Cody Martin might be the only fisherman to have captured a large yellowtail by hand -- after the fish had been harassed and stunned by dolphins.
The scene played out Thursday about 100 yards beyond the Manhattan Beach Pier. A large pod of common dolphins was feeding on sardines and the cetaceans apparently took exception to the yellowtail's presence in their feeding area.
"The dolphins were using the yellowtail as a toy," Martin said.
The dolphins did not eat the 40-pound yellowtail, but left it injured and floundering on the surface. Martin and his dad, Eric, were watching from the end of the pier and could not identify the fish.
So Cody decided to paddle his blue surfboard out to investigate while Eric, facility director at the pier's Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, watched through binoculars.
Cody soon realized it was a yellowtail, and discovered that it was beyond saving.
"Then I thought, 'Dinner!' " he said. (Yellowtail, in the jack family, are highly prized as challenging game fish and as table fare.)
Using his right hand, Cody grabbed the yellowtail by the gills, and it swam beneath his board. So Cody reached down with his left hand and grabbed the fish by its other gill plate.
Ultimately, he was able to wrestle the fish onto his board and paddle to the pier, in a sitting position, with the fish in his lap.
"There was a really big crowd. It was hilarious," he said.
Eric Martin hoisted the yellowtail up with a rope and discovered that the body of the fish contained rake marks from the teeth of dolphins.
Over dinner -- the fillets were marinated in a teriyaki-pineapple sauce and barbecued -- Cody's grandfather recalled the good old days when yellowtail catches were made frequently in Santa Monica Bay.
That may be true, but there are no records of any of those catches being made by hand, with prior assistance of dolphins.
Now there's at least one.
-- Photo: Cody Martin poses with prized yellowtail catch made after the fish was injured by dolphins. Credit: Eric Martin