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.

The Pond and the Pacific

The Pond

I was invited to spend the night at a magnificent 200-acre property called Ranch Grande located about 20 miles north of Ojai, CA, so this week my wife and I took the owner up on his offer.  You can do a lot of things there like horseback riding, canoe, rowboat, or paddle boat around a pond, play with the 13 or 14 friendly dogs, go on the daily “goat walk” with 122 goats (can you say stampede?).  You can play games like pool, Scrabble, Monopoly, in the Rock Room and if you play there is a grand piano at your disposal.  You can also visit all the other animals which include pot bellied pigs, chickens, sheep, and llamas.  I did most of these things and I also went pond fishing.

When I was 5 years old while my grandpa was teaching me how to fish, we often went to a small pond where I learned his tricks and listened to his advice.  Standing on the little fishing dock at Rancho Grande brought back all the nostalgic memories I have of those times.

Though I didn’t catch any fish, I wouldn’t trade the few hours I spent trying to do so while thinking of grandpa for any amount of money.  Below are some pictures of the property. 

If you want to visit the property, you can find all the details here: http://www.ranchogrande.com

The Pacific

The California coast is slowly coming back to life even though the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging around the country.  Personally, I think it is a terrible idea to begin opening things up again and that the second wave of the disease will make the first one look like a ripple in a pond.  However, I never saw a reason to shut down fishing piers.  Fishing is usually a singular sport and if you do go fishing with a group, it is usually with family or trusted friends.  Fishing on a 1600-foot-long, 20-foot-wide pier like the Ventura Pier gives you a lot of space to practice social distancing as well.  The Sun is nature’s greatest disinfectant, too. 

Well, last Friday, the pier reopened and I have been out to it three times since then.  The Pacific Ocean is warming up, with a water temperature of 62 degrees today, and the fishing is getting better due to it.  I also think the closing of the pier for a few months allowed the fish population to rebuild because the first fish I caught was a Rock Fish, I have not seen any of them out there in years, and today I caught my first Mackerel of the season. 

I may just go lobby the city council and ask them to shut the pier down for a few months each year as a matter of course. 

The Pacific and the Pandemic

One who did no practice social distancing…

I haven’t been out to the Ventura Pier since all hell broke loose because of the current worldwide pandemic even though I know fishing out there is not prohibited under California’s Marshall Law. The fishing has been way off due to the cold Pacific water anyway, but I had been checking in now and again. Today I decided to go once more since at least the weather is warming up.

Sadly, the fish must be practicing social distancing since nothing came within 6-feet of my bait and for the first time in my memory, I was totally shut out.

Nothing living being came within 6-feet me either except for this Egret with its foot-long very sharp looking beak. I tossed him a fat salted anchovy as a bribe to leave me alone. He seemed to enjoy it then flew away.

Most of the state parks in California are shut down which includes most of the coastline so surf fishing is out for me. Also, all the party boats are in dry dock for those who like to go on them. So, right now, pier fishing is my only option and since it is prohibited to travel from one county to the other except under certain circumstances, Stearns Wharf and the Goleta Pier in Santa Barbara County are off limits to me. That only leaves my home pier and as it warms up, I plan to go out at least once a week.

Even though fishing is usually thought of a singular endeavor, people do go out and fish together but these are usually friends you can trust and not strangers so we all need to get out either with buddies or on you own since one day this will all pass and keeping some semblance of normalcy now will make it easier to put things back together later.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in light of all that is going on than fishing in the bright sunshine because sunlight is nature’s best antiseptic.

So, fish when you can and when you know it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, then stay home, the fish, the water, and the Earth will still be there when it is safe to go out again.

“Catching” Up…

It has been a while since my last blog post but that doesn’t mean that I have not been out to my home pier in Ventura to check on fishing conditions, it just means that there is still little to report due to the continued cold water in the Pacific Ocean.

The weather in Ventura was dry and warm last week so I went out a few times since this week’s forecast calls for a lot of rain, which we need, accompanied by colder temperatures. Most likely, I won’t be out at all this week.

I can’t say that the fishing has really picked up even though I did haul in a dozen Smelt on Thursday, but the variety of fish I have been catching is more diverse than it has been.

That is an indication that change is on the way.

On Tuesday, I caught seven fish. One was the fat 10″ Wall Eyed Perch pictured above, one was a large Smelt, and five were White Croakers. Two of these White Croakers were caught on my bottom trolling line and three were caught as I fished over the side with my ultra-light rig. Catching Croakers at all depth levels shows me that the fish are coming back. The variety shows me that as well.

I will “catch” you later with another update in a week or so. For now, we are enjoying the rain.

The Return of the King

The Big Smelt continue to bite

In an unusual occurrence, my part of SoCal experienced King Tides in back-to-back months.

Last month I went out to the Ventura Pier to see if the fishing picked up despite the cold Pacific Ocean water and for the most part the catch was better although still below what it is like when the water heats up. So, this month, I thought I would try fishing on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA to gauge the King Tide’s effect in that part of the ocean. It didn’t take long to find out the answer.

As I headed north, the weather began to degrade as a heavy wet fog moved in. By the time I reached the wharf, everything was soaking wet and with the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees with a slight wind blowing that made it feel colder, I almost stayed in my warm car. Even though I was prepared for the weather, it was still a challenge to stay out in it. After an hour and half of no fish–or even nibbles–I decided to pack it in and head to the Ventura Pier. By the time I got there, the temperature was around 55 degrees and the sun was shining. For the next 2 and half hours, the fishing was slow, but better than it was up north and I ended up with several big Smelt which I gave to another fisherman. I have given him a number of Smelt in the past so this time, I asked him how he prepared this type of fish. He said he scaled them, filleted them, then marinated them in a mixture of vinegar and garlic powder. I may just try that the next time I get a bag full.

The ocean temperature should start rising in March and continue to warm up through September. I will still being going out to see how they are biting but I won’t be posting about these trips unless something unusual occurs.

Of Kings and Legends

15-inch Smelt

As I promised in my last post, I went out to the Ventura Pier to fish during the first day of a King Tide event that is coming to our shores. Legend has it that fishing is always betters during these very high tide times so I thought I would check the veracity of this even though the fishing has been way off due to the cold Pacific water.

I fished from 7 AM to 10 AM which was 1 1/2 hours before high tide and 1 1/2 hours after it. I found that while the legend does seem to have some truth to it, I know I could have also been just lucky.

My total catch was four large Smelt each over a foot in length with the one pictured being the largest. While there are days I would call this a bad day, compared to my last few outings, this was a good day and since I caught all of the fish on my ultra-ultra light rig that weighs less than a pound, it was battle to land them. I also hooked two more that got away.

So, I am thinking about going out again tomorrow since that is the day the King Tides will be the highest but it will depend on the weather. Today I could not have dialed up a nicer day for fishing. It was 65 degrees, virtually no wind until the time I left, and the ocean was flat and calm. We had a squall blow through the area yesterday which cleaned the air as well.

What I am looking forward to now is the next King Tide which will occur next month when the water should be a few degrees warmer.