We got a group chat going between Ed, Leroy, Myself, My fishing buddy Jason Hill and his wife Gabrielle. Ed picked a day June 17. “That's my birthday! LOL” We planned out all the details, picked a spot to fish, and a spot to cook, and then the only thing left to do was go shopping and prepare for the big day.
My alarm went off at 4:15am. By 4:45 I was out the door. Picked Jason Hill up at Motel 6 at 5am, then we were parked at the beach by 5:15am. It was dark. I needed a headlamp to gear up. Once rigged and ready, we walked down to the beach and started casting. Just a few casts here in this first spot to see if anybody was home. Now, low tide was not until 9:40am so we had some time to burn. But we had plenty of baits and beach to fish. I crossed my fingers and hoped for a big White Sea Bass on my birthday.
No bites at the first spot. Tide was still quite high. Just low enough to walk the beach. About 2.5’. I decided to lead the group further up the beach to some of my other favorite spots. We made our way north and proceeded to cast for hours. The bite was nonexistent. Where are the fish? Well, low tide is coming, and so we hoped the bite would be too. We kept casting.
The conditions were beautiful! No wind. Overcast and grey. Swell was moderate on the big side, perfect for getting the fish going, but not too big to fish safely. The water was pretty clear, and it was also clean! And so we fished! We casted! and casted some more. We walked here and casted. There and casted. We were looking for the fish and expecting the bite to turn on closer to low tide.
I bomb a long cast out past some eelgrass and let my 5.8” Keitech with 6/0 Owner Beast hook slowly sink to the bottom assisted by only 1/2oz of lead and my very gentle slow retrieve. Dragging on the bottom.. dragging, dragging... staying connected… always anticipating the bite… TAP! My line went taught but I didn’t set the hook immediately. Then I felt a “wiggle wiggle.” SWING! Solid Hook up! Shake Shake Shake, and it feels heavy! I’m walking backward a very long distance over a sand bar, through a trough, to land this fish on the beach. What is it? So heavy it must be a keeper right? I was so surprised to find a Grass Bass wash up on the sand! Maybe 13”? We decided to release it for a nice underwater shot with the go pro. This fish laid down at our feet for like 30 seconds as tho it wanted to be a movie star, and then turned and swam away. Wow, what cool footage!
Then I turn around and my photographer buddy “Bennett Barthelemy” is there on the beach waving to me! He brought his waterproof Sony and he wants to snap pics of the whole crew fishing! Heck ya! Bennett snapped pics and we worked the heck out of that 50 yard stretch of beach. Fished it thoroughly for hours. I look over my shoulder and Jason is on! Rod bent and shaking. “Jason’s is fish on! Go Jay Bird!” He pulls up a 14” barred sand bass, which we quickly decide to release. We’re here for a halibut catch and cook!
We keep fishing. It’s getting serious. Tide is getting close to low and we still haven’t found a halibut…? I’m casting with fervor now. Bing… What the heck was that? Did my line just break on a cast? No, it was my rod tip! Gone! Edward offers to let me borrow his Phenix Trifecta Light 103 with Shimano Vanford 5000. He tells me, “When you set the hook, don’t be afraid to use the backbone of the rod. Don’t use the tip, use the backbone.” “Yes sir!”
Oh wow.. I've never casted a top-of-the-line combo befor. I’ll tell you, fishing with a $500 combo is just like fishing with a $150 combo… except better.
OK… Low tide is staring us straight in the eyes and we’re coming up with no halibut. The pressure is on for me to get these guys on some fish, or my bday bash is about to turn into a blowout. It suddenly dawns on me that we have spent all our time fishing on what I believed to be the “best” stretch of the beach, but have ignored the far ends of the beach on either side. I look up at Edward… “Bro! What if all the fish got pushed down onto one end of the beach overnight, and we are just missing them? I’m gonna run to the far end of the beach and go cast and see what's up!” I still don’t know if I should run north or south to check for the fish… I decide to go south. At least I know I’ve had more success there in the past… so I jam out of there in a blitz to get to the far end of the beach, and along the way, I shout out to Jason “I’m running to the far south hole to see if the fish are home down there! Come along if you want!” He says “Ok I’m with you”. And off we go walking top speed.
I arrive at the south hole. Wow, the sand bar is bigger than I’ve ever seen it. The hole is dramatic. Makes sense because all our beaches have a lot more sand washed up on them the last couple weeks. I start casting. Jason pulls up next to me quickly and starts casting. Jason shouts “I got a bite!” He pulls up his Keitech and the tail is missing! “Ohhhhh!!! Tail grabber! Bro maybe we found the fish!” I keep casting. 5 minute later, Jason shouts out, “Another hit!” He reels up another 4” Sight Flash Keitech torn in half! “Bro! Maybe we really did find the fish” I say.
“I’m on!” Jason calls out! I look over, his rod is bent, and it's shaking. “Keep your rod tip up buddy! Keep it bent!” I yell, just as Edward and Leroy pull up to join us. Jason lands a 21” halibut. Just 1” short of a legal keeper, so back it goes. I tell Ed and Leroy “Guys that was his third bite in like 15 minutes! I think we found the fish!”
Only problem… there are so many surfers. So we keep our eyes open, watching for surfers, and when one comes by we pull our baits up and hold them high in the air so the surfers can see they are safe to pass through. Anytime there is no surfer, we are all casting like madmen for that one bite that will make the whole day… the whole trip. We need 1 keeper halibut so we can do a catch and cook in the park!
I’m bombing my Keitech with 5/0 Gamakatsu Superline spring lock hook and 3/8oz bullet weight super far with Ed’s Phenix Trifecta Light. Slowly dragging that baby along the bottom just anticipating that tap… “TAP!” I pause for a moment to see if my line is loading. Yes, it’s loading! “RIP!” I yank back hard and let that fish feel the backbone of the Phenix. Solid! “Fish on! Whooooooohoooo!” I get SO serious about landing this fish. It feels heavy, but not very heavy... could it be a keeper? I drag up a 21”. Like a twin of the short Jason just released.
We are all back to standing on the same sand bar casting into the same hole, dodging the same surfers. BAMB! Jason is on again! "Whooooo!! Go Jay Bird! Get it!" It looks heavy! It's taking him a while to land this fish. People are starting to gather and watch. “Drag that fish up bro! Get it on the sand!” He’s dragging it, closer and closer... I am standing right behind this fish walking inches away. It’s still in about 5” of water… I can see this is beyond a keeper. It's a toad! I notice its gills are wide open. I reach down and stick my fingers under the gill plate and lift it out of the water. BAMB! KEEPER!! I hand the fish to Jason. "We did it! Way to go Jay Bird!" Now we are totally pumped! Mission accomplished! We are gonna do a catch and cook in the park! We are jumping up and down. People on the beach are gathering around, smiling, taking photos.. they can’t believe what they are seeing. a 26” Halibut. Jay Birds personal best!
Jason is bleeding and stringing up his fish on the sand. Leroy, Ed, and I are back out on the sandbar casting like it’s really really important. You know..? When you’re casting with just that much more fury, determination, energy, pump? At this point, we are all dragging Texas rigs. I’m doing, as usual, the slowest possible retrieve while still keeping my line taught enough to sense a bite. Halfway through the retrieve “TAP!” SLAM!!! I rip that Trifecta light back so hard! The thing bends in half! It’s SOLID fish on! “Yo this one feels heavy! It’s a keeper for sure!” The pressure is really on! Jason just caught a keeper and now we want to land one too! I am keeping my rod pointed straight up, and that rod tip is bent solid and I’m keeping it that way. No pumping action, just a nice steady crank of the reel handle to tow this fish in. It gets shallow. Leroy spots it and says “That’s a toad!” I say “It's a Toad?!” That’s when I get really nervous. Cuz it's still in 12”+ water. If it comes unhooked it’s gonna swim away. I keep that rod bent, and I just stay calm and steady, backing up to the sand. Then my line wraps around Leroy for a moment, and I think to myself, “this could be a lost fish!”
“C’mon! Stay on! Stay on! Stay on!….. “ Leroy runs up onto the beach to get out of the way and the next thing I know I am dragging this big slab up onto the sand and the moment happens where I realize that I just landed this fish! “WOW! I just landed a big halibut!” 27”! Bamb! Jason and I pick up our fish and do a sort of fist/fish-bump while Ed gets some video. What an image! I want that one framed on my wall for sure!
OK, Ed and Leroy, the bite is wide open and it’s your turn! These guys get bite after bite. Miss hook set after hook set. What is going wrong? They are fishing my bait. It’s a good bait. Maybe they were just tail grabbers. We’ll never know. Leroy pulls up a short. We admire it, and then let it go. That’s the last fish we connected with that day. Some more surfers showed up and we decided to move to a different spot on the beach.
Jasons wife Gabrielle joined us. She rigged up a rod and swings a line with us for an hour or so. We cast and try hard to get Ed and Leroy on a keeper, after all...
#FriendsDontLetFriendsSkunk, but it just didn’t happen. It’s getting close to noon and we decide it's time to head to the park and cook up a fish! I promise Leroy and Ed that we will go back for a redemption session. We get up to our cars, rinse down, break out of our gear and into some comfy clothes, and then off to the park!
The whole way to the park, driving along HWY 1, then HWY 101, jamming some old school jams on the radio, looking at the ocean and beaches along the way, with my new buddies from Hook 2 Cook following behind… it was just surreal and awesome. I hope I remember it forever.
We got to the park and quickly set up for a feast! I’ll tell you what… It was a party of 5 and we had enough gourmet food for a party of 10 or more. Leroy is a professional gourmet chef. As he filleted this halibut like a sushi ninja, we hovered around him like hungry mosquitos with video cameras. He then proceeds to poach the halibut in herb-infused olive oil at low temp and then slathers it with crunchy garlic butter sauce. If your mouth is not watering yet check this out. Gabrielle has a professional cheeseboard business called Gabrielle’s Grazings! She put together an amazing spread of the best cheeses, nuts, and fruits I have ever tasted in my life! Also, an amazing sweet coleslaw that you have to taste before you call it coleslaw. It was something awesome I would eat every day. What was better than the food, was the energy being passed around the picnic table. Ed said something so profound.
“Your best friends are out there, and you haven't even met them yet.”
He went on “Imagine if you had never met your best friend… what life would be like without all those shared experiences…"
I said “I feel a sinking feeling… like my heart is sinking into my stomach.”
“EXACTLY!” Ed said! “So it's really important to get out there and connect with people and search for your new best friends. Keep collecting them. Keep sharing experiences.”
We mentioned a lot of names there in the park. Steve Williams John Williams II Johnny Bighook Anthony Meza David Siordia Sean Somics Patrick Dammeier and we did a shout out on video to Ilya Seltser.
We pack up and gather by the cars to take a group photo. I told Ed “Your values of long term relationships and shared experiences… I really appreciate it. Thank you for putting that in my head.”
And with that, we all wish each other a safe drive home and I think we all drove home buzzed on life, and looking forward to the next time we could all get together and slay some fish again.
It was an awesome 41’st birthday. I couldn’t imagine a better way of celebrating it. So I went home and typed this story up to share it with you!
Love you all! I hope we can all share an experience like this together one of these days. We’ve got a lot of days. Let’s make it happen!
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