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 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 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.

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.

King Tides and Cold Water

Earth’s ocean tides rise and fall in relation to how strong the Moon’s gravitational pull effects the planet at any given time. When it is strong, tides rise, when it is weak, tides recede. This high and low tide change happens twice a day and since the Earth moves in the same orbit while the Moon and the Sun are stationary these movements are predictable and we can create Tide Charts which are a help to mariners and fishermen alike.

A few times each year, the alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon creates a stronger than usual gravitational force and this force in turn causes what are known as King Tides. A King Tide coupled with high winds can cause severe flooding in low lying areas, they can damage boats, marinas, piers, and anything else along the ocean shore. The picture above is an actual shot of King Tide waves being pushed by high winds (note the American flag sticking straight out) that hit the Ventura Pier a few years ago. The damage to the structure was so bad that it had to be closed for months in order for repairs to be made.

This coming Friday, January 10, 2020, a three day King Tide event will start and I will be out on the pier fishing as it comes in. Winds are predicted to be light and variable so I don’t expect any real issues because of the event but you never know with the ever changing conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

The reason I will be out there braving the elements is because I have always heard that the fishing during a King Tide event is exceptional no matter how cold the ocean is at the time. There is no real scientific data to back this claim up so it may just be wishful thinking on the part of us fishermen but the tides have been shown to effect the movements of sea creatures so there may be some truth in this.

A King Tide event is not something that just happens one day and is gone the next. Tides start building days before peak tides as you can see in this Tide Chart. Today, January 7, 2020, the peak tide will be 5.6 feet, four days ago it was 4.2 feet and by Friday, it will be at 6.5 feet. That is a rise of 2.3 feet in one week. That may not sound like much, but scientists have shown that even the few inches the oceans have risen due to the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, which is caused by Climate Change, has caused major changes to seashores all over the planet.

Locally, the Surfrider Foundation will taking before and after pictures of event to illustrate what the long term affect of Climate Change will have on Earth.

After my adventure I will report what fishing was like during this event–unless I get swept up in it, that is.

“Are you a professional fisherman?”

Even before I started wearing my shirt, hat, and hoodie which advertise my blog, I have been asked this question. In response I always say, “More or less, I guess.” This non-response usually ends the inquiry, but if someone asks me to explain, I tell them that after 52 years of working, I have managed to set up a livable income stream which allows me to fish all that I want. I don’t mention the spare change I glean from the toe-nail fungus ads on this WordPress site.

Two days ago shortly after I started fishing on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA, a very pretty young lady asked me the question again. She had a severe accent and her English was broken but I knew what she wanted. This time, though, instead of giving her my pat response, I asked what prompted her to ask the question? This confused her at first, but through gestures, and what I could understand, she said her fiancee wanted to know but he didn’t speak any English since they were tourists from Israel. When she pointed him out, standing a few feet away, I waved him over.

Through more gestures, and between what little English they both spoke, she informed me that they had watched me get my gear ready. Both had been impressed how I went through each step in a fast, yet organised, manner; they pointed out how I had laid out all of my bait and tackle as well before starting to rig my gear. I told them that I had gone through this ritual so often that I didn’t have to think about it anymore but that didn’t seem to matter since they had watched a man, who clearly knew what he was doing set up and start doing his “job” with little wasted effort. They enjoyed seeing this. The man seemed to be unhappy about how people don’t do what they get paid for anymore and was more impressed when he realized that I am “retired”. After they watched me catch a few fish, they said their good-byes and went away happy.

It would have been too difficult to tell them that I fish in the same way I worked before being turned out by society because I am supposedly “too old” to work; I was always very organised at my job and I always worked quickly and efficiently.

For what it is worth society, I can still do this…