Archive for May, 2011


It’s funny how things work out. In the office I call my day job, I have posted the logo of my favorite college football team. One day, a fellow named Ted stopped by and asked if I had attended the school. He was curious as he grew up in the college town, and wondered if I was from there too. As it turned out, I did not attend the University of Oregon, but until 11 years ago, I was a lifelong Oregonian who had never lived anywhere else. Upon further inspection, I discovered that Ted was an angler who enjoyed the sport as “mental floss”, which I can definitely relate to. The truth was that he “just loved it” and found it to be one of the most rewarding activities in his life (or maybe that’s just what I heard). That initial connection over our undiscovered common history lead to a great day on the water this past Monday.

Don’t be confused by my past posts of unparalleled finned conquest (insert hearty guffaw and milk spewing out of nostrils). The fishing on Memorial Day was so lousy that I was embarrassed to be hosting Ted on his first ever kayak float in Newport Harbor. After my various claims of easy pickings, and a heaping helping of spinnerbait proselytizing about my newly discovered “secret” lures, I’m sure Ted had me pegged as an unrepentant liar. In the end, the angling was a let down, to say the least. But Ted’s a classy guy (yes, I do know some classy people and his name is Ted), so he was nothing but complimentary, and said, “that’s why it’s fishing, not catching”. I, being much less classy, and less patient would have said, “Are you sure this is the right Newport Harbor?” We ended up hitting all my favorite bass spots and halibut drifts. As the day wore on, I grew increasingly more insecure and desperate and pulled out all the stops. We tried casting, jigging, soaking, bouncing, and cranking all manner of lures. All of it for three hard won fish. All I can say is I’m glad I left my dynamite in my other pants.

Final score: Ted got his personal best (first ever, actually) Lizard Fish, and I pulled two reluctant Spotted Bay Bass off of some rocks that I had never fished before. Ted turned out to be a terrific sport (he’s classy, remember), and told me his kids would love the photo of the toothy varmint. As I wrung my hands over where to fish next, I privately suspected his kids would have loved it more if their Dad had brought home a selectively harvested toothy halibut instead. Goodness knows my confidence would have liked it more.

Ted's first Lizard Fish - The Skunk is off!

It turns out that conditions weren’t favorable for the fishing guidance I was dispensing on this particular day. The upshot was that due to the few disruptions in the chatter, I was able to get to know my new buddy quicker than usual. We reminisced about local Oregon landmarks and recounted tales of youthful indiscretions in places we both knew like the backs of our hands. All the stories ended with anecdotes of catching this or that fish on some or other body of water in and around Eugene, Oregon. I grew up there, and Ted did too, which is unusual x2. As students at cross town rivals (He, the class of ’83 at South Eugene High, and I graduated from Churchill High in 1985) we would never had spoken kindly to each other. Ironically, 26 years after the fact, the two “sworn enemies” sat anchored side-by-side in the sunny Orange County, CA harbor. We took in the gawking tourists who strolled past us, snapping photos for their Facebook pages, and we tossed our lures with seeming purpose. In truth, my mind was more centered on my formative youth, and the trappings of our former Northwest home.

iSptted Bay Bass

Hard earned Spotted Bay Bass

With the many ways to spend a Memorial Day, I found this one particularly memorable and meaningful. The places where we’re from are as impactful and worthy of remembrance as those people who were once with us, and no longer present. I would never forsake my memories of my loved ones who helped make me into the man I am today, nor relinquish the immense gratitude I feel for those who have sacrificed, some or all, in the call to serve our nation and her citizens. I am also very grateful for this weekend’s “unsuccessful” fishing trip, and the little paddle down memory lane it afforded me. Sometimes the fishing just isn’t the point.

On The Water - Memorial Day 2011

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In an earlier post, I had some fun describing a Mako shark sighting in Dana Point Harbor. As I was trying to point out, the spectacle of a major predator cruising inside a boat basin is unusual, and awesome. This morning, I woke to find there was more going on than the videos convey.

Apparently Joel Colombo (a charter boat Captain) and Jordan McNaughton (his cousin), took it upon themselves to remove the wayward Mako shark from the harbor. What I had positioned as a story awe and wonder, has now turned to mis-guided glory-hounding.

Here is an excerpt of the article written by Andrea Swane of the Dana Point Times (read the complete article with photos here) :

“I couldn’t believe my eyes; it looked like a Mako so we put a line out and the shark took it right away, quickly broke the line and swam toward the Wind & Sea Restaurant with the hook still imbedded in its mouth,” said Colombo. “We started up the boat and followed it to the bait barge.”

According to Colombo, the duo then snuck up on it once, it sunk out and then popped back up. When the shark reappeared, McNaughton quickly gaffed it.

“The shark rolled with so much power that it snapped the gaff in two,” said Colombo. “At this point we knew it was really wounded and if we didn’t bring it in it would probably have been cranky and dangerous for a while and then later died. We decided to keep pursuing it and about an hour and a half later we saw it near the JollyRoger.”

They pulled the boat up next to it and McNaughton hit it with a second gaff and Colombo followed with a third. They were finally able to get a rope around its tail, get the flailing fish under control and pull it up on to the swim step of their boat.

Colombo said that by this time there was a group of onlookers watching and he thinks that some may have gotten the wrong idea by seeing only the end of the pursuit.

What idea were the onlookers supposed to get? Were they supposed to think that these two had been planning for days, honing their skills, investing their time, sweat and hard earned angling credentials in this life and death struggle? This was on-par with running down a rabid raccoon with a truck. Sure, they did swimmers and paddleboarders a favor of not having to worry about the shark biting them, but to label the episode a “pursuit” is laughable. Further posing with the animal as a trophy is adding insult to our collective intelligence. There was no fair chase here, this was a drive-by gaffing. This fish was sick and clearly disoriented. This was a pest control situation, not a fishing expedition.  The manner in which this animal was captured and dispatched was messy & shameful. This in no way resembles the “sport” of angling, or the fishermen that I so dearly love and support. Thanks for taking out a hazard, but there is no glory here for anyone.

At long last, the day had arrived. After much cajoling, Mr. Dan Hernandez and Joe “Salty” of SoCalSalty.com agreed to be seen fishing with me again. Best of all, Dan offered to guide Joe and me on his boat the 31′ Chris-Craft, Mi Sueno II. Loaded up with the heavy trolling gear and our wire leaders, we were heading out for a shark-fest from his home port of Alamitos Bay.  Salty turned up early, which was a good thing as the tide was rising quickly. Dan’s boat was getting close to being stuck behind the Apian Way bridge. His boat needs 15′ or so to make it under the bridge, so we shoved off just in time to clear the bridge with a couple of feet so spare.

My fishing pals for the day, Salty and Dan

Our first stop was gas, but we showed up before they were serving the precious petrol, so we killed a half-hour plunking plastics and found a couple of fish, including a toad Barred Sand Bass ready its moment of CPR (catch, photograph & release) fame.

Gas Dock Toad Sandie

It was already blowing a fair bit, but despite the dark skies, our spirits were good and things looked promising for our sharking trip. As we were topping of the tank, we took note of the Coast Guard station hoisting the gale warning flags. The weather was scheduled to go south by Noon, so we knew we’d have to hustle to find fish before things got dicey.

Another Quality Sand Bass

Keychain size Sculpin

A bad sign

Long story short, we got blown off the water without much to show for it. Big surprise, right? The meager highlights of the day included some pretty fantastic bird action, and strong marks on the meter, which had us envisioning T-sharks on the troll. The truth is that 5 fish were brought to the camera.

There were a couple of lessons in this day for me, and no, I didn’t learn to avoid fishing during a gale warning. You see, I’m a dedicated (addicted?) fisherman, so I fish when I have time, no matter what the weather, or likelihood of success.

What I learned was this:  1) The first bait in the water gets bit first. More often than not, the first bait was my bait, which didn’t bode well for Joe and Dan, as the fish were just not cooperative.

The other lesson was:  2) Have faith in your ability and baits that have worked in the past. I was able to dredge up fish using techniques that I have picked up over the years. When the conditions get tough, go back to basics and the day can be salvaged.

Last minute Spottie

One proven bait - This worked in Newport too.

AAT curly tail grub, on an Owner darter jig

Another proven winner on the bay bass.

Fishing Report Details


I’m headed into a Memorial Day weekend full of fishing. On Saturday I had planned to fish for sharks with Dan Hernandez and Joe, from SoCalSalty.com, but the weatherman put the kibosh on that plan right quick with the pronouncement of small craft advisories for Saturday. Thus, I’ll be bobbing around (more likely blown around) in Los Angeles harbor for the day, chasing halibut and whatever else we can find inside the breakwall.

Then, on Monday, I’ll be hitting Newport Beach, CA and the Harbor Patrol beach for some fast and furious bass fishing, kayak style. I’m taking a new pal, Ted, from the office, so we’ll see if he has what it takes to be added to my harem of “Fishing Wives“.

Our launch destination on Monday

The kayak is one of my favorite ways to float, and affords me the best access to my favorite fish (for the moment), saltwater bass. I’ll be snapping plenty of pics so stay tuned for a couple of posts next week.

Kayak fishing is my preferred method

In the mean time, let’s make this a bit interactive…

I whipped up this down and dirty poll for you to share your plans, and “represent”. Feel free to elaborate in the comment section with locations, gear tips, or anything you feel compelled to add. Have a great weekend, and Tight Lines to you all!


Do you know what these three things have in common: Lindsay Lohan, Christmas Morning, and Saltwater Fishing? Give up? Each of them are rife with opportunity to surprise, delight, and disappoint, all at the same time. Who knows what that formerly attractive and modestly talented girl will do next to end up on the cover of a magazine. She collects mugshots like I collect hook wounds, and I hope that she’s able to redeem those Frequent Rehabber miles for something nice, but not too outlandish. As for Christmas Morning, it’s a real crap shoot sometimes. How many camouflaged Snuggies can a guy really use? Yes, I’m talking to you Mom.

On the other hand, being on, around, or within sniffing distance of saltwater can be one of the most exhilarating, frustrating, bewildering, and awe inspiring experiences ever. Take for example these two very quick videos I found on the web. Apparently (I read it on the interweb so it has to be true) the fish in the videos were filmed inside Dana Point Harbor, a So Cal boat basin near my home, this week and posted to Youtube by user MrScrabbe. Thank you MrScrabbe for inspiration and blog fodder.


In case you couldn’t identify the critter, that is an Isurus Oxyrinchus, or Shortfin Mako shark. And, in case you don’t know a whole lot about Shortfin Mako sharks, you can learn a bunch of stuff about them on Wikipedia, my reliable source for questionable information of unknown origins, and the occasional provider of a bet winning answer. In this case, it seems the Wiki army of fact-phobic friends have it more or less right. At least that’s my recollection from my brief stint as a Marine Biology major.

Wikipedia – Shortfin Mako Shark

These animals range the deepest, wildest, openest (I know, it’s not a word) oceans searching for the fastest movingest foods like mackerels, tunas, bonitos, and swordfish (thank you team Wiki). That’s the reason they exist; to chase down and eat stuff that swims faster than most land-based animals can ever hope to run. Some say that the Mako is the fastest shark of them all. If true, this puts them on in the company of the fastest land predators. You could think of that fish as the Cheetah of Dana Point Harbor. I’m not saying people wouldn’t mock you, or question your once great ability to draw comparative analogies, or leave rude and insulting comments on your blog if you did, but you could think of it that way. OK, a balanced and rational person like you wouldn’t, but you could.

Anyway, from the reports of this incident I’ve read on various forum sites, it sounds like this mighty quick predator was either sick, injured, or both. It was said to be lethargically bumping into objects in it’s path, and swimming erratically. Maybe it’s GPS was not synched with it’s rudder, or maybe it got into Charlie Sheen’s private stash? Who knows. It was obviously not in it’s preferred habitat, and not doing what it was purpose built to do. Where I’m going is this:  Even the most casual saltwater enthusiast can get a sudden surprise, thrill, and head scratching moment if you are paying attention. A Mako shark swimming inside Dana Point Harbor makes about as much sense as Lindsay Lohan being spotted in a camo Snuggie. But then again, that was my point all along. Some things are just too weird and random to make sense of. I can’t wait for the next time.

UPDATE (5/30/11): You can read how this story ended for the shark here.


Sandbass love the smell of spinnerbaits in the morning!

While I’m not conjuring a blizzard of Tweets and holding down my full-time day job as a brand marketer, I eek out a few moments to search the web for interesting information related to fishing. This week during a search of YouTube I discovered Evan and Jared, TheBassBoyz and Team Basstic. They are a small posse of up-and-coming hardcore saltwater bass fishermen here in So Cal. Aside from noting the plethora of sponsors, and industry connections these guys have racked up, I was left with a with a few observations of these young guns:  1) These dudes remind me of a much younger me running around the rivers of Oregon. 2) Evan is particularly charismatic, he talks a good game, and based on the videos it seems that he knows what he’s doing. 3) Despite some pretty consistent results of my own, I clearly have a lot to learn about bass fishing the So Cal harbors.

 Even after 40 years of fishing like a madman, I am still a student of the sport. This is due mostly to the fact that I am constantly reminded about how little I actually know.

I tend to find something that worked, and use that until it doesn’t any more. Then I try to figure out the next “magic bait,” and the cycle repeats itself. On the hunt for the next big thing, I paid especially close attention to Evan discussing bait types & color selection. I also watched carefully the footage of his technique and I definitely picked up a few things about retrieve speed, and action. Armed with all these mental notes, I was very eager to get on the water and see if the boys could teach this old guy some new tricks.

Newport Harbor - Coast Guard Station Beach Launch

I called up Matt and talked him into a trip that we would both dedicate to testing the new tactics. He was in, so the next thing I did was raid my little-used freshwater bass gear. I dusted off the spinnerbait box, and pulled out a good variety of dark and light colors. I also went deep into my saltwater swimbait box and brought out some of my lesser used colors to pair with the spinnerbaits. After a couple of hours assembling likely combinations, we were finally ready to go and we loaded the kayaks on his truck for a dawn patrol launch.

We got to the harbor around 6AM and assembled the kayaks with our usual array of toys, gadgets and accessories (I’m working on a future post all about kayak rigging, so stay tuned).We pushed off from the beach and I immediately began fishing. Matt turned left and headed to the bait barge, and I turned right and fished the newly refurbished Coast Guard docks. I was on my second cast when the first of a flurry of fish made my morning worthwhile. To make a long story shorter than it otherwise could be, I’ll let the photos from my first six casts tell the tale.

Double Colorado blade dark "swimmerbait" combo for low-light and off-color water.

Cast #2 - Legal sized Spotted Bay Bass

Cast #3 - Short Spotted Bay Bass

Cast #6 - Short (only barely) California Halibut

They were all caught within 20 feet of each other along a row of freshly installed docks. The spot had produced fish for me before, but usually only when the tide is rising and ripping.What made these three fish even more amazing to me is this:  They were all caught at the very bottom of a minus tide, meaning the water was lower and darker than usual, and damn near brackish. This means that the usually plentiful baitfish were nowhere to be found. According to everything I’ve learned to this point, these fish should have had a severe case of lockjaw for at least the next 4 hours, and possibly longer.

There were other fish, including a bunch more spotties, a great fighting Barred Sand Bass (see photo below), and a good sized legal halibut (I saw it, so I can attest to it’s size – somewhere north of 10 pounds) that snapped my 8# fluorocarbon leader as I went for my Boga-grip. While it clearly sucks to part prematurely with a great photo fish, the real bummer about breaking off the larger model fish was losing the “magic lure”. That lure, the one pictured above, caught me a dozen quality fish. All the other spinnerbaits in my box were either larger, smaller, or just didn’t match the color combination.

Barred Sand Bass

Beached kayaks at the end of the day.

We had a terrific day of exploring and testing our new tricks and tactics. Speaking of new gizmos, I have designed an at-a-glance table to include in this report for those of you who appreciate data. My thinking in creating this dashboard is that it might be a nice way to share the relevant details that an astute angler will use to piece together a future winning trip. It also gives you a quick peek into my planning and what I was thinking before the trip began. Check the new “On the Water” tool below and post a comment, shoot me a Tweet (@HookIdeas), or email me (HookIdeas at Gmail dot com) and let me know what you think. Is it helpful, overkill, or in need of more information? I welcome your feedback. In the mean time, go get bent!

Fishing Report Dashboard - May 21, 2011


Friends, especially mine, can be all shapes, ages, colors, and sizes, and with titles to match:  Amigo, Homie, Compadre, Buddy, Associate, Brother From Another Mother, Partner, Bro, Cell Mate… you get the point. My closest, and most valued friends have one common trait. No, despite what my wife says, they’re not all borderline lunatics, they’re all fishermen of one type or other. So in fact, they are full-blown lunatics.

"Fishing Wife" Charlie

I have learned many, many things in the last 23 years that I’ve known the smart, beautiful, and sarcastically gifted woman I call my wife. One of the most important, was how she defined the word “like”. Upon meeting her, it took roughly 19 minutes for me to ask Janet if she “liked” fishing. (Yes, I am a born romantic.) I must have been terribly cute back then, because she didn’t get up and walk away. On the contrary, she admitted that she did actually “like” fishing. My heart lept as I gazed into her pretty green eyes and she told me about fondly remembered trips to the Oregon coast, and lakes high in the Cascades. She shared tales of her father teaching her to tie knots, bait hooks, cast, fight, and clean her catch. She recounted, somewhat enthusiastically, that her older sister also “loved” to fish. She also told me in great detail how her Dad would catch a few trout on a fly rod, then cook them up for dinner over a roaring campfire for the girls to share. She even showed me a bunch of well-worn gear, and seemed to know her way around the nomenclature. I took this as evidence that I had found the total package; a hot, young, intelligent girl, who liked to fish, and who could tolerate me.

"Fishing Wife" Kevin

Well, I imagine with a build up like that, you can already smell where this is going to end up, so I won’t bore you with the long version. Let’s just say that Janet is a lot of things, very attractive, fit, health-conscious, disciplined, and driven, but an angler she is not. As it turns out, she puts up with my fishing, and most of the time she “likes” me.

As I have continued to imbibe in my chosen recreational vice, and test her patience, I have encountered some people who ARE equally addicted to the sport. While this was initially disconcerting to Janet, as I imagine she was alarmed that there were others similar to me in mental defectiveness, she has grown to accept my hobby as a means for me to chill-the-hell-out with the boys. She also understands that the time I spend fishing is an investment in my own sanity.

As part of her acceptance process, which for many years resembled a lot of kicking and screaming, she has come to accept my absence as a positive. Nonetheless, she is one to make a point, so she gave my fishing chums the name “Fishing Wives.” This was clearly her way of making it clear that she did not approve of the number of hours spent with these boys in  man-sized meat suits. She’s over it now, but for a little while there (20 or so years) it was touch and go.

"Fishing Wife" Oklahoma Joe

The term Fishing Wife is, to me, an endearing one, bequeathed upon a super-select group of guys who not only share my most favorite of pastimes, they also have a little “something or other” that makes them special. Not just any dude with a fishing rod and reel qualifies. (I’m no fishing whore. OK, so I might be a fishing whore.) You’ll hear me refer to each of them in posts by name, size, age, fishing ability, idiosyncrasy, smell, flatulence level, or an affectionate pseudonym. No matter how I describe them, they each hold a special place in my heart because they have, and do, share my #1 passion. That, and they put up with me for hours at a time.

"Fishing Wife" Matt

Some, like my dearly missed Oregon wives, brother-in-law Charlie (who married the sister who REALLY does LOVE to fish), and best man Arik (my first fishing wife – swoon…), will be rare guest stars of the blog, as they live more than 1,000 miles North, and we get to fish maybe once or twice a year. (In truth, their fishing agents are difficult to deal with and demand too much money for use of their likenesses.) Others you’ll become very familiar with as Hook Ideas regulars. For example you’ve already met Matt, and you’ll soon know way too much about Kevin, and Oklahoma Joe, all of whom live, work and play with me here in Orange County. If you pay attention, you might catch a sighting of more well known fishing friends of mine like TV’s Dan Hernandez (http://ow.ly/4Yrpi), and blogging sensation SoCalSalty (www.SoCalSalty.com), who I recently eloped with after a 35 minute courtship on an overnight boat to San Clemente Island.

I’ll wrap up this entry by saying there’s a lot of love in this blog, for my wives (the wedded kind, and fishing types) and legion of fan (thanks for reading Mom). Of course, I mean that I love these guys in a strictly platonic, non-gay way (not that there’s anything wrong with THAT). I’m very grateful to you also, my reader, who apparently shares my love of fishing. Either that, or you just can’t get enough heartfelt, albeit mediocre prose. Whatever your reason for visiting, thanks for spending the time to get through this. Perhaps I’ll see you on the water. In which case, be warned… Fishing with me can sometimes come with a lifelong commitment.


The web was abuzz this week with thresher shark sightings, wide open barracuda bites, and warming water, so I was a tad eager to get my gear wet. I’m the kind of guy who let’s himself get caught up in the preamble. You could say I like foreplay as much as the main event. At times the lead up to a fishing trip (or a lot of things) can create so much anticipation that it actually turns into apprehension. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s a strange side effect of a very vivid imagination and hyper-actively creative mind. It may also be a sign of other ailments and disorders, but you didn’t sit down to read my self-psychoanalysis.

Matt holds his fat spotted bay bass

Fat Newport Harbor Spotted Bay Bass

Put it this way:  Saturday was one of THOSE days. I had envisioned every last detail of the trip before I went to bed Friday night. Like a choreographed dance, I moved from garage, to bedroom closet, and back to garage, piecing together the bits that would facilitate my big day. I planned for every contingency, except the one that I faced. My own mind. By the time we hit the water, my head was swimming like an 8-year old on Christmas morning. You know the feeling that you get when something terrific and long anticipated is about to happen? Think of a well-trained Labrador retriever watching the noisy ducks fly down toward his master’s blind. There is a glint of blue steel as the gun swings up and… That was me. Virtually drooling, tail wagging, and ready to come out of my skin.

Matt's fiesty Barracuda on the troll

We had planned to hit a couple of our favorite holes for some quality spotted bay bass, which we did with success (top photo), then fill the bait tank with mackerel, and hit the blue to troll for threshers. As you might know, live macks make great T-shark bait, and we’ve been lucky in the past using the same recipe, so my confidence was higher than Lindsay Lohan’s Tuesday morning blood alcohol content. A simple plan with a simple goal. Two guys with a dependable boat, good coordinates, lots of lively bait, and fine tuned gear sporting freshly crimped leaders and super sharp circle hooks ready to do what hooks do. The only thing missing turned out to be Mr. T. Our boat is small, so the unexpected wind chop and a double sea from the NW and SW mixing things up got our attention. After an hour of getting flogged by Mother Nature, we decided to play it safe and retreat to the safety of the jetties. My gut felt like someone had died. I was bummed, to say the least. As in, Noon on Christmas Day and the pony is nowhere to be seen bummed. I turned between the jetties and quietly sulked as we motored back to comfort and wisely chosen safety.

Despite my melancholy mood, we caught close to 100 fish between the two of us over the course of the 10 hour day (yes, 10 hours). We even got into a nice barracuda bite that occupied my mind for a couple of hours. I am a self-professed “numbers guy” who would typically be happy to catch mackerel all day, but this day all I really wanted was to pull on ONE great big fish. When added up, the many hours and many dozens of smaller fish just didn’t fill the bill. I guess it’s like wanting a really good steak dinner, and instead getting a bucket full of hamburger flavored tic-tacs. OK, so maybe the tic-tacs were prime rib flavored… Still, you get my point. I’m not big on fishing being a metaphor for life, but I do realize that I am a cry-baby and I need to sack up, more than a little bit.

On the upside, I immensely enjoyed the company of Matt, one of a handful of “Fishing Wive’s” I keep in tow. This is a term that I’ll explain and explore in another post. For now, I’ll leave you hanging with the provocative Proposition 8 reference. I guess I’m just not sure how to reconcile my feelings of “bleh” over this trip, other than to say, I need to get out more, and more often and connect with something large. This bug (my untreated fishing addiction) needs to be addressed with time spent on the water. I wonder how many alcoholics tell themselves that their world would be better if they spent more time in a bar? Stay tuned in the months to come. I promise less self-absorbed blithering and more interesting topical posts. This will surely get interesting.


Inspired by a chance meeting of another blogger (SoCalSalty.com) on a recent cattle boat trip I’m dreaming of clever posts, informative updates, slippery photos, raving commentators, and more than a little humor, my way. As my buddy Joe M. is fond of saying, “The first rule of fishing club is: You can’t catch fish without any bait.” Well, to that end, I’ve sharpened my hooks, spooled the reel, and the bait is now officially in the water. This angler is ready to get bent and find out what, or who, is biting. Stay tuned to see what I’ve reeled in.