Rest In Peace My Friend — Mike Granat

Presenting Mike with the first place trophy at the James Liu Memorial Derby at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2013

In July 2009 I received an order for my book Pier Fishing In California and when looking at the order I noticed it was from Clovis, California, just a few miles from my home in Fresno. Instead of forwarding the order to my distribution center in Reno, and paying the fees and shipping associated with sending him the book, I decided to call Mike Granat—the man who had ordered the book. Would he like to meet for coffee and receive an autographed copy of the book? His answer was sure and we set up a date for a meeting.

Mike at the Mud Marlin Derby at Berkeley Pier, 2011

A few days later we met at a local Starbucks and my first question was why he had ordered the book (given that he lived in Clovis, a long, long way from the ocean). His answer was simple. His grandson lived in San Clemente and the few times Mike had taken him down to the San Clemente Pier to go fishing they had failed to catch a fish. He wanted some “How To” advice to make those trips a little more successful. It sure made sense to me and I told him I hoped the book would give him some ideas.

Mike fishing at the Avila Beach Pier, 2011

The meeting turned out to be a longer than expected, one in which over several cups of coffee we exchanged more than a little bit of information about ourselves. We both were in our ‘60s, we were both married, and both had children and grandchildren. No surprises there! But, it also turned out we both were from Indiana, Hoosiers at heart, and Mike had grown up in South Bend, a town where I had lived for a couple of years when young. We both had gone to college and then started working in the corporate world in southern California. We had also taken somewhat similar business paths—working for corporate America, owning our own businesses, working for government, and spending years as educators. Amazingly, and I’m not sure how it came up, we both had the same nicknames when young—Rocky. With Granat as a name, Mike’s nickname was a natural. Mine was a little more obtuse (my dad loved boxing and a favorite boxer was Rocky Marciano).

Mike and a former work colleague at the San Clemente Pier, 2015

As important as those areas was an additional one that we discussed in some depth—fishing. We both loved to fish and as our discussion lengthened it was soon apparent that we would need to hook up and go fishing. We set up a second meeting and soon we were meeting a couple of times a week to discuss fishing and a plethora of other subjects.

It probably wasn’t too surprising, given our similar taste in everything from fishing to politics to movies (and just about everything else) that we soon also started talking about taking some fishing trips together. And we did! For eight years we would travel up and down California’s coastal venues visiting piers (39 in all), UPSAC’s kids fishing derbies, bait and tackle stores, and simple sights of interest. We would also attend several fishing shows (Fred Hall and ICast) where we would combine fishing and business. In addition, Mile would accompany me to several government meetings in Sacramento and Los Angeles  (CA Fish and Wildlife Dept., NOAA, etc.) Closer to home, since we both liked photography, we would travel up to the mountains to partake of the Sierra’s natural beauty. Visits to movies (we both like the same kind of movies), visits to sporting events (Grizzlies and Bull Dogs), and visits to many, many different restaurants would become a routine over the years. I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend with as many similar tastes nor have I ever enjoyed spending time like we did sharing a treasure chest of stories as we traversed California’s highways.

2010

Mike with a sea star caught at Wharf No. 2 in Monterey, 2010

Given our work schedules in 2009, the number of fishing trips was limited. We did travel to two local lakes — Lost Lake north of Fresno and to Pine Flat Lake. Success was not great but it gave a chance to continue the bonding and friendship that had developed. 2010 would see our first pier fishing trip and it would be to Monterey. The fishing was somewhat slow but we had a good time visiting two piers and visiting one of Mike’s favorite restaurants — Phil’s Fish Market and Restaurant in Moss Landing. Mike said their cioppino was “famous” after it bested a Bobby Flay challenge on Flay’s TV show. So, of course we had to order it—and it was good.

Mike and a striped seaperch from the Monterey Coast Guard Pier, 2010

As mentioned, we both had a long history and interest in fishing. I had concentrated on piers and had become the so-called head “Pier Rat” based upon the books and articles I had written as well as my website — pierfishing.com and blog — kenjonesfishing.com. Mike it turned out was much more than a novice seeking out a few tips for piers. Mike had fished freshwater streams and lakes throughout many of the mid-western and western states, was an accomplished fly fisherman, and had fished in saltwater in many states and countries. In addition, he had been the representative for Shimano Tackle in South America. Not too shabby having an entire continent as your territory!  He had fished the Florida Keys and caught tarpon, he had fished in Mexico and caught marlin and sailfish, he had fished in Alaska and caught large halibut, and he had fished a variety of South American countries and caught a variety of exotic species. I wondered how much I could actually teach him about fishing.

Mike at the McKinleyville Grove of Big Trees, 2010

Although Mike loved to fish, he had actually taken a hiatus from the sport for many years when he first moved to southern California. His initial apartment in California was actually right next to the Belmont Pier parking lot in Long Beach but to my amazement he said he never once went fishing on the pier. He was too busy with new jobs and school. He did finally accept an invitation from a friend to go ocean fishing on the friend’s small boat. He wasn’t sure what he was going to catch but hauled himself early one morning down to Oceanside where they met another friend and launched the small boat. Mike had brought his old tackle box that was loaded with a lifetime of lures he had used in Indiana. Apparently it was a rough day and a couple of miles off Camp Pendleton Marine Base the boat was swamped. All went into the water. Luckily all could swim but Mike was the best swimmer so he went to find help. He took off and was able to swim to shore where he was picked up by Marines and quickly informed them of his friends. As it turned out, the Coast Guard had already rescued them. All were safe but a victim of the accident was Mike’s tackle box filled with the tackle and lures he had collected over the years. It was a sad day and, as it turned out, would be the end of his fishing for many years.

Courtright Lake and a trout, 2010

One of the first spots we visited in the nearby Sierra Mountains was Courtright Lake. We both loved fishing and both loved photography so we proceeded to catch some trout while also taking some pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Mike had worked for many years in international business and would tell me story after story about interesting trips to Japan, China, Korea, Formosa, England, Germany and many other countries. He was a salesman and knew how to sell but also learned that the playing field is not always level nor can all businessmen to be trusted. The stories were interesting and educational and, I imagine, some were the same he told his college students. It was clear he knew the rules/regulations (as when a man in Formosa tried to bribe him) and he knew how to take care of himself (as when a Welshman tried to forgo paying Mike’s commission on a million-dollar deal).

2011

Mike and wife Leslie at at Fresno Grizzlies baseball game in 2011

In 2011 I was able to get Mike’s wife Leslie a job at the Small Business Administration in Fresno where I worked. It strengthened the bond with Mike and also gave us an opportunity to attend some SBA events such as a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game.

Mike checking out the action at the Oceanside Harbor Pier in 2011

Mike loved photography and bought a new Nikon camera when we began to travel to different venues. I was in the process of scanning my old pictures and putting them on my computer. Mike had a problem since he had THOUSANDS of slides, which are more difficult to copy. Most of those slides were taken on his trips overseas and after seeing a few of his beautiful slides I agreed that he needed to figure out a way to scan them. We considered buying a pricey scanner together, scanning all the slides, and then selling the scanner, but we never did more than talk.

Mike taking a few photos at Yosemite, 2011

Mike going down to the river to check out an angler, Yosemite, 2011

We both enjoyed most sports but given our connections to the Hoosier state of Indiana, where basketball is the iconic sport, it meant our favorite sport was basketball. Mike at 6’3″ (or thereabouts) was an outstanding high school player in South Bend and he wound up playing college ball at Valparaiso University, not too far from my home town of DeMotte. Moving from town to town, and being only 5’8″, I had not played high school ball but I had later coached high school basketball teams for nearly a decade. We both thought Oscar Robertson (“The Big O”), Mr. Indiana Basketball two years in a row, was one of the best players we had ever seen but Mike had seen him in person while I had only seen him on T.V.  We both agreed that John Wooden was perhaps the best coach ever. I had watched Wooden’s UCLA teams in the mid- to late ’60s. Mike had watched those same teams but also had a closer connection with Wooden since Wooden had taught high school, and coached high school teams in South Bend, before heading to California. Mike’s mother had assisted in grading papers for Wooden when he was a teacher and  Mike had several items signed by Wooden. Mike had also once worked in downtown Los Angeles and he had season tickets for the Clipper games and he told me many stories about meeting players (and he loved Bill Walton). However, I did successfully convert him from being a Clipper’s fan to becoming a Warrior’s fan.

2012

Mike and his family, Balboa Pier, 2012

Growing up in South Bend meant Mike was a fan of Notre Dame. Of course it didn’t hurt that his father worked for a local brewery and had connections with Notre Dame. I too had lived in the city and remembered when young watching the Notre Dame band march down the street prior to home football games. Mike attended many of those games and evidently spent a considerable amount of time on campus but, as said, he went to Valparaiso University. He did tell me once about a summer job working for the brewery and having to lift the heavy barrels of beer; he said it wasn’t fun but it did develop the muscles.

Mike with a sheephead taken at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2012

Mike at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, 2012

Celebrating a good day’s fishing with friend Hashem Nahid at the MiCasa Restaurant in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2012

Often our discussions would center on our families, our hopes for their success, and the occasional bumps that can occur along the road to success. And we would reminisce about ourselves, the right and occasionally wrong turns we had taken on the paths that we had chosen. Luckily we had good wives and good marriages to help us as we entered our senior years. Sometimes we talked about our elders, the parents and grandparents living in Indiana and facing the challenges of the Great Depression and war years before we were born. There were many, many stories. One story was about cherry soup, a specialty of his grandmother who used an old German recipe. He said in hot weather it was a special treat and he would bring her cherries hoping she would make some soup (which she would). Mike also discussed how at one time peppermint was a big crop in the South Bend area and he said he would to go out by those fields just to smell the peppermint. What didn’t smell good were the local streams even though he fished in them. They were heavily polluted but he was still able to catch fish, especially carp (which most people did not want). He would sell the carp along the road. He had no problem arguing for a fair price and it sounded like his selling techniques as a salesman were honed at an early age. But, he now wondered how safe it was to eat those fish. Luckily the streams are clean today.

Mike at the Goleta Pier in 2012

Although the subject was fishing, Michael was also always looking at it from a business background. What tackle was new, what worked, could it be imported and sold for a good profit? He imported fishing flies from Africa and sold them on EBay. He built his own bonito floats and on our trips made contacts with tackle shops to see what they might buy. He imported rods and several other items that might make a profit. I knew the piers and the people in the tackle shops along the coast and Michael would talk to each of them regarding  products they might desire. At his death we were planning out how to have a “Fishing Store” on my websites that would carry a variety of products including several geared specifically to pier fishing.

Mike, Abraham Lincoln, and Leslie at the Fresno Civil War Reenactment, 2012

As mentioned, Mike and I had  a varied business background that included work in private business, government, and education. I had been a store manager for Jack-In-The-Box before becoming a district manager and regional training manager. Mike had started in private industry (aerospace), worked in banking, and then traveled the world while involved in international business. We had both owned businesses and saw first hand the effects of taxes and heavy regulation. I was working at the Small Business Administration in Fresno when we met, Mike had worked at several different SBA offices over the years in California and Alaska. He especially enjoyed Alaska and its many sights although he said he also had one of the worst bosses he ever had. His stories of working in Anchorage, great fishing spots, scenic mountain areas, big mosquitoes, and the need to always have a rifle while fishing (just in case a grizzly bear decided you looked like lunch), meant we more than once said we needed to make a trip north to Alaska..

2013

Mike with a jacksmelt from the Venice Pier, 2013

Mike and a new found friend, Huntington Beach Pier, 2013

Mike and I also had both worked in education. I had spent nearly 15 years as a high school social studies teacher (history, geography, economics and government). Mike had specialized in business and taught international business courses at a number of different colleges. He had written a book on the subject, was considered a true expert, and really enjoyed talking about the various facets of international business. When we met he was, I believe, still teaching international business at Fresno State University. We were both teachers but Mike’s experiences were certainly at a higher level than mine.

2014

Mike at the Trees of Mystery near Klamath, January 2014

Mike at the “Tunnel View” in Yosemite in 2014

Mike at Glacier Point, Yosemite, 2014

Given our business backgrounds it was perhaps quite natural that we were also aligned politically. We were both conservative in outlook and really enjoyed discussing (and generally agreeing on) the issues of the day. Given the hundreds of hours we spent driving in cars, the nights in motels, and the days at various coffee shops, it was probably a good thing we thought alike.

Mike with a thornback ray from the Seal Beach Pier in 2014

One year Mike and I attended the International ICast Show in Las Vegas where the manufacturers showed their new products. Mike was in 7th Heaven discussing items with various companies. He had worked for some of the high-end rod and reel companies as well as some of the smaller companies and was always looking for an intriguing new product. While in Las Vegas we had dinner with a friend of mine who was a banker in that city. Given our desire for something different, we went to the Hofbrauhaus just off the strip. We both liked German food and lamented the fact that Fresno no longer had any German restaurants. Luckily, we did find a great German restaurant — the Kaisenhof Restaurant in San Diego, and were able to visit it on several occasions.

Mike and a small barred surfperch from the Santa Monica Pier, 2014

Mike and I visited many restaurants on our fishing trips. We both liked Chinese food and Mike took me to his favorite Chinese restaurant, the Peking Dragon Restaurant in Dana Point. Mike also loved Korean food and we met up with Eugene Kim, a friend of mine, at a couple of different Korean restaurants in Seal Beach and Los Angeles. Mike was right at home, knew all the various dishes, and for the most part liked them all. I, on the other hand, was less enthused about some of the dishes and while liking the Korean Bar-B-Que never did get used to the spicy kimchee. Once, failing to find a Chinese restaurant in San Diego, we wound up at an Afghanistan restaurant. Several new foods to me (some good and some not as good) although Mike was again right at home. Having traveled the world, Mike was certainly a far more epicurean diner than myself.

2015

Mike and a bonito from the Balboa Pier, 2015 — (the red bonito float was his own invention and he sold several to different tackle shops)

Not to be overlooked in a list of Mike’s favorite restaurants were the seafood restaurants we visited (and there were many). Our favorite, and a place we visited whenever we went to Newport Beach, was the Crab Cooker Restaurant. It’s a place I had visited for nearly half a century and a place that Mike had visited when he lived in Orange County. it’s always busy, and it doesn’t take reservations (they even made President Nixon wait), so we usually ate a late lunch or early dinner. It has wonderful Manhattan-style clam chowder, all the bread sticks you can eat, and fish, shrimp or scallops served on paper plates; food that was always simple but good. We found three other fish places that we also really liked—the Chart Room in Crescent City, Tony’s on the Pier (Redondo Beach Pier), and The Fisherman’s Restaurant on the San Clemente Pier, but the Crab Cooker was always our favorite..

Mike and Balboa Pier’s most famous angler — Snookie, 2015

One restaurant that Mike and I also liked was the old-fashioned Pea Soup Andersen’s. We visited both of their restaurants, the original in Buelton and the second in Gustine. Inevitably we would have the “all you can eat” pea soup (which came with a milk shake). Another favorite evoking earlier times was the Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, an old logging company dining room where you sit at big tables and they bring you out platters and platters of food. 

Mike with a round stingray from the Crystal Pier in San Diego, 2015

Mike’s favorite food may have been Mexican food (especially if served alongside a Margarita). On our first trip to Monterey we made sure to stop at one of Mike’s favorites in Los Banos — España’s, a place he had visited for years. The food was excellent! Several times we went to the Fred Hall Fishing Show in Long Beach and right across the street from our hotel was “Super Mex” which served good food at good prices. Of course Mike spoke Spanish and had spent a considerable amount of time in Latin America (including Mexico City) so some of the stories he told of places he had visited was amazing. I always wished I could have seen some of those places.

Mike with a white croaker taken from a Long Beach Finger Pier, 2015

Mike with a thornback ray from the Newport Pier, 2015

In Fresno I never knew where we would eat. Mike liked some Asian buffet-type restaurants as well as an Indian Restaurant and he introduced me to the world of “Pho” soups. Often we would simply meet at the latest restaurant that he and Leslie had discovered. One of the latter, surprisingly,  was the Clovis Hospital where, it turned out, the dining room had very good food at very good prices. As for our regular coffee sessions, more likely than not it would be at McDonald’s where we could have a light breakfast and coffee. On the road, depending upon time and budget, a great many of our meals were fast food meals. One thing that surprised me on our first trip was when Mike said we needed to stop at McDonald’s. Why? To get a vanilla cone (he liked his ice cream). Ice cream cones at McDonald became a regular part of our trips.

Mike with a c-o turbot from the Redondo Beach Pier, 2015

Mike with a spotfin croaker at the San Clemente Pier, 2015

2016

Mike with a jacksmelt from the Paradise Park Pier in Tiburon, 2016

Unfortunately by 2016 Mike’s health was slowing. His Pacemaker needed to be adjusted and a new one was needed (which wasn’t possible). He generally felt OK but constantly had a problem with the buildup of fluids in his legs. He took many different pills but none seemed to really provide the relief he needed. Although we continued to meet, we made only a few trips together and I tried to make sure Mike was always comfortable. He still enjoyed fishing and talking to the “pier rats” but simply did not have the energy he had once had. We made sure where we stayed had easy access and made sure steps and distances were limited. 

Mike and a small blackperch from the Elephant Rock Pier in Tiburon, 2016


Mike at the Greenwood Cove Pier in Marin County, 2016

2017

Mike at the Redondo Beach Pier, 2017

Mike and Hashem Nahid at the Newport Pier in 2017

Our last fishing excursion was a short trip in February of 2017. Our first stop was at Newport Beach and its pier where we met up with Hashem before heading over to the Crab Cooker restaurant. We then visited Redondo Beach and its pier before heading to Malibu where we saw our friend Ginny Wylie at her bait and tackle shop. Other trips were discussed but as the year progressed, and Mike spent more and more time in hospitals, the trips just weren’t possible. We talked of our “Bucket List” and imagined visiting Alaska and the Florida Keys (both places Mike knew well) but I knew neither trip would probably ever take place.

Mike and Ginny Wylie at the iconic Wylie’s Tackle Shop, Malibu, 2017

Mike changed insurance and went with Kaiser which soon shipped him off to a hospital in San Jose to see the experts. They kept him there for over a week (which he hated) and left him black and blue with needle marks in his stomach. But they gave him new medicine that was supposed to be better and would help him last a few more years. However, not too long after returning to Clovis he had to return to the hospital. The new medicine did not seem to be much of an improvement. I saw him at the hospital and he was not optimistic as to the future.

Toward the end Mike and I were still meeting (infrequently) for coffee. Fishing was out but we both had wanted to see the movie Dunkirk and talked about seeing it for some time. When it came out we made one last trip to the theater in Clovis. Following the movie we went for a light lunch at one of our favorite restaurants — the Tsing-Tai Chinese restaurant. I asked him if he should eat a meal since the doctor had cut out almost all food and drinks, but he said that he was fine. We enjoyed the meal but then, just a few days later, Leslie posted that Mike has passed away during the night. It was a real blow.

The similarities that made us good friends (like two peas in a pod) and the respect and courtesy I think each of us showed the other, made for a special friendship that will be long missed. RIP my friend, you saw the world and led a long and exciting life. It was a life well lived! But your passing remains a shock and will leave a true void in the lives of your many, many friends.

[As an aside, I notice in reading this that there is perhaps too much about my life. But to understand the friendship, it's good to understand how many similarities there were and how those like experiences could lead to the comfortable times we spent together. In many ways I came to view Mike almost like a brother more than a friend and, as said, he is truly missed]

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One Response to Rest In Peace My Friend — Mike Granat

  1. Snookie says:

    Thank you Ken for giving me the chance to meet such a wonderful man.

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