Dateline: May 6, 2012 – Catalina Island, California
Some things just shouldn’t have a rule. But this is a very hard thing to explain to Germans. Germans can put rules around everything – even bathroom humor.
Some of you may remember Stefan Molnar from last year’s episode https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/my-guitar-solo/. Stefan (German for “Stephanie”) is a keen angler who lives in Germany where there is a great deal of fishing pressure and even more regulation. (A fishing license alone takes a 6 month set of courses to obtain.) He yearns to come over here and catch some of our less-regulated fish, especially those that will take artificial lures.
As with last September, Stefan was here for two weekends. The weekend he arrived coincided with the very end of the good perch fishing in San Francisco Bay, and also allows me to digress and introduce a very old friend into the 1000fish blog – Scott Perry.
That’s Scott Perry on the left. Yes, this photo is cropped, and it’s cropped for a very good reason.
I have known Scott Perry for 20 years, and we have shared a love of the outdoors, sports, and the type of lowbrow humor that only emotionally stunted males can appreciate. I am a constant guest in his home for taco night and critical viewings of Mel Brooks films, and have even been privileged to take his daughter fishing. Emily is a lovely and intelligent 12 year-old, but she hangs out with the wrong crowd – she and Jaime Hamamoto are pen pals.
Emily, Scott, and a Leopard Shark on a foggy summer evening at Tiburon, California
The day Stefan arrived, Scott and I headed for the fabled Elephant Rock pier, intending to fish the morning and then have Stefan join us directly from the airport. It didn’t take long for something to happen – within 5 minutes of arriving, I got a vicious hit on a plastic lure. It was a strong, heavy fight, and as soon as I got the fish on the surface, I recognized it was a huge, huge Rubberlip. It was clearly going to be a record, and it looked perilously close to the elusive 3 pound mark. The weigh-in put it just shy of 3, but still easily breaking my previous 2.25# record. And on a lure. I was ecstatic.
The Beast. He was safely released, and hopefully he’ll be there again next year.
Scott also knocked off some nice fish, including quite a large Monkeyface Prickleback and his first Rubberlip.
Despite their common name “Monkeyface Eel,” they are not eels – and I for one think they’re rather cute. By the way, there was no way I was going to write about Scott in the blog without mentioning that he snores like a wood chipper digesting a motorcycle.
Scott’s first Rubberlip. He caught it on his first perch trip. It took me a lot longer than that to catch my first Rubberlip. And on the snoring – seriously, the guy can shake stuff off of tables.
Stefan arrived mid-afternoon and promptly got into the action. The weather had turned gorgeous, and we enjoyed a fine day out on the pier.
San Francisco Bay, late spring. A beautiful time of the year.
Stefan got an assortment of nice fish – perch, rock cod, and some various others. He seems to be keeping a species list of his own, so we photographed everything. In his pictures, he gave several subtle tributes to Guido Gerhards, one of our co-workers and generally-cursed fisherman. See https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/where-have-all-the-vowels-gone/
Stefan with a nice Striped Sufperch. Too bad about the shirt. And the hair gel.
Stefan demonstrates the “Guido Grip,” in which the fish is cleverly hidden from view. For additional information on the “Guido Grip”, see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/the-minefield/
An important aspect of Guido outdoor fashion – the dark socks with shorts.
Stefan and a solid Rainbow Surfperch. Note that he has shed the foo-foo shirt and is now wearing a reasonable fishing hat.
The group admires Stefan’s Dwarf Surfperch. Yes, it is really called that.
On the second weekend, Stefan and I headed for Los Angeles, where we would hopefully enjoy better weather (and luck) than experienced on the fateful “John Wayne” excursion in February. We would again be hosted by ace guide Ben Florentino, see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/duking-it-out/. If you want to catch any type of saltwater bass in Southern California, Ben is the man – reach him at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coastal-Charters/123408861113539.
Stefan did the driving to LA, which I very much appreciated, but this did lead to something of a German/American cultural clash. Stefan would notice someone driving slowly in the fast lane, and say something like “Why are they doing this? Isn’t this against the law?” I would say “Probably.” And he would say “If people would follow the rules traffic would move more efficiently.” I would respond with something clever like “Call the president.”
A hundred miles later, someone would do something rude like pass us on the right. “Is there not a rule about this?” he would ask. I responded with something like “Probably.” He would look amazed. “Then why are they not following the rule?” His tone was playful, but I could also tell that somewhere, deep inside, he did not understand why our driving was not more orderly. I mentioned that Americans often do not follow rules. He looked incredulous. “But there is a rule? They are aware of this rule?” I would respond with something clever like “Amazing we won the war, huh?” And he would scowl at me.
I asked “So do you guys have a rule for everything?” He smiled and said, “NO, we do not have a rule for EVERYTHING.” The conversation went on like this for much of the drive, but at the end of the trip, he did indeed prove that Germans have a rule for EVERYTHING.
On the Saturday, we decided to take the long run to Catalina Island and take a shot at some trophies. Catalina is a legendary spot for big fish, and yet this was my first trip there. I was wound up like a caffeinated 6 year-old on Christmas Eve. Somewhere out on this rocky archipelago, 26 miles off the coast, there lurked a White Seabass and a Giant Seabass with my name on them – would this be the day? It was a pleasant run over – nearly flat conditions.
The scenery on the west side of Catalina – White Seabass central.
We pounded the rocky shorelines for White Seabass in the early morning, but they lived up to their nickname “The Gray Ghost” and never materialized. These are a highly mobile creatures and show whenever they choose – it’s just a matter of spending enough time in a likely spot and being more patient than they are.
The day was still very productive. On a stop in some kelp beds, Stefan immediately started catching Calico Bass, a well-known local predator. He was catching fish on lures! Life was good and he even stopped talking about American road chaos for a while. Ben worked his tail off moving spots, changing baits, and giving advice.
Stefan with one of his several Calico Bass. Note the relatively large swimbait it attacked – these things are vicious.
We also got into some nice variety in the same areas. We caught Sheephead, Perch, and some truly odd creatures, including my first Halfmoon.
A California Sheephead – my first one ever in the black and red “terminal male” pattern. This fish is deeply confused, beginning life as a female and eventually becoming male. I’m sure there’s a joke in there someplace, but I’m not touching it.
My first Halfmoon, species 1144. This fish is an open world record, but they knew this too and every one we caught was just below a pound. Sigh.
We also caught – stunningly – some Garibaldis. These bright orange (vegetarian) damselfish are the state fish of California, and are highly protected. We actually moved spots when they started biting. (Stefan said “Aha! A rule! And you are following it!”)
The Garibaldi – the State fish of California. Yes, this is a real fish. (Photo taken on a trip to Mexico a few years back.)
We closed out the day trying for big sharks on the east side of the island. Nothing doing, but what a pleasant and productive afternoon. We raced back across 26 miles of flat Pacific and enjoyed a great dinner in Newport Beach.
On our second day, we kept it close to shore and fished Newport Bay for Spotted Bass and whatever else would bite. It was warm, calm, and the fish were biting – substantially better than the February debacle.
The first Spotted Bay Bass was a lot quicker this time – I got it before we launched the boat.
The trip inside Newport Bay was pleasant – great weather, a few nice fish – notably Stefan’s first Spotted Bay Bass.
Stefan’s Spotted Bay Bass – also caught on a lure. He was thrilled, even when the fish passed us on the right.
Stefan has also learned the joy of small species – in this case, a Blackspot Goby. He’s not really that pale – it’s sunblock.
Oh, and a boat full of USC cheerleaders went by. I loathe USC – they cheat at football, unlike my beloved Michigan – but we should not punish innocent cheerleaders for this.
No idea what they were celebrating – probably being let off of NCAA probation again or the 33rd anniversary of Charles White’s phantom touchdown. Not that I’m bitter.
We got into the dock around 5, and after we thanked Ben for another great day on the water, we began the 6 hour haul back to San Francisco. We forgot to pack snacks, so we stopped to eat in a fairly isolated area north of LA known as “The Grapevine.” Our only choice was a small, family-owned Mexican place. The food was great, but I knew, I just knew, that it would come back to haunt us.
A few hours later, as we roared back up Highway 5 for home, dinner indeed began to have consequences. We soon had both windows down, but to no avail. After I had a particularly risky-sounding episode, Stefan looked at me, completely deadpan, and said “If that’s more than 5 grams, it’s not a fart anymore.”
I told him “See, you guys DO have a rule for everything!” He didn’t argue with me this time. He may have even smiled.