All posts by calstaff

Beat the Heat on Shore Leave


FISH THE CALIFORNIA COAST TO ESCAPE SUMMER’S SIZZLING INLAND TEMPERATURES, EVEN IF THE BIG ONE ISN’T CAUGHT

AVILA BEACH
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.
SURF’S UP
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.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
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.

ALL GROWN UP
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.

BIG ONES ARE OUT THERE
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.

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LEMON PEPPER PACKETS
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.

JALAPEÑO QUAIL BITES
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 scotthaugen.com. 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

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS, ENSENADA CHARTER SERVICE COMES INTO ITS OWN

Jay Spinner had an idea back in the early 2000s. He had created a tourism website for Ensenada, Mexico, ensenada.com. 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?shing.com).
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 ensenada.com, 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?

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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.