My First Catch

Freshwater Perch

I still remember my first catch.  I was fishing with my Grandpa Duffy in a body of water behind my Aunt Amy’s and Uncle Frank’s house.  They had a small boat tied up to dock that sat just above the water and must have been 20 feet of so in length.  It looked dangerous to me so grandpa and I fished from the shore.  When my first fish hooked itself on my line, I was excited and started jumping up and down then grandpa put his hand on my head and told me to take care of business first, then I could get excited.  He said if I didn’t do this, the fish might get away.  This was the first bit of wisdom he passed on to me.

After I reeled in a small Perch, I asked grandpa if we were going to eat it.  He said it was too small for that and that we should put it back in the water so it could grow up, then we’d catch it later.  Even though this made me a little sad, I loved seeing the little thing swim away, maybe to its mommy.

I remember these events clearly as if they took place yesterday, but I was only five years old, and that was 61 years ago.

Since that time, I have caught, released, eaten, or used for bait thousands of fish, some weighing in excess of 100 pounds and some smaller than my first catch.  Regardless of their size, species, or eventual fate, they all had my respect, a respect for nature, just as my grandpa showed me with that first little Perch.

Now that I have retired because society seems to think I am an “old man”, I have taken up the sport again after over a decade away from it. 

This blog will tell the tales of my fishing ventures and it will pass along some of my grandfather’s sage advice, advice that is still relevant today, six decades later. Those posts will be called, “Advice From Grandpa”. I will also be posting an occasional fishing memory from times past, these will simply be labeled as “Memories”.

About This Blog, Its Title, and Contact Information

Ernest Hemingway’s classic

NOTE: These blog postings should be read in chronological order as listed in the menu above since they tell of sequential experiences.

Even if I could have had the opportunity to name this blog, The Old Man and the Sea, I would not have done so because like the great Ernest Hemingway, I too am a writer and there is no way that I would ever imply that I am of his caliber.  I write a good story but then there are masters such as he and followers such as me for reasons that can be seen clearly in our respective texts.

However, this blog title is not labeled incorrectly because of my adding an “s” to it because even though all of my saltwater fishing is confined to the Pacific Ocean. All oceans and all seas, are connected and thus makes them all one body, a body that keeps our planet blue. 

I will be posting fishing stories, Grandpa’s Advice, and Memories to this blog.

So, drop in, then drop me a line at anoldmanandtheseas@gmail.com

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.

Of Kings and Legends

15-inch Smelt

As I promised in my last post, I went out to the Ventura Pier to fish during the first day of a King Tide event that is coming to our shores. Legend has it that fishing is always betters during these very high tide times so I thought I would check the veracity of this even though the fishing has been way off due to the cold Pacific water.

I fished from 7 AM to 10 AM which was 1 1/2 hours before high tide and 1 1/2 hours after it. I found that while the legend does seem to have some truth to it, I know I could have also been just lucky.

My total catch was four large Smelt each over a foot in length with the one pictured being the largest. While there are days I would call this a bad day, compared to my last few outings, this was a good day and since I caught all of the fish on my ultra-ultra light rig that weighs less than a pound, it was battle to land them. I also hooked two more that got away.

So, I am thinking about going out again tomorrow since that is the day the King Tides will be the highest but it will depend on the weather. Today I could not have dialed up a nicer day for fishing. It was 65 degrees, virtually no wind until the time I left, and the ocean was flat and calm. We had a squall blow through the area yesterday which cleaned the air as well.

What I am looking forward to now is the next King Tide which will occur next month when the water should be a few degrees warmer.

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.

Baby it is cold outside…

Pacific Ocean temperatures off the Ventura shoreline

When we who live along the southern and central California coast start griping about the “cold” weather, we are usually referring to temperatures in the lower 40’s and, God forbid, the 30’s. We know that inland temperatures in the desert can get bitterly cold but we don’t live there for a variety of reasons of which that is one.

To a fisherman, though, weather is not usually an issue since you can fish in a driving rainstorm or fish on the ice in sub-zero temperatures, but if you fish the Pacific in the area I do, ocean temperatures can make all the difference in the world. As you can see in the chart above, the Pacific Ocean temperatures have fallen steadily since its highs in September and October and I can testify first hand that the fishing activity has fallen off along with the temperature.

In 1997, we had a Major El Nino event that brought very warm water to our coast and a lot of rain as well. It also brought fish, lots of fish, to our coast. Some of the fish were species normally seen around Baja California so this was a real bonanza for the fishing boat business.

While we can always use rain here and I’d love to see a spike in the fishing activity, there are no El Nino events in the forecast so I will have to just tough it out until the ocean temperatures rise. In the meantime, I have a backlog of memories to write and more advice from my beloved grandfather, so don’t go away even if it seems like I have stopped adding to my blog.

I do plan to fish at least once a week and I am even toying with the idea of doing some freshwater fishing. If anything extraordinary happens during these trips, I will post updates here.

Until then, stay warm and keep fishing.

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.

“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…

“Back” to home

One of two 17″ Smelt caught today

I have not been out to the Ventura Pier, my home base, for three weeks due to a vacation at the Grand Canyon, fishing with my son in Santa Barbara, CA, a big slow down in the fishing action at my home base, and a chronic back issue that flared up the last time I was there.

My back, which I injured on the job about seven years ago, is still bothering me but I can do most things if I can deal with the aches and pains. When I go the the Ventura Pier to fish, there is a long walk involved and I have to carry all of my equipment so I have been staying away until I felt I could make the trek. Today I felt pretty good so I went out to see what was going on.

There were only a few fishermen to be seen, so I didn’t expect much action but to my surprise, after I cast my ocean bottom line (my Wishing Pole) out and then cast my over the side line (my Fishing Pole) I started getting hits on both almost immediately. I had not been fishing for more than 15 minutes when I caught the biggest Smelt that I have ever seen. It measured 17 inches in length and must have weighed around 3 pounds. Then I caught 4 medium sized Mackerel in the next 30 minutes. By that time, I knew why the fishing was so good: there was a huge school of Anchovies under the pier. Having a school of Anchovies swimming around can be good, bad, or both for a fisherman. Today, it was both.

It can be good because big fish follow them around looking for a meal and as witnessed by the big Smelt pictured above, these fish tend to be bigger than what you would normally catch because they most likely followed the school from a greater depth of the ocean. It can be bad, though, because these same fish tend to ignore your dead bait, preferring to have a live, fresh, meal instead. Still, it can be both if you get a fish who just wants to eat something, dead or alive, so they go after your bait. If there are enough of these kinds of fish around, you can be very busy for some time. Today, I stayed busy for about an hour, then the school moved on and the action died out. In the meantime, my bottom line was getting a lot of attention though all I managed to haul in was a #$*#$ bait stealer which was the biggest one of them that I have ever caught. These guys tend to be about 4 or 5 inches in length but because of their large mouths, can still swallow a chunk of bait that is almost as big as they are. The one I reeled in today, though, was nearly 8 inches in length.

I was ready to go in early after a few more hours, when I caught my second 17 inch Smelt. There was a large school class outing walking by as I was fighting the fish who hit on my ultra light rig, so after I landed it, I had the opportunity to tell the kids about the fish, the Anchovies, and how the birds that were hanging around can tell you when the fishing is going to be good.

Their teacher appreciated the time I took to talk to the kids.

One other thing about today’s outing that was unusual is that I caught all of my fish on the west side of the pier, a side I rarely fish on due to the normally prevailing winds, but with my back aching and a still wind, I wanted my back to be facing east so it could be warmed by the rising sun. If it had not been for that, I may have missed the school of Anchovies and all of the fish that I caught.