Posts Tagged ‘Photos’


For me, there are two reasons I love to be on the ocean. 1) Fishing. As in hunting fish. 2) Nature. As in experiencing the stuff that is there to see.  A couple of weeks ago, I was out with my pals Matt and Joe (see Reason #1), and we were I was getting the crap kicked out of us me by some rough water, and a bite that just wouldn’t switch on. Between casts my stomach would lurch, and flop, and clench as my temperature rose uncomfortably, and my palms grew clammier by the minute. Every time I turned my head, my meager breakfast began rising in my throat. After what seemed like a thousand 6 foot swells rolling past, I called it and told them, “I’ve gotta go in, or this is going to get ugly quick.”

First seen off of Dana Point

I’m not one of those guys who can just lean over the rail and quietly empty the contents of his gut into the clear blue water, allowing the other occupants of the vessel relative peace. Maybe I missed that day in Reverse Peristalsis 101, where they teach you to barf gracefully, or perhaps it was the severe potty training. No matter. The result is the same; I’m the guy who’s body tries to turn itself inside out with a crippling, seizing, body-length convulsion reminiscent of The Exorcist. People could be injured, namely me, and besides it’s damned embarassing… to watch.

Being friends, and not wanting to experience my disgraceful hurl-fest first hand, they relented and reeled up their unbit lines. We motored slowly across the surging swell toward the nearby refuge of Dana Point Harbor, and I felt immediate relief in knowing I would soon be in more stomach settling water. I’m not proud of my status as a wimp, but the weight of the annoyed looks I was getting bounced off like I was made of Teflon. Very queasy Teflon.

Even when I’m expressing my wuss-ness, I’m still a curious soul.

 

Through my unsettled eyes (yes, even my eyes were sick) I spied a white blob barely under the surface and without hesitation turned the boat in the direction of the disturbance, which I hoped would be something interesting to look at (see Reason #2). It turned out to be a whopper of a Mola Mola. For the uninitiated, a Mola sighting is quite bizarre. These gentle, but huge alien looking, fish are also called Ocean Sunfish because they will lazily fin at the surface on their sides, apparently resting under the radiant gaze of our nearest star. They do this until a boat comes near, or, I suppose, until they just feel like swimming away. Sometimes, like this time, it takes a bit more to get them off the dime.

Broadside of a 200# Mola Mola

In our case, the fish wasn’t in a hurry to dive and disappear as quickly as the other Mola’s I’ve seen. In fact, with its pale white color, and flaccid road-kill-esque demeanor, I was pretty sure it was dead and motored right next to it to take a look at my grisly find. Always the 8-year old boy, I gave it a gentle, but curious “Eeew, it’s dead!” test poke with a long boat hook, and was more than a little surprised when the baseball sized eye flinched and snapped shut. You can’t get the scale from the photos, but this fish was large, as in 6-7 feet from nose to tail, and roughly equal dimensions from tip to tip of its enormous fins. I don’t know about you, but when an eye, on a fish that big, snaps shut within feet from my own eye, it’s startling. I must admit, I jumped back, just a tiny little bit.

Mola Mola Up Close & Personal

I immediately felt remorse for my child-like morbid curiosity and grabbed my camera to turn the moment into this blog post. We circled the beast and to my surprise, it stayed within arms reach of the boat for several minutes. There was plenty of time for me to shoot a handful of underwater still shots, and assemble my video camera to shoot the video you see below. It’s not going to win any awards for anything, or likely get more than a few dozen views, but I think it was some of the coolest footage I’ve ever shot of wildlife. The 1985 Blag Flag frat house basement concert video excepted.

Our big pale pal swam over to the boat and my overwhelming childishness blasted forth yet again. I leaned over the gunwale of the boat and grabbed the fish by the giant dorsal fin. The photo does a good job of showing the scale compared to my hand. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but it just felt right. I touch fish all the time, but this one was different. I had not hooked the fish, nor fought it, or even baited it for that matter. This creature was content to hang out with us and allow me to interact with it, physically. I’m sure the fish must have been sick, and perhaps even dying to allow such hyjinx, but the experience was one I won’t forget. It felt like shark skin, and the meat tasted like chicken. (I’m joking…)

After the fish decided to dive, I realized that my sea-sickness was gone, as in 100% symptom free. I’m sure there’s some sort of deep and meaningful life lesson, or cosmic soul-bonding, inter-species love/medical miracle story there, but I’m going to chock it up to simple awe. Whatever it was, it worked like a charm. Thanks Mother Nature.

This was one big mellow fish.

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Newport Harbor Negative "Neep" Tides for 6/4/11 (courtesy of http://www.ProTides.com)

After last week’s more-chatting-than-fish-catching episode at Newport Harbor, it was clear to me that if I wanted to catch more fish, I needed to spend more of my limited attention span focused on getting the timing right. Basically, I just need to study the conditions in advance, and whenever possible avoid fishing on days when the water temperature swings 14 degrees from low to high tide. Yeah, the fish were a bit cold last week, and just didn’t want to cooperate.

As you may have heard, the rising tide, up through high tide and even an hour after, is widely believed to be the most favorable fishing time period. While I do agree that moving water is a contributing component of a good bite, I’m not convinced that it has to be a rising tide. In fact, I have experienced slack tide to be a terrific time to catch fish quickly, as in one of my prior posts, The Newport Experiment. It’s obvious that many factors play a part in catching fish, but I think the greatest factor is having your head out of your butt, and not just part-way out, I mean all the way out.

To me, that equates to understanding the conditions enough to fish the right bait, to willing fish, with the right presentation. Of course, this is akin to the well-worn golf adage that says golf is easy because all you have to do is put the ball in the hole. This is one reason I don’t golf; dumb adages. The other reason is they won’t let you bring a rod in your golf bag to fish the water hazards. What could a couple of casts hurt? Seriously? As usual, I digress…

Kayaks loaded and ready for the 4:30 AM departure.

My favorite tide prediction website, www.ProTides.com, was showing a terrific negative, or “neep” tide this morning, which meant we could look forward to a long, rising tide from dawn until around Noon. We planned to be on the water by 5:30 AM prior to the entire harbor draining, and as it turned out, prior to the sun coming over the Saddleback Mountains. We packed the truck on Friday night, chained the yaks to the rack, and hit the sack for far too few hours of sleep.

Well before dawn’s crack, we were up, at ’em, and beating cheeks North on I-5. The neighborhood of Newport Beach where we launch, Corona Del Mar, or CDM if you’re a local, is pretty exclusive. The median home price there is roughly equivalent to my lifetime gross domestic product ($1.3M bucks) and the folks who live there take beauty rest, parking ordinances, and their exorbitantly taxed property rights VERY seriously. Having heard horror stories from others who ignored the 6a-10p parking lot time restrictions,  we decided it would be best to park on the street. We set up our boats very quietly, so as not to draw too much attention to the fact that we were about to drag our gear across a piece of land that was technically still closed to the public for another half-hour. Fighting the urge to ding-dong ditch the neighbors, we assembled our equipment and made our way to the water.

Pre-dawn Kayak rigging - "Dude, be cool! And quit giggling."

The Mystery Hand says, "Use this bait!".

The Mystery Hand endorses liberal use of Uni Butter

OK, enough of the set up. You’re here to see some slippery, finned, fish-on-lure action, so I’ll cut to the chase. We paddled out in less than 6 inches of water, as the tide was SUPER low (see chart above if you doubt me). We were bite-free until the tide bottomed out and just started it’s upward creep (Note to reader: NOT high tide). We did well until the tide topped off, and had some great fun doing so. All counter-intuitive if you follow conventional wisdom.

Matt chose the “Newport Special”, which is a 4″ curly tailed Hot Belly Bass colored AAT jig as his primary tool, and I stuck with my new favorite weapon of choice, the black Lazer Eye spinner bait & skirt, paired with a 3″ anchovy colored Big Hammer swimbait. We both were generous with magic potion called UniButter. I’ll talk more about the scent at another time, but let’s just say, it works. I’ll also add that you don’t want to get any on you unless you never want to be near anyone that doesn’t appreciate the rousing smell of a fish packing plant. ‘Nuff said.

Now, brace yourself for more of the Mystery Hand and bazillion fish montage:

The first of several chunk pre-spawn spotted bay bass.

A second, even bigger fish, from the same spot as the first. Just like I planned it! (yeah, right)

I'm starting to think there's something to this UniButter stuff!

OK, so it wasn't my worst day of fishing. (16" Spotted Bay Bass - Not too shabby)

Matt hooked and nearly landed a large bat ray that hit a curly tail grub. I later got to go for a ride behind one that nailed my spinnerbait. They should change the name of these fish to the “Crap Your Pants Ray”. Matt’s first swallowed his jig, then promptly jumped out of the water a mere 15 feet from his rod tip. The poor boy nearly soiled himself in surprise when the approximately 20# fish made it’s big, unannounced, and splashy appearance. Mine hit with such force that it nearly jerked the rod from my hands, and then it sprinted for the Pacific. Lucky for me it swam under a dock, where I ended up, slammed (really more of a thud) into the back of a half-a-million dollar yacht with my line tightly twisted around a gnarly piling. I’m still licking my wounds, but fortunately, Matt was able to regroup and put some trophies on the board.

To add to the degree of difficulty, he chose to target the souvenir keychain rack, which was heaping full of tiny, itty-bitty toy versions of the fish we know and love. As the sometimes ornery author, I get to say stuff like that. Matt, if you want payback, or a better review, start a blog, or at least a Twitter account! 😉 (Now let’s see if I still get invited to the July 4th pig roast at Matt’s place…)

Barred Sand Bass - All the ladies, in unison: "It's soooo cuuuute!"

The tiniest california halibut either of us has ever seen.

Matt's "Newport Special" bait even worked for me. Shhh, don't tell Matt.

Fishing Report for 06/04/2011


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


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


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


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.