All posts by calstaff

Adkinson with Bluefin Tuna

To The Blue!

By Chris Cocoles 

When Southern California angler Craig Adkinson and his buddies head out of port onto the Pacific Ocean to chase tuna, dorado and

Adkinson with Tuna, holding fishing rod in his mouth

Big fish like tuna, dorado and yellowtail are waiting to be caught off Southern California, as a happy Craig Adkinson shows off during a recent trip. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

yellowtail, the trip turns into an impromptu dolphin-watching tour.
“We look for porpoise (pods). We’ll follow the dolphins and try to get ahead of them. We’re talking huge groups of a couple hundred together all working bait,” Adkinson says. “They’ll follow the bait, and, of course, the tuna will go with the dolphins. And then the tuna start smashing on the same bait ball. And then you’ll see the birds going crazy.” It’s been another productive summer in the Pacific for the fish species that are usually more prevalent further south in waters off Mexico. But from San Diego north to Orange County and beyond, anglers continue to take advantage of weather patterns that have driven fish to usually colder water.
“The best thing we’ve been finding because the water temperatures have been rising because of what they call the Super El Niño, they’re finding what they call a current break,” Adkinson says. “So you’ll look where there’s a difference in the temperature of the current, where the water temperature goes to, like, 71- to 74-degree water; that’s where all the baitfish travel.”
What boats should be looking for are giant bait balls on their fishfinders, then traveling along the current break and zigzagging the boat in an S-style pattern.
“We catch them by doing what most call fly lining. That’s with a regular tuna rod set-up, with 20-, 30- or 40-pound test, depending on if they’re line-shy or not,” Adkinson says. “We have different set-ups for different grades of fish. So if the fish are in the 20- to 30-pound range, you can use 20-pound line. If the fish are in the 30- to 50-pound range, you use 40-pound test. My buddy just landed a 134-pound tuna on 50-pound line. So that should tell you the line

A Kelp paddy in the water.

Kelp paddies scattered throughout the offshore areas don’t necessarily have to be huge to contain a lot of fish underneath. (CHRIS RHODES)

There are several hotspots for catching tuna and other species. Adkinson has fished a lot in what’s known as the 209 or 277, between the lower side of Catalina Island and San Clemente Island. The kelp paddies that break off the main islands are an alternative to looking for dolphin and bird activity.
But there’s more than just finding a kelp paddy and fishing it. How you approach such areas is just as critical as how to fish them.
“We see a lot of people do things wrong; they’ll come up to the paddy all super excited and super fast. By doing that, they scare the fish and push the fish down that were under the paddy,”
Adkinson says. “They’ll have engines roaring and music blasting and they get up to it and throw out bait; they wonder why they don’t get bit and they leave.”
It’s also worth noting that sometimes boats won’t stay at a paddy long enough and will leave for another spot prematurely when it appears fish aren’t biting.
Adkinson has learned some tricks from veteran ocean fishermen Chris Rhodes and Dave Pearson. When approaching a kelp paddy and you are within about a football field’s length, slow down the engines to a trolling speed. Then do a loop around the paddy and troll the area. Chunking some bait around it should bring fish like dorado up to the surface.

Various rods and reels

Set-ups and techniques aren’t very complicated for scoring big on tuna and other species fished off the Southern California coast. The biggest factor is knowing where to find fish. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

“Once they get excited on the bait you’ll throw your live sardines or mackerel in there. You can hook it in the nose or the stomach – what we call ‘butthooking’ – and it will swim away from the boat better. We’ll just throw it out fly lining; no weight on it and towards the paddy,” Adkinson says.
“As long as your bait is swimming toward the paddy, let it free swim and keep working your spool. If you’re bit, just put it in gear and reel tight. You don’t even have to set the hook. Once you come tight with it the fish is already hooked up. When we fish the paddies we just turn the engines off and just drift.”
As for artificial baits that can catch fish, Adkinson likes a new line of Shimano-made lures: Flat Falls, diamond-style jigs that work well when fishing anywhere 30 to 200 feet down. It’s a simple way to fish these spoons: tie it on and let it sink as far as your line will let out. Tuna love these baits. Adkinson also trolls with Magnum Rapalas or tuna feathers.

Adkinson with Bluefin Tuna

Adkinson with a gorgeous Pacific bluefin tuna, which can be caught with simple tactics like trolling spoons or fly lining live bait near a kelp paddy. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

“These are pretty simple set-ups. The techniques to catch them are fairly simple,” Adkinson says. “The hardest part is finding the fish.” CS 

"WATER WANTED IN FIELDS" printed in white over a dry grassland


By Patrick Kittle 

When Filling out the federal paperwork at the time of purchasing your shotgun this year, don’t forget to write in the state of your residence as “arid.”
We have been reminded that, although waterfowl migrate here to winter grounds, California is considered an arid state and waterfowlers will be experiencing more of the same from last year. More of the same drought conditions would result in less planted rice ?elds.
The ground that has been taken out of production in Colusa County is around 40 percent; to the east towards the Sutter Butte Basin, the percentage of rice is reduced to nearly 60 percent. This results in less wintering food sources for the visiting waterfowl.
The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge has planted extra watergrass and other “duck” food just for this reason. Another fall with scant rainfall will mean less water available to ?ood hunting ?elds. Whether the ground is fallow, planted or in natural vegetation, a duck blind is rendered nearly useless without surrounding water. Most ducks prefer large areas of water to feed and rest. The open water is a protective barrier from four-legged land predators.
If the conditions continue to be dry, those hunting ?elds that do have water will have more of the same success they experienced last year. The lack of water concentrates the birds and helps the success rate. It also opens up opportunities for dryland goose hunting. The goose hunting de?nitely opened up last year, and those who put their time and material into it really capitalized on the larger daily bag limits.
The polar blast that swept through the majority of the nation last Two men and their decoy ducks in a pondseason certainly sent some of the migration to California in bigger groups earlier than normal. Another year of that would put a big positive on an expected dry season.

There is a rumor in the weather mill that El Niño is positioning itself to dump ?oodwaters starting as early as October on California. That would be a complete game-changer and all scenarios covered here would be all wet. Stay tuned as we close in on waterfowl seasons in October. CS

Editor’s note: Patrick Kittle is the general manager at Kittle’s Outdoor Sports in Colusa. Kittle’s preseason waterfowl and dove opener sale begins on Aug. 22 and will run through Aug. 31. For more information, call (530) 458-4868 or go to

Two blacktail deer standing on grass.

Obsessing Over Blacktails


I only caught the quickest glimpse of the buck as he dashed across a narrow opening before disappearing down into a gully thick with oaks. A moment later I understood why. From in that leafy thicket came the ancient sound of two bucks locked in combat, the eerie clash of antlers, which sounded like two cue balls struck together hard and fast. It was stirring “bone music,” that even excited me. Suddenly, as fast as it all began, it fell strangely silent again.
The author stands with a gun over his shoulder and binoculars to his eyes.   I was lying atop a weedy knoll in Northern California, where I had a good view of three deer trails that came up out of surrounding oaks meeting at a single ridgeline trail. As I waited to see what would happen next, I briefly glanced beyond the hills to the cold, dark waters of San Pablo Bay, which began to show a silver shimmer at the first rays of rising sunlight. Further out, I could even see
misty spires of tall buildings rising in San Francisco over 20 miles away.
The buck came up out of the thicket and stopped on the trail to look back down, ears forward, body taut, adrenaline still coursing through his veins, as if to say, “had enough? Learned your lesson?” He was satisfied he’d vanquished his foe and started down the trail in those little mincing steps blacktails always take as he delivered himself to me. At 40 yards, I began very slowly lifting my custom-made .270 Winchester loaded with 130-grain silver tips. When I snuggled in behind the scope I knew I could hardly miss.
This little tale is just one of the many methods and tactics I’ve used against the West’s most prolific big game animal, the widespread, antlered blacktail deer.

     When you say “the West,” most riflemen outside this region think only of mule deer; that is not the case. Blacktails have one of the longest north-to-south ranges – spanning 1,500 miles – of any big game animal on the planet. Beginning at the Mexican border they dominate the land throughout California, Oregon and Washington – from the Pacific Ocean inland over 200 miles – across the border into British Columbia and all the way north to Southeast Alaska, where their genus is called the Sitka blacktail. In the easternmost region of the three states below the border with Canada, mule deer only take over as the dominant species beyond the highest eastern peaks, where the land opens up and a high desert takes over. This dividing line can almost be drawn with a pencil on a map at that cover break because blacktails are cover deer that live out their lives in the thickest brush, tall timber or a mix of the two. Tens of thousands of Western sportsmen and -women rely on blacktails to make the term “deer hunting” a reality.
To hunt them successfully you must go into various types of cover and elevations to learn how to ambush them. The Golden State has all three types of cover in abundance. It’s an exciting and intriguing way to tag a set of antlers, if you learn your lessons properly. The easiest way to do this is to take these cover areas one by one and see what works for each. I’ve spent a lifetime doing so here. Here’s what’s worked for me:

     In the lower elevations of California, rolling hills and low mountains are the rule and dominated by vast inland brush fields that seem to run on forever. Blacktails revel and prosper in it. Add to that the fact that deer season can open in early August when temperatures often run into the 90s and even triple digits, and you’ve really got your work cut out for you. It’s about as untraditional a way and time to hunt deer as is imaginable.
These bucks of summer are cagey, cautious, sneakers and peekers that know how to use cover to their best advantage. I’ve chased The author with a buck he shotbucks around in manzanita, chemise and ironwood jungles without ever getting a glimpse of them, even though I could hear an animal moving as I did. They did not abandon cover and run for it as other big game would; instead, they stayed right in the jungles where they played their little game – and often won doing so. That’s what I call smart as well as bold thinking.
So how do you choose a place to hunt in this land that all looks so much the same? You do so by finding water of any size and getting above it. This can be anything from a bubbling puddle to a bathtub-sized spring. And when water is found in this land, it’s nearly always in lower basins, pockets and canyon bottoms in shady spots, under leafy pepper trees or down rocky gullies.
These deer will not only bed down nearby but also come in to drink at all hours of the day. I’ve watched them do this from the sit, when the worst heat of midday was sizzling hot, when you would naturally expect them to be down still in the cover of shade. The hotter it gets, the more likely deer will come to drink.
There are two productive ways to hunt these important hidden spots. One is for the lone hunter who has the patience to get comfortable in brushy shade above a wet spot and wait them out. When most other hunters are back in the shade of camp hydrating, you’re out on a stand biding your time for that magic moment when antlers suddenly show up.
One of the finest, heavy-antlered blacktail bucks I ever saw came in like this right at high noon. I sat motionless under a big manzanita bush barely 60 yards above. The sweat running down my face was not just because of the heat.
A second style of hunt requires you and one amigo. One gunner drops down into the canyon or pocket, moving slowly in a widening circle starting just at the top and going lower with each circle through cover. A partner on top moves with the other, keeping pace but staying high. From this topside one can see all that lies and moves below and can also look down into even thick cover because of the angle. If a buck is moved, whether the other hunter below sees it go out or not, the top hunter will get the shooting. This is a deadly hunt in thick brushlands.

When I use the term “mountains” in the context of blacktail hunting, I’m talking about modest elevations that can also include foothills leading up to them. Throughout California this elevation can be between 2,500 and 3,500 feet. It’s also worth remembering this starts literally at the high tide mark of the Pacific Ocean.
Cover changes in this up-and-down land, from the smothering brush fields of interior valleys to taller, mixed cover such as spruce, ironwood, oaks and digger pines along rocky ridges. These changes dictate how you must hunt here. Because the land is a bit more open you have a real chance to catch deer out both early and late.
Blacktails that have fed all night move toward bedding grounds at sunup. My three hunting sons and I use what I call our two-hunt approach to match the deer’s natural timetable by extending the original hunt into a second one. We use this when taking on big canyons or sidehills, with the four of us spreading out on various high points along ridges. Of course, two or three rifles can certainly do the very same thing.
We position ourselves above deer trails, little basins and pockets where deer will go to bed down for the day, stay there until well after sunrise, watch and wait. If nothing shows up, the last rifleman – the one farthest down ridge – drops off the top heading downhill into the lower reaches of the canyon before starting back parallel toward the next stander. Reaching him, the second man moves down too, just above the lower hunter, both coming parallel toward the third rifle. No. 3 does the same thing slightly above the first two hunters, as all three work their way back toward the last rifleman on a canyon-wide sweep across cover areas to drive deer out. The last hunter can watch them moving toward him, plus additional animals they move out, with this three-man drive.
Bucks forced out like this often will try to climb out over the top, then drop down into another canyon or drainage and leave their pursuers behind. That last hunter is in the perfect spot to get a clear shot as they do so. The reason this tactic works so well is that even as smart as blacktails are, they are not two-dimensional thinkers. When fleeing hunting pressure, their only thought is to get away and leave trouble far behind as fast as possible; they don’t consider that another hunter is maybe waiting up ahead to ambush them.
These two hunts in one are a smart and productive way to thoroughly cover long sidehills and big canyons.

The author with another buck he shot

I’ve said diversity is the rule in blacktail country, and this final area certainly illustrates that. Beyond brush fields and hill country rises true high country along the spine of coastal mountains in northwestern California into southern Oregon.
Here, rocky peaks that go up 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 feet see heavy winter snows and the biggest bodies and antlered bucks of all. Record-book deer have been taken from this lofty land. It’s a land of dog-hair timber in forests that run endlessly up and down steep canyons blue in distance. But heavy forests provide only minimal feed for deer. They must climb into little greensward basins and open pockets just under the peaks where forage grows in abundance and they can fill their stomachs.
Rifle hunters want to climb early into these high pockets, getting just above them on the sit, and look for bucks still out feeding as dawn lights the high country. Here you are motionless; rising air cannot give away your scent, and moving bucks are easy to see in low cover.
These three pluses are what make this type of hunt so effective. If you do not find a set of antlers with this early schedule, the second tactic is to be down in timber on well-used deer trails coming off the tops. Look for recent tracks and fresh deer berries when choosing one.
As morning sun brightens timberland, deer will start down into cover, heading for places to rest and water for the day on these trails. You will be there waiting for them as they come on.
Two or three hunters can take as many trails, upping the odds someone is going to tag a set of antlers. Either of these two hunts are very productive because both rely on the blacktails’ natural timetable, and also because you are down and still not moving as you would using other methods. They are a favorite in the high country for my hunting family and me.


I’ve hunted these animals over a lifetime in all environments in this story. No other antlered big-game animal can give me a greater thrill than wrapping a tag around the rack of one of these smart and wary West Coast bucks. It’s deer hunting unlike any other on this continent. That’s what makes it so unique, fascinating and exciting. CS

By Art Isberg

Return of the Favor


Urban Huntress 2


In 2004 I made my First trip to New Zealand with my dad to hunt the iconic Himalayan tahr. This was early in my hunting career, and it was my first mountain or cold-weather hunt ever.
I was completely unprepared. My hands were freezing in my cotton gloves, and my fuzzy fur hat is still a topic we laugh about to this day.
But I ended up loving the experience. It was a turning point for me. I got serious and realized how much I loved to hunt, and hunt hard.
That trip we hunted with Chris Bilkey of Track and Trail Safaris New Zealand (+64 3 693 7123; I swear that that man is half mountain goat; the way he trots up those steep peaks is simply amazing. I struggled to follow him when it was my day to hunt tahr.
We traversed the mountains, glassing as we went, and after a short while we found a great big wild goat and decided to take him. The area was so steep that when I lay down to shoot, I kept sliding downhill. My dad, Craig, got behind/under my feet and I basically stood on him so I could be prone against the mountain and shoot.
After I shot, my tahr fell on a rocky outcrop above us and didn’t move. Chris trotted up the mountain, across some treacherous shale and pulled the tahr loose. The animal slid down the shale, right past us and down the mountain. We hiked down and found him at the bottom. The shale is so small that the slide didn’t cause any damage, and, man, was that a convenient way to get my tahr to the bottom!Hunters glassing for Tahr
Dad got one on that trip as well. All in all, it was a wonderful experience – one that I hoped we could have again.

Time passed, as it always does, and although we kept in contact with Chris and his wife Peg, my dad and I didn’t get a chance to hunt with them together for many years. I visited them and he visited them, but never the two of us at the same time – until this year!
Finally, a decade (plus a year) later, Dad and I ended up back in camp with Chris and Peg. I’ve hunted in New Zealand a few times over the last few years, but I’ll save those stories for another time. This was our reunion trip, and it felt good!
I am a collector now, and one thing I desperately wanted to add to my collection was a free-range fallow deer from New Zealand. I mentioned this to Chris at one of the sportsman conventions in January, and he told me he had the perfect spot to find me one.
My dad, his wife Donna and our doctor friend Sadaf Khan joined me, and each of us had a personal mission to accomplish as well.
Donna went first and shot a beautiful tahr with a big blonde mane. Sadaf was after a full bag, so her mission took a while longer.
One day we decided that Sadaf and Donna would go up the backside of the mountain that I shot my tahr on so many years ago and hunt for one for Sadaf. Meanwhile, my dad and I would go with Chris and try to find a stag for Craig. We A successful hunt in New Zealand, and New Zealand's flagspotted a few stags scattered across the mountain first thing in the morning, but none of them were in shooting distance and the wind was howling.
We decided to make a plan to close the distance on one particularly odd-looking stag. It had a few broken-off tines and some strange growth that Chris was concerned would be dangerous to the other stags, if they fought.
Needless to say, Dad was more than happy to help take this stag out of the group. We worked our way along the mountain and tried to stay out of sight, but eventually the stag and a couple of does spotted us and fled. They ran into a thick patch of bush and stood in there feeding until they finally bedded down.
They were obviously not too concerned because they could have easily gone up over the top and disappeared forever, but they decided to take a nap instead. We got into position and thought we would wait them out.

An hour passed and Dad was becoming progressively less comfortable in his prone position over a pack. He was sliding and his neck hurt, but we were all afraid to look away in case the animals got up. So we made the decision to shift positions a little higher and a little closer. We were about 200 yards from them now but they were directly uphill in a very thick patch of brush. The only hope was that if they got up and moved right, they would cross an open shale slide about a yard wide. While this was not a huge gap, we hoped the shale would cause them to pause.
Meanwhile, my dad was struggling to get into position and he kept sliding. Remembering our first trip 11 years before, I got behind/under his feet and he stood on my leg as I dug my boots into the hill as hard as I could. Just then the stags were up. Chris had moved out to the side to get a better look and had been spotted.
They moved to the right, as we had hoped, but didn’t pause at all in the shale; rather, they just kept moving.
There must have been a hole in the brush that we hadn’t seen before because just when I thought the stag was gone, he emerged with a full visible shoulder. Dad didn’t hesitate to take the shot, but while the stag reacted as though hit hard, it kept moving. Dad got another couple shots in as the stag disappeared into the brush. Chris was sure that it was down in that thick stuff, so we gathered up our gear and hiked over. The area was impossibly steep and thick, but Chris managed to find the stag, which had rolled a bit and become stuck in some brush.

Urban Huntress 6

We were thrilled. Dad was so excited after all that suspense, even if, ironically, the whole thing happened so quickly. The stag was huge in body, with a very unique rack. The hunt was one I will remember forever because we did it as a team. The stag was management quality, a great old one that needed to be taken. Sometimes it is more important to enjoy the experience and make memories than to shoot a monster. I think this stag and the hunt to get it is something that Dad and I will cherish for a long time. CS
Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, check out and

Story and Photos Brittany Boddington

Beat the Heat on Shore Leave


With summer heat and the drought conditions gripping The author's two daughters, gone fishing!California, it doesn’t take much convincing for my family to head to the beach to fish. This time of year, we usually set aside one day during the weekend to drive to the shore to cast a line. Over the years, the girls and I have gotten pretty good at sampling the angling action down at the beach. We challenge each other, have good-natured contests and always keep count of how many fish we catch. We go to cool off, but the action there can be hot.
Early this summer we headed north for an annual family camping trip near Avila Beach. I checked out the surf fishing report, and even though the action looked slow, we were all excited to fish a brand-new shore.
Avila Beach is located in San Luis Bay, about 160 miles north of Alyssa Hovey fishingLos Angeles and not far from more celebrated Pismo Beach. The beaches here are well protected and there are two piers open to the public. The surf in the bay is usually small and beach access is easy. We loaded the truck with gear and headed north. A few hours later, when we first spotted the large bay from the frontage road, we noticed some commotion between the two piers.
A large group of people were gathered at the center of the fishing pier and looking towards the boat moorings. Gulls and pelicans hovered over a dark spot about 100 yards from the pier. Almost in unison a dozen flying birds fell from the sky and splashed into the calm sea. Additional splashes erupted around them as baitfish attempted to escape the predators from above and below.
While a bird diving into a large ball of bait is something to see, I found it hard to believe that the commotion was enough to draw such a crowd. But then the birds suddenly took flight – two whales erupted from the surface, mouths open, filling them with fresh fish. The signs of life in the bay had us all excited to toss a line.
After we got settled, we headed down to the beach and walked the boardwalk, checking out the sights. The whales were still splashing around in their food and the crowd had moved further down the pier, watching and taking pictures. We had decided to wait for a better tide and fish the next morning before the crowds took over the beach.

We were out early and the girls and I headed out to fish the shore. The tide was perfect and the waves were small. The first beach was very shallow and we didn’t get any bites, so we shifted further south.
After a few casts, Alyssa, like she always does, hooked up first. She dragged a chunky barred surf perch through the surf. I could tell by her beaming smile that she wanted a photo, so I grabbed the camera. Less than five minutes later her sister, Jessica, hooked a perch. I added a very large jack smelt to the count before the fishing shut down.

Sea Lions sunbathing on a rock    We spent another hour on the shore casting before we decided to call it quits. The sand crabs were there, but not in the numbers I had seen to the south. The reports had stated that the bite in and around Avila Beach was slow and the lack of bait was the reason.
I really didn’t care. I had a great time walking the beach with my daughters, watching them catch fish and cast.
Long gone are the days where I do much for them on the shores anymore. They know how to rig, cast, catch and unhook. They aren’t tagalongs now; they’re my fishing buddies.
We ate dinner on the coast, and the girls decided that since the fishing was slow at the shore, we should try fishing from the pier the next day. After a quick breakfast, we beat the crowds and headed for the Port San Luis Pier, north of the fishing wharf at the center of the beach. I had fished this pier a few times as a boy and caught lots of juvenile rockfish.

We headed to the very end – that’s just what you do when you fish a pier – and tossed the rigs out. We started getting bites almost instantly, but hook-ups weren’t happening. I decided to rig up some smaller lines to see what was happening out in the bay.
Jessica was the first to pull one of the bait stealers from the bottom. She caught an 8-inch lingcod. The little fish was a perfect miniature of the toothy adult that lurks in the deep and eats 3-pound rockfish whole.

With the new rigs, we caught a dozen of them in half an hour. The current California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations state that lingcod need to be 22 inches long to keep. The juvenile fish were way too small, and besides, we weren’t keeping anything on this trip.

During a lull in the fishing, I watched
the girls cast and attend to their gear. I thought about the early days of fishing, when I had to take care of everything. Now, when we headed out to fish, they grabbed the gear and they cast the lines. They have become proficient anglers.

A larger fish     A few minutes later, Jessica hooked a different fish. She brought it over and showed me a juvenile cabezon, about 4 inches in length. Again the little sculpin was a perfect miniature of the adults I used to see diving. We carefully unhooked the fish and released it.
As we fished the rustic pier, the whales made a showing near the moorings adjacent to the wharf. We could see baitfish flail in midair as the huge mammals rushed the surface with their mouths gaping wide. Seagulls and pelicans dropped from the sky and feasted on the stunned and injured anchovies that floated near the surface.
I was lost in the natural moment when I heard Jessica comment on how much life there was in the little bay. She was watching the whales consume hundreds of pounds of fish in single gulps, and diving birds taking their share as well.
Life and death, I thought.
A small cabbie fish in the palm of the author's hand  Since the fishing had slowed, I decided to educate the girls on why we were catching so many juvenile fish in the bay. I told them the story of when I was 10 and how my parents let me and my brother fish this pier one afternoon.
Using tiny hooks and pieces of squid, we had caught dozens of juvenile bocaccio, a rust-red rockfish. In the times before size limits on this species, we took our catch back to our parent’s motor home and my mom cooked them all up for dinner.
I let the girls know that during my college days I worked on several marine contracts where we needed to drag sampling gear through this very bay for fish research. The hauls contained juvenile halibut and other species of juvenile rockfish. Now, bringing it back to our catch, the girls started to understand what types of fish were present in the bay. I told them that most bays and estuaries in California serve as nurseries for many species of fish, and thus are very important as far as the overall health of many of California’s A sportfishnearshore fisheries. The examples of feeding whales, diving birds and noisy sea lions also illustrated the bays’ importance.

The whales had moved on and it was getting late. We packed everything up and started walking back to the parking area. At the foot of the pier was a small shop selling all sorts of seafood. The vendor had several large tanks filled with various sea creatures that were all for sale.
Jessica and Alyssa Hovey with their catches    In an acrylic tank near the walkway sat a grumpy-looking lingcod that weighed close to 20 pounds. I called the girls over and showed them the fish. I told them that this was an adult version of the ones we were catching at the end of the pier. They were both impressed with how huge those little fish could get.
One of the things I want both my daughters to realize is that just because you come back with an empty cooler doesn’t mean the day wasn’t successful. I want them to know that the reason I teach them to hunt and fish is for the experience rather than bringing home fish or game.
I want them to remember when they fished with me on a pier while whales fed nearby. I want them to take what they’ve learned at our home fishing spot and feel the pride of fishing a new beach with success. And I want them to understand how important respecting the resource is to our enjoyment. Watching them on the pier that day, I realized they probably already know all that. CS

By Tim E. Hovey

Experiment with Tasty Bird Dishes

Upland bird season is taking off soon, and now is the perfect time to experiment with tasty recipes. Rather than dressing the birds and stashing them in the freezer, cook them now while they are fresh. Then again, if you’re cleaning out the freezer from last season, those birds will work with these recipes too. From quail to pheasant, chukar to grouse, the recipes below are sure to impart unique flavors you can’t help but enjoy. There’s no end to creative ways to prepare game birds; it just takes a little imagination and an open mind.


This is an easy way to prepare one or several game birds. Packets can be assembled up to one day ahead. This recipe also works well when using only breasts or only legs and thigh pieces.

One pheasant or two chukars, dressed
¼ onion, chopped
½ stalk celery
One lemon, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
Three slices bacon
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt to taste

Place dressed bird on a square of aluminum foil, breast side up. Fill body cavity with onion, celery and lemon. Sprinkle lemon pepper and salt over bird. Lay strips of bacon over the breast, tucking extra underneath. Close packet and leave a small opening at the top. Pour in wine and seal foil closed. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven or medium-hot grill, 30 to 45 minutes or until bird reaches 160 to 165 degrees.
Open packets to brown bacon during last five minutes of cooking time. To make a complementary sauce, bring pan drippings to a boil in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water, mix well and add to sauce. Cook one to two minutes on medium heat, adding additional liquid (chicken broth or white wine) to reach desired consistency.

Whether fried, broiled or grilled, these tasty bites are irresistible. These can be made for a few people or large crowds – it depends on how much quail you have. For four “bites” you will need:

Four quail breasts, or two grouse breasts (chunked)
2 tablespoons cream cheese
One large jalapeño pepper
Four slices thin bacon

Rinse each breast and pat dry. Cut jalapeño into fourths. Place half tablespoon cream cheese on jalapeño, top with quail breast or chunked grouse. Carefully wrap bacon around each piece of meat and pepper. Secure with a toothpick if needed. Fry, broil or grill until bacon is crisp. Serve alone or place on a bed of lettuce.

Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds coverCooking Game Birds, send a check for $20.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at Tiffany Haugen is a full-time author and part of the new online series, Cook With Cabela’s. Watch for her on The Sporting Chef, on the Sportsman Channel and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Story and Photo By Tiffany Haugen

Bringing Adventure to Baja


Jay Spinner had an idea back in the early 2000s. He had created a tourism website for Ensenada, Mexico, But in talking to some of the locals he decided to try something completely out of his comfort zone: charter boat ?shing in the warm and ?sh-?lled azure waters of the Paci?c Ocean. The ?rst thing he needed was a boat.
“I found an old 1970 Luhrs 32-footer that had 300 hours on the rebuilt engines. The boat was in the Long Beach Harbor and reasonably priced,” says Spinner’s Selena Sport?shing Charter website (selenasport?
His new investment successfully made the trip from Southern California to Baja, and after lots of hard work and TLC his six-pac boat became a reality (read his website for more). We chatted with Spinner about his now successful business.

California Sportsman How long have you been in business?

Jay Spinner About 14 years. Two years after creating, I thought I would do something different and talk to some of the charter owners about me doing online reservations for sport?shing. To make a long story short, it was an instant success. In fact, I had to jump fast to get credit card services and a system set up. Two seasons later I was doing over 600 charter reservations and learning a lot about ?shing and the charter business. In talking to hundreds of clients, I began to see a pattern in what they liked and didn’t regarding the boats and their experiences ?shing in Ensenada. I started to think, “If I had a boat, this is what I would do,” based onnothing more than comments from my clients. I was booking seven to 15 charters a day in the summer and saw an opportunity that would never happen in the US to a guy who didn’t know crap about boats or the ?shing business.
CS What should we know about ?shing in Baja?

Baja 1

JS Ensenada offers a different dimension to long-range sport ?shing because the charter boats leave between 1 and 2 in the morning and return at 6 in the evening. Shorter travel time allows ?shermen more time to take in some of the other great experiences that Ensenada has to offer, including dining, shopping and nightlife entertainment.
CS What’s the best day or period you have had on a charter?

JS I would say 2014 was the biggest year I have seen for blue?n tuna. We put 50- to 100-pound blue?n on the deck, unlike the 25-pound average in past years.
The best year I saw for dorado was probably 2006, and 2004 was a great albacore year. The albacore season was like clockwork until 2010. We have not seen them since.
In prime time, 20 to 30 ?sh on a six-pac charter of a combined catch of yellowtail, tuna, dorado are not uncommon. So the best catch depends on what suits the angler most.
CS What makes you stand out from the other businesses?

JS Over the past 14 years I’ve worked off and on with several of the charters in Ensenada and presently represent about 20 different charters. I have also owned my own charter, Selena, for the past 10 years. I have developed a rapport with many customers over the years, and what I strive to do is explain to people exactly what to expect and not overexaggerate.
Giving people a realistic assessment of what’s happening at the time and what to expect on the charters is not only fair, but keeps bringing people back. What we don’t need in Baja are customers going back home with a bad experience, going home having expected more than they received. A bad story kills 20 good ones. CS
Editor’s note: For more on Selena Sport?shing Charters, call (949) 678-1187.