Thursday, July 20, 2023

Salema Salema Salema

Having arrived in Los Angeles yesterday and with time on my hands today, I was able to go to the Santa Monica Pier with Jacob to try our hand at the Pacific fish I had so dearly for missed for two years since the last time I was here. I absolutely love Los Angeles and the nostalgic feelings I get from visiting here in summers throughout my life. My family and I weren't able to come last year, but I can say that I am overjoyed to finally be back.

Speaking of nostalgia, walking down the pier with rod in hand was quite the experience; one of my first ever fishing trips was here, when I caught a Kelp Bass with my aunt Annette, who soon afterwards helped me create this very website. Man, it was great to be back. Jakes and I made our way to the end of the pier where I rented two rods with dropper loops in addition to the rod that we brought. I also got squid for bait.

Jacob, being impatient as he is, needed to be reminded before we even started fishing that he may need to prepare not to catch anything. Sure enough, the day started extremely slow from a fishing perspective; we barely had any bites for the whole first hour/hour and a half that we had our lines in the water. Jakes got anxious and disappointed, especially when he saw a few other people around the pier hooking up. At one point he even started to ask if we could leave, which I certainly denied - especially because right then a nice breeze had rolled in and the clouds (nonexistent over the land in LA but sometimes occurring over the sea) had moved away leaving deep blue water and expansive views of the sky and Santa Monica Mountains behind Malibu. For impatient fishermen like Jakes, it may be hard to remember to top and look around. Fishing isn't always about just catching fish. It was a great day to be on the water, and any potential fish were really just bonus. That being said, I do acknowledge that it's nice to bring one up every now and then.

I will admit, it did get kind of frustrating for a bit. This was especially true when another fishermen came right next to us in a spot we had just left, started fishing the same piling we were dropping our baits around, and caught fish. We knew we were doing something wrong, so we watched what he did. I looked in my tackle box, which is severely understocked, and found that I had small hooks and ONE tiny split shot sinker. I figured the downgrade would be useful but wasn't sure whether or not it would be enough to drop my bait down to where it needed to be. I rigged it up and saw what happened.

I was determined to come home with a fish. I felt that I sometimes come up with excuses for fishing (or otherwise) underperformance, and this time I wanted to be persistent and end up triumphant. I really did not want to leave until we caught a fish. Other people were doing it, and we couldn't quit. Catching a fish was going to have to happen. I dropped my bait next to the piling, and let the bait slowly drop with the wind and current as I let out line, doing my best to control the location of my bait -as close to the mussel-covered piling as possible without getting stuck. After a bit of waiting for my bait to drop to the right depth, I finally felt some hits. I lifted the rod for a slight hook set when I felt it, and the fish was on! I brought in our first fish of the day! It was a Salema! Not a new species as I'd hoped, as I caught this one last time I was here, but it was a pleasant catch and a beautiful fish nonetheless. I was really happy to be triumphant on this trip. After taking pictures, I gave the fish to the man who was fishing next to us, praising him for out fishing us and telling him that we looked to him to see what we were doing wrong.

Soon, the man gave us a few cut pieces of shrimp. The shrimp worked like a charm. Whereas the fish I caught was the only hit I had on squid all day, the shrimp was hit much more frequently when we dropped it down. I remembered hearing that shrimp was a superior bait here when I was here the first time and made sure to make a note of that info now for next time. At the Santa Monica Pier, in my experience, the fish seem to just prefer shrimp over squid.

There was a quick frenzy in which the man and I kept catching Salemas, which he kept. I used my method of dropping my light gear into the sweet spot and making light hook sets when I felt nibbles. Jakes wanted to trade off, which we did, but he was unable to hook up on a fish. Eventually he did, although to the smallest of the fish we caught. He ended up with that one while I ended up with three before we left. Normally I wouldn't care about outfishing Jakes; in fact, most of the time I would probably prefer that he outfishes me. Not this time though. Ever since our Reading trip, he has (baselessly) claimed that he was a better fisherman than me. It was about time that I put him in his place by catching fish while he complained about my methods, only to eventually resort to using them to catch a fish on his own. Obviously the trash talk going both ways was in fun and jest, but it felt good to teach him that the apprentice was not quite yet the master.

We left the pier with some new tips (including the idea of catching croaker on sandcrabs more inshore by the breakers/around where the ferris wheel is) and most of all, satisfaction. It was a successful fishing trip and we were glad to kick off our LA visit on a good note.

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