Fishing the North Coast: A rough ocean commands respect

Live bait now available at Woodley Island
Kenny Priest/For The Times-Standard
Posted: 07/02/2009 01:27:10 AM PDT

Phil Glenn, owner of Celtic Charter Service in Eureka, holds a pair of black rockfish caught in early June. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Last Friday, an incident occurred at a nearby beach with some friends of mine that reminded me just how powerful and dangerous the ocean can be. What began as a relaxing afternoon of redtail perch fishing quickly turned frantic and nearly had a disastrous ending.

On this particular day, the ocean and fishing conditions were horrible and no one had any business being anywhere near the water. The wind was howling -- blowing 15 to 25 knots and eight to ten foot swells pounded the beach every eight to nine seconds. Luckily, one person's swift thinking probably saved an angler's life.
It all started when one of the older gentlemen of the fishing group, who was wearing hip boots, walked down to the edge of the surf to make a cast in between waves. As soon as he made his cast, he turned his back and started walking up the beach toward dry ground. Halfway up the beach, a large wave hit him squarely in the back sending him face-first into the sand. Obviously rattled, he tried to lift himself up, but quickly realized his hip boots had begun to fill with water and sand from the waves backwash.
The youngest angler of the group, who was standing at a safe distance from the surf, quickly ran down the beach and began pulling the angler, who was in shock and struggling to save his fishing rod, toward higher ground. Luckily, before the next wave crashed, both men made it up the beach to safety. Although both were clearly shaken, they knew the outcome could have ended up a lot worse.

If you plan to fish from the surf, there are a few guidelines to help keep you safe: 1) Never turn your back on the ocean; 2) Before going near the water, watch for 15-20 minutes to check for sets of large waves; 3) Use a designated spotter to watch the waves at all times; 4) Always assume the waves can reach you; 5) No piece of fishing equipment is worth a life or serious injury. If it falls down the cliff or is washed away let it go, it can be replaced. After what seemed like a lifetime, the ocean conditions have finally took a turn for the better. Thursday looks to be a very fishable day and the conditions get better through the weekend. Saturday and Sunday, the forecast out of Eureka is calling for three ft swells, one ft wind waves and wind at five knots or less. Music to the ears of fishermen who've been waiting to head offshore for rockfish and halibut.