It’s 5am and I can already hear the chirping. White terns in front of the Phil Friedman Outdoors Studios in Surfside, California are picking at the ocean’s surface as the waves roll in. Yesterday morning, I was taking a walk along the beach and watching the hungry fowl diving down towards the water and picking up what appeared to be small perch, maybe an inch in length.
I was kicking myself thinking why I didn’t bring a rod and reel. It was a busy day at work. Pete Thomas and I were working on a story that made the Yahoo Homepage, I had some article deadlines, I was working on the Fishing with Phil schedule and of course I had the 2pm Surf fishing Radio Show to produce.
The first guest on the show was Captain Eddie Leland. Eddie has been having excellent success for fat barred perch off Huntington Beach and is an invaluable source and great friend to the Phil Friedman Outdoor Radio Show.
I mentioned on air to Eddie what I had seen in the morning and he responded by saying, “that’s yellowfin croaker.” Leland said that when he was running sportboats, Ted Hale would see those white birds picking baits off the surface of the sea and tell Leland to get over there. “At first, I thought Ted was nuts,” said Leland. “But when we got there, it was wide open yellowfin croaker.”
That was it. All I could think about was heading back down to the beach two hours before high tide with a chrome Krockodile in search of those white terns that would presumably lead me to gold; yellowfin croaker.
I could see the birds picking about 500 yards away; diving down hard and chirping with a sound that sounded like panic and joy all rolled into one sound. On my third cast, I was hooked up. Leland was right I thought to myself. I fought the fish for a minute or so and had a nice 2-pound yellowfin croaker. Another cast, another hook-up. This time an 18-inch halibut. The action increased with some short bites and more hook-ups.
I now had 7 yellowfin croaker, 2 rays and two halibut when another fish slammed my lure. This time it was a nicer halibut; maybe legal. As a wave gave me an assist and pushed the flatfish up on the beach, my hook pulled. I was rather nonchalant in approaching the fish when a wave came crashing in and washed the fish back to sea.
In the end, it was a great 9pm feast. Fresh fish tacos and great memories. There is only one problem. I hear that chirping again this morning. Should I keep working or should I go down to investigate. I know what Leland would do.
To be continued…
9am, Tuesday, May 7
I just had to get it another shot this morning but when I arrived at my spot; no birds. The water was warm however, and the surf gentle. On about cast number 30, I hooked what felt like a decent fish. It took some line and tried to move towards open sea. With the aid of an wave or two, a nice 23 1/2 inch halibut rolled up on the beach under a beautiful rainbow and just before the rain started to fall.
Great times and it looks like more fish tacos this evening. A grunion run starts this Thursday evening. The season is closed to taking the slithery fish but it could bring us more halibut. Besides halibut, there has also been some nice perch, some leopard sharks, some rays and Bob Osborn just landed a beautiful spotfin croaker.
Good luck and I hope you get out soon.
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