Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
|This is an extremely late report due to school and trying to work around photobucket.
The first trip I took in July was an interesting trip. I just got a conventional setup (fairly cheap Penn and Ugly stik combo) and wanted to test it out. I fished in the Northeast corner, as there the kelp was the sparsest. I cast out a rig with a wire leader, 5/0 hook and a salted mackerel fillet just to see if I could catch anything big early in the day. While I was setting up some of the other rods that I had brought, the baited rod slammed down and nearly went over the railing. I grabbed it, set the hook just for assurance, and winded like hell. A nice 16 inch calico surfaced, and she (yes it was a female) went straight into the cooler. I put on another bait, finished setting up the other rods, and cast right back out. I fished a light float rig for opaleye, but with little luck, catching nothing but smelt. After catching at the very least 10 smelt, I looked over the other rod and saw that it was getting some strange bites. The tip just slowly inched downwards with little sharp movement. Thinking I was snagged, I picked the rod up, and jerked sharply back. I was met with solid resistance as something unhappy tried to get into the rocks. I was barely able to pull the fish out, and halfway to the pier, I realized I had hooked into a large (3-4 foot plus) moray. I got it to the pier, but then the eel spit the hook. I cast out another bait, eager to have another chance. I proceeded to lose four more eels in this fashion, losing two wire leaders in the process. Soon, the bites completely dried up, getting no bites from even the smelt. I headed over to the Green Pleasure Pier, and once there, I looked into the water to be greeted with a wonderful sight. A huge school of opaleye finned lazily with the current. I chucked in a handful of frozen peas, waiting for the frenzy that would follow. Nothing. The multitude of short calico underneath the pier ate all of the chum up. After a couple more unfruitful tries to catch their attention, I gave up on the opaleye and focused on the bottom, hoping to catch an ocean whitefish. I was immediately plagued by short calicos and rock wrasse, having to keep one of the latter due to it being deeply hooked. Then I noticed something drifting along with the current. A tuna crab floated close to the surface, swimming around in short bursts. Then a swarm of opaleye closed in and tore it to pieces. I immediately packed everything back up, ran to the shoreline, and grabbed as many crabs as I could. Remembering some of the huge opaleye I had seen at the Mole, I headed over, with about two dozen crabs sitting in a bucket of water. At the Mole, I noticed that the fish hadn't come out yet, so I cast out the heavy setup again and began waiting. I ended up losing my final wire leader to what I can only assume to be a large moray. Then as the sun came down, the opaleye began coming out of the kelp. I rigged up with a small hook and fluorocarbon leader and drifted chunks of tuna crab down the the fish. Immediately my bait was swarmed by garibaldi, with a couple opaleye going in and out of the fray. Then suddenly, a huge olive shape scattered the masses and sucked in my bait. I tried to set the hook, but by then the fish had spit the hook. I got a better look at the fish; it was an opaleye that was easily 1 3/4 ~ 2 feet long. It was at the very least four inches thick at its widest point, and had all but lost that characteristic white spot. I drifted bait after bait, but to no avail, as a short calico or garibaldi would get to it first, Eventually I was able to hook up on a decent sized opaleye around 13 inches, and a decent halfmoon, but no further luck at that massive fish. As the sun went down, I caught a salema, but no other fish. I cleaned off my gear and got on the boat, determined to come back for the fish I had lost.
The August trip was equally interesting. I did the same thing as the July trip, casting out a large bait into the rocky area. I almost immediately hooked up and pulled up a medium sized moray. I unhooked him quickly and sent him back into the drink. The next cast, I hooked into something huge. It nearly took me into the rocks, and I could feel the leader scraping against the rubble. I wrestled it to the surface, thumbing the drag against the efforts of the fish. It was an absolutely gigantic eel, being at the very least 4-5 feet long. I couldn't pull this thing up, so I first tried to net it, but it simply slithered through the mesh. After multiple attempts, I resolved to try and handline it up. I wrapped rags around my hands and began to pull it up, but as soon as its entire weight left the water's surface, the 50 lb braid snapped like cotton thread about 10 feet up from the rig. The eel splashed back into the water and slithered slowly to the bottom. Somewhat discouraged, I began fishing at the surface again with a float rig, catching more smelt. A large group of Asians arrived at the pier, with huge rods and coolers. They began casting for bonito, and soon had several nice ones in their coolers. I was able to catch one, while they smoked the fish, pulling in one after another. Interestingly, when they caught fish, the measured them, checking to see if they were above 24 inches. As far as I could tell they did not exceed their limits. Also they caught two very nice barracuda. Around mid-afternoon, when the bite was slowest, I looked down into the water and saw an absolutely massive calico; this fish was easily over 20 inches. I caught a smelt, and dropped it to the bottom on the wire rig. About 10 min later, I get a crushing strike, but the line goes limp almost instantaneously. I pull the rig up, and the bait is still on the hook, only its head has been mangled beyond recognition. I quickly caught another smelt and dropped it back down. About 20 min later, I got another strike. I set the hook and fought a hard fighting, but not exactly huge fish to the surface. I lifted a 15 inch calico onto the deck. After measuring it out, I put it straight into the ice. More or less satisfied, I continued to catch smelt, catching two halfmoons in the process. As the sun began going down, I began fishing for opaleye, as they were now responding to the pea chumming. I was able to put three in the cooler. I decided to set out the heavy lines again, and cast right into the rocks. I immediately hooked into a smallish moray that I quickly released. I rebaited and cast back out. About 45 min before I had to leave, I saw the rod tip bouncing. I set the hook into something solid, and wrenched the fish out of the rocks. Another eel. But this time it was deep hooked and bleeding profusely, so I had no choice but to take it home. Cutting the wire leader off inside the fish and putting it inside the cooler, I cleaned off my gear and headed home.
All in all these were two very successful trips, with lots of great fish. As for the eel, it took nearly an hour to finish cleaning it, but the meat turned out fantastic. I couldn't get the skin off with the subcutaneous fat layer, but that added a lot of texture. The skin had a very good gelatinous texture, while the fat added a distinctive flavor that I quite liked. The meat itself was very firm, almost like pork, and had an oiliness that I quite liked. I was able to get the skull out of the eel. I was quite happy with how the eel turned out, and I may keep another medium sized one in the future.
Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!