45-pound white bass caught by local fisherman as sport fishing season kicks off – Orange County Register
It was the last 15 minutes of a nine-hour sport fishing boat trip on Monday March 7 when a fisherman aboard the Clemente cast his baited line with live sardine in an area three miles offshore of Camp Pendleton known as Box Canyon.
It didn’t take long for the bait to be caught and whatever was snagged was running the fishing line back and forth trying to get loose, tangling the lines of others aboard the boat.
“At first we thought it was a shark, the way it fought,” said Chase Moore, boat captain for Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching. “It took several times, then we guessed it was a game fish.”
After a 15-minute battle, the angler, Jared Donahoe of Fullerton, rocked the huge white bass.
The 45-pound fish – a rarely caught size – is the first known, locally caught bass of the sport fishing season, which opened on March 1.
Nobody really expected to catch a bass, Moore said. Typically, these fish are found at much shallower depths and often near squid nests in about 100 feet of water or outside kelp forests in 30 to 60 feet of water.
“We’re not targeting them at those depths,” Moore said, adding that he thought the fish must be following the squid, which landed them outside of their usual range.
The trip was a success for several of the fishermen on board – a good omen for the season, it seems.
The catch is also of interest to marine biologists at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute who are studying white bass and trying to ensure the species’ survival.
Young cultured bass are spawned at the institute and then donated to local fishing and conservation groups in Southern California to be raised in saltwater hatcheries. There are several in the county of Orange, including Dana Point Harbor, which has two hatchery enclosures at the Ocean Institute and one near the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol Station.
The program is a collaborative effort with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to see how white bass thrive in the wild.
When the fish are caught, anglers are asked to flip the fish heads over so they can be checked for a small metal implant in their cheek. Fish will have this implant if they are part of the Hubb-SeaWorld program and were raised in the hatchery. If they don’t, that’s an indication that they were born in the wild.
“It’s part of the science,” said Wayne Kotow, executive director of the California Coastal Conservation Association, a fisheries advocacy group that helps raise money for the Hubbs-SeaWorld program. “The tags indicate when they were released, how long they were there and where they went.”
The white bass seems to be doing well, he said. The program, one of the first in the country, shows that they can be raised, released and thrive in the wild.
“If you look at catch rates and what we see in the water, we’ve seen huge fish that have been there for a long time,” Kotow said. “We have fish caught in San Francisco and along the Baja coast. Recovering the heads is important, it is part of the efficiency of the hatchery program.
Many anglers may not be aware that if the heads are returned with information for the angler, Hubbs-SeawWorld will return the hearing stones prized by anglers to them. The bigger the head, the bigger the stone.
Donna Kalez, who operates Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, is also a board member of the California Coastal Conservation Association. “I want to encourage people when they catch a legal bass (over 28 inches) to save their heads and turn it into a landing like ours,” she said.
“When I have three, I call them,” she said.