Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

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


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.

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 (, and blogging sensation SoCalSalty (, 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.