As it is for very many people, Monterey California is one my favorite places in the world. I have been fortunate enough to vacation here many times over the years. Its one of the few places I can think of that doesn't seem to change much between visits.
As a teenager, when my parents would take the family to Pebble Beach on vacation, I liked to go fishing down at Stillwater Cove. My brother and I would build a campfire, and use surf rods to fish for rockfish. We would use squid or blood-worms for bait. The fishing was usually pretty slow, but occasionally you caught a nice fish.
I caught a very nice Ling Cod once. I did not know what it was, and I almost threw it back because the inside of its mouth was bright blue. I'm glad I kept it, because it tasted great.
View of Pescadero Point from Point Lobos
Once I went poke-pole fishing for Monkeyface Prickleback Eel
at low tide off of Carmel Beach. The technique was to use a cane pole with a heavy gauge wire wrapped around the tip, and protruding about 2 feet with a small loop on the end. You tie a hook onto the loop and bait it with a freshly smashed mussel. Wearing waders, you would walk around in about knee-deep water, looking for large rocks with submerged holes under them. The eels would hide in the holes, so when you poked the bait down into the hole, you sometimes caught one. My brother hooked one that broke his cane pole! It was a huge California Moray Eel. Prickleback Eels are surprisingly good to eat.
Another time, my brother and I went fishing off of the 7th hole at Pebble Beach. This is that famous golf hole where the green is at the end of a peninsula, below the horizon from where you tee off. You have to launch the ball out into the clear blue yonder and hope it lands on the green. Fortunately for me, the balls often landed in the water, so low tide was a gold-mine. Believe me, golfers who play Pebble Beach don't use range balls. I would go out at low tide, and collect loads of golf balls. I would sort them, then sell them back home in Houston for $.50 or $.75 each, depending upon the quality. It put cash in my pocket that was otherwise hard to come by as a teen.
We went fishing at low tide, but before we knew it the tide had started come up behind us, leaving us stranded on the rocks. The Pacific Ocean is mighty cold, and there are things like Great White Sharks and Killer Wales to think about. The waves can be pretty brutal, even in 'Stillwater Cove'. There was no getting around it though, the tide was coming up quick and the sun was going down, so we had to make a swim for it. My parent's house was a couple of miles from the beach. Although we made it to shore without much incident, by the time we got back to the house I was so cold that I could not feel my feet! Have you ever gotten into a tub of water when you are chilled to the bone? Even room temperature water feels like it is about two thousand degrees!
On one trip, I bought a two-man rubber boat. My brother and I had the bright idea to paddle out to the island at Stillwater Cove, and see if we could find some Abalone. We got about halfway to the island, when I jumped in the water to get used to the cold. I had my wetsuit, goggles, and flippers on. I put my head down into the water to clear my mask, and looked down to see a long vine of sea-weed going down until it dissapeared in the murky depths. It was really deep. I had only imagined that it was about ten feet deep, but it must have been a hundred! I was quickly beginning to get freaked out, when my brother tapped the side of the boat and said that he thought he saw a shadow. Thats all it took to cause me to give up on the abalone plan. I was beach-side in minutes after that!
Surf at Spanish Bay
Another time, I went fishing with my step father and younger brother on one of those party boats. The depth drops to about 1000 feet right off the coast of Monterey. The captain would drive around looking for fish, then everyone would drop their line to the bottom, and reel up whatever number of cranks the captain would tell us. Dropping at a rate of about two feet per second, it takes about 500 seconds to reach the bottom. You can imagine how long it takes to reel back up. We would have four hooks on the line, spaced about one foot apart. There would be a piece of yellow and red yarn on the hook for bait (apparently fish get really stupid once you get past 500 feet). You would jig up and down until the line got heavy, reel up, and usually have two or more fish on the line. After reeling up 1000 feet of line, you would be pretty tired. The problem is that if you slow down, your fish would get robbed by sharks or seals. Also, after reeling up from that depth, the fishes stomachs would be protruding from their mouths, and their eyes would be bugged out. Often times the fish would come off of the hooks and bob around in the water waiting for something to eat them.
My step-dad spent too much time in the galley on the way out to the fishing waters, and my brother was running around the boat looking at things in the water. I learned early on to sit on the outside edge of the boat and watch the horizon. Needless to say, by the time I was fishing, they were chumming. It was up to me to catch the limit for all of us, so I put eight hooks on my line. Well, I was pulling up four to six fish at a time! I have to admit, it was pretty exciting. My adrenaline was pumped up, so I didn't notice that I was wearing out my arms. By the end of the trip, I couldn't move my arms. I had pulled every muscle in both fore-arms, and it hurt for a week! I have since given up party-boat fishing, which I equate to commercial fishing. There is no sport in it. If I want to get meat, I will go down to the local HEB. The grocery store in my neighborhood has a nice sea-food selection, and it is all fresh. I prefer to fish for sport, and I usually catch and release. Of course, if I get into some keeper sized Speckled trout I will bring home dinner.
Tidal Pool at Spanish Bay
The last time I went to Monterey, I brought my wife. We stayed at the Inn at Spanish Bay, which is a pretty ritzy place. Unfortunately, my wife was very intimidated by the whole experience. She is Latina, and she had never been exposed to the level of wealth that is common place around this area of Monterey. She passed some snob of a woman in the hall that asked her for some towels or something, so she sulked in the room for the rest of the time. On the other hand, I have no problem being myself in front of snobs. I find it quite humorous at times. On this trip, I wanted to go fishing. I went on a charter boat by myself, and returned with my limit of fish, smelling like the underside of Cannery Row! The bellman thought it was very funny, and you should have seen the appalling looks I was getting. Ha, ha!
View of Carmel from Point Lobos
The last few times we have visited my mom (who is lucky enough to live in Carmel Valley), we have rented convertables. It has become a tradition of sorts. I think it really adds to the experience, and it is not much more expensive than renting a mid-size car. We have done and seen all of the tourest attractions, so I am planning to do more hiking and picture taking next time we go. I enjoy the scenery and wildlife more than anything, and fishing can be a hassle when you don't have any of your gear. If I go fishing in California again, it will probably be for tuna off of Baja. I think I will leave the Monterey fish alone, at least until I can afford to live there and own a boat.