TALK ABOUT GREAT BAIT\Sure, they're ugly, but bloodworms just can't be beat.
Call it the great angling experiment.
Use a supposedly can't-miss bait - in this case bloodworms - on an unsuspecting target - in this case barred perch - with all the wrong gear. Hooks that are too small. Line, rod and reel laughably heavy and pretentious. And a fisherman who hasn't been surf-casting since he was a starry-eyed little kid trying to imitate his perch-possessed father on the Oregon coast.
In 10 casts using this strict, precise, scientific process last week in Malibu, I caught 10 fish. Batted 1.000 I was blown away, and so were two veteran surf anglers who had been working the same waters off El Matador State Beach for 20 years.
"I've never seen anything catch perch that fast. No way," Dick Tarantino remarked after my first couple of tosses of the twin-hook setup produced two perch and a foot-long leopard shark.
"That's incredible," echoed his longtime angling partner, Ernest Scarcelli, also of Van Nuys.
Granted, the two were accustomed to casting much farther than I, banking on halibut and calico bass that swim past the breakers, where my line was tempting the perch that call the shallows home.
But these middle-age companions who constantly joke that they are father and son - "He's my father," one will say; "No, he's my father," the other will respond - eagerly agreed with my conclusion: Taking perch on bloodworms is like taking candy from a baby; there hasn't been such a sure thing since death and taxes.
"You made believers out of us," Scarcelli said.
In fact, the fishermen said bloodworms have changed their way of thinking. They will still use squid and grunion to lure bigger fish from greater distances on future outings, but they plan to bring lighter tackle, use bloodworms to snare small perch and hook up the live perch to attract their game.
All because of the bloodworm, an ugly marine creature that, when cut, actually oozes red matter that looks like human blood and has four pincers that grab you if you're not careful.
But once dangled from a hook, a bloodworm becomes a thing of beauty. Local striped-bass fishers know how lovely they can be, and East Coast anglers enamored with the creepy crawlers affectionately use them to entice everything from flounders to kingfish.
"I believe that the blood attracts the fish. It's the scent," said Joseph Boyd, co-owner of Gouldsboro Enterprises, an international distributor of bloodworms based in Gouldsboro, Maine.
Others call it a little bit of magic.
But despite their fish-attracting powers, bloodworms are not used that frequently.
"They are not that popular because they are so odd, they bite and they're expensive," said Ted James, owner of J & T Tackle in Simi Valley. A dozen bloodworms will cost you $5; nightcrawlers run about $2.
Consequently, bloodworms can be difficult to find. Tackle shops carry them as a customer service, much like fishing licenses, not as a money-maker.
"It draws people in. They buy some weights, hooks and line. But you're not going to get rich selling bloodworms," said Rick Graham, proprietor of Angel's Den in Camarillo, who noted bloodworms are more sensitive than other worms and can perish easily. "On a bad week, you can lose them all."
Still, Boyd, who exclaimed, "I have bloodworms in my veins," receives enough orders from California to carry his $500,000-a-year business when winter weather kills fishing on the Eastern seaboard, normally his biggest market.
Bloodworms enjoy a meager existence squirming around the coastal mud flats of New England and Canada until they are plucked from the muck by licensed harvesters during low tides. Packed in fine Canadian seaweed, newspaper and ice and shipped in plastic-foam containers, the worms, which average 4 to 7 inches but can grow to a foot or more, live anywhere from five days to two weeks.
Just long enough for perch-greedy anglers to get their hooks into them.
"Oh, yeah, I can't wait," said angler Tarantino, who hadn't even seen a bloodworm until last week. "I'm going to bring my light trout outfit and fish for surf perch next time. It's the best I've seen it."
Well, like they say, "When there's blood in the water . . ."
Bloodworms are sure-fire bait for barred perch, and striped bass weighing 2 to 8 pounds have been caught on them in recent weeks at Pyramid Lake.
Trouble is, they can be tough to find. Local bait and tackle shops that do carry them include Bob Sands Fishing Tackle in Van Nuys, Wylie's in Malibu, J & T Tackle in Simi Valley and Angler's Den in Camarillo.
Once you've got 'em, cut off sections of 1 to 1-1/2 inches for surf casting and 2 to 2-1/2 inches for striper fishing and cover the hook. Be careful of the head, which has four pinchers that can deliver an antlike bite.
Hooks: The average hook size for perch is 2 to 4; stripers hit on standard bait-holder hooks ranging from size 4 to 2-o.
Line:Eight- to 10-pound monofilament for perch; 10- to 12-pound for stripers.
Rod and reel: Standard surf tackle is best for both.
An 8-foot rod or longer with a large spinning reel is good for perch. The fish feed in the breakers, so shorter casts work better. Bring your trout outfit with 4- to 6-pound line for a thrill.
Most bait fishing for stripers is done from shore. A 6-1/2- to 8-1/2-foot surf rod with a medium-action spinning reel is fine, though for distance casts - a major advantage - some anglers use rods up to 15 feet long. Change your bait frequently because bloodworms, which are marine animals, live only about five minutes in fresh water.
PHOTO[ordinal indicator, masculine]CHART
Photo (1--color) Though they're hard to find and they bite, bloodworms seem to be the best at attracting perch. (2) Surf angler Ernest Scarcelli of Van Nuys tries casting a bloodworm setup for the first time last week in Malibu. Brett Pauly / Daily News Box TACKLE BOX (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 18, 1996|
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