Posts Tagged ‘Saltwater’


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

Advertisements

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


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


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.