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JAUNTS : A Casting Call for Pier Tournament : The fishing competition Saturday is envisioned by Ventura officials as an 'inter-generational event,' joining youths, adults, senior citizens.


Let's see, what will you need to enter Ventura's first fishing tournament off its spiffy, rebuilt pier? Fishing gear, sun block, a little luck and one person 50 years or older.

That's right. You won't need a fishing license or bait, but you will need that all-important older person--unless, of course, you are already such a person.

The Gone Fishin' Sportfishing Tournament on Saturday is envisioned by the city as an "inter-generational event" drawing kids, teen-agers and adults together with senior citizens.

"The goal is to get people to interact with the senior component of the population," said Skip Robinson, recreation coordinator for the city and organizer of the event.

Not every entrant must be accompanied by a 50-plus person, but each fishing party (kids, parents, pals, whatever) should include one. Nor does the senior member of the party have to fish. He or she can drop a line or, if they'd rather, watch for giant starfish clinging to the underpinnings of the pier or ponder "Wavespout," the pier's water-spewing sculpture.

This is a tournament for early birds. Fishing begins at 6 a.m., and judging will be from noon to 1 p.m. But anglers don't have to be there at dawn. They can register for the free tournament any time before the noon weigh-in.

"It'll be real flexible and casual--we want people to have a good time," Robinson said.

There will be a slew of prizes. Restaurants, fishing supply shops and other local businesses have donated dinners, fishing trips, tackle, reels, poles and gift certificates. Raffled prizes will also be handed out.

Anglers will be divided into nine age divisions, in addition to such categories as father-child, mother-child, grandparent-child, brother-sister, and pals under and over 50. The one who snags the biggest fish of the day gets the grand prize--as yet undecided.

There is also a special category for those who reel in sharks, skates, rays and related species. Contestants must weigh them and then release them back into the water so their numbers are not diminished.

The prizes are all based on weight. There will be no prizes for most fish caught. "Then people would just catch, catch, catch," Robinson said. He wants to discourage that and instead encourage people to throw back fish that are not competitive. State fish and game department regulations will be in effect during the contest, but no fishing license is required for fishing off the pier.

The fishing pros from Ventura's Rex Pray Flyfishing Specialties will be on the pier to provide tips on casting with bait or flies and to demonstrate tying flies.

The pier is a popular spot for fishing, now that it has been restored to its original length of more than one-third of a mile. At 1,958 feet, it's the state's longest wooden pier. The $3.2-million restoration completed last year put a new face on the 121-year-old pier, which now attracts walkers as well as fishermen.

For the fishermen, the waters around the pier are yielding halibut, mackerel, perch, bass, barracuda and shark.

Just how big are they? Anywhere from less than a pound to 10 pounds and even heavier, according to Robinson. They are most likely to be in the two-pound range and higher, advises Kelly Roark, who works at Rex Pray's Flyfishing Specialties.

What about bait? "I highly recommend anchovies and mussels," Roark said. Shrimp and squid are good, too. Although bait will be available, anglers can bring their own tasty concoctions.

As for the rod and reel: "Off the pier, most of the fish are not going to be enormous, so a heavy-duty fresh water setup will be fine," Roark said.


* WHAT: Gone Fishin' Sportfishing Tournament.

* WHERE: Ventura Pier.

* WHEN: Saturday, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* COST: Free.

* FYI: 658-4732.

* ETC.: The arts and crafts fair along the beach below the pier will be going on during the tournament.

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