As the water temperatures continue to rise, in and around Santa Monica Bay, fishermen are raving about how active the bite is.
Tuna, dorado, rockfish, barracuda, sand bass and the odd halibut are filling bags all over the local waters, to the delight of our local anglers.
While many were slightly anxious earlier in the year, these days the words “prime time” are on the tip of everyone’s tongues.
“Everything is biting and everyone is grinning,” said dedicated local fisherman Dave Kirby. “We haven’t had a bite like this in years.”
Kirby should know — he has been fishing the waters from the Channel Islands down to Mexico for over 30 years and is considered to be one of the most avid and knowledgeable fishermen in the Marina del Rey area. He has competed in high profile televised shark tournaments and given seminars on some of the many aspects of the sport.
Currently, he and fellow fisherman Brad Dela Cruz are organizing what they hope will be the premier shark tournament on the West Coast, the New Moon Mako Shark and Swordfish Tournament, scheduled for Saturday, September 27th. It will be a multi-harbor event staged from the docks of Marina del Rey and King Harbor in Redondo Beach.
The seed was planted last year when the duo quickly organized a makeshift event following a last-minute cancellation of another tourney. Since then, they have focused and gone forward in putting together a legitimate contest that they feel is one of the more unique, accessible and affordable productions in Southern California.
“We wanted to make it a tournament where people of all levels could join,” says Dela Cruz. “Lots of people feel they’re going to be priced out of a tournament because of high entry fees.”
Indeed entry fees can be a deal-breaker for some anglers, especially in a world where fuel prices at the marine pumps are sometimes over $5 per gallon. Dela Cruz says that in many tournaments, by the time a team pays the entry fees, bait and fuel, they’re ringing in at $4,000 or more.
For this reason, the New Moon Tournament boasts some of the lowest entry fees found in any major Southern California contest.
They decided on $400 per boat, with cash prizes being paid out for first, second and third place winners. They will also offer jackpot options for teams that want to risk a bit more to win a bit more.
If all goes according to plan, Kirby and Dela Cruz expect that with a jackpot buy-in and a first place fish worth $5,000, a team could possibly walk away with $17,000.
Besides the financials, there are a few other elements where the New Moon Tournament differentiates itself from other tournaments. While there are billfish (fish having a long, sharp bill or snout) contests in the area, none of them focus especially on swordfish, which the New Moon will do. Dela Cruz sees the addition of the swordfish division as particularly interesting.
“As the years go by, more and more people are starting to catch them on rod and reel,” Dela Cruz says. “Just this last weekend in San Diego, a father and son caught a 130-pounder and down in Oceanside on Saturday, a guy went out with his wife and two sisters and caught a 300-pounder.”
The tournament has instituted a 4-to-1 pound ratio at weigh-in for those who catch swordfish and there are additional prizes for the team that catches the heaviest swordfish.
Unlike some other contests, the New Moon has no limits on where you can wander to find fish. Some tournaments relegate anglers to certain territories or “grids,” but in this competition, it’s wide open — teams need only make the weigh-in before closing time.
They will also have the opportunity to fish all night, hence the name New Moon. Boats are permitted to leave the docks at 9 p.m. Friday and fish until the next day, provided they’re back before the 6:30 p.m. cutoff.
While this isn’t a catch-and-release tournament, Dela Cruz and Kirby are mindful of how a portion of the public perceives these types of events.
“We make sure that [with] any fish that we catch, two things happen,” Dela Cruz states. “We get as many specimens as possible for research [typically liver, tissue and spine] because researchers don’t usually have the ability to get these types of animals.
“The second thing we make sure of is that we always have a couple of homeless shelters lined up [that will be provided with fish to feed] the underprivileged.”
Dela Cruz estimates that from his catches alone, he has provided approximately 10,000 meals for the homeless.
Information about registering, www.newmoontournament.com/.