“Stuck in Catalina With The Bonito Blues Again”

Are the bonito in Catalina blue? No, that’s not it.

Written for and dedicated to Hashem aka Mahigeer when he was seeking out his first bonito at Catalina in 2006. Although the rest of the UPSAC/PFIC gang was pulling in the bonies, Hashem just couldn‘t seem to hook one.

Hashem aka Mahigeer

Oh, the Dompha, he draws circles
Up and down the mole.
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk.
And the anglers treat me kindly
And furnish me with line,
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Dompfaben and a bonito

Well, Ken, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the tackle store’s been stolen
And the tackle box is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

KJ and a bonito

Gordo tried to tell me
To stay away from that Catalina mole
He said that all those older fishermen
Just drink up your blood like wine.
An’ I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that,
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Rita, Gordo and Kyle with bonito

Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the kelp,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on the mole
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Kelp at the Mole

Now the GDude came down here
Showing ev’ryone his rod,
Handing out free tickets
To the gathering on the mole.
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a license
And be discovered beneath a trunk.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

GDude and a bonito

Now Baitfish looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of feathers
Stapled to his chest.
But he cursed me when I proved it to him,
Then I whispered, “Not even you can hide.
You see, you’re just like me,
I hope you’re satisfied.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

 Baitfish and a bonito

Now Mahigeer gave me two cures,
Then he said, “Jump right in.”
The one was Persian medicine,
The other was just plain Raki gin.
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind,
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Mahigeer and his Persian “Raki”

When Rita says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘Neath her Avalonian moon.
An’ I say, “Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante.”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Rita, a bonito, a yellow submarine, and Hillary a fish-grabbin’ pelican!

Now the bricks lay on Metropole
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get new balls and feathers
After losing them more than twice.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

The Metropole at night

(With apologies to Bob Dylan and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again)

The group at the 2006 PFIC-UPSAC Catalina Get Together


With a little help and advice from his friends, Hashem learned the “Tao of Bonito


The Cast of “The Bonito Blues Again”

Ben Acker aka “DompfaBen” (Dominating Positive Fishing Attidude Ben)

Ben’s a real fisherman as seen in this wedding picture with his bride Brandy (and assorted fishing lures)

Ken Jones aka “The Pier Fisherman” with a halfmoon and a bonito

Ross Kestin aka “Gordo Grande”

James Liu aka “GDude”

James (GDude) and Adam (Baitfish)

The Liu Family

Adam Cassidy aka “Baitfish”

Hashem Nahid aka “Mahigeer” kissing a whitefish and with a bonito

Rita Magdamo aka “Rita” with a sheephead, triggerfish, and a kelp bass


As for the original song — given that many younger anglers may never of heard of Dylan, or the original song, here’s a few versions of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”

1. Dylan on an early acoustic version of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” (with slightly different wording). Not as good as the final version in my opinion.


2. A good Grateful Dead version of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”


3. A third version of the song by Old Crow Medicine Show.



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Avalon at Christmas Time

The Casino with Christmas lights

I’ve been coming to Avalon on Catalina Island for 51 years and it’s always a highlight of the year. However, just like the changing seasons, the face of Avalon reflects changes throughout the year. In the spring to fall seasons it can be crowded which, if you are trying to fish on the Green Pleasure Pier or the Cabrillo Mole, can mean less fishing space and less of the solitude which I enjoy while fishing.

In the wintertime, especially during a mid-week visit, the streets (and piers) can be almost deserted. That’s fine with me, since my visits are fishing visits and having the piers and the fish to myself is a good thing.

Thus a short trip toward the end of December 2017 proved to be most pleasant. The weather was of the shirtsleeve variety (at least during the day), the piers were uncrowded, (although there are always tourists checking out your fish and wishing they had a fishing pole), and the fish were biting.

In addition there were the signs of Christmas, the Casino had its Christmas lights, businesses and homes were lit up for the season, and a Christmas tree greeted visitors smack dab in the middle of the beachfront area on Crescent Avenue.

A morning view of the Casino

It was a short two-day visit but one that was long enough to reenergize the batteries of life: it was good for the soul.

Lover’s Cove

Day 1, December 20, saw a very early morning trip to Long Beach with my friend Hashem and a smooth ride to Avalon on the 6 AM ferry. Upon arrival at the Cabrillo Mole we noticed an angler casting for bonito—and shortly thereafter a hook-up. Since Hashem was going to do two main things on the trip—fish for bonito at the Mole and hoop net for lobster at the Green Pleasure Pier, we went over to check out the action.

An angler on the Cabrillo Mole

Yes he had been getting strikes and the fish were nice sized. As we talked he hooked up and fought a good-sized bonito until a sea lion, decided it too wanted a meal of the bonito. The saying “thrill of victory and agony of defeat was epitomized in the fight with the fish. What started as a good fight ended with the angler pulling in about half of a bonito after the attack of the sea dog. But he would hook and land more bonito. Hashem was pleased, he was planning on fishing for bonito early Thursday morning and now knew the fish were present and that they were good-sized.

The “Sea Dog” got it!

But we moved on to the Green Pleasure Pier since Hashem had about a half a ton of equipment (he really follows the 7 P’s—Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) and didn’t want to unload it at the Mole and then repack and unload it again later at the pleasure pier. This of course was necessitated by the closure of the Cabrillo Mole to lobster hooping due to the regulation changes in the past few years. You can still hoop at the Green Pleasure Pier (GPP) but not at the Mole. Hashem had come to the GPP opening night and limited out on the bugs and was hoping there might still be a few around for his Christmas dinner.

The Green Pleasure Pier

As for myself, I just wanted to catch some fish and as usual was mainly seeking out variety and possibly something new to add to my list. I would see good variety, a few good-sized fish, and although not catching a new species, did see a new species that to date is stumping the experts that I have contacted (with pictures). So, all in all a very good visit even if these old bones were really tired by the time we left Thursday night.

As for the fishing: Wednesday was spent at the Green Pleasure Pier. I had brought three rod/reel combinations, one for the light tackle fishing I would mainly be doing, one a little heavier combination for hopefully some bigger fish, and a third fairly heavy rod/reel that I planned to use for sharks at night when Hashem was hooping.

A Sheephead

I fished from 8-1:30, 2:30-4:45, and 5:15-6:45 a total of 9.25 hours and caught 78 fish. Most of the fish were of the smaller or mid-size variety—the wrasses, smelt, perch-like opaleye and garibaldi. Unusual was the paucity of small kelp bass fish that are sometimes so common in spring and summer that it is hard to keep them off your hook. What was high was the number of sheephead; usually most days at the GPP will see only a few of the big-toothed fish.

A “Mr. Limpet” kind of look — a Sheephead head

Unfortunately the largest fish of the day, a sheephead I estimated at 6-7 pounds was lost. I had cast out a piece of shrimp on my light line and hooked the sheephead while Hashem had gone to the store and had not as yet taken out his net. I got the fish up to the pier and a boy I had been talking to, one who said he worked as a “pinhead” on Sportfishing boats in Santa Barbara, said he would go down to the adjacent float and grab the fish. He grabbed the line and half way to the dock the fish gave a jerk and was off. Although Hashem had followed the 7 p’s I had not and had lost the biggest fish I would hook on this trip.

One interesting creature this day was a California Two-Spot Octopus, the second I have caught from the pier; they are always an interesting and somewhat gnarly catch.

California Two-Spot Octopus

Although the bass were few, they were bigger than normal. Most of the bass were 10 or more inches and I caught fish of 12-½ inches, 13 ½-inches, 13 ½-inches, and 13 ¾-inches. However, the new 14-inch minimum length meant all of the bass were returned to grow a little bigger.

I had brought four main baits—three boxes of lug worms, a little over a pound of market shrimp, two containers of frozen mussels, and a half pound of baby octopus (for the sharks).

As usual, if you fished a size 8 hook baited with worm and cast out and made a slow retrieve you would get a wrasse on almost every cast. That is you would get a fish or lose the bait to the bait stealers. As for the rock wrasse, they are a favorite fish on light tackle. Most are under a half-pound but put up a very scrappy fight for their size, fighting all the way up to the pier.

Rock Wrasse

Given that ghost shrimp, my favorite bait for sheephead and opaleye, was unavailable, I had brought back-up bait—market shrimp and mussels. The middle rod, the one that was cast out and used with a Baitrunner feature, was rigged with size 4 hooks and baited with the shrimp and mussels. It caught several of the sheephead, opaleye and garibaldi (but several were also caught on the worms). Whatever the case there was steady action throughout the day.

An Opaleye

Since Hashem could not hoop net for the lobsters until the evening, he was concentrating on catching opaleye (and he’s become an expert on the good fighting fish). He uses a bobber, a long opaleye leader, and frozen peas for bait.  He also uses a chum mixture to attract the opaleye—a mix of bread crumbs and peas that he would throw out every so often to attract the opaleye (and there were many). Hashem out fished me on the opaleye at least 2-1.

By 4:40 the sun was going down and the bite on the “diurnal” fish stopped (the rock wrasses and sheephead sleep at night) while the bass action would pick up.  Unfortunately the wind also picked up and I found that I was much colder than I had planned even though I had brought what I thought were warm clothes. I think it was age and tiredness from the long day more than anything but my plan to fish for sharks until the late hours while Hashem hooped would not survive the wind chill. I was dragging by 7 PM and headed back to the hotel. Hashem continued to hoop but with nary a lobster he too would stop much earlier than he had planned. My take for the day:

43 Rock Wrasse
12 Jacksmelt
8 Kelp Bass
5 Sheephead
5 Opaleye
4 Garibaldi
1 Ocean Whitefish
+ 1 California Two-Spot Octopus

The Casino

Crescent Avenue during the Christmas season

Day 2, December 21, saw our usual outstanding breakfast at “Jack’s” (although later than usual) before heading out to the Mole. Although Hashem had planned to be at the Mole by 7 AM casting for the bonito, he too was tired out and decided that the fishing would follow breakfast.

I fished from 9:40-12:40, 1-3, 3:30-4, and 4:30-5:30, a total of 6.5 hours and this day would catch 69 fish, a very nice variety with 13 different species.

A brown-colored Giant Kelpfish

A reddish-colored Giant Kelpfish

I started out fishing at the south end of the Mole casting down around the rocks (or under the Mole) with my light rod baited with worms. I was quickly rewarded with a number of garibaldi (which I didn’t want), a striped kelpfish, a small giant kelpfish, and an opaleye. I soon added a number of sheephead to the mix. The action would continue with about one fish every 8-10 minutes while I was there.


At 1 PM I headed down to the other end of the Mole to fish with Hashem who was primarily casting for bonito. I stated fishing down by the shoreline rocks while occasionally I would move out to the main railing. The variety was good with a number of different species.

Brownish-colored Striped Kelpfish

Reddish-colored Striped Kelpfish

About 2 PM I caught a largemouth blenny, a new species to the Mole that I had also caught in June. It would be followed by a second largemouth blenny later in the day.

Largemouth Blenny

One fish I wanted to catch was a blacksmith. I had caught over a hundred in my visits over the years but for some reason had not taken a good picture of one. I didn’t catch one most of the day and when I spotted a fellow angler catching one asked if I could take a picture. He said sure. Not long afterward I caught five in fairly rapid succession.


Unusual for the day was the number of garibaldi. They are illegal to keep but at times it’s hard to keep them from grabbing bait when you are fishing for opaleye or halfmoon. For some reason they were very, very numerous this day and acted hungry as they grabbed bait after bait. All were safely returned to the water but I’m not sure how to avoid them without using large hooks and then you miss the other fish.

An adult Garibaldi and a juvenile Garibaldi with its blue spots

As the day when on I took several pictures of fish even though I already have a library of such pictures.

An Opaleye and an Opaleye head

The most interesting fish of the trip  was one I did not catch. I stopped fishing at 5:30, went to get a hot chocolate, and then put everything away prior to our departure on the late ferry. I noticed a nearby angler, the only other angler on the Mole, had caught a fish in the darkness and I went to see what it was. I suspected a type of rockfish or a salema, both of which hit well at the Mole after it is dark.

Unknown fish — picture #1

The fish turned out to be a fish that was new to me (and a quick check of my reference book did not reveal a picture). My first thought had been of a tiny, juvenile giant sea bass (it was only 5-6 inches long) but the fin structure was wrong. My next thought was of a was a popeye catalufa, the fin structure was about right but the color was wrong. We talked the angler into letting us take a couple of quick photos before returning the fish to the water. That fish helped make my trip even though I didn’t catch it.

Unknown fish — picture #2

[Upon returning home I sent a copy of the pictures to Milton Love at UC Santa Barbara for identification but he said he’s never seen it before so he was sending the pictures out to his network of friends to see if anyone could identify it. Interesting!]

By 7 PM we were lined up awaiting the ferry—and wishing we had a few more days in Avalon. It wasn’t to be but hopefully a few more trips are still in the future.

My take for the day:

24 Garibaldi
13 Kelp Bass
9 Sheephead
5 Blacksmith
4 Rock Wrasse
3 Striped Kelpfish
3 Giant Kelpfish
2 Opaleye
2 Largemouth Blenny
1 Halfmoon
1 California Scorpionfish
1 Señorita
1 Jacksmelt

A sign on the walkway to the Mole that seems appropriate for the Christmas season.

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Largemouth Blenny

Species: Labrisomus xanti (Gill, 1860); from the Greek words labrax (a fish) and soma (body). xanti = ?

Alternate Names: Rock blenny. Commonly found in Mexico; Spanish names include Blenia Bocona, Chalapo, Curiche, and Trambollo

Identification: “Largemouth Blennies have shortened elongated robust bodies with a uniform depth throughout that tapers gradually at the rear into the tail. They are greenish-brown in color with eight dark bars along their sides and two thin dark stripes bordering a pale area behind and a little below their eyes. They have a black blotch at the front of their dorsal fin and numerous small white spots on the lower parts of their head and body. Breeding males are red with a large black spot between the second and fourth dorsal spines (pictured below). Their head is broad with a blunt snout, large eyes, a branched cirrus over each eye, and several branched cirri on each side of the nape. Their mouth is large, opens at the front, and is slightly oblique; it is equipped with one row of small teeth on the upper and lower jaws and includes teeth on the roof of the mouth. Their anal fin has two spines and 17 to 19 rays; their caudal fin is square; and their dorsal fin has 17 to 19 spines and ten to 12 rays with a deep notch in between. They are covered with small smooth scales.” — John Snow

Size: To 7.1 inches.

Range: An Eastern Pacific species found from Mexico’s central Pacific coast (south to Acapulco including the Revillagigedo Islands and Tres Marias Islands); the Gulf of California (Mazatlán to Roca Consag); and Baja, California’s Pacific coast (north to Puerto Mala Arrimo in Bahía Sebastián Vizcaino—central Baja). Some sources say the southern range on Mexico’s central coast is Bahía Tenacatita, Jalisco or Bahia Chamela, Jalisco (near Manzanillo, north of Acapulco). Apparently abundant in many areas. Unconfirmed reports from Panama (no date) and Peru (1919 and 1938) may be similar species; first reported in California in 2015 near La Jolla and now apparently fairly common at Catalina Island.

Habitat: One of the most common blennies and reef fish in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). Generally found in kelp-covered, rocky shorelines and in coral reefs down to a depth of about 35 feet. Considered a shallow water diurnal (day-time) predator that feeds mostly on benthic (bottom) crustaceans such as small crabs and shrimp.

Piers: Green Pleasure Pier and Cabrillo Mole, both in Avalon on Catalina Island.

Shoreline: May be available from lagoons north of La Jolla and fishing from the rocks at Catalina Island.

Boats: Rarely caught from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Small hooks (size 6 or smaller) baited with pieces of shrimp or worms (blood worms and lug worms) when fished on the bottom will do the trick.

Food Value: Given their small size it’s better to simply let them go.

Comments: On a trip to Avalon in June 2017 I caught two of these fish, one at the Green Pleasure Pier and one at the Cabrillo Mole. Initially I thought they might be a species of kelpfish but the fins were wrong for kelpfish. I went through my normal fish I.D. books and couldn’t identify the fish so I sent a note to Milton Love at UC Santa Barbara. It turned out he (and others) had recently written a paper on the fish: Largemouth Blenny. They apparently showed up in California about 2015 and are now fairly common at La Jolla and Catalina Island. The speculation is that they moved north during the El Niño warm water conditions of 2015 and decided to stay. In December of 2017, I caught two more of the fish at the Cabrillo Mole.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhdwV17HMoc

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Damselfishes—Family Pomacentridae

Species: Chromis punctipinnis (Cooper, 1863); from the Greek word chromis (a type of Mediterranean fish) and the Latin words punctipinnis  (for spot and fin).

Alternate Names: Blue perch, kelp perch, rock bass and black perch. In Mexico called castañeta herrera.

Identification: Perch-shaped but not so deep—compressed and somewhat elongate. Their dorsal fin is long and undivided. Their coloring is dark blue or black on the back, grayish blue on sides, yellow tones in fins; they have black spots on the posterior half of the body.

Size: Length to 12 inches; most caught from piers are 6-10 inches.

Range: Punta San Pablo, central Baja California, to Monterey Bay. Common in southern California but uncommon north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Shallow-water, rocky-shore areas and in kelp beds; young and adults aggregate according to size. Surface to 150 feet deep although may travel down to 300 feet. Reportedly migrate to  rocky holes shortly before sunset where they hunker down for the night. Those unable to find a hole or crevice cluster after dark in dense schools near the rocks.

Piers: Generally found only at southern California piers, and then only those located close to extensive kelp or reefs, although I have seen a few blacksmith landed at Wharf #2 in Monterey. Best bets: Oceanside Harbor Pier, Green Pleasure Pier and Cabrillo Mole (Avalon), Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, Paradise Cove Pier, and sometimes, in late summer, Gaviota Pier.

Elaine Liu at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon

Shoreline: A common catch by anglers fishing rocky-shore areas in southern California.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Size 6 to 8 hooks fished on the bottom to mid-depth. Best bait are live bloodworms and lug worms, live small crabs, fresh mussels, and small pieces of shrimp.

Food Value:  Too small to have much meat.

CommentsA close relative of their damselfish cousins, garibaldi, and like their cousins they are noted as having a “pugnacious” nature. It is reported that young blacksmith seek out cleaning fish, usually juvenile pileperch or senorita, and place themselves in positions where the cleaning fish are almost forced to remove external parasites from them. During these actions, the blacksmith may be head up, head down, on their side or even upside down. If the cleaner tries to leave, blacksmiths follow and prevent escape. Talk about bad manners! At the same time, they are also cleaners themselves having been observed removing parasites from Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola).


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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.


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).


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.


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.

Arrival at Two Harbor on Catalina Island

Fishing in Cat Harbor (near Two Harbor) on Catalina Island

At Two Harbor and the Isthmus  Pier

A trip to Two Harbor at the south end of Catalina Island (in contrast to Avalon at the north end) in 2012 was, I think, less than a great experience for Mike. It was November, the nights were chilly, we shared a small cabin with bunks that had only a couple of thin blankets, had communal showers, and didn’t have many places to go for a meal other than the one restaurant at the site. But we did catch some fish! 


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.


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.


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


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


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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