Goleta Evocations, 1/13/21

It has been said of many places, “You can usually return, but you can never go back.” Somewhere in the midst of syntax and sentiment, those words always seem to ring true for this angler, 45 years on this journey and most of them plying the nearshore with a rod in my hands.

Goleta pier is, perhaps, one location that most elicits those feelings— for more than 20 years, it has been my “home pier,” fully 130 miles from my doorstep, but never too far for a casual evening visit.

A few weeks ago, my youngest son saw my old hoop nets leaning against the garage wall, and told me that for his 7th birthday, he wanted to catch a crab. Between distance learning, distance principaling, and a move to a new home, the thought of getting out on a pier was a refreshing notion. And so, my wife and I loaded up the truck with kids and gear, and started north on the 101. After a quick stop at In N Out, we arrived at Goleta Beach Park. Fearing the worst, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the park and the pier were clean and improved: the restrooms were in good working order, pier railings were replaced, and the lights were upgraded from sodium halide orange to LED soft white.
We enjoyed our dinner at the picnic tables, not far from the site of several PFIC Goleta Get-Togethers. Breathed a few heavy sighs remembering old friends who have moved away or moved in to higher planes, but all with a smile on my face.

We set up a few hoops from the bend to the crane on the reef side, and threw in two hi-lo rigs with sardine chunks for good measure. One of the more glorious sunsets I’ve seen in a while created a gorgeous backdrop for our family adventure.

The action was slow but steady on small (sub legal) rock crabs, decorator crabs, and one big spider crab to round out the variety. The birthday boy was ecstatic, of course, and even added a couple of white croaker for good measure.

I found myself looking down the pier for Boyd a few times, but of course he left his beloved Goleta a few years ago. I suppose he’s looking down and smiling that the pier was clean and being enjoyed by anglers and visitors from all walks of life. The bait shop and former UPSAC interpretive center are no longer, but the legacy lives on.

As for me and my family, we enjoyed our 260 mile turn around trip immensely, and my walk down memory lane has stayed with me all week: running “pier fishing school” with Ken, Santa, Boyd; catching SBRF by the dozen shoulder to shoulder with James, Adam, and Ross; nights of solitude with only the stars to keep me company. I was so glad to visit Goleta, even if only for a few hours to reminisce about more than two decades. It proved once again that while our piscatorial pursuits serve the purpose of catching (and if we choose, releasing) critters of the sea, there is so much more to the pastime.

So I will do my best to return again, even if I can’t go back.
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Ken Jones

Staff member
Ben, Glad to hear your trip went well and that I was wrong in my assessment of what conditions might be like at the pier. Goleta has always had a special place in my heart, the get togethers, the classes, the many visits with Boyd, the steps involved in gaining acceptance for an Angler Center, the good times with the Angler Center, and then the feeling of betrayal by the county when they would not work to keep it open. And, of course, the sad day when we scattered Boyd's ashes from the pier. It's like life itself with some ups and downs but there, to be enjoyed when the opportunity presents itself.

PS., The kids are growing up! Also, be sure to say hi to DompfaPops and DompfaMom!