By Frank Mickadeit, Orange County Register
Deep-sea fishing, based on my meager experience, is mostly about trying not to throw up – or if you are among the fortunate, actually being able to throw up. Before dawn even broke Saturday, slowly motoring out on my second ocean-fishing voyage, I was given the opportunity to throw up while still in the harbor. “Frankie, grab that bucket and mix up some cat food and oatmeal,” McNerney ordered. “Make some chum.”
So I stirred up a nice stinky mess of wet Friskies and Quaker Oats (and nearly added my own special ingredients – half-digested coffee-and-doughnut), thus beginning my initiation into the Interclub Challenge, the annual “gentlemen’s” fishing tournament of the three major Newport yacht clubs: Newport Harbor, Balboa and Bahia Corinthian.
Dan McNerney and I were on John Carvelli‘s boat, the Tre Figlie. McNerney because he can fish and me because I have the other necessary talent for deep-sea fishing: the ability to steadily drink beer from 7:30 a.m. to dusk at a consistent eight-ounce-an-hour clip.
The chum was used to catch bait fish – 8-inch-long mackerel – just outside the harbor. God put these poor creatures on earth not only with an attraction to wet cat food and oatmeal, but to be caught by humans, thrown into a little tank, then, at a later date selected at the whim of some boozy boat captain to be pierced through the gullet by a sharp hook and then thrown back into the ocean to wiggle gamely until eaten alive by a larger fish. I caught one of these mackerel, but I found out you wouldn’t count it toward the coveted Interclub championship – unless you’re a real loser.
The trophy was to be awarded to the angler who scored the most points between midnight Friday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Points are accumulated through a method about as interesting to detail as a golf handicap; suffice to say the variety and the total number of fish matter.
Having scored a few mackerel off Crystal Cove, Carvelli set a course for a point south of Catalina. Along the way, I was to keep my eye out for “paddies,” – clumps of kelp that have detached from the ocean floor and floated to the surface. Roughly the area of a living room, they are prized because small fish like to hang out underneath them. Underneath the small fish, in theory, are the big fish.
It’s a big ocean, you know? But I helped find some paddies, and we threw in lines. We could see small fish, but no big fish, if they were there, even nibbled our delicious hacked up squid. Paddy to paddy we went, all morning, all afternoon. Between paddies, we ran five trolling lines, each rigged with some multi-colored plastic thing-a-ma-jig. No luck.
We tried bait-fishing around two sides of Catalina. Nothing. Finally, around 5, Carvelli had had enough and moored at Avalon. Surrounded by other boats, people paddling by on kayaks, and with the music of a live reggae band audible from a dockside cafe, we dropped our lines in, almost on a whim. And I caught a fish.
It was a calico bass, a white fish dappled with brown. As I was basking in the glory, Carvelli pulled the hook out of its mouth with pliers and, before I could say a word, tossed it overboard. “What are you doing???!!!” I cried.
“What?” Carvelli said. “You want to sleep with it? Put it under your pillow?”
In a “gentlemen’s tournament,” I guess, they take your word for it. In fact, back at the dock late Sunday, I talked to Bob Voorhis, who a couple of hours earlier had cut loose a 150-pound marlin he’d spent two hours fighting to bring up to the boat. His boat made it back to the dock with 10 minutes to spare.
I caught a few more calico Sunday, as well as a weirdly awesome-looking thing called a sheepshead, which Carvelli also unceremoniously tossed overboard. My partners had similar catches (and releases). We weren’t skunked anyway.
The big winner was a boat captained by Kevin Klemm of the Balboa club. It had the most points and the overall top angler, a 25-year-old construction engineer named Chris Smith. They motored all the way down to Mexico to find the warmest water and best conditions. Among Smith’s fish were a blue fin tuna, a yellowtail, a barracuda, a mako shark and a calico bass. I guess I can say this for myself: I knew enough not to talk up my calico.
In a sort of related but sad story,
Rescuers unable to save whales
Beached in Florida, a mother and calf die before a horrified summertime crowd.
Hollywood, Fla. — Rescuers worked desperately to save a whale and her calf that had beached themselves in south Florida on Monday, but despite measures that included using wet towels and umbrellas to shield the animals from the scorching sun, neither survived.
The drama began about 1 p.m. when swimmers and lifeguards spotted the whales in waist-deep water at Hollywood beach, just north of Miami.
Swimmers tried to encourage the whales back out to sea, and at first the animals seemed to take the hint. But the mother swam in circles, then headed back to shore.
A team of marine mammal specialists tried to save the distressed animals, which experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified as beaked whales.
The mother was about 10 to 12 feet long. The calf was about half that size.
Some placed towels on the whales, trying to keep their skin moist. Volunteers waded into the water and held umbrellas over the animals to shield them from the sun.
A summertime crowd of about 300 tourists and residents watched.
Some children seemed to know that the story would end badly.
"Mom, don’t take a picture," said Danielle Zachary, 9, of Aventura, Fla. "It’s too sad."
She and her mother, Michelle, 42, stayed at the beach as the drama unfolded.
As the mother whale thrashed on the shore, the calf was brought next to her. Soon she lay still.
Blair Mase, a stranding coordinator for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, confirmed that she had died. A NOAA marine mammal specialist euthanized the calf on the sand next to its mother.
Some in the crowd had hoped that rescuers would try to save the calf, perhaps by putting it in an aquarium. But Mase said that the calf would have been unable to live without its mother, and that beaked whales normally do not survive in captivity.
"There’s no aquarium that has this species in captivity," he said.
But that didn’t console many beachgoers.
"I have tears in my eyes," said Eileen Vulpis of Coral Springs. "Everyone here is upset; everyone really thought they were going to try to save the baby."
Beaked whales, native to the Florida coast, are deep feeders, officials said. For them to have come to shore in the first place was a major sign of distress. Their survival was questionable from the start, Mase said.
Whales can beach themselves for a variety of reasons, Mase said, including climate conditions; disorientation after hearing a loud noise; sickness; and parasites. Experts will perform necropsies on both whales, he said.
Some in the crowd were parents trying to explain to their children what was happening.
"Whales tear at our heartstrings," Mase said.
One for my friend Sue
Stamp of approval for TV’s ‘Dragnet’
A ceremony is planned Tuesday at the Los Angeles Police Academy to commemorate the release of a postage stamp marking the hit TV show’s 50th anniversary.
The story you are about to read is true. The names have NOT been changed to protect the innocent.
The television series "Dragnet," which first aired more than 50 years ago, ensured the Los Angeles Police Department’s place in Hollywood lore.
Now the department is helping return the favor by hosting an event Tuesday at the Police Academy in Elysian Park to commemorate the release of a "Dragnet" postage stamp, authorities said.
A program will include the widow of actor Jack Webb, who played LAPD Sgt. Joe Friday; actor Harry Morgan, who played Friday’s partner; and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton.
Also Tuesday, there will be a separate ceremony to celebrate the release of stamps commemorating 20 early television shows, including "Dragnet," at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood. Participants include Carl Reiner and Arthur Marx.
Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it probably will not rain Tuesday.
Those are just the facts, ma’am.
The song tonight is Just Too Good!!! Kenny Chesney.
I hope your week has started out well.