When Joe Gallagher from Rancho Palos Verdes was thinking of throwing a birthday party for his son Joey, age 33, there was no doubt that it would be centered on fishing. Fishing has played an immense role in both their lives so it seemed like a natural to head off on a Phil Friedman Outdoors Adventure to the Cortez Bank over the weekend on board the Toronado out of Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach.
On board were 25 close friends of the Gallagher’s, some who had never been fishing before. Skipper Ray Lagmay pointed the bow of the Toronado towards Catalina Island where copious amounts of market squid had taken up temporary residence to spawn. The crew of the Toronado lowered submersible and powerful lights below the surface of the crystal blue water to attract the mating mollusks to the surface. In the 1800’s commercial fisherman noticed that squid were drawn to the light emitted by lanterns on board their skiffs.
Within minutes, thousands of squid had blanketed the ocean’s surface transforming the deep blue sea into a sea of white. The crew on board started to net hundreds of squid at a time and began to fill the bait tanks. Besides man, the squid had attracted a myriad of other predators. Bat rays and sharks swam through and consumed the squid while sea lions and dolphin also enjoyed the calamari feast. “I have never seen anything like this before in my life,” said 14-year-old Blake Compton from Fullerton. “I can’t believe what I am seeing.”
Tanks full of live squid, the Toronado continued the 94 mile journey to Cortez Bank where the oceans floor rises up out of nowhere to about 30 feet in the shallowest area. Ten thousand years ago, the Cortez Bank was actually Cortez Island. It’s remote enough so that the fishing is usually very good.
At first light, anglers in the stern were yelling hook up as their trolled lures had been attacked by a marauding school of oceanic bonito. Several anglers were hooked up to the hard fighting game fish; many that weighed over 10 pounds.
With no sign of yellowtail or bluefin tuna in the area, the group opted to try for shallow water rockfish. It was tremendous. An 8-ounce torpedo sinker with one or two hooks baited with live squid was greeted by a big tug at the line on just about every single drop. Bob Osborn from Surfside caught a nice fat lingcod while other anglers caught a wide variety of colorful and great eating bottom dwellers. There were white fish to 6 pounds, vermillion rockfish, treefish, bocaccio, olive rockfish and lots more. The birthday boy Joey Gallagher caught an enormous sheepshead as everyone on board took their 10 fish limits.
The first time anglers were having a ball catching lots of fish and enjoying the flat calm seas produced by a Santa Ana condition. Although it was Gallagher’s birthday, he was more concerned that the people on board the trip were having a good time. He went from person to person and asked if there was anything he could do. He was especially concerned about all the new anglers he was introducing to the sport he loves so much. That made for a special atmosphere on board the Toronado where everyone was rooting for the other guy to do well and have fun.
“I had such a great time,” said Compton. “I just can’t wait to do it all again.” The Toronado is headed back out for the Cortez Bank on Friday evening.
You can reach Phil at Phil@PFORadio.com.
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