Amazing how a good group of guys can change my old habits and feelings about how I do things professionally. I got an e-mail from a very nice girl that wanted me to take her boyfriend to Catalina and teach him what I could in a day. With the clients I already have I never thought I would be able to make the time for a new one, and frankly I just don’t have the desire to jump on a boat full of strangers anymore. Its hard to explain why, I just struggle with it. Maybe I am just getting old and cranky. Often there are high expectations I just can’t meet, or my expectations are too high and the clients are not willing to make the effort. Well this last trip showed me that there are still guys out there that are capable of being nice, having a great time and fishing hard all at once. It was a very tough trip as far as the fishing goes, but one I will not soon forget.
First guy on the dock at 5:15am turned out to be a guy I went to high school with. We knew the same people and shared some history in the dark while waiting for the rest of the group. When the deck lights finally came on, we both realized we knew each other and it was the perfect ice breaker. Whew! One by one I met all 6 guys and there was not a bad attitude amongst them, but that did not change the pressure I feel to find fish every trip. Even my wife does not see the stress I hold inside until that first fish hits the deck. I take what I do very seriously, but try not to show it because I know when it rears its ugly head its not pretty.
We loaded up on bait and headed across in nice seas, discussing our game plan. Being a Saturday I wanted to go around back and get away from the weekend crowds, hoping to find something that had others had missed. We found perfect conditions at the East End of Salta Verde Kelp, a strong uphill current that held the kelp down so far that we could not see it at all and clean green water. We had to reset to get on it right, and started picking away at the bigger bass. While I expected to hook a yellow at any time, it never happened. Soon we were surrounded by a couple other boats and had to move, looking up the back before heading back down East for the current change.
We then set up at Orange Rocks on the inside. If it had been June or July we would have caught a seabass, but on this day it was just a batray bite. Nice conditions and a current switch, with no bites from the right kind. Then to the East End for more mackerel than we could afford to lose bait on, then to K20 only to get run over by Joe’s Rental Boat tourists. Frustrating. A drive by at Hen Rock showed me what weekend fishing in the summer at Catalina is really like, with no less than 12 boats all fishing a 2 boat spot. So up the front we went in windy slop to get up to the squid grounds.
Once in the Isthmus we anchored on Eagle Reef three times only to drag anchor each time. Let me say here that I made the mistake of not bringing frozen squid for chum, so we had none. Armed with some frozen to chop, I would have made more of an effort to fish the reef, it looked good. Now getting late and the bottom of bait tank very visible I decided to swing for the fence and set up just inside the squid nest at Lions head. I metered around patiently until I found a spot of seabass in 11 fathoms. I spun around and they were gone. Spun again and there they were again. Dropped the pick and started catching mackerel, too many mackerel. We were running out of bait and time now, and I was sick to my stomach with pressure.
We hooked a mystery fish that I still think was a yellow, lost it, then caught a batray hooked mid water column. Expectations were falling when we hooked another fish that looked like the right kind but the angler was convinced it was another ray. He joked and played until it came to color, then he was all business. First seabass of the day on the deck with the sun now behind the island. Finally! Then we hooked one and lost it, then got another. The bait tank was looking empty. The meter was lit up with worms and if I had some chum to throw I would have thrown it all. We had a triple next of all bigger models, and got one out of it, a gaffer on the bow that wanted to wrap the anchor line. All bites from bigger fish from then til the bait was all gone, which did not take long.
Smiles all around as we left the island, mission accomplished. I gladly filleted the catch for this group that fished so hard all day, and never gave up hope. Bryan Wheeler, the boat owner and birthday boy drove the boat home, exhausted. It was darker than the inside of a cow, and he impressed me with the way he ran the boat. Smart guy. I plan to soon visit Bryan’s business, “Wheeler Speed Shop” in Huntington Beach, as I hear its worth the tour and he is very good at what he does (the boat shows it).
We all learned a lot from each other and new friendships forged. New fishing spots, how to hook a bait and cast a mile, and how to stick with the game plan into the late innings. As always I learned the most, and on this trip I learned that there are still nice guys out there that want to fish hard while not taking it so seriously as to make it not fun. Thanks guys and I appreciate you all dealing with me and my stress until that first seabass was in the box. Long ass day, but I am sure glad it ended with a huge bang.