Furled Flags? Forget Fishing!

Even the Seagull doesn’t like furled flags…

Having fished for most of the past 60 years, I know that fishermen are a superstitious lot, but I am not one of them since I don’t believe that fishing has anything to do with luck.  So, I don’t go through any particular ritual before I fish or when I am fishing.  I also do not believe in fishing “spots” in any body of water.   If the fish are out there, they can and will swim where ever they want.  However, when the flags are furled on the Ventura Pier, you may as well go home. 

Today was such a day and I almost think that all the other regulars on the pier agree.  Usually when I arrive there around 7 AM, there are already a dozen or so anglers ahead of me.  Today, there was only one.  And all the American flags were furled like the one in the picture above.

The reason I think that furled flags affect fishing on the pier has nothing to do with luck.  It has more to do with which side of the pier you have to fish on.  If the flags are furled, that means that the wind is blowing to the west and on the west side of a pier is bay, a very large one, but a bay nonetheless.  If the wind is blowing to the east, there is mostly open water as far as the eye can see.  This does not affect my Wishing Pole since that is baited, weighted, and on the bottom of the ocean, however, it can play havoc with my drift line.  Fishing into the wind is always challenging using this method since your line is blown back to the pier when facing east, since you constantly have to check it to make sure it doesn’t drift into the pilings.  So, I usually end up fishing on the bay side of the pier. 

I am not implying that fish are claustrophobic, maybe it just appears that way. Fish want to be free to roam, the larger the body of water the better. In this case, they may be just avoiding human contact. There is a large children’s playground on the west side of the pier which always attracts crowds of families and swimmers. Surfer’s Point, a well known and well used surfing location is also on the west side.

Whether my observation here is scientific, realistic, or just so much Kentucky windage, I don’t know but despite the weather conditions today, I stayed and fished hoping the wind would turn, which it did.  While facing the bay side of the pier, I caught one Mackerel.  When facing the ocean side of the pier, I caught three Mackerel.  It was a slow day, but I think this was only due to the way the flags were furled for the first few hours.

Special days…

7 of the 14 Mackerel caught today

From FB posting of August 14, 2019

Today was a very special day of fishing on the Ventura Pier. It was NOT because I caught 14 Mackerel (7 are pictured, the others went to other fishermen for bait or back to the ocean). It was NOT because a huge fish hit my heavy pole so hard that it snapped my 40-pound test leader like it was so much thread (I did play it for about 30 seconds). And it was NOT because of one of the fishermen who I supplied with bait and two very nice Perch insisted that I take a filet knife in repayment even though I showed him that I already had two on my person. No, it was special for a different reason.

A man and his grandson were watching me catch fish after fish then asked me how I was doing it just 10-feet to the left of them while they caught nothing. So, I told them to take all the weights off of their line and use a drift line. Then I gave them a Mackerel for bait since they didn’t have any and I cut up two Anchovies and told them not to use pieces of bait bigger than that. Well, the boy caught a regulation size Mackerel in a few minutes and it was the FIRST fish he had ever caught. He wanted to give it to me but I told him I had enough bait for now so he had to decide what to do with the fish. He chose to put it back in the Ocean and then caught three more fish.

Giving a boy a fish will feed him for a day, teaching a boy to fish as my grandfather taught me, will feed him for life.

Fishing on the fly

15″ Smelt are rare in our part of the ocean

From FB posting of August 13, 2019

I had a little frustrating situation arise this morning and when I got home from dealing with it around 11 AM, I really didn’t feel like hanging around the house so I did something I have been thinking about doing for a while. I grabbed my ultra-light fishing outfit, a bag of Anchovies, my bucket, filet knife, and towels, then headed for the Ventura Pier. I really didn’t expect to catch anything, I just wanted to get out of the house.

After two hours, and one Croaker later, I was ready to call it a day. I had been fishing up and down the pier all that time and everyone was feeling the same way; it was time to go in, then the Fisherman’s Dream happened, we had a massive “Mack Attack”. For the next hour or so, I could not bait my hook and haul in Mackerel fast enough. I caught 8 of them and 4 Smelt to boot. One of the Smelt was so big, 15″, I didn’t think I’d land it on my ultralight but I did and I gave it to a neighbor fisherman. I also gave a Mackerel to another neighbor who was running out of bait.

Then things got REALLY crazy. When I was hauling in a Mackerel a Cormorant, who’d been hanging around all day, grabbed the tail end of it. So we had a battle to see who’d get the fish. I won this round but my neighbor was not so lucky. The same Cormorant I was dealing with tried to steal a small Croaker he was reeling in when the bird’s leg got caught up in his line so he had no choice except to bring it in. For the next 15 minutes, I tried and failed, to put my fishing towel over the bird’s head and very large sharp beak. While I was distracting it, though, he managed to get his line off the bird’s foot. It finally limped away and flew off the pier, with the Croaker . We got a big round of applause for that.

As I was leaving for the day, I was thinking about stopping and buying more Anchovies for tomorrow but it turns out I didn’t need to. The fisherman I gave the big Smelt to, gave me a half a bag of Anchovies in thanks for the fish.

Sometimes you DO get what you wish for…

My new FREE bait locker

From FB posting of August 11, 2019

I have been thinking about getting a small garage refrigerator to keep fish bait in which would get it out my home freezer but I really didn’t want to pay for one just for that purpose. Then, yesterday, I was driving down a nearby street when I saw just such a refrigerator sitting in front of a house with a sign on it that said FREE. So I brought it home, plugged it in, and it works fine.

Hmmm…now what should I wish for?

Weekend fishing on the pier

A small Bat Ray that got away…

I normally don’t fish on weekends due to the crowds on the pier but I bought a brand-new outfit (rod & reel) and I wanted to try it out. The new set replaced a rod & reel that I had for over 35 years.  This new setup is fantastic. My Shakespeare ATS30 combined with my 9-foot Shimano Saguaro rod made casting and reeling-in effortless. There was only one problem. When I caught a 2-foot wide Bat Ray, I decided to not gaff it because that would have killed it, so I hand lined it up and since I caught a 4-foot wide Bat Ray on the same line–35 years or so ago–I thought I was okay. The little ray put up a great fight but when it got within arm’s length of the top of the pier railing, that old line broke. I just ordered new line, 80-pound test Dacron so this won’t happen again.

Again, I was the only one catching fish today, my total today was 14 fish but 7 of those were Mackerel so I had a lot of fun and now I have a lot of bait.

Croaker Tsunami

From FB Post of August 8, 2019

Today’s fishing effort picked up right where it left off yesterday. I caught my first fish on my first cast. It was a Croaker, one of seventeen Croakers that I caught along with two Perch and two Smelt one of which was a foot long.

It was lucky for “Doc” and his wife who drove to Ventura all the way from Rancho Cucamonga, CA to fish on the Ventura Pier (that is a 118-mile, 3-hour trip) that I was having such a good day since the only fish they had in their buckets when I left was the fourteen that I gave them.

I threw seven fish back, so the day’s total catch was twenty-one fish which kept me busy all day.

No big fish today, though. The Smelt was the catch of the day.

Some days when I go fishing, I never want to go home

Sand Shark, not aggressive, but a great fighter.

From FB post of August 7, 2019

 Today was one of those days.

When I fish on the Ventura Pier, I only “target” two species even though I will catch anything. Those two are shark and Mackerel; today I caught both.

The day started off with a bang. I was there 20 minutes when something hit my wishing line like a ton of bricks. 20 minutes or so later, after a fierce battle, I knew what I had hooked. By that time two very experienced fishermen came over to help and as soon as my adversary hit the surface, they both yelled, “Sand Shark, a big one.” I agreed. We estimated its length to between to be about 5 feet (based on the space between the pier’s pilings) and since I had been fighting it, I figured it weighed about 75-100 pounds. Sadly, before we could get a gaff in it, it broke my 40-pound test and swam off trailing my hook and 4-ounce weight. I consider this a catch since I would have landed it if we could have put my gaff in it in time, but no matter what, it was a hell of a fight and I would have tossed it back in any way even though they are edible. Above is a picture of one of these denizens of shallow water.

After that, I caught everything, including a big and a little Skate and since I caught the little Skate on my Zebco QUANTUM XR-3 Long Stroke Fishing Reel and Quantum Lite Graphite rod (an old outfit I refer to as my “ultra-light”), it took almost as much skill to land it as the shark.

With the wind blowing like it was today, it was hard to keep my drift line in the water so I added another hook and bait to my ultra-light outfit. No sooner had it hit the water when I caught my lone Mackerel and a BIG Croaker at the SAME time. I wasn’t sure if I could land them either with that rig but I did. The Mackerel went into my bait box and I gave the Croaker to the folks who tried to help me land the shark. I caught 15 fish today..

Sunshine or Fog, The Fishing Goes On

The fog rolls in...
Sunshine, fog, or both, I am out there…

From FB post of August 2, 2019

My slow fishing day (2 Mackerel, 2 Smelt, and 1 #&% bait stealer) got off to an auspicious start when I arrived at the Ventura Pier at 6:45 AM only to find it still closed even though it is supposed to be open at 6:30 AM. There were anglers and tourists waiting for someone from the City of Ventura to come and open the gate. A workman finally strolled in around 7:10 to do the job. The anglers were not really upset but three tourists from Colorado were pretty put out. At the time, it was a bright sunny day and people were out and about early. However, that did not last.

Around 8 AM a huge fog bank rolled in. The featured picture above was taken around 10 AM. By that time, the pier did not seem to be attached to the land. It was surreal hearing the sounds of Highway 101, an occasional train or a siren without seeing exactly where the sound was coming from.

Hold on to your pole!

Mackerel fight fast and furious

From FB post of August 1, 2019

I had an “equable” day fishing today. I caught 6 Mackerel (and 1 Smelt). Two of the Mackerel went back into the Pacific, two went into my bait box, and two went into the bait boxes of people on either side of me who couldn’t understand why I was the only one catching fish even though I told them what they needed to do.

A day catching Mackerels, no matter what size, is a great day for a fisherman. They are almost pure muscle and swim at a speed of 5.5 KM per second. They usually hit your line going full speed so you have to have secured your pole or you could lose it. When I know they are around, my pole never leaves my hands when there is bait in the water.

Hello, John, this is the Pacific Ocean calling…

Crabby or not, go fishing

From FB post of July 31, 2019

I hadn’t planned on going fishing today. I went to my 6:30 AM Pilates class and I was just going to putter around the house after that.

Then I got a call:

ME: Hello
CALLER: Is this John Darling?
ME: Yes
CALLER: This is the Pacific Ocean calling, I was wondering where you were today?
ME: I didn’t know the Pacific Ocean had a phone.
P/O: Sure I do, I also have indoor plumbing, solar heating, and other modern things.
ME: Great! What can I do for you?
P/O: You can get your lazy butt out here an fish in my back yard.
ME: Well…let me look at my schedule (knowing it was blank), I guess I COULD be there in about half an hour.
P/O: Okay, see you then. Don’t stand me up or I will send you a tsunami as a reminder.

Well, California avoided  a catastrophe because I went and though I didn’t catch much, I did catch something you don’t often get on a hook. It was a medium-size crab which refused to release my Mackerel bait.

As a reward for being an unusual catch, I tossed it back into the P/O instead of a pot of boiling water.