Earning Their Striped Marlin

spectr17

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August 16, 2002

Pete Thomas, Los Angeles Tims

Earning Their Striped Marlin
 
Bill and Jim Kingsmill, father and son, consider themselves "just a couple of weekend warriors."

During the week they're hard at work, as an electrical contractor and a policeman, but by dawn just about every Saturday, they're on the water, miles from the mainland, scouring the horizon for diving birds, jumping tuna, breezing marlin and floating kelp paddies.

Weekend warriors?

That may be the elder Kingsmill's assessment. But there are few who take the sport as seriously as the San Clemente fishermen, dedicated members of the Dana Angling Club. And there are even fewer with the means and determination to spend their weekends hunting one of Southern California's most powerful and elusive game fish, the striped marlin.

The local marlin season is getting underway--during the last week a few have been caught and dozens have been seen--and the Kingsmills are wasting no time shifting their attention from tuna and yellowtail to the much more finicky billfish.

Fishing Saturday near San Clemente Island, aboard the Wild Bill, Jim Kingsmill baited and brought to leader, after a 30-minute fight, a striped marlin estimated at 140 pounds.

The catch earned Kingsmill--who was also fishing with Dave Herrera and Brian Schultz--the cherished first-marlin flag from his club. But it also helped signal the start of a season that many predict will be one of the most productive in years, based on developing favorable conditions.

"I think it's going to be a very good marlin year," Bill Kingsmill said. "Why? Because I'm already hearing of fish clear up to and above Santa Barbara Island, at Catalina, at San Clemente Island, off Mission Bay and farther south off Ensenada. The water is doing a lot of funny things, but things like years ago, which is good."

Basically, the water is warming up and teeming with bait fish and large predators.

Team Kingsmill, as the foursome refers to itself, began its morning last week with a steady stream of blind albacore strikes as it plied the offshore banks in a 40-foot boat named after its owner. Beneath patches of floating kelp, they found more albacore and huge schools of large and hungry yellowtail, with some coming over the rail at 25 pounds.

"We even caught a bluefin weighing about 18 pounds," Bill Kingsmill, 58, said.

Having had their fill of smaller game, they acted on a tip and motored closer to San Clemente Island. The move paid off. Jim Kingsmill, 36, spotted four or five marlin from a quarter-mile away through his binoculars, and the fishermen spent the next 30 minutes casting mackerel, trying to get a taker. Only Kingsmill succeeded, though, and the fight, for him, was fairly uneventful, featuring only a couple of jumps.

The Kingsmills considered gaffing the fish and hauling it to Avalon to be weighed as Santa Catalina Island's first marlin of the season. But tourists on the pier in recent years have jeered anglers for killing marlin and Team Kingsmill decided it did not need the recognition, anyway.

"I thought, 'Why subject ourselves to that?' " Bill Kingsmill said. "I have nothing against killing a fish if there's a reason to do it, and if this would have been the first one caught on the coast we probably would have brought it in. But we saw no reason to do so."

Team Kingsmill has plenty of reason to return to the fishing grounds Saturday: It's the weekend.

*

Kona Blues

Last weekend's 43rd Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, which featured four teams from Southern California, was one of the least productive in recent history because of unusually slack currents all but devoid of bait fish and, thus, the larger predators.

In all, only 16 blue marlin were caught and only one of those, a 482.5-pounder that propelled the Malindi Sea Fishing Club of Kenya to victory, met the 300-pound minimum weight required to be gaffed and brought in to be weighed on a points-per-pound basis. By comparison, a year earlier 56 blue marlin were caught, the largest a 617-pounder.

But that's not to say this year's tournament was not without its exciting moments.

On the second day, for instance, a Hilo Yacht Club member's straw hat blew off in the wind and, as one of the crew reached over to retrieve it, a "rather large brown shark, perhaps a tiger, came up, opened its mouth and just swallowed it," the team's Jim Patterson said. "We were fortunate, though, because the crewman had been thinking about jumping in moments earlier to cool off."

The most drama, however, was provided on the fourth and final day last Friday, when Sam Spinello, 67, of the Malibu Marlin Club battled a blue marlin for 4 1/2 hours before bringing it to leader, whereupon it was gaffed and hauled aboard. The length of the fight alone led both Spinello and those waiting on Kailua Pier to believe that the Southern California team might at least give the Kenya team's fish a run for its money.

When the Ho'okele pulled in, Spinello was greeted with hearty applause, but when the marlin was lassoed by the tail and hoisted onto the scale even the angler knew it didn't have a chance. In fact, it weighed only 269 pounds and thus was disqualified. Like the marlin he posed next to, a sheepish Spinello seemed to be shrinking by the minute.

Southern California wasn't entirely blanked, however. Marylin Stephens of the King Harbor Marlin Club was named the top Wahine Angler for tagging and releasing two blue marlin, which earned her team 300 "release points" apiece and an overall fifth-place finish among 22 teams.

"It just goes to show that you should never give up hope," she said, referring to her second marlin, which struck her lure five minutes before the lines-out call on the final day.

*

Biting in Baja

The third annual Bisbee's East Cape Offshore Tournament, held last week at Palmas de Cortez Resort in Los Barriles, was deemed a huge success by director Wayne Bisbee.

On the winning team, Sonrisas, were locals Cooke Bausman, Mike O'Dell and Fred Green. They earned $60,394, thanks largely to a 425-pound blue marlin caught on the first of three days of fishing.

It was the largest of only two billfish meeting the 300-pound minimum weight required to be killed and weighed. In all, 68 billfish were released. The next Bisbee's Offshore Circuit Tournament will be held in La Paz Sept. 11-14. The world famous Bisbee's Black and Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament is scheduled Oct. 15-19 in Cabo San Lucas. Details: http://www.bisbees.com or http://www.bajatournaments.com.

*

Bluefin Bonanza

Highly prized bluefin tuna have stolen the spotlight from albacore this week, providing tackle-busting thrills for anglers fishing in Mexico aboard San Diego overnight boats. The Gallilean, for example, on Wednesday encountered a school that bit for eight hours about 75 miles south of Fisherman's Landing. The boat returned with 110 bluefin averaging 20-30 pounds, with some much bigger.

Farther south, the bluefin are making an even bigger splash for those aboard the multiday boats.

In an interview this week with http://www.976tuna.com, Polaris Supreme skipper Tommy Rothery reported sporadic encounters with schools of fish averaging 90 pounds and weighing up to 140.

*

Pulling the Plants

Citing a shortage in manpower caused by the same budget constraints many state agencies are experiencing, the Department of Fish and Game has curtailed its trout-planting operations throughout much of the Eastern Sierra's Mono County.

Specifically affected are Bridgeport-area waters planted by Hot Creek Hatchery, a facility that annually raises more than 800,000 trout and spawns more than eight million eggs for use in other hatcheries in California and Nevada. The hatchery has three vacant positions and a state-mandated hiring freeze, during the summer spawn when the fish and their ponds require constant attention, has limited the staff's ability to meet its delivery schedule.

"Yes, people are concerned and understandably so," says Mike Haynie, hatchery supervisor for the region. "But the fact is, we're just running out of people."

Haynie added that volunteers are being sought to help with deliveries and that the DFG is scrambling to fill the vacant positions, at least temporarily, with employees from other regions. He also stressed that his staff will do everything it can to ensure the usual heavy plants, in all of the waters it stocks, in advance of the busy Labor Day holiday weekend.

*

September Madness

Aaron Martens of Castaic, fresh off a second-place finish in the Bassmasters Classic at Montgomery, Ala., is among 48 pro bass fishermen who will compete for a share of $800,000 being offered as part of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship Sept. 11-14 at Cross Lake near Shreveport, La.

Martens is seeded 16th and will fish against No. 33 Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., in a tournament with a bracket-style format similar to that used in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, is top-seeded. The winner will pocket $260,000.
 

docramo

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Have fished in the near past with Bill Kingsmill ,what an excellant fisherman. Learned alot from fishing with him.Outsanding marlin fisherman, especially with his normal crew on WILD BILL.They are the team to beat in most of the local marlin tournaments.
 


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