SAN DIEGO — California’s first “Master Ocean Angler” is a 13-year-old Honor Roll student from San Diego.
Ethan Mayes, an eighth grader, caught his 50th ocean game fish species on Aug. 13; he reeled in a black-and-yellow rockfish at Coast Guard Pier in Monterey. The “Master Ocean Angler” honor is given to anyone who catches 50 different species of saltwater game fish; the species are tracked as part of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) California Fishing Passport program.
Mayes did not stop at no. 50 – he reeled in his 51st species, a cabezon, about an hour later (and in the same spot), according to DFW staff. Species no. 52, a yellowtail rockfish, was caught the following day. Then there was species catch no. 53, made a few days later. This one was a dolphinfish, measuring more than 50 inches and weighing 15 pounds. Mayes made the catch aboard a charter boat outside of Mission Bay in San Diego.
Next up for Mayes: Supreme Master Angler Award, a title no one has yet to achieve. The young angler can achieve this award through the Shellfish category.
“Catching at least 15 different qualifying inland and ocean shellfish would earn him the additional title of Shellfish Master and qualify him for Supreme Master Angler status,” DFW staff stated in an announcement of Mayes’ honor.
The 13-year-old angler, according to DFW, “was not born into a fishing family.”
“He began fishing – mostly unsuccessfully – as an eight-year-old when a family friend gave him a fishing rod and reel for Christmas,” DFW staff stated. “His passion for fishing grew and he began logging his catches in the California Fishing Passport program in 2014. His parents have learned to fish to accompany him on his outings and support his passion.”
Mayes caught 26 of his 53 species from public piers; his home pier is San Diego’s Shelter Island Pier. Fishing licenses aren’t required at public piers.
“His biggest catch so far is a 125-pound bluefin tuna he caught on an offshore trip with his father. Although saltwater fishing is his primary passion, he also enjoys sailing, tennis, surfing and snorkeling,” DFW staff stated. “Becoming California’s first Master Ocean Angler didn’t become a goal for Mayes until he caught his 25th species.”
DFW launched the California Fishing Passport program in January 2007. Those participating in the program received a booklet, where anglers can record the date, place and species of the caught game fish or shellfish. Each catch must be verified, either by photo of witness signature. An official stamping agent must then stamp the recorded catch.
There are 14 possible recognition awards one can earn through the passport program, starting with “My First Fish Award” and culminating with the Supreme Master Angler Award.
More information about the California Fishing Passport program is available online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Passport.