Species #105 — Garibaldi

Arguably the most striking fish you’ll ever encounter is the Garibaldi. It’s bright-orange colorway stands out in the briny depths like a blazing traffic cone. Photo courtesy pierfishing.com.

Species: Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)
Location: Dana Point Marina, Dana Point, CA
Date: August 9, 2017

*climbs onto soapbox*

California.

It’s a…special place full of…special people.

“Warning: This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.”

Proposition 65
In case you weren’t aware, lead is harmful. Good ‘ol Pb has all manner of damaging effects to humans, and for this reason, it has been banned in most household goods, including paint.

Reasonably intelligent people are aware of this. Tragically, in a trend started in the 1990s, many Americans proved themselves not to be reasonably intelligent.

Starting with the famous 1992 lawsuit where an Albuquerque woman sued McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee on her lap, we’ve lived in an overly-litigated society.

California has led the charge with frivolous lawsuits, narrowly beating out Florida (naturally) as the fourth-worst state in a ranking by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The ALEC uses a complicated metric that basically measures (1) how likely a company is to be sued over something stupid and (2) how likely the court system in that state is to treat the case fairly. Only Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana are better stomping grounds for people looking to capitalize on their own stupidity for a payday.

But it was arguably prior to that 1992 lawsuit that California set the stage for stupid people to thrive. Six years before that first, famous, frivolous lawsuit, California decided to “protect” its citizens by requiring labels on potentially hazardous chemicals.

It’s 1986, Proposition 65, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, started with the best of intentions, began asking companies to label hazardous chemicals.

Essentially, businesses selling products in the State of California must provide “clear and reasonable warnings” to their would-be customers if they sell a product with significant risk of causing cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm based on historical records.

What is significant risk? Well if that compound is linked to one additional case of cancer in 100,000 people over a 70-year lifetime, California considers that “significant risk”. There are similar standards for reproductive harm.

Companies have some freedom in how they do this, but labels seem to work best.

This is phenomenal, in theory, but in practice it means more than 800 chemicals now require products to have the “Warning: this product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm” disclaimer.

Since California is the largest economy within the United States, that effectively guarantees all products with those chemicals will bear that label, allowing non-Californians to balk.

So next time you buy those sinkers, thank the Californian lawmakers of the 1980s for keeping you from making a sandwich after organizing your lead sinker collection. God knows you’d certainly have done so without government direction from the all-knowing State of California.

***

Dumb Laws
California has put a lot of stupid laws on the books.

Plastic Bag Ban
Some of the laws, though viewed as dumb by many, can at least make a case for their existence. Take for instance the ban on plastic bags. California started this trend Stateside in the summer of 2014.

It makes sense and helps the environment, but it led to the wholesale use of paper bags — arguably the worst idea in human history since people first learned not to use poison oak as toilet paper. Banning plastic bags? Good. Encouraging paper bags rather than creating environmentally-friendly plastic bags from seaweed? Bad.

It’s this sort of “Problem Identification Without Solution Identification” mindset that Californians must deal with on a daily basis.

Other Stupid Laws
Sadly, many other California laws have no real, viable reason. These include:

– Animals are banned from mating publicly within 1,500 feet of a tavern, school, or place of worship. Sorry kids, you’ll have to stick to the Discovery Channel to witness this sort of thing in the Golden State.

– Bathhouses are illegal. You want to bathe in public? Stick to your local gym or Walmart late at night.

– Peacocks have the right-of-way in Arcadia.

– You can’t wear cowboy boots unless you own cows in Blythe.

– In Carmel, you can’t eat ice cream on the sidewalk. Men cannot mix suit separates; their pants and jacket must match. Women can’t wear high heels within the city limits. Applying for a job with their police force will little make you a part of the actual Fashion Police.

***

Garibaldi
Perhaps one of the stupidest laws on the books is the emotionally-charged law that makes Garibaldi, California’s State Fish, protected.

According to the IUCN Red List, Garibaldi are a “Species of Least Concern,” meaning there is no reason to protect them.

Yet California, in its infinite wisdom, protects them anyway.

Granted, there was a time when they were protected because of over-collection for use in the aquarium trade because of their high aesthetic value and relative ease of capture (they’re bright orange, after all), but their stocks have long since recovered.

I’m a strong advocate for catch-and-release fishing, but the recreational harvest of fish should be allowed if the population is healthy.

So even though Garibaldi are numerous in Southern California, especially in and around rocks, you cannot even intentionally target them. My own Garibaldi was incidental, but at more than two pounds, it would have filled the vacant IGFA All-Tackle World Record — if it hadn’t been captured in California.

In fact, when I landed the fish, I couldn’t even get a picture because some tourist overhead was harassing me about catching a long Garibaldi.

“You’re not gonna keep that are you?” he said.

Of course not, buddy. I wouldn’t keep fish anyway, but just the fact that you can’t pose for a picture with one is proof that California is a sad, broken place.

Keep up the good work #4.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #106 — Chum Salmon.

Species #104 — Largemouth Blenny

Cool fish, right? I hate when the pics I use at the start of every blog post are imperfect, but the sharp contrast of the orange jig head almost works here.

Species: Largemouth Blenny (Labrisomus xanti)
Location: Dana Point Marina, Dana Point, CA
Date: August 9, 2017

Sculpins are awesome. Greenling are awesome. Blennies, which sort of look like a cross between the two, are also awesome.

Few fish will try to bite you, but blennies, found in warmer temperate and tropical waters all over the world, are one of them. Their size means nothing to them, and these relatively small fish will often bite or try to bite you if handled.

The deep red Largemouth Blenny I captured were beautiful fish and arguably the most surprising fish I captured fishing the Dana Point Marina.

Unlike the highly-visible Opaleye and Salema, these blue-speckled red phantoms zipped in and out of the rocks with surprising speed, and I never saw them coming.

The two I caught were hard to handle, and I had limited space to work with, so I only got one picture before the writhing beast got free. It bit me, but it was surprising more than painful.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #105 — Garibaldi.

Species #103 — Salema

Salema are like the bite-sized “Tropical Flavors” version of Striped Bass.

Species: Salema (Xenistius californiensis)
Location: Dana Point Marina, Dana Point, CA
Date: August 9, 2017

If an advertising team were to market the Salema, they’d describe it as a bite-sized, “Tropical Flavors” version of the Striped Bass.

It truly looks like a tiny striper with slightly more vivid coloration. It even feeds like one on a tiny scale, cruising the marinas and rocky shorelines of California to feed on tiny fish and microorganisms that get in its way.

When I caught my first one, I assumed it was some sort of surfperch species, but as I did some research later that night, I was surprised/slightly horrified when I read that it wasn’t their vivid colors to worry about but the vivid hallucinations they cause.

Seriously. Google “Salema”, and you’ll find the other, more dangerous fish first.

“Salema are known to cause vivid hallucinations when consumed.”

Granted, that was describing the Salema Porgy found in the Mediterranean.

It still provided a little excitement for an otherwise not-too-exciting fish, and that’s all I can ask for as  Species Hunter.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #104 — Largemouth Blenny.

Species #102 — Opaleye

Opaleye are the Bluegill of the southern California coast: easy to catch, prevalent, and a blast on light tackle. They also happen to gorgeous. Note the blue edging of the fins and the iridescent blue eye that gives them their name.

Species: Opaleye (Girella nigricans)
Location: Dana Point Marina, Dana Point, CA
Date: August 9, 2017

After a long day on a boat in the taxing summer heat of Southern California, the last thing most people would do is go fishing again, but as we’ve established, my judgment is impaired when it comes to fishing.

As my cousin, Will Silvey, and I disembarked from the boat, I looked down into the water and noticed lots of little greenish-black fish shaped like Bluegill and a few slightly thicker, bright orange fish in the rocks of the marina.

Will is a die-hard spearfisherman, and the finality of the sport makes spearos’ fish identification skills better than the average conventional angler. You have to know what you’re shooting before you pull the trigger, right?

I asked Will, and he told me the greenish fish were Opaleye, an incredibly common fish along the SoCal coast. The orange fish, he told me, were Garibaldi. The latter are protected in California because they’re the state fish. According to the IUCN Red List, Garibaldi are a species of “Least Concern”. This means that they’re not at all Threatened. Rather, California protects them on purely emotional grounds as its state fish. Emotion has never trumped science in wildlife management before, so it’s shocking, right?

LOLZ.

Anyway, I decided that as soon as we returned to his hilltop apartment in nearby Laguna Niguel, I’d return to chase those little fish. He had class that evening, so sadly he couldn’t join me, but that didn’t stop me.

***

I stopped by a grocery store, grabbed some frozen cocktail shrimp, and returned with a low-profile ultralight spinning setup spooled with 10-pound test to account for the rocks.

The signs on the marina read very clearly “No Fishing From Walkways”, and I didn’t wanna attract negative attention, especially with hundreds of people swarming the marina.

I looked around and failed to find an area without those signs. Then, I looked down. At the base of the walkways was a slight lip of concrete sticking out at the base of the eight-foot wall maybe six-to-12 inches in length.

It was summer, and I rarely wear shoes during the summer. I briefly regretted my style choices as I gritted my teeth, grabbed the railing with one hand and vaulted onto the tiny strip below.

My flip-flops grabbed, and I breathed a silent prayer before tipping my tiny, 1/64-ounce jighead with about a quarter of a cocktail shrimp and began sight-fishing to the little fish in the rocks.

***

I caught an Opaleye so quickly that I was a bit shocked. Then another. I had several Opaleye before I caught any other fish. Sadly, that little concrete lip was still a few feet above the rock-filled water below and getting a good picture was out of the question.

Fortunately, I did get a solid profile of an Opaleye facing to the right this year while fishing a lagoon not far from that original catch.

***

Fun fact: though I caught my first (and most of my subsequent) Opalaye on shrimp, mussels, and squid bits, the go-to bait is apparently frozen peas. I’ve yet to try it, but I have it on good authority that it is untouchable. Maybe worth a try sometime?

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #103 — Salema.

Species #100 — Gaftopsail Catfish

As a kid, I read about these in the New Encyclopedia of Fishing and thought they were really cool. Oh how naive I was.

Species: Gaftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus)
Location: Bayou Texar, Houston, TX
Date: August 2, 2017

Houston was a bit disappointing. I mean, this place gave me my 100th Species, and it was a dirty catfish.

Houston is a mudflat stretching for miles in every direction, and I ended up going down a toll road for miles without knowing what the hell I was doing, but as I made my went to the Bay City suburb of Houston, I found myself slinging small baits for a lot of Hardhead and Gaftopsail Catfish.

The first one was cool, but they quickly lost their appeal as I struggled to unhook something with giant spines and a tiny mouth. I unavoidably killed a few fish, and I felt bad about it, but even when cutting the line, I was annoyed by these little monsters.

Anticlimactic. My 100th Species was sixth-season of LOST anticlimactic.

***

A new species is a new species, but I wasn’t too thrilled about this one. Still, I wrote about Houston and its plight resulting from Hurricane Harvey when the hurricane landed a few weeks after I passed through.

So anticlimactic beats getting caught in the eye of a hurricane, and I guess I can’t complain. In fact, my heart went out to Houston, and I even wrote about it in the Herald and News because at the time, I hadn’t counted my species total yet, and I had no idea the Gaftopsail Catfish was No. 100.

Talk about mundane.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #101 — Pacific Bonito.

Species #99 — Pigfish

They kind of snort, so I guess that’s how Pigfish got their name?

Species: Pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

The second-most popular baitfish in the Gulf of Mexico is just one letter away from the first (Pinfish). I’m speaking, of course, of the Pinfish.

I caught my one and only Pigfish fishing from a public pier in Pensacola minutes after night fell. There were mullet everywhere, as well as small species I still have yet to catch such as a few species of baitfish, Ballyhoo, and Atlantic Needlefish.

That was frustrating, but after being approached late at night by some guy in a sweatshirt who was very obviously holding a knife, it was the least of my worries.

I watched in horror as a he extended his arm, brandishing four inches of gleaming steel reflecting light from the pier lights.

I had some pliers in my bag. Oh! And some scissors. I could fight with that. Maybe I could throw some semi-rancid shrimp in his face, and then lunge with the knife?

He must have detected my bristling because he turned the blade back towards himself and asked “Hey man, is this yours?”

It wasn’t, and I told him so, visibly relieved as he walked away.

I continued fishing.

***

A few minutes later, another sketchy-but-not-that-sketchy-for-Florida guy came up to me. He was twitchy and awkward, obviously a tweaker.

He told me his car had broken down and asked if I had jumper cables he could borrow. I told him to wait a few minutes, and when he was a good 200 yards away, I went to the car and grabbed them, careful not to turn my back to a Floridian sketchmonger in the dark.

I gave him the cables, fully expecting them to be stolen.

Fifteen minutes later, he called out “Thanks man!” and left them on my hood.

I felt a little bad for thinking the worst of him, but then again, Florida has a reputation, and I’d be stupid not to take precautions.

***
So yeah. That’s how I caught my one and only Pigfish.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #100 — Gaftopsail Catfish.

Species #98 — Frillfin Goby

The most fearless fish on earth are the size of your thumb: Frillfin Goby.

Species: Frillfin Goby (Bathygobius soporator)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

This is likely the most aggressive fish I’ve ever caught. I buy frozen shrimp as bait, allowing a few pieces at a time to slowly defrost in the water to achieve that perfect, almost-frozen-but-not-quite texture that best allows them to stay on a single hook.

Where I happened to be fishing in Pensacola, the shoreline was pockmarked with rocks ranging in size from peas to watermelons. When I plopped a few shrimp in the one- or two-inch-deep water at the edge of the shore, I waded past them and began fishing.

Every time I went back for more bait, I noticed tiny little monsters that could’ve been fish, eels, or some sort of Floridian parasite greedily attacking my bait. It was broad daylight, the water was shallow, and I was two feet from the shrimp, but that didn’t stop the little fishes as they made short work of bait after bait.

Since I had limited shrimp, and the bite was on fire, I was at first upset. I tried digging a little pool a few inches from the shoreline with a rock, filling it with water, and then putting the shrimp there.

That didn’t stop the little  beasties, though, as they timed the wave action and used it to propel themselves across the moist, rocky group into the pool and devour the bait only to retreat once the bait was gone.

I was intrigued. This was long before I started microfishing, and the smallest hooks I had were my (roughly) No. 16 Bergie Worm Jr. 1/64-ounce jigs. This is a lot of hook for a three-inch fish, but it proved effective when I put a tiny piece of shrimp on it, and I promptly caught several.

Since I couldn’t notice any other types of gobies amassed there in the rocks, once I caught a few, the novelty wore off, and I was back to chasing larger prey.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #99 — Pigfish.

Species #97 — Atlantic Croaker

Put shoulders on a small Red Drum, and you get Atlantic Croaker. These were the hardest-fighting fish of my first Florida experience.

Species: Atlantic Croaker (Micropogonias undulatus)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

Here’s the unsung hero of my Pensacola trip. These things fought like crazy, and I could always tell I’d hooked another Atlantic Croaker if it fought like crazy and made my imagination run wild.

All of the Atlantic Croaker I caught were less than 14 inches long and none weighed more than a pound and a half, but they were bright spots between the Pinfish.

I’ve only caught one since that first day in Pensacola, and it, too, hit a shrimp-tipped No. 8 Sabiki that was mostly only being considered by Pinfish in the waters of Corpus Christi, Texas.

They don’t get much bigger than five pounds, but you can bet I’d be over-the-moon to catch a five-pounder even though that’s almost four pounds shy of the 8 pound, 11-ounce All-Tackle World Record.

How that fish must’ve fought on light tackle…

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #98 — Frillfin Goby.

Species #96 — Hardhead Catfish

Another menace of the Gulf of Mexico: the Hardhead Catfish.

Species: Hardhead Catfish (Ariopsis felis)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

Channel Catfish are the bane of the Freshwater Species Hunter’s existence across much of the United States and Canada, but Hardhead Catfish fill this role in the saltwater and brackish environments of the Gulf of Mexico.

By day, Pinfish will ravage your bait. By night, expect Hardhead Catfish to fill in. The first one was exciting, but as I caught almost nothing but these bastages after dark in Pensacola and Houston alike, the excitement faded faster a college football fan drinking too much in an unseasonably warm game.

Apart from the obvious visual similarities between Hardhead and Channel Catfish, Hardheads will also eat virtually anything, can be caught day or night, and have sharp barbs on the pectoral and dorsal fins that while not venomous will still hurt enough to extract all sorts of profanity if you manage to get sliced.

Be smart and avoid them if at all possible. If you can’t, use long-handled pliers.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #97 — Atlantic Croaker.

Species #95 — Red Drum

You don’t think of foot-long specimens caught on ultralight gear when you think of Red Drum (Redfish), but if you’ve come to expect glamorous stories from me, I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you for so long.

Species: Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

Everyone should go fish the Gulf at some point in their life for Redfish or Red Drum. At least, that’s what fishing culture has told us. I have fished in Corpus Christi and parts of Florida where they could be found, but I’ve never landed a “Bull Red” that we all yearn for.

That said, I did manage to get a “Calf Red” if we’re sticking with the bovine terminology while fishing the rocky lagoon for anything and everything that would bite. I was using a No. 8 Sabiki cut in half (three hooks are much easier to manage than six) and tip each with shrimp. I typically use pieces of pre-cooked cocktail shrimp because it’s easy to find anywhere you are, but it’s worth a shot.

The Red Drum didn’t fight as well as other Drums and Croakers I’ve caught since, but it still fought well for a foot-long, one-pound fish. I was especially pleased because it had a few tail spots (two on one side, one on the other) for which the species is so renowned.

***

I fished for them again in Corpus Christi and in a freshwater lake near San Antonio this summer (yes, really), and I caught other fish but no big Redfish.

This is one species I will continue to chase even though I’ve now caught my “lifer” and registered it here.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #96 — Hardhead Catfish.