The winner in Patriot Sportfishing’s fifth-annual lingcod contest nearly missed the whole show, although he’s been a twice-a-month customer for almost 20 years.
That is, he was until this year when bass fishing diverted his interest.
Craig Gong first tagged along with his grandfather when the Port San Luis business was known as Paradise Sportfishing.
This year, his time was well-spent in Sierra Bass Club tournaments, where he’s sixth in the standings and qualified for next month’s Tournament of Champions.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
That concentration, however, almost caused him to miss the three-month-long lingcod event.
The Selma resident didn’t compete in Patriot’s challenge until Nov. 5 — just 10 days before the end of the competition. On his first try, he caught a 12-pound, 2-ounce lingcod that didn’t even win the daily boat jackpot.
Gong returned to the Central Coast a week later — Nov. 12, which was just four days from the end competition closing for $6,000 in prize money.
When Gong and his buddy and fishing partner Alonzo Tamez boarded the Pacific Horizon a week ago today, it was going to require a lingcod exceeding 16 pounds, 9 ounces to move into the top three and money contention.
Gong’s winning trip began once the 25 passengers began fishing at Point Purisima, a haven for big lingcod.His reel was armed with 25-pound test line. His lure of choice was a 7-inch Kustom Kraft swimbait. The lifelike, meatier lure wiggled just off the ocean floor and it did its job. A big lingcod took the bait but didn’t run immediately. When the hookup occurred, Gong turned to his buddy and proclaimed, “This is the one. It’s what I came for!”
Tamez didn’t believe him. Later he confided to Gong that he was sure Gong was hooked on the bottom.It took Gong nearly five minutes of cranking to bring his prize up from the depths. It was the biggest fish he’s ever caught, a 21-pound, 9-ounce lingcod. It supplanted an 18-pound grouper as his biggest catch.
Gong catapulted into the lead, replacing Bakersfield’s Dennis Hyde atop the leaderboard. Hyde had held first place since Oct. 9 with a 17-10 ling.
Gong, 30, had to wait three more days before the $3,000 champion’s purse was secured. Patriot boats made six trips to Purisima the last three days of the season. Although 97 lingcod were caught, the biggest one weighed only 14-1.
Gong released the fish after weighing and photos. This season, Patriot awarded free trip passes to 103 anglers who released lingcod alive that weighed more than10 pounds.
Hyde settled for second place and $2,000, and Sean Grauel of San Luis Obispo finished third and won $1,000. Grauel caught a 16-12 ling on Nov. 3.
Contest leaders their catch, weight, date and days on top were: Angel Ibarra, Santa Maria ,14-7, Aug.20, 20 days; Paul Hendricks, Torrance, 15-7, Sept. 10, 3 days; Leo Davis, Santa Maria, 16-9, Sept. 13, 25 days; Dennis Hyde, Bakersfield, 17-10, Oct. 9, 33 days; Craig Gong, Selma, 21-9, Nov. 12, 4 days.
The actual presentation of checks will be later this month after Patriot manager Roger York returns from a 5-day fishing trip out of San Diego.
Asked what he intends to do with the $3,000, Gong replied, “I hear I’m tiling our two bathrooms.”
Tickets for the annual Morro Bay Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 5 are on sale for $25 per person. Whale Watching trips begin Dec. 26.
On the final two-day trip of the season, jackpots were won by Eric Plumber, Cambria, 12-pound lingcod, and Han Ahn, Los Angeles, 8-pound red rockcod. Last week 269 passengers caught 23 lingcod, 849 red rockcod, 1,639 assorted rockfish, 136 coppers, 2 ocean whitefish, 2 rock sole, 41 bocaccio and 1 barracuda.
Other jackpot winners were: Sean Bernardino, Morro Bay, 10-pound lingcod, Tom Lewis, Atascadero, 10-pound barracuda, Don Russell, Morro Bay, 8-pound lingcod, Gene Onan, (cq) Bakersfield, 7-pound red rockcod, Zach Hanes, Bakersfield, 7-pound ocean whitefish, and Brian Howard, Bakersfield, 6-pound red rockcod. Central Coast Sportfishing
A pair of 8-pound lingcod highlighted the catch on the final three trips of the season aboard the Rita G. Sebastian Orlando of Paso Robles and Jim Webb of Cambria both won jackpots with 8-pound lings while Jeff Brasuell, Exeter, won with a 6-pound red rockcod.
Fifty-seven passengers caught 4 lingcod, 357 red rockcod, 213 assorted rockfish, 25 sanddabs, 1 cabezon, 1 rock sole, and 1 ocean whitefish. Patriot Sportfishing
Besides Gong’s award winning 21-9 lingcod, other jackpot winners were: Fred Kenniston, Bakersfield, 14-8 ling, Joe Ruiz, Nipomo, 14-1 ling, James Reed, Bakersfield, 12-10 ling, Rodney Sousa, Lompoc, 12-2 cabezon, Jesse Guana, Santa Maria, Phillip Teutine, Bakersfield, both 9-pound lingcod, Leo Davis, Santa Maria, 8-pound ling, and Josh Camp, Porterville 2-8 red rockcod.
Last week’s catch by 199 patrons included: 123 lingcod, 96 red rockcod, 615 assorted rockfish, 1,395 bolina, 53 cabezon, 1 halibut, 1 rainbow perch.
Port San Luis Boatyard
Delise Rietkerk of Arroyo Grande earned five free boat launches by catching the Whopper of the Week, a 24-pound lingcod, on Sunday.
One hundred boats were launched during the final week of the rockcod fishing season. Thirty-six lings and seven halibut topped the catch. Lopez Lake
There will be a 2010 Trout Derby, a reliable source reports. Trout for the derby will be purchased by the Friends of Lopez Lake organization.
Fishing by the dam Nov. 11, Santa Maria’s Brandon Woo caught a 1-pound redear on a crankbait. W.O.N. Bass Golden Valley
Roger Haas of Morro Bay and partner Jerry Williams of Porterville placed second Saturday in the region’s second tournament at Millerton Lake. The pair had a 10.06-pound limit for a $995 payday.
Darrin Bishop of Paso Robles and his dad, Del Bishop of Templeton, placed seventh with an 8.48- pound limit while Todd Livermore of San Luis Obispo and Tray Williams of Porterville finished 10th in a field of 32 teams with a 6.64-pound limit. Santa Margarita Lake
Dave Jones of San Luis Obispo and Colin Hutchison of Santa Margarita caught 12-6 and 12-5 catfish, respectively, on mackerel bait. Harvey Mallory, Santa Margarita used nightcrawlers to entice a 13-pound catfish. Lake San Antonio
Stripers in the 10- to 15-pound range are being caught near the marina on offerings of net dipped live shad, according to marina staffer Robert Secrease. He personally caught a 10-pound catfish last week on live shad. The same bait is working for largemouth bass. Nacimiento Lake
New docks are not expected to be ready until May, a marina spokesperson said Tuesday. An October storm damaged the existing docks. What remains of the docks are to be removed starting in December. No fuel is available at the lake, and the marina store is closed. Cachuma Lake
The marina has been closed since the first week in October. Reached by phone Tuesday, marina operator Craig Lingham said he is still trying to obtain insurance at a time of year when income is slim. Whale Rock
Gary Collier, who caught more trout than anyone else at the reservoir this year, reeled in two of the four rainbows harvested in the final week of the fishing season.
Collier bagged a pair of 14-inch trout last week, bringing his total for the year to nine.
Last week’s turnout of 44 anglers was the largest of the year. Zane Dodd used a hot rod lure to land a 14 1/2-inch trout while Jerry Harkins caught a12-inch fish on a lure. In 149 open days 380 anglers caught 28 trout.