Got a call from an old friend last week inviting me, my fishing buddy Sean and anyone else we cared to invite out for a Saturday morning of fishing off of Cabrillo Beach pier.
Now right off the bat, a lot of guys would immediately say thanks but no thanks to such an invite.
Pier fishing in SoCal doesn’t always have the greatest reputation: The fishing can be painfully slow and tedious, the catch isn’t usually safe to eat and many piers are dirty and lacking in amenities.
But Sean and I already fish the L.A. River as well as some other questionable locations so a quarter mile walk down a slippery pier while dodging a gauntlet of hooks and hardware to get to a graffiti covered porta-potti isn’t that big a deal.
Besides, the inviting party just happened to be Larry Fukuhara – Programs Director for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
For those of you who don’t know it already, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is one of the oldest and definitely one of the coolest public aquariums in SoCal and has educated several generations of Angelenos about Grunion, Gray Whales, tide pools and more from its humble beginnings as a card table filled with shells next to the lifeguard tower to its current state of the art facility on Cabrillo Beach.
Likewise, for those of you who don’t know Larry, he is a dynamo of creativity, adventure and plain ol’ fun and while he isn’t one of the oldest, he certainly is one of the coolest — and best — saltwater fisherman I know. Over some twenty-five odd years he has, literally, taught me more about saltwater fishing than anyone I’ve ever fished with; so when he asked me if I wanted to participate in one of his “Fishing with Uncle Larry” events, I was only too ready to say yes.
Thus, on the appointed day, Sean and I drove over to Cabrillo pier and made the long walk to the large shade covering at roughly the center of the pier where there were already several tables set up under some large banners, a library’s worth of info and a rack full of a couple dozen pre-rigged poles.
Besides Larry and a couple of Aquarium staff, I was surprised to see an army of enthusiastic volunteers from United Anglers of Southern California.
Turns out, this particular event was being co-sponsored by United Anglers and they were providing gear, manpower, information and a ton of raffle prizes for the kids.
Within seconds of arriving, it was obvious that the primary focus of the event was kids and teaching them to fish.
The next several hours was a blur of cutting bait, untangling bird’s nests, re-rigging terminal tackle, helping kids haul Tom Cod up onto the deck and…having a great time doing it.
Several kids caught their very first fish ever and there was plenty of fanfare and encouragement no matter what the size of the catch. Each kid got a picture to take home, thanks to some innovative technology, and every volunteer worked extra hard to make sure every kid caught something. I really enjoyed the positive attitudes and upbeat spirit that permeated the day.
There were plenty of great moments and smiles that keep things moving along even when the bite slowed down. I had a blast teaching a mom and her six year old how to fish and then later congratulate them on their first catches.
I even got to dust off my training in invert. Zoo. when, during the gross out moment of the day, a rather large fish louse fell from the gill cavity of a white croaker and then started giving birth — think the movie, Alien –right in the middle of a circle of kids. We couldn’t have planned it better.
Anyway, all that to say, it wasn’t flyfishing and it wasn’t a mountain stream but “Uncle Larry” came through again and likely increased the rolls of the fishing fraternity by a couple of dozen this past weekend.
Wikipedia defines Recreation as: “the expenditure of time in a manner designed for therapeutic refreshment of one’s bodyor mind.”
Presumably, this is why I fish.
After a week (or several) of nose to the grindstone, hittin’ the bricks running, full speed ahead activity necessary to maintain a roof over our heads and food in the larder, the ol’ body and soul simply need a break.
My chosen form of recreation is fishing, usually with a fly rod. However, the older I get and (theoretically) the more experienced I get at my chosen addiction, the more gear and the more technique I acquire such that a quick trip to L.A. River or a local park often ends up resembling a commando raid with highly specialized, mission specific gear, top-secret notebooks of info, and maps marked in an alien code indecipherable to all but me.
Alas, even in leisure, my type-A personality creeps in and organizes a day on the water into a task-oriented blitzkreig.
So it was a real eye-opener yesterday when I had the good fortune to take my seven-year old god-daughter fishing for a couple of hours while her Dad got some well-deserved rest and her mom and “aunts” did the girls afternoon out thing.
I had already opted to use the spinning gear for this little venture and had already rigged one of my back-up poles for some sunfish action when my little fishin’ buddy showed up decked out in protective booney hat, her favorite hiking clothes, old shoes and…a three-foot Barbie pole.
Now, there is no way I would ever intentionally squelch the passion of an aspiring angler or bad mouth her shiny, new gear (so enthusiastically wielded) so I quietly stowed my pre-rigged rods behind the door, made a slight re-arrangement of tackle packs in my bag and formulated a detour in my plans to pick up some bait.
When we arrived at our selected lake, I was happy to note mostly clear water, an abundance of floating algae, only a few anglers and a slight breeze to keep things cool as we fished.
My fishin’ buddy, on the other hand, noticed the dancing ducks, lots of benches for eating snacks, the bridge for walking across the lake to get to the other side quicker and the bubbles (from the aerators) which “probably meant that there was a giant fish sleeping on the bottom”.
As we set up shop along the bank where I knew there were always some sunfish, we happily discussed the need for bait and why it smelt so bad and how we would get the “monster fish” onto the shore if my net wasn’t big enough and whether we would eat the monster fish or let him go. (We decided we would let him go).
I have to admit, I was caught off-guard.
Me – the one who generally hits a lake with military precision, carries minimal gear in carefully balanced and easily accessible packs and rarely talks while fishing. Here I was forced to slow down, engage in meaningful, albeit seven-year-old appropriate, conversation and notice things from a long suppressed point of view.
We admired the color of the bait, speculated on the purpose of red and white on the plastic floats and plotted more strategy on how we would catch the monster fish when it finally woke up.
I had to explain why ducks pick on each other and how they eat without teeth.
We tried to figure out if there was some way to make money from all the algae we had to keep pulling off of our rigs. We day-dreamed about what we would spend all that money on.
We watched a kid in a yellow shirt drive his remote control boat around the lake and wondered if THAT would awaken the monster fish. We giggled at the antics of the tiny sunfish along the bank as they tried to steal the bait from our hooks and we just sat in the grass and watched the ripples on the water.
Soon it became time for snack. I knew this because my god-daughter clearly said so. We pulled in our lines, walked back to the car and fetched the big, blue lunch bucket and smaller snack bag that her mom had packed and we went over to one of the shore-side benches to sit and eat while we soaked more bait.
This was a drastic change from my usual fishing meal of beef jerky and canteen water eaten while on the move… and I kind of liked it.
I experienced (or rather re-experienced) how much better cheese and crackers taste when you scribe a happy face in the cheese and I remembered how much fun it is to pull Oreos apart before eating them.
And for the first time in a long time I smiled at just being out on the water. Not about the trophy fish I just hooked, or the new, secret spot I just discovered or the way my cast laid out in a perfect loop or the path my fly took as it rode the current – I smiled because I was having fun with someone who thinks fishing is mostly about doing cool stuff outside with someone you want to be with.
We watched the dragonflies zip around just above the surface and we laughed as they hovered in front of us, eyeing our bait as we got ready to cast it out.
We kept this up until close to dinnertime and then just as I had given the “ten more minutes” call, she saw him — cruising about a yard from the bank, a twelve to fifteen-inch Largemouth Bass – the “Monster Fish”.
Much to my delight, my god-daughter, uncoached by me, made a perfect cast in front of the Bass, using the Barbie pole.
Now, I would like to say that the Bass hit the bait and we landed it for a grand photo-op that would provide Christmas portraits for the grandparents, but it was not to be.
Instead, the fish rushed the perfectly presented offering, bumped it and then swam off.
You’ve heard of the expression, “jaw-dropping”? Well, it’s true. I saw a seven-year old do it, though I did not expect it to be followed by a squeal of delight.
So, although we did not bag the “monster fish”, we did stand and stare him in the eye… and he blinked first.
And as I drove home, with a certain someone chatting happily and animatedly in the back seat, I felt completely refreshed.
Had a chance to get in a couple of hour of brown-lining yesterday and headed up to the Whittier Narrows portion of the San Gabriel River with my fishin’ buddy, Sean. I’ve been feeling a little bit of “river envy” since returning from Ohio last week and thought that some time on moving water might dispel some of that feeling.
Not that I got to fish in Ohio — we were there on family business and it would have been bad form for me to sneak off during the in-laws Golden Anniversary celebration to dabble in the local streams.
Don’t get me wrong. My wife’s family is great and I really like being around them. But I am already slightly behind the eight ball, being the “California Boy” from the land of “Holly-Weird” and while they are very understanding folks, they are categorically non-fishing and can’t fully appreciate why I might derive pleasure from traipsing around the streams and creeks nestled in the bottom lands between corn and soybean fields to catch fish that I have no intention of eating.
Anyway, after a week of driving around western Ohio and observing the multitude of waterways, including the awe-inspiring Ohio River, I was really “jonesing” for some fishing.
So yesterday, Sean and I hit the S.G. Narrows after church and a pleasant lunch of Thai food with our beautiful brides.
When we got to our usual parking area, first thing I noticed was the rhythms of Mariachi music and the smells of BBQ drifting over the river from some festival in nearby Legg Lake park – not in and of themselves unpleasant things to accompany the urban fishing experience.
Unfortunately, the next thing I noticed was the incredible amount of trash strewn along the riverbank and floating in the quiet eddies and pockets between the aquatic weed beds. Now, I’m no Polyanna when it comes to urban fishing – I expect encounters with guys in aluminum foil hats and gang-bangers tagging the undersides of bridges and psychotic Rottweilers and homeless encampments encircled by empty soda can perimeter alarms and half-submerged shopping carts…but this…this was overwhelming.
The worst part about it was that the majority of the trash could be identified as fishing related. There were plastic tubs that had held bait and old packages for hooks and tackle and lures. Wads of tangled monofilament lay on the ground and fast food wrappers were everywhere.
I can regrettably report that, based on observation of the trash seen yesterday, most of the people fishing the Narrows purchase their supplies from one particular sporting goods store and that coffee and double cheeseburgers are their food and drink of choice.
The problem of trash is always present in brownlining. These are urban waters receiving street run-off and debris blown in to them as they pass through heavily populated areas. I get that!
But yesterday was just…sad.
Last week, there was a news story published about huge mats of trash floating out in the middle of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. One of these mats is roughly the size of Texas –yeah, Texas!
Please consider making a trash bag part of your regular fishing gear if you call yourself an urban fisher.
Oh, and just a reminder: if you ain’t fishin’ with yo’ Mama, you best be pickin’ up after yourself!
I was up in Fullerton the other day and wanted to do alittle fishing so I stopped into Craig Regional Park to see if I could get a couple of bites. Doesn’t look like the lake has changed much since the last time I was there. Started off trying for a Carp, got a couple of bites but I was too anxious and popped the fly out both times on the set. I fished for about an hour or so and pulled in about 50 Green Sunfish on a hopper dropper system. The greenies must be taking over, I didn’t even see one Bluegill or Bass. Green Sunfish are know to choke out other species, they are more hardy breaders then Bluegill and eat alot of Bass fry. Usually the Green Sunfish in Southern California Lakes tend to be stunted, but these were some of the biggest Greenies that I have caught. All in all I was just glad to get some time in on the water!