A month or so past, my 83 year old father in law came to California (from Phoenix, AZ) for a 2-week visit. During that time, he learned all about my fishing ventures and he went with me to the Ventura Pier one day to relax in the cooler Ventura climate while I fished.
It was on that day that he told me that he had some old fishing gear and that I could take all of it the next time I was in Phoenix. At that time, I had not been in that town for over 10 years but my wife and I were planning a visit there before heading to the Grand Canyon, so we arranged a lunch meeting after we picked him up at his place. While we were there, I looked at the gear he had. Then he told me that some of it had belonged to his FATHER.
Half of the lures are made of wood and I have been able to date some back to the 1940’s. The Kalamazoo Tackle Company’s Sportsman Reel, Model E, which was housed in a custom leather case, is nearly new. It may have never been used since there were two other Sportsman reels that definitely have been used; one was attached to the 54″ square STEEL Bristol rod that he also gave me. All of the equipment is for freshwater use, especially the Jitterbug “Bass killer” so I am not sure what I am going to do with this haul. I may go up to my local lake and try out some of the lures even though the fishing is way off in that lake due to drought, fire, and then floods. For sure, I am going to attach the Kalamazoo reel to the Bristol rod and take it out to a pier for a day if nothing else.
That would be real old school fishing at its best.
At one point, I asked about fishing in Colorado River which formed the canyon millions of years ago, at the bottom of the canyon. A Park Ranger informed me that I could do this if I wanted to add four days to my trip.
Two days down and two days up.
I think I might look at fishing in it at some other location.
The title of this post was originally going to be the title of my blog but while searching available URL’s, I just could not find one that was suitable—or memorable—so I looked for my secondary choice and discovered that theoldmanandtheseas.com was available. Subsequently I registered it and have fished happily ever after even though when people see my t-shirts, hats, and hoodies, they ask me if there is a typo on them.
At least the name is getting their attention and affords me the opportunity to tell them about my blog.
The reason I wanted the original name was due to the fact that I would be wandering up and down the California coast fishing at a variety of places like I did today when I combined three of my interests into one outing.
I love to fish, write, and ride my old Schwinn Ranger bike so I had an idea of how I could do all of them in one day. As you can see by the pictures, I attached my ultra-light rig to my bike, loaded my backpack with a hat, tackle, a filet knife, and bait, then headed over to Marina Park Beach for the first stop in my wandering. I rode my bike to this park last week and scouted the area since I was told that it was a good place to go surf-fishing and though I have been to this park many times in the past, I have never fished on the beach there and I totally forgot that there was a little fishing dock located behind its massive breakwater. When I visited the park last week, I talked to a couple of people who were fishing on the dock and they told me that while they don’t catch a lot of fish there, you can catch some pretty big Perch if you are lucky. I guess I wasn’t lucky today because I didn’t even get a nibble and the area seemed pretty dead. The water was still and crystal clear but there were no fish to be seen much less caught but I still enjoyed trying out the new area. The next time I go to the park, I will drive and take my surf fishing rig with me.
So, I packed up and headed for the Ventura Pier which is about two miles up the road from Marina Park Beach. Along the way, I stopped briefly at a breakwater to try my luck but after dodging waves for 20 minutes, I decided to move on before the Pacific plucked me off of it.
When I got to the pier, the wind was calm and the ocean was flat as a billiard table. I unpacked and fished for about an hour right around the middle of the pier but when my efforts didn’t yield any catches, I moved out to near the very end of it and was rewarded with a mid-sized Mackerel within the first 10 minutes. Over the next hour, I caught another Mackerel and two huge Smelt that were both bigger than the Mackerels. The first three fish went back into the Pacific but I gave the last Smelt to a neighboring fisherman who asked for it.
I was going to stay longer but the wind started to pick up which made drift lining difficult and reminded me that the weather service stated that there was a slight chance of a recurrence of the Santa Ana winds that blew through the area over the last few days. The last thing you want to do is be out biking and get caught in sustained winds of 20 to 30 MPH with gusts up to 65 MPH.
When I got home, my odometer read 14.03 miles for the trip, which is about mid-range for me, so I got in a decent ride, visited two new places, caught some fish, and now I have written about it all which makes it a very good day all around.
Prior commitments, some delays in work being done on the homestead, and an appointment to a city advisory group has kept me away from fishing most of the last few weeks but when a day opened up yesterday, I decided to go over to the Ventura Pier, my home base, for a few hours because I know I have another delay coming up.
Since Labor Day, when the pier was rail to rail fishermen for three days, the fishing has dropped off dramatically at the pier. I can only speculate that the area has been temporarily fished out. Unlike Stearns Wharf up Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, CA which extends it full length straight out into the channel between the shore and the Channel Islands (see left photo above), the Ventura Pier is in a very large bay-like area (see right photo above) and I just feel like this keeps the “restocking” of the area slow whereas there never seems to a shortage of fish around Stearns Wharf. I have no scientific data to base this on so just call it a fisherman’s hunch, which is often more accurate than science.
For this trip, I decided to go to the end of the pier and see if anything was happening out there. It was a quiet day with only five fishermen (or groups of fishermen) when I arrived but the weather was perfect. For a drift liner like me it could not have been better. At 7:30 AM, it was already 68 degrees and did not get much warmer by the time I left 3 ½ hours later. The wind was non-existent, and the ocean was flat and calm.
So, I had high hopes—which did not totally pan out. After a few hours, I had caught 5 Mackerel. Two went into my bait bag, one went to another fisherman, and the other two went back in to grow up. My ocean bottom line was getting a lot of attention but nothing hooked on to it. I suspect that the fish who were stealing my bait were too small but it could also have been crabs doing the job.
But, I can’t complain, the weather was perfect.
…will stay this fisherman from making his rounds.
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.
You sure get a lot of odd balls on Stearns Wharf.
My time to get out to the pier, the wharf, the shore, and a planned boat excursion, is going to be limited for a while due to prior commitments so I thought I’d explain what I mean when I mentioned in many of my posts that I fish with a drift line. The concept is simple but actually fishing this way can be a challenge.
As I mentioned in an early blog post, my grandpa always advised me to take a fishing pole and what he called a “wishing pole” with me when I had a chance to do so. The wishing pole is one that I would weight down, bait up, and cast out to the deepest part of the lake, ocean, or river that I could reach. Then I’d set my drag so it would alert me when a fish is on the line. This pole would be used to fish for all the bottom feeding fish that tended to be larger and put up a better fight than fish who do not feed this way. Submarine size Carp and Catfish are examples of freshwater bottom feeders while Rays and Sharks are examples of saltwater bottom feeders.
Going after bottom feeders with your wishing pole is simple and easy to do and I think it is the way most people fish even when they use live bait. However, going after the rest of the fish out there with your fishing pole rigged as a drift line takes more effort than simply setting your drag. For one thing, you should never set your fishing pole when practicing this method especially when there are hard hitting fish like Mackerel and Bass in the water.
A drift line is simply a line with no weights or bobber on it. You can have multiple hooks if you want a greater challenge like catching three Mackerel at a time, which I have done many times. Your fishing pole should be as light weight as you dare use and the lighter the better, I say, since I like a good fight and I like to give the fish a chance. I always use my old ultra-light rig when I drift line so there is a 50-50 chance that I will either haul in my catch or it will get away. Since I only fish for sport, this doesn’t matter to me.
Whatever you use, it should be easy to cast with only the weight of the bait on it since no lead weights are used in this method. Using a bobber is close to drift lining but it is not the same since your bait is being held in place in the water, at one level. Though your line can drift anyway it wants, it cannot drift down which is key element in drift lining.
Drift lining is used to fish for all the rest of the fish out there besides bottom feeders though you can occasionally hook one. In drift lining, you cast your bait into the water and let it drift where ever it may go. As it sinks to the bottom, your bait can attract any fish at an water level. In the ocean, you often have Smelt sitting just below the surface, with Mackerel beneath or mixed in with them. As your bait drifts lower, it can attract Perch and Bass. If it hits bottom and you are content to let it sit there for a while, you can pick up a bottom feeder but since you are using light tackle, you have to hope it is not too big.
One day while I was fishing at Stearns Wharf, the Smelt that are usually around had moved off to another area which allowed me to catch 33 Mackerel in a few hours. One time, my bait made it through the horde of Mackerel that were lurking about and my line drifted closed to the pilings just beneath my feet. Suddenly, I got a hit that I knew was not that of a Mackerel, it was stronger, but slower and after a pretty fierce battle, I reeled in a nice size Calico Bass. Until that time, I didn’t know there were bass under the wharf. So I started fishing for them. Six more times my bait made it through the school of Mackerel and I ended up with 7 Calico Bass on the day. A total of 40 fish in about 3 ½ hours. I was very busy and I owe it all to the drift lining method.
As I said at the start, though, fishing this way can be a real challenge due to the following reasons:
So, that is the drift lining method. I have caught thousands of fish this way even when others around me were being shut out. Though I have told and shown many fishermen this method, I have not seen that many actually use it because of the attention needed to be successful when using this method.
In the 60 years since my grandfather taught me how to fish, I have fished in almost every way that you can fish (the exception being fly fishing).
I have fished freshwater in boats, on the shore, and from fishing docks. I have fished saltwater in boats, on the shore, and from piers. In all of these venues I never encountered the “problems” with birds like you have when pier fishing in whatever ocean you happen to be near. Freshwater fishing never has a problem with birds and ocean fishing never has a problem with them either unless you are on a “party boat” that is releasing offal to attract fish. This also attracts Sea Gulls but in that arena, they usually don’t bother the fishermen, they want the offal, not your bait.
Don’t get me wrong, in most instances I love having seabirds around because if they are out over the water, they tell you that there are fish in the area and where you can find them. Pelicans are especially good at this which is why I love them. When people come up and talk to me about fishing while I am on the pier, I often mention the birds and how they can tell you if the day will be a good one or a bad one for fishing. Most people, especially fishermen, don’t think this way.
Following is a short list of birdlife I see most often on piers followed by their pluses and minuses. Keep in mind that I love them all though some can be very pesky and one species can totally ruin a day of fishing.