“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.

Stearn’s Wharf I: What a MORNING!

When I moved from Phoenix, AZ to Santa Barbara, CA in 1979, Stearn’s Wharf was not open to the public.  It was closed due to a huge fire that roared through it in 1973.  It finally reopened in 1981 but by that time, the Goleta Pier was my fishing spot of choice so I never fished off the wharf before I moved to Ventura, CA in 1984. 

Over the decades since then, the wharf has been open and closed due to another fire, storms, etc. and I heard mixed reviews about the fishing prospects.  Some said it was fantastic and others said it was pathetic so today I decided to try it and see which side was telling the truth while knowing that BOTH sides could be right, depending on the weather, the skill of the fisherman, having the right outfit, and other factors.

Despite having been to the wharf’s website, I was still a little fuzzy about what it would cost me to park on it though that didn’t really matter since I was going to fish off of it for whatever it would cost me.  I knew that the wharf opened at 7 AM and that the first 1 ½ of parking was free and that after that is was $2.50 an hour.  So, I figured I’d just go in, fish for $5.00 worth of time just to see what was what.  However, when I arrived at 7:15 AM, the gate was up and the ticket machine was not functioning, so I drove in while deciding to deal with any questions when I left.        

My line was in the water for, at the most, 15 minutes when I caught my first Calico Bass.  This is fish that you do not find around my home base, the Ventura Pier, and even though it was 4 inches short of the legal limit, I was thrilled since I figured that where there was one, there would be more and I was right.  I caught 6 more Calicos in 4 hours but all were under the legal limit so ALL of them went back into the ocean..  After I caught the 5th one, I had the feeling that the same fish kept biting over and over again.  Especially since this one winked at me…

When I was not catching Calico Bass, I was catching Mackerel as fast as I could bait up and put my line in the water.  I actually lost count of how many I reeled in, but I know that I caught at least 27 of them with more after that, how many, I don’t know but I know it had to be at least 6  more, so let’s call it 33 Mackerel for the MORNING since I only fished for 4 hours.  When I first started catching them, I kept a few for bait then began to give them to other fishermen for bait but it wasn’t long before everyone had plenty of bait so I started throwing them back in while telling them to send me a halibut.  Not one of the ungrateful little buggers did as I asked them and I wound up getting no bites on my ocean bottom line.  The closest I got to a big fish was gaffing up a Shovel Nose shark for a fellow fisherman.  He’d caught it on the Mackerel I gave him.

I visited the Stearn’s Wharf Bait & Tackle to buy some salted Anchovies and was disappointed that they didn’t have a “Shut Up & Fish” t-shirt in a medium but I will check to see if they have any in stock the next time I visit the wharf because after today, I will definitely be back.   

As I was leaving, fully expecting to have to argue my way into a smaller parking fee, I was surprised that my visit would not cost me anything since the city realized that the ticket machine had been malfunctioning that morning. 

The nice lady attendant, just waved me out.

Advice from Grandpa: Patience is the best bait (this worked today)

As a 5 to 7-year-old kid (which were the years I spent fishing with grandpa or just talking about fishing with him), I wanted to catch a fish every time my bait hit the water while not understanding how unrealistic that was.  Grandpa told me more than once that “patience is the best bait” meaning that there are more times that you have to wait to catch a fish then you are actually catching fish.  It took me a while to understand this but I finally did and now, 60 years later, it is still the truth.

Today was a prime example.  I usually don’t fish on the weekends due to the tourist crowding the pier and I especially don’t fish on holiday weekends like this one, but I was feeling very restless so I threw caution to the wind and went to the Ventura Pier.  I got there later than I usually do and I was shocked to see how many people were out fishing today.  There were more anglers than tourists. 

Still, I went out to one of my favorite spots and found it open.  After two hours of no fish, though, I was ready to go in and take a rare shut out home with me.  Then I remembered what grandpa told me and instead of going in, I moved further out on the pier to the deeper end of it.  In about 20 minutes, I caught three large Mackerel and my Wishing Pole started getting a lot of attention. 

Outside of catching a $*@! # bait stealer, my Wishing Pole was very quiet despite getting that attention.  However, I wound up catching seven Mackerel on my ultra-light Fishing Pole not counting two that wriggled off the hook half way to the pier. 

Seven fish in about an hour and half made today a good day but it would have never happened had not grandpa cautioned me about impatience all those decades past. 

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.

Croaker Tsunami

From FB Post of August 8, 2019

Today’s fishing effort picked up right where it left off yesterday. I caught my first fish on my first cast. It was a Croaker, one of seventeen Croakers that I caught along with two Perch and two Smelt one of which was a foot long.

It was lucky for “Doc” and his wife who drove to Ventura all the way from Rancho Cucamonga, CA to fish on the Ventura Pier (that is a 118-mile, 3-hour trip) that I was having such a good day since the only fish they had in their buckets when I left was the fourteen that I gave them.

I threw seven fish back, so the day’s total catch was twenty-one fish which kept me busy all day.

No big fish today, though. The Smelt was the catch of the day.

Sunshine or Fog, The Fishing Goes On

The fog rolls in...
Sunshine, fog, or both, I am out there…

From FB post of August 2, 2019

My slow fishing day (2 Mackerel, 2 Smelt, and 1 #&% bait stealer) got off to an auspicious start when I arrived at the Ventura Pier at 6:45 AM only to find it still closed even though it is supposed to be open at 6:30 AM. There were anglers and tourists waiting for someone from the City of Ventura to come and open the gate. A workman finally strolled in around 7:10 to do the job. The anglers were not really upset but three tourists from Colorado were pretty put out. At the time, it was a bright sunny day and people were out and about early. However, that did not last.

Around 8 AM a huge fog bank rolled in. The featured picture above was taken around 10 AM. By that time, the pier did not seem to be attached to the land. It was surreal hearing the sounds of Highway 101, an occasional train or a siren without seeing exactly where the sound was coming from.

How to Catch a Whale—or Not…

A Skate Ray, often mistaken for Shovel Head Sharks

From FB post of July 28, 2019

I didn’t catch quite as many fish today as I did on my last outing, but the variety was greater and the fish bigger including a Skate Ray which weighed around 20 pounds.  Tomorrow I go to my old haunting grounds, the Goleta Beach Pier where I have caught hundreds of fish including a Bat Ray with a 4-foot wide wingspan.

I did have a heart-attack moment today, though. I had just outfitted and baited my Fishing pole and tossed the hook in the water while I outfitted and baited my Wishing pole. Suddenly, I heard the crack of my line guide hitting the edge of the pier. The 8-foot pole was bent double. I grabbed it and tried to pull back but the line went slack. Reeling in I saw that I had lost everything, hook, line, bait, and sinker. THEN some guy with his phone on video record asked me if I had seen the “whale”. I was about to tell him that what he saw, and what hit my line, was a shark of some sort when another guy ran up yelling about the whale next to the pier. So I guess it was a whale of some sort and had I not secured my pole, it would have been in the somewhere in the deep blue sea ala Moby Dick.

I don’t think I could have landed it anyway.

Where I Fish

ventura pier
The Ventura Pier

Although I sometimes go to my local lake, Lake Casitas, and do a little freshwater fishing, most of my efforts are limited to the Pacific Ocean.  I grew up in Arizona where saltwater fishing is not an option so for 20 years I fished in lakes, lagoons, rivers, and streams where there were only a limited number of species to catch (Perch, Crappie, Sun Fish, Bass, Catfish, Carp, etc.).  Once I moved to California, took in the splendor of the ocean, and realized that there are unlimited types of fish to catch, I became “hooked” on saltwater fishing, so to speak…

Most of the time, I fish off what I consider my home base, the 1600 hundred-foot Ventura Pier in my hometown of Ventura, CA. I also fish in the surf and at other piers in the area such as the ones located in Goleta, CA and Port Hueneme, CA. I may even try Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, though I hear that it is not a very good fishing spot.  

The Ventura Pier was first built in 1872 when it was known as the Ventura Wharf.  It was mainly used as a commerce connection to accept imports of all types of goods and to export the area’s agricultural products and crude oil. 

Over the years, the pier has been destroyed or damaged by storms several times (twice since I have been here) and in 1916 it was destroyed in a collision with the freighter, the Coos Bay.  At one time, the pier was 1958 feet-long and was the longest pier in California. 

Today the pier is no longer used commercial purposes, it is strictly a fishing pier and one of the biggest tourist attractions in our area.  There are two restaurants on the land side of the pier as well.

I fish on the pier at least two or three times per week and people have come to know me as the “guy who catches all those fish” and as someone who is always willing to share fish, bait, and advice if I am asked for it.  I especially love helping the kids and whenever the chance arises, I tell them about the fish I catch and that they should respect them no matter what becomes of them.

I first began posting my fish stories on my personal Facebook page but I am going to migrate all of those tales to this blog and add to it as I go along. Check in daily or sign up for updates if you’d like to follow along as I go about my activities.  Even if you do not fish, I think you will enjoy the stories.