I promised myself not to let a year go by without some sort of Allcoast report, and I just made it. I have been doing my best to inhibit the spread of the zebra mussel and other invasive species (like Sparks) by keeping my boat parked most of the year. Of course there are some species that simply cannot be curtailed or contained. One of them is Mad Dog Murphy, one of my college roommates and longtime fishing pal, who some of you have noticed posting here on occasion. He is one of those guys that goad you into doing things you may be reticent to try, like drinking 27 kamikazes at a party, or even going fishing during the busy holiday season. Frankly, I need people like him in my life, or inertia will take over and I will be nothing more than a felled tree sitting on a couch enveloped in English ivy. Murph lives in San Francisco, but comes down to visit his folks for the holidays. Since he knows Sparks and I have a boat, we become one of ?his folks? all of a sudden and he plans a fishing trip around us. Funny that he never sends anything for our birthdays, though. Still, he is a motivation for us to get off the couch and at least see if the boat starts?or is even floating.
Murph wanted to have Minimon and me over for a low key New Year?s celebration, which sounded good to us. We could give the Anchor Baby to his grandparents for the evening and enjoy a night out. I gave a nod to Murph?s idea to go fishing to supply the raw materials we needed for a good fish fry on New Year?s Eve. At least that is how I sold the trip to Minimon. Turned out that Murph had to go back to San Fran early, so New Years was out but fishing was still on. Coincidence? I would not put it past him to rope me in, because I am nothing if not gullible.
Meanwhile, I heard on this very website that the Redondo Sportfishing office had closed down, forcing boats to sell tickets directly from the dock. I sent a note to another friend, Gary Lacroix, (yes, I have more than 2 friends) who runs the Highliner 12 pack charter boat there, asking him about the situation and its effect on his operation. He told me that he usually is shut down for a few months around this time anyway, and he is hopeful the office will reopen soon. He can still book his own trips directly, so the office closure should not affect him directly. He also worked hard to keep Rocky Point from being a closure, and that area thankfully remains open for fishing and not one of the MPAs that was proposed.
Some of you will recall that I caught a big ol? 35 lb. homeguard yellow on his boat a few years back, and if you don?t recall that you?ll surely recall me out the night before making squid until the wee hours, then having Gary and TC drop me at the dock before going right back out themselves to make more squid without my dead weight dragging them down. Suffice it to say that Gary knows what he is doing, and he has a work ethic that makes Murph look like a complete slacker. We won?t get into what he makes Sparks look like, because I don?t want you to quit reading. I mentioned to Gary that I planned to finally get my boat out and fish because of Murph?s visit, hoping to catch a few rockfish. He mentioned back that he could take us out since he likes to run his boat every couple of weeks in the off season anyway to keep things shipshape. It was not more than a split second before I took him up on the offer, and would have been quicker if I could type emails faster. I was glad to be off the hook as far as having to find fish, and even more happy that I would not have to drive the boat, because even though we moved our boat from Huntington Harbour to a better slip at Marina Pacifica in Long Beach, my boat handling skills have degraded to the point where if BoatUS insurance finds out my liability premium is going to double. Never mind that some mechanical failure would probably end up embarrassing me and stranding us out in the middle of nowhere only to find out Sparks forgot to renew the Vessel Assist membership again. I did have a back up plan for that, though, which was to have Murph do a Jack LaLane and tow us back to port using just his teeth and a freestyle medley. Actually, that would have been worth it.
Owing to Murph?s travel schedule, we only had 2 days to choose from, Sunday or Monday, and we chose Monday. As it turned out, that day was the best weather day of the past 20 days. Since Murph was driving his family down from NorCal (in a Honda Fit no less) it was up to me to provide the tackle. Sparks backed out of the trip because he had some sort of work project excuse, but I doubt Murph would want to use any of his tackle. ****, Sparks? reels are so under-spooled you?d run out of line before you hit bottom anyway. Neither would Murph want to use any of the boat tackle Gary has, because for that you need a lumberjack outfit and a chainsaw, then cut down any telephone pole size or larger tree from the rod rack, slap a high zoot Accurate reel with 100lb spectra on it, and hang that ?rod? over the rail while complaining that it would have been better to have roller guides for ease of use. I think Gary thinks a rod that actually bends is wasting energy, besides, that?s what shoulder cartilage is for.
Compared to what I could have been saddled with, I was okay with this minor responsibility of preparing tackle, but when I agreed to this trip a month ago I figured I would have been solidly moved into my new house by then (Minimon yearned for more space at home). However, the new reality in obtaining a home mortgage these days delayed closing escrow for a month (hi Mom and Dad! Where do we put these suitcases?) and all of our stuff was stored in those ?Pods? containers you?ve probably seen. I only just got my tackle at the new house a couple of days before the trip, and it was packed in boxes and buried deep in the garage under still more boxes (how many pairs of shoes does a Minimon need, anyway?) I just put a few reels on whatever rods I thought would work to catch some bass or shallow water rockfish. Not having time to sort tackle also gave me an excuse to use my super heavy A380 tackle box, with stuff in there for anything that might come our way, including pyramid sinkers. I made it even heavier by bringing rockcod weights. I left my big 1 lb weights at home, but I brought a bunch of 16 ouncers just in case there was enough wind that our drift was too fast.
I alluded to the work ethic Gary has, and he called me the evening before our trip to give me the weather report (10-15 knot wind) and the departure time. I was concerned that Murph would have to leave Orange County the night before just to get to the boat on time, but when Gary told us to meet at 7:30 AM I was wondering if he was okay. Not that I was going to complain at all, but I had expected some sort of paramilitary 4:30 AM rendezvous. Murph had to have been okay with leaving at a reasonable time too, since he had a little baby girl he was leaving with his wife. Murph got to the dock a few minutes after I did, and I had already loaded my tackle onto the boat by the time he got there so he didn?t have to carry anything. Murph has perfect timing. Oh well, I know a couple of chiropractors anyway, so I?ll be alright.
Once on board, I had to refresh myself with the layout, rod storage, and cooler location. With us on this trip besides Gary were his friends TC (a great deckhand who was with us on the yellowtail trip) and Dave, a friend of theirs who had a multitude of stories to tell. If this was an open party trip an uncouth guy like Sparks would have labeled him as the deadhead, but since we were amongst friends we dispensed with the categorizing even though Dave took up a spot on the stern corner before we even left the dock (I kid, I kid). We shoved off and headed up the line to get bait. Now, by getting bait I don?t mean we were going to some seal sanctuary bait receiver encrusted with pinnipeds, we were actually going to make squid?in daylight. I kinda thought this was going to be a futile endeavor, because it had been crap weather for 10 days and who knew where this stuff was and how it reacted to all the runoff, not to mention it being daytime for crying out loud. My only previous squidding attempt was the more ?normal? type, going with Gary and TC at midnight in November with lights and finger freezing temps to snag squirts that would never float for us, an event that made me think a $50 scoop was a real bargain.
This time, we made a couple of stops odd El Segundo, and a couple of squid came up on the jigs. Wow! Simple as that if you know what you are looking for. They weren?t coming up in big numbers, so Gary kept moving until we finally found the honey hole. We were getting doubles and triples on the squid rigs, and Dave got the first quadruple, which he was able to brag about. I was glad the knot I tied held, because I had zero confidence in my fishing skills right about then and would not want to farm the squid jig, but I did end up joining the others in making bait. I even managed to bounce one squid off Gary as I brought it aboard, but at least it didn?t ink him. If it had, I am sure I would not be writing this, and if I was the pinhead on the boat I would have lost my spot right there even without the ink. Murph and I wondered how Sparks would have handled this, and we both agreed that all aboard would have been covered in black ink by now if Sparks had been there, and Sparks would likely be covered in blood and missing a limb.
We spent a couple of hours making about a scoop of squid, then went back down the line to the Rocky Point area to fish the stuff. On the way we saw large pods of porpoise doing whatever it is they do when they show off in large pods.
I had no idea what to put on my rods as far as rigging, and of course TC told me to go with a leadhead and squid or dropper loop on 30 lb. Oops, I had forgotten these guys were the heavy gear types, and they were hoping to score a white or yellow with the candy bait. I had one 30 lb rig, but I told Murph that I had a 20 lb rig with P-line he could use, same one I got that 35 lb. yellow on. Same line, too, I think. I can?t remember when I changed it. I sure didn?t want to say anything about that to anyone out there, or I would have been subject to even more ridicule than when someone suggested putting a rod belt on to fight those big yellows we caught. It might have been old line, but at least the reel was full of it.
Gary metered around before putting us on anchor. The weather was pretty much unbelievable, as if the bad weather a week before had never existed. The water temp was even up to 58.5 making squid, and maybe a degree or two cooler where we fished. There was not much current at the first stop, but that didn?t keep Dave from boating the first fish, something known as a Johnny Bass. Then he caught another one. I knew his secret; he was in the starboard corner, while I was in the port corner. As I recall, TC caught the next fish, a sugar bass. TC was naming off these fish, but I have to say I had never seen them before other than reading a fish count. But fish counts call calico bass kelp bass sometimes and fishermen are known for making up names for whatever reason. All I know is that I was glad someone knew what these things were and if they were legal or illegal and endangered, or if they were too short or world record size. Just think if I had taken Murph on my boat, then somehow lucked into a rockfish bite like this. We would have had to throw everything back, because I would not have had any idea what these things were, and I know catching some of them gets you the death penalty and a fine.
So after a while I finally hung something that was not the bottom, and managed to reel in a Johnny bass. I lipped it and took it over to the fish box, while announcing, ?There?s my first fish of the year!? They all looked at me quizzically, wondering if I meant 2010 or what. I told them that to catch fish you have to go fishing more than a couple times. But I look at it this way; I was now able to amortize my fishing license cost over 3 trips instead of 2. Yeah, sorry, I went twice before and didn?t tell you about it, but I started getting a bit miffed at reporting non-catches and even non-starts, like driving out of the slip only to discover your steering is MIA and drifting in the channel until you manage to bleed the helm enough to steer, then thinking you?re probably okay to fish a little, until you realize one of your battery banks didn?t charge, your running lights are out, and the fog is a bit thick. I think you get my emotions on this subject.
Murph and I had envisioned a trip in maybe 180 feet of water fishing frozen squid strips for a rockfish pick, but this was decidedly better. What was cool was that I had dropped down to 12lb. gear, and I am pretty sure Murph did too. The rest were almost certainly still fishing that heavy stuff, figuring any wayward yellow would be no match for their industrial strength gear. Getting bit by a wayward yellow on 12 lb was a problem I would like to have, but farming my first white seabass on 12 lb was an ignominy I would never live down. I continued to live dangerously anyway, even though I know my WSB will come while I am targeting something else, like treefish.
Over to Murph, who really had not caught much, and by ?much? I mean ?anything?. He even went to fish the bow, like a normal pinhead. Actually, he is almost as much a contrarian as Sparks, but Sparks would have been flylining right about now and thinking tuna. Eventually, Murph got hooked up and brought up an endangered lingcod. He caught what Gary called ?next year?s model?, because not only was the season for them closed, but it was about an inch short of the 24 inch minimum. But in 2011 the size limit goes back to 22 inches, so Murph put one of his NOAA tracking devices in it and let it go. I took a picture just to prove that he actually caught something, because at this point he would have no other way to prove it and at his rate he was not going to catch anything else.
We continued to fish a reasonably steady pick of fish, and a fairly wide assortment. A sheephead came over, a Boccaccio, a red rockfish of some sort, and a few sandbass. We had a good banter going over a variety of topics, like fish closures, the blue whale show over the past year, photography, investing in stocks, buying gold at vending machines, the formation of the Grand Canyon, and television shows that Dave likes to watch. On one of these shows Dave swears he saw a 10 lb. halibut feeding on the surface and being picked up by a bird of prey. TC called BS on that one, unless Dave was watching TV in the Paleolithic period and the bird was actually a pterodactyl. I wasn?t sure Dave was that old, though.
The bite died for Dave early on (leading to him telling these stories), but when it died for the rest of us Gary went looking. Murph was actually ready to head home, since his hall pass had an expiration time. He started cleaning some of the squid to take home to his wife, possibly to placate her because he was going to be late. I don?t eat bait, but Minimon does as does Murph?s wife. I guess if it was up to the women our trip would have been over when the squid stopped biting. Murph must be getting old, because it used to be him that would prolong trips past the point of optimism that anything else would be caught. Gary has an enthusiasm and an optimism that transcends pragmatism, which is a fancy way of saying he?ll keep going even if the ocean was empty. By now it was late afternoon, and a brisk wind was reminding us it was winter. Gary peeked at a few spots he knew about, before we parked just off Redondo and fished some more. We actually managed several sandbass at this spot over the next hour. I got one of those, but mostly my bait was being picked at by something too small to inhale it. I kept swinging, and finally I landed what was my first senorita fish. I kinda snagged it though, and in a place that would likely keep me from getting a second date. Oh well, I?m used to such things. At least this time I wasn?t arrested.
Gary announced what his cutoff time would be and TC began to clean the fish while we kept going at the rail. Eventually it was time to head back to the dock. Murph and I returned to our pinhead instincts and helped scrub the boat, something I had not done in 27 years. Well, at least as a pinhead on the City of Redondo. That was a nice harkening back to my youth, but my thoracic spine back then was a bit more used to manual labor. Yes, my chiropractor will be busy in 2011.
TC split the fish filets for Murph and I, and we headed off the boat so Murph could get home. Murph carried one of my lighter bags, but I still ended up carrying the rockcod sinker laden tackle bag (you?ll note I used nary a one of those pint sized sinkers). All in all, we had a tremendous little trip, as successful as one can be. I wish 2010 had started out like this, but at least it ended up this way so who can complain? Gary is going on a long range trip in February, of which I am quite envious, someday I?ll get into the longer range stuff, but the next effort will be to take the Anchor Baby out to catch some stuff. He?s already practicing his technique in his grandma?s pool, and once he gets his boat scrubbing and washing technique down I?ll let him pinhead on my boat. I hope I have half as much enthusiasm exuding from my boat as Gary does on the Highliner, and if I can impart even some of that to the Anchor Baby he?ll be in good shape. I?ve given up on Sparks by now, but at least he pulls the anchor and helps pay for boat maintenance. Perhaps he can train the Anchor Baby to do that, but let?s not get ahead of ourselves.
Happy New Year, and thanks again to Capt. Gary and the crew of the Highliner for taking Murph and I out. It was another very memorable experience, but I have to make the promise that I never again catch the year?s first fish on the last trip.
PS Minimon enjoyed the fish fry I put together for her, and I hope Murph?s wife enjoyed the bait, I mean calamari, he brought home for her.
This is midwinter weather
The Redondo power plant with mountains in the background (to prove it is winter)