Gambling at Stearns Wharf

Frank Drew has been the owner of Stearns Wharf Bait & Tackle for almost 18 months. He came to purchase it after suffering a serious knee injury that seems to have been fortuitous since Drew has always loved fishing and brings that talent and guidance to his customers. He has become part coach to many young fishers on subjects ranging from fishing to personal behavior and manners.

“I have put everything I have into this shop and I love doing it,” Drew says. “Fishing is like gambling, like the slot machines. You can be sitting there for hours and move to a new spot only to have someone move into that same location and land a big fish. Sometimes you catch lots, other times few. You take your chances but if you keep coming out here, you will definitely catch fish.”

Right now, Drew says halibut, bonito, mackerel, calico bass and many other fish are biting off the wharf and are waiting to be caught. And, fishing licenses are not required on the pier.

For $4 a package, his shop offers frozen anchovy or squid bait or a Sabiki jig for $3.25 to catch your own live bait. And, if you don’t feel like “dragging a pole all the way out here,” Drew says he offers a rent setup complete with rod, tackle and rag for only $5.

“And if nothing is biting, you can gaze off into three-hundred-sixty-degree views, relax and let your mind wander,” Drew says.

During a recent visit of the pier, I saw local young men lowering hoop nets over the edge of the pier for crab. They suggested using as bait anchovies, chicken necks or cut-up mackerel as they tossed back their undersized crabs.

“The types of crab caught are rock, Dungeness or spider,” says Drew, who rents crabbing nets for $3 an hour. “The body width of the crab must be the size of a dollar bill. You bait the net and lower it with a rope, wait ten minutes or so and haul it up quickly hoping not to lose crabs that want to climb out.”

But there’s more exotic stuff in the water, too. Jeff Carpenter and Rafael Garcia, regulars in Drew’s shop, say they caught, respectively, a 40-inch thresher shark and a 110-pound bat ray.

The pier is rough-planked, so wear shoes that cover your toes. It can get cooler and breezy on the pier as well so bring a jacket and blanket that can double as a cushion. You can bring a thermos for hot drinks, binoculars and a bucket for fish if you wish. You can purchase snacks, drinks or bait and tackle at Drew’s shop. And if no fish are biting, just keep your eyes open: Drew saw a 300-pound sea turtle last summer and there have been some colorful sunsets lately. The pier offers some unobstructed views of the sky and the islands.

For more info call Stearns Wharf Bait & Tackle at 965-1333.

Tackle Box Tidbits

• Stardust Fish Report: Catches have been slow, but things could improve. Visit www.sealanding.com.

• Santa Barbara Fly Fishers meeting on April 10. Visit www.sbflyfishers.com for info.

• Trout Derby at Lake Cachuma on April 21 and 22. Contact: www.cachuma.com.

• I continue to get e-mails about favorite fishing spots in California and the Western States. I would like other suggestions before I write my article so please send your ideas to me. So far, Elden gave me good information about the Green River and even loaned me a guidebook of the area. Terry loved a lodge in Northeast Alaska and closer to home on the Madison River, near Ennis, Montana. Diana liked fishing at Shaver Lake but will leave her swimming golden retriever behind next time. Jeff likes Crowley Lake. Luke likes the Eastern Sierra and the Channel. Donna would just like to find time to fish. Please send me an e-mail.