Groundhog Day was a fun movie to watch as a kid. The idea that you can do the same day over and over is awesome. Oh, the tricks I would play! Of course, there’s also the possibility of constantly improving myself and becoming a doctor or something. But mostly, tricks.
Recently, I had the opportunity to try something relatively new to me. Fishing at sea. What’s even better, I had the opportunity to repeat it three times…well, three different ways. Once by land, once by pier, and once on a fishing charter called “The Duchess.” It was an eye-opener to say the least, and something I would definitely recommend to any of my friends.
My previous experience on the open ocean actually comes mostly from sailing with my father. The J/80 is a fast little boat and we would set ourselves a few miles out to sea as quickly as the wind could carry us. Every three-to-eight-foot swell wasn’t seen as a problem as it was all part of the experience. I was far too busy to even think about fishing back then, though.
As we pulled into Marina Del Rey, I looked out at all the boats and marveled as The Duchess pulled into the dock. Our partners at the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation sure know how to impress! The crew beckoned us to board. Alone, this would have been a matter of just walking and stepping the one-foot gap to the hull. With an anxious three-year-old, however, it took some stern negotiation and confidence-boosting. I have no idea what his issue was but with a bit of fatherly coaxing and love, he was eventually aboard.
In fact, he changed his attitude quickly and found the boat to be utterly fascinating!
It may have also helped that he got unlimited pretzels from the galley kitchen.
After clearing the jetty, we throttled on and out, making our way to the open ocean. At 65′ from bow to stern, not a lot affected The Duchess. Not a lot, that is, except the rolling ocean at a perpendicular angle. That did not sit well with our five month pregnant Chelsea, who powered through by hugging a pillow and sipping her Pellegrino.
The boys pasted themselves to the window, watching every seagull and white-capped wave pass by. Minion himself was entranced by the foam endlessly spewing from beneath the boat. “This bubble bath is endless,” he must have thought. I personally enjoyed the ocean air and the deep rich color of the water.
And then, we were there. “250 feet deep,” our captain informed me when I asked how far out we had gone. He summoned his first mate, and soon fishing poles were ready and waiting.
My experience with fishing poles and set up in the past have only involved such advanced technology as a bobber and a worm (or my favorite, corn). This was new to me, as the captain handed over a pole bearing an 8oz brightly colored fake fish with a tail of hooks. He explained that we were aiming for rockfish, ones that stayed near the bottom of the ocean floor. I found it fascinating that this type of fishing was about more than simply dropping a line.
The captain cast his line, and then mine to demonstrate the technique. This was simple enough so long as I didn’t let the rod spin faster than the line. “Just keep your thumb on the spool,” he told me. “A bit of tension will keep your line from spidering.” I did my best to make him proud.
We cast as far up current as we could and let the line take the bait to the bottom as quickly as possible. I realized I was happy to be learning something new. I never really thought there was much technique to fishing until now. “You let it hit bottom, lock the spook and start to jig it,” the captain told me. “Uh…what’s jigging?” I asked. He went on to show me the technique used to make the bait sit just off the sea bed and also how to make the bait appear as real as possible to the fish below.
Eventually, I got a bite. “Slowly but steady,” I was told as I reeled the fish up from the depths. And then, there it was. A flash of white belly and tan back. “OH! A lizard fish,” the captain explained. He took great care not to hurt it and – after showing the boys who kept an ever-so-cautious distance – tossed it back in the water.
Four more times this army of lizard fish came to tease me. They pulled and fought the line and my heart beat faster in excitement. Surely, I would soon be pulling a red scaled rockfish from the cool pacific waters. A fish worthy of a bragging photo. A fish worthy of even more…dinner.
Then, like the times before, my line became heavy again. Wary of the possibilities, I followed my teaching and slowly but steadily reeled in the line. Then, I saw red. Faint at first and slightly pink. But it was. It was red. I caught myself a red rockfish!
The obligatory photos were taken and it was suggested that I hold the fish out as close to the camera as possible to add to its large appearance. I declined. Everything around me looks small anyway, and I didn’t care if anyone wanted to question the size of my catch. I was just happy I caught something edible. I made sure to show it to the boys before putting it away. Later, more would join it and they’d all come home with me to be eaten.
Eventually, the day on the open ocean was done and we set back to port. Off on the water, just 300 yards to the south, a pod of dolphins made sure to point out that we were not the only creatures in the sea looking for a snack.
We rounded up the boys and headed off to Venice for a nice late lunch at C&O Trattoria. I sat down and enjoyed the baked balls of dough covered in butter, olive oil, garlic and a pinch of coarse salt. I was asked what I wished by a dark haired man with a thick Italian accent and replied, “Something with a lot of fish.” Soon, I was eating a seafood pasta. Exactly the flavor I craved after a day on the water.
We retrieved our Ready 2 Fish Combo poles and walked our way down the pier just at the end of the street. A small grove of locals took root along the edges in what I assumed were their “regular” spots. Even a feisty pelican stood his ground and took its place on the north side of the pier like a loyal dog on a porch. The constant tide of tourists seemed to have been scaring away the fish, as nothing really wanted to come out and play.
With the kids tired out – and now afraid of the irritated pelican – we set off to our hotel for the night and slept deeply. The boys were rewarded with chocolate milk as dessert and thanks for their cooperation on the boat.
A bright and early start the next morning meant a quick breakfast and fast-filled car seats. Chelsea set her sights on Dockweiler State Beach and off we went. The long strand and hot air made for a very different environment with regards to fishing. It was, however, far less crowded than most beaches and Some Boy was comfortable simply sitting in the sand. With our regular-sized pole and my lack of shore-fishing experience, this local turned up short in dinner guests. But we enjoyed our time sitting and chatting.
It would seem that fishing is becoming something of an interest to the boys. I’m glad, because I like any excuse to spend time with them outside the house. What’s more, I enjoyed learning more about the techniques of fishing and the thought process that goes into it. I even gained more of an appreciation for the fish I see bedded in ice at the local super markets.
All in all, a lovely weekend spent on sand, pier and sea.