When I moved from Phoenix, AZ to Santa Barbara, CA in 1979, Stearn’s Wharf was not open to the public. It was closed due to a huge fire that roared through it in 1973. It finally reopened in 1981 but by that time, the Goleta Pier was my fishing spot of choice so I never fished off the wharf before I moved to Ventura, CA in 1984.
Over the decades since then, the wharf has been open and closed due to another fire, storms, etc. and I heard mixed reviews about the fishing prospects. Some said it was fantastic and others said it was pathetic so today I decided to try it and see which side was telling the truth while knowing that BOTH sides could be right, depending on the weather, the skill of the fisherman, having the right outfit, and other factors.
Despite having been to the wharf’s website, I was still a little fuzzy about what it would cost me to park on it though that didn’t really matter since I was going to fish off of it for whatever it would cost me. I knew that the wharf opened at 7 AM and that the first 1 ½ of parking was free and that after that is was $2.50 an hour. So, I figured I’d just go in, fish for $5.00 worth of time just to see what was what. However, when I arrived at 7:15 AM, the gate was up and the ticket machine was not functioning, so I drove in while deciding to deal with any questions when I left.
My line was in the water for, at the most, 15 minutes when I caught my first Calico Bass. This is fish that you do not find around my home base, the Ventura Pier, and even though it was 4 inches short of the legal limit, I was thrilled since I figured that where there was one, there would be more and I was right. I caught 6 more Calicos in 4 hours but all were under the legal limit so ALL of them went back into the ocean.. After I caught the 5th one, I had the feeling that the same fish kept biting over and over again. Especially since this one winked at me…
When I was not catching Calico Bass, I was catching Mackerel as fast as I could bait up and put my line in the water. I actually lost count of how many I reeled in, but I know that I caught at least 27 of them with more after that, how many, I don’t know but I know it had to be at least 6 more, so let’s call it 33 Mackerel for the MORNING since I only fished for 4 hours. When I first started catching them, I kept a few for bait then began to give them to other fishermen for bait but it wasn’t long before everyone had plenty of bait so I started throwing them back in while telling them to send me a halibut. Not one of the ungrateful little buggers did as I asked them and I wound up getting no bites on my ocean bottom line. The closest I got to a big fish was gaffing up a Shovel Nose shark for a fellow fisherman. He’d caught it on the Mackerel I gave him.
I visited the Stearn’s Wharf Bait & Tackle to buy some salted Anchovies and was disappointed that they didn’t have a “Shut Up & Fish” t-shirt in a medium but I will check to see if they have any in stock the next time I visit the wharf because after today, I will definitely be back.
As I was leaving, fully expecting to have to argue my way into a smaller parking fee, I was surprised that my visit would not cost me anything since the city realized that the ticket machine had been malfunctioning that morning.
The nice lady attendant, just waved me out.