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Be Prepared for First Deep-Sea Fishing Trip

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Give a man a fish, according to an ancient Chinese proverb, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

Take him on his first fishing trip, and be sure to bring along plenty of Dramamine.

“Seasickness is horrible,” said John Christensen, a boat captain for Port Hueneme Sport Fishing. “You’re out there for several hours. It’s by far the biggest problem beginners face.”

There are others, of course. Like avoiding sunburn, learning to cast, trying to avoid tangled lines and just plain trying to catch fish.

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I encountered them all during my first ocean sport-fishing trip, an eight-hour venture off the coast of Oxnard amid the choppy waters surrounding the Anacapa Islands.

I wasn’t the only novice fisherman among about two dozen people on the 50-foot vessel. But it seemed I was the only one who didn’t lose his breakfast soon after departure.

Fortunately, I heeded the advice of a friend and experienced angler and taken a dose of motion-sickness medication before going to bed the night before.

“Then take another pill in the morning as kind of a booster shot,” the friend said.

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Other advice I gathered: eat light the night before, dress in layered clothing, and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

As the boat rolled over rough seas during the 13-mile journey to the designated fishing location, I was repeatedly doused by salt water. But my stomach held firm.

There are other methods of combating seasickness including a variety of over-the-counter medications and a prescription gel patch known as Transderm Scop. The patch is worn behind the ear and stabilizes equilibrium. It costs about $5 and is effective for about three days.

As a beginner, don’t expect to catch many fish. That’s what I was told, and that’s what happened with me. Handling a rod for the first time can be awkward, to which I can attest.

Those planning a trip should peruse the fish report of a daily newspaper and call the local landing for guidance and to make a reservation. A follow-up call the night before, for the purpose of confirmation and a report on weather conditions, is also a good idea.

So is getting an early start. Boats depart soon after dawn and they don’t wait for stragglers.

The waters off Southern California are ripe with red rockfish, yellowtail, calico bass, sand bass and barracuda, depending on location and time of year.

Generally, red rockfish is the easiest to catch. Fisherman all around me reeled them in with frequency, but I managed to catch only a few--none too impressive, judging by their size.

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Aside from a captain, fishing boats employ a deck hand to assist fisherman, clean their catch and ensure safety. For a beginner, the deck hand’s services are invaluable.

“The deck hand will explain how to use tackle and help anyone who is inexperienced,” Christensen said. “Most of the time, a novice doesn’t know how to use a reel. The first time out, a lot of people are really green.”

Experienced fishermen cast their line, throwing it as far from the boat and other lines as possible. Beginners should steer clear of the method, Christensen said.

“My suggestion is to just drop the line down and hope for the best,” Christensen said. “If they’re good listeners, they can be left on their own. But it might take a couple of hours [to catch a fish].”

Angling for specific fish requires knowledge of lures, bait, and behavior and habitat of fish. That comes with experience.

All the more reason to consider your maiden voyage a trial run.

“I tell young people they should go out and rent or borrow tackle,” said Stuart Schneier, owner of The Fish’n Fools, a fishing supply store in Granada Hills. “Then, if they decide they like it, and they don’t get sick, they can come in and get fully outfitted with a rod and reel.”

A first-time outing aboard one of the numerous fishing boats operating out of Port Hueneme Harbor or Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard costs about $60. The cost covers a rental rod, tackle, a one-day license and fish cleaning.

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Like golf or skiing, the sky’s the limit on how much money one can spend on sport fishing. Inexpensive fishing rods sell for about $40. As with golf clubs, the quality of rods generally increases with price.

“You buy a cheap anything and it lasts for a short length of time,” Schneier said. “As you get into fishing, you buy better quality. A custom rod can cost $130. From there, you can go up to wherever you want to be. How well they perform has to do with construction and the smoothness of the reel. A better rod helps you feel the fish and control the fish.”

Getting the feel of hooking a fish takes patience and experience. Learning to tug at the instance of a nibble is a matter of timing.

It also requires luck. Unfortunately, I had little.

“A beginner is not going to catch a fish like an experienced fisherman,” Christensen said. “But go once and see if you like it.”


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