SUBURBAN FISHING STARTING TO CATCH ON.
Charlie Burns had a hankering for trout Tuesday, so the retired auto mechanic loaded up his tackle box, filled a nylon bag with bait and headed out to snag a few fish.
He headed straight for one of his favorite spots, deep in the wilds of Simi Valley.
The suburbs of Simi may not be the wildest or most well-known spot for fishing, but Burns is one of dozens of fishermen and neighborhood kids who cast lines there every day. As part of its Urban Waters program, the Department of Fish and Game regularly stocks a pond at Rancho Simi Park with rainbow trout from its Fillmore hatchery.
``When I first heard they stocked the park I couldn't believe it - it's just this little puddle,'' Burns said. ``Then I came down here and caught five fish straight away.''
People are often surprised that a trout-filled pond exists so close to mini-malls and housing tracts.
``I get funny looks,'' said 15-year-old Dave Canfield, who said he's been casting lines at the neighborhood pond since he was a little kid. ``When I'm fishing, people are always coming up and saying, `You actually catch fish here?' ''
The pond is stocked about once a month, along with ponds in the inner city of Los Angeles and more traditional waterways like Lake Castaic and Convict Lake. The day the truck pulls up is eagerly awaited by fishermen out for trout.
``I've been here a few times right after the truck pulled away,'' he said. ``You've got to get here before they're all gone. It's just like fishing out of a barrel. You just put a lure on and pull out a fish.''
According to the Department of Fish and Game, the Simi Valley pond was pumped with total of 200 pounds of fish Dec. 23. That's 560 rainbow trout, none measuring much more than a foot. Along the concrete shore, where seasoned fishermen talk idly with neighborhood boys on dirt bikes, there is talk of bigger beasts below the surface.
``I caught one that big,'' said 10-year-old Danny Jimenez, holding his arms out wide. ``All I used was a little piece of weenie and a treble hook.''
A piece of hot dog is usually not enough, Burns said. He carries a bag stocked with dozens of glass jars of power bait in a vibrant assortment of colors. Fish are choosy creatures, Burns said, and a good fisherman makes sure to mix up the menu.
``I've been places where the only thing they bite on is green bait all day long,'' he said. ``The next day the only thing they bite on is little party marshmallows. You've got to keep it all close.''
On Tuesday, Burns baited his hooks with chunks of Velveeta cheese. He sat quietly by his two rods, each held by a metal coil planted in the dirt. By the end of the morning, he had one fish, a little 10-incher that he gave away to one of the neighborhood boys.
``You can sit here for hours and hours and nothing happens and then all of a sudden you get a hit,'' he said. ``Then there are days when all you catch is a cold.''
Whatever he carries home, fishing in the park is never disappointing, he said.
``All my working years I never had time for something like this,'' he said. ``Now I fish and play golf - that's all I do.''
Photo: (1--ran in SAC, SIMI and CONEJO--color in SIMI and CONEJO) Angler Mike Martz casts his line into the pond at Rancho Simi Park.
(2--ran in SIMI, SAC and CONEJO) Rancho Simi Park's pond is stocked with rainbow trout, part of a Department of Fish and Game program for urban and suburban areas.
Andy Holzman/Special to the Daily News