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 ultra ultra-lite

Abu Garcia Silver Max 10 – 6.4 oz.

First, I have stated many times in my blog that I like to give the fish I catch a fighting chance and if I lose one then the fish wins. This doesn’t bother me unless it is due to faulty or worn out equipment because that is on me, not the fish.

Second, when I take someone along with me on a fishing outing, like my son or sister-in-law, and they do not have their own gear I let them use my old ultra-lite rig (Quantum Lite Long Stroke reel & Quantum Lite Graphite rod) because it only has a 6-foot pole and the reel is easy to use even for inexperienced fishermen. It is also very dependable with a strong retrieve. I rarely lose a fish while using it.

Third, when I let a guest use my ultra-lite, I use an old mid-sized Penn 990 SS reel & St. Croix rod rig. I don’t have any data on this rig because it is at least 30 years old and I bought it used. The reel has always had issues.

So, when my son and I went fishing on Black Friday (who needs a crowded mall when you have the Pacific Ocean?) I used the Penn and though we didn’t catch a lot of fish, I lost two because of a faulty drag that would not tighten all the way down. This was a new problem and the one that convinced me to retire the outfit.

I considered replacing it with another mid-sized rig but my Shakespeare Contender reel & Shimano FX 2803 rod pretty much fills the role of a mid-sized out fit so I decided to go with an new ultra-lite instead. That meant heading down to my favorite tackle store–the local mini-WalMart. This store, which is about a mile from my home, has tons of fishing equipment which may be due to the fact that our city sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and that there are two large freshwater lakes, Piru and Casitas, which are each about a 10-mile drive from the store. Everything is also “WalMart priced” which is usually the best price anywhere.

After looking over what they had, I found a rod and reel combo that made my old ultra-lite rig look like a heavy ocean bottom pole.

The rod I chose is a 6-foot Shakespeare Durango rod which is Walmart priced at $9.44. I couldn’t find any specs on the rod, but according to my kitchen scale, it weighs in at 4.3 oz. It’s maroon/red in color so I looks pretty hot too.

The reel I chose is an Abu Garcia Silver Max 10 which is pictured above. According the the company’s website, the reel weighs in at 6.4 oz. The reel is WalMart priced at $29.99. So I paid less than $40 for my new ultra ultra-lite.

After I got home and assembled the rig, complete with 30lb test Spider Wire Stealth moss green line I was amazed at how well they went together even though I picked them out. The balance is perfect. I can put my finger under the rubberized section of the handle just above the reel and it balances with no effort. Naturally, I wanted to get out and try the new outfit as soon as possible, which I did so yesterday.

I drove up to Stearns Wharf where the action is usually good if not great. The weather was partly cloudy with a little wind and a high temperature of 57 (it was 39 when I arrived) but the next rain storm would be holding off for another day or so. The tide had turned by the time my wishing pole’s line hit the water so the tide would be coming in for another 4 hours until it turned again. Everything was perfect except no one told the fish. In the first 3 hours I was there, all I caught was a small Smelt no more than 5-inches long. This was hardly the test I was looking for so I stayed on and was continually amazed at the ease of casting my new ultra ultra-lite. Even with only a piece of bait, I could get it out far enough to be away from all the tiny smelt that usually hands out under the wharf.

I was getting ready to pack up and leave but since I had two pieces of bait already cut, I thought I would use them up instead of feeding them to the birds. On my first cast, I got a huge hit as something started running out my line. It was a struggle, which I like, but after a few minutes, I landed a 16″ Smelt which I estimated weighed a little over 2-pounds.

Not bad work for an ultra ultra-like that weighs a total of 10.3 oz. After our next storm passes, I will be taking it out again.

Stearns Wharf II: Shark, bass, and mackerel, oh my!

After my last fishing adventure at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA where I caught 40 fish in 4 hours, I just had to go back to see if that was the norm or if I had just caught the area on a good day.  So, I went back today and though I only caught 14 fish in about 3 ½ hours, the Tiger Shark’s size and weight made up for a lot of that time.

Because of the wharf’s restriction on overhead casting, I took my Shakespeare Contender reel & 8-foot Shimano FX 2803 rod since I knew I could cast some distance with it even underhanded.  It is equipped with moss green 30lb test Spider Wire line so essentially the rig is better suited for freshwater but then I like to fish with light gear, so the fish have a chance.  That is why, in my mind, it is called sport fishing. 

I arrived at the wharf around 7 AM and was surprised that there were no other fishermen out there.  After about ½ hour of fishing as the Shakespeare’s line sat on the ocean floor with a large hook baited with a big chunk of Mackerel, I started catching fish on my ultra-light rig.  I didn’t have the continuous action like I had last week, but I stayed busy, eventually catching 7 Mackerel and 3 Calico Bass; but more on them later.

A local resident, with his kids and mother and father, saw me catch my biggest Mackerel and, as I do with all kids, I showed them the fish and told them about it. That is when the father told me that I had a fish on my other line.  I turned to see my Shimano FX 2803 bent nearly in half while the drag on my Shakespeare Contender reel hummed as it let out line.  Once more I thanked my grandfather for telling me repeatedly to always secure my pole.  If I had not done that, my rig would have been lost.  So, I put the Mackerel down and took my rig out of its holder.  That is when I knew I had a VERY big fish. 

The way that the fish was fighting, I knew it was a shark as opposed to a Bat Ray or Halibut, the only question was what kind of shark did I have on the line?  It pulled me down from one side of wharf to another which was good for me since that side was in open water away from the wharf’s pilings.  As I battled it, a large group of tourists gathered and several people asked me what I had caught, I could only tell them that I thought it was a shark and that if my line held, we would know what kind it was.  At first, I thought it might be a Shovel nose shark but the more I fought it, the more I thought that is was some other species.  When the Tiger Shark finally broke the surface, people got real excited, including me.  One lady was recording the battle, and everyone was taking pictures of the fish.  Fortunately, the local man had a boat in the harbor and was an experienced fisherman, so I asked him to get my gaff out of my bucket.  He had never used a pier gaff before, so he took the pole while I manned the gaff.  He was amazed at how strong the shark was.  We both figured it to be well over 5-foot-long and in the 150+ pound weight range. 

After a few tries, I managed to hook the shark’s tail and at that point, the beast was played out.  I fully intended to bring the shark on to the wharf but once it left the buoyancy of the ocean water, I realized just how much it must have weighed.  Even with the help of the local fisherman, we could barely budge it and since I was going to put it back in the ocean anyway, I decided to just cut my line and let it go after I took a few pictures.  I managed to work the gaff free then took out my knife while looking at the great fish that I had fought for the last 20 minutes or so, it looked totally exhausted as was I.  I told all the tourists to take their pictures and when they had finished, I cut my line to much applause from the audience who watched it swim away. 

Meanwhile, a Seagull ate the large Mackerel I caught and put down while I was fighting the Tiger Shark which I thought was tacky.  For the rest of the morning, when it came near me, I scared the hell out of it by yelling “Thanksgiving” at it which made the tourists think I was insane and got a few laughs.

My last catch of the day was a Calico Bass which I was sure would be my dinner today but it measured 13 inches long, one-inch shy of the legal limit. 

Still, it put up a hell of a fight on my ultra-light just like the shark did on my heavier gear.

Look mom, I caught a Pigeon!

I took my sister-in-law, Barbara, out to fish in the Pacific Ocean yesterday and since this was her first experience of fishing in the Pacific, I told her that you never know what you are going to catch when you cast your line into the water.  We had a few exciting moments, but overall, it was a pretty routine day with the exception of her catching her first ocean fish.  If she had gone with me today, however, she’d have a better understanding of what I said.

Following is a list of today’s catches.  As I was leaving the pier, a California Fish & Game employee asked if I’d take a survey and even he had a hard time fathoming such a diverse selection of sea life:

  1. Two Smelt, both went back into the ocean
  2. One big Perch, which went to a nearby fisherman
  3. One big Rock Crab which went back into the ocean
  4. One small Sand Crab which went back into the ocean
  5. One small Skate Ray which went back into the ocean
  6. One Pigeon (more on this later)

What is more, there were as many changes in the weather as there were in the sea creatures that I caught.  While this is not too unusual on the Ventura Pier, today outdid most days.  One minute it was sunny with the wind blowing to the west, the next minute it was cold and overcast with the wind blowing to the east.  When I finally left for the day, the wind had dissipated, the ocean was in a dead calm, and the fog was so thick, it felt like a day in June (June Gloom). 

As for the Pigeon, it put up the biggest fight today.  I have “caught” Seagulls and Cormorants who went after my bait, but this was my first Pigeon.  They hang out on the pier all day looking for handouts while flying over it and under it.  Well my Pigeon was flying under the pier when it hit my line.  At first I thought it was just brushing it until I realized that it had caught its wing in my line.  It tried to fly under the pier but my line kept it from doing so.  I opened the bell on my Shakespeare Contender reel to let it, perhaps, settle down on a piling but when it didn’t do that, I tried reeling it in.  After a struggle, my 30 lb test, moss green, Spider Wire went slack.  I figured the bird had worked itself free.  That was until I found a feather entangled in the line.  I guess it can still fly while missing one feather, at least  I hope so.