The fish started swimming away. Halibut have a unique swimming motion. They move forward by undulating their body up and down. It gives a distinctive feel on the rod. As the halibut swam, it pulled Manning right along. Being pulled on a surfboard by a big fish is just plain fun. Because of the fog, Manning had no idea where he was heading — alongside the beach or toward Hawaii. After about 20 minutes he realized that he was in the kelp beds, almost half a mile from the shore.
It’s obvious that those involved with implementing the Marine Life Protection Act never thought about the little guy. Trying to find out exactly where you can and can’t fish is difficult unless you have a GPS system. From a close look at maps and satellite pictures, it appears that our boundaries are from Diamond Street (at the Pacific Terrace Hotel) to Palomar Avenue in Bird Rock. No taking of any fish, not even fishing from the shore, will be allowed here.
After playing the fish — letting it run, then bringing it back in — Manning knew that the halibut was tiring. Then he got his first look at the biggest fish he had ever caught. It was huge, almost half the length of his surfboard, and when it came up underneath him, he had no idea how to get it into his net, let alone back to shore.
Halibut can easily shake loose a fish-trap hook. Manning had experience with halibut and knew to take his time, never letting the fish get his nose out of the water. He tried to scoop up the fish, but it kept getting away, gaining strength each time it saw the net. Finally, after half an hour, when both fish and fisherman were exhausted, a simple flick of Manning’s wrist and he had it. Manning held the wriggling fish over his head in the net, wondering what to do next.
After the fish settled down, Manning could think of only one way to get the fish and himself back to shore. He put the fish on his board, still in the net, lay down on top of it, and began the long paddle back. The fish squirmed and occasionally tried to escape, but Manning stayed on top of it, paddling when he could, until out of the fog the shore appeared. The fish was tired, not yet dead, but the fight had gone out of him. Manning was excited. He couldn’t wait to show the people on the beach his tremendous catch. It took another 30 minutes to get his feet on the sand. Fortunately, the surf was nonexistent, and it was easy for him to land the fish and get out of the ocean.
By then he’d been in the water almost an hour and a half. It was dark and not a soul was on the beach. He dragged the fish to the parking lot, which was empty. So he took the fish home and put it on ice. Then in the morning he brought it back to the Tourmaline parking lot to display the largest halibut anyone had ever seen caught at our beach, let alone from a surfboard. It weighed 21 pounds and was just over 38 inches long.
Because the new marine protected areas affect commercial sport fishermen and commercial lobster fishermen, Coastside Fishing Club along with United Anglers of Southern California and Robert C. Fletcher have filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court to fight the Marine Life Protection Act. Arguments concerning regulations affecting the North Central Coast region are scheduled to be heard this week; a hearing on South Coast regulations is not yet scheduled.
Earlier this month, the state Office of Administrative Law disapproved implementation of the new regulations in the south coast region, and the start date was pushed from October 1 to January 1, 2012, while problems are resolved. After that date, all fishermen — commercial, kayak, surfboard, whatever — who wish to fish near La Jolla will be crowded into a small section of ocean between the new preserve and the La Jolla Cove preserve. Because no baseline of fish counts was established, it is assumed that the intent is for these preserves to last forever, regardless of the health of the environment. Never again will Manning be able to walk from his home to his beach and enjoy a few hours of surfboard fishing.