Last week my buddy Stan Thompson and I went out rock cod fishing on a party boat out of Morro Bay, California. Party boats are large boats where a dozen or more anglers go out and fish from the same boat.
I’ve been fishing on party boats all my life and if you’ve never done this, it is well worth the 45 bucks or so it costs. You go out early in the morning and in no time you’re out on the deep blue water. Stan and I both took a Dramamine tablet to avoid the seasickness that is all too common on these fun but often-rough trips.
Stan had never been out party boat fishing before. He’s a professional photographer and he brought along a small digital camera. I keep a life long fish list of all the different species of fish I’ve ever caught, and he was going to take photos of some of them so we could ID them afterwards.
After a 20-minute trip north along the coast the boat stopped and it was “Lines in!” We dropped rigs with heavy sinkers and hooks baited with strips of squid, down 110 feet to the bottom. Almost instantly people started to catch fish, bright orange vermilion cod, calico rock fish, blue bass, gopher rockfish, and lingcod.
All the fisher folks on the boat, about 20 of us, had already kicked in $5 each toward the jackpot. The angler with the heaviest fish would win the jackpot.
Although I’ve been party boat fishing for 40+ years now, I’ve never won the jackpot. I’ve come in second on jackpots dozens of times, but there’s no prize for second. I want to win one so bad that some years ago I added, “Win the jackpot on a party boat,” to my 100 Things I want to Do Before I Die list.
We caught lots of fish including several huge lingcods. My largest ling missed winning the jackpot by less than 2 ounces. Ah well!
On the ride back the deck hands (it was an all lady crew, captain included) filleted fish and tossed the guts overboard. Hundreds of seagulls suddenly appeared, following the boat and snatching up the scraps of fish heads and guts. Stan asked me to hold a piece of fish up over my head to see if a bird would grab it. The hand in this photo is mine, and Stan caught that seagull just as it was grabbing the bait from my fingers. Great photo too!
We never did get seasick and went home sunburned and happy with a pile of fantastically delicious fish fillets. As to that Jackpot, there’s always the next trip out. I’ll get that sucker yet.
Tom Ogren / Stan Thompson