BY BOB SEMERAU
MARINA DEL REY — Marina Del Rey Anglers fishing club joined forces with the Coastal Conservation Association of California last weekend to put on the 47th annual Marina Del Rey Anglers Halibut Derby.
A few years back the group decided to relieve the fishing pressure from local Santa Monica Bay halibut by opening up qualifying fish to include yellowtail and white seabass.
For one team fishing the 2022 Halibut Derby, it’s a darn good thing the rule change included white seabass because for the Team All-In, sizable halibut were a no-show.
“We fished for halibut using bounce ball rigs for almost 6 hours the first day with nothing to show for it,” reported team member, Jeff Compton. The team, made of seasoned local anglers Paul Thompson, Stephen Bohrer and Jeff Compton, changed tactics, moving Compton’s 21-foot Seaswirl Striper to nearby squid beds south of Marina Del Rey.
Once on the hook at the new location, lively ‘dines were dropped down while squid rigs were being tied up. In moments, the rod tended by Thompson went off and line began to tear from the reel, the angler shouting, “I’ve only got a 15-pound halibut rig on this rod!”
Quick thinking by the team got the boat moving as the anchor was pulled and line ran off Thompson’s Lexa 400 reel to a dangerously low condition. Chasing down the surprise seabass for the next 25 minutes brought the fish close enough for Bohrer to get in a perfect gaff.
As the day-one 3:00 p.m. weigh-in cut off approached the team kicked it into gear, rushing to the scales at Burton Chase Park. Weighmaster John Szymura had certified the scales before the event and the fish topped the day-one leaderboard at 52.5 pounds.
Angler John Dickman had held top honors to that point with a 36.125-pound halibut, now slipping into second place position. Team All-In waited the final minutes for weigh-in to close. Before the minutes ticked on to 3:00 p.m. another boat arrived with a huge fish of their own.
Legendary fishing/conservation community member and MDRA officer Bob Godfrey fished the event with partner Dan Kanan. The pair brought up a WSB marked at 51.3 pounds on the certified scale, landed by Kanan. Again, Dickman’s big ‘but slid down a notch, landing at third place for day-one of the competition.
Seeing so many massive white seabass in the competition and throughout the Southern California coastal waters is especially rewarding for the Marina Del Rey Anglers fishing club. The club helped pioneer the white seabass grow out pens program years ago, currently managed by club member Keith Moret.
“This program,” according to the MDR Anglers website, “represents a unique partnership between California state resource agencies, public utility companies, volunteer user groups and the scientific community. By teaming up with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and the United Anglers of Southern California we have released approximately 100,000 strong and healthy fish into the Santa Monica Bay.”
Day-two saw Team All-in make a beeline to the squid beds, but word had gotten around and the place was like a mall parking lot on Black Friday, reported Compton.
“We backed off and put up a chum line,” says Compton. “Fishing throughout the day, with nothing to show for it I set up a rig with a big, live mackerel under a float. The current and wind ran perfectly so I was able to send the mackerel down the current line. In a few moments, just 50 feet out, the float disappeared.”
As Compton grabbed the rod and set the hook Team All-in jumped into action, clearing line and pulling anchor. Fishing aboard Thompson’s 38-foot Mediterranean cruiser, All-In, the race was on to keep pace with the fish as Compton regained line by inches.
“The Shimano Torium 20 reel had been loaded with 65-pound braid and 30-pound fluorocarbon topshot, so I had the right equipment. But I was sweating a bit about any nicks of kinks that could cause trouble,” confided Compton.
Stephen Bohrer was once again ready with the gaff when, 30 minutes later, the fish came along the transom, ready to give up the ghost. Bigger than the tanker landed by the team the day prior, this fish was a handful getting into the boat.
Arriving at weigh-in the team saw their fish from day-one was still in the running. Three volunteers, John Szymura from MDRA, along with Chris Arechaederra and Wayne Kotow from CCA, manned the scales and lent a hand getting the huge WSB checked in. The scale was reset after a brief mishap with the scaffold supporting the scale, the official weight showing the tanker at 60.4 pounds.
Several halibut and WSB came in afterward but nothing close to this beast. When the dust settled, and the tallying was done Team All-In nailed down the top two spots in the contest and set the record for one of the heaviest fish taken in the history of the MDRA Halibut Derby competition.
Results of the 2022 MDRA Halibut Derby showed:
1st Place Jeff Compton 60.4-pound WSB ………….. 3-day tuna trip aboard Tomahawk.
2nd Place Paul Thompson 52.5-pound WSB………… 2 ½-day trip aboard Aztec
3rd Place Dan Kanan 51.3-pound WSB………………1 ½-day trip aboard Freedom
4th Place Ed Zamora 46.6-pound WSB
5th Place John Dickman 36.125-pound halibut
MDRA Marina Del Rey Anglers fishing club (424)229-1890 http://www.mdranglers.com/
CCA Coastal Conservation Association of California https://ccacalifornia.org/