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updated: 1/30/2013 11:47 AM

No fishing, but lots of pier pressure on this trip

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  • A view of the San Clemente pier as the sun starts to come up in Southern California.

    A view of the San Clemente pier as the sun starts to come up in Southern California.


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- I wasn't planning to fish on this trip, and yet the water kept calling to me.

I know I'm being contrite with that statement, but many of you know I'm a romanticist and observer who always tries to soaks in as much detail and color as possible.

We came to Southern California to be with our grandchildren, our daughter, and our son-in-law.

The miles always manage to separate us from the hugs and kisses many of you enjoy because of the nearness of your offspring.

So there I was, staring at sunset that was moments away from submerging itself below the western horizon and into the Pacific Ocean.

The pier is an easy walk from where I parked the car, and who can blame me for not passing up an opportunity to get my juices going?

As a squad of young and old alike carried their long rods and buckets of bait to the end of the San Clemente Pier, I marched along, wishing I had brought a rod with me.

The western-most section of the pier has deeper water beneath it and the regulars told me there are plenty of fish of varied species to satisfy anyone dropping a line.

Cut bait was in order for many anglers. So was heavy, braided line and a rod stout enough to balance the odds in the angler's favor against some bruiser fish that like to grab a free meal.

In less than five minutes, Roy called out and said he was "hooked up."

"It's a skate," he yelled to his comrades. And into another bucket it went.

Skates are cartilaginous, or fish with a skeleton consisting mainly of cartilage. They also belong to a super order of rays. Skates seem to feed all day long, snatching live and dead bait off the bottom.

Another angle, Orlando, was using a light rig with monofilament and a circle hook. He was explaining his rational for using that setup when his rod jerked violently downward. He almost lost the rod and reel.

"This has to be a shark," he uttered through clenched teeth.

Sure enough it was an aggressive, toothy critter. His circle hook, used by fresh and saltwater fishermen, allows for an easy unhooking job.

"This one's going home with me," he said. It was close to 20 minutes before the 4-foot shark was hauled up to the pier from a good 25 feet down.

Thomas, 29, started a conversation with me while he jigged his rod up and down.

" I'm a welder during the day and when evening time rolls around I'm usually here, fishing on the pier," he explained. "Once in a while a friend takes me out on his boat so we can fish for calico bass just outside Newport Beach. But most of my fishing is right here, on the pier."

Three other pals chimed in with similar remarks. Anthony said he often catches a number of edible fish and his family appreciates what he brings home.

Off to my left, Marty was grunting and moaning while trying to bring in his catch. After what seemed like an eternity, Marty gave it one mighty yank while reeling and landed his own shark. That, too, was going home with him.

For me, this activity was almost like the groups of regulars at the Horseshoe or Navy Pier, only the variety here is more prevalent, with a few terrors of the deep tossed in for good measure.

For several years I've promised myself that I would bring a 4-piece casting rod along with me, but it always takes a back seat to other, less-important (in my mind), accoutrements that are more wife-friendly.

No fishing for me.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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