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.
And that is what I was up against yesterday when I paid a visit to Stearns Wharf.
I didn’t think I’d be able to get out to the ocean this week because of prior commitments but when a full day suddenly opened up yesterday, I decided to go up to the wharf, which is quickly becoming my favorite fishing venue. There was a small craft advisory issued for the channel by the national weather service so I knew it would be wet and cold but when I finally arrived at the wharf just before 7 AM, I found a few more factors in play.
The wind was howling, the sea was churning wildly, and a screaming maniac was pacing around in one corner of the wharf apparently having a conversation with the mariner’s warning light which was not on at the time. The wind and the wild sea is something you learn to deal with if you fish in the ocean but nut cases are not. This person’s issue seemed to be with the light standard and nothing else but his constant howling was a distraction which I had to check on in case he decided he wanted some REAL trouble with me. That never happened and as more and more fishermen, joggers, and tourists came around, I stopped paying attention to him since he was not bothering any of them. I kept expecting the Harbor Patrol or the city police to show up and take the guy somewhere where he could get help but that never happened and after a few hours, I saw him wander away.
As he did, the sun broke through for a while and the fishing which had been slow until then suddenly picked up. I caught 6 Smelts which was a surprise since I don’t fish for them but these fish were all larger than the usual ones that hang around the wharf. The same was true about the 9 Mackerel I caught, all of which were over a foot long and all fierce fighters. I kept 4 of the biggest for bait and released the rest. Then, I caught something with my ocean bottom.
It was a large Skate Ray and at 33” in length it was easily one of the biggest I have ever caught. There were no other fishermen near me when I finally brought the ray to the surface but an Asian lady had come over when she saw me fighting the fish and clapped happily when she finally saw it. So I asked her if she wanted to help land it. Despite the language barrier between us, I managed, by pantomiming, to get her to understand my question. She was thrilled when I handed her the pole and indicated that she needed to hold on tightly. Then I got out my gaff, lowered it into the ocean, hooked the ray, and brought him onto the pier. This got another round of clapping and dancing. As I was unhooking the animal, a young man came over to us; he was the lady’s son who spoke better English than I do. When I told him was happened he gave his mom a high-five, took some pictures of her and ray, and passed on my thanks for her help.
After that, I moved to the corner of the wharf where the screaming maniac had been holding court with his demons. The wind had come up again and the ocean continued to churn but I kept catching a fish now and then and all were larger than usual. I began to wonder if the active ocean bottom had anything to do with the presence of these larger fish? I make a note of it if this happens again when I am out.
When it was time to go, I heard someone talking on his cell
phone as I packed up. Looking over at
the guy, sitting not 10 feet from me, I saw that he had no phone and no one was
near him. He was talking to the wind.
After my amazing day yesterday, I decided to visit Stearns Wharf again to see if the fishing is really is as good as it has been the last two times I was there. I can now say that it is since this time I caught 33 Mackerel in 4 hours.
When I arrived at the wharf just before 7 AM, the wind was howling, and a low fog lay on the water which drenched the wharf. Because of the wind, and the way I fish, I had to cast my line in on one side of the wharf that I had not fished off before. At the Ventura Pier, that is the “bad” side of the pier (as I see it) but it made no difference at the wharf. Though I didn’t catch anything on my ocean bottom pole, I had plenty of BIG Mackerel to keep me busy. In fact, after a few hours, I stopped bottom fishing and rigged my Shakespeare Contender reel& Shimano FX 2803 rod so the line would drift since by that time the wind had abated, and the sun was shining. I put on a larger hook and used larger chunks of salted Mackerel for bait and sure enough, I started getting even bigger fish. They were not as large as the “submarine” Mackerel that I used to catch off the Goleta Pier, those were all 24 inches or longer, but most of the Mackerel I caught today were around 15 inches each. I wound up keeping 14 of them for bait and threw 19 back in with instructions telling them to send me a Halibut.
They must have ignored my orders since no flat fish were seen by me today.
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.