So the monkey has been through a few adventures in the past couple of months. He finished a backyard remodel, started some additional and very intense training at the Getty Villa, and most recently survived the firestorms in Southern California. His house is safe but he did have to evacuate for a couple of days and that’s another whole story. But to get into the holiday routine his #1 son had this great idea to go on an overnight fishing trip. Right, what better way to get in the Thanksgiving and Christmas mood than go fishing?
It’s been years and years since the monkey has gone ocean fishing but Saturday evening after a Mexican dinner with more than one Cadillac Margarita Kongo, his son, and a good friend of the son arrived at a sport fishing pier in Oxnard, California to board the Pacific Islander on a voyage to the outer Channel Islands. We wouldn’t be back until the following evening. The young guys were prepared. They packed sleeping bags, pillows, sun screen, sunflower seeds, bottled water, changes of clothes, and all kinds of stuff. Kongo brought a camera.
The boat was to leave at 10 pm. We got there a couple of hours early to check things out, rent fishing gear, buy a bunch of tackle we wouldn’t need or use, and stood around trying to look like we knew what we were doing. As the pre-boarding crowd grew it was obvious that we would be joined by some serious anglers. These guys were packing multiple heavy duty rods and gear boxes and were wearing their favorite fishing hats and shirts that commemorated previous fishing trips. It’s a thing. Evidently you buy shirts and hats that document your trip to the Sea of Cortez, Puerta Vallarta, Hawaii, or some other fishing locale, then you wear it when you go out on another adventure to let everyone know you weren’t a rookie. Kongo had no problem looking like a rookie lining up with his rented rod and camera. After all, how many monkeys go sport fishing anyway?
The first thing you do when you get on board is stow you gear and check in. You have to sign up for the biggest catch pool, get your bag number where your fish will be placed after you catch them, and find a bunk. That’s right, this was a sleeping boat. Below the galley were two compartments that held narrow, very narrow, bunks stacked three high. It reminded the monkey of his early days in the navy where as an enlisted sailor he once lived with 18 other guys in a similar compartment about the size of his bathroom.
Kongo and his son had a side bet going. His son was sure there would only be men on the boat. The monkey felt there were going to be a few adventuresome women who would be there. Twenty bucks rested on the outcome. Until about five minutes before departure it was looking bad for the monkey. In fact, he’d already forked over the $20 when two nice ladies came down the pier and boarded the boat! Ka Ching! The monkey was off to a good start even if he didn’t win the biggest fish pool.
The monkey slept poorly. After a few hours in the rack he was up at 3:30 to watch the sunrise. Of course the sun wouldn’t rise for another three hours but that gave him time to sit in the galley and read some old surfing magazines from 2016. He also took a few shots like the one below that shows fishing poles ready to go.
The sun came up right on time, the captain killed the motor, sleepy-eyed fishermen poured up from their bunks, and before you knew it, fish were landing on the deck.
Kongo’s rig included two #2 hooks set above a 16 oz sinker. The fish were waiting for us 300 feet below. So what you do is you stick your pole over the side of the boat, release the reel lock and let the line drop. You have to keep your thumb on the line paying out or you’re going to get a tangle. When the line goes slack that means you hit bottom so you real it in a bit and wait. The wait isn’t long. Kongo caught his first fish 30 seconds after his line hit the bottom. The hooks were baited with squid on the top hook and a sardine on the bottom hook. The advantage to this is basically you’re going to quickly smell like fish whether you catch one or not!
Kongo caught a LOT of Vermillion Rockfish. There’s a daily limit of 10 but Kongo is pretty sure he brought in more than that. These fish aren’t very exciting fighters. Another thing about them is that since they are so deep, their eyes tend to bulge out when you bring them to the surface. A bit off-putting at first. Here’s a short video of Kongo bringing in one of these guys that his son took.
In an hour or so we had our limit of rockfish so we were off to find some Ocean Whitefish.
Some guys caught things other than the red Vermillion Rockfish. There were some lingcod catches, a couple of halibut, and a single sheepshead. And then there were the olive rock fish (Kongo caught two of those), chuckleheads, sculpins, and sea bass. It gets confusing after awhile. According to Captain Steve on the boat, these are all “good eating!”
At out second stop just north of Santa Rosa Island Kongo caught his limit (10) of whitefish. He also caught about 15 additional rockfish (these were blue rockfish) but since we had reached our limit these guys got to go free. The whitefish are fun to catch because they put up more of a fight than the rockfish even though they are not as big.
By about 1:30 in the afternoon everyone had pretty much reached their limit and we headed back to Oxnard, about five hours away. The crew uses this time to clean the fish for you and hose the boat down.
Once the fish cleaning started the bird show began. A couple hundred Western Gulls mobbed the boat waiting for their share of the catch. They weren’t disappointed.
The sunset was nice too. And we saw whales which was a great deal because we didn’t have to pay extra for a whale watching cruise! It’s a bit early for the whale migration off the California coast but there are always whales around. We could see them from the boat blowing and diving. Lots of dolphins too.
The overnight fishing trip is $165. Fishing licenses, gear rental, and some tackle we didn’t use came to $52. Kongo’s fish filleting work cost $30 and his galley bill was $14. Tips for the crew came to another $50. Time with your son on the water is pretty much priceless.
The crew was fantastic. They rig your gear, untangle your lines when you get crossed up with the guy next to you, encourage you, fillet your fish, and generally make you happy. These guys are great! You can do this trip yourself. Check out the Pacific Islander at their website.
Travel safe. Have fun!