All posts by calstaff

Go Heavy On The Salt

Tired of eating trout the same old way? Here’s a fun, innovative way to bake them, and not only is this method easy, it produces a deliciously steamed, moist flavorful fish. Salt crusting will work with any whole fish; try it with a fresh-caught cutthroat, kokanee or small steelhead, or get into the freezer and use up what you caught over the winter. For best results, use kosher salt. The amount of salt will vary for the size of the fish. The key with the salt crust is getting the salt moist enough with egg white and water to form around the fish without falling apart. Additional flavorings are endless, as the cavity of the fish can be stuffed with any herbs, citrus slices, garlic and/or ginger.

Salt-crusted trout

Two to four trout

5 cups kosher salt

Three egg whites

1 to 3 tablespoons water

GO HEAVY ON THE SALT

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary,

dill, thyme, cilantro, basil and/or sage)

One orange, lemon or lime, sliced

Additional herbs (optional)

In a large bowl, mix salt and egg whites until moistened. Add enough water for the salt mixture to stick together. Rinse and pat cleaned fish dry, inside and out. Divide herbs and citrus slices evenly among fish. Brush both sides of fish with a light coating of olive oil.

On a large baking sheet, spread a layer of the salt mixture about .-inch thick for the fish to lay on. If you have additional herbs, put a single layer of leaves on the salt, right where the fish will sit. Lay stuffed fish on top of the salt or herb layer on the baking sheet.

Mound the rest of the salt mixture on the fish and cover completely. Pack the salt down evenly and try to keep the shape of the fish intact. If there isn’t enough salt to completely cover the fish, it is fine to leave the head and/or tail exposed.

Bake fish in a preheated, 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 140 degrees. If using an oven-safe thermometer, insert probe before baking so the salt crust doesn’t crack when checking the temperature.

Let fish sit five to 10 minutes before cracking the crust and removing. Skin should lift easily off the fish. Remove fish fillets from the salt crust prior to serving.

 

Get Your Dog’s Days In This Summer

With summer upon us, now is the time to get in shape for hunting season. As hunters, we strive to have our body and mind tuned in so that we can fully appreciate and enjoy all our hunting experiences have to offer and get to where we need to be to fill tags and bag game. For bird hunters, now is also the time to get your dog in shape. 

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is not getting their dog in good hunting shape before the season starts,” notes breeder and trainer Steve Waller (talltimberpudelpointers.com). “This is the time of year dogs need to be working – not just a few weeks before the season.” Waller has been training canines for over 40 years. When it comes to doing so during the sizzling days of summer, there are different points to consider than when exercising them during cooler times of the year.

When it comes to getting a dog’s feet into hunting shape, train them on gravel. Doing so will toughen their pads, strengthen their toes, feet and legs and naturally wear down their toenails. (

When it comes to getting a dog’s feet into hunting
shape, train them on gravel. Doing so will toughen
their pads, strengthen their toes, feet and legs and
naturally wear down their toenails. (

“It may not look great, but one of the first things I do when training dogs in the heat is clip their hair,” Waller shares. “Clipping that coat short is one of the best things
you can do to keep a dog cool and comfortable. It’s also great for cutting down on grass seed problems; and don’t worry, it’ll grow back.” As far as actual training, Waller
points out the obvious. “Train early in the morning and don’t push it. Get up half an hour
early and get it done before heading to work, if you have to. Just don’t put yourself in a position where mid-day training is the only option. Cool, breezy evenings can also be
good times to train, but again, don’t overdo it.” Waller advocates training near water so you can let dogs swim every 15 minutes or so. Letting dogs play in the water will greatly
help cool them off and keep them more comfortable and focused
during sessions.

“If you can’t train near a body of water, be sure and take plenty of drinking water into the field and give it to your dog regularly,” Waller insists. “Dogs with a lot of drive
won’t tell you they’re getting hot or thirsty; they’ll just keep going until they fall over from heat exhaustion, so be sure to keep them hydrated. That goes for trainers too. If a dog does go down, cover them with water to drop that body temperature as fast as you can.” Even in water training, don’t push the dogs to the point of exhaustion.

Just because they’re in the water doesn’t mean they’re staying cool all the time, as their bodies can still overheat. Just take it slow and keep it fun for the dogs. Once they
start losing interest, stop. “When water training with bumpers, I’ll only toss it in five or six times, that’s it,” offers noted trainer, breeder and former Oregon State University professor of animal breeding and genetics, Howard Meyer. “I want them to stay interested
in retrieving that bumper their whole life, bringing it to me every time.”

When conditioning dogs in the heat, Meyer (chippewa-gsp.com) uses a canoe and has his dogs swim next to him as he paddles. “Tossing a bumper five or six times isn’t going to get them in shape, but swimming will. Just give them plenty of time to warm up along the shore
as the water can be cold, even on hot days.” A dog’s feet must also get conditioned.
For this, train on gravel, pavement or concrete. Again, do this training early in the day, near water, where dogs can be quickly cooled off.

If training on asphalt, make sure it’s not too hot for the dog to comfortably set foot on. Training in the field is obviously a great place to get a dog’s feet in shape, but this time of year, watch out for snakes. If your dog’s not snake-broken, there are classes and trainers who specialize in teaching this. As you begin conditioning for the upcoming hunting season, don’t forget about man’s best friend. Dogs require proper attention and direction to get in shape, and working
with them on a daily basis will also strengthen that bond that makes hunting with dogs so special. CS

By Scott Haugen

Thaw Out This Summer

With summer arriving this month, now is a great time to clean the freezer and make room for this coming fall’s influx of fresh meat. Don’t be guilty of shoving last season’s birds to the back of the freezer and then forgetting about them.
There are many ways to prepare game birds, and specialized approaches can be tailored for each species. However, in an effort to keep things simple yet tasty, the following recipe was created with all game birds in mind. These bite-sized tidbits – or bigger finger foods – are a delicious way to introduce people to game birds. To double the batch, add 2 cups cooked brown rice to the meat mixture, doubling the amounts of oyster or soy sauce as well.

1 pound upland game bird meat, ground or finely chopped 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced One 3-ounce can water chestnuts, diced 2 tablespoons oyster or soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 5 green onions, finely sliced 2 tablespoons sesame seeds Four to eight whole lettuce leaves

Heat oil in a large skillet and brown meat on medium heat. Add garlic, water chestnuts, sauces and sugar and sauté an additional two to three minutes. Remove from heat and mix in green onions and sesame seeds. Separate lettuce leaves (butter, Boston, iceberg or leaf lettuce all work well). Divide meat mixture evenly among lettuce leaves. Or serve a portion of bird mixture with leaves on the side, allowing people to make their own bite-sized wraps. Serve with soy sauce for dipping.

Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (freeS&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at www.scotthaugen.com. Follow Tiffany on Instagram (@tiffanyhaugen), Facebook (facebook.com/thehaugens) and Twitter

Tuna Collar Sushi

FINALLY, AN EASYTO-SWALLOW RULE

TUNA FILLETERS NOW REQUIRED TO KEEP COLLAR COVETED BY SUSHI CHEFS; GEAR UP FOR LONG TRIPS
By Steve Carson 

What the heck is “tuna kama?”  New filleting regulations for all tuna species caught in California waters require that the fillets must have the skin left on, and the fish’s “collar,” which includes the pectoral fin, be included in the bag together in order to allow enforcement personnel to easily determine species.

For decades before this, deckhands have simply been discarding these collars as waste, often just tossing them overboard and saving only the prime fillet. As it turns out, we should have been saving them all along, as the collar section, or kama, is highly desired by chefs around the world.

At least in California’s high-end sushi bars, it is most often seen as hamachi kama, which comes from yellowtail (hamachi). However, the kama from bluefin tuna (maguro) is usually quite expensive, and so is not often seen stateside. A popular Los Angeles-based foodie site, Chowhound, explained it thusly:

“It would be highly unlikely to find a true, bona fide maguro collar, unless you’ve got some serious fish market connections. The maguro collar is one of the most highly prized, selected cuts from an increasingly rare and highly valuable fish, the bluefin tuna. Its appearance, texture and flavor, surprisingly, approximate that of wagyu beef. Demand far exceeds supply, especially among upper-echelon sushi bars and restaurants, particularly in Japan.”

“If you have enjoyed a meal that included genuine maguro collar, do consider it one of those meals of a lifetime. For home preparation, fresh yellowtail collar may well have to suffice. If not, the search is on, and do expect to dearly reward the purveyor if and when found.”

Another popular foodie site, the Japanese Food Report, had this to say about roasted tuna (maguro) collars:
“Here’s why you need to befriend your local fishmonger, and fast: tuna collar. While here in America we typically eat fish as boneless filets, I’ve learned that in Japan it’s more often enjoyed on the bone, and for good reason. Like a T-bone in a steak, bones in fish impart incredible flavor to the flesh.”

Author with large pacific tuna“And there’s another reason fish on the bone is popular in Japan: chopsticks. Chopsticks are extremely precise instruments that can pick out morsels of food a clunky fork could never reach, such as around bones! With chopsticks, eating fish on the bone is a joy. This is one piece of fish you can never find at the fish store, unfortunately. I urge you to try baking tuna collar if you can get your hands on one. Yellowtail collar and salmon collar work wonderfully too.”

If these bloggers are correct, a lot of folks are going to be experiencing the meal of a lifetime this year!
LONG-RANGE GEAR CHECK Numerous articles have been written
extolling the virtues of specialized extra-heavy tackle for chasing “cow” grade yellowfin tuna – those over 200 pounds – aboard San Diego-based long-range boats. The reality is that cow-size tuna are virtually never caught on trips shorter than 10 days’ duration. From now until the end of October, most long-range boats will be running trips between three and eight days in length.

The outline below lists the most commonly recommended rod/reel combos for eight-day trips. Good loaner/rental packages are available from the boat or sportfish landings for first-timers, and new long-rangers can ease slowly into the obsessive tackle collecting that grips a large number of practitioners. For trips of five days’ duration or less, the heaviest combo (No. 5 below) will most likely not be needed, though you can never tell for certain. On most boats, trolling tackle and “kite” tackle can be borrowed from the boat when it’s your turn.

  1. 25- to 30-pound live bait combo reel: PENN Fathom FTH15LD2, PENN Fathom FTH15 Rod: Conventional 7- to 8-footer, rated for 15- to 40-pound lines Applications: Albacore, dorado, wahoo live bait, school-size bluefin and yellowfin tuna live bait
  2.  40-pound live bait combo Reel: PENN Fathom FTH25NLD2, PENN Fathom FTH30 Rod: As above, but rated 20-50-pound Applications: All-around live bait use for tuna to 50 pounds (single speeds), 100 pounds (two speeds)
  3. 50-pound jigging combo Reel: PENN U.S. Senator 113N, PENN Fathom FTH40NLD2 Rod: As above, but rated 30-60-pound Applications: Yo-yo jigging for yellowtail and tuna, wahoo bombs/jigs
  4.  50- to 60-pound live bait combo Reel: PENN Torque 2-speed TRQ40NLD2, PENN International 2-speed 12VSX Rod: Conventional 6- to 7-footers, rated for 30- to 80-pound lines Applications: Larger tuna to 150 pounds with live bait, medium-duty dropper looping
  5.  80- to 100-pound live bait combo Reel: PENN International 2-speed 16VSX, or 30VSX Rod: Conventional 5½- to 7 footers, such as PENN CARBW760H, rated for 50- to 130-pound lines Applications: Larger-grade tuna to 200 pounds or more; heavy-duty dropper looping CSEditor’s note: The author loves hearing from California Sportsman readers and can be reached at scarson@sunset.net.
California’s drought has wreaked havoc on the surface area of popular San Diego bass ?shery Lake Barrett, which is about one-third of its normal capacity. But a lot of bass are still swimming in the lake, so for the next month ?shing could be strong. (BILL SCHAEFER)

DROUGHT SUCKING WATER, BUT BASS PLENTIFUL

SAN DIEGO-AREA LAKES LIKE BARRETT ARE PRODUCING FISH, DESPITE SHRINKING SURFACE AREA
By Capt. Bill Schaefer

SAN DIEGO—Lake Barrett, the payto-play lake in San Diego’s East County area, is really feeling the pressure of the California drought. In surface acres, the lake is about one-third of its normal size. All of the Pine Creek and Houser Arm spots are gone or too shallow to fish. Yet all those bass now pushed into a lake with far less of its usual water capacity will mean great fishing for a while. Opening day here saw fishermen catching anywhere from 15 to 50 fish, and some landing even more. Some float tube anglers were not checked to see

Joel King with Lake Barrett Bass

Joel King scored this Lake Barrett bass on a white spinnerbait tossed towards fish breaking in open water. (BILL SCHAEFER)

how many bass they caught.

Barrett is now more of an open lake, with rock piles and smaller coves sprinkled around. The northern bass have come off their spawn and are already in packs chasing shad around the lake. You can fish almost any area of the lake and the fish will come by eventually. Open water will also reveal tuna-type boils as the bass corral the shad and attack them.

There is no brush in the water and the shore is checkered with large cracks from the drying mud. Please be careful if you get out and walk the banks. Use rocks to walk on any chance you get, and be wary of rattlesnakes – it’s time for them to show.

The hot bait has been a white or white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait. You can throw it along the shore or in open water. I sampled the lake on a press trip a week before the opening and the spinnerbait was truly the best bait because of the bass keying on the shad. The old reliable Yamamoto Senko and Ika also scored well.

I also threw a Matt Lures bluegill and scored a little better quality of bass up to 4 pounds. The thing about this lake is that you can throw almost any lure and do well. Even fly fishermen can really enjoy a great day of bass fishing here.

Lake Barrett is limited to 25 boats with a maximum of four anglers each, but most anglers keep it to two in the boat. New this year are float tube and shore entries, which are limited to 25 fishermen. Anyone fishing must get tickets from TicketMaster (800-745-3000). They go on sale the second Tuesday of the month for the following month’s fishing. Tickets go on sale at 7 p.m. and remain on sale until all the month’s fishing days are sold out, even if it takes a few days. CS

A snake hunt

SNAKE HUNTING 101

THE ROUNDUPS OF YORE ARE MOSTLY GONE, BUT ‘SNAKE RUNS’ ARE ANOTHER WAY TO EXPERIENCE CALIFORNIA’S SLITHERERS
By Tim E. Hovey

I’ve always been fascinated with snakes.

I will admit that as a youth they absolutely terrified me. While I ran around catching lots of lizards and frogs, whenever I bumped into a snake, I did less catching and more running.

A rattlesnake

A western diamondback rattlesnake shakes its tail. Despite their dubious reputation and potentially fatal venom, most rattlers want no part of interacting with humans. Still, it’s important to be aware of their presence when out in the field. (GARY STOTZ/U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE)

As I got older and learned more about them, I began actually seeking snakes out in the hopes of seeing them up close and capturing them. I’d carefully handle the nonvenomous ones, take a few photos and then release them. I did get bit a handful of times, but for the most part the encounters were interesting and educational.

Every spring, as soon as it starts to warm up, I begin to see many of Southern California’s snake species out and about again. And as temperatures start to rise, usually during late April to early May, I start slowly searching the backroads for snakes.
Southern California has almost 20 different species of snakes, some of which are very comfortable living near suburban areas. Gopher snakes and king snakes are common species in many residential areas, where they find plenty of prey in the form of mice and other rodents. Those living in more rural areas will see coach whips, patch nose and rattlesnakes, all of which find their required habitat and forage near these less-developed areas.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to find almost all the species indigenous to the Southland. It may seem a little odd, but my favorite snakes to encounter are rattlers. Their diamond-shaped heads, thick bodies and telltale rattles seem to signify authority and an animal that means business. Whenever I come
across a rattlesnake, the first thing I grab is my camera. And I never get tired of seeing any of the species of rattlesnake that occur in Southern California.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC RATTLESNAKE
The southern Pacific rattlesnake can be found close to urban areas anywhere small rodents and ground-dwelling birds exist. This is a very common species and is usually the one encountered by hikers and anyone spending time outdoors. Often referred to as a diamondback for the dark diamond shapes on its back, the southern Pacific comes in a variety of different color schemes. I’ve seen this species from a cinnamon brown to a dark gray in color.
RED DIAMOND RATTLESNAKE

Caution sign detailing the dangers of rattlesnakes

A warning sign in California’s Sierra Nevada reflects that areas where rattlesnakes are present should be taken with extreme caution. (ALAN LEVINE/WIKIMEDIA)

This species occurs in the southern portion of the state, and in my opinion is one of the prettiest snakes out there. The body is a uniform cinnamon color, lacking the darker diamond shapes of the southern Pacific. The tail of this species has several black and white bands located just before the rattles.
MOJAVE GREEN RATTLESNAKE
Also referred to as the Mojave rattlesnake, this species has several differing color variations, including a green hue. This species has an overlapping range with the southern Pacific rattlesnake and is often mistaken for it. However, the diamond patterns on the Mojave green rattlesnake fade as you move towards the tail. An aggressive species, it feeds on mice and lizards.
SIDEWINDER RATTLESNAKE
Also called the horned snake, the sidewinder is a smaller desert species that moves over its sandy environment in a sideways manner. A relatively passive species, the sidewinder is tan to sandy in coloration, usually speckled with darker patches on its back. Distinct eye bars extend from the back of the eye over the jaw line. Sidewinders feed on pocket mice, lizards and kangaroo rats.
A DESERT SNAKE RUN
When the days get really warm, my daughters and I like to head out to the desert and drive the powerline roads looking for snakes as the temperatures drop in the evenings. We call these outdoor adventures snake runs.

During the blazing heat of the day, snakes seek out cooler spots or head underground to avoid overheating. As night comes and temperatures become more bearable, the snakes head out to feed and can be encountered warming themselves on desert dirt roads.Directions for how to treat a snakebite

We arrive with about an hour of daylight left and the kids usually hit the ground running. Both my daughters have been on snake runs before and they know how to be safe and what to look for. Using their snake sticks, they head out to search the desert terrain.

On this trip, Jessica was the first to find a snake. The small sidewinder rattled loudly as we gathered around to check him out. It was a beautiful specimen, and we kept our distance so as to not stress out the snake. We took a few nice photographs, took a waypoint on the GPS and left the snake where we found it.

As the sun dropped, we headedback to the truck. We grabbed some snacks and drove to the starting point for the evening run. The spot I chose has almost 20 miles of dirt road that travels through some great snake habitat. It was to be a moonless night and within the hour it was going to be too dark to see without lights.

By the time we started driving the roads, it was dark and the weather had definitely cooled from the 105-degree daytime temperature. In the world of reptiles, this is the time to move.

If you’ve ever driven dirt roads at night, you’ll notice that small mammals regularly use these cleared spaces to prey on invertebrates and to move easily between areas to search for food. In turn, snakes will take advantage of the open areas of the roads to prey on the mammals.

We traveled slowly and searched the road in front of us carefully and began the snake run. For the first hour all we spotted were the occasional kangaroo rat or field mouse. Specifically searching for snakes during a run isn’t easy and you may need to drive several miles before you encounter reptiles. Despite the lack of snakes, the
kids stayed positive.

Another rattlesnake

The southern Pacific is one of the most common rattlers found in Southern California. It feeds on small rodents and mammals. (TIM E. HOVEY)

We turned down a side road and our luck started to change. My friend, Jose, spotted the first snake of the evening. Stretched out across the road was a beautiful Mojave green rattlesnake. I have encountered this species dozens of times in the wild and they all seem to act the same way: very aggressively.

True to form, the 3-footlong rattler began rattling loudly before we were out of the truck. He coiled defensively and never stopped rattling. The coloration on this particular specimen was amazing. He had a uniform green hue and was in perfect condition. I took a few photos, and to keep him safe, we used the snake sticks to move him off the road.

A mile later, we added a second sidewinder to the snakes we encountered on our desert snake run. A relatively passive snake, and smaller than its more aggressive relatives, the sidewinder is unique in behavior and appearance. The sidewinder will bury itself in the sand and ambush prey that passes by. It possesses eye horns, or supraocular scales, that may aid in protecting the eyes in the sandy environment.

The sidewinder posed nicely for photos and remained calm the entire time. It was getting late, so we moved the snake off the road and called it a night. With three snakes encountered and two species recorded, it was definitely a great snake run.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS… I do understand the fear that snakes invoke in many. I used to experience the same emotion before I understood the reptiles’ behavior. If you take a few seconds to watch a snake react during your next encounter, you’ll notice that they form themselves into a defensive posture and position themselves to escape. In short, they want no part of interacting with a human.

A sidewinder

This sidewinder rattlesnake blends in nicely with the desert terrain it inhabits. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Fear is natural when it comes to dealing with snakes, but many species help keep prolific mammal populations in check. Even rattlers provide a valuable service in the wild and, in my opinion, are the most unique and beautiful species of snakes out there. Next time you encounter a snake of any species, take a few seconds and watch it react. I guarantee that as you do, any fear you may have will turn to appreciation and respect. CS

A snake hunt

When on the lookout for snakes in the desert shrub areas of Southern California, the best time to find rattlers or other species is in the evening hours when temperatures drop. (TIM E. HOVEY)

 

Fisherman at the lake

THE SEVEN-DAY PLAN

HAVE A WEEK TO FISH THE EASTERN SIERRA? TRY THIS ITINERARY
By Mike Stevens

With a quarter-century career of Eastern Sierra fishing in my rear-

Brookie in Skelton Lake

Trout as beautiful as their surroundings can be found in the Eastern Sierras; this brookie came from Skelton Lake, a hike-in water. (MIKE STEVENS)

view mirror, I feel I can maximize the efficiency with which I chase trout up there by following a finely tuned, day-by-day game plan for trips of various lengths. For nearly three decades, I have discovered new spots, eliminated some others, and have taken a wide variety of factors into consideration when deciding on which day of the trip I will make each outing.

Obviously, this attack plan is geared toward the type of fishing I do, the areas I do it in, and where I’m based. So I don’t expect anyone to do exactly what I do, but maybe if you see where I’m coming from and how I get there, you can come up with a similar playbook of your own.

Since my standard trip length is a week – give or take a day – and it’s based out of Mammoth Lakes, that is what I have outlined here. It admittedly reeks of OCD, but at the same time, it eliminates a ton of wasted time that could otherwise be used spanking some trout.
DAY ZERO
This is my travel day. I call it Day Zero because fishing opportunities are limited after a six-hour drive, and if I don’t catch anything, that would otherwise mean a Day 1 skunk, and that’s just not the way I want to get a trip started. However, Day Zero fish are bonus fish that I do count in the tally for the trip. Any Day Zero fishing is going to be done somewhere low maintenance, such as a drive-up spot that I won’t need to unbury any special gear to get to. In recent years, I have readied a rod to fish so that if I decide to check a spot out before I reach my lodging and unload, I can get in the game easily.

My Day Zero spots have included Convict Lake, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Convict, Mammoth and McGee Creeks, and even spots hours south on Highway 395, like the streams coming out of the mountains between Lone Pine and Bishop. I have also done pretty well just turning off wherever I see one of those fishing road signs and go where it takes me.

If any fish are caught on Day Zero, I consider it a victory.
DAY 1
On my first full day of the trip, I stick to the easy-access game plan, but it works a little differently when I am working with an entire day instead of just a few hours. I still go to driveup spots, mainly because I am still acclimating to the altitude (the town of Mammoth Lakes sits nearly a mile and a half above sea level) and I’m not going to charge into the backcountry yet. But I am willing to walk a fair amount on flat ground.

I want to go to places that I know will have good numbers of fish on the board, even if they are just hatchery rainbows this time out. I want to get a strong start, work the kinks out, and hit the ground running toward my 100-trout (for the week) goal.

I hit the Upper Owens for at least part of Day 1. I can drive along the river, and while I do a fair amount of walking, it’s painless because it’s flat and open. Getting skunked is very rare; the action is wide open and produces gaudy numbers, plus you have a shot at big fish that snuck out of Lake Crowley.

Mammoth Lakes and Convict are still on the radar at this point, but

Lake Mamie

After a nice dinner in town, summer in the high country allows you to head to a secluded spot like Lake Mamie and cast for trout. (MIKE STEVENS)

Rock Creek Lake has also joined the fray because it’s a bit too far out of town for Day Zero, but there’s plenty of time to head down on Day 1. The lake is also easy to get around and is very much a drive-up impoundment. A boater? Perfect day for this one.
DAY 2

Now things are starting to get serious. Day 2 is always a Sunday for me, which means much of the weekend crowd or people whose own week long vacations are over and are now heading out of town, so any spot that typically receives heavy pressure will now be easier to fish. I also want to fish any spot on my list of favorites because if it kicks butt, I may want to return there later in the week. By now I’ve gotten used to the altitude, so at this point I can comfortably do a moderate hike. Saddlebag Lake up Tioga Pass is my favorite drive-up lake on the Eastern Sierras, and it’s almost a lock for a Day 2 spot. It takes about an hour to get there from Mammoth, and then I will take the water taxi to the far side of the lake and ?sh the shoreline right there where I’m dropped off.

Anyone else on the boat typically heads right up the trail into the 20 Lakes Basin and I’ll have most of my area to myself. I have caught big fish here, piled up numbers, and landed them on the fly rod and any other tactic you can think of. Fishing is usually so good here I will start swapping lures out that are working just to see what else I can catch them on.

If things should slow down at Saddlebag, I’ll hike up the trail and beat up brookies with the fly rod at lakes as close as a 15-minute scramble up the hill. On the way down from here, I will pull off and fish Ellery Lake by the dam where I have had some incredible days on stocked rainbows. Admittedly, I’ve had some skunkers too, but it’s right there; I have to do it. After lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, I’ll regroup at base camp
in Mammoth and head out to an easy spot like the ones listed for Day 1 or 2.

Mountain trail

If you drove to Saddlebag Lake around Lee Vining, it’s a short hike from there to this spectacular fishing hole, Greenstone Lake. (MIKE STEVENS)

DAY 3
Vive la backcountry! Saddlebag Lake is a long day, but it’s pretty relaxing since the water taxi does most of the work, so I’m fully acclimated to altitude with fresh legs on Day 3. It’s time to put on some miles, and for me that usually means my favorite backcountry vein, the Duck Pass Trail.

With a trailhead near the back of Lake Mary, this trail brings me to Lakes Arrowhead, Skelton and Barney, in that order. Arrowhead gets passed up by most trail anglers, but it’s full of brook trout and a few Kamloop rainbows to make things exciting.

Skelton is a big lake as hike-in waters go, and sometimes fishing is so good there I don’t go any further. Barney, about 3½ miles in, always produces brookies. If I come back having caught any less than 25 fish up there, I’m a little bummed.

The base camp regroup usually happens around 3 p.m after this one, and it usually involves a stop at Mammoth Brewing and a nap, but again, a close and easy outing is still on the table that evening.
DAY 4
This is either a hard backcountry day, or my newest addition, a day spent working the San Joaquin River. I explored this area in pretty good detail last year, and I actually feel kind of lame for the fact that it took this long to do so.

I pick up the shuttle up near the ski resort that takes visitors to attractions like Devils Postpile, Reds Meadow, Rainbow Falls, and a couple of small lakes and cool campgrounds. Tying all this together is the San Joaquin River, which offers a legit shot at a Sierra grand slam – four species in one day – and good fishing on lures or flies.

I jump off the shuttle at the furthest upstream access point to the river, and work my way down. Walking along the river is easy My after-dinner runs are a biggie. After dinner each evening, I will head up to the Mammoth Lakes Basin and fish until dark. I’ll start at Twin Lakes and work my way up, sometimes spending as little as 20 minutes at a spot before moving on if I don’t like the way things look. Almost without fail, one of these lakes is going to produce a handful of fish, or even wide-open action. I like to end up at Lake Mary, because by 7 p.m., people have packed up and left and trout start visibly feeding very close to shore, all over the lake. I’ve had ridiculous fishing tossing Sierra Slammers jigs up to 9 p.m. – even if I’m wearing a headlamp, they’re still biting in the dark. I have also smoked them on long casts with a fly-and-bubble rig, or closer to shore with the fly rod. There are also times when I will get a feeling to check out a spot, earning it a hit on the following year’s seven-day rotation. That’s how I found Ellery Lake, and it’s also why Convict Lake is back on the radar after I gave up on it after a couple bad trips there over a decade ago. Stuff like this can occur at any time. While I’m based in Mammoth, if I get a tip, want to mix up the venue or, in some cases, get chased off the mountain by inclement weather (it takes a lot, but it has happened), I will head down to fish Bishop Creek Canyon. Both forks of the creek and North Lake have always been good to me; it’s just too far out of my zone for me to include it on the annual game plan. –MSthrough campgrounds and along roads, but it gets to where you need to scramble up a hill to get over an obstacle. There is some bushwacking to get to fishy-looking places, some wet wading, sliding down rocks and so on. So even though it’s all downhill once you get to the bottom, you can jump on the shuttle for a ride back up; it can beat you up. It’s a full day down there, and at the end your legs are tired and scraped up, but it’s a great area to fish and well worth it.
DAY 5
Ah, the lazy day. After trekking uphill on the Duck Pass trail and getting beat up by rocks, sticks and exposure along the San Joaquin, sleeping in one day doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world.

Granted, I’m not talking about the Vegas bachelor party sense of sleeping in, but I think I deserve the right to stay in the rack until 7 or so, have breakfast, and get back in the game by 8, or, dare I say, 9 a.m.

At that point, where I fish is wide open. It might be the Owens again or a short roadie to the June Lake Loop to fish Rush Creek or a lake; or it could be a longer jaunt to Virginia Lakes. I might be a whim to check an area I’m unfamiliar with, but the one activity I am not doing is hiking.

DAY 6
It could be a up a new trail, or back up one I went up earlier in the week like Duck Pass if it was awesome, or really, any spot that stood out as damn close to a sure thing when it comes to fishing success. Wherever I go, it will be knowing that the end of the trip is near, and I am going to fish hard all day, no matter what. Good fishing can really throw a curveball into the game plan at any time, but that’s a good thing.

A few years ago, I fished Convict Lake four different days because it was so stupid-good. The following year, I fished for an hour and that
was it. As structured and OCD as my attack plan is, it does allow for calling audibles to go where fishing’s good.
DAY 7
The easiest decision of all is where to go on the last full fishing day of the trip – the spot where I killed it. Day 7 has been Saddlebag Lake for me so often that it’s the main reason why I know I’m going to hit it early in the week, because I want to make sure going there twice is a possibility.

In rare cases, it’s been another day hike – for instance, if I caught 50 at Skelton or something. In years where I have had about the same success rate wherever I went, I might end up at the Owens one more time because of the numbers and quality factor. But at this point, I’m not only fishing and hoping that I’m about to eclipse the 100-fish mark, I’m reflecting on the whole trip and trying to determine what adjustments can be made to this seven-day madness next time. CSFisherman at the lake

Author Tim Hovey the first and second time he shot a wild swine

Hunting Summer Swine

A QUARTER CENTURY OF PURSUING PIGS HAS LED TO GOOD INSIGHTS FOR HOW TO HUNT IN THE HIGH HEAT
By Tim E. Hovey

I’ve been hunting wild pigs in California for over 25 years, and in that time, I’ve chased them during all seasons.
Winter and spring hogs can be found moving at all times of the day during the cooler daytime conditions. However, when the weather heats up and the days get longer, wild pigs will adjust their movement patterns and are less likely to be encountered during the heat of the day. If you adjust your hunting tactics and know what to look for, chasing late-summer pigs can be exciting and successful.

FIND THE WATER
     During hotter periods of the year, all mammals need to seek out water frequently. Most animals will visit existing water sources and usually bed down somewhere close by. When the greenery starts to dry up in the lowlands and the days get hotter, my first order of business when hunting pigs is to locate the water.
If you stand and look out over any terrain during dry periods of the year, the presence of water isn’t difficult to spot. Springs and seeps that force water to the surface or even close to the surface will maintain greener vegetation than dry areas. I like to find an elevated location where I can get a good view of the terrain I’ll be hunting and glass for green areas. I’ll look in valleys or rocky bluffs to see where the vegetation is greenest. Green vegetation almost always means water.

Wild pigs in a green field

Come this time of year, it really is all about ?nding any kind of green, which signals moisture and draws pigs. (TIM E. HOVEY)

After locating potential water sources, I’ll check and see if these areas are being used regularly. From a distance, I can ascertain if the trails leading to the water look fresh. If I can easily access the water hole, I’ll examine the tracks around the shore for recent activity.
A water source that doesn’t offer any quality cover nearby may be visited occasionally, but for the most part, I don’t concentrate my scouting efforts at these locations.
Areas that have quality bedding habitat close to available water are your best bet. If these locations are a bit remote or tough to access, they are a top priority for me to hunt. Pigs like to bed in thick cover to stay hidden, and if you find a spot that looks absolutely nasty to access, it may be just what wild pigs are looking for.

MOVE EARLY, MOVE LATE
During warmer parts of the year, wild pigs will become nocturnal and usually feed in the evening. Hunters getting to the hunting grounds early can intercept pigs moving from feeding areas and back to their beds. Pigs can also be spotted on the run near sundown. In either case, these window of opportunity are very brief, and unless you are familiar with feeding and bedding areas, success will be limited.
As the vegetation dries out in the lower valleys, groups of pigs will head to higher elevations to seek out greener vegetation to feed on. Lone adult boars, usually separated from the group, will occasionally bed down at lower elevations if they find adequate water and cover to carry them through the day. When the days heat up and pigs wait it out in the thick stuff, I really enjoy picking apart the terrain and identifying these resting areas to kick through.

CHECKING BEDS
     When I spot a water area that looks promising, I try and develop two plans of approach to accommodate differing wind directions. I usually do this from a distance and then choose an approach once I test the wind at the area. With the wind in my face, I’ll slowly stalk in near the bedding area. I like to try and approach from the top and visualize or identify escape routes for both the pigs and myself.

Wild pig near a watering hole

In summer’s heat, just like humans, pigs are always looking to hydrate themselves. These hogs have congregated near a watering hole. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Once I get close, I spend a little time looking for fresh sign before I kick through the vegetation. Fresh tracks and scat will give you an idea if the area is being used. Bedded pigs will hold tight to cover and may not break cover until you’re nearly on top of them.
Shot opportunities may be quick and brief. This type of hunting favors a short-barreled, quick-swinging firearm. That’s why this year – when the weather started heating up – I decided to dust off an old rifle I hadn’t used in a long time.

HUNTING WITH AN OLD FAVORITE
In 1990, I was using the only rifle I owned for hunting big game, a Marlin lever-action .30-30. When I pulled it out for a pig hunt, the guide laughed at my stubby brush gun.
Before we got started, he laid out some very specific rules for my lever gun and me. My shots were to be limited to inside 100 yards and the pig needed to be still and broadside for me to even think about taking a shot.
I ended up killing a fat sow as the guide stood right next to me. I hit the pig in the back of the head, offhand, and as she ran straight away from us 100 yards out.
The guide never said another word about my Marlin.
But after I returned home, I stored the rifle in the safe and moved on to other calibers.
This year, I have been able to sneak very close to bedded animalsand have kicked pigs up anywhere from 30 yards to a few feet. For this reason, I decided to dust off the old lever gun and carry it with me while hunting the thick stuff. I hadn’t hunted with the Marlin since 1990 and was hoping I’d get a chance to once again put a pig on the ground with it.
In June, I met up with my friend Mike and we headed in to our hunting area around noon.
The plan was to head into a steep canyon where I knew pigs had been active in recent weeks. Playing the wind, I set up Mike near the bottom of the creek that overlooked a wellworn game trail. I left him there and began to hike the adjacent ridge. My plan was to get to the top, drop into the creek and slowly kick through the creek bottom. My intention was hopefully sending pigs downstream towards Mike. With the temperature approaching 100 degrees, I knew that not much movement would be taking place voluntarily.
I was following a well-used game trail and was about a half-mile up the ridge when I decided to take a water break. I bent down to place my binoculars on the ground when a large animal broke from cover a mere 8 feet from where I was standing. I had the rifle up quickly, but the large boar dropped into the adjacent drainage and out of sight in a heartbeat.

Dead wild pig with hunting rifle resting on it

While fall and spring pigs are constantly on the move and surprisingly dif?cult to keep up with, in hotter weather they tend to only get out at dusk and early evening. If you can ?nd where they’re bedded, you can have a productive and fun hunt. (TIM E. HOVEY)

When I last saw him, he was headed in the opposite direction of where Mike was set up and had dropped into a different creek bottom. I knew Mike would never see this pig, considering it was this far up the ridge and knowing his escape direction.
I ran to the edge of the canyon and waited. The creek was very narrow and I figured I could get a clear shot as the boar escaped up the opposite ridge. Thirty seconds passed and nothing appeared. I took a few more steps and looked into the creek bottom. The boar was standing in deep cover broadside. My wind was good and he appeared to have no idea exactly what had kicked him out of his bed.
I raised the Marlin and easily found the pig in the scope. His vitals were covered up by thick vegetation and I needed him to take two steps for a clear shot. Within seconds, he took exactly two steps and stopped. I adjusted, found the crease behind the shoulder and dropped him there at 80 yards. I ejected the shell, picked up the brass and instantly realized that I had just killed my first big animal with my lever gun in over a quarter of a century.

BEING SNEAKY PAYS OFF Sneaking close to bedded pigs is one of my favorite ways to pursue wild hogs in California. If you spend time glassing areas and identifying wellused watering spots during the warmer months, pigs will be bedded nearby. All you have to do is find them.
Wild pigs will adjust their movement patterns as temperatures rise. As they avoid the heat, they’ll feed more during evening hours and move to and from bedding areas very early and very late.
If you feel like extending your hunting opportunities well beyond the narrow movement windows, try seeking out summer hogs in their bedding areas. Hearing a 200-pound animal break cover right near your feet will definitely get your heart pumping. CS

Two stags on a grassy hill

Stag Party Invitation

TRACING NEW ZEALAND’S THRIVING HUNTING INDUSTRY | FIRST OF FOUR PARTS
By Simon Guild

     The snow tussocks begin to wave in a different direction, indicating a shift in the cool wind. Your scent is now heading right for the quarry, and you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s onto you. Your pulse quickens, despite your best efforts to remain calm.
You’ve been here before, not this location, but in this situation. It is familiar, yet somehow different – exotic even. You remind yourself that this very moment is why you’re here: 7,000 miles from home.

Author and his brother

“We want people to come to (New Zealand) with an adventure in mind, not a canned hunt,” says the author Simon Guild, left, here with his brother, Hamish Guild. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

You steady your rest in anticipation of what you know is coming. Sure enough, the stag lifts his head and turns to face you – its awesome rack on full display – trying to work
out what it is awakening his nostrils. You allow yourself a moment to appreciate his magnificence before focusing in on your scope; you have mere seconds before he’s gone. You steady the crosshairs and squeeze the trigger like you have so many times before.
HUNTING THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
Does this sound like something that lights your fire? You’re not alone. Every year, hunters from around the world make the pilgrimage to New Zealand to hunt the mighty red stag and a raft of other species that make up the most famous big-game hunting destination in the South Pacific. The dream New Zealand hunt is what they’re after, and making it happen shouldn’t be hard. However, like any high-involvement experience, there are a few simple yet vital actions that can ensure the dream becomes a re
ality and not a nightmare. Add this to the fact that hunting in New Zealand is largely unregulated and you’ll soon start to realize that a little research goes a long way.
My name is Simon Guild and my family has been hosting

A hunter, advancing crouched with gun in hand

A hunter on High Peak demonstrates the “spotand-stalk” technique in New Zealand’s rugged terrain. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

international hunters on our estate, High Peak, for almost 30 years. We have seen a large amount of clients over the years, sharing their experiences as they undertake a journey of anticipation, excitement and ultimately success.      Unfortunately, we’ve also heard our share of horror stories.
Over the next four issues of California Sportsman, I will be sharing our knowledge of the industry with you, along with a few insights that we’ve distilled into some vital actions to ensure you make the right decisions when booking your New Zealand hunt.
In this issue, we’ll set the scene by exploring the history of hunting in New Zealand, along with a bit about location and species, in terms that are relevant to you, the international-traveling hunter. In the next issue, we’ll look at the right type of New Zealand hunt for you, followed by the seven costly mistakes to avoid making. In the fourth and final installment, we’ll give you 10 frequently asked questions you should bring up to your outfitter.
Armed with this knowledge, I guarantee that you’ll be able to go forth and make your inquiries with confidence.

A HISTORY LESSON
     Understanding where the New Zealand hunting industry came from provides a sound background to the advice that will follow. Wind the clock back 150 years and you’ll see a New Zealand with no species of big game – at least not as we know them.
New Zealand was a country entirely dominated by birds. The early European settlers, who were missing their favorite pastimes from back home, set about introducing myriad game species – from rabbits through to moose. Some introductions were successful, some less so, but all species were introduced on the basis of being available for every New Zealander to hunt.

Two hunters and a dead Tahr pose for a photograph

A snowcapped setting and a Himalayan tahr are part of an exotic hunting experience in New Zealand. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

Gone was the elitism and privilege of European hunting, and to this day it remains the right of every Kiwi to grab his or her rifle and head into some of the 4 million acres of public land to hunt.
Despite this egalitarian approach, some species did a little too well. In the case of red deer, the world-leading quality of the wild trophies in the 1930s and ’40s soon gave way to overpopulation and resulting habitat destruction. In response, the New Zealand government implemented deer-culling programs in the 1950s and ’60s, whereupon paid hunters armed with military surplus .303 rifles would head into the bush for weeks on end with the sole purpose of reducing deer numbers.
A few enterprising hunters began to realize there was a demand for the venison harvested as a result, and an export trade was quickly developed. While deer were recovered from remote locations by horseback, jet boat and bush plane in the beginning, it was the introduction of helicopters that really made an impact on the numbers. Initially using the machines as a means of transporting the meat out of the wilderness, the helicopter crews rapidly evolved into highly efficient aerial gun platforms, so good at what they did that they soon realized they were going to shoot themselves out of a job!
Again the pioneers adapted to the situation and turned their flying gunships into flying live-recovery platforms. The express purpose of this was to capture live deer and sling them back to newly established deer farms.
New Zealand deer farming was thus born and gave rise to a new industry in conjunction with the venison: deer velvet. The highly valued antler could fetch some serious money in the developing Asian markets, and New Zealand deer farmers quickly worked out
how to breed bigger and better antlers to capitalize on this growth.
Now, you can probably see where this is going. As a direct result of the breeding of better velvet stags, farmers also began to breed significantly wider, heavier and more multi-pointed trophy heads.
Before long, New Zealand was producing red deer trophies far in excess of any other country, and international hunters were starting to take note. Thus, the modern New Zealand trophy hunting industry was born, with red stag as its cornerstone prize among big game, closely supported by Himalayan tahr, alpine chamois, elk, fallow deer, wild boar and a handful of other species.

A GREAT HUNTING OPPORTUNITY

Two hunters and a dead New Zealand Red Stag pose for a picture

Hamish Guild and a client celebrate a New Zealand red stag. The country’s trophy population has become a coveted option for international hunters. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

So what does this mean to you, the international traveling trophy hunter? Well, you now know that hunting in New Zealand is relatively free of restrictions in terms of seasons and access. You know how our big game species came to be here and how New Zealand came to lead the world in red deer and wapiti (elk) trophy genetics. And you know that the New Zealand hunting industry is an unregulated environment, one where keeping your wits about you in the initial planning stages can result in a life-changing experience for the better.
In the next issue, we’ll explore the different hunting environments in New Zealand, how they may relate to your ethics and preferences as a hunter, and a few important things that you really should be aware of. CS

Editor’s note: Simon Guild is a director of High Peak, one of the oldest hunting estates in New Zealand. He and his brother Hamish co-wrote The Hunters’ Guidebook to New Zealand with the aim of providing quality decision-making guidelines to visiting international hunters. Find out more at huntingredstag.com.

Two anglers on the Shogun boat, one holding a large fish.

Chunking Chips for Tuna

 CUT BAIT CHUMMING A SMART PACIFIC OCEAN TECHNIQUE
By Steve Carson

Much has been written about the use of various live baits for tuna, and heavy chumming of the live stuff is almost always part of the program.
In a record-setting tuna year like 2015, what can a California small-boater do with limited live-bait carrying capacity and equally limited financial resources?
The technique known as “chunking” is nothing new and is practiced just about everywhere tuna are caught on the planet. Typically, California anglers cut up sardines into about four pieces each, an inch or two long, and toss them overboard at regular Two anglers on the Shogun boat, one holding a large fish.intervals.
“Small-boat owners can generally only hold a scoop or two in their boat’s live bait tanks, usually just enough to use as hook baits. Even carefully saving the baits that die and cutting them up into about four pieces used up our limited bait-carrying capacity pretty quickly,” says Doug Kern, manager of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle Shop (619-221-8500; fishermanslanding.com) in San Diego.
“This season, we have also been buying an extra scoop of live sardines and just putting them into a 5-gallon bucket. We cut the sardines up into ultrathin slices, not much more than the thickness of a potato chip at only one-quarter of an inch or so. The yield is around eight or nine slices per sardine.
“Any time we are near a kelp paddy, get a jig strike or have a good meter mark, we set up a drift. Start out by throwing a handful and then just keep a trail going by tossing one steadily every 30 seconds. The water this season is so clear, you can see the chunks 50 to 75 feet down. If all of a sudden you can’t see them, it’s probably because the fish have come through and eaten them. When you cut your catch open later, you will see that they have been eating your chunks. This year there has been a lot of waiting it out, but if you lay out a line of chum over a stretch of water of 300 or more yards, they will eventually find you.”
Dwayne Patenude, the past club president of San Diego Anglers (sandiegoanglers.com), agreed with Kern’s assessment.
“We use the chunks as hook bait too, and the fish are not shy about hitting on 40- or even 50-pound line,” he says. “We use a short piece of fluorocarbon, mainly for abrasion resistance, on a 3/0 circle hook. There are enough 50- to 60-pounders in every school that you don’t want to go too light. A long soak is not necessary; just let the hooked piece drift freely back with the chum about 100 feet, then crank it in and start over. The key is trying to make the hooked baits drift naturally back with the chummed baits.
“The whole technique is just a reaction to limited bait capacity. By doing this, you can stretch your chum power out three or four times longer on a private boat. Party boats, of course, have an almost unlimited supply of live bait that they can chum with.”
Chumming with the chunks, and then fishing live sardines as bait the standard way also works.
“On our little 17-footer, we thinslice the sardines ahead of time, and chum a slice regularly every 30 seconds. Then we just do a long soak with live sardines, every once in a while putting the reel in gear and cranking in a little, then letting it back out,” says Dawn Davis, fishing manager at West Marine (949-6739700) in Newport Beach. “We have done very well this season on bluefin tuna up to 50 pounds using this technique. Some days we’ll leave the harbor at 7 a.m. and are all done by 8:30 a.m.”

TUNA POPPERS
Another technique that has rapidly gained popularity over the past two seasons in California and northern Baja is topwater poppers. The most common species targeted with poppers is yellowfin tuna, and in some cases yellowfin will actually hit better on a popper than on live bait or traditional lures.
Yellowtail will also readily hit on poppers, as will skipjack tuna, although bluefin and albacore tend to be a little more reluctant. Dorado will often go after a popper, but there can be a safety issue with dorado that are jumping high in the air. They also can thrash on the deck, causing the lure to fly loose and injure anglers. Wahoo also love poppers but can be an expensive proposition with their razor-sharp jaws biting off a high percentage of lures.
Best popper sizes for local-grade tuna are around 2 to 3 ounces, with a popular choice being the 2½-ounce Williamson Jet-Popper. For larger fish, the 4-ounce Williamson Jet-Popper works well, and the extra water it pushes with each splash can sometimes trigger even small fish into biting. Conversely, finicky fish may prefer the slight subsurface disturbance created by the Williamson Surface Pro stickbait. Color is not as important as getting the proper splash on the retrieve, but natural colors like blue sardine, dorado, or black/silver all produce fish.
Spinning tackle is called for in most cases, especially if casting directly into the wind. Tuna fishing is definitely not the setting for inexpensive spinning gear. When fishing schoolie-size fish up to about 50 pounds or so, a PENN Spinfisher SSV7500 filled with 65-pound superbraid is sufficient. On multiday long-range trips that may regularly encounter tuna in the 75- to 125-pound class, stepping up to a premium-level PENN Torque TRQS9 filled with 80-pound superbraid is standard.
A short, 2-foot leader of 80- to 100-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon is primarily to allow easier handling of the fish on deck, and provide chafe resistance near the lure. Either a worm knot or John Collins knot connects the superbraid to the short leader. Due to the dead boat-style and lack of ability to chase the fish, spinning gear is not appropriate on party boats when tuna are exceeding 125 pounds.
In some cases, the hooks on less-expensive poppers may need to be upgraded to a heavier grade of wire or they may bend under the heavy pressure. When fishing is very good or when smaller fish may need to be released, changing the treble hooks out to single hooks is appropriate.
This writer always has one or two poppers with literally no hooks at all. When limits have been achieved or the grade of fish is a bit small, cranking back a hookless popper can result in 10 to 20 or even more spectacular strikes in a single cast! CS

Editor’s note: You can contact the author at scarson@sunset.net.