• Published:October 23, 2014
  • Share This Article:

When angler Anthony Hsieh transferred the 130-pound outfit from the rail to the chair, he immediately knew what was hooked on the other end. This was no striped marlin. This was the mythical blue that So Cal anglers had been reporting throughout one of the most incredible California seasons on record.


By the end of the day on October 14, Hsieh, Capt. Steve Lassley and the crew of the Bad Company XL were back on dry land, standing at the famed Avalon pier on Catalina Island, posing proudly next to a 462-pound blue marlin.

The fish was by many accounts the first blue landed in Southern California since a 692-pounder hit the scales at Newport Beach way back in 1931. The blue is also quite possibly the first-ever caught on a rod and reel weighed at Catalina Island, the birthplace of SoCal big-game fishing.

Fueled by unusually warm seas, Southern California’s 2014 offshore season had already reached legendary status. Reports filtered in all summer of wahoo and other unusual subtropical visitors usually caught hundreds of miles to the south. There had even been reports of other blue marlin broken off by crews fishing much lighter gear. And even into mid-October, the Southern California Bight still offered conditions hospitable enough for one of the rarest of SoCal catches.

IN GOOD COMPANY

The Bad Company XL came to California earlier this year fresh and ready to fish. Hsieh had just given the 1989 boat a complete retrofit in Florida, which included a new interior, twin MAN diesels and a Seakeeper gyro. But it was fate -- and Hurricane Odile -- that had kept the Bad Company XL in California this late in the season. Hsieh and Lassley would usually be on their way to fish the Bisbee’s Black and Blue Tournament this time of year.

“The only reason the boat stayed up here was because of the hurricane, otherwise it would've been down in Cabo already,” says Hsieh. “We decided to stay up here, and, lucky us!"

The Bad Company was also well outfitted for landing one of SoCal’s elusive blue marlin. Lassley had one thing on his mind when he put out the 130-pound gear. He was prepared to seal the deal, unlike some other crews that had hooked blues on 30- and 50-pound outfits only to lose the fish after an extended battle. First, however, he would have to find one.

READING THE WATER

After a number of blue marlin sightings, Hsieh and Lassley decided to put a two-day trip together to specifically target blues and swordfish. They would be joined by Ron Ashimine, Pete Groesbeck and long-time mate Eliseo Herrera. Lassley checked FishTrack and other services regularly leading up to the trip to zero in on the perfect spot.

“For the blue marlin, we were looking for where the blue water was pooled up,” says Lassley. He would eventually find the sweet spot halfway between Catalina and San Clemente Island. “We were about a half-mile from a one-half-degree temperature break, in 74.2-degree water. That’s hot for California but cool for blue marlin fishing.”

“Water from 73 to 75 degrees is very cool for blues, and generally when you have cool waters only the bigger females are around -- the rat males generally seek warmer waters,” adds Hsieh.

Lassley also looked for pockets of warmer water away from the strongest rips. “We were trying to find where the hot water was pooled up and the current wasn’t very strong,” he says.



GAME TIME

Once they were in the neighborhood, the Bad Company team looked for areas of activity, and as soon as they found a mass of tuna puddling just outside a break they knew they were in business.  Lassley was pulling a blue Steve Elkins lure, the very same lure that caught the biggest moneymaker in Gold Cup history in 1992.

“We were in straight blue-marlin mode, and we were trolling pretty fast,” says Lassley. “This boat seems to get bit better going fast.”

“Capt. Steve saw an area that was looking good so we boxed it,” says Hsieh. “We had a good corner bite and she was on.”

Even as the fish hit and the reel began to go off, Lassley didn’t know what exactly was pulling line, but it was no slouch.

“Honestly I stood there staring at the rod and reel screaming with San Clemente Island in the back ground....I just couldn't make it compute, it was surreal,” he says.

It wasn’t until Hiseh grabbed the rod that the true excitement of the catch hit everybody.

“When I was transferring the rod from gunwale to chair is when I realized it was a blue,” Hsieh says. ”That velocity and pull can just be one species. Then after I was in the chair and the fish jumped that first time we knew for sure.”

Properly armed, the crew subdued the fish in less than 20 minutes. But the novelty of the fight wasn’t lost on Hsieh.

“To have a blue marlin put on a acrobatic show with San Clemente in the background was just surreal,” he says.

Lassley chose to keep the marlin only because of the historical nature of the catch, noting that he still releases 300 to 400 marlin a year. That day alone, the crew would go on to release striped marlin and bait a swordfish, which brought them insanely close to an unprecedented Southern California billfish slam. But by the end of the day, the real prize was headed to Catalina Island.
"To have a blue marlin put on a acrobatic show with San Clemente in the background was just surreal."
--Anthony Hsieh

BACK TO CATALINA


The Bad Company XL pulled into Avalon that afternoon to much fanfare. The town’s cannon boomed, and champagne awaited the crew. The catch was even notable enough to bring Rosie Cadman out of retirement and down to the scales.

“Rosie came and weighed the fish for us,” Hsieh said. “That was pretty cool. Best was to share the day with the boys, Steve, Pete, Ron and Elisio.”

Rosie, 89, has lived on Catalina since 1946 and ran both a restaurant and the only official scale at the Green Pier for decades. She’s become a friend and a living legend to the island’s recreational and commercial fishermen over the years as she’s hoisted thousands of fish. But this was the first blue marlin she’d ever weighed in Avalon.

“It was pretty awesome for me,” says Lassley. “And it was super cool to see Rosie come out.”

“Catalina is just such a special historic place,” Hsieh adds. “It's the birthplace of California big-game fishing. The Green Pier had never weighed a blue marlin caught on rod and reel, even in the time of Zane Grey.”

MORE FISHING NEWS
FISHTRACK HOME PAGE