Giving Back- Fishing For A Cause

I think about my dad often. When it comes to matters regarding my mom, I always ask myself, “Would Dad approve?” I’ve had to make a lot of difficult decisions since he passed, and asking myself that question gives me peace no matter the outcome of my decisions.

Now that our situation is more settled, it’s given me time to reflect on the lessons he taught me in general.

One of them was always to give back…not just money, but more importantly time.

My dad participated in a lot of service organizations, as well as, our church. Last week, it just so happened that a couple opportunities popped up where I could offer my time and expertise in service to others. And they involved fishing? Easy call to say yes…

Voyage For Vets II – Legend Full Day

Last Monday (June 7th), I boarded The Legend out of H&M Landing in San Diego with long time owner/operator Chuck Taft manning the helm. It ended up being a rockfishing trip (with a few big bonito thrown in for good measure) in pretty poor conditions.

I barely even fished, but that wasn’t the point.

Joe Hines organized this trip. Joe is an Army veteran that served from 1996-2000. He does fishing charters under the moniker A Joe Charters. I asked him why he organized these trips. He told me he was finding his way after his stint in the Army and found himself spending too much time alone. A deckhand, Steve Perry of the Relentless, invited him out on a tuna trip in 2005. The trip ended up being one to remember, partly because the fishing was amazing, but mostly because getting out gave Joe a new perspective. Finding peace being out in nature, feeling the camaraderie of hanging out with the other anglers and crew…it all filled an empty spot in Joe’s life. He wanted to share that experience with other vets.

Joe went out of his way in organizing this trip to include a broad range of veterans and one active duty member. They came from all branches of the military. They served in a variety of conflicts from Korea to Afghanistan.

Joe paired each vet with a buddy. My buddy was Tom Busch (right). Tom served as a combat engineer in Vietnam. He told me they would send him into the tunnels to find and disarm all the booby traps left behind by the Viet Cong. Pretty scary stuff.

Tom is already a proficient angler. He was just coming off a successful bluefin trip before we met on the boat. Since he didn’t need to learn about the fishing aspect, we mostly just hung out and talked. Tom told me he spent a lot of time fishing and hunting with his dad who served in WWII. He said his dad would wake up with nightmares and didn’t want to talk about his service. Their hunting and fishing trips provided a welcome relief from the day-to-day that gave his dad some peace.

Although Tom was my main guy, I had conversations with a number of the vets. I had a long conversation with a pilot who had recently retired from the Air Force after putting in his 20. He was really interested in my story on how I turned my blog into a paid gig. I gave him tips about blogging, social media and such. He wasn’t much for the fishing, but really enjoyed the networking with guys like myself and the other vets.

Overall, a good time was had by all. A decent amount of fish were caught and the crew donated their filet skills to the vets for the fish they took home. Classy move. I told Joe not to hesitate to reach out for the next one.

LA County vs. LA City Firefighters Fish Off

The second service opportunity I had last week started off the evening of Tuesday, June 8th at the Long Beach Sportfishing landing at Berth 55 in Long Beach. 

The event was the LA City (Los Angeles Fire Department) vs. the LA County (LACFD) Firefighters’ Fish Off.  Other than an excuse to get together, partake of food and drink, and enjoy the brotherhood of their fellow firefighters, the event was organized by Captain Andrew Ruiz of the LAFD to benefit burn survivors. 

Sometimes the burn survivor is one of their own, like Captain Victor Aguirre (right with Andy) who was badly burned in a warehouse fire in Downtown Los Angeles last May.  Other beneficiaries were just plain folks, unassociated with the fire department.  One harrowing story shared was a woman who’s spurned boyfriend lit her on fire. 

Hearing their stories was very moving. 

Going into this event, I didn’t know much about it, or who it was organized to benefit.  To think that these guys risk their lives in service to their communities, then in their off time they were out there raising funds for the victims…it truly made me respect these heroes that much more.

Funds were raised through contributions from various area businesses’ donations, (ex. Fishing Syndicate) that were then raffled off the evening upon our return from our overnight fishing trip.  Boats that participated were the Eldorado and Ahra Ahn (Long Beach Sportfishing), the Thunderbird (Newport/Davey’s Locker), and the Toronado (Pierpoint Landing, Long Beach).

Fishing-wise, I was pretty excited on Tuesday because the Toronado had hit it big at San Clemente.  My buddy Ryan’s brother, Marty Kruskamp, was on the boat and smashed it with 2 big white seabass and a yellowtail.  Unfortunately, the great bite they enjoyed appeared to be a pre-storm “we better eat now because it’s about to get nasty” bite.  Our trip out was really bumpy and we found pretty lousy conditions out at SCI.

One of the firefighters on our boat, Hiro, got bit by the right kind (seabass) just off the kelp line at the island, but it didn’t stay on for too long.  My contribution to the effort was a small whitefish and showing these guys what a high dropper loop looked like (they had all kinds of funky setups going).  Our personal boat JP was a small sheephead.  

It is what it is.  It would have been a lot more fun had Mother Nature cooperated for both of the trips, but it wasn’t to be. 

My buddy Sergio Fainsztein was out with his Angler Chronicles gang for both trips.  They brought out their film crew for the second trip, so look for that episode coming up soon on Bally Sports West (formerly Fox Sports West).

It’s nice that I had these two opportunities to give back to this sport and community that I owe so much to.  I would highly recommend that if you have a similar opportunity, that you raise your hand and participate.  If not, just help a kid who might need it next time you’re out there.  Good karma.  You might be rewarded with a nice fish.  Maybe not, but you’ll feel better being a giver and not just a taker. 

Good luck if you get out there.

Joe Sarmiento
Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is ...