Shark Bait: It’s Good to be Home

Call me Captain Ahab.  I have been in search of the white whale since last week when one got away due to old equipment that has now been replaced and though I didn’t catch a whale, the 42”, 30 to 40-pound Shovelhead shark pictured above would have defeated my efforts if I had not upgraded as I did. 

My trip to the Goleta Pier was such a disappointment, that instead of going to try Stearn’s Wharf or the Port Hueneme Pier today, I decided to stay on my home pier in Ventura.  I only caught four fish but each one was different and each one was larger than the last. 

Here they are listed in order of appearance:

  1. 6” Croaker
  2. 12” Mackerel
  3. 14” Sand Shark
  4. 42” Shovelhead Shark

Yes I did “catch” two sharks today but the first one ticked me off so much, it was all I could do to keep calm as I, hopefully, saved the little guy’s life.  More on that later.

I had been fishing off the end of the pier while I hunted sharks using squid as bait.  After a few hours, though, all I had to show for my efforts was the Croaker, the Mackerel, and the Sand Shark.  So I decided to move landward and fish in the exact same place where the shark got away last week.  Another hour passed, the wind started blowing ferociously, so my drift lining had to end, nothing was coming of it anyway except for Smelt nibbles.  Then I heard the sound that I had been longing for all week: the screeching of my drag.  Today, though, I didn’t race to my Wishing Pole since I knew I had adequate line in both length and quality to deal with what ever was taking my squid to the deeper end of the ocean. 

I picked up my outfit, looked at the line as it shot off the reel and when the fish hesitated for a moment, I pulled back to make sure the hook was set.  After that, I knew that whatever it was had no choice except to either bite through my 40-pound test leader or come to the pier. 

Once I had the fish to the surface, I knew that I would have to gaff it to get it on the pier, so I called to a neighboring fisherman for help, and as all fishermen will do, he gladly came over and took my gaff out of my bucket.  Then he held my pole as I lowered it into the ocean.  Once I had it in the shark’s tail, he reeled in my line as I lifted the shark over the railing. 

After taking a few pictures, I put the shark back into the ocean, not much worse for wear.  He would survive and hopefully my first shark would do so as well.

The little 14” d Shark that I “caught” was a lucky little thing.  I didn’t really “catch” it, though, what I caught was the line on the jig that was wrapped around it.  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the red and green beads on this jig.  The line on the jig was anchored by a 2-ounce inverted pyramid weight.  Apparently this little guy somehow became entangled in the jig and broke the line it was attached to then managed to swim away.  I don’t know if it could have fed since several of the 6 hooks on the jig were embedded in it.  If it had been able to feed and grow, the line, anchored in its skin by the hooks and weight, may have eventually killed it due to the inability of it to eat as needed or tearing its skin so it would bleed then get devoured by other sea creatures.  Crazy as it may sound, I think the little guy knew that was trying to help it as I worked the hooks out of it then wrapped it in my fishing towel.  The look in its cold, reptilian eyes seemed to soften just before I put it back in the ocean where it slowly swum away into its future. 

In my opinion, people who jig like this do it because they are too stupid and lazy to fish.  The practice needs to be outlawed because of incidents like this and the fact that so many of those who do this keep what they catch, like this little guy, undersized Perch, Smelt, Mackerel, etc.  Every time I see a someone jigging, I have to resist the temptation to cut their lines and throw them into the ocean.  I mean, if we kill all the little fish, there will be no big fish.    

The man fishing next to me felt the same.  As I worked on the little shark, he said more than once that jigging “ain’t fishin’” as he described just how he wanted to deal with these lazy fishermen.

I could only shake my head in agreement and know that grandpa would feel the same..

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.

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.

From Shore to Pier

Mackerel

July 23, 2019 FB Post

I decided to try my hand at surf fishing today which is something I have not tried too often in the past. After two hours and no fish, I moved to the Ventura Pier where I last fished 10 years ago. I didn’t catch anything with my ocean bottom rig (my Wishing Pole) but after I moved in towards the shore, I caught six small Perch, all of who went back into the ocean, and better yet, four small Mackerel. Three were too small to keep but this guy just made the legal limit and then became bait.

To me, Mackerel is the best bait in the world, you can catch anything with it including other Mackerel.

My First Catch

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”.