“It is not just about the sport, but about where it takes you.” — Linda Karabin, Ventura County Sportfishing Club

If you already love to fish, or if you’re a newbie who wants to give fishing a try, several groups in Ventura County offer a variety of options, including Channel Islands Sportfishing, the Ventura County Bass Club and Ranger 85 Sportfishing.

Here’s a glimpse of what other fishing groups throughout the county have to offer.

Reel Guppy Outdoors Program

The Reel Guppy Outdoors Program was founded by Kevin Brannon, who saw a need for a free youth fishing program in his local community.

A resident of Port Hueneme, Brannon grew up with uncertainty in a low-income, single-parent household after his father passed away, and spent time in foster homes and shelters.

Living just a block away from the Port Hueneme Pier, he spent hours there and tapped into his resourcefulness, recovering used fishing lines and hooks, a tin can for his fishing pole, and any leftover bait he could scrounge from the pier’s cleaning tables.

Kevin Brannon, founder of the Reel Anglers Fishing Show and Reel Guppy Outdoors, shows off a fish during a fishing excursion.

By age 9, he had worked his way aboard the local party boats, where he helped paying passengers with their fishing, untangling lines and sacking fish.

While out on the boats, he found a place of security and certainty in his otherwise unstable childhood. This time imprinted his passion for fishing and the sea — and helping others.

Brannon carries these values to this day, which he says form the heart and soul of the Reel Guppy Outdoors Program.

“I’m doing this because I want to give back,” said Brannon, 39, who also produces a TV show called Reel Anglers Fishing Show, which is televised in California and produces the Reel Guppy Outdoors Program.

His mission statement is to provide a positive environment and program for youth, using outdoor experiences, emphasizing education and life-building lessons, leadership, stewardship and team building.

“Our catch phrase is ‘catch a memory,’ ” said Brannon, noting that the Reel Guppy Outdoors Program obtained its nonprofit status three years ago.

The youths involved typically fish off the Port Hueneme and Ventura Piers because they’re easy to access, “and you don’t need a fishing license,” he said.

The types of fish they catch include mackerel, bull head, croaker, sand sharks, sting rays and different varieties of perch.

“Some days we’re catching one or two an hour,” Brannon said. “We’ve had days with the Boy Scouts where everybody caught a fish.”

The program also offers boat trips to various places, including Anacapa Island.

“On those trips we cover their lunch and fishing bill, and all the fish they catch on the boat they can keep if they want to,” he said. “If not, we release them.”

In addition to learning the thrill of fishing, youngsters on the boat trips have the opportunity to see sea lions, dolphins, seals, tide pools and other wildlife.

“Most of our stuff is educational and hands-on and teaches them about the ecosystem … while working on team-building and problem-solving,” Brannon said.

Groups of children he has taken fishing include the “respite kids” associated with United Parents, which serves families who are raising children with mental, emotional and/or behavioral disorders.

Excursions involving these kids create an “amazing experience” for the youngsters, stated Hannah Abitia, respite program manager, in a letter written to Brannon.

“Your event added an element that allowed our clients to escape their reality for a few hours, while at the same time nurturing their bodies with the necessary nutrient vitamin D through the sun’s rays, and some fresh air by being outdoors,” Abitia wrote.

“It’s always about catching a memory,” Brannon added. “We want people to know how easy the sport is to do if you have a little bit of knowledge. We want to expose them to nature, the outdoors, and the fun and freedom of fishing.”

For more information, visit www.reelguppyoutdoors.com or call 805-248-2166.

Ventura County Sportfishing Club

Serving children as young as 5 as well as people ranging into their 90s, the Ventura County Sportfishing Club charters local fishing boats so that members can “fish with friends.”

Shawn Hawley and Debra Manning of Santa Paula
with a 58-pound halibut caught a few years ago aboard the New Hustler during an excursion hosted by Hook’s SportFishing, an Oxnard-based group that serves southern California.

The club also offers a few longer trips on charter boats out of San Diego, as well as running a fishing trip to Alaska each year.

“We fish anywhere there is water — mostly local saltwater, but we have members go fishing all over the planet,” said Chuck Brinkman IV of Moorpark, club president.

Newbies to fishing should know that the sport is not difficult.

“That is the nice thing about our club. Our members help newbies out on the boats,” he said. “And our club meetings provide a great deal of info, so that new people can get some info, ideas and assistance.”

The types of fish they catch depend on where they are fishing.

“Locally we go after white sea bass, yellowtail, halibut, rockfish and others,” Brinkman said. “Out of San Diego, we go after yellowfin and bluefin tuna. When we go to Alaska, we catch salmon, halibut, ling cod and rockfish.”

The time it takes to catch a fish varies.

“Sometimes we get hooked up right away; other times it may take an hour,” Brinkman said. “The captain of the boat wants you to catch fish, so they do their best to find some for you.”

Most people think that to like fishing, you must like to eat fish, said Linda Karabin of Moorpark, who joined the club 15 years ago.

“Not true,” she said. “There are so many anglers that love to fish but do not eat it. Many of them practice catch and release. It is not just about the sport, but about where it takes you. Fishing can happen on the ocean, or the mountains, or the streams and lakes, and you can do it almost anywhere in the world.”

Through her involvement with the club, Karabin has fished in Channel Islands, Mexico and Alaska.

She also enjoys club meetings, which feature a speaker — maybe a local boat captain, a reel manufacturer or a lodge owner — who gives members real-time knowledge about fishing.

“It can be about how to tie knots, what jigs to use, what types of rods and reels to use when fishing for the different species of fish, and so much more,” Karabin said.

What she loves most about fishing is the peace it offers to her life.

“Being on the water, away from the hustle of everyday life allows me to unwind and relax,” she said. “I do not worry about the laundry or yard work, or other must-do stuff. I can enjoy having conversation with my fellow fishermen and -women without a cell phone ringing, all while waiting for that fish to bite. And when it does, it is such an amazing feeling.”

She added that more women are fishing now than ever before.

“Women are more independent these days so they like to participate in their own interests — they do their own thing,” Karabin said. “If their other half or family does not like fishing, then they have the opportunity to join a club to talk fishing and go fishing with people they know.”

For more information, visit http://vcsc.info/, visit Ventura County Sportfishing Club on Facebook, or email VCSCchumline@aol.com.

Gold Coast Lady Anglers

The Gold Coast Lady Anglers is a saltwater fishing club based in Ventura that includes women of all ages and skill levels, with members coming from a wide range of professions and backgrounds.

Gold Coast Lady Anglers on a Day Charter aboard the Aloha Spirit, berthed at Channel Islands Sport Fishing.

Founded in 2001 by two experienced anglers, Jeanne Zappia and Jacquelyn Appel, the group’s motto is fun, fishing and friendships.

“Gold Coast Lady Anglers are a group of ladies who love to fish, both on the ocean and lakes and rivers,” said club president Lisa Rizzo, of Ventura. “Our club was established by two ladies who loved to fish and wanted to introduce other ladies to this fun sport.”

The club currently has 58 members from all walks of life, some working, some retired.

“What ties us together is our persistence to become better anglers, teach new anglers, and just have fun on and off the water,” Rizzo said.

While this club is designed for adults, “We occasionally have young anglers come along,” said Rizzo, further noting that “It is not difficult to get started fishing at any age — anyone can fish.”

For those new to the sport, “This is where the Gold Coast Lady Anglers is awesome — we teach each other to fish,” she said. “When we are on a charter boat together we teach each other and work together. When someone catches a fish we all cheer.”

The club also offers yearly seminars that are free to members to learn how to tie knots and cast.

Additionally, it has experts from the fishing industry speak at the club’s monthly dinner potluck meetings, where members learn about gear, tackle, fishing tips and tricks — among other skills.

The club offers up to seven charters per year, and members have fished on Lake Casitas, with the majority of their trips on sportfishing boats out of Channel Islands and Ventura harbors. Additionally, some of the ladies go to Alaska to fish, while others take trips out of San Diego to fish for tuna.

“Our charters are full-day trips as well as overnight trips where we board the boat in the evening and sleep in bunks,” Rizzo said. “When we rise with the sun, we are at the outer Channel Islands where the fish are usually bigger.”

The type of fish they catch depends on the time of year and the water temperature. Locally at the Channel Islands, for instance, they catch yellowtail, white sea bass, halibut, ling cod, red snapper, white fish and assorted rock fish.

“If the fish are biting, we all catch something, and often we share our catch,” said Rizzo, adding that while everyone goes home with fish most of the time, “We do get skunked if the fish are not biting.”

For lake fishing, most fish are released.

“On the ocean sportfishing trips, we take the fish home to eat,” said Rizzo, further noting that the Gold Coast Lady Anglers have put together a cookbook of “amazing recipes” for the fish they catch. “The deck hands will clean the fish, and we go home with fresh filet.”

Many of the ladies have been in the club since 2001, and new members are always signing up to get involved.

“Women make great anglers because we are patient and are eager to learn new skills,” Rizzo said. “We are also instinctive teachers, so our club naturally teaches each other to be better anglers.”

For them, the “thrill” of fishing never gets old.

“The thrill is twofold,” Rizzo said. “First you never know what you are going to catch, and second, it is an accomplishment to land a fish especially after a fight. When a lady angler hooks up, we all are excited for her to land the fish.”

For more information, visit www.goldcoastladyanglers.com/, visit Gold Coast Lady Anglers on Facebook, or email gcla@goldcoastladyanglers.com.

Hook’s Sportfishing

Hook’s Sportfishing is a fourth-generation family-operated business that specializes in providing the finest in saltwater sportfishing experiences in the Channel Islands.

It offers open-party and private charter trips for all occasions; and whether you’re looking for an exotic outer island overnight or multiday adventure to local freelance half- and three-quarter-day trips, it strives to help make unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

As for children and newbies to the sport, “We help them learn how to fish and make those memories,” said Mavette Carlson, operations manager.

The fleet includes the Coroloma with Captain JJ Fuqua, the Estella and the New Hustler with Captain Chris Volaski, and the Outrider with Captain Tucker McCombs.

The types of fish caught on excursions are many, including halibut, sheephead, blue perch, calico bass, lingcod, whitefish, rockfish, bonito and barracuda.

“We catch whatever’s biting at the time,” Carlson said.

If a newbie is having challenges, like a young child, “Our deck hands will go over and help them,” she said. “There have been cases where the deck hand will cast out and wait for a fish to bite; then hand it off to the kids. It’s really cool to watch them catch. I’ve seen kids grinning ear-to-ear even if they catch a little tiny fish.”

Fish are kept or released depending on the catcher’s choice.

“If they want to throw them back, that’s fine,” Carlson noted. With children, however, “We do encourage to keep them if it’s something they caught, because it’s a little game changer. Some kids don’t like fish mom prepared at home. But when they catch their own, it can’t get any fresher — it’s not fishy, it’s not like tuna from a can.”

While Hook’s doesn’t have a minimum age requirement for those who fish, a certain level of maturity is required with children, she said.

“If you’ve got a kid who’s going to be running around throwing bait at people, I suggest leaving them at home,” Carlson said.

Otherwise, anyone of any age and skill level is invited to come out and give it a try.

“Whether it be fresh or salt water, it’s memories that you’re going to have for a lifetime that will instill something when you get older that you’ll want to do with your kids and grandkids,” she said.

For more information, visit http://www.hookslanding.net/, or call 805-382-0402.