I bet you didn’t think about going fishing on your next visit to Los Angeles?
It’s not an activity that typically crosses the mind of your average shopper or Disneyland-bound family, but when I read that the cute beach resort town of Marina del Rey is known for water activities, including fishing, I begged the tourism office to set me up. And they did.
Marina del Rey sits south of popular Santa Monica and Venice Beach. As its name implies, it is a boat marina and ergo boat charters to your heart’s content.
The day is calm when I arrive at the dock of Marina del Rey Sport Fishing. The water is so flat that the pelicans gathered around the boat have reflections. There’s not a cloud in the baby blue morning sky.
I have my sun screen and a hat. We’re in for a pearler.
We pay for my fishing license ($15) and the owner kindly waives my $39 fee for this half-day charter since I’ll be writing about it, throws in a rod and reel (which can be hired for $10) and we motor out of the marina for about 45 minutes into the flat-as-a-puddle Pacific Ocean. The locals are settling in downstairs on this aluminium boat for a hand of poker, and one of the crew starts frying up eggs to make breakfast baps for anyone who needs a little stomach lining. There are 2 Swedish tourists who are keen fishermen and me, all the rest are great mates (one female) who come out several times a week.
Then suddenly it’s time. All bodies on deck, baiting up with the live squid that are scooting uselessly around in the sink. They’re feisty little buggers too and spray ink if you don’t watch out. I’m shown how to attach them through the hardest part of their body (this post is not for animal lovers. Stop reading now) then I let down about 120-150feet (I’m in America and they’re not very metric) of nylon to the ocean floor. The nibbling starts straight away.
One of the pros behind me is already reeling one in, fag hanging out the side of his mouth. I’m flicking my rod and waiting…
But after about 15 minutes, the fish aren’t biting as plentifully as the crew would like, so it’s up lines and we return to the cabin for another hand of poker and chat. I’m loving every moment.
I’ve put $5 into the wager for the heaviest fish. After a couple of stops we have a few strange species in some people’s numbered sacks – a California sheepshead being the weirdest. It has human teeth! My sack is empty thus far.
Then it’s lines down again and this time I’m having as much a battle with the live squid as a fish down below. He doesn’t appreciate my grabbing him and wraps his tentacles around my hand and pecks his beak into me. I squeal like a girl. No one comes running. I’m here to do my own bidding, I realise so ram my hook through his back and teach him the ultimate lesson.
I haven’t mastered the art of throwing my line out so it drops directly down while a flock of pelicans wait hopefully to grab someone’s catch.
It’s perfect conditions, the ocean is still and sparkling, I can see Santa Monica in the distance and a light breeze keeps the temperature even. Suddenly I get a decent tug. I don’t make a scene this time, I just play with it a bit and when I realise it’s properly hooked I begin to reel in. My rod is bending and a few of my new friends gather around to see what I’ve got.
A lingcod! A what? Looking like it’s dressed in army fatigues, it has to go back as it’s undersized, but it looked good. Fortunately one of the crew is on hand with a net for those who make a haul and to unhook it for girlies like me. And for $5, he’ll fillet it so you can take it home ready to cook – or give to the chef at your hotel.
I caught one more even smaller fish who also got to live another day and the sheepshead won the weight prize.
A really great morning out, and we were back at the pier by 12.30. Would I recommend it to my friends? You betcha!