Being in the outdoors and nature can be a great stress reliever. No cell phones, no email, beautiful mountains and streams, and even a tempestuous Pacific Ocean can be relaxing in the way that a good firm massage can be. At first your muscles are sore, then comes the relief.
After months of the wear and tear of everyday life, a demanding job, and caring for an aging parent tie me in knots, I look forward to fishing on the jetty at Garibaldi and applying nature’s pressure to my stress points, a kind of Shiatsu for the soul, if you will.
Jetty fishing can be a physical activity, and sometimes being exposed to the wind or rain can make it seem like it might be more effort than it’s worth. You need to climb rocks and boulders down to a level where you can cast into the ocean, but not so low as to be soaked by the waves. And the Pacific Ocean on Oregon’s coast is anything but calm and serene, even on a day that’s clear. The waves are big. The water is cold. And the currents are strong. Plus, there’s the sneaker wave. It’s an extra-large wave that lurks behind every few wave cycles and tries to catch you off guard. But after a while the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and the wind against your ears start to melt away all of that tension. And if it’s a sunny day, it can be just glorious.
When you fish off the jetty, your primary prey is rockfish, so called because they hang out in rocky substructures with their many caves and cavities. Your catch is likely to be kelp greenling, cabezon, or, if you’re lucky, a black snapper or striped perch. But that’s not the only kind of fish that might find your bait (sand shrimp) enticing. My partner, Charles Price, once hauled up a wolf eel.
Jetty fishing requires that you carry your wits about you at all times. The jetties are lined with memorials which families have made to fishermen and -women who have fallen victim to the rocks and waves. Never drink alcohol while jetty fishing. And it’s not a place to take kids. When the rocks are wet, they’re extremely slick. You’ll want to wear hiking shoes or sandals that are made to grip slippery surfaces and can get wet. The gusting wind can knock you off balance if you’re not careful. And if it’s raining, you’ll want to wear waterproof rain suits to keep you from getting soaked, or you’ll be wet and cold. I always take a large bucket to haul my bait, snacks, and a bottle of water down the rocks to my fishing perch, and also use the bucket to keep my catch.
I’ve found that fishing is best on an incoming tide. The fish move into the bays with the tide so you’ll want to consult the tide tables and plan your trip accordingly. This may mean getting up before the roosters even consider stirring in order to make the drive to the coast. Or, in my case, I left right after finishing my last bit of work at the office at night, got to Garibaldi around 2 a.m. and paid a small fee to camp overnight in my vehicle at Barview Jetty County Campground. The park has coin-operated hot showers and clean restrooms, and is a safe and scenic place to spend the night or weekend. As I bedded down on my air mattress and snuggled under two sleeping bags in the back of my car, I looked up through the sunroof and could see the stars through the pine branches and hear nothing but the ocean and the wind blowing as I fell asleep.
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 rockfish fillet
- ½ sweet yellow onion
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced into wedges
- 5 asparagus spears, tough bottoms discarded and the rest sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons Thai basil (or regular sweet basil) roughly chopped
1. Heat 2 cups cooking oil in non-stick skillet over high heat and fry fish fillet a few minutes on each side until golden. Plate fish and set aside.
2. In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat and sauté onions until translucent.
3. Add tomatoes and asparagus, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar and stir occasionally, cooking until tomatoes begin to soften and asparagus turns bright green.
4. Turn off heat, add chopped basil and stir until basil begins to wilt.
5. Spoon topping over the fish and serve immediately.