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Why fish don't bite

May 23, 2002

Corvina fishing took a turn for the worse Friday even though conditions were perfect everywhere Gerry and I went.

We stopped first at the mouth of the New River. Four boats had been anchored off the delta, the previous day for three hours, as I fished from the dike near Jack's Hole. The fish had to be at the delta. Why else would the boats be anchored for so long? The fish weren't there. We agreed the current was going the wrong way.

So we motored over to Jack's Hole and tried our luck. Not even a nibble. But my friend Felix caught a nice one from shore on a lure I had given him. We even fired up the sonar paper graph and found the old tree line that ran a mile north from Jack's Hole.

All the trees are still there, hidden a few feet under the surface, and offer perfect cover and habitat for large corvina. I swiftly serpentined Mogambo II through the invisible tree maze, tossing out yellow marking buoys like a destroyer lobbing depth charges. At the end of the pass a string of yellow markers made a straight line, showing where the ancient trees lined the old Vail 7 canal bank. Fishing back through a quarter-mile of trees didn't even yield a nibble.


"The water doesn't look right to me," I told Gerry.

"They've got to be feeding near the point at the end of Lack Road," I added as we picked up the marker buoys and headed for the spot.

We threw Rat-L-Traps, chartreuse grubs, swimbaits and even jigged chrome spoons for nothing.

"Not enough birds feeding here," Gerry said. "Maybe they're at Obsidian Butte."

So off we went on another wild goose chase. The water there was a perfect tobacco brown, the current was right, and the birds were feeding, but fishermen on the bank said nothing had been caught for hours. We fished the north side of the rock as well as the deep water at the west end of Obsidian Butte. The day was beautiful and a slight breeze made fishing comfortable. Different kinds of terns wheeled and called from overhead while a pair of beautiful black skimmers went skimming by but, still, not even a nibble.

"Must be the wrong moon phase," I muttered.

Bypassing the old Red Hill jetty, we pulled up at the mouth of the Alamo River only to be greeted by four bright pink flamingos. Most people don't realize two different species have made Imperial Valley their home for more than 50 years. In addition to the lesser flamingo we spotted at the delta, a small flock of the larger Chilean flamingo usually could be seen feeding on the mud flats west of Davis Road near the old dry ice plant. While the flamingos strutted their stuff, I took pictures of the bright pink birds and Gerry beat the water to a froth trying to catch a fish. I think he tried every fishing lure in his tackle box.

"We must be fishing on the wrong side of the scum line," I suggested to Gerry.

Firing up Mogambo II we headed for the "Basketball Court." This fishing spot, just a mile northwest of the Hog Pens, has a gigantic pole rising more than 70 feet in the air with a large square wood frame at the top which makes it look like a basketball backstop. The tall wooden pole is more than 50 years old and was used as a marker during World War II. As we fished and drifted by the tall pole I noted that the high water mark, the result of water dumped by Hurricane Doreen and Kathleen, was 2 feet higher than the current water level. We both agreed the current and drift were both going in the same direction — a bad sign.

Moving northwest a half mile, we fished the three eucalyptus trees still standing tall in the water a mile offshore. Their limbs were decorated with great blue heron nests and the herons perched nervously, watching to see if we got too close.

"We probably should have brought some live bait," Gerry said.

Drifting back toward Mullet Island we encountered a 24-foot circle of boiling water. Natural vents in the area release tons of carbon dioxide, the same fizzy stuff in soda pop.

"Carbon dioxide robs the water of oxygen," I told Gerry as we made our way to Mullet Island for nothing.

Our next stop was the old jetty coming out from Red Hill. Gerry fired a lure at the end of the rock jetty and promptly hooked up with something that came off a few seconds later.

"It fought like a Tilapia," he said.

That's when I managed to run the boat into one of the rocks from the old jetty and we called it quits and headed for the boat ramp at Red Hill.

It beats me why the fish didn't bite.

I found Gerry on the dike near Jack's Hole that afternoon, where I knew he would be. We both caught one 10-pounder each and went home feeling better.

>> Outdoor Tales columnist Al Kalin can be reached by e-mail at

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