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Fishing Report - High gas prices affect fishermen
Pete Thomas, Outdoors
July 15, 2008
High fuel costs and a weak economy are keeping more anglers off party boats and more vessels at the dock or with loads too light to cover the cost of fuel.

"Many of the charter boats have holes in their summer calendars, and unless the fish really bite those holes will remain -- a very scary situation for the sport fleet," says Bob Fletcher, president of the Sporttfishing Assn. of California.
On the bright side for anglers who spend about $35 to $55 for half- or three-quarter-day tickets, crowds are sometimes sparse, even on weekends.

But the situation is grim and some boat operators may be forced out of business.

Consider the plight off San Diego, where the price of diesel is more than $5.00 a gallon.

This is albacore season -- normally the busiest months of the year -- and overnight trips require one-way runs of about 80 miles, on average, plus a lot of trolling at the fishing grounds. Skippers may burn 1,000-plus gallons during one trip.

In years past, they'd make exploratory runs with few passengers hoping to find mobile tuna schools and jump-start interest. Now fleets must maximize, like airlines, canceling multi-day voyages in favor of shorter, cheaper voyages; juggling schedules and trying to ensure adequate passenger loads.

It's tough because fishermen, too, are feeling the economic pinch. Limited-load overnight one-day trips on weekends cost an average of $225 per person. Weekday open-party trips cost $185. San Diego has historically relied largely on anglers from the Los Angeles area.

So, those anglers must figure in the price of gas for a round-trip commute to San Diego--perhaps $75 or more. That makes it a $300 voyage without figuring in landing fuel surcharges, food, drink, fish-cleaning and gratuity.

With fewer boats on the water, fast-swimming albacore become harder to locate, and tuna-crazed anglers, so accustomed to booking trips only after seeing high fish counts, are not finding high counts.

The situation is not quite as bleak for half- and three-quarter-day fleets, but budget-minded anglers are choosy and check Internet fish counts before boarding.

For example, the Enterprise out of Marina Sportfishing in Long Beach on Friday struck a barracuda bonanza during a morning half-day run, and got out with a decent passenger load in the afternoon.

In Santa Monica Bay, meanwhile, landing operators are still awaiting sand bass and barracuda, and reeling financially as they wait.

Says Rick Oefinger, owner of Marina del Rey Sportfishing(Marinadelreysportfishing.com: "July is looking pretty dismal so far. The New Del Mar did not run the last two nights on twilight due to insufficient angler interest. I have never seen a twilight trip not run in July -- ever."

Meanwhile, south of the border

The scenario is no different in Baja California Sur regions that rely so heavily on anglers from Southern California, although so are faring better than others.

Tracy Ehrenberg, owner of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, says business was down down only 8% last month and adds, "We still have a lot of faithful clients that come fishing."

By faithful she means wealthy.

Eric Brictson, owner of Gordo Banks Pangas near San Jose del Cabo, says charter numbers are down 30% compared to this time last year. "Air fare costs are not helping the situation, particularly from the West Coast," Brictson says. "Anglers flying from L.A. to Cabo are paying upwards of $600 and in some cases more than $800.

"Some people are flying to La Paz and then driving to Los Cabos, just to save a little on their plane fare."

La Paz seems perpetually troubled by sporadic airline schedules. Delta generally stops flying there from mid-Aug. to November. Alaska flies there most regularly from Los Angeles: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. AeroMexico also offers flights.

At the East Cape, which is most easily accessible via the Los Cabos airport, hotel business is down 20%-50%, depending whom you ask.


Southern Baja

Cabo San Lucas: More settled weather, between tropical disturbances, may soon result in better fishing. Striped marlin catches are spotty but stripers and blues are being encountered, and a 300-pound blue was weighed after it perished 10 minutes after being hooked. Dorado action is picking up, says Capt. George Landrum of Fly Hooker Sportfishing. Tuna catches have picked up a little.

San Jose del Cabo: Water has warmed and conditions are settling, and offshore game fish are slowly responding. Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas reports a slight increase in marlin activity and notes the hooking of several blue marlin, which is a positive sign. Most anglers are staying inshore, however, targeting snappers, pompano, roosterfish and jacks. Jim Fleming of Quincy, Calif., caught a 90-pound amberjack with a chrome iron lure near Iman Bank.

East Cape: Fishing has slowed considerably, but tuna are starting to show and a 52-pound dorado was caught by Jason Hummel of San Dimas aboard Alegria of the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort fleet. Hummel's group also caught and released six striped marlin.

La Paz: The remote Las Arenas area is serving up an array of species, including roosterfish, amberjacks, cabrilla, dorado, pargo and many more, reports Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International. Al Cambell of Santa Rosa caught a roosterfish estimated to weigh 75 pounds. Mitch Chavira caught a 50-pound amberjack. The La Paz-based fleet is catching mostly dorado.
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 6:38 AM by Nick Fong
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