My First Catch

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Freshwater Perch

I still remember my first catch.  I was fishing with my Grandpa Duffy in a body of water behind my Aunt Amy’s and Uncle Frank’s house.  They had a small boat tied up to dock that sat just above the water and must have been 20 feet of so in length.  It looked dangerous to me so grandpa and I fished from the shore.  When my first fish hooked itself on my line, I was excited and started jumping up and down then grandpa put his hand on my head and told me to take care of business first, then I could get excited.  He said if I didn’t do this, the fish might get away.  This was the first bit of wisdom he passed on to me.

After I reeled in a small Perch, I asked grandpa if we were going to eat it.  He said it was too small for that and that we should put it back in the water so it could grow up, then we’d catch it later.  Even though this made me a little sad, I loved seeing the little thing swim away, maybe to its mommy.

I remember these events clearly as if they took place yesterday, but I was only five years old, and that was 61 years ago.

Since that time, I have caught, released, eaten, or used for bait thousands of fish, some weighing in excess of 100 pounds and some smaller than my first catch.  Regardless of their size, species, or eventual fate, they all had my respect, a respect for nature, just as my grandpa showed me with that first little Perch.

Now that I have retired because society seems to think I am an “old man”, I have taken up the sport again after over a decade away from it. 

This blog will tell the tales of my fishing ventures and it will pass along some of my grandfather’s sage advice, advice that is still relevant today, six decades later. Those posts will be called, “Advice From Grandpa”. I will also be posting an occasional fishing memory from times past, these will simply be labeled as “Memories”.

About This Blog, Its Title, and Contact Information

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Ernest Hemingway’s classic

NOTE: These blog postings should be read in chronological order as listed in the menu above since they tell of sequential experiences.

Even if I could have had the opportunity to name this blog, The Old Man and the Sea, I would not have done so because like the great Ernest Hemingway, I too am a writer and there is no way that I would ever imply that I am of his caliber.  I write a good story but then there are masters such as he and followers such as me for reasons that can be seen clearly in our respective texts.

However, this blog title is not labeled incorrectly because of my adding an “s” to it because even though all of my saltwater fishing is confined to the Pacific Ocean. All oceans and all seas, are connected and thus makes them all one body, a body that keeps our planet blue. 

I will be posting fishing stories, Grandpa’s Advice, and Memories to this blog.

So, drop in, then drop me a line at anoldmanandtheseas@gmail.com

The Off Season

Fish or no fish, it’s good to get out and see the sunrise

I have not posted anything in a while for one simple reason: I have had nothing to post about.

I have fished in the Pacific Ocean off and on for nearly 40 years and to date, this is the worst fishing season I can remember after last season being one of the best. I guess the fish don’t know my schedule.

I still go out because, for me, while catching fish is my primary objective just being outdoors in the sun, wind, fog, and even light rain comes in a close second. I could be outdoors doing many other things like riding my bike all over town (which I do when I am not fishing) but riding a bike does not replace the thrill of the strike, the fighting of the fish, or the challenge of trying different tactics to get fish to bite.

So I go out and I will continue to go out even as he seasons turn bringing in colder weather and cooler ocean temperatures. If anything remarkable happens before the next season comes around, you’ll be able to read about it here.

Until then, keep the bait fresh and the lines tight.

Cayucos Pier

While on an overnight trip to Morro Bay, CA to go on a bike tour, it rained the first day so I decided to drive 7 miles up the coast to Cayucos and check out the Cayucos Pier.

It is a small pier but better maintained than any of the other piers I have been on in California. There were only three people fishing off the end of pier and they did not speak much English but fishermen can communicate with each other regardless of a language barrier.

They informed me that they usually caught Mackerel and Smelt and did not really try for any other species, though Shovel nose Sharks and Bat Rays are common.

This pier is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house so I plan to fish up there in the next week or two.

Pacific Update

Even during the current pandemic, fishing in the Pacific goes on.

With the ocean water warming up over the past few weeks, the fishing has improved as well. The temperature today is a toasty 64 degrees.

As you can see in the pictures above, the fish have been plentiful and varied no matter what pier I have tried. Of the Ventura Pier, Stearns Wharf, or Goleta Pier, the best has been the Ventura Pier although I think Stearns Wharf will soon catch up. It takes a while for the warmer water to get up the coast. Goleta, which is north of Santa Barbara will be the last to benefit from the warm water of these three although on my last trip up there, I managed to catch two keeper Calico Bass.

I am happy to report that the majority of the fishermen and women are wearing masks like mine even though we are outside in the sun, fog, and wind. We are all in this together and the fishing community in my part of the world has responded to the call.

The Pond and the Pacific

The Pond

I was invited to spend the night at a magnificent 200-acre property called Ranch Grande located about 20 miles north of Ojai, CA, so this week my wife and I took the owner up on his offer.  You can do a lot of things there like horseback riding, canoe, rowboat, or paddle boat around a pond, play with the 13 or 14 friendly dogs, go on the daily “goat walk” with 122 goats (can you say stampede?).  You can play games like pool, Scrabble, Monopoly, in the Rock Room and if you play there is a grand piano at your disposal.  You can also visit all the other animals which include pot bellied pigs, chickens, sheep, and llamas.  I did most of these things and I also went pond fishing.

When I was 5 years old while my grandpa was teaching me how to fish, we often went to a small pond where I learned his tricks and listened to his advice.  Standing on the little fishing dock at Rancho Grande brought back all the nostalgic memories I have of those times.

Though I didn’t catch any fish, I wouldn’t trade the few hours I spent trying to do so while thinking of grandpa for any amount of money.  Below are some pictures of the property. 

If you want to visit the property, you can find all the details here: http://www.ranchogrande.com

The Pacific

The California coast is slowly coming back to life even though the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging around the country.  Personally, I think it is a terrible idea to begin opening things up again and that the second wave of the disease will make the first one look like a ripple in a pond.  However, I never saw a reason to shut down fishing piers.  Fishing is usually a singular sport and if you do go fishing with a group, it is usually with family or trusted friends.  Fishing on a 1600-foot-long, 20-foot-wide pier like the Ventura Pier gives you a lot of space to practice social distancing as well.  The Sun is nature’s greatest disinfectant, too. 

Well, last Friday, the pier reopened and I have been out to it three times since then.  The Pacific Ocean is warming up, with a water temperature of 62 degrees today, and the fishing is getting better due to it.  I also think the closing of the pier for a few months allowed the fish population to rebuild because the first fish I caught was a Rock Fish, I have not seen any of them out there in years, and today I caught my first Mackerel of the season. 

I may just go lobby the city council and ask them to shut the pier down for a few months each year as a matter of course. 

Signs of Life

Not practicing Social Distancing…+

For a few months access to the Pacific Ocean has been non-existent in my part of SoCal due to necessary closures in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But last week I found out that the Goleta Pier, which is part of the Santa Barbara County Parks division had opened to all activity including fishing. So yesterday I made the 43 mile commute from my home to check it out. With gas being cheap (by SoCal standards) and traffic being light (again by SoCal standards) it was a nice trip.

Only two small Croakers today, but…

With the air temperature around 80 degrees, no wind, and the ocean temperature nearing 60 degrees, it seemed like perfect fishing weather. I left after 4 very nice hours of enjoying the sun and the clean ocean air with only two small Croakers to my credit but that does not mean it was a bad day. I caught one of them on my deep bottom line and one on my ultra-ultra light over the side line which showed me that the fish were all over but scattered. Also, there were a number of fishing birds out catching fish even the above Pelican that came to visit me. I tried to tell him about Social Distancing but he didn’t care–all he wanted was a fish. Since I didn’t have one to give to him, he eventually gave up and flew away to catch his own.

A nearly deserted pier–not really…

From the picture above, it may look like the pier is deserted but that is not the case. It is just so long that Social Distancing is not something you need to think about. When I left, I counted over two dozen anglers on the pier.

At one time, the Goleta Pier was one of the best fishing spots in SoCal but if you read my recent articles about it, that is no longer the case however since it is open and it is the only place to go for now, I will be making this trek every Wednesday until further notice. I can only hope that eventually it will get back to its glory days.

The Pacific Ocean Is Closed Until Further Notice

No fishing either

Ventura joined most of the rest of California in finally closing down all of its city parks to help stem the spread of you-know-what and since the Ventura Pier is part of the Parks Department, it is closed for business at least to me and many other fishermen. Virtually every city in the state has done the same for the same reason and to keep people from other areas coming in to use their parks.

Since most of the state parks are closed as well, that means that access to the coast is nearly impossible so shore fishing is out. All “party” boat businesses have shut down and boat rental businesses are on hold, too. So really the only way to fish the Pacific now is if you have your own boat or are a commercial fisherman.

It will be another month or so before the peak of the fishing season, so hopefully this pandemic will have passed by then. I know there are scientists out there feverishly looking for a vaccine and I have faith that they will do so.

Until then, stay safe, stay home, and we will get through this together.

The Pacific and the Pandemic

One who did no practice social distancing…

I haven’t been out to the Ventura Pier since all hell broke loose because of the current worldwide pandemic even though I know fishing out there is not prohibited under California’s Marshall Law. The fishing has been way off due to the cold Pacific water anyway, but I had been checking in now and again. Today I decided to go once more since at least the weather is warming up.

Sadly, the fish must be practicing social distancing since nothing came within 6-feet of my bait and for the first time in my memory, I was totally shut out.

Nothing living being came within 6-feet me either except for this Egret with its foot-long very sharp looking beak. I tossed him a fat salted anchovy as a bribe to leave me alone. He seemed to enjoy it then flew away.

Most of the state parks in California are shut down which includes most of the coastline so surf fishing is out for me. Also, all the party boats are in dry dock for those who like to go on them. So, right now, pier fishing is my only option and since it is prohibited to travel from one county to the other except under certain circumstances, Stearns Wharf and the Goleta Pier in Santa Barbara County are off limits to me. That only leaves my home pier and as it warms up, I plan to go out at least once a week.

Even though fishing is usually thought of a singular endeavor, people do go out and fish together but these are usually friends you can trust and not strangers so we all need to get out either with buddies or on you own since one day this will all pass and keeping some semblance of normalcy now will make it easier to put things back together later.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in light of all that is going on than fishing in the bright sunshine because sunlight is nature’s best antiseptic.

So, fish when you can and when you know it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, then stay home, the fish, the water, and the Earth will still be there when it is safe to go out again.

“Catching” Up…

It has been a while since my last blog post but that doesn’t mean that I have not been out to my home pier in Ventura to check on fishing conditions, it just means that there is still little to report due to the continued cold water in the Pacific Ocean.

The weather in Ventura was dry and warm last week so I went out a few times since this week’s forecast calls for a lot of rain, which we need, accompanied by colder temperatures. Most likely, I won’t be out at all this week.

I can’t say that the fishing has really picked up even though I did haul in a dozen Smelt on Thursday, but the variety of fish I have been catching is more diverse than it has been.

That is an indication that change is on the way.

On Tuesday, I caught seven fish. One was the fat 10″ Wall Eyed Perch pictured above, one was a large Smelt, and five were White Croakers. Two of these White Croakers were caught on my bottom trolling line and three were caught as I fished over the side with my ultra-light rig. Catching Croakers at all depth levels shows me that the fish are coming back. The variety shows me that as well.

I will “catch” you later with another update in a week or so. For now, we are enjoying the rain.

The Return of the King

The Big Smelt continue to bite

In an unusual occurrence, my part of SoCal experienced King Tides in back-to-back months.

Last month I went out to the Ventura Pier to see if the fishing picked up despite the cold Pacific Ocean water and for the most part the catch was better although still below what it is like when the water heats up. So, this month, I thought I would try fishing on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA to gauge the King Tide’s effect in that part of the ocean. It didn’t take long to find out the answer.

As I headed north, the weather began to degrade as a heavy wet fog moved in. By the time I reached the wharf, everything was soaking wet and with the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees with a slight wind blowing that made it feel colder, I almost stayed in my warm car. Even though I was prepared for the weather, it was still a challenge to stay out in it. After an hour and half of no fish–or even nibbles–I decided to pack it in and head to the Ventura Pier. By the time I got there, the temperature was around 55 degrees and the sun was shining. For the next 2 and half hours, the fishing was slow, but better than it was up north and I ended up with several big Smelt which I gave to another fisherman. I have given him a number of Smelt in the past so this time, I asked him how he prepared this type of fish. He said he scaled them, filleted them, then marinated them in a mixture of vinegar and garlic powder. I may just try that the next time I get a bag full.

The ocean temperature should start rising in March and continue to warm up through September. I will still being going out to see how they are biting but I won’t be posting about these trips unless something unusual occurs.

Of Kings and Legends

15-inch Smelt

As I promised in my last post, I went out to the Ventura Pier to fish during the first day of a King Tide event that is coming to our shores. Legend has it that fishing is always betters during these very high tide times so I thought I would check the veracity of this even though the fishing has been way off due to the cold Pacific water.

I fished from 7 AM to 10 AM which was 1 1/2 hours before high tide and 1 1/2 hours after it. I found that while the legend does seem to have some truth to it, I know I could have also been just lucky.

My total catch was four large Smelt each over a foot in length with the one pictured being the largest. While there are days I would call this a bad day, compared to my last few outings, this was a good day and since I caught all of the fish on my ultra-ultra light rig that weighs less than a pound, it was battle to land them. I also hooked two more that got away.

So, I am thinking about going out again tomorrow since that is the day the King Tides will be the highest but it will depend on the weather. Today I could not have dialed up a nicer day for fishing. It was 65 degrees, virtually no wind until the time I left, and the ocean was flat and calm. We had a squall blow through the area yesterday which cleaned the air as well.

What I am looking forward to now is the next King Tide which will occur next month when the water should be a few degrees warmer.