Maintenance is a must…

My grandfather lived his entire life in cold weather states. He was born in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 often frozen lakes, then moved to Michigan, the Great Often Frozen Lakes State. Yet in all his years, he never went ice fishing.

He just never cared for the sport, he’d tell me the fish would still be there when the weather warmed up. So, when I would visit him and grandma on their farm during the snowy months, we never went fishing, but that didn’t mean we didn’t do things related to the sport.

We would often go out to his work room where he’d fire up the propane gas heater then pull out all his rods and reels so we could clean and oil them. He taught me that reels can often seize up when left sitting without proper maintenance. This could be caused by a build up of corrosion or just plain dirt. Maintaining his tackle was something he did when the weather grew too cold to fish.

Flash forward 60 years and I am now living in Southern California where the seasons usually run together unnoticed. In a climate like this where you can fish all year round, it is easy to forget this lesson and that is just what I did. I had not been out for about two months since the Pacific Ocean is pretty cold now, which puts off the fishing, so a few days ago when the air temperature was in the mid-seventies (in February no less), I decided to head out to the Ventura Pier just to get out of the house. Which is good because I didn’t get much fishing done while I was there.

The spool release lever on my Shakespeare ATS Trolling Reel was frozen in place even though I knew it was fine the last time I went out. Nothing I could do while on the pier would make it work, so I had to set it aside which meant no bottom fishing that day. So, I baited up my Shakespeare Contender Spinning Reel to do some fishing over the side but the bell stop lever was not working. I could still fish with it and watch to make sure the line didn’t snag up into a tangled mess while reeling in but after a half hour of this, I decided to go in for the day. When I got home, I immediately took both reels apart on my work bench. A liberal dose of Liquid Wrench Super Lubricant freed the balky release lever on my Shakespeare ATS Trolling Reel after it sat for an hour to let the oil do its work. While it was apart, every part of it got oiled as well.

The problem with the Shakespeare Contender Spinning Reel was a little more difficult to diagnose but what it came down to was a build up of dirt and corrosion that kept the bell stop lever from seating properly. A little work with an ice pick, that once belonged to grandpa, dug the build up out of the way so the reel would work as designed. It also got a liberal dose of Liquid Wrench.

When the work on these two rigs was completed, it took my other two rigs apart and cleaned and oiled them, too.

I didn’t want to get stuck again.

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.

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 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.

“Back” to home

One of two 17″ Smelt caught today

I have not been out to the Ventura Pier, my home base, for three weeks due to a vacation at the Grand Canyon, fishing with my son in Santa Barbara, CA, a big slow down in the fishing action at my home base, and a chronic back issue that flared up the last time I was there.

My back, which I injured on the job about seven years ago, is still bothering me but I can do most things if I can deal with the aches and pains. When I go the the Ventura Pier to fish, there is a long walk involved and I have to carry all of my equipment so I have been staying away until I felt I could make the trek. Today I felt pretty good so I went out to see what was going on.

There were only a few fishermen to be seen, so I didn’t expect much action but to my surprise, after I cast my ocean bottom line (my Wishing Pole) out and then cast my over the side line (my Fishing Pole) I started getting hits on both almost immediately. I had not been fishing for more than 15 minutes when I caught the biggest Smelt that I have ever seen. It measured 17 inches in length and must have weighed around 3 pounds. Then I caught 4 medium sized Mackerel in the next 30 minutes. By that time, I knew why the fishing was so good: there was a huge school of Anchovies under the pier. Having a school of Anchovies swimming around can be good, bad, or both for a fisherman. Today, it was both.

It can be good because big fish follow them around looking for a meal and as witnessed by the big Smelt pictured above, these fish tend to be bigger than what you would normally catch because they most likely followed the school from a greater depth of the ocean. It can be bad, though, because these same fish tend to ignore your dead bait, preferring to have a live, fresh, meal instead. Still, it can be both if you get a fish who just wants to eat something, dead or alive, so they go after your bait. If there are enough of these kinds of fish around, you can be very busy for some time. Today, I stayed busy for about an hour, then the school moved on and the action died out. In the meantime, my bottom line was getting a lot of attention though all I managed to haul in was a #$*#$ bait stealer which was the biggest one of them that I have ever caught. These guys tend to be about 4 or 5 inches in length but because of their large mouths, can still swallow a chunk of bait that is almost as big as they are. The one I reeled in today, though, was nearly 8 inches in length.

I was ready to go in early after a few more hours, when I caught my second 17 inch Smelt. There was a large school class outing walking by as I was fighting the fish who hit on my ultra light rig, so after I landed it, I had the opportunity to tell the kids about the fish, the Anchovies, and how the birds that were hanging around can tell you when the fishing is going to be good.

Their teacher appreciated the time I took to talk to the kids.

One other thing about today’s outing that was unusual is that I caught all of my fish on the west side of the pier, a side I rarely fish on due to the normally prevailing winds, but with my back aching and a still wind, I wanted my back to be facing east so it could be warmed by the rising sun. If it had not been for that, I may have missed the school of Anchovies and all of the fish that I caught.

Touching Home

Prior commitments, some delays in work being done on the homestead, and an appointment to a city advisory group has kept me away from fishing most of the last few weeks but when a day opened up yesterday, I decided to go over to the Ventura Pier, my home base, for a few hours because I know I have another delay coming up. 

Since Labor Day, when the pier was rail to rail fishermen for three days, the fishing has dropped off dramatically at the pier.  I can only speculate that the area has been temporarily fished out.  Unlike Stearns Wharf up Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, CA which extends it full length straight out into the channel between the shore and the Channel Islands (see left photo above),  the Ventura Pier is in a very large bay-like area (see right photo above) and I just feel like this keeps the “restocking” of the area slow whereas there never seems to a shortage of fish around Stearns Wharf.  I have no scientific data to base this on so just call it a fisherman’s hunch, which is often more accurate than science. 

For this trip, I decided to go to the end of the pier and see if anything was happening out there.  It was a quiet day with only five fishermen (or groups of fishermen) when I arrived but the weather was perfect.  For a drift liner like me it could not have been better.  At 7:30 AM, it was already 68 degrees and did not get much warmer by the time I left 3 ½ hours later.  The wind was non-existent, and the ocean was flat and calm. 

So, I had high hopes—which did not totally pan out.  After a few hours, I had caught 5 Mackerel.  Two went into my bait bag, one went to another fisherman, and the other two went back in to grow up.  My ocean bottom line was getting a lot of attention but nothing hooked on to it.  I suspect that the fish who were stealing my bait were too small but it could also have been crabs doing the job. 

Either way, after two hours, I move half way down the pier where I caught the biggest Mackerel of the day, which I kept, and a very fat Perch, which I gave to another fisherman.  And that was it. 

But, I can’t complain, the weather was perfect.