Fish are biting in Santa Monica Bay, so get out there and reel one in

By Paul M. J. Suchecki

Fishing out on the open sea can be a Zen experience for beginners and seasoned anglers alike

Now that spawning season has ended and fishing restrictions have been lifted, it’s time for local boaters to dust off their rods and reels.

“Fishing is great right now — especially for rockfish, red snapper and lingcod. One of our anglers pulled one in that topped 14 pounds. That’s a pretty good fish,” Marina del Rey Sportfishing owner Rick Oefinger remarked a few weeks ago.

As the days lengthen and the waters warm, pelagic fish are now migrating north. Bass and halibut are biting in big numbers, with this past weekend’s Marina del Rey Halibut Derby coming close to the record books. David Wilks took the top prize with a 48.3-pound California Halibut, the second-largest catch in 43 years of derbies, according to board members Keith Lambert and Bruce Williams. Ed Zamora posted an enviable second-place finish with a 40-pound white seabass, only the second time in history a white seabass catch earned the runner-up spot.

Fishing is a powerful family activity because it gets people away the noise of the city to bond on the quiet of the ocean. My significant other Carolisa Pomerantz learned how to fish with her dad.

“I used to beg to go with him, offering to bait the hooks, serve lunch. Fishing with Dad and his friends was quality time,” she says.

Oefinger says his fishing charters don’t only host fishermen.

“We have women and children joining us all the time,” he says, though “some mothers drop the kids off for the day so they can spend time alone.”

Fishing was a tradition in Oefinger’s family. He learned from his father and his grandfather, and has operated his U.S. Coast Guard-licensed sport fishing business out of Fiji Way’s Dock 52 for nearly 30 years.

My father also taught me to fish. As it was for Carolisa, time spent fishing with Dad was precious. He had a high-stress job as a federal prosecutor; fishing was the only time he seemed to relax.

In California, anybody 16 years and older fishing from a boat or beach must have a fishing license. A one-day license costs $15.69 for a resident or visitor, but the annual license is a better deal at $48.34 (plus a $5.40 annual fee for SoCal saltwater anglers). You can get a license at West Marine or online at wildlife.ca.gov.

If you have tackle, inspect it and make sure that the reels work and the line is in good shape. You might have to lubricate the reel. If you’re going for bottom feeders, you can use frozen bait like squid. For halibut, Oefinger drift-fishes with sardines or anchovies.

For me, the most exciting part of fishing is when your catch finally breaks the surface of the water and you not only see what it is, but how big it is. But this is also a sport in which long stretches of inactivity should be savored, like meditation.

“For me it’s concentrating in the moment,” Carolisa says. “That first little nibble is very exciting.”

When you feel it, don’t forget to set the hook. Pull up on the rod with a flick. One time Carolisa and I were fishing on our boat when my line got hit hard and I pulled back, but whatever it was took off with my rig and hook. A few seconds later her line was grabbed too. It felt like an attack by a voracious sea monster, and both us pulled up lines that had been gnawed through.

We’ve also had days where we caught our legal limit. One summer fishing trip on local charter boat Betty O, she and I snagged 10 beautiful fish each.

If you’ve never gone ocean fishing from a boat before, Marina del Rey Sportfishing is very beginner-friendly, with rods and tackle available for rent, bait included in the package and licenses settled on board. All you have to do is show up.

Paul Suchecki is a member of Fairwind Yacht Club and Single Mariners.

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