Before I discovered surfing, there was fishing off the Newport Pier with my dad.
We would bait five hooks and reel in as many mackerel on nearly every cast. By midday we were lugging home a gunny sack filled with fish, most of which would become fertilizer for my father’s gladiolas.
I was an out-of-touch pre-teen with little idea that if everyone took more than they needed from the ocean, it would eventually lead to scarcity.
Now, while I still love fishing, especially beach fishing, which involves a good walk with inexpensive gear, using bait dug up in the sand, I conserve that precious resource.
Fish are not trophies but living beings whose death keeps us healthy. Repay the favor by showing respect for them. I fool them into chewing on the end of my line, but don’t feel bad about that since they are also using deception to take their food.
It’s corbina season, those beautiful creatures that slither into inches of water pursuing their favorite food, sand crabs. For the skilled, corbina can be speared from the beach, but mostly they are caught using light fishing tackle.
I prefer a rod and spinning reel setup, 4-to-6-pound test line, number 4 hooks and small slip shot sinkers. My favorite bait are sand crabs, which can be dug up in the damp sand.
From there, it’s a matter of walking until you see them drifting in the shore break. Purists sometimes catch them on fly rods, and I have even seen some hunters stalk them using crossbows.
Any way you care to approach it, corbina fishing is an art requiring patience and skill. They are fun to catch, but nothing I would recommend for insatiable cattle boat anglers who regularly catch more than they can eat. (Mea culpa.)
Another enjoyable, inexpensive and healthy pastime (unless you encounter an unexpected great white visitor) is spearfishing. Just last week, I rinsed off my mask, fins, snorkel and sling, swam out into the Carlsbad shallows and quickly spotted a small school of juvenile white seabass. Tempting as they are, seabass are not legal to take until they are over 29 inches in length.
One inexperienced diver who swam with the band of his spear stretched tightly (a dangerous practice that can lead to injury of fellow divers) speared a tiny opaleye and a seabass that was far from the legal limit.
He was, nonetheless, proud of his catch, swimming it to shore and parading it across the sand to astounded tourists, one of whom asked, while pointing toward the ocean, “Did you get that out there?”
While this is certainly a dumb question, the one that inevitably followed, “Are you going to eat that?” is disturbing in that it implies someone would kill an animal simply for the joy of it. (This is not a knock or an endorsement of catch-and-release fishermen who fish only to feel the fight an outgunned fish gives them.)
Seeing the diver with his undersized fish caused me to feel conflicted. Should I blow this guy’s buzz by informing him that he had just broken the law, or let it go, hoping that he learns on his own?
He had the pasty, naïve appearance of a tourist and I decided to leave him alone to enjoy what was no doubt a rare moment at the beach.
On my way home, I thought about it — what if he keeps spearing tiny fish? What if he brings friends? If that happens, I hope he learns quicker than I did that a sack full of fish does nothing but stink up the yard.
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