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.

Later that day…

Dungeness Crab

After ending my latest quest to catch something while surf fishing, I needed to stay on the Emma Wood State Beach side of town for a few hours so I could run an errand in the afternoon.  Instead of just prowling around all the interesting shops in Downtown Ventura while I waited for the time to pass, I went over to the Ventura Pier during the interim.

The weather could not have been better for the way I fish and there were surprisingly few anglers around.  I didn’t have my ultralight with me since I had not planned to use it, so I put the line on my Shakespeare ATS 350 reel & Shimano Saguaro rod outfit on the ocean bottom looking for sharks, rays, or a stray Halibut and fished over the side with my Shakespeare Contender reel & 8-foot Shimano FX 2803 rod.  It is a pretty big outfit, big enough to haul in a 5-foot Tiger Shark, but it is not really suited for drift lining.  Still, I had to use what I had on hand.

When it was time to go, my catch for the few hours I fished was 3 Mackerel, 1 Smelt, 1 Croaker, and the guy pictured above.  I am not a crab expert but apparently a passerby was, he was also a lover of crab meat. 

He told me that this is a Dungeness Crab which are very good to eat; he had eaten hundreds in his lifetime.  He also asked me if he could have this one.  I told him that I was going to let the guy go back into the ocean after I took his picture for my blog.  As if he knew what was going to happen, once the crab finished posing for the picture, he scuttled sideways to the edge of the pier and jumped in which gave all of us observers a good laugh.   

The now crab-less passerby stayed and we talked fishing.  He is from Atlanta, GA, maybe a 75-mile drive from where my sister lives.  He told me of a great place to fish which is about 4 hours from Atlanta but worth the trip. 

So, I am thinking that maybe its time to pack up my gear and pay sis a visit…  

Fishing on the edge of the world…

When I surf fish in the Pacific Ocean , I always say that I am fishing on the edge of the world. If you lake fish, you know the boundaries of the lake and most likely you know the depth of it as well. When you river or creek fish, you know the boundaries of those waterways and you know that their water will eventually end up somewhere, maybe even in the Pacific Ocean .

Surf fishing in a ocean is different. Though you can look at a map or a globe and see where all the water is located on the planet, you don’t really understand the enormity of the oceans until you stand at their edges while watching the endless waves come rushing at you. It is a humbling feeling for a man as you hold your rod and reel in hand hoping that the water will give up some of its bounty while you dance with the waves trying to decide if you are getting a bite or if the expanse is just playing tricks on you.

That was how I felt this morning while fishing at Emma Wood State Beach in Ventura, CA. This was only my fourth attempt as surf fishing and, including today, I have yet to catch anything while fishing this way even though I always catch something any other way be it in a boat, on a pier, or at lakeside or riverside.

If the past few attempts at this sport, I went out trying to snare some Surfperch or Corbina even though I usually don’t angle for that type of fish. Both times I gave up after a few hours of trying to get the trick of fishing in the constantly moving sea which is not the same a river fishing where you stand on the banks and watch the water go by.

Today, though, I wanted to try a new tack, I decided to try to fish on the ocean side of the surf and not directly in it. So, I took my Shakespeare ATS 350 reel & 9-foot Shimano Saguaro rod with me and cast over the incoming surf. My line was baited with a 4-ounce weight, a large hook, and a big chunk of either Squid or Mackerel and still the ocean tossed it all about as if it were nothing. My bait was often missing or torn up when I reeled in but if a fish was after it or not, I could not say. So, again, I left after a few hours with nothing to show for my efforts.

This does not mean that I am giving up on surf fishing, I am just going to try another new tack the next time. Today, the tide was coming in for the hours I was on the beach but since I am not really interested in fish that come and go with the tide, I will go out on a day when the tide is going out and see how that works.

I will keep you posted.

Today I was ready for anything…

I was ready, the big fish were not…

I have been having some issues with the line on my Wishing Pole which I keep on the ocean’s bottom hoping to lure in a big fish.  The line on my new reel was the 35-year-old line that I had on my old reel.  It was getting fragile and I did not have enough of it left to fight a big fish if necessary, nor could I find any of the 80-pound test Tuf Line Braided Dacron line I wanted locally so I had to order it from Amazon and it took two weeks to get to me.  Well it arrived yesterday so today I loaded up my Shakespeare ATS 350 reel with it, grabbed my Shimano Saguaro rod and went fishing which is rare for me on a Saturday.  I had also added 10-feet of rope to my pier gaff.  Nothing was going to get away today.

The action was slow at my home base, the Ventura Pier, but I did manage to catch 2 Mackerel, 1 Smelt and 1 six-inch Croaker.  My now totally new Wishing Pole outfit only got a few small tugs on it, but I did catch one fish—the six-inch Croaker which swallowed a chunk of bait almost as big as it was.

I will be hitting the road for my next few outings.  On Monday, I fish Santa Barbara. 

Stay tuned.

Do sharks get indigestion?

My sister-in-law’s first ocean catch; a 6″ Jack Smelt

If so, the one that ate my hook, line, and 4-ounce sinker must have a whale (pun intended) of an upset stomach right now. 

My sister-in-law of 40 years, Barbara, has been visiting us for the past week and today was the day I told her that I would take her fishing with me.  She has lived most of her life in Phoenix, AZ and had never fished in the ocean before.  On the way to the pier I told her that you never know what to expect to catch when you toss your line into the Pacific, there are so many species of fish our their you could catch anything.  Well, we were on the pier for about 45 minutes when a shark hit my ocean bottom line.  I knew it was a shark because of the screaming sound of my drag as line shot out of my reel.  It was steady screech unlike the rhythmic one you hear when a ray is on your line or the short tugs of most any other fish.  As soon as I heard the noise,  I immediately knew that I was in trouble and that I needed to act fast.  

I almost didn’t take my Shakespeare ATS350 reel / Shimano Saguaro rod outfit with me today because of the lack of line on my reel; I knew I didn’t have enough on the spool to let a big fish run.  I haven’t been able to find the Tuf Line Dacron 80-pound test line that I want in my town and the spool I ordered from Amazon is taking a ridiculously long time to get here (10 days and counting).  So, I had to grab my pole before my line hit bottom and the fish pulled it into the ocean.  At that point, all I could do was tug on it and hope it would turn.  It didn’t and when I reeled in, there was nothing but part of my rigging left.  Oddly enough, the fish ate my 4-ounce sinker and my hook, leaving half of the weight’s swivel and a small part of the hook’s leader.  It must have swallowed all the rigging at once and when I pulled back on it, that was all that came out of the fish.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet with me catching three Mackerel, one of which went back into the ocean, and Barbara catching her very first ocean fish:  A six-inch Smelt

I was just happy we were not shut out.

Weekend fishing on the pier

A small Bat Ray that got away…

I normally don’t fish on weekends due to the crowds on the pier but I bought a brand-new outfit (rod & reel) and I wanted to try it out. The new set replaced a rod & reel that I had for over 35 years.  This new setup is fantastic. My Shakespeare ATS30 combined with my 9-foot Shimano Saguaro rod made casting and reeling-in effortless. There was only one problem. When I caught a 2-foot wide Bat Ray, I decided to not gaff it because that would have killed it, so I hand lined it up and since I caught a 4-foot wide Bat Ray on the same line–35 years or so ago–I thought I was okay. The little ray put up a great fight but when it got within arm’s length of the top of the pier railing, that old line broke. I just ordered new line, 80-pound test Dacron so this won’t happen again.

Again, I was the only one catching fish today, my total today was 14 fish but 7 of those were Mackerel so I had a lot of fun and now I have a lot of bait.