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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.

Fishing on the fly

15″ Smelt are rare in our part of the ocean

From FB posting of August 13, 2019

I had a little frustrating situation arise this morning and when I got home from dealing with it around 11 AM, I really didn’t feel like hanging around the house so I did something I have been thinking about doing for a while. I grabbed my ultra-light fishing outfit, a bag of Anchovies, my bucket, filet knife, and towels, then headed for the Ventura Pier. I really didn’t expect to catch anything, I just wanted to get out of the house.

After two hours, and one Croaker later, I was ready to call it a day. I had been fishing up and down the pier all that time and everyone was feeling the same way; it was time to go in, then the Fisherman’s Dream happened, we had a massive “Mack Attack”. For the next hour or so, I could not bait my hook and haul in Mackerel fast enough. I caught 8 of them and 4 Smelt to boot. One of the Smelt was so big, 15″, I didn’t think I’d land it on my ultralight but I did and I gave it to a neighbor fisherman. I also gave a Mackerel to another neighbor who was running out of bait.

Then things got REALLY crazy. When I was hauling in a Mackerel a Cormorant, who’d been hanging around all day, grabbed the tail end of it. So we had a battle to see who’d get the fish. I won this round but my neighbor was not so lucky. The same Cormorant I was dealing with tried to steal a small Croaker he was reeling in when the bird’s leg got caught up in his line so he had no choice except to bring it in. For the next 15 minutes, I tried and failed, to put my fishing towel over the bird’s head and very large sharp beak. While I was distracting it, though, he managed to get his line off the bird’s foot. It finally limped away and flew off the pier, with the Croaker . We got a big round of applause for that.

As I was leaving for the day, I was thinking about stopping and buying more Anchovies for tomorrow but it turns out I didn’t need to. The fisherman I gave the big Smelt to, gave me a half a bag of Anchovies in thanks for the fish.

Sometimes you DO get what you wish for…

My new FREE bait locker

From FB posting of August 11, 2019

I have been thinking about getting a small garage refrigerator to keep fish bait in which would get it out my home freezer but I really didn’t want to pay for one just for that purpose. Then, yesterday, I was driving down a nearby street when I saw just such a refrigerator sitting in front of a house with a sign on it that said FREE. So I brought it home, plugged it in, and it works fine.

Hmmm…now what should I wish for?