Casitas bass weights in at 19 1/2 pounds

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BIG BASS, STEELHEAD, BONEHEAD -- matthews column 10apr02

Casitas bass weights in at 19 1/2 pounds

Veteran Casitas Lake bass angler Randy Crabtree caught a 19 1/2-pound largemouth Tuesday this week while fishing on of his specially modified Castaic Soft Baits. The fish is thought to be the largest bass caught in the nation so far this year.

"When it first hit, I told Ed (Guyette, his fishing partner) it was a big fish, but it wrapped up almost instantly. I had to pull weeds up with her," said Crabtree. He was fishing with a big 12-inch bait that he added lead weight to and rattles so he could fish it in 20 to 30 feet of water on the outside edges of the weed beds around structure. The whole battle lasted about 20 minutes before the fish was in the boat and could be weighed at the marina scale and then down at the local market.

Crabtree didn't think the fish was as big as it was at first or he might have been a little more breathless over the catch.

"She was just in good shape. She hadn't been on a bed yet. Her tail wasn't all bloody and worn. I'm sure she was full of eggs -- she had a gut like me," laughed Crabtree.

Crabtree has probably landed over 150 bass topping 10 pounds from Casitas, and his biggest fish before the 19 1/2-pounder was a 16-2 he'd caught only two weeks ago. But he didn't want to talk about either of those fish, he wanted to talk about a fish he saw recently. The one that got away, sort of.

"A couple of days before I got my 16-pounder, I saw a monstrous fish. I think it was 10 pounds heavier than this fish I got. This thing was big that I seen," said Crabtree. The big bass -- the fish that would have weighed 29 1/2 pounds if it was honestly 10 pounds bigger than the bass he caught Tuesday -- came up behind his big Castaic Lure. "It made me stop dead in my tracks and I said to Ed, `Look at that fish.' It was a monstrous fish."

Bass approaching 20 pounds send dedicated trophy bass anglers swooning like teenage boys around Brittany Spears. They don't act rationally. It is every bass angler's dream to beat George Perry's world record of 22-pounds, four-ounces set way back in 1932 -- the catch coming up on it's 70th anniversary in June. Most anglers will even admit to you they dream about catching the record. Crabtree believes there's one that big in Casitas right now, and he will be fishing the lake at least two days a week trying to catch it.

STEELHEAD PLANTS: The Whitewater Trout Farm is planting rainbow trout that have come from steelhead stock in a lot of local waters this year. Steelhead are ocean-going rainbow trout that are known for their dogged battles and acrobatics on the end of a line. Apparently, some of those traits are genetic. Every place the "steelhead" have been planted, anglers rave about the fishes' fighting abilities.

"They're real hard fighting," said Paul Mintzer, a Riverside angler who caught them at Angler's Lake in Hemet. "They'll jump three or four feet out of the water and everything. I hooked one that was only two or three pounds and he took me all over the lake. I though I had a real big fish."
Maybe these fish will help anglers appreciate what wild trout are like in their natural environment. Maybe not.

REAL STEELHEAD: Remnant populations of real steelhead exist in a number of the small streams in Southern and Central California. Malibu Creek's fish have received a lot of publicity in recent years, but there are many others. Most only have a few fish that make it back to spawn each year.

I received a report this week of an angler who was fishing for surf perch at the mouth of a small creek near Oceano, a small town on the Central Coast, when he hooked a fish on a bloodworm that rocketed out of the water several times while tearing through the surf. A few minutes later he hooked another rocket. He had caught two wild steelhead that weighed in at seven and three pounds while fishing the surf. Not knowing how precious and rare they were, they ended up in the ice chest.

You have to wonder if it was the last surviving pair of steelhead trying to run up Arroyo Grande Creek. But don't blame the angler, blame 200 years of cattle over-grazing, dams without fish passages, and development that doesn't take into account the natural environment. If it wasn't a fisherman who got those steelhead, it would have been a bobcat somewhere upstream as they tried to cross a shallow, muddy riffle.
 
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