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USA 2017 (1):California20170812
USA 2017 (1):California
Spring 2017, Barthold D.
Miami 2016, after a long day of specieshunting I was chatting with Ken about possible future destinations. He just returned from Hawaii and showed some beautiful fish and scenery photos. A little seed was planted in my mind and in the second half of 2016 it started to grow very quickly. I seriously started to plan a trip for 2017!
My main goal was visiting Hawaii, but since this is like the end of the world for a Dutchman, I wanted to build in a few stops to do some exploring/fishing/recovering. Soon I found out that the best fit would be: Amsterdam ->California -> Hawaii -> Texas-> Amsterdam. I booked the tickets, contacted locals, arranged places to stay and prepared my equipment. The whole winter I was looking forward to make this trip and in March 2017 my adventure finally began!
Itinerary California 2017
DAY 1: LOS ANGELES
Yesterday I took a flight from Amsterdam to Houston (TX), which was very comfortable due to a 50% empty plane. I managed to get an empty seat row and transformed it into a bed. Unfortunately my flight from Houston to Los Angeles (LA) was delayed and I was stuck for some hours at Houston airport. Next to that, the flight was overbooked and very uncomfortable. When I arrived at LAX I was exhausted, due to the jetlag and the terrible flight. I took a cab straight to my hotel in San Pedro, where I felt a sleep immediately.
The next morning I was woken up by my best friend, with his bright and powerful light into my room. I really missed the sun for some months, when I left NL it was freezing, and this powerful sun gave me instant energy. Because it would be a long day with a lot of exercise, I decided to order a complete breakfast. In NL it was already noon so I was quite hungry. With a full belly I went back to my room: it was time to fish!
With just a few hours of fishing in the morningpossible, I wantedto fish at the beach and the Cabrillo beach pier. It took me a 10 minutes’ walk to the beach where I started to fish with a lure. I didn`t really prepare this, it was just a lucky shot, maybe I could hook a halibut. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of sea weed in the water.
Cabrillo beach in the early morning.
I started with a lure at Cabrillo beach. Unfortunately without any success due to a lot of sea weed.
After the beach I went to the Cabrillo beach pier, hoping to catch my first new species in California. At the pier there were like 10 other anglers and some non-fishing visitors. No one was catching fish and the tide seemed dead. At first I tried close to the shore and then close to the pillars, without any success. I was quite surprised, because some little fish should always be around at the piers. After 30 minutes I decided to move and fish in deeper water. I casted as far as I could and while my little sinker was sinking, I felt a bite and managed to set the hook. Wow this was exciting, fishing in new waters is something I really enjoy. The fish was strong, but I managed to land it, my first fish within some hours of fishing! I recognized the fish immediately: a (jack) smelt. This is a very common fish here, but for me it was very special. It was a strong fish with a powerful body.
First fish of the trip: Jack Smelt!
Simple rig, as bait I used an ISOME artificial rag worm.
Good facilities at the Cabrillo beach pier.
I wish we had facilities like this back in the Netherlands where it’s often rainy.
After the Jacksmelt I had to hurry back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and go to the ferry. I planned a short trip to the Island: Santa Catalina. This Island is the habitat for some nice species which I wanted to catch. Long before my trip I communicated with mister Fener, a local with a lot of fishing experience at Santa Catalina. We made an appointment to fish together at the mole. I read his previous postings and noticed very cool species, it’s even possible to catch Bonito`s from the mole!
It was quite a walk to the port where the ferry was located and by the time I arrived I was happy to check in. It was very pleasant to be on the water and just chill and enjoy the view. I recharged myself and by the time I saw the Island I couldn’t wait to fish. The Island impressed me with her beauty. When we arrived I saw Mr. Fener holding a board with my name on it! I felt welcome immediately.
We passed the battleship Iowa.
What a welcome! Mr. Fener was waiting for me.
Mr. Fener gave me a detailed update about the fishing, and while chatting I looked into the water and spotted a lot of beautiful fish. This place is truly a heaven for species hunters! Mr. Fener planned to fish the whole night and we agreed that I would join him for the evening and maybe a part of the night. This was still my first day and I had to adjust to this time zone. After the update I checked in at the hotel and refreshed myself. Hereafter I had a good dinner and prepared myself for the night fishing.
While walking to the fishing spot my desire to fish grew every minute. Once arrived I started setting up my rods immediately. My plan was to use two rods, one rod for big fish (shark/ray) second rod for small species. The rig for the big fish was very simple, a big J hook with squid as bait, braid as leader and a luminous bobber. I was very excited about this set up, I always like fishing with bobbers, especially in the dark. After some minutes a fish took the bait without any doubt, I saw the bobber moving very fast under the surface. I guess this is one of the most exciting things an angler can experience. I really had no idea what kind of species I could expect, but I hoped for a shark. When I set the hook, Iimmediately felt this fish was not a shark. I managed to land the fish quite easy and noticed I caught a mackerel. I wasn`t disappointed at all! I enjoy catching new species and I enjoy catching species within a group even more, adding a Scomber (japanicus) to my life list was great.
Beautiful sunset at Santa Catalina (photo by Mr. Fener).
I love fishing with a (luminous) bobber!
Set up for big fish.
A big mackerel took the squid and made the luminous bobber dance under the surface.
After the mackerel I tried for bigger fish again, but there were more mackerels around acting as bait thieves. So I decided to go for some little night species at the bottom. Soon I caught a few new species, which I appreciated much. As it was past midnight and having a long day, I decided to call it a day and said goodbye to Mr. Fener. The next day I would return in the morning and fish all day with Mr. Fener. I walked back to the hotel and went to bed immediately, what a first day!
Caught after midnight at the bottom of the Pacific: Scorpaena guttata
DAY 2: SANTA CATALINA
Again the bright sunlight woke me up. I realized I overslept, because I planned to wake up early to fish before sunset. Well, I probably needed some extra sleep and I had a long day ahead, so I was fine with it. After breakfast I went to the mole to start fishing. The water was very clear and I spotted some Garibaldi (Hypsypopssemicinctus). This species looks like a saltwater goldfish and from the moment I saw one swimming it became a target.
Beautiful fish (Garibaldi, Hypsypopssemicinctus) in a beautiful environment.
At the mole Mr. Fener was still fishing and I was curious about his catches. The worst thing that could have happened, was that while I was in dreamland, a school of Bonito`s came by.. But this wasn`t the case, I didn`t miss any action. First thing I wanted to do is catching a Garibaldi, so I rigged up a light rod with a simple rig, a little hook baited with squid. Soon I caught some very nice looking new species, but the Garibaldi simply wasn`t interested in the bait. Mr. Fener laughed about it and told me about a special bait: peas. Now I started to laugh, peas? Seriously?I chummed some peas and yes, the Garibaldi started to feed on it! Soon I caught one on the peas.
Next to the frozen peas, artificial fish eggs are a good bait too.
Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)
Opaleye (Girella nigricans)
After lunch I decided to do some sightseeing and fish at the other side of the bay. The fishing wasn`t very productive there, but It was nice to explore Santa Catalina.
Nice views from the Island.
Garden of the Catalina Casino.
A lot of art is about fishing (wall painting).
Tuna hunting for fish.
Mr. Fener and Arcadia fishing at the mole.
After my little Island trip, I re-joined Mr. Fener and his friend Arcadia. Several times we tried to catch Bonito by casting as far as we could. Unfortunately we couldn`t spot any schools, so we just had to cast at random spots. Despite all the effort we took we couldn’t manage to catch a Bonito. Another species I wanted to catch is the Calico bass (Paralabrax clathratus). This species is quite famous in this area, it hides and hunts in the kelp, therefore it’s also called the Kelp bass. Fishing at the mole seems easy, but it’s a very snaggy place. I already noticed it last night, I got snagged easily at the strong kelp plants at the bottom. Now with the bright sunlight and the clear water I could fish for the Calico bass quite easy by sight fishing. I managed to hook several of them.
Between the kelp it’s possible to catch Calico bass (Paralabrax clathratus).
Lots of useful information like fishing spots, species to expect and successful techniques are written down in detail in this book. Next to everything you need to be successful at the piers, the pier culture is described in a charming way.
We caught a lot of fish and a lot of new species at the mole and in the late afternoon we started to tidy up our gear. At the beginning of the evening we took the ferry to the mainland. As the ferry was mooring at the mole, it was very easy to get aboard. It was a pleasant trip to the mainland and it was nice to see all the little lights from the mainland coming closer and closer. We came ashore at the Long Beach port and I said goodbye to Arcadia.
Mr. Fener was very kind to offer me a ride to my accommodation for that night. Next to that, he brought for me a book about pier fishing in California written by Ken Jones. The nick name of the author is “pier rat” and all his over the years obtained knowledge is written down in this book. If you want to know anything about piers in California, you can find it in this book, it’s very complete and detailed.
Mr. Fener, I want to thank you for hosting me, sharing all your knowledge and making my trip successful! I really enjoyed our conversations at the mole, and you surprised me with all your knowledge about other cultures. I hope you will spend a lot of beautiful days at the mole in the future.
Mr. Fener, Arcadia, and me, chilling at the Mole.
DAY 3: LONG BEACH COAST (LBC)
I arranged a place to sleep very close to the water and when I woke up, I made a cup of coffee and installed myself on a jetty to see the sun rise. It felt good to be at the water and due to a long sleep I felt energized. Most of the day I would be travelling up North, but I planned to do some hours of fishing at the Long Beach Coast. After the coffee I prepared my fishing gear and started to walk to the sea. While walking, I tried to catch fish with a simple hi-lo rig, baited with an ISOME. I expected to catch some little fish quite easy, but nothing happened! I couldn`t spot any fish either.. It was quite disappointing so I decided to walk much further than planned.
As I grew up in the nineties, the music and video clips from the LBC influenced me a lot. I enjoyed walking around in a scenery which I have seen so many times on television! After a long walk without any success I decided to go back, have lunch, get my luggage and head to the airport to rent a car.
Ideal setting to wake up: sitting on a jetty with a cup of coffee.
Long Beach Coast (LBC).
On my way to Cayucos I really enjoyed the scenery.
At the airport everything went smoothly and soon I was on the highway driving North to Cayucos. Total duration of the trip would be around 4 hours and I planned to arrive before sunset. I wasn`t looking forward to drive 4 hours, I rather spend my time fishing..
Nevertheless, when I left noisy Los Angeles, the scenery started to change and I even started to enjoy driving up North. Beautiful landscapes appeared and the roads were not crowded at all. I really started to enjoy this road trip and stopped several times to have a good view of the landscapes. Just before darkness I arrived at Cayucos and after checking in I decided to walk to the center of the town.
I wanted to have dinner and do some evening fishing at the pier. Walking around in the darkness wasn`t a smart move, I almost got lost and it was quite a walk. I was happy to see a sign with the right directions. When I arrived at the center I couldn`t believe my eyes. All women and girls were mermaids! No I didn`t do any drugs.. ;;;;;;Apparently I managed to arrive at the “Sea glass festival”. At this period the sea current brings in a lot of glass to the shore. Because this glass has been moving for years on the bottom of the ocean, it isn`t sharp anymore. People collect it and make jewellery with it and this weekend there was a yearly returning festival to celebrate the sea glass.
It was very nice to join the festival and have dinner (very good fried fish) between all the mermaids. After some beers I couldn`t wait any longer; the pier was waiting for me. At the pier there were five other anglers. After a short talk, I heard that the bites were bad that night, nobody caught a fish yet. All the anglers were very friendly and the atmosphere at the pier was great. I got some squid from my neighbour and baited a sabiki. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any bites at all and after 1,5 hour I tried several different spots on the pier. After two hours I finally got a bite and managed to land a smelt. I gave it to one of the other anglers, whom would use it as live bait. Knowing I would have a long walk back and being exhausted from all the traveling this day, I called it a day.
Just before the darkness I arrived at Cayucos. My new accommodation had a nice sea view.
It was quite a walk to the pier and I almost got lost, very happy to see this sign!
DAY 4: CAYUCOS
I woke up early to go fishing at the pier. It was my only chance to fish the Cayucos pier again, in the afternoon I would travel further up North. At my accommodation I arranged a late breakfast (or early lunch) after which I would check out. I bought some fresh squid at the tackle shop and a big cup of coffee. The sun was shining bright and I felt happy to be at the pier. It was a nice scenery and nice people around. Last night I met a fellow angler, we agreed on fishing this morning some hours together. He introduced his family and we started to fish. Again, fishing was very hard, I didn`t have a single bite.. I tried several things, sabiki with small baits, large baits, bobbers, lures, nothing worked and nobody at the pier caught anything. Nevertheless I had a great time at the pier. After breakfast I said goodbye to my host and headed to my next destination: Pacifica.
Although I didn`t catch any fish, I had a great time at the Cayucos pier.
On my way to Pacifica: again nice landscapes.
The trip to Pacifica took around 4 hours and I enjoyed driving around. Just before sunset I arrived at my accommodation and checked in. Again I managed to be very close to the sea and pier. As a species hunter it’s important to have water as close as possible, especially when you want to fish at night. This night I wanted to fish at the Pacifica pier but I had to do some groceries (and buy bait!) before I could fish. At the store I found some big shrimps and squid.
While shopping I noticed the weather in Pacifica was completely different than Cayucos. It was much colder and very foggy, it even reminded me to fall, back in the Netherlands. When I went back to my accommodation I had a quick look at the pier and noticed the sea was very rough, very big waves/swell and strong currents. I had to build a strong rig!
At home I quickly build a rig which was tangle proof; not too long and thick monofilament. After dinner I went to the Pacifica pier, which was a 5 minute walk. At the pier the conditions were very rough! Only a few anglers were around and it was cold, foggy, rainy, huge waves and swells. I thought that the North sea was a rough sea, but this was impressive too. I started to fish, and was happy to see my rig and mainline didn`t tangle. I tried, squid and shrimps, but didn`t get a single bite… Two hours later I finally felt a bit resistance on the other side of the line, but I soon felt this wasn`t a fish. Finally I caught something: a huge crab! Around 12:00 AM an officer told me to leave because the pier was closing. This was the first day I didn`t catch any fish and yesterday I only caught one fish. I couldn`t stop thinking what went wrong, and If I had to change techniques? But none of the other anglers did catch a fish, so I couldn`t figure whether I did something wrong. Tomorrow is a new day!
Simple but effective rig, especially in rough conditions.
As bait a whole shrimp and a luminous octopussy.
Totally different pier than Cayucos, very high and strong concrete structure.
Finally I caught something: a crab.
The famous Golden Gate bridge, this is the most photographed object in the world.
DAY 5: SAN FRANCISCO
After a good night sleep and a good breakfast I made a plan. As this was my last day in California I really wanted to add some new species to my list. Last days weren`t successful at all, so I had to do something different. I decided to do some hit and run fishing; fish a spot and if not successful move along to another spot. Because I wanted to visit San Francisco, I choose some spots in that area.
I started at the Torpedo wharf, which is very close to the famous Golden gate bridge. I was lucky to find a place to park my car as it was very crowded with tourists. Everybody was photographing the Golden Gate bridge and so did I. After being one of the hundred tourists, I started to fish. At the Torpedo wharf there was a lot of activity, many tourists and also quite a lot anglers. I found a spot with many pillars which was a potentially good spot for small fish to hide. I started with a sabiki baited with squid. Soon I caught my first fish! I was very relieved because I had been unsuccessful for some days. I stayed at this spot for two hours and managed to catch 3 new species.
Finally a new species! This HyperprosonAgenteum was caught between the pillars (hence the Golden Gate bridge in the back).
Moore Rd Pier.
After a while I couldn`t catch any new species, so I continued my way to the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. I found a nice spot at the Moore Rd Pier and started to fish and soon I caught a new species! This day was really successful and it was just noon. While landing a little fish, suddenly I felt strong resistance on the other side of the line. I was fishing with very light tackle, so I had no chance against a big predator. Then a big seal appeared! He was smiling at me and disappeared as fast as he appeared. This seal took my fish! This seal probably knows how to trick anglers and he followed me everywhere. It was quite annoying because he spooked all the fish.. Because I wanted to see San Francisco and I caught 6 new species I stopped fishing and spend the rest of afternoon being a tourist.
Simple but effective rig, baited with a strip of squid.
Beautiful new species! (Embiotocalateralis)
This seal was bullying me for a long time.
Crab snaring is something you see a lot at the piers of California. This tool is used to catch big crabs, I bought one to give it a try in the Netherlands.
When I returned to my accommodation, very close to the Pacifica pier, I felt a strong urge to give this pier another try. Maybe because I read about the glory days of this pier and wasn`t able to catch anything here last night. After dinner I walked to the pier and fished for some hours. I truly tried everything, squid, shrimp, lures, again nothing worked! I haven`t seen anybody catching a fish that evening. I noticed that a lot anglers started to do crab snaring, something you don’t see in the Netherlands. When it became dark I decided to call It a day.
Beautiful sunset at the Pacifica pier and a nice closure of my California adventure.
This first part of my travel report covers California where I mostly fished at piers to catch new species. The mostsuccessful places were: Santa Catalina and the piers around the Golden Gate bridge. I think that the unsuccessful attempts at other piers can be explained by water temperature and the early season (begin March). At the piers I didn`t noticed anyone catching fish while I was fishing.
Anyways, I had a great time! I really enjoyed the time spent with Mr. Fener and Arcadia and driving up North. It was great to fish some typical California piers and meet a lot of people. Next to all the experiences I caught some beautiful species which I can add to my life list. Mr. Fener & Ken Jones, thanks for all the advice, it truly made a difference. I would love to guide you one time in Europe!
After my California trip, I will continue my journey to: Hawaii! It will be described in part 2.