautiful day saw clouds emerge followed by thunder, lightening and a steady rain from tropical hurricane Dolores. The combination resulted in an abbreviated James Liu Memorial Derby at the 2015 Catalina Get Together.

Hashem Nahid and a little rain (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Although the derby was shortened by about an hour no one seemed to mind. It was just too wet to keep fishing and no one knew when the rain would stop. A couple of times the rain seemed to slack and then here it came again*. Finally things calmed enough for a quick awards ceremony and it was over — although when the rain did eventually stop everyone went back to fishing.

The Derby results: 1st Place — Hashem Nahid; 2nd Place — Rita M;

1st Place — Hashem Nahid (Second photo, showing the perpetual trophy, courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

2nd Place — Rita Magdamo (Second photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)


3rd Place — Christina Ballard (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Honorable Mention — Arcadian (Second photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Jr. Division Winner — Kyle Pease  (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

KJ, Kyle, Rita, Arcadian, Christina, and Hashem

Unfortunately it was a very small crowd this year and one of the main questions was if this would be the “last” Get Together? The sentiment was no! Given the fun and good companionship exhibited during the weekend all agreed that they at least would be ready for an event in 2016. Luckily the fishing had been good with the variety including bonito, kelp bass, sheephead, opaleye, garibaldi, halfmoon, sculpin (scorpionfish), grass rockfish, blackperch, blacksmith, rock wrasse, senorita, giant kelpfish, moray eel, ocean whitefish, sand bass, kelp perch and even one horn shark. Some big fish and some small fish, and just enough fish to keep things interesting.

Nevertheless, of note was the absence or near absence of several species that are commonly encountered at the Mole and GPP. We saw only one senorita and one blacksmith and did not see a single Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel or jacksmelt. The water was warmer than usual and the kelp canopy normally found at the Mole was almost missing. Both conditions affect the type of fish found in local waters.

• The average rainfall at Avalon for the month of July is .01 inches. Derby Day saw .33 inches of rain at Avalon including .23 of an inch between 12:40 and 2 PM, the scheduled end of the James Liu Memorial Derby.

The rest of the story:  Thursday — July 16, 2015

Hashem and myself took the first ferry over from Long Beach at 6:15 AM. We wanted a full day of fishing at the Green Pleasure Pier (GPP) and we got it. It was the usual mix of fish including an amazing number of small kelp bass.

The Green Pleasure Pier sits in the middle of the harbor surrounded by boats

The Casino

Amazing too was the number of medium to large-size opaleye, amazing both in their number and their unwillingness to take a bait. It wasn’t unexpected since the opaleye at the GPP always seem more wary than those at the Cabrillo Mole aka the Mole. It’s one reason that James Liu finally started fishing a 2-pound fluorocarbon line when fishing at the GPP. We did not have 2-pound fluorocarbon nor did we have any ghost shrimp, my preferred opaleye bait, but we did have frozen peas.

A medium-size opaleye (Picture courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

The opaleye would swim over, take a perfunctory look at the peas, and them swim off. The water was crystal clear and their behavior was easily observed. Nevertheless we did manage a few opaleye as well as the other usual species. Somewhat unexpected was a sand bass, the first I have taken at the GPP.

The Green Pleasure Pier as seen from the beach. (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Green Pleasure Pier — 7/16/2015 — 8:45 AM-3:30 PM

Species—Kelp Bass, Rock Wrasse, Sheephead, Opaleye, Ocean Whitefish, Sand Bass.

During the summer this dock is situated out at the end of the Green Pleasure Pier which reduces, somewhat, the amount of water open to fishing.

Looking toward shore

Boats clogged the harbor

Looking toward the Cabrillo Mole where we would do most of our fishing

The beach as seen from the Green Pleasure Pier (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

A male rock wrasse

Female rock wrasse

Small ocean whitefish

Sand Bass

We knew Rita and Kyle were coming over on the 3:00 PM ferry so we decided to check into the motel and then head out to the Cabrillo Mole. The Mole would be a little different, minus the usual thick canopy of kelp due to the warm water that kills giant kelp. It made fishing a little easier (especially when bringing in bonito) but also meant less of the kelp-loving species such as kelpfish. In years past we have seen giant kelpfish, spotted kelpfish, striped kelpfish, and crevice kelpfish; this year saw one lone giant kelpfish. However, there were still plenty of fish.

A female sheephead beginning the transition into being a male (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Sure enough Rita and Kyle were on the afternoon ferry and we talked to them and agreed to meet up for dinner at Antonio’s. We got in a few hours of fishing before dinner and once again saw a nice variety of fish.

July is a busy time of the year and the harbor sees boats coming and going at all hours

Cabrillo Mole — 7/16/2015 — 4:30-7:30 PM
Species—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, Halfmoon, Sheephead, Sculpin (Scorpionfish)

California scorpionfish aka sculpin

A beautiful juvenile Garibaldi; the blue spots disappear as it reaches maturity

This young lady was on a fishing trip with her dad and she caught several nice fish including this Kelp (Calico) Bass

Friday — July 17, 2015

Friday and Saturday would be dedicated to fishing the Mole and we were at the Mole early in the morning Friday hoping to see some boiling water and schools of bonito. Greeted by a beautiful sunrise, we would not be disappointed. Fishing in many ways mimicked the 2006-2010 Get Togethers, all of which had seen a plethora of bonito along with numerous other species.

Boats and the Avalon Casino as seen from the Mole

Sunrise at the Mole

Sunrise at the Mole (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Sunrise at the Mole (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Sunrise at the Mole (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Lovers Cove sits to the right of the Mole

The goal getting up early was to catch some bonito. Mission accomplished! (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Good morning Kyle (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Rita and a little bonito aka bonehead (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Kyle and a second bonito

Hashem and a bonehead

Rita and a nice Kelp (Calico) Bass

Kyle and a Horn Shark

She’s not too sure she wants to touch the bass

Time for a little watermelon break! And, after affixing a piece of watermelon to a hook, it was proven to be a poor bait. (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Bonito aka bonehead aka flasher aka bongo and aka Mr. Bojangles to some PFIC’ers

Action was steady throughout the day with bonito, some large and some small, moving in and out. Most of the fish were the usual species although the total included a grass rockfish, a species fairly uncommon at the Mole.

Grass Rockfish

We stopped at 5:15 PM to get dinner with Rita, Kyle, Arcadian, and Christina (who had arrived on the afternoon ferry).

Cabrillo Mole — 7/17/2015 — 6:30 AM-5:15 PM
Species—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, Sculpin (Scorpionfish), Rock Wrasse, Halfmoon, Bonito, Sheephead, Opaleye, Senorita, Kelp Perch, Grass Rockfish, Blacksmith

After dinner Hashem and I headed back out to the Mole. For me it was a search for a moral eel. I had caught one once from a partyboat but never from a pier and what better place than Catalina? It would be an unusual night. I was using two rigs, one a rod equipped with a Sabiki and a float, which was floated out to sea in hopes of attracting a flying fish. The other was a medium-heavy combo loaded with 50-pound line and squid for a moral eel.

The Sabiki would yield no fish. The heavier rig saw pretty steady action. Fishing inshore, near the rocks, I dropped down the squid and had an immediate hit from something big, something that immediately went under the Mole and quickly was hooked onto seaweed or possibly a piling. It was big, it was strong, and I couldn’t even turn it. The heavy line was tangled up with something and I could feel the large fish but the rock/piling/seaweed eventually won the battle and I wasn’t too happy.

However, the next drop produced a moral eel, the elusive species I have been seeking for the past five years or so. So that quest was over — finally. Not 20 minutes later Arcadian who was fishing a short distance away would pull up another moral eel and some kids down the Mole would do the same.

I finally got my moray eel — although a small one! (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Arcadian’s moray eel  (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Nighttime was “bass time” (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Next up was a legal 15-inch kelp bass followed by another legal kelp bass and then a chunk of squid yielded a large blackperch. Blackperch on a big chunk of squid on a 3/0 hook? It never happens but it did. Soon after I pulled in a large opaleye on the same squid. Opaleye at night on squid? Just a little strange. Several additional legal-size bass showed up, as well as a small spiny lobster, before we headed back to the hotel hoping to be fresh for Saturday and the derby.

A small lobster, out of season, too small, and caught on a hook and line; it was returned safely to the water

An early morning view of the harbor and the Green Pleasure Pier (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Cabrillo Mole — 7/17/2015 — 9:00-11:45 PM
Species—Kelp Bass, Moray Eel, Blackperch, Opaleye, Halfmoon

Derby Day — “Rainy Saturday”

Saturday was finally Derby Day and hopes, as always, were high. Would we see a yellowtail or a triggerfish like last year? Would we see continued excitement from the bonito? What strange fish might bring something new and interesting to the Derby? And, would the rain, predicted at 20% hold off until another day? As it turned out, the last question would be the most relevant. It did rain but after the rain the fishing would begin anew.

Here comes the rain! (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

People TRIED to stay out of the rain. (Photo courtesy of Hashem Nahid)

Rita and a bonito

KJ and a bonito

A Giant Kelpfish, a fish that comes in several colors depending upon its habitat

Rita and a good-sized bonito (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

What’s a little rain? (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

Hashem and Kyle share some hot chocolate after the rain (Photo courtesy of Rita Magdamo)

A golden Garibaldi, California’s state marine (saltwater) fish

Fish were plentiful

Yep, surreal-like

For myself, Saturday yielded the following fish:

Cabrillo Mole — 7/18/2015 — 8 :00 AM-9:00 PM (off and on)
Species—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, Halfmoon, Sheephead, Sculpin (Scorpionfish), Rock Wrasse, Opaleye, Giant Kelpfish

Between the strange weather, the successful search for an eel, the bonito bite, and the fair number of usual species, it was one more delightful visit to Catalina, one I hope to repeat next year.

The Catalina Ferry getting ready to head back to the mainland

Something for the “Stats Geeks” out there — some statistics regarding the Green Pleasure Pier and the Cabrillo Mole:

I keep records of all my fishing trips and record the fish and approximate size. That’s then broken down into fish per hour and points per hour figures.

Based upon the 2002-2015 Catalina Get Togethers, this year saw the second highest points per hour figure from the Green Pleasure Pier at 44.4. The highest was in 2014 with a 45.9 figure and the third highest was 2003 with a 40.3 figure. The lowest years were 2012 with a 14.4 figure and 2010 with a 14.8 figure.

These figures are comparable to a trip I made in 1977 when I fished the pier three times and averaged 34.2 points per hour. [And there was no Mole in 1977.]

The Cabrillo Mole though was a different story even though bonito were present this year. The points per hour figure for the Mole was only 9.87, the second lowest for 2002-2015. The lowest year was 2006 which saw a 9.00 figure. The highest years were 2011 with a 25.4 figure and 2014 with a 21.7 figure.

However, the Mole is the place to go for variety (I now have 32 different species from the pier) and it has a better chance than the Green Pleasure Pier for pelagic species such as bonito. Almost all of my single day, single pier records for species have been at the Mole.

Sixteen species trip:

Cabrillo Mole, April 26, 2013—Jack Mackerel, Kelp Bass, Blacksmith, Senorita, Kelp Rockfish, Garibaldi, Halfmoon, Opaleye, Grass Rockfish, Pacific Mackerel, Treefish, California Scorpionfish, Sheephead, Pacific Sardine, Black Seaperch, Spotted Kelpfish

Fifteen species trip:

Cabrillo Mole, April 27, 2013—Kelp Bass, Pacific Mackerel, Jack Mackerel, Kelp Rockfish, Blacksmith, Treefish, Black Seaperch, Sheephead, Garibaldi, Senorita, Halfmoon, Opaleye, Pacific Sardine, Grass Rockfish, Spotted Kelpfish

Cabrillo Mole, September 19, 2010—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, Senorita, Jack Mackerel, Jacksmelt, Opaleye, Halfmoon, Sheephead, Giant Kelpfish, Treefish, Blacksmith, Striped Kelpfish, Rock Wrasse, Black Seaperch, Finescale Triggerfish

Fourteen Species trip:

Cabrillo Mole, July 17, 2015—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, California Scorpionfish, Rock Wrasse, Halfmoon, Pacific Bonito, Sheephead, Opaleye, Senorita, Kelp Perch, Grass Rockfish, Moray Eel, Black Seaperch, Blacksmith + 1 Spiny Lobster

Thirteen species trip:

Avila Pier, August 3, 2013—California Lizardfish, White Croaker, Speckled Sanddab, Brown Rockfish, Vermilion Rockfish, Yellowtail Rockfish, Bocaccio, Cabezon, Kelp Greenling, Blue Rockfish, Onespot Fringehead, Barred Surfperch, Jacksmelt

Cabrillo Mole, April 27, 2012—Kelp Bass, Pacific Mackerel, Jack Mackerel, Pacific Sardine, Senorita, Blacksmith, Opaleye, Treefish, Sheephead, Cabezon, California Scorpionfish, Kelp Rockfish, Halfmoon

Cabrillo Mole, April 16, 2011—Blacksmith, Jack Mackerel, Kelp Bass, Halfmoon, Pacific Mackerel, Ocean Whitefish, Senorita, California Scorpionfish, Salema, Treefish, Kelp Rockfish, Brown Rockfish, Pacific Sardine + 2 Spiny Lobster

Cabrillo Mole, April 23. 2010—Kelp Bass, Opaleye, Senorita, California Scorpionfish, Garibaldi, Rock Wrasse, Sheephead, Jacksmelt, Halfmoon, Kelp Rockfish, Treefish, Giant Kelpfish, Spotted Kelpfish

Twelve species trips:

Cabrillo Mole, April 25, 2010—Sheephead, Garibaldi, Kelp Bass, Opaleye, Halfmoon, California Scorpionfish, Kelp Perch, Rock Wrasse, Kelp Rockfish, Senorita, Jacksmelt, Black Seaperch

Cabrillo Mole, April 24, 2009—Kelp Bass, Garibaldi, Giant Kelpfish, Opaleye, Halfmoon, Spotted Kelpfish, California Scorpionfish, Sheephead, Treefish, Senorita, Jacksmelt, Kelp Perch

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