Catalina to Santa Barbara, old fishing trip #1.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Cleaning out some various files and one was of some fishing trips over the years. I thought some of you might enjoy them. Here is #1, done at the time of our first Get Together in Catalina (and I've learned a lot about Catalina, the Green Pleasure Pier and the Mole since that visit).

Date: May 3, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Catalina Odyssey

April 26 – Day 1 — Catalina

For me, the odyssey started with an early morning exit from the home on Mallard Lake in Lodi and a fairly rapid seven-hour drive to the Long Beach Catalina Express office. Booked on the 12:30 boat, and getting lined up at 12, I notice a young man with a fishing pole. Could it be a pier rat? Go over and sure enough it is Josh, the designer of our shirts. Rode on the boat with Josh and his father and discussed fishin’ all the way.
Upon arrival in Avalon we headed to our respective hotels with promises to meet down at the pier. I got there at 2:45 and saw that Josh was already present. So, I broke out the bait.
I had picked up two dozen (huge) pile worms the prior afternoon, two dozen ghost shrimp, a bag of frozen shrimp, a box of squid, a box of frozen peas and onions (the onions were along for the ride) and a can of peas. I also brought along some anchovies and mackerel from my freezer for the kelp bass, which are always in attendance. I was hoping to attract some of the larger species like sheephead with the ghost shrimp while hopefully catching some opaleye on the worms or peas. (I brought two types of peas to see which actually would work best on the opaleye. Turned out neither produced a fish.) I figured the squid would work good on the halfmoon which were sure to be in abundance and hoped to possibly pick up a moray eel at night on the squid.
Green Pleasure Pier: Since it was a little windy the water wasn’t crystal clear but it was obvious that there was a school of fish at mid-depth range just out from the pier. Decided to try right by the pier first. Seeking out the perch-like species, and also hoping for a few perch, I used my usual perch rig: two size 6 hooks attached to the line with a one-ounce torpedo sinker at the end. Decided to try the worms first and hold on to the ghost shrimp until we spotted some larger fish. Sort of forgot about the senorita, which are the supreme bait stealers and which also love worms. Basically got a fish on almost every cast unless they stole the bait first. Unfortunately they stole the bait about 75% of the time. However, you only use a small piece of the worm so a nice mix of fish started to show up on the pier. Basically it was a three-way toss up – rock wrasse, senorita and kelp bass. If you cast out from the pier and let the bait sit on the bottom the rock wrasse would come out and grab the bait. If you cast under the pier (especially) or even out away from the pier, you might pick up a bass. Let the bait get to the mid-water depth and you were sure to catch senorita. It wasn’t so much trying to catch fish as trying to figure out how not to catch certain fish. Yes, we could have switched to larger hooks but that would not have kept the senorita from stripping away the bait. It only would have slowed down the bite on more desirable fish.
Some time later our webmaster Rich Reano showed up after his arrival from Dana Point and shortly thereafter we spotted some nice sized opaleye emerging from under the pier. Tried the ghost shrimp and soon was able to nab three of the beautiful fish, two of the large-sized variety. Also managed two sheephead on the ghost shrimp before pulling in a beautiful blacksmith on worms. Rich is a halibut lover so he netted some small smelt for halibut bait. Once he had his bait he began the hallie wait.
Soon after, Pier Head and Sinker made an appearance as did, a short time later, Baitfish and his wife Rebecca (RoosterQueen). Greetings were made with all and then all began to fish. We now had a nice group and everyone was catching fish. Pier Head and Sinker were using their “special” commie bait and nailing the bass, Baitfish and Rebecca were using, I think, squid (although all of them began to experiment with artificials as the day/night went on).
Eventually the sun decided to sink into the ocean and about that time a school of mixed mackerel, large Pacific mackerel and somewhat smaller jack mackerel, made their first appearance. Most people latched onto the fish but the “mac attack” died about as fast as it had begun. I then landed a lobster and just about that time we figured out where Stinkyfinger and Dolphinrider were, sitting mid-pier catching their own fish. Went to show them the lobster and they moved out to the end.
Just in time for a reappearance of the mackerel and once again the action was hot and heavy for a few minutes. But the action slowed. Several of the species at Catalina are night sleepers (rock wrasse, sheephead and senorita) so the bites were less frequent. However it was beautiful in the bay and with the moon rising over the hill. Every so often schools of baitfish would flash through the water (usually with a sea lion in pursuit) and the lights of Avalon combined with the ocean’s bountiful beauty created a hard to beat ambiance.
By this time most of us were really tired so we decided to stop at 9 pm and get a bite to eat before retiring. Had some good Italian food at Antonio’s and then off to sleep. By the way, Sinker, Josh, Stinkeyfinger and Dolphinrider were still fishing the pier when we left.
Personal results for Day One: 6 1/4 hours fishing, 19 kelp bass, 17 rock wrasse, 16 senorita, 6 Pacific mackerel, 3 opaleye, 2 sheephead, 2 jack mackerel, 1 blacksmith, 1 shinerperch and 1 lobster.

April 27 – Day 2 – Catalina

Green Pleasure Pier: Arrived down at the pier at 6:30 where I found Baitfish already present. I tried more anchovies this morning since I wanted to save some of the worms and ghost shrimp for the mole. Action was still steady. Fished from 6:30 until 10:45 when we headed to the mole.
4 1/4 hours fishing: 23 kelp bass, 3 rock wrasse, 3 senorita, 2 California scorpionfish and 1 sheephead. Baitfish and Pier Head (who had joined us) had similar action with several keeper and near keeper-sized bass.

The Mole: Upon arrival at the mole I was pleased to meet the assembled pier rats who had come over for the day: Joromaca, Boomer, JimboJack, Gyozadude, Castlebravo and Frenchy. Soon in attendance were Rich and myself, Baitfish and RoosterQueen, Sinker, Stinkyfinger, Dolphinrider, Josh and his parents (did I forget anyone?).
All present were already catching fish although there was a lot of surge and a lot of gear was being lost in the kelp. Although I visited for a while, and some of us made a run to the store to buy additional food, I couldn’t help fishing. I picked a spot a little further down from the group that was in a little clearer water. I put a ghost shrimp on the hook and soon it was grabbed by a garibaldi. It wasn’t a big fish but it was so beautiful. Easy to see why it is California’s official fish and why it is illegal to catch them. It was returned to the water. Soon started fishing a mixture of ghost shrimp and pile worms and began to catch a mix of fish although none were kept, Most interesting might have been the four kelpfish I caught. Three were giant kelpfish, one a yellow-colored fish, one a greenish-brown fish, and one a dead ringer for kelp. Also caught a different variety that I believe was a striped kelpfish (but I haven’t developed the picture yet). Did manage to hook a large halfmoon that I estimated to weigh 3+ pounds but the line broke at the knot. An unusual occurrence for me and I wonder if it was due to the Stren Flurocarbon that I was testing out?
Total fish for just over two hours of fishing: 3 kelp bass, 3 giant kelpfish, 2 senorita, 1 striped kelpfish, 1 rock wrasse, 1 garibaldi and 1 kelp perch.
In between the socializing and good food the fishing continued and everyone looked to be bringing in fish (although Rich was still trying for that hallie just outside the kelp).
We finally stopped fishing so we could present everyone with a gift (courtesy of Sinker). Did drawings and gifts ranged from PFIC stickers to a PFIC clock. Everyone seemed pleased and we even managed to get a group picture of most of the people. Soon after some people had to head back and the “official” gathering broke up.
However, several of us headed over to the room Stinkyfingers and Dolphinrider had rented and shared some excellent company (and refreshments) with Baitfish, RoosterQueen, Pierhead and the hosts. Fishing stories galore and development of real rapport with the group.

Green Pleasure Pier: Arrived back to fish here at 7:15 and fished until 10:45. As mentioned, the action on some of the Catalina species is slower at night but fish were still present. The mackerel showed up as scheduled at dusk and lobsters really made an appearance this night. Pier Head and Dolphinrider both got bugs as well as a guy fishing near us who pulled in about a half dozen. All were of course released but they provided a lot of fun and entertainment that night. Pier Head also managed two nice scorpionfish while Sinker and baitfish tried out artificials on the bass and had excellent results (they’ll have to report the types of artificials they used).
Personal fish score: 9 kelp bass, 6 Pacific mackerel, 4 jack mackerel and 4 shinerperch. Again, Josh and Sinker fished late

April 28 – Day 3 – Catalina

This morning the wind had died down and I was all alone on the pier when I arrived at 6. I started to catch fish but now, since I had the whole end to myself, I set out two poles, and one was set up for bigger quarry. Soon after, Pier Head showed up just to visit but not to fish. Thank God because soon something grabbed the squid bait on my bigger pole and headed out like a freight train. Sound familiar? Big bat rays inhabit these waters and I think that was what I hooked. One long run and then a determined battle where I would mange to pull in a couple of feet of line before the “monster” pulled out ten more feet. Since I was only using 15-pound test I knew my chances were slim. Pier pilings, docks all over the place, and boats and moorings. But who knows? About this time a shore boat decides to cut right across where my fish is sitting and my line gets wrapped on his antenna. No problem! The harbormaster who was sitting in his office watching the fight got him to back up and they freed the line. So now the fight could begin anew. Unfortunately, I could now feel something else on the line, either a rope or kelp. I could feel the fish and tried everything I could to free it but to no avail. Finally after a few more minutes the fish took off once again and the line snapped. While this was going on Pier Head had hopped down onto the adjacent dock with my gaff and was ready to land the fish but it was probably just as well that I lost it. I don’t think I would have had him gaff it. Bat rays deserve to fight another day. But I would have liked to have seen it. But then again, since I didn’t see it, maybe it was a huge white seabass, halibut or even one of those giant black seabass that used to be so common to these waters. I’ll never know.
By the way, after Pier Head headed for his boat, Baitfish showed up and we resumed the catching of fish. The water was now crystal clear and the fish were a little more wary but they were still biting. Now out of worms and ghost shrimp, I had to rely on the other baits and the results showed it. Total for 4 hours fishing: 9 kelp bass, 5 rock wrasse, 3 senorita, 1 halfmoon and 1 shinerperch. The halfmoon was the next to last fish I caught. I was so confident that scads of the halfmoon would be caught that I made it the Fish of the Month but to my knowledge only a few were caught from the pier. They were there but very wary of hooks.
Had to stop at 10 and get ready for the boat ride back to Long Beach but I truly hated to go. The time was so relaxing and the companionship so special that I felt I had experienced something special – not to sound sappy – but a true bonding with those of our pier rat nation. I hope it was just the first of many such events. And I have to give special thanks to Baitfish and Rich who did most of the organizing, and Sinker who provided the great gifts. How do we top this special moment in time?
But now it was time to return to reality. Rode next to Josh on the way back to L.B. and think we now have a committed pier rat to carry on the legacy when oldtimers (like myself) move on. Such is the nature and cycle of life.

April 28 – Day 3 –- Belmont Pier – Long Beach.

Got to the pier at 4:15 and headed out to the end where there had been some reports of sargo and perch. Lots of anglers but hardly any fish. Saw two anglers pulling in perch and 40 anglers watching and wonderin’ how they were doing it. No secret but they had the spot. Tried a high/low and a Sabiki Rig; net result a few jacksmelt. Now people were watching me and mutterin’ something under their breath. But didn’t see a single decent-sized fish. Finally the wind got cold, people started to leave, and the spot I wanted opened up. It is in the corner where live bait used to be kept (where the end spreads out). Fished till 7:30 and managed 27 fish – salema, jacksmelt, queenfish, walleye surfperch and shinerperch. All small, and none caught on the high/low but at least a little action. And all, of course, were returned.

April 29 – Day 4 -– Seal Beach Pier.

Started fishing at 7:25 out at the end near the corner by the bait/tackle shop. Had wanted to start inshore by the rock wall and try for perch, sargo and croakers but the tide wasn’t right so switched. Wasn’t much better out there. In fact it was one of the worst days I’ve ever had at the pier. Had to really work for the fish. Tried for some live bait (queenfish or jacksmelt) under the pier with the Sabiki but no luck. Tried fishing down by the pilings with no luck. Finally tried a high/low rigging casting out from the pier and pulled in some smallish sized tomcod (white croaker) and large horse smelt (jacksmelt). Tried live brown bait for halibut but still no luck.
Finally moved into the inshore area by the rock wall and tried lugworms and mussels that I had bought that morning. Didn’t even produce a nibble. Tried by the surf, still no nibbles. By this time I was muttering to myself. JimboJack had said things were slow at the pier and boy was he right! Time to move on at 9:55. Sum total of fish: 8 white croaker and 2 jacksmelt.

April 29 – Day 4 – Huntington Beach Pier.

I now wasn’t expecting much action one way or another. No one showed any fish inshore when I checked out the buckets (and there weren’t many anglers, always a bad sign). Finally headed out to a spot I like about 3/4 of the way out next to a bait cleaning station. At 11 a.m. I cast out a high/low on the heavier pole and continued with the Sabiki on the light pole. Nothing to report. Tried out several different areas under the pier and finally found some fish. Again nothing big but non-stop action.
Fished two hours and caught 51 fish, mainly queenfish but also jacksmelt, walleye surfperch and white croaker. Again, not a bite on the heavier pole and it was beginning to dawn on me how hard it was to even tell nibbles on the pole with the wind blowing so hard. If you wanted fish you had to keep the pole in your hand and feel them.

April 29 – Day 4 – Newport Pier.

Had checked into my motel and had my usual delicious meal at the Crab Cooker before I headed out to the Newport Pier at 4. Again very few anglers, a cold, bone-chilling wind, and the look of depression on the anglers gutsy enough to still be fishing. I’m afraid I wasn’t too gutsy myself. Although I was hoping to try for some sculpin/scorpionfish (on squid) out at the end, my visit only lasted 1 1/2 hours. I too was freezing and wondering where the warm California sun had gone. One and a half hours, three lousy (although large) jacksmelt. A day not to remember.

April 30 – Day 5 – Balboa Pier.

After the previous night’s experience at Newport, my expectations were low for Balboa. The piers are just too close. Usually if one is hot they’re both hot, if one is cold they’re both cold. But this was a special day. A chance to once again fish with Snookie and hopefully see a few of her gang. Alas the gang would be small this day but Her Majesty’s presence made it all worthwhile. Although Snookie did snag up a few small smelt for bait, I failed to land a single fish. The halibut wouldn’t bite the live bait offering on my light pole and nothing would touch the bait I offered to give to them for free on my heavier pole. I didn’t really care and really didn’t put a lot of effort into it. It was good to see an old friend and discuss life and fishing with her. Yep, it would have been nice to match her 20-pound halibut, or perhaps catch one just a little smaller, but it didn’t matter. Hopefully there will always be another day to catch fish. Fished for nearly 5 hours and had my first Skunkaroonie in quite a while. But you don’t always need fish to have a successful day.

April 30 – Day 5 – Redondo Sportfishing Pier.

Headed up to the Redondo/Hermosa area after leaving Balboa. Planned to go directly to Hermosa where I was to meet Mola Joe at 5 but I got there early. So, I headed down to this small pier. Figured I could get in, fish a little, and get out, all in a short period of time.
Once again however the fishing was slow. About ten anglers lined the rail all wonderin’ where the fish had gone. I think the fish were there, just not biting. Fished under the pier with small hooks and pieces of lugworms. Wrong thing to do; forgot how many senorita are under that pier. Tried it for half an hour but only landed 3 senorita and 1 jacksmelt. Fish stole most of my bait.
After witnessing a school of 10-12 bonito casually swim along the water in front of the pier I tried the deeper water. Alas no strikes on the top or the bottom. Then a boat comes in, the deckhand comes over with a live sardine, fly-lines it out and proceeds to pull in a 4+ pound bonito. Talk about humbling. He offered to let me use some live bait after I lent him my needlenose pliers to unhook the bonehead but I had to head out to Hermosa. Maybe next time?

April 30 – Day 5 – Hermosa Beach Pier.

Hoping to meet Mola Joe and pick his brain but alas he had to work late. Again things didn’t look too good. Four anglers on the pier and a cold wind a blowing, something akin to Hurricane Camille. Thought I’d try out by the reef first so headed out to the end. Quite often there are some bass, sargo or similar species around but they avoided my hooks this day. Cast out the heavier pole but could hardly tell a bite with the way the wind was whipping around the line. Noticed three halibut anglers sitting on the right side and their HUGE bait tank. Stainless steel I believe, 4-5 feet long, and a couple of feet wide. A beauty of a tank on wheels and loaded up with jacksmelt and sardines. Commercial fisherman? I don’t know their status but know they were equipped to kill bear–if there are any bear out there—and I know we don’t have bearfish in Calfornia.
Did get the bright idea to catch a little bait for myself. Used three small stainless hooks (size 10-12 I think) with no bait. Started with a one-ounce torpedo sinker but that didn’t provide the proper action, switched to a 2-ounce sinker and it was just right. Unfortunately I kind of got carried away and took far too many fish for a sportsman. But I only kept the sardines, mackerel and a couple of bleeding jacksmelt. The rest were released,

Didn’t see a bass or decent sized fish from the bottom but did land 94 fish in about 94 minutes – jacksmelt, Pacific sardines, Pacific mackerel and one lone shinerperch. Did notice that results were better on the right side of the pier. Were there more fish on that side or was another factor at work? Wondered if the shiny hooks worked better on the right, sunny side of the pier while the other side was in shade?
I know, I know, what in the heck was I doing fishing for these small critters. I probably shouldn't have kept fishing for them the way I did but the day had been so slow I just wanted some action. I know it wasn't too sporting. Then again, if the weather had been a little more cooperative I would gladly have dropped the pursuit of the jacksmelt and concentrated on larger species.
But I was at a point where I wanted some action and action, of a sort, is what I got. Did try inshore for a few minutes but after nearly losing my treasured “Will Fish For Food” hat in the hurricane-like wind (why not a himicane?), and not seeing a single fish nor experiencing a single bite, I decided to call it quits at 6:20. Headed back hoping the motel room’s heater would be a boiling.

May 1 – Day 6 – Santa Monica Pier.

The last day of the trip and things to do. Would make a short stop at Santa Monica before checking out Malibu and heading up to fish with PierHead and Sinker. Again things looked bleak inshore upon my 8:30 arrival. So decided to go out to the end and fish under the pier (utilizing the unique construction of this pier). Baited up the heavier pole with some mussels to fish by the pilings and decided to try my 3-hook rig a few minutes just to see if any fish were present.
A big mistake since I started catching queenfish on nearly every drop of my line. They were hanging about 3-6 feet off the bottom and a slow drop would usually see a hook attacked by a queenie. If they missed it on the way down a slow up and down jig would produce a fish. Just over an hour produced 58 fish – queenfish, jacksmelt, Pacific sardine and a walleye surfperch. Spent the rest of the time trying for bigger species but again with no luck. Just think what fun this would be on an ultra light outfit and 4 pound test! Could have fished longer but had places to go so was gone by 10:30.

May 1 – Day 6 – Malibu Pier.

Wanted to see the reconstruction. What I saw looked nice but the end is still closed and may not open for another year. I did like the rod holders spaced about every 5 feet or so along the railing. Just hope they are still there when the rest of the pier is finished. Again things looked bleak. Although the wind had died down, the regulars reported that things were slow. A few guitarfish had been landed the previous day but halibut and inshore species, including perch, had been in short supply. I proved them right as I once again caught 0 fish, my second skunk of the trip. At least the weather was starting to improve, or so I thought.

May 1 – Day 6 – Paradise Cove Pier.

Stopped at the pier and had lunch but did not fish. The pier is gated closed and it appears it may not reopen. I got some names and numbers to call but things don’t look good. Gone but not forgotten?

May 1 – Day 6 – Port Hueneme Pier.

After enjoying the beautiful drive along the shores of Malibu and Point Mugu I decided to give this pier a short visit. The pier can be great—or terrible. Today it would be the latter. Arrived at 3 p.m. and once again hardly any anglers, only two were on the pier. Always a bad sign when there aren’t any anglers. Managed to see why in a short 45-minute visit. The wind returned (one tourist said it was bracing–yeah–like so is Old Spice). When it’s hard to stand upright you know it may be time to leave. Did manage 3 jacksmelt, two of the large horse size variety.

May 1 – Day 6 – Stearns Wharf — Santa Barbara.

Picked this pier because I knew it would offer some spots to get out of the wind. Upon arriving I met PierHead and he suggested we fish down off the wye—behind the Sea Center, which is currently closed. A wise choice since it proved free of wind. PierHead had brought a pizza and some soft drinks and soon Sinker showed up and we had a troika of pier rats.
Used my last remaining mussels to coax out of the pilings two buttermouth perch (blackperch) and a splittail (white perch). Then had the amazing luck to catch a 5-inch bullhead (staghorn sculpin) that should have been back home in San Francisco Bay. Talk about luck. But like my earlier visit to Balboa, this was a special meeting because of the companionship of the pack, the pier rat pack. Although PierHead continued to fish for the big one, and Sinker pulled in a few walleyes, talk of Santa Barbara, history, our Catalina gathering, and miscellaneous topics filled the air. Who needed fish? We stopped after a couple of hours but could have continued through the night.


Conclusion—lots of meaningless fish but also lots of meaningful friendships. It’s nice to know that you can travel down the coast now and meet up with others also enthralled with the mystique of pier fishing and the fellowship of the pier. It doesn’t have to always be on a pier, and you don’t always have to catch fish, but the people who make up this board are a group of which we can be proud. Long live the Pier Rat Nation! Also hope to see you all at the Mud Marlin Tournament and at next year’s meeting.

Posted by Frenchy

Great reports Ken, I was trying to read them as fast as you were posting them. I was also great to meet you. I like Hermosa Pier. I never get skunked when I fish the pier. I’m surprised you didn't get any thornback rays. They seem to be pretty thick there lately. Andrew

Posted by joromaca

Your posts have inspired me to go out and try some of these other piers within my general area....94 fish in 94 minutes is something I have to try and experience. Pleasure meeting you in Catalina

Posted by gyozadude

Ken: It was truly a pleasure and educational to meet with you and my only regret, like the others was the lack of time. Hopefully, we'll have more meaningful Get Togethers and we'll all be able to enjoy each others' companies again. - Gyozadude “Yes - I can roll my own potsticker skins”

Posted by Ken Jones

My only regret...My only regret at Catalina was that I did not spend more time talking to everyone at the Mole. I had planned to come over, not enter the derby, and just visit but not fish. But then the fishing bug hit and I had to test the waters, sort of speak. Unfortunately I was a little further down the Mole, which was good for the fishing but bad for the socializing. I probably will not fish when I get to the Mud Marlin Tourney, just try to meet everyone.

Posted by Corbinaman1

Nice Reports Ken! You Really Got Around!

Posted by Songslinger

Fine reporting, as usual, from the man himself. Didn’t think I’d miss not going to Catalina but now I do.

Posted by baitfish

Great report Ken! Can't wait to meet up again at the Mud Marlin Derby!
Adam, I fish with my feet on the ground...
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Senior Member
Good to read about the past sometimes.

Correction......Day 2 Catalina......It is not illegal to catch Garibaldi. It is illegal to keep.

Anglers have no control what bites their hook.