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.
And that is what I was up against yesterday when I paid a visit to Stearns Wharf.
I didn’t think I’d be able to get out to the ocean this week because of prior commitments but when a full day suddenly opened up yesterday, I decided to go up to the wharf, which is quickly becoming my favorite fishing venue. There was a small craft advisory issued for the channel by the national weather service so I knew it would be wet and cold but when I finally arrived at the wharf just before 7 AM, I found a few more factors in play.
The wind was howling, the sea was churning wildly, and a screaming maniac was pacing around in one corner of the wharf apparently having a conversation with the mariner’s warning light which was not on at the time. The wind and the wild sea is something you learn to deal with if you fish in the ocean but nut cases are not. This person’s issue seemed to be with the light standard and nothing else but his constant howling was a distraction which I had to check on in case he decided he wanted some REAL trouble with me. That never happened and as more and more fishermen, joggers, and tourists came around, I stopped paying attention to him since he was not bothering any of them. I kept expecting the Harbor Patrol or the city police to show up and take the guy somewhere where he could get help but that never happened and after a few hours, I saw him wander away.
As he did, the sun broke through for a while and the fishing which had been slow until then suddenly picked up. I caught 6 Smelts which was a surprise since I don’t fish for them but these fish were all larger than the usual ones that hang around the wharf. The same was true about the 9 Mackerel I caught, all of which were over a foot long and all fierce fighters. I kept 4 of the biggest for bait and released the rest. Then, I caught something with my ocean bottom.
It was a large Skate Ray and at 33” in length it was easily one of the biggest I have ever caught. There were no other fishermen near me when I finally brought the ray to the surface but an Asian lady had come over when she saw me fighting the fish and clapped happily when she finally saw it. So I asked her if she wanted to help land it. Despite the language barrier between us, I managed, by pantomiming, to get her to understand my question. She was thrilled when I handed her the pole and indicated that she needed to hold on tightly. Then I got out my gaff, lowered it into the ocean, hooked the ray, and brought him onto the pier. This got another round of clapping and dancing. As I was unhooking the animal, a young man came over to us; he was the lady’s son who spoke better English than I do. When I told him was happened he gave his mom a high-five, took some pictures of her and ray, and passed on my thanks for her help.
After that, I moved to the corner of the wharf where the screaming maniac had been holding court with his demons. The wind had come up again and the ocean continued to churn but I kept catching a fish now and then and all were larger than usual. I began to wonder if the active ocean bottom had anything to do with the presence of these larger fish? I make a note of it if this happens again when I am out.
When it was time to go, I heard someone talking on his cell
phone as I packed up. Looking over at
the guy, sitting not 10 feet from me, I saw that he had no phone and no one was
near him. He was talking to the wind.
I am sure you didn’t expect to see that word next and you would have a hard time convincing my wife and friends that this statement can be attributed to me, yet it is nonetheless true. Today was one of those days.
I can’t explain why I felt this way today. Maybe it was because I had “stuff” to do but when you are retired, “stuff” can always be done later. Maybe it was because I didn’t like the wind forecast; blowing as it was predicted would make fishing difficult. Or maybe I realized that I won’t have a day like I did the last time I went out: 40 fish caught in 4 hours.
Still, I went fishing.
The wind was as bad as predicted. The flags were nearly straight out all day. at my home base, the Ventura Pier, and though I only stayed for half as long as usual. I still caught four fish, all different species, but all small so the Skate, Perch, Croaker, and Smelt all went back into the Pacific.
I am planning an outing which will be an experiment that will combine three of my loves: Fishing, writing, and biking. This will be a first time for me so I don’t know how it will work out or if I will catch any fish, so stay tuned for the results.
When I fish on the Ventura Pier, I only “target” two species even though I will catch anything. Those two are shark and Mackerel; today I caught both.
The day started off with a bang. I was there 20 minutes when something hit my wishing line like a ton of bricks. 20 minutes or so later, after a fierce battle, I knew what I had hooked. By that time two very experienced fishermen came over to help and as soon as my adversary hit the surface, they both yelled, “Sand Shark, a big one.” I agreed. We estimated its length to between to be about 5 feet (based on the space between the pier’s pilings) and since I had been fighting it, I figured it weighed about 75-100 pounds. Sadly, before we could get a gaff in it, it broke my 40-pound test and swam off trailing my hook and 4-ounce weight. I consider this a catch since I would have landed it if we could have put my gaff in it in time, but no matter what, it was a hell of a fight and I would have tossed it back in any way even though they are edible. Above is a picture of one of these denizens of shallow water.
After that, I caught everything, including a big and a little Skate and since I caught the little Skate on my Zebco QUANTUM XR-3 Long Stroke Fishing Reel and Quantum Lite Graphite rod (an old outfit I refer to as my “ultra-light”), it took almost as much skill to land it as the shark.
With the wind blowing like it was today, it was hard to keep my drift line in the water so I added another hook and bait to my ultra-light outfit. No sooner had it hit the water when I caught my lone Mackerel and a BIG Croaker at the SAME time. I wasn’t sure if I could land them either with that rig but I did. The Mackerel went into my bait box and I gave the Croaker to the folks who tried to help me land the shark. I caught 15 fish today..
I was at the fishing pier in Goleta, CA today at sunup (6 AM). It was still dark, very overcast, and a cold wind was blowing but I caught a good-sized Croaker, after only being there for 15 minutes. For the next 1 3/4 hours, I didn’t get anything but a few nibbles and it was too cold for that so I headed to the Ventura Pier where I caught another Croaker right away which I gave to a lady who asked for it.
Then for the next few hours, all I caught were small fish which I threw back. However, when I was packing up to leave and reeling in my wishing pole, I realized that I had a fish on the line. It turned out to be a small Skate Ray, my third of the week. I finally landed the fish and when I turned to put it on the pier, I found a crowd of about 25 people watching me. Some were videoing the “event” and others were taking pictures. Most of the group were kids so I took the time to explain what type of fish it was, a ray not a shark. and that they had been on Earth since the days of the dinosaur. Then I told them I had to make a decision. The little thing had nearly swallowed the hook the whole way so if I removed it, I knew it would die. My other choice was to snip my line as close to the hook as I could and put the fish back in the ocean where it had a chance of surviving. I asked the kids what they thought I should do and most of them told me to cut the line, which I did. Then they all watched as I put it back in the ocean. That got me a round of applause. So I tipped my hat, answered some questions, and went home.