This reunion of deep sea fishing partners was capped by a catch that will be etched in the memory of two men who have known each other for nearly 35 years.
It happened July 20 off Port San Luis and just happens to be the biggest catch of a white seabass locally in the past two years.Bigger fish may have been caught in local waters but monitoring catches of this species is not a high priority assignment of any specific individuals.
Johnny Wyatt, 60, was vacationing on the Central Coast and a bit later attended a family reunion at Bass Lake. He’s resided in Slidell, La., since 2008 to be with a son’s family. Wyatt lived in Arroyo Grande while he worked as an electrician at Diablo Canyon until he retired in 2007.
His friend, Archie Ponds, 65, of Oceano, began his commercial fishing career around 1991, and Wyatt performed deckhand duties off and on for a few years.
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The friends were joined by Wyatt’s brother Gary from Santa Maria and Eddie Tamsi from Delano.
The sportfishing venture aboard Ponds’ 25-foot boat Big Easy was already successful prior to the quartet’s pursuit of white seabass. Their catch had included 40 rockcod and six lingcod. Squid were readily available for bait.
Now Johnny Wyatt had caught big fish before, but that was in Mexico — a 200-pound blue marlin.
He chose an available rod but once he became hooked up with a big fish, the reel malfunctioned.
“As soon as the fish hit, it began peeling off line. I loosened the drag a bit but I had to keep my hand on the handle or it back peddled on me,” Johnny Wyatt said. “I had my hands full especially when the fish headed back toward the boat.”
Gary Wyatt taunted his brother by asserting that the fish was not a seabass but a shark.
The skirmish lasted 15 or 20 minutes, ending with Ponds gaffing the fish.
It weighed 56 pounds, the largest white seabass caught by fishermen aboard boats dispatched out of the Sports Launch at Port San Luis. The largest seabass weighed at the PSL Boatyard scales in 2011 was Dusty Musgraves’ catch of a 50-pounder.
Archie Ponds is back commercial fishing. “In the last three weeks,” he said, “I’ve shipped over 3,000 pounds of white seabass to my commercial receiver.”
Back in Louisiana, Johnny Wyatt is engrossed in a tagged red fish tournament that began Memorial Day and lasts until Labor Day.
Port San Luis Boatyard
The biggest catch of white seabass since August 2011 was logged last week by private boats launched from the PSL Sports Launch. The seabass catch totaled 149 fish.
That was just 20 less than last year’s best week. Between Aug. 8-14, 2011, the seabass harvest was 169 fish. The week prior, the take was 134 and the 2011 total catch was 388.
Last week, 160 boats were launched. In addition to the seabass, the catch included 146 lingcod and eight halibut.
Whopper of the Week honors went to Laverl Turley of Santa Maria. He caught a 47-pound white seabass July 25.
Arrival of the 65-foot Black Pearl out of Long Beach has enabled Patriot Sportfishing to return to a more normal trip schedule. Since July 10, the business had been limited to just one boat. The Pacific Horizon is undergoing repairs at the Ventura Boatyard. At this time, the ownership has no idea when the vessel will return to Port San Luis and be available for passenger service.
The Black Pearl is skippered by Rick Craddick, who served as the pilot of the Marauder out of the same landing in the 1980s. The boat can accommodate 45 passengers on fishing trips. It began service July 29.
For trip schedules and reservations, call 595-7200.
Santa Maria fisherman Curtis Ridenor grabbed the lead in the July-August segment of Patriot’s eighth-annual Lingcod Contest. On July 26, he caught a 24-pound lingcod. He also is in the overall leader. The round one (May-June) contest went to Caesar Chang of Rowland Heights with a 17-pound, 12-ounce lingcod.
Other jackpot winners last week included Dick Fitzgerald, Visalia, 14-0 ling; Chris Plunk, Grover Beach, 12-0 ling; Joe Sheehan, Kingsburg, 10-0 ling; Blake Burt, Bakersfield, 9-0 ling; Brant Cate, Ridgecrest, 6-0 ling; and Rick Cravins, Dinuba, 5-0 ling.
Another overnight trip is planned for this weekend, departing at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and returning late Sunday afternoon. Passengers may catch two limits of fish. Cost is $205.
On last weekend’s overnighter aboard the Princess, 27 anglers caught 68 lingcod. An 18-pound lingcod was bagged by Eddie Martinez, while Jerry Marander caught a 17-pounder. Both men are from in Rancho Cucamonga.
For reservations and trip schedules, call 772-1222.
Other jackpot winners were Jessie Toaste, Hanford, Deborah, Walls, Fresno, Mike Downs, Visalia, and Chad Wilson, Paso Robles, all 10-0 lings; Steve Allen, Visalia, 9-0 ling; Mike Tuck, Shafter, and Roberto Gallegos, Atascadero, both 8-0 lings; Jim Webb, Cambria, 7-0 ling; Doug Turner, Tulare, 7-0 red; and Chase Williams, Atascadero, 6-0 ling.
ABA Fun TOC
The triumphant duo chose techniques that were polar opposites in the two-day American Bass Pacific Region Fun Tournament of Champions at Lopez Lake on Saturday and Santa Margarita Lake on Sunday.
Gene Gray of Atascadero and partner Jay Short of Templeton fished deep at Lopez and extremely shallow at Santa Margarita Lake.
“Jared Lintner and Nick (Salvucci) were only three pounds behind us on day one so it made us fish hard at Margarita,” Gray said.
At Lopez, the victors compiled a 20.84-pound limit by fishing steep walls using jigs and drop-shotting in 20 to 40 feet of water.
“At Santa Margarita, the deepest we fished was five feet. Flipping and throwing frogs enabled us to finish with a 22.79-pound limit,” Gray said.
The longtime teammates had a tournament weight of 43.63 pounds. Their efforts paid $800 plus $100 gift certificates from Tackle Warehouse and Jim’s Pro Bass.
Seventeen American Bass Pacific Coast Region teams participated in the fun tournament. Atascadero’s Brad Shepherd and Clark Endres placed second with a two-day weight of 36.46 pounds. The third-place team of Lintner of Arroyo Grande and Salvucci had a 33.68-pound bag weight.
First-big fish honors went to Shepherd and Endres with an 8.10-pound fish. Stanley Beebe of San Luis Obispo and Andrew Levy of Grover Beach claimed second-big fish money with a 7.67-pound fish.
For the fifth time in the 14 weeks the reservoir has been open for fishing, more then 30 anglers turned out. Three trout were caught, all on worms to bring the season’s total harvest to 73 trout. Thirty-four anglers swelled the season’s total to 393. Jace Zavala caught fish for the fifth week in a row. His 19-inch fish caught July 29 hiked his total to 11. Pat Morris landed 15- and 18-inch trout July 25.
Santa Margarita Lake
Marina Manager Don Lopez says bass and catfish are the “hot” species.
Meal worms are producing crappie catches in Strawberry Flats. Bass and bluegill are being taken near the dam.
Nacimiento Lake and Lake San Antonio
Marina Manager Ken Hemer says, “Catfish are your best bet. Limits (10) or near limits are being caught in Clarks Canyon and the backs of Johnson and Cachuma Bays. But, we’re hearing of catches all over the lake. Fly lined mackerel and packaged dough balls are getting the best results.”
The bass bite has slowed but limits are still pretty easy. Topwater offerings are effective early. Jigs and deep-running crankbaits are producing later in the day. Anglers trolling for trout are paying out eight to nine colors of leadcore line with Dodger-crawler combos. Drifting worms around the dam at 40 to 60 feet also is producing. The crappie bite is fair. Mini jigs tipped with meal worms or crappie nibbles have been effective in The Narrows and Santa Cruz Bay.