The first fish I caught in Newport Harbor was around 1958 in the family kid’s boat, which was a 10-foot Glaspar with a 5 ½ hp Johnson outboard.
This was before Boston Whalers and way, way before hard bottom inflatables, which was the kid boat of choice from the 1960s to the present.
I was with my older brother Jim and his friend Phil Monroe. I reeled in a three pound calico bass and a short time later a three pound-plus halibut in the “A” mooring area off the Pavilion in Balboa.
During this era. Orange County and the Newport area was far from the built-out impact of the present day. The area where I caught the fish and all over the harbor, except the commercial-industrial area of the Rhine Channel, had a river sandy bottom.
The reason those of us my age know this is that our summer playground was all over the harbor where we swam, dove to the bottom, and caught a variety of fish including halibut, sand sharks and bat rays, which live on the bay bottom. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the last 30 years or more.
Our environmental preserve in the Back Bay is home to about one-third or more of the Orange County flood control basin, which allows inland pollution to flow through the upper bay. Not only does that run-off have fertilizer, pesticides, oil sheens and everything else from folk’s yards, streets, golf courses, etc., but thousands of gardeners blow dirt, dust and grit from yards into the streets.
The last time we caught a halibut anchored in the Turning Basin, instead of the fish belly being white (the natural color), it was dark gray from the two feet of black oily muck that is now the norm of the Newport Bay bottom.
Having picked up mooring weights all over the harbor and replaced dock pilings all over the bay, the only area not impacted by the muck is around the Balboa Yacht Club over to about “J” Street on the peninsula and west to the jetty and beyond.
As this is an election year, I hope we have candidates that will push to use the dock and mooring fees to eliminate the bay bottom pollution.
This winter has offered us some of the best fishing in 20 or 30 years. White sea bass and even yellow tail have been caught all winter. The rock cod closure has expired and they have some of the tastiest white meat of all species. Bass fishing has also been quite productive.
Several noteworthy events coming up: on Saturday, March 15, from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be an “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing” seminar at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, hosted by Champion Harbor 20 Skipper Peter Haynes, who leads two annual racing seminars a year.
I highly recommend attending. I will be there to brush up on the rules.
April 3 – 6 will be the Newport Boat Show at Lido Village. Landside booths, floating displays, and new and used boats for sale tied to floating docks will be available for your inspection.
At the show will be a 30-foot Gemini Catamaran sloop, very popular for it’s less than normal cost. These cruising catamarans are not only stable and comfortable for five or six persons, they have been cruised all over the world. Whether crossing the Atlantic or Pacific or cruising Catalina, Alaska or Mexico, these light weight catamarans will sail faster than conventional monohulls and also cruise quicker under power.
Most catamarans normally cost almost double that of conventional yachts, the Gemini’s price tag is much lower, which makes them affordable to the average boater.