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FisherPoets Gathering

January 15, 2012

Looks like FisherPoets have been gathering in Astoria for 15 years! Where’s my invite?! 🙂

New Year, Here I Come!

January 3, 2012

All right gentle readers. The New Year has arrived. Time to purchase new fishing licenses. I realize a lot of people don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but for all you fishers out there, may I recommend one? This year, resolve to catch and release more fish than you keep. And I mean legally keep-able fish, not the ones you HAVE to throw back!

Also, do your best to remove hooks with care instead of ripping them out. A little patience can make the difference.

Every fish you return to the sea will increase the chances of catching more fish in the future.

Now get out there and catch dat fish! (Just let a few more go!)

Rain, rain

November 20, 2011
tags: ,

No fishing today in this weather. But it’s the perfect time for poetry.

By Christopher Vera

thrash. thrash.
suffocating in air
hands, ungentle
fingers pulling
deep in darkness

Return of the Fisher Poet

November 5, 2011

The red tide has finally departed and last week I went out for the first time in a long time. The water was cool and the tide was low and the fish were biting again. Perfect.

I caught two big surf perch and released them both. Beautiful fish but my uncle Sonny passed away that weekend and I was in a somber mood to set things free. I actually plan to do a lot more catch-and-release in the future.

An old angler told me once that if we stopped all commercial fishing for one 20111105-104338.jpgyear, fish stocks would be replenished to last us another 25. Sounds like a bargain to me if we could figure out how to support our commercial fishers and fish consumers during that year.

Deserted Sea

September 25, 2011

Damned red tide,
algal bloom,
seeps the breath from the mouths of fishes
like a plague,
leaving the sea a red-brown tomb.

Enter underwater night!

September 6, 2011

Nighttime on a pier is another world. Piers conjure a romance that whispers of distant and mysterious places and great ships to carry us there. Salt and wood and burlap and iron.

I wanted some close friends and family to experience the wonders of night fishing so we made our way to San Clemente pier to see what we might find out there in the deep.

Young Cameron caught a small yellow-fin croaker (using squid as bait) while I was waiting in line to get some dinner. Nicely done! A decent sized fish that we used as bait later in the evening.

After a lot of commotion of little girls screaming like, well, little girls, we got our lines back in the water and lucky Cameron then hauled up her next catch: A young guitarfish!

She’s quite the angler!

The guitarfish was a bit too small to keep so we tossed it back. Neither Cameron nor her sister wanted to touch it so it was up to brave Samantha to wrestle the wriggling fish off the deck and heave it over the side. It was an impressive bit of fish handling to be sure.

So impressed were the girls with our night fishing experience that I took them the next day to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego to show them the larger versions of the fish they caught, plus a whole lot more we didn’t get to see from the pier deck.

That got me to thinking about the importance of teaching younger generations to get involved with our natural world. To be a part of it and to respect it. Hopefully this will encourage them to consider careers in biology, environmental science, or other scientific fields.

Maybe it all starts with a little curiosity and a young girl laughing with delight while she dangles a fish on the end of a pole one beautiful summer’s night.

What lies beneath

August 21, 2011

After my experience on the Ocean Beach pier I really had to reconsider my fishing gear. Now that I knew they were out there, I needed a pole that was going to bring in bigger fish. I invested $150 bucks in a nice deep sea pole and a conventional reel (a royal pain in the behind to cast, more on that later.)

With my new rod and reel ready to go, I ventured out to Oceanside pier to see what strange new beasts lay in wait for me on the ocean’s bottom.

After an hour or so of no nibbles on the first cast (really the fourth or fifth using the new reel, but i don’t want to talk about that headache right now) I was unprepared for what I caught! As I reeled in I could feel something heavy on the line like a fish but it put up no fight. I thought it might be sea weed but it didn’t drag like sea weed does.

When I finally got it on the deck a nearby angler laughed to his friend, “Estrella del mar.” Starfish. The thing had found my salted anchovy and was moving to lunch on it.

The starfish drew a great crowd of passers-by, especially kids who wanted to touch it, which of course was great. A little lesson in marine biology is a good thing for getting kids interested in science.

Fortunately I did not hook it. He looks a little gloomy in the photo, but he’s safe and sound, if perhaps a bit shocked. It had merely held onto the bait (which tells you something about how tough those salted anchovies are.) I peeled him off and left him the fish for eating, tossing both back into the deep.

Thunder on Ocean Beach Pier

August 14, 2011

The sky was gray and the wind swept with a light bite from the northwest.

Ocean Beach Pier is a fantastic concrete structure shaped like a “T” (see the photo.)  This was my first time to this pier and I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Thunder is what I got.

Instead of my usual rubber lures and frozen anchovies, I decided to try a new trick I learned from an old angler: Salted anchovies! Yeah, it sounds like a big “so-what” but the salted anchovies add two benefits. First, they stick to the hook a LOT better. Usually frozen anchovies falls right off the hook. The other benefit is that the salt hides a lot of the “human scent” you leave when handling other bait. Some fish are sensitive enough to release the bait before the hook catches if they sense it’s foreign.

The results speak for themselves. After 20 minutes I landed a 15″ sand bass that put up such a big fight he decimated my reel. Good thing I brought two poles.

Brought in a couple mackerel using some fresh mackerel bait a nearby fisherman named Marlin (great fishing name!) donated to me. He called Ocean Beach a “mackerel highway.”

The current was fair and came straight from the west. Ocean Beach has a nice little cove the pier sits in and the species of fish was amazing. I saw a five or six foot shark chase a mackerel someone caught up to the surface before it retreated below. Another angler said he saw two yellow fin swimming about. Marlin showed me a picture of a black sea bass he caught the night before. The thing was at least two feet long! He had to throw it back since the black sea bass is not a permitted fish to keep in California.

I’m looking forward to coming back to this pier. Let’s see if lightning strikes twice. Maybe I’ll give salted fish bait another chance on some other piers.

Stowing sabiki lures

August 13, 2011

Sabiki lures are great for pier and boat fishing because they’re so irresistible to smaller bait fish. A sabiki lure consists of a 3-4 foot monofilament line with 4-10 pre-attached small hooks made to look like tiny shrimp.

Drop a sabiki in the water off a pier or boat, maybe 10 feet deep or so and bob it up and down in the water and wait for the little ones to bite. I’ve seen anglers bring in three and four fish at a time with this clever lure.

The problem with the sabiki is that it’s a pain to store. The little hooks get all tangled up in everything and many people just throw them away after a day of fishing. If you have the money and the space, you can use a sabiki rod to store a lure but why? Here’s a little trick I learned from a humble angler in Oceanside and it’s great (and inexpensive) way to store sabiki lures without the mess.

You need:

  • a sabiki lure
  • a piece of cardboard about 2-3 inches long
  • a zip-lock bag

Wrap the sabiki around the cardboard and put the whole thing in the zip-lock bag. Done! Now you can store it in your tackle box tangle-free.



Surf Leaders

August 7, 2011

Anglers have lots of rigging options, especially for the shore or piers. One of the most common rigs is using a surf leader. Surf leaders are mono-filament lines about 2.5 feet long. They have generally have two loops tied into them with a metal loop at the top to attach to your line, and a metal clasp at the bottom. The loops give you a convenient way to add snelled hooks. The clasp is for the weight (generally a lead pyramid, also called a sinker.)

Surf leaders effectively double your chances of catching a fish because you have two hooks in the water instead of one. It’s also a great way to try different baits at the same time to see which ones are working best in your fishing area.

Here’s a picture of the surf leader with two loops. The metal clasps are not shown.

Adding hooks is easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy-mac-n-cheezy. Just be sure to buy snelled hooks (hooks with pre-attached lines.)

Then you thread the hook through the leader loop and then around itself.

Adding weights are even easier. Just attach the weight to the clasp. In Southern California the currents can be strong so I prefer 4 oz pyramid sinkers on the shore so when you cast out the weight buries itself in the sandy bottom. On piers I generally use 2oz or 4 oz sinkers. Of course, sea weed is your biggest threat and I’ve caught plenty of kelp monsters using a surf leader setup. It comes with the territory.

This rigging works best for bottom feeders and near-bottom feeders like rays, some sharks, croaker, bass and surf perch. I’d like to catch a halibut using this rigging, but halibut like live bait, and live fish bait such as anchovies or smelt are not recommended for this rig since they tend to swim around and tangle everything up. Surf leaders are great for baits like squid, shrimp, mussels or worms. Gulp! artificial blood worms are like magnets to croaker and perch.

See how I’ve looped the snelled hook through the loop and then itself? Pull it tight and it will hold strong.

By looping the hook on this way, you can also remove it later and reuse your snelled hooks. Handy dandy.

Now get out there and catch dat fish!