Ventura to San Simeon, old fishing trip #4

Ken Jones

Staff member
Date: July 15, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Notes from the newest odyssey...

Left Lodi at 5:15 a.m. after stopping for an ice-cold coconut/coffee/cream/high calorie concoction at Starbucks (although, as Seinfeld says, it should be called Fourbucks). A little $$ but refreshing. Just what I needed before hitting the I-5 straight-as-an-arrow freeway (and it isn’t too free considering our gas taxes). Usually I consider the drive a little boring but soon begin to notice the endless vistas and tawny-hued hills of the Diablo Range that parallel the highway to the west. Some are jagged, some roly-poly, some are simply bumps, peaks, and bosoms poking up from the flat landscape of the Big Valley. Wonder if it’s the hand of God playing in the sand or something else all together, something under the soil fighting to escape. Am noticing the land and thinking, man it’s going to be a long drive, about a five CD’er.
In contrast to the golden hills to the west is a valley landscape greened by the thousands of ag-infused acres of California's man-made Eden. Grapes, pears, peaches, aaahhmanns (almonds), wheat, cotton and lots and lots of tomatoes. Of course there are also the tumbleweeds, still mostly green even if it is July, and then an occasional Caterpillar-induced dust devil. Of course for an angler, the Pacific, with its never ending plethora of species more aptly deserves the title of Eden. Guess the Valley would be east of Eden—right?
Travel down the road with about eleven thousand “Big Rigs” and an assorted motley crew of cars, trucks, vans, and suvs—all driven by idiots who think that (1) the interstate is actually a German autobahn with no speed limits or (2) a good practice road for the Winston Cup. Silly drivers who really think that driving FAR over the speed limit is safe! But down the road I go and finally, after about three hours, I reach the turnoff onto HY41, the road that killed James Dean. Well actually roads don’t kill people, people driving wrong kill people, but people still blame the road. Heading over to the coast now but it’s fifty miles of Badland-imitatin’ flatlands and arroyos. It has a certain Western beauty, and certainly doesn't feel like the megalopolis known as California. It's also just about the only the way to get to where I'm going so full speed ahead and keep an eye out for the fuzz (ah yes, I am one of those silly idiots). I do stop for a second at the memorial for James Dean, built by some Japanese fan I think, but I'm not impressed and quickly head back to the trail.
Soon I leave HY41 and am on HY46, head on to Paso Robles, and then make the short drive down HY 101 to the HY41 cutoff to Morro Bay. The ocean and fish are on the agenda. And yes indeedy, it took just about five CDs for the drive.

Morro Bay Wharf: 10:05-11:05 a.m.
After the non-stop, summertime action of the last couple of years, I got a little careless. Thought I could just show up, the fish would head over to the hooks, and I could catch a couple of dozen ‘dines and head down to Goleta with some fresh bait. Cool weather, a little fog, and water that looked fishable, as in absence of the dreaded “floatin’ grass” that can make this pier unfishable at times. Probably shouldn’t call it that since that sounds like a term for some of the crops in Mendocino County (but that’s another story). However, what I got was non-stop inaction as in zilch, skunkaroonie, no bites and no fish. Turned out no one had had a bite all morning (and I’m just so proud I could add to that total). So, ambled down to Virg’s and purchased some frozen shrimp and night crawlers. (My bait shop in Stockton was out of pile worms AND ghost shrimp so I’m in big trouble. Did bring some frozen anchovies, mackerel, and a small amount of preserved mussels but they will not last the trip.) If I was a local I would certainly be out getting my own live bait!
Total: 0 Fish

Stearns Wharf: Santa Barbara: Around 1:30 p.m.
Thought I might get to do a little fishing before heading down to Ventura but Hurricane Stearns puts a crimp on that idea. Didn’t see a fish on the wharf, and nearly lost my hat, so thought I’d come back later (which unfortunately I did not do on this trip). Did talk to Angel at the bait shop for a while which, as always, was interesting. He's had the shop now for a couple of years and seems knowledgeable in what he is doing as well as being personable and helpful for the many neophyte anglers who decide to rent a rod and drop down a line.

Ventura Pier: 3:30-5 p.m.
Things were beginning to look similar to the trip to San Diego a few weeks ago. In other words, the fish were not cooperating. Did manage a few walleye surfperch but nothing on the bottom. Did get a chance to meet “Packy,” a regular who would be the personification of a Davey Crockett sidekick with his coonskin hat, clothing and pipe. Said action had been quiet all morning although he had caught two bat rays and heard of one halibut being landed inshore. Apparently he arrived in the a.m. and planned to fish till 1 a.m. Now that's dedication. Didn’t see any other fish caught while I was there; wanted a nice fish like those that Fishy posted a couple weeks back but it wasn’t to be. Finally packed up and headed in to the motel before making the drive north for the UPSAC meeting.
Total: 13 walleye surfperch—all caught on pieces of night crawlers impaled upon size 6 hooks.

Saturday, July 12

Planned to fish early morning before the “Goleta Get Together” and then fish again at night. Should have known better. Had the extreme pleasure of meeting up with some new faces—although by now recognizable names—and quickly realized that the fishing would come that evening. (See the separate “Goleta Get Together” Report)

Goleta Pier: 5:40-9:10 p.m.
A slow night again but who cares? Good company, pleasant conversation, good weather, great surroundings, and the typical Goleta/Santa Barbara ambiance. The romantic Santa Ynez Mountains and a full moon provides the perfect setting for a truly idyllic night, an absolutely gorgeous night when good fellowship deadens the sting from a lack of fish. Fishing (or at least the catching of fish) is, for one night at least, second in importance to the gathering of the clan — The Pier Rat Nation.
Total: 10 Shinerperch—I know, I know!
6 Jacksmelt
2 Kelp Rockfish
1 Grass Rockfish
1 Brown Rockfish
1 Bocaccio
1 Walleye Surfperch
All fish caught on either strips of preserved mussel or on night crawlers (go figure). Most of the fish were caught on my light rod, two hooks and a 1-ounce torpedo sinker but two of the rockfish were caught on my heavier rod fishing the kelp area with a single size 4 hook on a dropper leader about 18 inches up from the 2-ounce torpedo sinker.

Sunday, July 13

Gaviota Pier: 7-10 a.m.
A beautiful morning with just a hint of wind and as I arrived I saw my first dolphin of the trip. Headed out to the end since the tide was low and I quickly decided to fish around the pilings since they looked so fishy. Only one other fisherman is present, which is not a good sign, and he hadn’t had a nibble, another bad sign, but that doesn’t always mean anything. It did this time.
Hoped to find some of the bigger perch or perhaps a rockfish or two and there were fish around but they were the wrong types. Shiners and walleyes were thick and although most were at a mid-depth position, they seemed to like nothing better than to follow my mussel bait all the way to the bottom. Could have switched to larger baits and bigger hooks but was hoping for some of the big perch. A few anglers did join us at the end and they soon were using Sabiki's to land sardines and an occasional jacksmelt but the action wasn’t hot.
Happily, Glen (Songslinger) soon showed up and I thought we might have a new “pier rat” gathering but Glen and I were the lone duo from the board. Glen wanted some better bait so he headed down to the beach to catch some sand crabs while I continued to search out that big perch—and I found HER. Out on the left side, I think just about where the repairs were made a few years ago, sit two pilings about three feet apart. Heavily encircled by kelp but looking oh so fishy, I just had to drop my line straight down between those columns and the kelp. And it worked! I had a strong hit, reared back and felt both a fish and the kelp on my line. At first I thought I might have lost it but I could feel the fish tugging and sure ‘nuff she worked herself free. Got it to the top and it was a humungous rubberlip which I soon hand-lined up to the top (since I didn't have a net with me). She was long and thick, oh so thick, but as soon as she got on the pier she started squirting out her young. Yes, she was a gravid female ready to birth and I knew I would need to release her. So, as quickly as I could take a fast picture, and drop some of her offspring back into the water, she herself was returned. Hated to drop her back down from the pier but had no other choice since I lacked the net. Happily, she seemed to take right off and swim away. Didn’t measure or weigh her but I believe she would have gone at least three pounds, she looked that big. Songslinger, by the way, saw the fight from the beach and saw she was a good fish.
Everything after that was anti-climatic until Glen himself managed a nice, legal-size halibut using a lively shinerperch and his new leader technique. I provided the bait, he provided the brains, and soon I hear (in a low voice)—Ken you want to come here? He didn’t want to awaken the entire pier but did want to show me that hallie he was bringing to the top and show me a hallie yawn. He was going to break it off but before we had the chance a newly arrived angler rushed over with a net. Soon after, a 22-inch fish joined us on the pier and after a quick measurement and picture she too was returned to the water. Not too shabby for these old pier rats, a long way from home, a nice sized rubberlip and a legal flattie.
Soon after that I ran out of the preserved mussel I was using for bait, switched to the night crawlers, and the shiners went crazy. The problem now became one of keeping them off the hook but I was unsuccessful. We continued to fish and watched a beautiful family of dolphins but soon the wind returned to its normal Gaviota intensity and we decided to call it a day. Glen headed home while I headed north to Pismo for some more fishing.
Total: 12 Shinerperch
5 Walleye Surfperch
1 Big Mama Rubberlip Seaperch
1 Bocaccio
1 Cabezon
1 Thornback Ray

Pismo Beach: Around 11:30
After 1,286 trips around the pier parking lot and nearby streets — without finding a parking space, I decided to forget Pismo and head over to Avila for some peace and quiet.

Avila Beach: Around 12:00
Seems some sort of race was taking place (half naked people runnin’ around with numbers on their back) and cars were parked everywhere, including the shoulder of the main highway, the one with the signs that say no parking—except for this event. A mob scene and I once again forgo the pier and head down the mile or so drive to Port San Luis.

Port San Luis: 12:35-1:35 p.m.
After 639 trips around the parking lot I finally found someone leaving and jetted into the spot. But the port is crowded as is the pier. And unfortunately, out at the end, under the overhang where you can usually get some shade from the sun, all of the shady spots are taken. And it is hot. Not hot, HELLICIOUS HOT! It must have been 90 degrees in the shade but of course I couldn't find any shade so I am baking, sweating, perspiring and quickly wondering what I’m doing out at the end of that pier (since I was already a deep shade of red from the sunburn on Saturday). I am now using night crawlers and cut squid but again IT IS SLOWWW; NO ONE is catching anything. Did manage one unusual doubleheader. Dropped down the rigging right next to a piling and soon had a nice hit. In bringing it up it was fairly heavy, in fact it seemed a little too heavy for the fight I was getting from the fish. Turned out to be a decent-sized brown rockfish on one hook and a large starfish on the other hook, the second starfish I caught during that visit. Once again a quick picture and a return of the fish to the water. Decided to visit the mid-pier area: no fish. Finally decided to check out by the inshore rocks: no fish. Another humbling experience. By the way, a few anglers were jigging up sardines next to the fish cleaning station but I didn't feel like breaking out the Sabiki at that point so once again decided to move on. Looked forward to the fog that surely would be blocking out the sun at Morro Bay.
Total: 1 Brown Rockfish

Morro Bay and Cayucos: No fog! Darn! Checked into the motel and then headed down to the wharf where several anglers were sitting twiddling their thumbs and wondering what had happened to the fish. Several had been present since early morn and as yet had not had a nibble (another bad sign). Nothing going on so I headed over to Cayucos to see Glenda at the Tidepool in front of the pier. She gives PFIC a report each month and I wanted to talk to her about UPSAC. Good conversation as always and some promising hints that fishing had been fairly good recently. Decided to walk out on the pier but by now the wind had picked up and it is was rather brisk, no not brisk, downright howlin’ wolf fierce. At least it wasn’t hot! I finally decided to get a bite to eat at Morro Bay, double check some of the information for the book, and rest awhile before fishing. I was very sunburned by this point, not feeling too well, and debating what I would have to do to catch some fish.

Cayucos Pier: 7:15-9 p.m.
The wind had calmed and I decided to try mid-pier on the bottom but action was slow. Then I noticed that anglers fishing Sabiki’s were starting to catch some fish inshore, just out from the breakers. Decided to join the dark side, moved inshore, and tied on a Lucky Lura rigging. The ‘dines were in and quickly I began to acquire some fresh bait (now that I hardly needed it). Did cast a second line out for bottom action but that line went largely unnoticed. I considered fishing the pier in the dark for sharks but I was really tired, feeling more than a little sick, and decided to call it quits early. So headed back toward Morro Bay and the motel.
Total: 27 Pacific Sardine
1 Jacksmelt
1 White Croaker
1 Staghorn Sculpin

Morro Bay North T-Pier: 9:30-10 p.m.
Decided to make one more short stop. One reason I like to stay in Morro Bay is because of the sights and action I’ve had in one small section of water over the years. It’s not big, in fact with recent changes to the dock you are now presented a triangular fishing access area about 30 feet wide at its widest side. It is the corner of the wharf next to where the Coast Guard ship is tethered and right under a light that shines brightly at night. I’ve had some almost unbelievable action at this tiny little section several times over the years and even when fishing is slow often see some intriguing sights. It’s like looking into a fish tank because you can usually see several feet down into the water and at night there are almost always some small fish, and sometimes larger fish, present. So even though I was tired I headed down to the spot for one last check of the action. Baited up the small pole and quickly started getting taps on the bottom. Unfortunately the taps came from small, juvenile, baby lingcod and after hooking two, and returning them, I decided to quit fishing. I didn’t want to endanger any more of the small fish. But the sights were still fascinating. A thick school of large jacksmelt would swim frantically into sight then turn as one before disappearing under the dock. Soon they would appear once again and repeat the show. But why? Well, right behind the school was a fairly small seal (might have been a sea lion) that was apparently seeking out a late evening snack. The critter must have had a good appetite since the herding continued for almost the entire time I was there. It was just me, my rod, a quiet moonlit night, and a personal nature show of sorts: a maelstrom of activity taking place just a few feet away in the water. It doesn’t get much better than that. Well, O.K., a few large fish on the end of my line might have made it even better. But then the fishing might have interfered with the karma of the moment. It’s hard to say.
Total: 2 (baby) Lingcod

San Simeon Pier: 7:45-10 a.m.
Another beautiful morning and a scenic drive up to the pier along one section of the coast relatively unscathed by the mechanization's of California’s bludgeoning population. The way it used to be—somewhat. I was the lone angler on the pier upon arrival and decided to fish first just past the surf line. I tried some worms and then some cut shrimp but no bites. Finally decided to try by the pilings near the fish cleaning station (a spot that had produced on several earlier visits). Nothing much but I did land one good-sized rainbow seaperch. And that was it except for a small little staghorn sculpin that hit on the bait that was cast away from the pier. Another less than stellar fishing visit but I couldn't have asked for nicer weather that morning and I had some good conversation with a couple of visiting anglers so it was a fruitful visit. Sometimes it's the fishin’ not the catchin’ that’s rewarding!
Total: 1 Rainbow Seaperch
1 Staghorn Sculpin

Of course the earlier trip from Lodi would now be played out in reverse. Another five CD trip (Dylan, Van Zandt, Earle, Cash and Watson) even though traffic was a little heavier. Returned to the lakeside home, my computer, and 407 e-mail messages. But good news, I now know that I will be out of debt, have an easy way to make some money via a Nigerian friend, can get Viagara on the cheap, can refinance my home for nothing, and can even improve a few body parts. And to think I gave that all up just to go meet a few friends for a few days!

That’s it folks. A pretty dismal trip as far as fish caught but a very pleasant trip as far as people met and places visited.