A fish caught at dusk in a night bass tournament prompted expansive thoughts by a veteran angler who hadn’t been at Nacimiento Lake in more than two months.
The size of this particular fish kept growing as the night wore on during the San Luis Obispo County Bass Ambushers tournament on July 26.
Atascadero’s Damon Meeks picks up the story.
“Soon after I hooked the fish, it jumped out of the water and I estimated it was about a five-pounder,” he said. “It only took about four minutes to get the fish in the net. Then I’m thinking maybe it would go six pounds.
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“In the process of putting it in the live well, I had another surprise. The size of his mouth blew me away. Now seven to seven-and-a-half pounds sounded right.”
Meeks, 38, has been fishing Nacimiento since he was 8 years old. And he’s accustomed to catching bigger fish on other venues, but not at Nacimiento.
When the fish was weighed at about midnight, the scales read 8.57 pounds.
“It’s the biggest largemouth I’ve ever caught at Nacie,” Meeks said.
It also happened to be the lone big mouth harvested by the 10 anglers in event No. 7 on the Ambushers’ 2014 agenda.
Participants are awarded a two-tenths for each live fish. The actual weight of Meeks’ big fish was heavier than the actual weight of all other entries, sans bonus awards.
Meeks’ prize catch was caught on a Senko. He estimated that he caught about 30 fish but all but 10 or 11 were undersized.
Ambushers Top 10, Number of Fish, Weight, Winnings
1, Damon Meeks, Atascadero, 5, 15.12 pounds, $157; 2. Marc Hazuka, Atascadero, 5, 9.09 pounds, $94; 3. Bryan Vogt, Paso Robles, 5, 8.58 pounds; 4. Burt Lund, Atascadero, 5, 6.35 pounds, $63; 5. Michelle Duncan, Bakersfield, 5, 6.09 pounds; 6. Al Rush, Paso Robles, 5, 5.98 pounds; 7. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 5, 5.90 pounds; 8. Jim Keeney, Paso Robles, 3, 4.30 pounds; 9. Paul Bailey, Creston, 2, 3.16 pounds; 10. Jerry May, Paso Robles, 2, 2.69 pounds. 1st Big Fish, 8.57 pounds, Damon Meeks, $45.
A lingcod derby is scheduled to begin at 5:30 am Saturday out of the Sports Launch at Port San Luis. Proceeds of the event will go toward the annual Christmas event for kids when snow is trucked in from the Sierras.
The $20 entry fee includes a post tournament Tri-Tip lunch. The five heaviest lings will earn prizes with $150 going to the overall winner.
Port San Luis Boatyard
For the second straight week, more than 100 white seabass were caught by fishermen embarking from the Sports Launch. Last week’s count of 139 seabass followed the 187 caught July 14-20. The most productive day was Tuesday when 32 were landed.
But, it was a halibut caught by Nipomo’s Patrick Star on July 22 that claimed Whopper of the Week honors. Star’s halibut weighed 35 pounds, 8 ounces.
Anglers aboard 180 dispatched boats also harvested 139 lingcod, 20 halibut and 15 salmon. Full rockcod limits were posted daily last week.
Morro Bay Landing
Lompoc’s Jason Schaffer led all customers last week catching a 17-pound, 8-ounce lingcod for the biggest jackpot fish. Other big fish were caught by Su Ling, San Luis Obispo, 10-8 ling, Walter Wright, San Luis Obispo, 8-8 ling, and Don Studevant, Cambria, 8-0 ling.
Humpback whales continue to perform off the coast of Morro Bay and trips to see the show are scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday and Sunday. Tickets are $40.
Half-day trips are scheduled for Friday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $59. Saturday’s 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. three-quarter day trip is $69.
For reservations and more information, go to www.morrobaylanding.com or call 771-5500.
The catch by 132 anglers last week included 34 lingcod, 41 red rockcod, 839 assorted rock fish and one cabezon.
Charlie Barrios of San Luis Obispo is following in the huge footsteps of his father, Dan, who has been a prolific saltwater fisherman for decades. Charlie caught last week’s biggest jackpot fish, a 23-pound lingcod.
Other jackpot winners included: Michelle Smith, Patterson, 18-8 ling, Kelly Mejia, Exeter, 16-4 ling, Sal Rocha, Sr., Paso Robles, 14-2 ling, Roger York, San Luis Obispo,13-2 ling, Blake Gavin, Los Osos, Mike Katkov, Bakersfield, Eston Gonzales, Fresno, all 12-0 lings, Andrew Murrieta, Wasco, 11-0 ling, Tyler Concepcion, Covina, Wilson Hansard, all 10-0 lings, Casey Peterson, Sacramento, 9-0 ling, Dave Kears, Visalia, 5-0 red rockcod, and William McKinley, Springville, 5-0 ling.
For trip schedules, reservations go to www.patriotsportfishing.com or call 595-7200.
Visalia’s Jose Meza was the 12th qualifier for the year-end John Rowley Lingcod Tournament.
Meza’s 14-pound, 4-ounce lingcod was the heaviest ling caught by 413 passengers last week.
Other jackpot winners last week were: Bob Narona, Porterville, 11-7 ling, Howard Jorgensen, Orcutt, 11-6 ling, Ron Keck, Cambria, 11-1 ling, Tony Oliver, Virginia, 10-0 ling, Gary Graetz, Morro Bay, 9-1 ling, Larry Tuck, Shafter, 8-5 ling, Brian Moore, Oakland, 8-1 ling, James Vicors, Bakersfield, 7-4 ling, and Kathleen Holt, Paso Robles, 5-0 ling.
Long-range 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. trips to the San Simeon coastal area are scheduled both Friday and Sunday for $89. Shallow water trips are planned every Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at $69. Fishing is in 40 to 100 feet of water.
For reservations and more information, go to www.virgs.com or call 772-1222. Fares are half price for youngsters 15 and younger on half-day and three-quarter day trips.
For the second week in succession, no trout were caught last week. Twenty- seven anglers gave it a shot.
The reservoir has been open 68 days. Ninety-nine trout have been caught by a total of 377 anglers. No fish have been caught since July 12 when five were reeled in. Eleven open days have passed with nary a rainbow taken.
It has only been the past few years that the reservoir has attracted a lot more anglers and the fish count has improved dramatically.
The 2010-14 seasons have had only two weeks when the clientele was blanked. That’s in sharp contrast to 2009 and 2010 when fishermen were shutout 18 and 13 times, respectively.
Open days have ranged from 145 to 150. In 2009, just 28 trout were caught as 380 showed up. The 2010 fish count was 34 by 296 fishermen. Things began to change in 2011 when 130 trout were reeled in by 442 fishermen. A year later, the take was 124 fish by 681 anglers, and in 2013 the catch totaled 192 trout by 681 fishermen.
Once again catfish provided the best opportunity for success.
“Fishing cut mackerel or dough baits in the backs of almost any cove in the lake yielded fish up to six pounds,” marina manager Ken Hemer said.
“Drop-shot, split-shot and Texas rigging worked for both large and smallmouth bass. Topwater offerings produced on foggy or overcast mornings. A few trout were caught drifting nightcrawlers at a depth of 50 feet at the west end of the lake.”