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T tO Trout Opener P Preview i Mono Co. Derbies Crowley Lake Collins, Folsom ’Bows Early-season Browns




Discovery Channel’s

‘Tarzan of L.A.’ Cheats Death In Brazil


Taggin’ Toms! Defeat Turkeys’ Eyesight Plank-cooked Gobbler Recipe

6 Super Bass Tactics Kid-friendly Bassin’ SoCal Rockfish


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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, including Alaska. We are offering a special early season COMBO Halibut and Ling Cod package for the 2018 season. The dates we have selected for our 2018 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2018. This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 30 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You will also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1975.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax. To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS: With Halibut selling for upwards of $25.00 per pound at your local fish market, you should easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed up to 6 Halibut, new for 2018, 4 Ling Cod and 8 Salmon in possession per angler. The biggest Ling Cod this past season was a 60 pounder. Come and fill your freezers!

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Oregon Big Game 2018

RAFFLE HUNTS Winners get:

Extended season, including the Rut Hunt with any legal weapon Expanded hunt area


TICKETS ON SALE DECEMBER 1, 2017 For information visit or any Oregon POS license agent. NEW THIS YEAR: Additional 30 days extended season | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



California Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 7 PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Brittany Boddington LEAD WRITER Tim E. Hovey CONTRIBUTORS Don Black, Mark Fong, Jason Haley, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Todd Kline, Nancy Rodriguez, Bill Schaefer, Mike Stevens SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Kelly Baker

DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES CORRESPONDENCE Email Twitter @CalSportsMan ON THE COVER California trout anglers like Nancy Rodriguez are ready for opening day of the statewide season on April 28, when many mountain lakes, rivers and creeks become available for fishing. There will also be plenty of derbies going on during that first weekend in the Eastern Sierra. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ) MEDIA INC PUBLISHING GROUP CALIFORNIA OFFICE 4517 District Blvd. • Bakersfield, CA 93313 (661) 381-7533 WASHINGTON OFFICE P.O. Box 24365 • Seattle, WA 98124-0365 14240 Interurban Ave. S., Suite 190 Tukwila, WA 98168 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 (206) 382-9220 • (800) 332-1736 • Fax (206) 382-9437 •

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MEET THE ‘TARZAN OF L.A.’ Spend a little time with Gary Golding and you’re sure to be entertained, whether it’s joining this Southland tour guide on one of his outdoor adventures or listening to him speak to kids about his trademarked philosophy of “Consume as little as possible.” He’s eccentric, funny, vulgar, but also passionate. He’ll add a new chapter this month when he appears on the Discovery Channel survival series Naked and Afraid. Brazil will never be the same.




TROUT ROLL CALL After a recent surge of turbulent rain and snowfall, California trout anglers are ready to hit the mountains – weather permitting, of course – and kick off a spring rite of passage: the April 28 statewide trout opener. We have coverage that includes our Nancy Rodriguez sharing one of her favorite secret Sierra spots, an isolated lake where big browns and rainbows lurk.

REVIVING SOCAL STEELIES As the state’s dwindling king salmon runs trigger concern about the iconic fish stock’s future, we sometimes forget that the southern half of California once regularly saw steelhead spawning in rivers and streams from the Ventura to San Diego coasts. There is barely a trace of these sea-run trout in these parts anymore, yet biologists continue to look. In this first of two parts, lead writer Tim Hovey reports on his findings from San Diego County’s San Mateo Creek.


HUNTING GOBBLERS WITH ‘THE CHIEF’ Don Black became a sponge when learning to hunt turkeys, soaking up as much from gobbler gurus as he could. He’s since earned the moniker “The Chief” from his hunting buddies around his Chico home. Black’s gobbler expertise has served him well over the years and he shares some of his favorite memories as the spring season heats up this month.


6 SUPER SPRING BASS TECHNIQUES From flippin’ to topwaters to “shaking the hell out of a worm,” basser Jason Haley shares the half-dozen best tactics for catching lots of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass this time of year.




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The Editor’s Note Outdoor calendar Adventures of Todd Kline: Spring bass frenzy Photo contest winners From Field to Fire: Foiling gobblers’ vision advantage; turkey recipe Rig of the Month: Try an effective but simple trout set-up She Hunts: Skills camp empowers women who want to hunt The Last Laugh: A cartoon by Tim “Spike” Davis

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Collins Lake rainbows Trolling underrated Folsom Lake Crowley Lake a grade-A trout opener option April derbies galore in Mono County Catch more spawntime SoCal bass Rockfish biting off southern coast Unconventional hunting strategy pays off in quest for a wild boar Your pup’s first shed hunt

CALIFORNIA SPORTSMAN GOES DIGITAL! Read California Sportsman on your desktop or mobile device. Only $1.89 an issue. Go to California Sportsman is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Send address changes to California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues), 2-year subscription are $39.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Index Publishing Group, or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues are available at Media Index Publishing Group offices at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2016 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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INFORMATION: California Sportsman | APRIL 2018


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Beautiful Shaver Lake, in the Sierra about an hour’s drive from Fresno, was a favored fishing getaway for the editor in his college days. (“KJKOLB”/WIKIMEDIA)


ince I grew up in the Bay Area, most of my stories from April’s opening day of trout season generally are connected to urban fishing outings at San Francisco’s Lake Merced and across the bay at San Pablo Reservoir. But there is something special about fishing in pristine, highelevation fisheries, as our stories this month illustrate. Some of my favorite memories are trolling for Mackinaw in Lake Tahoe, both in a DIY rental boat as a kid and fishing with a guide years later. In college, Fresno State was a short drive away from the Sierra, and Shaver Lake, located a little more than hour from our San Joaquin Valley campus, was a favorite destination to wet a line. One of the first times I fished there was with my good friend Chris. We headed up Highway 168 – this was the early 1990s, long before a GPS or a smartphone could guide map-challenged college kids – and stopped at a convenience store for snacks, drinks, bait and to make sure we weren’t lost. “You guys goin’ to Shaver? Go that way,” a frumpy but friendly man in the parking lot we’d soon nickname Lester the Hobo told us. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later we arrived at the lake. It was beautiful at 5,600 feet, especially given that we’d escaped the heat and smog of Fresno for at least this Sunday. To this day Chris and I still needle each other about who did better on that outing. (I can confidently say I caught four rainbows to his one, but my friend will say the opposite!) Opening day for trout season is just weeks and soon days away, so if you have a chance to head to the mountains, it’ll be well worth the drive, the traffic and the potential for combat fishing. Merry Fishmas! -Chris Cocoles

SETTING IT STRAIGHT In the February issue of California Sportsman, we left off part of the full name of Cabo San Lucas Sportfishing Charters (619-251-2910; Included here is the logo for the company that provides charters for various species in Baja’s Sea of Cortez off Cabo San Lucas. We regret the inadvertent oversight. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


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ven in Southern California – full of limitless dreamers, crackpots, free spirits and misfits – Gary Golding found a niche. So it goes for the self-proclaimed “Tarzan of Los Angeles.” Tarzan? In L.A.? Anything is possible in this town. And if you spend an hour or so chatting up this Redondo Beach/Hermosa Beach native, you’ll understand that while adjectives like eccentric, outspoken, sarcastic and profane could describe Golding, you’ll walk away understanding too that he cares – about the environment; about animals; about kids; about awareness. And while Discovery Channel audi-

ences will get a look at this character on an episode of Naked and Afraid this month – Golding and his partner battled oppressive heat and blood-thirsty bugs in a Brazilian savanna – his appearance on this show was more than just trying to get through 21 days roughing it in the raw. “I make it very clear that I didn’t go on that show to test my survival skills. I want everybody to know that’s not why I went on Naked and Afraid ” Golding says. “I couldn’t give a sh*t about my survival skills. I just had to do that to carry my message to humanity, which is consume as little as possible.” That’s not just a throwaway line at the end of that quote. Consume as little

He’s the self-appointed “Tarzan of Los Angeles” and looks the part when he appears on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid this month, but as the tattoo reflects, survivalist Gary Golding is passionate about his causes in terms of the environment. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL/GARY GOLDING) | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Golding, himself an adventure-seeker as a youngster, has a soft spot for kids, whether it’s as a guest speaker sharing his message at schools or kayaking the L.A. River as an outdoors tour guide. (GARY GOLDING)

as possible is literally Golding’s trademarked battle cry. He now has that slogan tattooed on his back – he got the ink after he returned from filming the show in Brazil (under that phrase in smaller letters is “For the children and the animals of the world”). “It doesn’t matter who you pray to, what your sexual orientation is, whether you eat meat or not, or whether you choose to feel love or hate in your heart,” says Golding’s website (you guessed it, consumeaslittleaspossible .com). “These things can be debated to no end and are simply distractions from the one true action that can make the planet a cleaner, more sustainable place by tomorrow if done by all of us today.” He hopes that being a little bit eccentric and bombastic doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. “I asked the producer on (Naked and Afraid), ‘So what did the casting agency say when they gave me to you?’ ‘They told me you were a vulgar loudmouth’,” Golding says during his profanity-laced interview. “‘What do you think now after being around me for eight days?’ ‘They don’t know you.’” Golding’s message includes eating more organically by foraging seafood – his YouTube page ( user/thegoldingstate) includes clips of him SoCal pier fishing, diving for sea urchins and eating grunion eggs – and

gathering honey from beehives, part of another Golding project, Bee Warriors. “I travel to schools and bring my live bees and I (purposefully) get stung by them in the class,” he says. Golding stays busy with various other ventures. He regularly is requested to speak at Los Angeles-area schools, to which he brings his bees and various small animals to share his message. He also hosts guests on nature tours (, highlighted by kayaking on the L.A. River and into the Pacific to get close to offshore whales and dolphins. But it’s Consume as little as possible that consumes his life. “I made it to a show to where you consume almost nothing. You start with almost nothing,” Golding says of Naked and Afraid, in which a man and a women shed all their clothes and get dropped in the middle of nowhere to test their physical skills and mental makeup in a less than pleasant setting. (Each contestant can bring one item into the wilderness; Golding brought a machete and his partner a firestarter.) “You’re being filmed in a country that is being devoured by the planet: Brazil. And I told the producers and insisted, ‘I’m not one of these people on the show who’s here to test himself.’ I’m a man who knows exactly why he’s alive. And I’m alive to consume as little as possible. I want to change the world.”

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IN THE LAID-BACK beach communities of Hermosa and Redondo, Gary Golding grew up a rebel. “My complete story is one of defiance,” the 40-something-year-old admits. He spent a lot of time in his grandmother’s backyard, which was full of fruit trees and where as a toddler he’d eat Grandma’s peaches, apricots, lemons; whatever grew out there, young Gary ate it – seeds and all. And there was his fascination with critters and insects. “I was always running around with a jar full of spiders and bees, and I became what I am,” says Golding, who got his love for the outdoors when his dad got him involved in local YMCA Indian Guide programs that had them doing various activities. “So I was, naturally as a child, completely in touch with nature. When I was 6 or 7 I was given a buck knife to wear on my hip when we’d go camping. Nowadays parents don’t give their kids knives.” Although he’s close to his family still, it was clear that he would do it his way, even if it meant lifting a middle finger to authority. “(People ask), ‘What made you like this?’ And I tell them my father. I remember being 6 years old and I said, ‘Dad, I’m cold.’ And he’d say, ‘Go get a #$%^&*% jacket. What am I? Your slave?’” he says. “I knew how to make French toast at 9 from my brothers. I did my own | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


MIXED BAG laundry at 7. I hear parents say, ‘I want him to be a kid as a long as he can.’ But I remember as a kid I felt so empowered and such a badass because I could cook French toast. And I didn’t need my parents from a really young age.” You get the sense he didn’t need much of anything to be content. Around the time of 1999 and the paranoia of the Y2K bug, Golding became obsessed with learning survival skills. It was about then that he purchased his first handgun and became something of a prepper. (“I have two years of food saved up in my house and have desalinators to make the ocean water drinkable, since I live by the ocean. And I have water saved up. I’m into all that too. This is like the funnest hobby that I have.”) Golding took some survival courses in the San Diego area and then headed to Northern California’s Headwaters Outdoor School, where he learned from one of his mentors, survivalist instructor

Tim Corcoran. Golding also picked the brain of another legend in the genre, an Arizona man aptly named Peter Bigfoot, founder of Reevis Mountain School of Self Reliance. They fled together to the desert to learn survival skills in that unforgiving terrain. “I had that Tom Brown book – Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival – from when I was a little boy. And I read that when I was like 12 years old and held onto it forever. I even took it to Brazil with me.” When asked if he’s surprised he’s remained in the urban jungles of the Southland and would feel freer if he lived far away from the chaos of Los Angeles, Golding scoffed at the notion. “People say, ‘Why do you live in L.A., of all places?’The middle of L.A. is exactly where I need to be heard. Even when it comes to survival and living off the grid, OK, do it right in the heart of L.A. and take your house off the grid. You can do it right here in the middle of the city. You can make this place wild. We

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have a safari right out here. In California, the real safaris are out by the ocean. I swim with whales all the time. You don’t have to tuck away in the mountains to be a mountain man.”

TWICE NOW, GARY GOLDING has felt like death was near. The first was off the Southern California coast, in July 2014 during a beach outing with friends in Rancho Palos Verdes. A teen had fallen into a cove with a strong rip current and was in instant danger. Golding was the first one to jump in an attempt to rescue the boy and nearly was swept out to sea himself. Eventually, Golding and a friend managed to guide the teenager to safety (you can watch the video, shot by a bystander, on Golding’s YouTube page). As a hint of a spoiler to his appearance on Naked and Afraid, Golding says he felt like he was in Grim Reaper territory again after he and his partner Karra, an endurance athlete from Wisconsin, bared all in the semi-arid Jalapão region of central Brazil. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


MIXED BAG “There were these blood-sucking flies that sucked our blood for three hours. So right when we get to the location (where they found a water source), she said, ‘Oh my god.’ And my mentality was, ‘I’m walking around sucking the air and I’m eating those (suckers). And she thinks I’m being crazy, but I’m trying to give her the mentality of, look, these are a gift.” Golding loved every minute of the terrible condition he was eventually reduced to by the end of his journey. It’s not surprising then that one of his inspirations is Hatuey, a 16th century tribal chief who fled the island of Hispaniola for present-day Cuba. He was burned alive by Spanish pirates after stubbornly rejecting his captors when they asked if he would accept Jesus Christ and be allowed into heaven. “I loved the part of almost dying. I loved every bit of it. Because to me it’s beautiful art. It was the reality that this thing really happened to me – almost dying. The two times that I almost

died in my life were caught on film, and they’re now beautiful art. I love my moments of almost death,” says Golding, who gleefully asked the camera operator and producer on location if anyone had ever died on the show and said it would be an honor to be the first. “So I don’t view death as negative. I view it was a beautiful transition. I programmed my brain to think that way.” As it turned out, Brazil was everything Golding hoped it would be. “Oh god, it was savanna. I didn’t see one piece of scat. I didn’t see one mammal the whole time I was there. I didn’t see one ripe (piece of) fruit. I didn’t see one snake. I was starving. They put me in this barren hell, but luckily, I had beautiful water.” And by the time he returned to the hustle bustle of L.A., Golding made sure to memorize at least one important phrase in Portuguese, the same words that now adorn his back. “Consumir o mínimo possível! Eu estou aqui pelas crianças e pelos animais do mundo!” CS

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“I told the producers and insisted, ‘I’m not one of these people on the show who’s here to test himself.’ I’m a man who knows exactly why he’s alive,” Golding says. “And I’m alive to consume as little as possible. I want to change the world.” (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Editor’s note: Like Gary Golding at His Naked and Afraid episode was set to air the first weekend in April. New episodes of the show can be seen on Sundays at 10 p.m. Pacific. For more, go to | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


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This tiny rainbow trout from a San Diego County creek gives biologists like author Tim Hovey some hope that southern steelhead, which once thrived in Southland streams, can be restored as they are now all but extinct. (TIM E. HOVEY)


By Tim E. Hovey


hen I first transferred over from the marine division to the inland fisheries program at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, one of the very first projects I was given was to investigate the 1999 southern steelhead sighting in San Mateo Creek in San Diego County. A college student was fishing near the mouth of the creek and had caught a small trout. Thankfully, he knew enough about the drainage to know that the wild trout he had caught was a unique find. After he contacted the CDFW field office and the local newspaper, the sighting became front-page news. The presence of the trout represented the first con-

firmed sighting of southern steelhead in the drainage in over 50 years. In Northern California, the presence of steelhead is not a big deal. The rivers there flow into the ocean and sea-run steelhead adults can easily access spawning habitat during the winter and spring, leaving eggs that will eventually hatch and become fry. Those smaller fish will spend a year or two in the river before heading out to the ocean, essentially completing the life cycle. It’s quite a different story here in Southern California. Creeks that used to host annual runs of sea-run trout in the 1940s and 1950s now sit dry and inaccessible. Dams, diversions and increased development taxing groundwater have all contributed to the lack of water and ocean access.

In fact, down here, the word “river” is a subjective term. Most do not consistently flow to the Pacific, and some haven’t seen consistent ocean connectivity in many years.

SEARCHING FOR STEELIES After the discovery of the trout on San Mateo Creek, I started making regular monitoring trips to the stream to search for additional fish. The sighting was definitely noteworthy, but we really needed to find more evidence of trout presence to put it in context. The fish had been only 12 inches in length and was silvery in color. This specific coloration told me that the trout had undergone smoltification. This is a physiological change that true steelhead trout go through to prepare them for migrating downstream and | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



WILD CALIFORNIA beginning the ocean stage of their life. The outward appearance of the trout changes from the darker parr marks of a resident rainbow to a silvery sheen of a true steelhead. That one detail of the initial discovery told us that the trout had been headed out of the drainage into the ocean when it was caught. Since resident fish usually go through the smolt stage in year two of their life, we now had a general idea of when this one’s parents had entered the drainage to spawn. From the original 1999 discovery and the smoltification data, we deduced that adult steelhead had entered the drainage undetected to spawn in 1997. In Southern California, returning steelhead time their return to their natal creek with the late winter storms. This increase in seasonal rain will hopefully blow through the sand barrier that sits at most local lagoons, giving the returning fish access to upstream spawning grounds. In some cases, this limited access can be measured in days. For steelhead reproduction to be successful, adults will stage at the creek mouth and wait for the chance to access the water when increased flows reconnect the stream to the ocean.

GONE BEFORE LONG Over the next few years of monitoring, we started to put together a clearer picture of the returning San Mateo Creek steelhead. We located other similarly sized trout in isolated pools approximately 9 miles from the coast. Their coloration told us that they were also emigrating out of the creek in 1999 but had become stranded in smaller pools when the water receded, like it always does in the southern part of the state. We monitored this small group for about six months before high water temperatures and exotic (invasive) fish presence contributed to their decline. Less than a year after the ini-

In 2002, this trout was found dead in Devil Canyon Creek, a tributary of San Mateo Creek. A year later similar fish were no longer found there. (TIM E. HOVEY)

tial discovery, the trout in San Mateo Creek were gone. Continued surveys of the entire length of San Mateo revealed nothing but dry sections of drainage and very little water elsewhere. The areas that remained watered were filled with exotic species like largemouth bass, black bullhead and green sunfish, all of which would easily consume or outcompete the trout. Despite the grim news, we decided to branch out and search some of the tributaries to San Mateo Creek. With only two side creeks holding water, the effort would be minimal. The second waterway, Devil Canyon Creek, not only held water but also appeared to be free of exotic fish species. The tributary was only yards upstream of where the resident trout had been located in San Mateo Creek too. During the second search of the creek we found trout. Several 10- and 12- inch fish were located in two pools approximately 1 mile upstream of the confluence. These fish were slightly larger than the fish downstream, but genetic tests performed later proved that they belonged to the same cohort as the fish downstream. Whether

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they became stranded in the creek or decided not to migrate downstream to the ocean is anyone’s guess. We also confirmed that Devil Canyon was free of invasive fish predators. With the absence of trout in San Mateo Creek above this confluence and the absence of exotic fish in this creek, we were able to determine what occurred in 1997 when the adults entered San Mateo to spawn. Since these exotic predators would’ve certainly consumed all eggs and fry left by the adults, it makes sense that the steelhead traveled up San Mateo Creek and made it through to Devil Canyon to spawn. Without the threat of exotic predators, the eggs and fry were left undisturbed, to develop into adult trout.

EVIDENCE OF HOPE We monitored the Devil Canyon trout population for several years, documenting size and behavior. During a spring survey, I noticed that a redd had been constructed in one of the larger pools. A redd is a spawning bed that trout and salmon build to prepare to spawn. Excited by the discovery, we were hopeful that the resident fish would leave offspring.




Approximately six months later we observed juvenile trout in the lower section of Devil Canyon. These fish were clearly from the group further upstream and genetic analysis would prove that. Unfortunately, this group was located in the last watered pool in the creek and only yards from the San Mateo Creek confluence, home of the exotic predators. After monitoring the juvenile trout for a month, a small rainstorm moved through and washed them down into San Mateo, where they were probably preyed upon by the non-native fish. We continued to monitor the adult trout in Devil Canyon until there was only one left. That last fish, a male, was last seen in September of 2003 in a small pool in Devil Canyon Creek. From their discovery in 1999 to the

fall of 2003, resident trout, the offspring of sea-run steelhead, inhabited the wetted sections of San Mateo Creek and Devil Canyon Creek. We determined that anadromous adults had entered the creek in 1997, made their way to Devil Canyon and spawned. Some of those offspring emigrated out of the creek during a high water event in 1999 and were discovered. The remainder stayed in Devil Canyon and spawned the following year, leaving juveniles that likely never made it out of the drainage. The last of the Devil Canyon trout were observed on the drainage in 2003.

A DIFFICULT PLACE TO SPAWN The regular steelhead runs that Southern California used to experience in the 1940s and ’50s began to decline

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Biologists are concerned that steelhead might never recover in Southern California, but they continue to survey creeks like San Mateo in hopes of finding specimens. Aligned against the sea-run trout is a grab bag of invasive species, development and dropping water tables affecting stream flows. (TIM E. HOVEY)

sharply when stream access became inconsistent for returning spawning adults. Increased development taxing groundwater, dams and drainage channelization all contributed to a reduced stream flow, limiting or eliminating ocean access. Occasional access to natal streams may be available during heavy winter storms, when returning steelhead will take advantage of these opportunities to migrate up these creeks to spawn.



WILD CALIFORNIA Unfortunately, these brief periods of access are inconsistent and extremely limited. If returning steelhead are not staged at the mouth of the creek when it opens up, they may not gain access to complete their life cycle. Stream access is not the only obstacle steelhead face in returning to the drainages of today. Those fish species that weren’t present in the creeks 60 to 70 years ago now occupy almost all coastal drainages where steelhead historically spawned. Even if returning steelhead can access their home creeks, the presence of these non-native fish would certainly reduce the chance of successful steelhead recruitment. With these present-day obstacles facing steelhead, their occasional presence in coastal creeks in Southern California can be considered remarkable. Consider a fish that leaves the creek and spends

Hovey with the last trout he and his team of biologists pulled out of Devil Canyon Creek way back in 2003. (TIM E. HOVEY)

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Steelhead like this one pulled from a Ventura County creek used to be common in Southern California streams. These days, despite long odds, biologists continue to seek out evidence that runs can someday be reborn. (TIM E. HOVEY)

three years in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles on its journey. That same fish will find its way back to that same creek to hopefully access spawning grounds to complete their

life cycle. The odds of success after such a lengthy journey are incredibly low. However, even against these insurmountable odds, somehow Mother Nature finds a way. CS

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Editor’s note: Next month, how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region is attempting to restore steelhead runs in Southern California creeks. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



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• Fully guided fishing with experienced guides • All rods, reels, & tackle • Fish filleting, packaging, & freezing • Delicious meals • Private accommodations • Wireless internet (bring your laptop!) • Satellite television | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman







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s e r u t n e v d A We’re not ashamed to admit it: Todd Kline has the kind of life we wish we could experience. Kline’s a former professional surfer, a successful co-angler on the FLW Tour and a Southern California bass guide, plus he gets to travel the world as a commentator for the World Surf League’s telecasts. Todd has agreed to give us a peek on what he’s up to each month. For more on Todd or to book a guided fishing trip with him, check out, and you can follow him on Instagram at @toddokrine. –The Editor At the beginning of March the bigger bass were still deep. They were eating the Revenge jig paired with a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog. (TODD KLINE)

Here’s another big girl caught on an Okuma spinning set-up and light line. With about 15 feet of visibility, you really have to use light line to get the larger bass to eat. (TODD KLINE)

With the change of season from winter to spring, my guide trips have picked up. This was a pretty good day for Russ and Nadine, who hired me for a full day on the lake. Let’s get you on the water at! (TODD KLINE)

Parker Wright (left) and I fished a National Bass West Team Tournament at Diamond Valley Lake in mid-March. We weighed 23.93 pounds, which was only good for a 6th place out of 42 boats. But it goes to show you that the big fish are on the move! (TODD KLINE)



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Paul Young is the winner of our monthly YoZuri Photo Contest! He caught this nice striper on California’s San Joaquin Delta this past winter, and his pic scores him gear from the company that makes some of the world’s best fishing lures and lines!

Randy Harbolt is our monthly Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to this shot of his wife Haley and her Northeast Washington bull elk. It wins him a Browning hat!

For your shot at winning Browning and Yo-Zuri products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to ccocoles@, or to California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or internet publications. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



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ome 10,000 years after California’s native turkey species went extinct – hunters can’t be blamed since there was no population to speak of – thanks to hunters, gobblers thrive in the state. Initial attempts to establish populations with pen-raised birds released into the wild largely failed, as they did across the nation. Authorities agree that the successful introduction of wild birds captured and then relocated to various states where hunters clamored for the opportunity to hunt this iconic creature was made possible with the development of the cannon net. Family groups captured under those nets

and then released into appropriate habitats went forth and multiplied. State wildlife agencies, volunteers, and hunters, along with the invaluable aid of scientific study and resources of the National Wild Turkey Federation, rightly claim credit for the restoration of these animals once feared close to extinction. With the explosion of their numbers, states began offering hunting seasons. California’s first was a fall hunt in 1968, followed by a spring hunt in 1971. Most early planting efforts were in the national forests and especially on private lands of lower oak savanna, where the newcomers would have the best chance of isolation and protection, allowing them to best establish their num-

Author Don Black (inset) has become something of a turkey whisperer among his hunting buddies who, like him, look forward to both fall and spring gobbler seasons year after year. (DON BLACK) | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Black (second from right) is known as “The Chief” in his hunting circle. (DON BLACK)

bers. Taking to wing and foot, some members of the growing flocks quickly began a nomadic journey, generally following drainages into flats along rivers and creeks, as well as agricultural fields and orchards. Once uncommon, turkey now can be spotted throughout California. Face it: While the successful recovery and population explosion here in our state and elsewhere have many claimants, it’s the wild turkey’s remarkable adaptability, resilience and survival instincts that deserve most credit. Whereas it was once thought that the birds could only survive in certain limited vegetative and climatic conditions, they’ve proved the experts wrong by going out and making a living in most of the state’s vastly different habitats and climates. California now offers a three-

bearded-bird limit in the spring and a two-bird, either-sex hunt in the fall. We also have additional youth hunts and a special bow season that will take place next month. Recognizing the proximity turkey range to population centers, bows and pellet rifles are authorized methods of take, in addition to the traditional shotgun. Turkeys have become an embarrassment of riches here. Our population is conservatively estimated at 250,000 birds spread across most of our counties. I am a confirmed turkey hunting fanatic, and am proud to announce that there has never been a better time to test your skills against what at times appears to be the stupidest, most gullible prey, and at others the wisest, craftiest, most cunning, devious game bird you’ll pursue. The hunt will have you patting

46 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

yourself on the back or weeping real tears of frustration while slapping your hat on the ground to tear tufts of hair from your head in frustration.

I BEGAN HUNTING TURKEYS before the internet was a thing. That meant that I had to read books and articles, listen to audio cassettes – later CDs – attend seminars and banquets, and pester everyone I knew who hunted turkeys. Now there is an entire turkey hunting industry in which so-called authorities, experts and media personalities tout their wares and advice on whatever platform you prefer. Besides being the gobbler fanatic that I’ve already confessed to, I’ll add gear guy to my character flaws. Once I got rolling on my quest, I collected every known device I could find that purported to make turkey sounds: mouth, box | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


NORCAL calls, pots, tubes, wing bones, turtle shells with embedded slates. I even had a tin cranking device listed as a turkey call that turned out to be a diver duck call. The internet and eBay arrived midway through this journey, which kept me broke and on a first-name basis with FedEx, UPS and postal delivery persons. Besides the calls, I amassed decoys, turkey vests, camo clothing, cushions, chairs, facemasks. If I was convinced or even suspected it would make me a more successful turkey hunter, I had to have it. The upshot of all this inquiry and passion is that I have a cool collection and some valuable and useless junk. What’s more, I have killed lots of turkeys and was awarded the annual Chuck Graves conservation recognition for 2009 by my local NWTF committee. Most satisfying personally is being named “Chief Many Spurs” and “The Chief” by the small group of friends I get together with most springs for turkey camp. Sounds silly? Maybe it is, yet traditions and reverence for the wild turkey set apart the turkey hunter from someone who kills turkeys. I imply no snobbery – no fly versus bait rivalry here. Harvesting and feasting on the wild turkey is one of the oldest traditions in the United States, one we nearly lost due to the decimation of the population of the bird Benjamin Franklin advocated we adopt as a national symbol around the time our country was born. Those are the values I want to tap into on each hunt and encourage all hunters to experience.

THERE IS NO LACK of expert advice on how, where and with what weapon and load, projectile, gear and clothing, tactics and sounds will help ensure your success in the turkey woods. Read, watch and listen; there may be a gem embedded in the malarkey they perpetuate. The one true voice, however, I 48 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

When young Jack (hunting with his dad Dan) bagged his first tom, the author was just as excited as the lad was. Later, they all sat down at the table to share the harvest. (DON BLACK)


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“Harvesting and feasting on the wild turkey is one of the oldest traditions in the United States,” the author writes. “Those are the values I want to tap into on each hunt and encourage all hunters to experience.” (DON BLACK)

have discovered in the turkey lexicon is that of Tom Kelly. Read his The Tenth Legion. He suffers neither fools nor so-called experts, poachers nor well-heeled boors. More than anything else, this book and his others make vivid the landscape – the thorns, brambles, and swamps – turkeys inhabit, the undulations of terrain, as well as the scent of blossoms that permeate the spring air. No one I have found is more adept at describing and individuating the wild turkey, the wonderful serendipity of its nature, and the characters whose fortune it is to hunt them. Colonel Kelly tells us that we will kill a lot of turkeys we “don’t deserve” and won’t kill a lot of turkeys we “do deserve.” He also tells us that in frustration after a season or seasons of hunting a “tough turkey,” that despite all our best efforts to collect it, it eludes us, we will “give it away” to another hunter, who, failing just as miserably to kill it, will give it back to us. I’ll explain. When I arrived at turkey camp late one beautifully calm, sunny spring opening day, I was greeted by four celebrating friends who pointed to four dead turkeys arranged in the shade of a travel trailer. With envy and impatience, I quickly shed my casual clothes, slipped into my camo

duds and collected my gun, vest, calls and decoys. Setting up my camping accommodations and launching my boat was a delay I couldn’t endure. I was offered bribes of cold beer and goose pepper sticks, but conned my friend into transporting me across a wide expanse of river to hunt the area we’d named “Virgin Meadows” because several kids and rookies had taken their first bird there. I scrambled up the crumbling bank, snaked through the 100-yard band of cottonwood trees, poison oak, blackberry tangles, salt brush and lush, green, knee-high grass to the 10-acre clearing with small islands of standing oaks, cottonwoods and brush. Somewhat centrally located was a hump of ground supporting two gnarled standing cottonwoods, along with several wind-blown and flood-eroded downed trees. It formed a perfect hide where we’d built a blind of downed limbs and brush. For once, I’d managed in full daylight to enter the area without spooking any visible birds. I quickly staked out two hens and a jake decoy, brushed away the potentially noisy leaves and twigs, arranged my calls, loaded my gun and sat down on the two fat cushions my

50 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

butt demands I carry to avoid unnecessary fidgeting. After waiting a couple long minutes to let the scene quiet down again, I called with a few yelps, purrs and putts. A very loud and close gobble from the trees and brush to my right startled me. Seconds later, a long-bearded tom strutted, pausing to drum with his snood lengthening and dangling. His head turned a vivid white, blue and red vision of horniness. He fluffed his feathers and arranged them as each had to appear its sexiest best. The bird rotated his fan from side to side like the hip gyrations of a strip tease, and then pranced his way across the 75 yards of open ground, ending up aggressively posturing beside my jake decoy. I shot him. I didn’t deserve him.

LIKE ALL TRADITIONS, IN turkey hunting they culminate in one’s first turkey, where given time and nurturing, they can expand into a lifelong passion and obsession. I suspect young Jack’s first turkey is such an event. I felt honored to be invited by Jack and his dad to accompany them on Jack’s first hunt, the youth opener that takes place for a stretch during the season. Dan, Jack’s father, is a longtime turkey hunter who had the advantage of hunting some of | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


NORCAL the private holdings where wild Rio Grandes were initially introduced in our area. Once I met him, I pestered Dan with my questions about turkey hunting, but it was several years before we became friends and I met his family. By then, I had some notoriety as a turkey-obsessed character. Dan had secured me permission to access Virgin Meadows and our morning hunt there began on the opposite of the water. But after creating a couple of set-ups, we’d neither seen nor heard birds. We took a break, and over a camp stove, Jack demonstrated how to crack eggs one-handed into a frying pan. I could never do that, so I was impressed with the kid already. While we were eating, we heard a lonesome midmorning gobble that to me signifies that someone had been shut out of the morning lovefest and was looking for action. That’s another bird I probably didn’t deserve, but I’d take him anyhow, and it was a

bird just right for Jack. In short order we were over and settled into the blind. Jack was primed and prepped, nestled between Dan’s outstretched legs. But with no action and sightings within the first half hour, Jack’s attention and optimism began to lag. Jack and Dan sat to my left, with only about a foot between us. In this spot I had been backdoored and sideswiped many times. Without making too much movement, I scanned behind and to the left. Six young toms marched single file and silently. If they didn’t veer, they’d end up practically competing for space between Dan’s legs and Jack. I whispered to the duo to get ready and look to their left rear. Rather too abruptly, those six jakes were on us. With remarkable poise and deliberation, Jack let the first two pass until the third entered the arc of his restricted swing. His shot caused chaos as birds scattered half-gobbling,

some running and some flying away. Except for one, the one Jack’s shot left flopping in the grass. Even a 15-pound first-year tom would seem huge to an 11- or 12-year-old hunter. At first Jack wouldn’t pick it up as it flopped around. Encouraging him to hoist it up for pictures, he would grab a leg, drop it, grab it again, drop it; it was like a pup on its first retrieve. Finally, when the bird ceased its movements, Jack hefted it up, its feet level with his face, its head nearly touching the ground. That’s a photograph I’m pleased to have taken. The look of wonder and the thrill of accomplishment etched in Jack’s beaming grin meant I don’t need to see the photo, for the moment is etched in my memory. For such opportunity to hunt turkeys and steep myself in and pass on its traditions and blessed bounty, at least in one respect, California is justly a golden state. CS

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By Scott Haugen


was comfortably perched against the base of an old maple tree as the big tom across the field took his sweet time coming to my calls. Sitting with a shotgun resting on my knee, I wanted him to close to within 40 yards before taking my shot. As I sat and worked my diaphragm call, movement to the right caught my attention. It was a hen and she was walking right at me. She walked to within 4 feet of my barrel and I dared not move. She stared right at me, twisted her head from side to side, stacked her feathers tight to her body and kept walking past. She was without a worry in the world. Obviously, she’d heard my calls and then came over to inspect. While she didn’t bust me, she did get the tom moving, but unfortunately he went right to her, passed by me and soon was out of shotgun range.

ASK ME ANYTHING Why is it a turkey can approach within a few feet of us, then another time bust us when they are over 100 yards away? Why is it that when flying into a roost or attempting to land on a fencepost, turkeys often miss their mark? And why do turkeys constantly tilt their head from side to side in such a nervous manner? The answers lie in eye position. Turkeys’ eyes are set far apart from one another, on the opposite sides of their skull. Turkeys see in color – like most birds do – and possess a

Stay still as a tom approaches your calling set-up, as their keen eyes can detect the slightest of movement. Don’t be surprised if they walk to within spitting distance of you. (SCOTT HAUGEN) | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman






very time we deliver a wild turkey seminar – either how to hunt or cook them – there’s always someone in the audience who asks, “Are those big, wild toms really worth cooking?” Our answer to that is always the same. “Yes!” Of course, that is followed by a mini-lecture on the importance of caring for your turkey in the field. To get the most from these birds, get them quickly cleaned and cooling. Although it’s easy to pluck them, we tend to skin the birds and almost always cook the breast meat separate from the leg and thigh meat. Breast meat cooks quickly and can dry out using traditional cooking methods. Don’t leave it in the pan or on the grill as long as you would a chicken breast. Plank cooking the breast will not only keep it moist and tender, it will impart wonderful smoky flavors. Use a cooking thermometer to avoid overcooking. For those legs and thighs, slow cooking or pressure cooking is the way to go. It may not look like there’s a lot of meat on those bones, but once it’s all been cooked down, there’s easily 1 to 2 pounds of delicious turkey to enjoy. One turkey breast One lemon, sliced One collard, cabbage or large kale leaf 1 tablespoon mayonnaise One wood plank, soaked in water or wine at least two hours

If you bag a spring tom, Tiffany Haugen says to use special care in preparing a feast, including cooking the breast separately from other pieces and not overcooking it. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

TENDERIZING MARINADE ½ cup red wine ½ cup Worcestershire sauce 1⁄3 cup olive oil One small onion, diced 4 cloves garlic, crushed ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon black pepper

FILLING 2⁄3 cup cream cheese, softened ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese ¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives and/or basil) 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 3 cloves garlic, minced In a sealable plastic bag, mix marinade ingredients. On a flat surface, pound turkey breast to a thickness of ¼ to ½ inch with a meat mallet. Place turkey breast in marinade bag and marinate; keep refrigerated at least eight hours. In a small bowl, mix filling ingredients until thoroughly combined. Place lemon slices evenly over wood plank where the turkey will be cooking. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise over bottom side of the collard, cabbage or kale leaf. Place marinated turkey breast on a large platter or baking sheet; dab excess moisture with a paper towel. Spread filling evenly over turkey breast

56 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

and roll up to fit on wood plank. Place stuffed turkey on lemon slices and cover with the collard, cabbage or kale leaf, mayo side down. Plank cook on a medium-hot grill for 20 to 30 minutes or until turkey reaches an internal temperature between 160 to 165 degrees. Check plank frequently and use a spray bottle of water to douse any flames; move to indirect heat if the plank is burning too quickly. Let cool five to 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at scotthaugen. com. Follow Tiffany on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and watch for her on the online series Cook With Cabela’s, The Sporting Chef TV show, and The Hunt on Netflix. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Using a decoy to divert the attention of an approaching tom will help turn the bird’s focus away from you, allowing for a solid shot opportunity. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

visual acuity estimated to be close to an 8-power binocular, but due to their eye positioning far to the side of their head, they have poor depth perception. In fact, it’s the position of a turkey’s eyeballs that accounts for the bird’s monocular vision, which equates to a poor depth of field. This explains why they can get so close to you and not get spooked as long as you remain stone still. If a turkey busts you from a distance, it’s likely because you moved. Even a slight turn of your head can alert a turkey a long ways off. Look at a turkey through an 8-power binocular and that’s likely close to what they see when looking at you. This is why it’s imperative to sit still when a bird’s approaching and is in sight. It’s because of turkeys’ keen eyesight that many hunters choose to hunt from ground blinds. Even veteran gobbler gunners will turn to a

pop-up ground blind when sitting. Turkeys might maintain eye contact over a great distance for extended time periods. If you’re introducing youth to turkey hunting, ground blinds are perfect for hiding their movements and fidgeting. However, just because a turkey is closing in on you doesn’t mean their visual acuity improves. While they still maintain a 300-degree field of view, their vision is monocular, explaining why they tilt their head from side to side in sporadic fashion. True, turkeys are very nervous, but not because you may have done something wrong. It’s because they can’t clearly decipher or identify an object in front of them. They are under attack from predators their entire life, from both the ground and air, and they know that any mistake can be costly. This is why they are constantly looking for movement from any and all directions.

58 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

WHAT THEY SEE A turkey’s monocular vision and poor depth perception explains why a tom will mount a hen decoy, or why they’ll approach so closely to a ground blind or a stationary hunter perched against a tree. The closer a bird approaches to your set-up, the more important it is to stay calm and remain still. Knowing turkeys don’t have the best vision adds confidence. Before a tom pops into view, make sure to be in a comfortable shooting position and don’t move until it’s time to shoot. If you know you have trouble sitting still, hunt from a ground blind since it offers the best concealment. If bowhunting for turkey, hunting from a popup ground blind is by far the best approach. Once you try getting to full draw on approaching toms, you’ll see for yourself that this is nearly an impossible task if you’re not under cover. If you want to go after them on | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


All turkey hunters, including bowhunters, will benefit from a ground blind. Author Scott Haugen is all smiles over this late-season tom he called to within arrow range. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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the ground – with no cover – take the shot when they are facing dead away. Their worst visual window is directly behind the head, so draw while their head is down and let the arrow fly at the middle of the back between the shoulders. This shot placement will hit the spine and lungs. Knowing all we can about the game we pursue helps us better understand how to approach hunting them. When it comes to turkeys, their eyes can be a hunter’s best friend or worst nightmare. Pay attention as a turkey approaches, and know when and when not to move. When it comes time for the shot, play it smart, because these birds can react so fast, you might only get one chance. CS Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book Western Turkey Hunting: Strategies For All Levels, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit scotthaugen. com. Scott is a full-time author and host of The Hunt on Netflix. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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hile turkeys are considered the “king of spring” by hunters, the most popular gamefish in America is right up there, so perhaps we can call them a prince, if not your majesty. This month can be epic for all bass species if you employ these proven tactics.

FLIP OUT Flippin’ started with giant rods. Anglers held heavy mono in one hand and pulled it sideways before guiding the rod over heavy cover, releasing the line and flipping the bait into likely bass hidey holes. The technique evolved to include pitching, which is more common now. The terms are interchangeable. Pitching involves similar mechanics, but with shorter rods and lon-

ger casts – still placed perfectly into perceived strike zones, though. Hold your bait in one hand and drop the rod tip toward your feet. Using a pendulum motion, extend the rod tip deliberately but swiftly toward your target while releasing the bait from your hand. Just watch those hooks! Ideally, you’re slinging the bait across the water on a low trajectory to land softly and without any splash. Just slide it into the spot. Jigs are ideal. They allow you to cover a lot of water and react to targets you see like pilings, docks, down trees, boulders casting shade – whatever’s there. Slide a jig in and let it fall on a slack line. When it hits bottom, carefully lift it or give it a soft shake, and then retrieve it rapidly so as not to get hung up. Recast immediately. Bass are ambush predators. They wait; they lurk. Show them a blue-

Whether you’re targeting big smallies with small swimbaits, or like author Jason Haley (inset) and flipping a Texas-rigged Senko for largemouth in submerged trees, spring is a wonderful time to be fishing for bass. (BASS ANGLER HEADQUARTERS/JASON HALEY)

gill imitation jig and they’ll woof it immediately if they’re going to bite. There’s no need to work it all the way back. Senkos, Texas-rigged worms and weedless tubes also work for flipping. Worms work better in grass. This month, expect some bedded bass – | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


NORCAL depending on what region you’re fishing – and plenty of prespawners. The spawn stage should determine your pace/action. In postspawn, look for fry balls, bass suspending on treetops or deeper fish. Try moving faster and look for a reaction bite. For bedded females, slow it down. You may have to entice them. Prespawners should be eager. Don’t spend too much time in one place. They should bite quickly if present. You can also flip with a spinning rod; just avoid heavy cover. Grab that line, open the bail and flip your bait into a likely spot. Shorter rods are great in tight quarters or for bank anglers hiking spot to spot. Practice in your yard with a hula hoop or similar target. Try to softly land a lure in the circle.

CHUCK AND WIND Casting lures is simple and dated, but of course it still works. We’re talking cranks, spinners and swimbaits, all of which can be thrown with spinning or baitcasting equipment. There are subtleties within each discipline, though. Get familiar with all of it. A well-placed spinnerbait is a great baitfish imitator. I prefer a roll cast and it requires a baitcaster. A 6-foot, 6-inch medium rod with slick guides is fine. You want the rod tip somewhat limber, with power in the rest. Use the soft tip to sling the bait and use your thumb to reduce spool speed and backlashes. Again, practice in your yard. Spinnerbaits can be slow-rolled near cover or fan-casted in all directions to cover deep and shallow water. Blades are great search baits. Pick off aggressive fish or observe chasers in an area. Now that you’ve located fish, slow down and use another tactic, if necessary. Cranks excel in open, rocky habitat, but also over submerged grass. Tick the tops with a slow, steady retrieve. That’s usually enough. If you get hung up, snap it loose. That can also trigger strikes.

The author caught and released this spotted bass flipping Senkos in the back of a bay. What stage the spawn is in should determine your pace/action when targeting fish in spring. (JASON HALEY)

Swimbaits and glide baits are increasingly popular. They excel yearround, but particularly prespawn. Try large ones with a slow, steady retrieve to target trophies. According to Colby Pearson, a swimbait specialist who routinely

64 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

catches giants, “There’s a big difference between the beginning of this month and the end.” Pearson targets “holding locations,” not spawning destinations, and believes truly big bass hold in the same deep-water haunts near spawning zones be-

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Anglers cast and retrieve hard lures over a shallow flat, a time-tested and still viable tactic. (STEVE BRETH)

fore and after the spawn. He throws “conventional stuff” but has become deadly with glide baits. Experts like Pearson consider approach, angles and cadence, along with map study, among other factors. “Uphill retrieves can be effective, mostly on smallmouth,” he says. The fish crowd prey toward the surface/bank. Pearson calls it a “bite through psychology,” noting that big fish don’t feel comfortable up shallow very long. He typically prepares for one cast, but caught his most recent NorCal donkey in open water on the fifth cast by going deeper and changing cadence. Little paddle tails crept along the bottom will catch numbers, with smallmouth and spots being particularly susceptible. Bass track, follow and strike swimbaits using visual cues, but crank bites tend to happen after the lure bounces off targets. Kill your spinnerbait retrieve in open reservoirs with steep banks and the vertical fall will trigger strikes. Snap the rod tip to get the blades turning again. Oftentimes, the rod will load up simultaneously with a fat bass. 66 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

RISE TO THE TOP It’s lonely on top, but not always. Most anglers neglect topwater patterns until summer, but they can provide light’s out action now. All species should be shallow and relatively close to bedding areas. When water temps reach the upper 50s, brace yourself. I love poppers for targeting beds or structure. I use a spinning rod, and long, precise casts are the key. Hit your target and twitch the lure a few times without moving it from the strike zone. Let the ripples dissipate before moving it and make sure you see it go under before coming tight. Buzzbaits perform better in the postspawn and excel in grass. The River2Sea Whopper-Plopper, a stickbait with swiveling rubber tail, is deadly. It takes heavy tackle to throw and practice to master. But they cast a country mile. Walk-the-dog baits like Zara Spooks allow anglers to really cover water and search. Bass targeting baitfish in open water are susceptible – we’re talking smallmouth and spots. The smaller “puppies” of these baits are perfect for spinning rods. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


NORCAL Drop your rod tip down after the lure lands, then raise it slightly and pop it down a few inches. Reel the slack to keep the line tight while watching the lure. Let it correct itself before twitching again. It’s designed to walk, so don’t overpower it. You’ll find rhythm. Topwater is addicting. Strikes are visual and big and small bass can be fooled.


Zip Decker caught this nice smallmouth with a Zara Spook. Walk-the-dog topwater baits allow anglers to really cover water and search. (STEVE ADAMS/BASS ANGLER HEADQUARTERS)

My tournament partner’s pops, Mark, honed his skills on a river. He coined the phrase “shaking the hell out of a worm.” We all laugh, but it works! Bass can go deep, even towards the end of spring, during a prespawn cold front or postspawn sun/high pressure. You may have to go 30 feet deep with finesse baits. Try 6-inch straight-tail Texas-rigged worms with tungsten bullet heads and fluorocarbon. Carbon is invisible under water

68 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

and has less stretch. Tungsten offers a smaller profile and provides a better feel for those subtle bites at depth. Get your bait on the bottom and reel the line tight. Gently lift up and feel what’s there. Sometimes there’s a tap, but often something just feels wrong. Reel the slack out slowly as you lower the rod. Jerk! That’s all there is to it. You may have to shake the bait in place rapidly rather than slowly pulling up. You’ll feel the bottom clearly as you gain confidence. Shake, shake, shake – all the way back while working your way through whatever lies below. If you don't have electronics, this technique is a great way to mentally map out the bottom. You’ll distinguish hard from soft bottoms, rock piles, trees, etc., and can target the habitat from there.

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NORCAL can cruise the shallows and observe bass. “Sight fishing” is used to describe fishing for visible bass, which is the opposite of blind casting. It’s effective, particularly when instincts to spawn and protect are strong. Whether it is bed fishing or pitching baits in the path of bass cruising the shoreline, controlling distance and noise helps. It takes practice and experience. Above all, gauge the fish’s mood. Males are typically smaller and more aggressive. Sometimes females are finicky and just want to move intruders away from the nest, rather than eat. Removing the male can help. Put him in the livewell while you fish for the big girl. Conventional wisdom says to use white baits for visibility, but there’s no rule of thumb. Find what works. I use nest-raiding imitators like Beavers and Chigger Craws in natural colors.

The author’s daughter Makena Haley caught this bass all by herself shaking a Texas-rigged Senko on a spinning rod. (JASON HALEY)


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There’s a reason Haley is so happy this time of year. Spring means spawning bass, and with several effective tactics at your disposal, this is your chance to get out and catch some. (JASON HALEY)

Watch your line and the fish. Don’t react to her movement or seeing your bait move. It’s easier said than done, but make sure your line goes tight before setting or you’ll be starting over. When a fish moves toward your bait and goes nose down, she’ll usually take it. At times, my tournament partner Logan Miles uses aggressive tactics. He hooked a smallmouth last season with a jerkbait. It took repeated casts and multiple follows, but the bass eventually grabbed the rear treble. Bed fishing can be fun and rewarding, but release females to spawn.

GO LIVE There’s nothing like live bait. Minnows, crayfish or nightcrawlers from the nearest tackle shop catch bass when nothing else will. That’s why most professional guides include it in their arsenals, depending on clientele and their objectives. If you prefer to bank fish with an ice chest or just want to take the kids down to the pond, you’re money with shiners under a bobber. Drop anchor in your favorite cove and watch that bobber dance. Wade the river and drift nightcrawlers or sun worship with your pole on a forked stick in the mud. It’s prime time, no matter. Go catch some fish! CS

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CENTRAL VALLEY Charlie Moore caught these 7¼- and 5-pound Collins Lake trout using PowerBait off the shore by the beach. The reservoir north of Sacramento will be open all month and is stocking plenty of rainbows, including some trophy fish. (COLLINS LAKE)



hile a massive storm swept through California and into the Sierra toward the end of March, a mostly mild winter should benefit trout anglers heading to Collins Lake, an hour’s drive from the Sacramento area. “With the unseasonably warm weather we had in January and February, we decided to bump up our fish plants to have one to two plants

every week from Presidents Day weekend to May,” says Jacob Young of (800-286-0576). “Each plant includes trophy trout as well as catchable trout.” Overall, Collins Lake will have stocked some 30,000 pounds of trout in the spring, besides the 11,600 pounds that were stocked in the fall. Young says the reservoir is home to the state’s largest private trout planting north of Sacramento. A big part of the outfit’s program is

represented by the 12 net pens they have been raising trout in – some of the trophy variety too. In April and May, the net pens will release 5,000 fish, including some coveted Eagle Lake rainbows. “Every fall we stock our net pens with trout to raise over the winter to release throughout the spring in a joint effort with (California Department of Fish and Wildlife), Kokanee Power and (California Inland Fisheries Foundation Inc.),” Young says. “By raising these trout throughout the winter, it allows for them to become more acclimated to the lake environment and grow to where they are all catchable size by the time they are released.” | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


CENTRAL VALLEY TROUT TIME IS NOW While many trout chasers are waiting for the April 28 general opener in the Sierra – the possibility of more snow is always a factor in slowing down the fishing action – there could be some fantastic trout fishing throughout this month down the mountains at Collins. “We are seeing just as much activity from the shore as we are from boaters. For those in boats, they’re trolling with Kastmaster, Needlefish or Rapalas, in the 5- to 10-foot range. For shore fishing, most colors of PowerBait have been doing really well,” Young says. “As the weather starts to warm up throughout the spring, the lake temperature will start to rise and the trout will start to drop to the deeper waters.” “We will start to see an increase in traffic throughout the spring as the weather starts to warm up. The weekdays are still very quiet and

weekends are starting to pick up. We will see more activity on the holidays and weekends and will be very busy from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend. We see more recreational activities (swimming, tubing, etc.) pick up in late May and through the summer. So April and early May provide a great quieter and relaxing environment for fishing than the more active summer months.” April and May also feature three trout derbies, sponsored by Angler’s Press (April 7), the California Inland Fisheries Foundation Inc. (April 28) and the Collins Lake Family Fishing Derby (May 12). You can sign up for all three at “All three derbies make for great fun family outings with opportunities to win cash and/or prizes,” Young says. “With the incredible catches we have seen already and expect to see all spring, we highly recommend signing up for one of the derbies.” CS

78 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

Collins Lake’s net pen program will eventually stock 5,000 trout into the lake. Many are big fish like these two rainbows, caught by Craig Barrick while trolling the middle of the lake with Power Worms. (COLLINS LAKE)

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By Mark Fong


or anglers in the Sacramento metro area, Folsom Lake is most often thought of as a warmwater fishery. “Folsom is a bass lake,” they say. But perception is not always reality. “Folsom is the best kept secret in Sacramento,” says Capt. James Netzel of TightLines Guide Service (888975-0990; “Everyone calls Folsom the Dead Sea, but it has some great trout fishing if you know how to fish for them.” Folsom is just a short drive from Sacramento. At capacity it holds 11,500 surface acres and has over 75 miles of shoreline. The lake was impounded in 1955 to hold the waters of the North and South Forks of the American River. The trout in Folsom are primarily a mixture of planters and holdover fish. While trout can be caught yearround, May and June are Netzel’s favorite months. “I generally catch my biggest fish then,” he says. “Fish average 18 to 20 inches.

Folsom Lake is known for its bass fishing, but as this young angler’s catch attests, there are nice rainbows to be had at this urban playground just outside Sacramento’s suburbs. (JAMES NETZEL/ TIGHTLINES GUIDE SERVICE) | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Trolling Speedy Shiners off Cousins Rods is one of guide James Netzel’s preferred methods to score trout at the 11,000-acre impoundment of the American River’s North and South Forks. (JAMES NETZEL/TIGHTLINES GUIDE SERVICE)

FOLSOM SECRET The key for Netzel is what he calls the “Folsom secret.” “I fish four downriggers between 20 and 35 feet year-round, the same depth at a speed of 2.7 mph; I don’t change anything,” he explains. “The only thing I change is where I fish. During the winter I fish the river channels. You can troll on top, but I still do better between 20 and 35 feet. In spring, summer and fall, I fish areas less than 100 feet deep, like flats or points that go into deep water.” “In the late summer, look for the bait balls and fish around them. I still keep my lines between 20 and 35 feet. You can see the trout down deep with the bait, but for some reason they don’t bite very well.” Netzel likes to troll Speedy Shiner spoons, as they do a good job of imitating the forage. He uses a Cousins Tackle Kokanee Special 7-foot, 9-inch KC790-2TG rod paired with an Abu Garcia 5500C linecounter reel. He spools up with 25-pound Fins 82 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 | | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Netzel calls Folsom “the best kept secret in Sacramento.” With its mix of stockers and holdovers, there is a lot of fishable water for spring trout anglers to enjoy. (JAMES NETZEL/TIGHTLINES GUIDE SERVICE)

40G Braid, to which he ties a 30-foot leader of 12-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon. On the end of the leader he attaches a 2½-inch Speedy Shiner. His most productive colors include copper, chartreuse silver, brown trout, Wonder Bread and bullfrog. “Word is getting out and I’m booking a lot of trips to Folsom,” Netzel says. Folsom Lake is popular with not only bass anglers but recreational boaters, but don’t overlook the trout bite here, especially in spring before the summer crowd flocks to this urban playground. CS



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The high Sierras are full of honey holes that author Nancy Rodriguez and her husband Joe flock to during winter’s offseason, especially for fat browns. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

By Nancy Rodriguez


t never ceases to amaze me, the lengths people go to catch a fish. I’m certainly no exception, and this day would drive the point home in a slightly comical and most un-

pleasant way. With our hunting season wrapped up, my husband Joe and I decided to take advantage of the delayed winter weather. Since the Sierra snowstorms had been fairly mild to this point, we figured we

could make it up to some of our favorite lakes high in the mountains. After an early-morning wake up and hours spent slipping and sliding down snow- and ice-covered roads, we finally arrived at our destination. We layered up in warm clothes, | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


SIERRA Amid the spectacular reflection of a high-country landscape, Joe Rodriguez surveys the lake. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

grabbed our fishing gear and started the journey to our brown trout honey hole. We would be targeting browns for the day. We ducked and weaved to avoid low-slung, snow-covered pine branches as we hiked, slipped, and stumbled down the hillside and through the forest. After a short hike, the thick trees gave way to open shoreline and I spotted a lessthan-ideal obstacle between us and our honey hole: a frigid stream that had to be crossed. The creek was running fast and I knew the water was going to be seriously painful. Joe and I simultaneously removed our shoes and socks, rolled up our pant legs, looked at each other and shook our heads. We jumped into the knee-high creek. Within seconds, the ice water produced a notso-pleasant electrical current that pierced our feet, ran up our legs and quickly jumped into our brains as if to ask, What the heck are you doing?! By the time that registered we were halfway across and our feet were far too numb to feel the river

rocks we were scrambling across. Unfortunately, that didn’t lessen the pain signal bouncing around further up our bodies. After what felt like forever – it was probably 30 seconds – the two of us stumbled up the bank on the other side. We piled up onto the icy rocks

and cradled our now frozen, wet feet and just laughed. What we won’t do for a fish!

WITH OUR FEET DRY, our shoes on and steam issuing with every breath, I hiked along the shoreline and constantly scanned for any sign I might

Later in the season as the weather and water temps get warmer, the Rodriguez team will fish from a kayak, but in winter they prefer casting from the banks of their backcountry brown towns. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ) 90 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

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The author with a beautiful alpine brownie. (JOE RODRIGUEZ)

be closing in on my destination. With growing anticipating I soon saw it: a submerged rock pile. These always seem to be the perfect ambush spot for predatory browns. With cautious steps, I made my way out onto the icy rocks, took aim and sent my CountDown Rapala strung on 6-pound-test line arching across the golden sky. At touchdown, I counted to 20 in my mind. As the lure sank into the dark abyss, I imagined giant browns moving in to investigate. These are the moments that most anglers dream about, and my daily worries seemed to fade away. Then the game began – jerk, jerk, three quick turns of the reel, followed by repeat. Every 10 feet or so, I would let the lure sink a few feet and start the pattern again. My dancing retrieve was meant to replicate an injured baitfish. I usually test different tempos throughout the day until I find one that works, but for now this is what

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I was going with. Just as my tempo slowed and my lure sank again I felt an unmistakable tap telegraph up the line and into my hands. I reeled up the slack, leaned back with the rod and tightened the line as I watched my rod bow under tension. Fish on! The challenge of landing this fish started as I slowly gained line. The choppy water did little to hide the glowing gold streak below the surface. My adrenaline spiked as he made a mad dash to the surface and leapt into the air and shook the hook with all his might. I prayed I wouldn’t lose him. My net was submerged and waiting as the battle played out along the shore. I ever so gently scooped him into the black mesh and took a moment to admire his stunning golden colors as they shimmered in the morning sunlight.

WE LOVE TO SPEND late winter and early spring targeting brown trout here in California, and this past season we were fortunate enough to make several cold weather fishing trips happen. We have a kayak that we fish from in warmer temps, but in colder months we prefer to fish from shore. Since brown trout are ambush predators, they like to hold in some pretty specific spots that are easily accessible from the bank. When we head up to the mountain lakes and specifically target browns, the things I concentrate on are location, lure/ bait selection, depth of retrieve and retrieval speed and tempo. The first factor I look for is location. I like to check for submerged rock piles or stumps that may act as a natural ambush spot for brownies. I prefer rocks with a big drop-off to deeper water and dramatic contours. I also tend to snag up less on rocks than I do on stumps, but we do catch plenty of fish right alongside stumps. They seem to hang out and hide literally right on the edge of structure and wait for the prey to come to them. alspo po p por o ort rrttssman rtsman sm sma m man maaan nm mag. mag ag. ag ag cco com om o m | APRIL AP PR RIIILL 20 RIL 2018 201 2 018 01 0 18 Ca California Cal C a ifo or rni rn na S Sportsman por po p o ts tsm t s an


SIERRA I usually try to cast far beyond the structure and plan my retrieve to come as close as I can get without hanging up. The other benefit to shore fishing rock piles is that after your lure sinks, your retrieve will follow the lake’s contour – close to the bottom – all the way back to the bank. From a boat, if you’re casting toward shore and retrieving, your lure leaves the bottom as it is pulled back up toward the boat. This gives you far less time in the strike zone.

OH, YES, THE TRUSTY lures. It seems that most anglers have their “go-to” bait or tackle that they buy season after season. That’s what keeps the tackle companies in business. Joe and I have invested a lot of time and money to find our go-to lures that have repeatedly worked for brown trout. A few of the lures that have produced nice fish consistently are sinking Rapalas in a brown trout and rainbow trout pattern, as well as Krocodile spoons in silver. We have even had days where we do a weedless rig on a big nightcrawler – in the same way that bass fishermen rig a rubber worm – and bounce it along the bottom to produce some browns. Every now and then we will pick up a bonus holdover rainbow trout on these lures. Just like us, fish can be finicky. Some days we want to eat chicken and on others we want steak, so if the browns aren’t hitting we will try whatever else is in our arsenal. Depth is also a factor in finding the fish. Sometimes it takes several casts to find out the depth they are hanging at. It seems that once you pick up a fish at, let’s say, a 20-second drop in one area, you are likely to hit another one at the same depth working down the shore. I am no expert, but in my opinion it seems that depth varies day to day, with moon phases, barometric pressure and water temperature as factors. I have caught

Sometimes, you’ll get a rainbow to go with a nice brown trout. (JOE RODRIGUEZ)

them at different depths just one week apart with close to the same ambient temperature. Joe occasionally laughs at me because I will cast over and over in the exact same spot just running different depths until I find the fish, or not. He will have already worked three rock piles down the shore while I’m still at the same area. Sometimes it works and, well, sometimes it doesn’t.

THE MORE I FISH, the more I realize how important the retrieve can be. Many moons ago, I would launch

94 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

my lure and reel in in the same steady tempo on every cast. Sometimes I would catch a fish and would be ecstatic, but I learned quickly that you need to vary the speed of the retrieve to have better success. In the winter, the fish can be sluggish and you literally have to slow your tempo so they don’t have to exert much energy to hit your lure. Other times, they are being finicky and you have to give massive erratic movement to even spark their interest. I usually have good luck reeling

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A big brown that Joe Rodriguez fought and lost during the trip described here is indicative that there are plenty of trout to be caught in these small, pristine mountain fisheries. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

at a good tempo, then stopping and letting the lure sink a bit as if the bait is injured. Then I will do a couple of quick jerks and repeat. A lot of the time, they will hit on the drop. And some days, no matter what

you throw or how you retrieve, it just doesn’t come together. That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching.

NEAR THE END OF this particular fishing day, Joe and I had caught and re-

96 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

leased nine browns that averaged 16 inches and going up to 20 inches. We had one shallow, stump-laden cove to work around before attempting the stream crossing again. As we neared the edge of the water,

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the stumps loomed hauntingly below the surface. A small ripple broke the surface 20 feet out and disrupted the mountains’ reflection on the glassy water. Joe took aim and sent his rainbow trout-patterned CountDown Rapala well past the ripple. Joe did a high-speed retrieve just below the surface until the lure was in the place the ripple had been. Once there, he let it drop two seconds and twitched it twice. Slam! Fish on! This square-tailed trophy was the biggest fish of the day. The drag screamed as line peeled off the reel with each run. It was nerve-wracking. Soon the fish grew tired and started to parallel the shoreline. Now only 15 feet away, we could see it was a monster 24-plus-incher! As I removed the net from my pack and prepared to land the fish, I noticed a stump in the direction the trout was heading. Joe quickly shifted the rod from left to right, applied extra hand tension to the spool and leaned back on the rod to turn the fish before it reached the stump. In an instant, the big brown flicked his tail and ripped drag all the way around the ancient tree. The line now bowed around the stump and the fish was fighting for its life. With one more headshake he was gone. We both sat there staring at the water in disbelief. A few seconds passed and I looked at Joe and said, “He’ll be bigger next year and you can always look forward to the stream crossing to cheer you up.” With that, we both laughed and started the hike back. Did I ever mention I hate tree stumps? CS Editor’s note: Nancy Rodriguez lives in Cool (El Dorado County) with her husband Joe. She is an outdoor enthusiast who loves to fish, hunt and backpack. Nancy is on the hunt staff for Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women and enjoys inspiring women to get outdoors. 98 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |


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102 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |




he last Saturday of April marks opening day of the Eastern Sierra general trout season, at which point every drop of rainbow-, cutthroat- and brown-holding water along the Highway 395 corridor can be legally fished. Anglers from all over the state (and beyond) will flock to every fishable lake and creek from Lone Pine to Bridgeport, but the centerpiece of that spread is, without a doubt, Crowley Lake. I have covered Crowley during each of the last half-dozen openers. Covered, as in reporting on and not

fishing it. In doing so, I’ve walked the bank and talked to shore anglers, interviewed boaters when they’ve returned to the ramp, and chatted with both types at the fish cleaning station or over cups of coffee in the shelter of the Crowley Lake Fish Camp store. Despite the wide range of environmental factors that have characterized each of those “Fishmas Day” events, I’ve seen consistent patterns of angler success emerge at this particular waterbody on opening day.

WHAT TO EXPECT ON APRIL 28 The biggest catches on opening weekend will likely be brown trout

Of all the destinations that should be available for Eastern Sierra trout anglers come April 28’s season opener, Crowley Lake should be at the top of your list. (MIKE STEVENS)

from one of the big lakes in the Bridgeport area, but I would bet Crowley yields more in the 4- to 7-pound range than anywhere else, as well as will sport a better variety of trout. The Crowley Fish Camp | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Trolling is a year-round go-to tactic at Crowley, with opening day being no different. Early in the season, toplining lures like Rapalas, Needlefish and Thomas Buoyants is the ticket to limits. (MIKE STEVENS)

staff keeps a running record of each quality fish weighed in for the Fred J. Hall Memorial Opening Day Big Fish Contest, and it’s pretty consis-

tent from one year to the next. For one thing, the smallest fish that make the log are in the 2-pound range and there are pag-

es of 3- to 5-pounders, along with whatever biggies get caught. Those are just fish that are reported, and based on the sheer number of an-

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Bank anglers also have a good chance to catch fish, but it might be a good idea to get a two-rod fishing stamp and throw lures while your bait set-up waits for a hungry rainbow, cutthroat or brown to bite. (MIKE STEVENS)

glers who hit Crowley on opening day, it’s likely that well under half that do hit the official scale. If in my years of coverage there

was a fish over 10 pounds caught, I don’t remember it, but everything that’s landed is quality. Up in Bridgeport, you can almost count


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on at least one double-digit brown being caught each opener, but beyond that it’s a lot of smaller stockers that are filling stringers.

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SIERRA CUTTS AT CROWLEY Another thing you can bet on is that the logbook will be dominated by cutthroat trout. Crowley has an incredible population of cutts that have access to solid spawning habitat, including McGee Creek, the Owens River and some other smaller tributaries. The funny thing is, most of the shore anglers just think they are catching exceptionally awesome-looking rainbows. Rather, the fish are very much cutthroat, and this time of year at Crowley, most trout in the 5-pound class that arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t browns are cutts. Rainbows that end up on stringers are typically in the 1- to 3-pound range.

ITâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S A TROLLING THING Trolling is a year-round go-to tactic at Crowley Lake, with opening day being no different. Throughout the summer there is a lot of leadcore

lure dragging going on to get deeper, but that is not the case early in the season. Almost every boater I ask â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s usually also marked in the log â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is â&#x20AC;&#x153;top lineâ&#x20AC;? (or flat-line) trolling using monofilament line with regular gear. The only difference might be kicking line weights up a notch â&#x20AC;&#x201C; maybe to 6-pound test â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to handle more of an impact than if you were casting. Top trolling lures are always the same (I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even have to look at my notes): minnow-imitating baits like Rapalas, Owner Cultiva and Berkley Flicker Shad, and metal stuff like NeedleďŹ sh, Thomas Buoyants and Kastmasters. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what category Tasmanian Devils ďŹ t into, but they are absolute killers on the troll at Crowley. Use a size or two bigger â&#x20AC;&#x201C; on each of those â&#x20AC;&#x201C; than you would reach for if you were casting, and experiment with trolling speeds

and how far behind the boat the lures are positioned. Anywhere on the lake can produce, so plan on covering some ground to ďŹ nd biters. Still, popular areas to troll off of include Chalk Cliffs, Alligator Point, Leighton Springs and Green Banks. You can ďŹ nd a map on crowleylakeďŹ shcamp .com, and there are free printouts of it in the store at the lake.

ROOM TO FISH Despite the unmatched angler trafďŹ c Crowley gets on this most popular day of days, the shoreline features miles of access, and you actually can escape the crowds if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re willing to hoof it from areas bumper to bumper with RVs. I will say this, though: sleep in. Cars will be lined up at the gate well before dawn, but every year without fail shore anglers give me the same story: â&#x20AC;&#x153;We got here ďŹ rst thing in the morning and we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get

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SIERRA Crowley’s opener is known to produce a lot of nice cutthroat trout, so if you can find a good spot among all the anglers who will flock to this gem, you too might have a merry Fishmas Day in the Eastern Sierra. (MIKE STEVENS)

any bites until 8 a.m.” Yes, that’s give or take 45 minutes or so, but I’ve yet to hear of wide-open fishing for bank robbers at zero-dark-thirty. I don’t even show up until after 8 because getting there before many fish are caught doesn’t really accomplish anything. I mean, get out there early if that’s just how you do it, or if you want to maximize your time on the water, but by no means should you feel that you are missing some sort of “bite window” by enjoying your coffee and letting the main rush of vehicles pour in.

DON’T BANK ON ANYTHING Here’s the part many will see as a bummer: It’s a bait-and-wait game from shore. I’d love to tell you that sight fishing for schools of trout with jigs or fan casting with Buoyants will get the job done, but for whatever reason, it’s not the way to go at Crowley on Fishmas. I run across a


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few here and there along the shore or in the logbook, but it’s less than 10 percent from what I’ve seen. Using a sliding sinker or casting bubble rig with PowerBait, a nightcrawler or Berkley Mice Tail on the business end is money for rainbows, cutthroat and the odd brown that forgets he’s a brown. I have seen a guy limit in about 20 minutes using a fly-and-bubble set-up with a Woolly Bugger, while the rest of the cove he was in was enjoying a steady pick. But I also see him in the same spot every year, and it doesn’t always work for him. The bottom line is, chuck lures here and there in case the trout are that aggressive, but plan on still-fishing to catch dinner. A tworod stamp is the way to go if you aren’t the type who can just sit there with a rod propped between a couple rocks; send out the bait rig and huck lures while you wait. CS


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By Chris Cocoles


Mono County’s Bridgeport Reservoir will be a popular destination for Eastern Sierra anglers come the April 28 trout opener. (JEFF SIMPSON/MONO COUNTY TOURISM)

he last Saturday in April is marked on so many anglers’ calendars year after year. The statewide trout opener is an unofficial holiday – fishing fanatics don’t call it Fishmas for nothing – in which rainbows, browns and brookies are as revered as Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter eggs and Halloween candy. “I think the locals are almost more excited than our visitors are for opening day. Fishing the opener is our chance to get back out to all our favorite local fishing spots,” says Jeff Simpson, a local angler and economic development manager for Mono County. “But more than that, it symbolizes the end of winter. Opening day is really a promise that summer is just around the corner!”

WACKY WEATHER Now that April has arrived and the countdown will soon shift from weeks to days until the opener, it’s time to start looking ahead to expectations. A late-March storm dumped a significant amount of snow in the Sierra, which will surely have an impact as the season gets closer. The March surge of wet weather came after a mostly dry winter. Social media began using the hashtag #MammothMarch from the snowfall that accumulated starting at the beginning of last month. “We had 87 inches on Mammoth Mountain as of March 20. This great, late snow will certainly help the snowpack and keep our lakes and rivers full,” Simpson says. “You won’t

Depending on the weather, Convict Lake could be one of the more heavily fished waters. (JEFF SIMPSON/MONO COUNTY TOURISM)

see the c.f.s. and runoff that we experienced last year but we still have so much water left from last winter that our lakes and reservoirs will be full well into late fall. The drier winter overall to date also means that we will have early access to some of the higher-elevation lakes like Virginia Lakes, Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake, Saddlebag Lake and Rock Creek Lake.” Overall Simpson is anticipating a good spring and summer in the Eastern Sierra.

“We are very excited for the 2018 fishing season. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced they will move back to stocking diploid trout in all waters south of Conway Summit, which is terrific news for our fisheries,” he says. “Our partnership with (Oregon’s Desert Springs Trout Farm) is now in its fourth year and we will be continuing to stock the 6- to 9-pound rainbows that have been so successful over the last few years.” | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


SIERRA BATTLING THE CROWDS Weather is always a factor for the trout opener, but crowds are usually large regardless. So combat fishing is usually the name of the game at some of the more popular destinations like Convict and Crowley Lakes, the June Lake Loop and several creeks and rivers. “The best advice is to get on the water early or come late and think about docking your boat with the local marina operator. This will allow you to skip the launching line and get you fishing faster during those early-morning hours,” Simpson says. “Other places like the West Walker River, Lundy Lake, Lee Vining Canyon and Robinson Creek offer excellent fishing and more space so you don’t feel like you are shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers.

DERBY DIZZY From opening day through the summer and into the fall, the Eastern

You’ll encounter crafts of all kinds on the water as trout fishing finally returns to Mono County at the end of this month. (JEFF SIMPSON/MONO COUNTY TOURISM)

Sierra features fishing derbies and contests, including several during the April 28-29 opening weekend alone. So which one(s) should trout anglers enter if heading over? “This could be the hardest decision for anyone coming up for opening weekend,” says Simpson, who says some of the best early events include the Fred J. Hall Opening Day Big Fish Contest at Crowley Lake; the Monster Fish Contest at the June Lake Loop; Annett’s Mono Village Fishing

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Derby at Upper Twin Lakes; the Convict Lake Cash Derby; the Bridgeport Lake Locals Only contest; the Tom’s Place Fishmas Day derby; and the Gull Lake Fish of the Month Derby. Go to for more detailed info. Simpson says to also watch the Mono County Facebook page ( and to check for updated fishing reports at CS

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t is about that time of year when you can go out and have the time of your life fishing for largemouth in Southern California. Lake temperatures are into the 60-plus-degree range, which gets male bass on the move and headed to the banks. Every lake will vary slightly, plus there will be early spawning fish and late spawners, as well as the bulk of the bass in the regular spawn. There are so many active fish that now is the time to take the family out, especially the kids, and just go bass fishing. You should be able to show everyone a great time and get the youngsters excited about fishing.

The author’s son Bricen Schaefer shows off a nice El Capitan Reservoir largemouth that fell for a drop-shot-rigged Yamamoto cut-tail worm. Bass will be increasingly active as the spring spawn gets going. (BILL SCHAEFER)

LOTS OF ACTIVE FISH As I mentioned, there are a ton of male bass roaming the shorelines. They’re either looking for a place to spawn or already on a nest, or guarding their fry. The big females aren’t far behind either. You can wander down the bank and throw just about any plastic set-up and score. I have been out quite a bit the last several weeks with my 13-year-old son and we’ve caught a lot of bass on drop-shot worms, splitshot plastics and Texas-rigged worms. I use a Daiwa Tatula spinning set-up with 6-pound Maxima line for dropshot fishing. It’s a favorite of mine this time of year.

THE BEDDING BASS QUESTION Since there will be a lot of bass on beds as the months go by, I won’t debate whether or not to fish them. If you do get a giant, you may want to take a quick picture and then let the big girl go. She will return to her bed eventually and spawn out, restocking

your favorite lake the natural way. A lot of the time in the spring that’s exactly what you are catching: bedded fish. Work your plastic slower – no matter the rig – and you will pass by and pause near a bed and draw the strike. The bass are more protective of their beds and thus will attack anything that comes close.

WATCH THE WATER April, May, and June are the months

to really pay attention to water temperatures and levels on your favorite Southern California lake. The bass are ready to do their spawn dance and it means great fishing for all. Cold fronts can push water temps down for a spell and then another wave of fish may spawn as the lake warms up again. It seems to drag the spawn out, which only means good fishing for you. It’s time to go bass fishing! CS | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



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arch was a rainy month and just before all those storms rolled through, there was a very good sand bass and calico bite going off along the Southern California coast. But what do you do if storms turn a hot bass bite off and the fish are nowhere to be found? Well, you can just slide out a little deeper most of the time and catch all the various reef fish that live on both man-made and natural structures. The good news is that you can use the same gear as you do for the bass. Plus, you can fill the freezer with some great white meat for fish tacos! There are a million different species of Pacific rockfish off our coast, along with some really interesting other species that live with them. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has lumped all of them into the rockfish category. You do have to first make sure of the open dates for rockfish. Yes, they are regulated and the open season for fishing for them from boats is March 1 through December 31. But make sure you always check the rules as they have been known to change with little notice.

Tom Buckalew with a transitioning sheepshead, which start out female and turn into big males. And they make for great fish tacos and grilled fillets. (BILL SCHAEFER)

ally starts out as a pink female and morphs into a male that is usually barred with red, white and black. It also tastes amazing. Lingcod can grow to enormous sizes and their fillets are also great on the grill. Cabezon are a distant cousin to lings and have a texture and flavor that cooks up tender and bright white too. One thing about all rockfish is there can be regulations within the regular rules for the species, so the best thing is to have CDFW’s handbook onboard for reference.

A PLETHORA OF OPTIONS Those other special fish I was telling you about are kind of bonus fish when rockfishing. There is the California sheephead, which usu-

THINK BASS TACKLE For tackle, as stated above you can use your bass gear. Braid will help with feeling those deep-water bites,

as well as making solid hooksets. For example, I use a Daiwa Proteus WN trigger stick rod with a Lexa WN reel loaded with 50- to 60-pound Daiwa or Maxima braided line and a Maxima fluorocarbon leader. As for lures, your most popular swimbaits from Big Hammer, MC Swimbaits, Western Plastics, Big Pancho and LK Lures will do. You may need 1- to 2-ounce jigheads to reach bottom – depending on the depth – I’m talking 120 to 160 feet of water. It also helps to have a good meter (I like my HDS 12 from Lowrance) to find fishy drop-offs and structures. Don’t let slow saltwater bassing get you down. Just go deeper – the SoCal bight is full of tasty treats. CS | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


122 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |



By Tim E. Hovey


he first big game animal I ever killed was a wild pig in California in the early 1990s. Since then I’ve hunted other species all over the West, but hands down, my favorite to pursue has always been wild pigs. I find them challenging to hunt and tough to bring down. And what makes it great is that you can hunt them year-round in California and there is no limit, as long as you have a Department of Fish and Wildlife pig tag for each animal. Wild pig is great on the plate and they are abundant from northern Los Angeles County all the way up to the Oregon border. Last year I was lucky enough to

With heavy morning and evening hunting pressure, author Tim Hovey used Google Earth to pinpoint a wild pig bed up a remote canyon on a ranch to try and hunt during a midday outing. (TIM E. HOVEY) | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


HUNTING get hunting access to a large private ranch here in California. Despite the abundance of pigs on the property, they’re heavily pressured by hunters, and the unseasonably high temperatures that gripped the state during my hunt meant their daily movements were even more altered. Yielding to the hunting pressure and the heat, pigs were heading out to feed before sunrise and at dusk, avoiding daylight and people when at all possible. That meant most hunters were off the property by 8 a.m. and returning at the last hour of light to hunt again. I chose to hunt a different way. Pigs don’t just leave good habitat when it gets too hot or they’re pressured. During the day they’ll seek out beds where they feel protected and secure. They like to bed down during the heat of the day in thick, thorny vegetation in areas where they can detect approaching threats. If you’re willing to hike, put forth a little effort and know what to look for, you can be successful. One of the best tools hunters can use to dissect habitat and get a feel for terrain they may be unfamiliar with is checking out Google Earth. Hunters can literally explore massive expanses of land from the comfort of their computer. No matter where I’m hunting, I use Google Earth to identify areas of interest, potential hunting spots and, more importantly as I learned this trip, alternate routes.

buried deep in a steep, remote canyon that I just had to check out. I was about to start my hike in when I realized that the wind direction was terrible. It was moving straight up the canyon. Anything with a nose would know I was coming. I backed out and referenced a map I’d printed out the night before. A second, narrower drainage paralleled the target canyon and terminated very close to where I wanted to start hunting. I had written a number two and an arrow pointing towards the second canyon on the map, which indicated it would be a possible second choice. I shoved the map back in my pack and decided to hike up the adjacent drainage and then drop in to first drainage from the top. The small canyon was very narrow and covered in dry grass. At the top was a single oak tree with a deadfall resting near its trunk. With the exception of a couple of larger boulders in the crease, there were no other obstacles in the small valley. After a 20-minute hike, I decided to take a water break. I was about 100 yards from the lone oak at the top of the canyon when I heard The sun beats down on steep hillsides. Prevailing winds that day led Hovey to make an alternate approach to a prime bedding area. (TIM E. HOVEY)

WITH A RARE DAY OFF in the middle of the week, I decided to head to the ranch solo to explore some promising-looking areas in a canyon I’ve never been to before. I drove in and passed several vehicles leaving the property as I entered. By the time I got to where I wanted to hunt, I felt like I was the only hunter on the ranch. I got my gear ready, loaded my pack and started hiking up the dry drainage. The night before, using my computer, I had identified a remote pig bed 124 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

branches breaking. Seemingly out of nowhere, a huge black boar started trotting to the left about 90 yards above me. I had been silent during the entire hike, but the slight wind had been pushing my scent up the canyon since I’d left the truck. The large pig must’ve been bedded near the deadfall at the top of the canyon and essentially smelled me coming. I quickly dropped my pack and pulled my rifle off my shoulder. I found the boar in the scope just as he started trotting towards the top of the canyon. Eight more steps and he would’ve been gone. I clicked the hammer back on the .30-30 without thinking, placed the crosshairs on the moving boar’s nose and squeezed the trigger. The 150-grain bullet hit the boar right behind the shoulder. The pig’s back legs folded, he tipped over and began to tumble down the steep canyon towards me. At the top of the drainage the terrain narrowed considerably. The gap I was standing in was only about 6 feet wide. Within a few seconds close to 300 pounds of pig would be cartwheeling through that gap. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


HUNTING It was a lot of work and a little scary for a moment when the wounded boar came at him, but this was a well-earned harvest for Hovey. (TIM E. HOVEY)

I PULLED MYSELF UP onto the steep bank a few feet from where I had taken the shot and steadied myself on a small dirt shelf. At this point I was convinced that the pig was dead and that gravity would take care of much of the heavy packing. The large boar tumbled in the crease and would pass by my position. But when the pig reached the exact spot I had been standing only seconds before, he caught himself, stopped rolling and began charging up the steep bank towards me using only his front legs. I stumbled back and fell to a seated position completely shocked. The boar was digging in with its front legs and trying to climb up the bank only 2 feet from me. He was gnashing his teeth and squealing loudly. Aiming between my legs, I leveled

the lever gun at the pigâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head and was just about to squeeze off another round when gravity took over. The pig stumbled once, fell back into the gap and continued to roll down the canyon. Twenty feet below me, the pig came to rest and stopped moving. It took me a few moments to gather my senses as I replayed the close encounter in my head. I leaned back in the dry grass to catch my breath. I felt my heart pounding in my throat as I lay there. I had been charged before by large boars on other hunts, but none of them had ever gotten so close. I pushed myself up and slid the short distance into the narrow canyon. As I looked around for all my gear, I noticed I had frothy blood on my left boot. I stood there questioning the wisdom of chasing big angry pigs solo. I took a deep breath and

126 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

smiled. I knew nothing would keep me from hunting wild pigs, not even doing it by myself. The pig had expired during the last tumble and lay still in the dry grass. I walked down to check him out. The boar was massive. The shot had been perfect, but despite the close distance, the bullet had hit the heavy shield on the far side of the pig and stopped. He had the heavy shoulders and old scars of a warrior. He had some impressive lower teeth, including one broken off near its base. I grabbed some rope from my pack and tied it around the snout of the pig for the drag down to the truck. I was able to easily slide the dead boar down the canyon on the dry grass. At the bottom, I found a clear area and started ďŹ eld butchering the animal. It was a short hike to my

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HUNTING truck and within an hour or so after I started cutting, I was loading four hams, two backstraps and the boar’s huge head into two coolers in the bed. I cleaned up, got back behind the wheel and headed for home.

THIS HUNT HAD CERTAINLY been exciting. When I’d set out earlier that day, I had hoped to find a pig. However, I absolutely didn’t expect to get that close to an aggressive, wounded animal. Large, solitary boars are usually alone for a reason. As males get older, they become too aggressive to stay around the family groups of pigs and are usually chased out. The scars and broken teeth of this boar clearly demonstrated he was a fighter. I thought about how he had tried to get to me in the canyon. He was indeed a fighter! On the way out of the property, I passed three trucks coming in

Hovey chose to hunt the ranch at a time that most others stayed away from it, a move that paid off well. (TIM E. HOVEY)

for an evening hunt. Each driver politely waved to me and I returned the wave with a slightly bloody hand. With the fading light, I knew at best they only had about 30 minutes to hunt. As I watched them drive into the hills, I silently wished them luck. CS


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Making Hunting


Hunters Brittany Boddington (pictured) and Shannon Lansdowne want to help fellow women interested in the sport feel like they too can follow their passion, which was why they began the She Hunts Skills Camp. (SHE HUNTS SKILLS CAMP)



hat started off as an idea has turned into something magical. My friend and fellow hunter Shannon Lansdowne and I knew that women needed more formal instruction in the field of hunting and a safe space to learn, which is why we developed the She Hunts Skills Camp. What we didn’t count on

was the impact the camp would have on those who attended. It is my passion to help get people into the outdoors and into hunting and women are the fastest growing demographic in the hunting industry.

A GREAT RESOURCE FOR WOMEN There are several programs for women but none quite like ours. We combine learning from indus-

try professionals with quality products like Leupold Optics, Krieghoff Shotguns, MG Arms rifles and many more, with a fun, low-pressure atmosphere. The ladies who attend get a ton of goodies to take home with them to help get them on their feet for their next hunt. Shannon and I learned that our niche is with women who want to learn to be independent hunters. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


They might have started hunting with a father, brother, husband or boyfriend and have since either lost those mentors or simply grown past what they can now offer as teachers. They want to learn more to feel confident and pass their skills on to friends and family. There is a lot of growing and a fair bit of healing that goes on at the camp as these women learn to harness the skills they need to pursue their passions. It is incredible and empowering to watch as sparks ignite for some ladies who came to us unsure if they would ever hunt but leave as self-declared hunters.

SOLID WINTER TURNOUT Our just-concluded February camp was a huge success. We had 15 incredible women join us, with each and every one taking home a massive swag bag filled with goodies that we hand selected for them. While hunting is a wonderful sport, the gear can get expensive when you are just getting started, so we try to put together a starter kit for the ladies with items like a nice Alps Outdoors backpack, a gun cleaning kit from Otis and a set of gear from Sitka. Participants also go home with knives, scent elimination products from Dead Down Wind, slings and accessories from Limbsaver, Yeti cups and Mtn Ops supplements and lots more.

HAVE NO FEAR The simple truth is that we have learned that women tend to learn more when the classes are kept to all ladies because they don’t hesitate to ask questions. Don’t get me wrong here: I’ve done mixed gender classes and learned a ton, but sometimes it is nice to be in a room full of ladies who are also eager to learn. The She Hunts alumni group has turned into a bit of a sisterhood. They all encourage one another and share stories and photos long past the end of the camp. I remember my Southern California days

Krieghoff professional shooter and national champion Katie Fox is just one of several experts who assist during seminars. (SHE HUNTS SKILLS CAMP)

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Everyone who attends gets a goodie bag full of hunting and shooting sports swag. (SHE HUNTS SKILLS CAMP)

in Girl Scouts and the strong bonds that were forged in the sleepover camps we did every summer. I think that the success of She Hunts may have something to do with the feeling of unity that the ladies get from their time at the ranch together. They say hunters and guides arrive as strangers and leave as lifelong friends by the end of a good hunt. I think the camp does the same, except that we multiply the relationships exponentially since we have a large group of women and so many incred-

ible sponsors who come to teach.

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE A week after our first camp one of our ladies posted on her Facebook that for the first time in her life she went to the gun safe on her own, picked up her rifle and went to the range by herself. The reason? She was finally comfortable enough to do so because she had been too timid to handle the gun without her husband before that. After the camp she said that she enjoyed shooting for the first

time in her life. This kind of success story warms my heart. There is zero pressure to hunt or kill anything while attending the camp. We simply provide the skills interested hunters need to handle their firearms safely and give them the basics in stalking, field dressing, archery, long range shooting, wild game cooking, etc. The opportunity to hunt is there if the ladies decide to add that onto their stay with us, but the core of the camp is to develop skills and build confidence

Brittany’s dad Craig Boddington, himself a distinguished hunter and author, was also on hand to lend his expertise during a dangerous game seminar he led. “The simple truth,” says the author (right), “is that we have learned that women tend to learn more when the classes are kept to all ladies because they don’t hesitate to ask questions. (SHE HUNTS SKILLS CAMP) 134 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |


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Lansdowne (center-right, holding child) and Boddington wanted to spread their love of hunting with other women interested in the sport. As this group photo shows, there are plenty of aspiring sportswomen eager to get involved (SHE HUNTS SKILLS CAMP)

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136 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

Editorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s note: LA native Brittany Boddington is a hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, go to and | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


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Pup’s First Shed Hunt

immediately on it. We repeated the fetch, then I praised him and put the shed into my pack. It was Kona’s first found antler, and we were both excited; it was a moment I’ll never forget. I trained both of my dogs to locate bleached antler sheds, something we’ve previously covered in this column (California Sportsman, March 2018, May 2017). I also taught them to sniff out fresh sheds, something we weren’t going to find on this October outing. In this case, I wanted to reward Kona for finding the shed, and we did that through a quick game of fetch, and rubbing his ears and praising him. I put the shed away when Kona still desired it. I didn’t let him chew on it, engage in tug of war or let him run off in a possessive manner. I wanted him to give up the antler while still excited.

Hunting for sheds is just like hunting for bucks. You don’t always tag out, and nor will your pup always find antlers. That means it may be up to you to make the most of the outing. This can be accomplished by planting sheds to ensure success, which ultimately educates and motivates a dog. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

By Scott Haugen


alking an overgrown logging road, my dogs in the lead, we were in search of quail and grouse. The road was no longer drivable, but covered in grass and clover, and bordered by Scotch broom on one side, timber on the other, it was the perfect habitat. Echo, my 3-year-old pudelpointer, took the lead. Nose to the ground she worked hard, 40 yards ahead of me. By her side was Kona, my 3-monthold pudelpointer. Echo had been on

numerous hunts, and was proving a good mentor to Kona early in his life. As Echo moved forward, Kona suddenly stopped and went on point. He held, looking into a little clearing along the side of the road. Figuring he saw a squirrel or songbird, I kept approaching. Then Kona pounced out of sight, appearing seconds later with a bleached shed antler. His long legs, big paws and floppy ears whirled in every direction, as he couldn’t get the shed to me fast enough. Instantly I praised him and tossed the shed out for a short retrieve. Kona was

WITH SPRING SHED hunting season upon us, when taking your pup out on its first antler outing, make the effort to guarantee success. Training a dog to hunt sheds is far different than hunting them, as actual finds can be hours, if not days apart. Indeed, don’t expect miracles just because you’re shed hunting with a dog. Our four-legged friends can’t find sheds that aren’t around. Hunt in areas you know bucks to be in from January through March, the time of year they drop their antlers. The same goes for elk, which are dropping their sheds about now. After a couple hours, if your pup hasn’t found any, plant one or two. Prior to leaving home, slip a couple sheds into your pack. Be sure and wash them and handle them with rubber gloves to eliminate your scent. I like roughing them up with abrasive paper to enhance the smell of fresh bone, so the pup can detect it. When the pup is in the brush, searching, take a shed from your pack and toss it into a place where the pup will find it. Ideally, this is into a headwind where the dog can smell it prior to seeing it. Make sure to toss out the shed | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman


HUNTING Author Scott Haugen’s gun dog Kona, then 3 months old, proudly brings in his first shed. He found this bleached blacktail antler on his own while on a fall upland bird hunt. He was taught, starting at 10 weeks of age, what to look for. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

when the pup can’t see you, and wear a rubber glove to cover your scent. Planting sheds, even when hunting them, keeps pups optimistic and educates them as to what it is they are looking for. It’s not an overkill to do this a few times a morning when you’re not finding any sheds. You can also plant old, bleached sheds for the pup to find. Again, handle them with rubber gloves to mask your scent. When the dog is working a brushy draw or timber and out of sight, toss the bleached shed as far as you can, into an open place where you can see it. Sometimes I’ll have my dog sit, and I’ll walk 75 yards ahead, out of sight, plant the bleached shed, then call my dog. From there, the search is on. Encourage the pup to work the area where the bleached shed is laying. If the pup can’t find it, guide the pup to it by hand and whistle signals. I’ve had my dogs retrieve many bleached sheds that I guided them to in this way. Remember, when a dog

140 California Sportsman APRIL 2018 |

is sniffing for sheds, their eyes are only inches off the ground, so they can’t see what we can. On top of that, bleached sheds carry little or no odor, and are located and fetched by sight, meaning the dog has to initially see them, not smell them. By guiding pups to bleached sheds, they’ll learn to trust what you’re communicating to them while simultaneously learning what to look for. This spring and summer, if you’re not finding as many shed antlers as you’d like, help your dog learn what to look for by planting sheds. After all, practice makes perfect, and the more success a pup has, the more they’ll learn and the greater their desire to find sheds will be in the future. CS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch some basic dog training video tips by Scott, check out his Facebook Page, or visit the blog at Follow him on Instagram too. | APRIL 2018 California Sportsman



Editor's note: To see more illustrations from Tim “Spike” Davis, check out his website at

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