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.

Port Hueneme Fishing Pier

Today, I had some business that took me down to the Naval Seabee Base in Port Hueneme, CA so while I was in the town, I visited the fishing pier at Port Hueneme Beach thinking that I may try fishing there again someday. 

To say that it is quirky is an understatement. 

I have not fished there in probably 25 years so I forgot all of its eccentricities.  The biggest of these is that easily half the pier is over the beach and, no, you cannot fish for Sand Sharks there.  The water line doesn’t start until after the next biggest eccentricity, the zig zag that is maybe half way up the pier.  The Ventura Pier and the Goleta Pier both bend a little, but neither zig zag.  I can’t say that I have been on any other pier that does.

Along with these oddities is the parking:  You have to pay for the privilege in advance.  The cost is two dollars an hour and if you lose track of the time, your excursion could get pricey if you are hit with a fine.  Since there is no gated entrance or exit, I have to assume that the police come around every so often to check your parking ticket that you must display on your dashboard.  This seems like a waste of police manpower to me but then I don’t live in the town and I cannot say for sure who enforces the parking limit.  Maybe no one does.

Once you get over the water, it gets very crowded.  The amount of people fishing there today would rate as a slow day on either of the other piers I mentioned above but in Port Hueneme, it looked like they were having a convention.  The pier is only about 15 feet wide which makes the fishing even more claustrophobic.  I didn’t see any signs forbidding overhead casting but then I didn’t see anyone doing it either and I can see why not; if you tried it, most likely you’d hook an angler before a fish. 

I talked to three old boys encamped out on the end of the pier who looked like they’d been living there for a while but, as fishermen usually are, they were nice and talked fishing to me.  Their opinion was mixed regarding how good or bad the fishing is on the pier, but it seemed like it always that way among these friends.  One man did point out a Mackerel laying on a very messy bait cutting board that was much larger than the ones that I get at my home pier but then again, that was only fish I saw among those many anglers. 

There were also a lot of “fishermen” jigging for small fish.  These are the guys that are too lazy to actually fish and I do not like being around people like that especially in close quarters.

Right now, I’ll say I won’t fish there again, but then I may change my mind and try it for an hour or two. 

If nothing else, Port Hueneme Beach is a beautiful place.

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..

Where I Fish

ventura pier
The Ventura Pier

Although I sometimes go to my local lake, Lake Casitas, and do a little freshwater fishing, most of my efforts are limited to the Pacific Ocean.  I grew up in Arizona where saltwater fishing is not an option so for 20 years I fished in lakes, lagoons, rivers, and streams where there were only a limited number of species to catch (Perch, Crappie, Sun Fish, Bass, Catfish, Carp, etc.).  Once I moved to California, took in the splendor of the ocean, and realized that there are unlimited types of fish to catch, I became “hooked” on saltwater fishing, so to speak…

Most of the time, I fish off what I consider my home base, the 1600 hundred-foot Ventura Pier in my hometown of Ventura, CA. I also fish in the surf and at other piers in the area such as the ones located in Goleta, CA and Port Hueneme, CA. I may even try Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, though I hear that it is not a very good fishing spot.  

The Ventura Pier was first built in 1872 when it was known as the Ventura Wharf.  It was mainly used as a commerce connection to accept imports of all types of goods and to export the area’s agricultural products and crude oil. 

Over the years, the pier has been destroyed or damaged by storms several times (twice since I have been here) and in 1916 it was destroyed in a collision with the freighter, the Coos Bay.  At one time, the pier was 1958 feet-long and was the longest pier in California. 

Today the pier is no longer used commercial purposes, it is strictly a fishing pier and one of the biggest tourist attractions in our area.  There are two restaurants on the land side of the pier as well.

I fish on the pier at least two or three times per week and people have come to know me as the “guy who catches all those fish” and as someone who is always willing to share fish, bait, and advice if I am asked for it.  I especially love helping the kids and whenever the chance arises, I tell them about the fish I catch and that they should respect them no matter what becomes of them.

I first began posting my fish stories on my personal Facebook page but I am going to migrate all of those tales to this blog and add to it as I go along. Check in daily or sign up for updates if you’d like to follow along as I go about my activities.  Even if you do not fish, I think you will enjoy the stories.