BY TOM GURROLA
Special to Western Outdoor News
Fishing the South Coast of Orange County during spring is always full of surprises, once May kicks in and the weather starts to warm you never know what your going to catch off Newport! Private boaters chasing our homeguards, ¾-day boats enjoying the deeper holes to fish and the reds that come out of them, and of course the half-day mixed bag in which old and young have a chance to wet a line and have some local fun. Now add a dozen kids, beautiful weather, and biting fish and you have one heck of a scenario that can be summed up with one word!
Laughter and smiles accompanied cheeseburgers and quesadillas as the pitter-patter of small feet engulfed the half-day boat the Western Pride. After a short briefing from the Captain and crew we rigged up for sculpin and headed out. Six to eight ounces of weight and your favorite leadhead and plastic dropper-looped about a foot above your weight was the recipe for success. Of course when sculpin fishing off the South Coast, a red plastic is usually key, however on this fine first Sunday in May, the rattlesnakes wanted green Big Hammer-style plastics instead of Scampi types. Once this algorithm was deciphered, the tasty morsels started to come over the rail to everyone’s enjoyment.
Now I’ve been on many boats and spent many days on the water, any salty angler will tell you there is nothing like hearing kids catch fish. It brings us all back to the early days of our youth and sometimes the nostalgia of our early triumphs on the Pacific.
After loading up on the tasty rattlers, the call from the Captain was to reel up our lines, cut off our heavy sinkers and try some inshore shallow-water fishing. This is where our story gets interesting.
On the first cast Jack Jamison hooked something heavy that didn’t fight like a fish. The rod was bendo, the reel was turning slowly and Jack was putting in work. What ascends from the deep is one of the reasons spring fishing off Orange County’s South Coast is so appealing;you truly never know what you’re going to catch!
A baby red octopus found Jack’s sardine appetizing and held on to it the whole way up, and while the Captain was taking the hook from its tentacle Jack asked to hold it. Jack took the next two minutes to show all the kids on the boat, and what made it more important was the fact that he wasn’t scared of holding it and showed the creature the upmost respect telling the kids to be nice and gentle. After a couple of pictures he returned it to the Pacific and it swam away like a happy little octopus would.
The very next cast becomes the righteous title of this story. As Jack allows his offering to vanish out of sight beneath the deep blue, he feels a major hit on the business end of the line. Bendo again, but this time some line screams out from his spinning reel and then comes to a dead stop, as the young steward of the sea continues to fight his enigma, his smile gets larger and larger as he reels in his prize. Between the oohs and ahhs that rang out from the deck, the captain grabbed a gaff and stuck the toad as soon as it broke the surface. Cheers and congrats rang out as did picture opportunities of Jack and his giant sand bass, even some of the dad’s aboard asked if they could take a picture with the beast.
Jack took it all in stride like a true warrior of the Pacific, but perhaps, just perhaps, he was gifted by the Pacific for his treatment and kindness he bestowed on the small red octopus. You never know but one thing is for sure, Jack is stoked about the Pacific and so it seems the Pacific is stoked for the new generation that finds itself taking it’s place at the rail.