Fishing Report: Early catches hold up in lingcod contest

An observation made while fishing out of Port San Luis a year ago paid $3,000 to the winner of the 2011 seventh-annual Patriot Sportfishing’s Lingcod Contest.

This year’s competition had a different twist than usual. Instead of the big catches coming in the latter stages of the four-month event, three of the four heaviest lingcods were caught on the first weekend, Sept. 4. The third-biggest brought aboard the Pacific Horizon that day remained among the top contenders for top purses — $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 — for 118 days.

Bakersfield’s Brad Hudson, who landed an 18-pound, 12-ounce lingcod Sept. 4, was squeezed out of the money just nine days from the contest’s end.

Guy Leo adopted a style of fishing that he’d witnessed on a Patriot trip last year.

“I watched some college students using light rods and 11⁄2-ounce metal jigs cast way out there,” he said. “And they caught one ling after another. I was jigging off the ocean floor and doing OK, but I was intrigued by their style.

“This year I bought a bass rod and a low-profile reel for my trip to Patriot. I fish a lot out of Monterey and other Northern California landings. There the water is too deep to use light tackle.”

Leo made his big catch on the final drop of the day in 60 feet of water. The lingcod bit on a six-inch Berkley gulp bait on a 2-ounce head.

“It looked like an alligator to me,” Leo said.

A deckhand skillfully gaffed it through its gill. The $3,000 contest winner was advised his 26-pound, 4-ounce catch was the biggest ling they’d seen in several years at Pt. Purisma.

Leo’s previous best ling was a 10-pounder. He opted to release the fish (an early spawner) after a brief photo session.

Patriot Sportfishing anglers caught 2,955 lingcod during the 2011 season. Anglers who chose to release lings 12 pounds and over were awarded a free fishing pass. The other two money winners also released their catch.

Leo, a San Jose resident, said: “I kept track of the contest standings on the internet. You bet I’ll be back next year. Maybe my fish will weigh 28 pounds then.” He’s the first Northern Californian to place in the contest.

Visalia’s Kevin Rhea, the runner-up, caught his $2,000 prize winner Dec. 22. His ling dined on a Sluggo, “a skinny plastic that emulates an eel,” Rhea said. Rhea is no stranger to Patriot Sportfishing as he averages 20 trips a year, including some charters he arranges for fellow employees. Like Leo, he too connected with his prizewinner on the final drift of the day. They have something else in common — both played football at Cuesta College in the 1970s.

Rhea is an active bass fisherman, too. He bemoaned arriving at Nacimiento Lake too late to enter the Best Bass Tourney on Jan. 28. “My partner and I caught 12 pounds of fish that day and it would’ve paid second place dividends,” Rhea said. His team plans to enter the March 3 event at San Antonio.

Cerritos angler William Chong was apprehensive as to whether his 19-pound lingcod caught Sept. 4 on a swimbait would stand the test of time. Originally it was the second-place fish. But Rhea’s catch bumped him to third and a $1,000 check. The first-time Patriot fisherman said: “I’ll be back for the 2012 contest, probably on the first weekend.”

Enchilada project

The Central Coast Women for Fisheries, a nonprofit organization, is still taking orders for abalone enchiladas. This is the group’s annual fundraiser. Enchiladas will be made from top quality troll-caught albacore. To order, call Sharon at 674-4854 or Jackie at 772-8281.

Options include corn tortillas with green sauce or flour tortilla with red sauce. Trays of four enchiladas are $10. Orders may be picked up between 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday at the Morro Bay Community Center.

Virg’s Landing

Whale-watching trips are planned for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Cost is $39 for adults, $29 for those 15 and under. Weekday trips may be booked for groups of 10 or more. Call 772-1222. On most trips, a photographer will be on board.

Patriot Sportfishing

A crab and sanddab trip is planned from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday. The crew pulls crab pots, and passengers with fishing licenses share in the haul of dungeness crab. Fishing for sanddabsfollows. Cost is $60 for adults, $45 for children 12 and under. Call 595-7200 for reservations. Whale-watching trips from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday are priced at $35 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under.

Bass tournament activity

After one weekend of inactivity, tournament competition resumes at Lopez Lake where American Bass, Pacific Coast Region will stage event No. 4 on its schedule. The average turnout has been 30 teams with champions averaging $3,663 in winnings. Jason Letterman and Scott Mullins of Salinas top the standings with 319 points. Arroyo Grande’s Jared Lintner and San Miguel’s Nick Salvucci are second with 315 points. In third place with 313 points is the duo of Santa Maria’s Louis Fernandes and Nipomo’s Patrick Touey.

Santa Margarita Lake

On Saturday morning, Atascadero’s Dave Widger caught four bass on jigs with a trailer. His biggest was 6 pounds, 9 ounces, which he released. Richard Capper of Atascadero caught a 16-pound, 4-ounce catfish on a nightcrawler Sunday afternoon. It also was released.

Nacimiento Lake

Heritage Ranch resident Dave Rymal reports that Mel Moore caught a pair of 11⁄2-pound spotted bass on live nightcrawlers. Four spots to 2 pounds were caught by Dean Guzman drop shotting Robo worms. A 5-pound spot was taken Sunday by Virgil Ray. He also drop shotted Robo worms. Martin Rowley, a white bass enthusiast, scouted The Narrows over the weekend. The water was murky and there were no signs of white spawning activity happening soon.

Cachuma Lake

According to marina manager Ken Hemer, both large and smallmouth bass were caught all over the lake despite water temps in the mid 50s. Bottom bouncing techniques have been productive as well as crank and spinnerbaits. Trollers had trout success in Santa Cruz Bay, Howdy’s Point and in front of Cachuma Bay. Shore anglers at Harvey’s Bay had success using extra long leaders and PowerBait. A 400-pound trout plant from Calaveras Hatchery is scheduled for Feb. 17.