All posts by Chris Cocoles

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Mike Raahauge: the embodiment of the Father’s Day spirit

By Joel Shangle

Raahauge MemorialYou don’t always have to be a father to be recognized and appreciated on Father’s Day. As was certainly the case with Mike Raahauge, who recently passed away at the age of 72, your influence on young hunters and anglers can (and should) extend well beyond the boundaries of your own flesh and blood.

Raahauge, as so many of you already know, was one of the champions of hunting and shooting in California. The Turner’s Shooting Sports Fair – which just celebrated another fantastic run in early June – is the best example of one man (and family) reaching out to people and opening them into the outdoor community with open arms, regardless of age, social status or ethnicity.

Mike Raahauge was, above all else, generous and welcoming to anyone interested in the outdoors.

“Raahauge aorganized one of the largest hunter safety training programs in the nation, providing classes for first-time hunters in Southern California.” Jim Matthews wrote in Raahauge’s obituary. “As the years rolled by and the classes grew, eventually involving a promotional partnership with Turner’s Outdoorsman, many classes ended up with well over 100 students. A recent count showed that over 50,000 people have attended hunter safety classes at Raahauge’s facility, far more than any other program in the nation.

“Raahauge was instrumental in putting together the annual Youth Safari Day event in conjunction with the Orange County Safari Club chapter. The event exposes urban youngsters to a wide range of outdoor sports, from kayaking to rock climbing to shooting of .22s and archery gear. There are nature walks in Prado Basin and fishing for catfish in a pond on the complex. This year will mark that event’s 15th anniversary.”

As Father’s Day approaches, I’d like to extend a thank you to all of the dads, uncles, granddads, cousins and family friends who have reached outside their own families and created fishing and hunting memories with the youth of our state. Keep them in mind as June 16 approaches.

California Sportsman celebrates Father’s Day with a special package for all the dads of the Golden State.

The role of Dad in your hunting/fishing life

With Father’s Day fast approaching, it seems like a great time to recognize and salute all the men who have played important roles in our lives as hunters/anglers.

Chris and Dad huntingI can say with unabashed enthusiasm that my first, best hunting partner didn’t own a stitch of camo beside a John Deere baseball cap, only “scouted” for deer season while moving cattle from mountain meadow to mountain meadow, and had the worst case of buck fever I’ve ever seen (despite qualifying as an expert marksman in the Marines).

My Dad, though he’s never been a hunting fanatic, introduced me to the world of guns, shooting, hunting and appreciation for the craft of being in the woods, and I’ll forever be grateful.

The attached photo is of myself and my oldest boy, Chris, on his very first hunt: chukar in east-central Nevada. That gun I’m holding was given to my by my great uncle, and Chris’s Red Ryder BB gun was given to him by, you guessed it, my Dad.

I want to hear from all of you, and see your photos of you and your Dad hunting and fishing together. It’s all part of a two-week celebration of Father’s Day, and the importance of the great dads, grandfathers, uncles, etc., who have given us the gifts that we so cherish as hunters and anglers.

Take advantage of our fantastic Father’s Day by clicking on this subscription special (seen on this page), or hit the California Sportsman Magazine Facebook page, or email me at

And thanks, Dad.

A New “Sportsman” …

June issue kicks off unique new outdoors magazine for California anglers, hunters, outdoorsmen/women

Amanda P CS June coverI am, always have been, and always will be a fan of magazines. I love the damn things. Love they way they feel in my hand, and the way they convey stories and informationin ways that even the super-awesome-fantasticness of the worldwide Web cannot.

My poor 9-year-old daughter knows that, as soon as we make it to the magazine racks at our local supermarket, we’re going to be there awhile, and that those racks are going to be rearranged, tweaked and rearranged again as Daddy studies. It embarrasses the hell out of her.

It struck me during one of my many such “study sessions,” while I was perusing an odd mix of men’s lifestyle, beer, muscle car and fishing/hunting titles, that the Golden State was in need of a fresh, new magazine that caters to all things that surround our fishing and hunting passions.

It just so happens that I’m in charge of a magazine, and that the publisher of said magazine is of a similar mind: There’s something missing in the fishing/hunting/outdoors magazine realm in California, and somebody should change that.

Welcome to the new California Sportsman.

The best info, the best entertainment: We’ve published this magazine for four years now, and have done our best to focus on the nuts and bolts of fishing and hunting in California. We’ve told you what lures to throw, what stretches of river to focus on, and which deer units will be most productive during archery season. That “go here, do this” information has been the hallmark of this company’s outdoors magazines.

And still will be. We’ll still tell you when, where and how to be successful in the field. You’ll still find the West Coast’s best writers, anglers and hunters contributing to these pages, and the most valuable inside information on everything from bass to billfish.

In addition, though, from this day forward, your California Sportsman will be flavored with the things that make your “outdoors lifestyle” complete. You don’t simply just fish or just hunt when you’re out in the field. You eat, drink, and enjoy the lifestyle.

Do you love food? Cool gear? Beer? NASCAR? Music? Trucks? Knives? Electronics?

So do we. And they all fit nicely into the world of fishing and hunting.

We plan to explore all of the above, and many, many other subjects that fall under the header of “fishing, hunting and outdoors lifestyle.”

What would you like to see?: The inbox is open, readers. I’d like to hear about other subjects that interest you. Feel free to drop me a line at

Best bass fishery in the state RIGHT NOW? Might be New Melones Reservoir

by Joel Shangle

Alex Niapas hoists a 17-pound, 13-ounce New Melones largemouth caught on a California Reservoir Lures Bedwetter jig. (Photo courtesy Alex Niapas)

Alex Niapas hoists a 17-pound, 13-ounce New Melones largemouth caught on a California Reservoir Lures Bedwetter jig. (Photo courtesy Alex Niapas)

ANGELS CAMP-The term “best ever” is a dangerous, somewhat ambiguous label to hang on a fishery, even one as well-known and productive as New Melones Reservoir. How can you possibly prove it?

Here’s how: “There have been over 10 (largemouth) pushing the 15-pound mark caught in the past three weeks, one 19-pounder, one spot that went 10.1, and I have no doubt that there’ll be a spotted bass over 12 (caught here),” says Bub Tosh, owner of Paycheck Baits.

For those of you who are keeping track, the 10.1 was a new lake-record spot, and the 12-pounder that Tosh predicts would shatter the International Game Fish Association world record. And the double-digit largemouth, while occasional catches at this  massive Mother Lode impoundment in previous years, haven’t been nearly as prolific as in the past 365 days.

So, best ever? Hell yes.

“The past two years, I’ve seen that fishery blow up and kick out giants like it’s never been before,” says Tosh, a lifetime resident of the area. “It’s unreal. Melones has kinda flown under the radar for bass guys – all the guys from this area love to troll it for kokanee, but the bass anglers haven’t been abusing the lake. It’s all built up. The past two years, it’s kicked out the biggest and most badass of spots and largemouth.”

You can thank the abovementioned landlocked sockeye for that, and for the abundance of 5- and 6-inch shad. While Melones is indeed one of the best kokanee fisheries on the West Coast, those 8-inch chromers are more than just good fodder for smokers throughout the Mother Lode. They’re growth pellets for both largemouth and spots, and the dinner bell stays on virtually year-round here.

“Because of the way they’ve stocked this lake, they’ve almost turned it into a pond,” Tosh observes. “There’s more food in this lake than anywhere: you go look at McClure or Pardee or even Clear Lake, and the guys are crying because they don’t have the shad we do. Add them to the kokanee, and this lake is just much, much more fertile. The bass are almost never around the bank because they’re out eating kokanee, which never come away from the thermocline. You can just beat the bank to death and not find anything, because the bass are out suspended in huge wolf packs, almost like a school of stripers.”

Your shot at shallow fish
That wolf-pack phenomenon has contributed to a unique fishery where anglers are fishing for typically shallow-water species in water that’s “kokanee deep,” so pros like Tosh have tweaked their techniques to suit the conditions.

“You learn to throw topwater in 120 feet of water,” Tosh jokes.

This month, however, is the one time of year where fish will behave more like every other bass on the planet and move shallow to spawn. Water temperatures this spring kicked off an early spotted bass spawn, but the largemouth spawn has been pushed back, and should be at its peak in May.

“Largemouth are absolutely looking for wood or bank structure now,” Tosh says. “The bigger ones will try to be around the docks, basically any downed wood they can find. This fishery consists of a small main lake and a long river, and you can fish from the bottom end of the river all the way up to Mormon Creek, as far as you can go. There’s a helluva lot of wood back up in that river arm.”

Randy Pierson of Oakdale hooked the new lake-record 10.1-pound spotted bass in March, but local experts swear that a world-record fish exists in New Melones’ waters. (Photo courtesy Glory Hole Sports,

Randy Pierson of Oakdale hooked the new lake-record 10.1-pound spotted bass in March, but local experts swear that a world-record fish exists in New Melones’ waters. (Photo courtesy Glory Hole Sports,

Bring out the baits
John Liechty of Glory Hole Sports has been whacking big largemouth since March, mostly throwing big Huddlestons over main lake points as bass phase through their prespawn. While those big boomer baits will still be in play this month, Tosh suggests possibly downsizing a little to better mimic kokanee and shad than the trout that the Hudds imitate.

“I think these fish are used to eating a little bit smaller bait,” Tosh says. “The Hudd will definitely still work, but as much as (Melones bass) gorge on smaller fish, I’d probably run something like a Top Shelf or Optimum, those 5- and 6-inch baits.”

Big creature baits like Carolina- or Texas-rigged Brush Hogs, craws or lizards will produce well this month, as will topwater baits like The One, Zara Spooks and various other poppers and prop baits. Also, don’t eschew the Alabama rig, which would theoretically approximate a small school of kokanee or shad.

“Weightless Senkos are pretty hard to beat when it warms up, too,” suggests Liechty. “Jigs, too: run a 3/8 or ¾-ounce, but nothing flashy, Just a simply twin-tail Yamamoto in green pumpkin is perfect.”

After the spawn
Once Melones’ largemouth have finished their spawn, they’ll begin to move out of creeks and shallow flats, onto secondary points, and then to main lake points.

“Almost any secondary point on the lake, there’s going to be a wolf pack of bass on it after they spawn,” Tosh confirms. “You can throw topwater and just crush them. June will be the bloodiest month of topwater anyone has ever seen around here. A guy with any skill or who knows the game a little could go up there and have an absolute free-for-all during the week.”

“Hot and cold” salmon bite out of Golden Gate is hot again; Montery, Santa Cruz inconsistent

SAN FRANCISCO–As is typically the case early in the season, the salmon bite out of the Golden Gate has been “hot and cold,” and somewhat at the mercy of late-spring weather. If you’re able to sneak away this week, though, the “hot” is back.

Mike Augney at reports the following from its fleet of charter reporters for the week of May 12:


The salmon bite heated up early this week out of the Golden Gate. (Photo courtesy

The salmon bite heated up early this week out of the Golden Gate. (Photo courtesy

“The bite broke wide open on Monday 5-13. Roger Thomas on the Salty Lady was up at a state water board meeting in Sacramento today – Roger spends a majority of his time working on salmon recovery issues and has a great hired operator on the helm when he is away; not only does he attend these meetings in state and back at DC does this on his own dime. If there is anyone who deserves recognize for not just years but decades of giving back to our salmon fishery it’s Roger – but captain Jared reported 12 limits of salmon to 22 pounds.

The majority of the salmon fleet also found fast early limits fishing just outside W buoy in 35 fathoms at .35 and .53.

Out of Emeryville, the Salmon Queen and Sun Dance reported a combined 24 limits of salmon to 22 pounds.  All boats are trolling with fish averaging 10 to 15 pounds with the occasional fish over 20. Roger said the weather was a tad sloppy with 15 knots of wind  ” but the fish didn’t seem to mind”. All of our sponsors have lots of room this week.

Santa Cruz/Monterey: Slightly futher south, the Monterey/Santa Cruz fleet has seen similar on-again/off-again action, but when it’s on, it’s on, as typified by the monumental hauls of the local commercial fleet at the Monterey Bell Buoy and subsequent hot bite aboard charters running out of Chris’s Landing. That bite has shown a tendency to dissipate within 24 hours, so pay attention to the old adage: “If you’ve heard of a hot bite, by the time you get there, it’s over. Make your own hot bite.”


Trout limits weren’t the only things being … ahem … “caught” on the Eastern Sierra trout opener

It’s bound to happen, I suppose. Anytime you have a gathering of thousands upon thousands of new-ish anglers, there’s a better than average potential for some skirting of the rules. That said, percentages weren’t bad in the Eastern Sierra, where 17 California Department of Fish & Wildlife enforcement officers contacted an estimated 3,000 anglers during the end-of-April opening weekend: 60 ticketed violations, 43 warnings, and one arrest.

Here’s a story about the opener as posted on the DFW’s website:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers contacted more than 3,000 anglers while patrolling the local waterways in Inyo and Mono Counties during the trout season opener that started April 27. Over the opening weekend, 17 CDFW wildlife officers issued 60 citations, 43 warnings and made one arrest.

Violations included over-limits of trout, fishing closed waters, fishing without a license, use of prohibited gear and bait, fishing out of season, angling in a hatchery, snagging, boating without a fire extinguisher, no life jackets, boating under the influence, excessive speed and use of multiple poles.

Officers also conducted a wildlife checkpoint operation to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

On Tuesday, April 30, the southbound lanes of U.S. 395 were reduced to one lane and all vehicles traveling south on U.S. 395 were screened by the Department’s law enforcement officers.  Screening consisted of an introduction and brief questions.  Approximately 2,000 vehicles were contacted. Of those, 250 vehicles submitted to an inspection. A total of 14 violations were found which included 11 over-limits of trout, one driving without a valid driver’s license, one unregistered vehicle and possession of scales and drug paraphernalia.

Average screening took less than 20 seconds per vehicle and the average inspection took about 2 minutes, 20 seconds per vehicle.  If violations were found, the occupants were detained for an average of 28 minutes to conduct the inspection, interviews and issue citations.

Anglers found in violation of the trout limit were returned their legal possession limit of 10 trout per person; the excess trout above the legal limit were seized.  A total of 88 seized trout were donated to the California Department of Forestry conservation camp.

The Department provided informative literature about the invasive quagga mussel and New Zealand mud snail to help reduce the spread of these invasive species.

Southern California shooting-sports legend Mike Raahauge passes away

Southern California shooting-sports legend Mike Raahauge passed away May 6.

Southern California shooting-sports legend Mike Raahauge passed away May 6.

By Rachel Alexander / Editor, Western Shooting Journal

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Mike Raahauge, one of the legends of the West Coast firearms community.  Raahauge, son of the Southern California hunting/shooting legend Linc Raahauge, died at age 72 of esophageal cancer diagnosed in August.

His Raahauge Shooting Enterprises in Norco hosts one of the biggest gun events in the country every year, Turner’s Shooting Sports Fair, which is one of the few shows that allows participants to test firearms on the range before purchasing them. The fair, which California Sportsman has provided considerable coverage of in recent years, annually welcomes thousands of show-goers to the sprawling 1,200-acre ranch in Norco, and is one of the hallmarks of the shooting year in the United States.

Raahauge will be memorialized at this year’s Shooting Sports fair, May 31 to June 2.

Read more at The Press-Enterprise.

Salmon season approaches on Sacramento system: time to write letters about the state’s “no fillet” rule

Except as otherwise required, all salmon and steelhead taken in inland waters where a sport fishing license is required, must be kept in such a condition that species and size can be determined until placed at the anglers permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility or being prepared for immediate consumption. Also when required, the presence or absence of a healed adipose fin scar must be able to be determined until placed at the anglers permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility, or being prepared for immediate consumption. Personal residence means one’s principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one’s temporary or transient place of residence or dwelling such as a cabin, tent, trailer house, recreational vehicle, or any hotel, motel or rooming house used during a fishing, pleasure or business trip.

Guide/blogger J.D. Richey with a piece of well-carved salmon flesh. Unfortunately, much of that beautiful red meat will likely be wasted as an after-affect of the state's new "no fillet" rule. (Photo courtesy

Guide/blogger J.D. Richey with a piece of well-carved salmon flesh. Unfortunately, much of that beautiful red meat will likely be wasted as an after-affect of the state’s new “no fillet” rule. (Photo courtesy

I wrote in an editorial a couple of months back that the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s new “no fillet” rule was “stinky,” or something to that onerous affect. But, I’m just a fish writer – I don’t make a day-to-day living handling fish, and dealing with clients who travel, and pay a good amount of money to fish with you.

Translation: I’m not a guide. But J.D. Richey is, and in typical J.D. style, he sums up the potential frustration of the state’s no-fillet rule in a recent blog in his site. I’m pretty good with a fillet knife, but it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people who fish with J.D. and the other professional guides working the Sacramento, American and Feather are a little less skilled when it comes to caring for their catch.

“As a guy who takes pride in making sure people end up with a quality product, this disturbs me,” J.D. writes. “I’ve always been of the mind that if I’m going to kill it, the animal at least deserves the respect of having its flesh handled properly and consumed. Sadly, I feel this new regulation is going to turn some salmon clients off and guides will lose business.”

Hear hear!

Go check out J.D.’s “Write a letter in opposition of …” blog, and do exactly that, if this rule smells as bad to you as it does to me.

Reese wins Elite Series West Point Lake tournament, breaks two-year winless streak

Auburn's Skeet Reese celebrates his victory Sunday at the Elite Series event at West Point Lake in Georgia. (Photo by James Overstreet)

Auburn’s Skeet Reese celebrates his victory Sunday at the Elite Series event at West Point Lake in Georgia. (Photo by James Overstreet)

It’s long been a belief here in the California Sportsman offices that the West Coast – and specifically the Golden State – is the true Mother Lode of bass fishing. The Southern-based professional circuits obviously believe otherwise, but, our editors here will go to their graves with the belief that anglers from California are the best, most diverse in the country.

Auburn’s own Skeet Reese notched one on the “West Coast” list this weekend with a Bassmaster Elite Series victory at West Point Lake in Georgia, the former Bassmaster Classic champion’s first tour win since 2010. And who finished second? None other than Aaron Martens, another born-and-bred Californian.

For good measure, San Jose’s Chris Zaldain settled nicely into sixth place, officially giving the state of California 33.33 percent of the top 10 in a 100-man field.

Reese, though, served the loudest proclamation about West Coast anglers and their diversity by ditching his original plan – to throw swimbaits – and racking up most of his 46 pounds, 6 ounces by targeting bedding largemouth with a drop-shot 4-inch Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper.

“I thought if I could win, I’d win on a swimbait,” Reese told Bassmaster. “I couldn’t get a bite on a swimbait. I didn’t think I’d be picking up a spinning rod, but I adapted to conditions.”

The win pushed Reese to third place in the coveted Toyota Angler of the Year Standings, followed closely by Zaldain in fourth.

Final standings: You’ll find final standings HERE on