What value do you place on your life?
Currently, Central Coast fishermen finally are reaping "the largest body of albacore in the last four or five years,"; said Harrell Kimball, an observer who closely monitors such things and is a participant in the offshore tuna harvest as well.
Boat owners who are properly equipped to venture 40 to 60 miles offshore to catch tuna have expressed concerns about the number of vessels on the tuna grounds that are not equipped to be out there.
On Monday, San Joaquin Valley fisherman Mike Hagans fortunately had the proper equipment on board that saved his life and that of his crew. He had ventured out 65 miles. Nine longfins ranging from 25 to 40 pounds were landed. The skipper headed back to Port San Luis at 3:30 p.m., anticipating a 6 p.m. arrival.
But, at 53 miles offshore his boat hit what appeared to be a fishing net wrapped in kelp. Maneuvers to free his engine were unsuccessful. He contacted the Coast Guard and was advised to turn on his Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon.
If you dont have one, get one, Hagans urged. It allows the Coast Guard to know your exact position.
By the time the Coast Guard vessel out of Santa Barbara, the Blackfin, arrived 11 p.m. the distressed fishing boat had drifted 15 miles out into a major shipping lane. A freighter was two miles away on a collision course. The tuna boat had not been picked up on the freighters radar. However, the Coast Guard hailed the freighter and other ships in the area, giving the exact position of the drifting vessel.
The tow to port took five hours with arrival at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The rescued crew was at sea approximately 26 hours.
You dont know what you may get into out there, Hagans said. I never needed a thing for 23 years, but in the last three years Ive been towed twice and was almost rolled by a perfect storm wave.
Kimball also had a harrowing experience Monday.
"I was headed in from fishing tuna when a whale came completely out of the water vertically about 100 yards behind us," Kimball said. "Had that happened 10 seconds sooner, you wouldn't be talking to me now."
Here are some vessel requirements provided by Justin Abold, Petty Officer 2nd Class, U.S. Coast Guard station Morro Bay:
Recreation Vessels 16 feet to 25 feet, 11 inches
Boat registration certificate number.
Wearable personal flotation device for everyone on board Type 1, 2, or 3. Type 5 must be worn to meet standards; one Type 4 throwable flotation device. (All PFDs must be Coast Guard approved.)
Sound Producing Device whistle or air horn; entire HIV (Hull Identification Number); fire extinguisher; inboard engines must have gasoline backfire flame control on vessels built after April 25, 1940; natural ventilation cowling or ducting.
Vessels built after July 31, 1980
Rated power exhaust blower; navigation or anchor lights are required when vessel is operated sunset to sunrise, and during restrictive visibility.
Visual Distress Signals Can be one-day, non pyro and one-night, non pyro or three-day pyro, and one night non pyro or 3 combination day/night pyro. Oil Pollution Must have capacity to retain onboard all oily mixtures. Equipment is required to discharge these oily mixtures to a reception facility. It's acceptable to remove oily mixtures by fixed or portable means.
Recreational vessels 26 feet to 40 feet
All the requirements of the smaller boats apply plus the following:
Fire extinguisher one B-2 or 2 B 1; fixed system equals one B 1; garbage placard must be posted conspicuously; oil pollution placard needs to be posted in machinery space or next to bilge pump controls.
Vessels 12 meters (39 feet, 41/;2 inches) and over
Required is a whistle audible to one-half nautical mile (1,000 yards).
Boat owners are responsible to be in compliance with all federal safety regulations for vessels of their size. All safety requirements can be found at www.uscgboating.org
Additional practical suggestions:
Monitor Channel 16, the International Hailing and Distress channel, which is monitored by the Coast Guard 24/7.
Life jackets should be worn while crossing the entrance to Morro Bay.
; Kimball suggests: Be sure to check the Cape San Martin buoy. If the wind is blowing at 12 knots or more, the prudent thing to do is to cancel your albacore trip.
Let a friend know where you are planning to fish and the probable time you will return to port.
Always travel with another boat that may have better equipment than you. Carry extra flares, water and personal flotation devices; Two VHF FM radios, one-hand held, and equipped with the DSC feature.
Boat owners who are deficient in any of the above areas would be better served remaining closer to shore.
After all, its more prudent to live to fish another day.
A safer way to experience the thrill of albacore fishing can be had by boarding the Pacific Horizon or Pacific Queen out of Patriot Sportfishing or The Admiral, Princess or Fiesta out of Virg's Landing.
The load limit for Pacific Horizon is 18 and the cost is $250.
The Pacific Queen's limit is 35 passengers and trips cost $225. Call 595-7200 for reservations on either boat.
Cost for Virg's boats are $235. Load limits are 30 for The Admiral, 25 for Princess and 15 for Fiesta. Call 772-1222 for reservations.
The current local albacore frenzy began Sunday. Five boats out of the Port San Luis Sports Launch harvested 43 albacore. Vessels out of Morro Bay caught long fins but there is no way to monitor how many.
A crew trip aboard the Pacific Horizon on Monday returned with 63 albacore.
Eight boats out of PSL landed 78 tuna Monday while anglers on six boats returned with 80 on Tuesday.
Twenty-eight passengers on The Admiral caught 46 tuna on Tuesday while five anglers aboard the Princess had 43.
A number of private boats caught albacore only 30 to 35 miles off shore on Tuesday. It was sloppy Wednesday morning but three boats landed 17 tuna. Fishing tournaments
Congratulations to John White of San Luis Obispo and Dale Ball of Creston. Their teams finished 1-2, respectively, in the annual Bobs Marine Champion and Stratos boat owners tournament last weekend at Clear Lake.
Nipomo's Felix Camacho and his cousin, Ken Camacho from Santa Maria, won the Tri Valley Bass Club fish-off last weekend. There will be more on their win next week. Port San Luis Boatyard
Santa Maria's Lou Gheno, took whopper of the week honors last week with a 36-pound halibut caught Sept. 11. Virg's Landing
Brice Sanders of Bakersfield, and Wayne Arnold of Orosi had the big fish last week, 12 and 11-pound lingcod, respectively. The catch by 428 passengers included 28 lingcod, 606 red rockcod, 2,545 assorted rockfish, 87 bocaccio, 127 coppers and 85 bolina. Patriot Sportfishing
Current leaders in the Lingcod Contest are: 1. Fred Kenniston, Bakersfield, 18-pounds, 6 ounces; 2. Steve Robertson, Tulare, 18-0; 3. Dave Pimentel, Arroyo Grande, 15-8.
The catch last week by 218 anglers included 47 lingcod, 381 red rockcod, 558 assorted rockfish, 876 bolina, 24 cabezon and three rock sole. Central Coast Sportfishing
Best fish caught last week were a 12-pound lingcod by Tulare's Paul Simon and an 11-pounder by Bakersfield's Christine McDuff.
The catch by 51 anglers included four lingcod, 153 red rockcod, 305 assorted rockfish, 72 coppers, five sanddabs and one rock sole. Whale Rock
The lone angler last week blanked.