Friday the 13th and the local garuppppaas

23 Apr

Before you freak out, yes it is illegal to hunt grouper in California (and yes wiseacre, they do have grouper here.  There are small but healthy colonies of broomtail grouper that are alive and well in isolated pockets.  BTW black sea bass (giant sea bass) are also protected and are not in the grouper family).  We jokingly call calico bass or “kelp bass” groupers when they get big, hence the spanish slang “garuppaaaass”.  Enough said!

It’s thursday the 12th, friday the 13th looms around the corner.  I’ve been itching to get out lately but the wind/vis has turned me away almost everytime. I called up my buddy John last minute last night and told him I had half a day free and wanted to take my boat c-level out to check out the kelp beds in search of some white seabass.

My alarm clock went off at 4:00 am and I rolled over to quite it before it woke my wife up.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and checked the weather conditions on the computer, the first thing I saw when I got up was this from NOAA:


Big swell with a short period means a big ass kicking on a small boat.  However, because I am known to be stupid I jumped in the truck and went anyways, it’s only Friday the 13th afterall.

Unfortunately Friday the 13th did not let me down.  We had problems from the get go, my boat has had a fuel feed problem the last few times and after changing out all the hoses and filters I thought maybe I had it but it still leaned out, I’m guessing the fuel pump is shot.  We could barely get the boat out on plane before it would die out.  With the approaching storm I told John we’d better stay local in case the motor died out. He pumped the bulb while I got us up on plane and we hit our secret reef.

Don’t even ask us where our secret reef lies, because we don’t really know. You kind of have to go North, then South, then 90 degrees East and then 90 degrees West and you’ll be right on top of it. You will know when you have arrived because the secret reef is marked by a gigantic space ship that crashed there years ago, it is protected by the sleestaks from the Land of the Lost. At any rate the vis there generally sucks ass, but this time the Sleestaks cleared the water and we had almost top to bottom visibility. 

I’ve never seen legal white seabass here (white seabass have to be 28″ long) but I’ve seen shorts before so I figured I’d leave my bigger teak gun on the boat and pick up my trusty rabitech 120 carbon with the flopper. In short time we were both kicking towards the space ship.

I was amazed at the life out today, the last few times I looked for seabass I didn’t even see any bait hardly. Here the reef was full of life, I saw big opaleye cruising through the kelp, big pile surfperch checked us out, doe eyed kelp rockfish looked at us with unblinking dopey eyes. All kinds of bait swam nervously through, sardines, mackeral and big jacksmelt, it was epic. I saw BIG sheephead, sargo, and then the quarry I was looking for, big fat kelp bass. 

Water temp was in the upper 50’s I guess, I forgot to check but I was warm the whole dive.  This was another pleasant fact which was much different from the last week when I froze my ass off in 51 degree water looking for white seabass.  The visibility here was easily 25 feet and I silently slipped through the kelp until I came across some big kelp bass. As one of them drifted away I aimed my gun and bang, sent the shaft hurling through the fish. Unfortunately the shot went a bit high because I’m used to shooting my midhandle spearguns now. The shot went high and the fish started kicking so I dropped down and grabbed it before it got away. I dispatched the fish and threw it on my belt, it was a solid fish about 4-5 pounds. I breathed up and kicked up to the next area and made my drop, again I saw a few kelp bass milling about and this time I purposely sent the shot lower.  Bang, the shot was true and the fish didn’t even twitch as it fell away.  Stone shot!

We worked that reef for probably 2 hours or so, I had forgotten how much fun reef hunting was. All those hours that we’ve been hunting seabass for that hopefully glimpse went pale in comparision over the life teeming in the reefs. I dropped into a silty kelp room and it looked absolutely epic. Kelp bass were all over the place, bait streaming on the top, all kinds of perch everywhere nervously moving about. I thought for sure I might see a nice white seabass cruise through but never saw a glimpse. I really was enjoying myself but as I hit the surface and waves began to break on me and the wind began it’s howl of protest I knew it was time to go back.

I kicked back to the boat with 4 kelp bass in tow, I had only clicked that trigger 4 times and had lucked out on all my shots. It would have been easy for us to limit out on nice fish today but it’s also nice to return to the reef next time and know there are a lot of fish to be had. When John and I sat on the deck we excitedly exchanged stories about the fish we had seen, it was like two teen agers raving about the new twilight movie or something. We both said how we had forgotten how fun spearfishing can be, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves during white seabass season and when I’m freezing my ass off in dirty water I forget how much fun it really is. Trips like this keep me in check.

We fired up the boat just in time, swells were increasing in size, the wind continued to grow and rain kept falling all about. We made it back safe to harbor and called it a day. At home lightning and thunder storms raged around my house and I had to wait a few hours before I could filet my fish out.

Our fish weren’t giants but they would make a nice dinner.  Three of my bass were in the 4-5 pound range on the digital scale. John also some nice ones although he was mad when I said “hey bro that little one you got there is cute!” lol. “Cute, where’s the respect?” he jokingly protested.  Nothing like a little ribbing to keep buddies in check!


Kelp bass are like Forrest Gump shrimp, almost any recipe is delicious.  Fried, baked, steamed, you can’t really go wrong.  I use a lot of parts of the fish, one of my favorites is to take the kelp bass collars and soak them in italian salad dressing for a day or so. I sprinkle lawrys seasoned salt on them and then grill them, they are absolutely fantastic and once you try them you will never throw away fish collars. BTW I use the giant stainless steel sheers in the picture to cut off fish fins, I busted so many regular poultry scissors that I finally found a heavy duty one at the asian market, I hate the taste of fish slime/fins on my fish when I grill them so I always cut them off.  I used some of the fish as fish tacos and froze the rest.  As I type this today I’m at home sick, tonight I’m going to try a orange/ginger fish recipe that should be similar to the orange glaze at panda express.

Fileted and Ready to go
Teriyaki Whole Fried Kelp Bass
Kelp Bass Fish Tacos with white sauce

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