All posts by Chris Cocoles

Explore small-stream options if Russian is out of steelheading shape this month

By Paul LeFebvre

It’s a safe bet to say the Russian River has more fish than any other stream in this vicinity of California. It also has a large hatchery fish run so two fish can be kept.  However, for the angler who is willing to travel a bit, doesn’t necessarily care if he/she keeps a fish, then there are steelhead fishing opportunities that exist nearby when the Russian is out of shape.

Hard core steelhead anglers frequent the coastal area of Sonoma and Mendocino counties that have smaller, undammed streams that clear rapidly after a winter storm.  Timing is critical on these little streams, though, as they can quickly drop to low and clear levels making fishing extremely tough.

After January, and late in the season, these smaller streams like the Gualala River and Ten Mile River can house tackle-busting wild steelhead with size that rivals the Russian. These smaller streams are a challenge to wade, but if you are willing to hike in to a spot you can sometimes catch steelhead that are so hot they will take you several riffles to land (if you can land them).

These smaller streams are a drift-fishing delight, but bring plenty of leaders with you as there are plenty of logs, fallen trees, and brushy areas that will test an angler’s casting skill to the maximum. Private property can be an issue with these streams, so check to see that you are on public lands, or ask permission, before fishing.

Latest from the long range grounds: Royal Polaris scores seven cows, good times for Interpid, Excel

Filed by Bill Roecker –

SAN DIEGO – Here’s the latest from the San Diego long range fleet:

Getting the job done aboard the Royal Star, long-range veteran Art Nolen with a nice yellowtail. (Photo courtesy Royal Star)

Five Over Off The Mainland: “Our day started out similar to yesterday with a little bit of action on smaller grade tuna up to 50 pounds,” recalled Excel skipper Justin Fleck January 27. “We decided to move on from that area in search of bigger fish. Late in the day there were a few bird schools around with some good grade tuna crashing underneath. We picked off ten fish from 140 to 250 pounds, with five cows. Phillip Bruce was first to hook up with his biggest tuna ever at 225 pounds. Next was Max Dallorso with a 237. Then Nonon Alvarez got a 209. David Christopher one at 210. And the final cow was caught by Scott McCall; a chunky 251. Overall I’d have to say this is tough fishing but there is definitely a chance for a trophy here.”

“Good Times!”: Intrepid’s entry for January 27 reads, “Another good day of fishing here, as we boated another 51 fish today. We had one to three going almost the whole day with the exception of a lunchtime lull. There were 18 more nice Wahoo in the mix as well. Chef Mark Pariano fixed up some fresh Ahi Sushi for an afternoon snack, then backed it up with an incredible Wahoo dinner! We have three more days down here in the far reaches before we head up the line. We’ll see what the next couple of days bring before we make a move.”

All Nice: Red Rooster got a late report in January 28 that said, “26 tuna! All nice size fish! 2 fish over 200lbs, the majority of fish being 90 to 190pounds! The weather was absolutely fantastic. We are out here at the (Hurricane) Bank, we will spend about half the day here, then go out to the island, and give that a go.”

Seven-Cow Day: Frank LoPreste spoke with his crew aboard Royal Polaris about fishing January 26.

“The Jerry Brown 18-day, 18-passenger group continues to have outstanding fishing: 23 yellowfin tuna were put aboard yesterday, with many 100 to 130-pounders released. There were seven fish over 200 pounds: Joe Amagrande 231, Jim Nailen 227, Robert De Loach 215, Joe Cruz 219, Jim Tallerico 215, Richard Keely 233, Dan Gaudy 203. The center hold is absolutely packed and today they will start on R.S.W. fish. On all Jerry Brown spectra trips there are a multitude of cash prizes that the group can receive throughout the trip plus many, many other gifts. We are quite privileged to have Line One Spectra as a sponsor.”

Premium Scratch: “Steady scratching on premium quality today in fine working conditions,” wrote Royal Star skipper Tim Ekstrom January 26, “a welcome change enjoyed by all. Fishing conditions themselves were not so easy, and incredibly unpredictable, but it did not seem to matter much to the only ones in that equation who count, the tuna. Satisfied with the pace and quality we forge into day five with a building sense of satisfaction, and relief. If this fishing holds we’ll be in fantastic shape sooner than later. Photo for the day features Royal Star veteran Art Nolen, who matched his personal best with this stocky 240-pounder landed mid-morning on the chunk.”

Bundle up for limits of trout this month at Topaz Lake

Topaz Lake’s trout season opened Jan. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. And like Lake Tahoe to the north, since Topaz straddles the border, California anglers won’t have to wait until the traditional late April trout opener to catch Topaz’s nice supply of rainbows.

Just dress warm for the occasion.

By Chris Cocoles

TOPAZ LAKE – There’s really no other way to put it: It’s not warm and toasty at Topaz Lake this time of year. The fish, though, don’t seem to mind.

“Sometimes it’s just miserable out there (in January),” says Liz Weirauch of The Angler’s Edge in Gardnerville, Nev. (775-782-4734; “You’ll go out there, set your rods up and run back to your car and watch. But they put tens of thousands of fish in Topaz just as soon as it closes in October. They stock the crap out of that lake with everything from fingerlings all the way up.”

Quality fish like these on display at Topaz Lodge are part of the attraction of Topaz Lake in the dead of winter.

Weirauch wasn’t sure the last time California Department of Fish and Game made a plant at Topaz, but the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s stocking more than compensates. Just before the New Year’s opener, Topaz also received a stocking of Mount Whitney Strain rainbow trout from Jim O’Banion’s trout farm in Wellington, Nev.

“They are gorgeous fish, bright sides and heavy shoulders that just fight like a son-of-a-gun,” Weirauch says of the Mount Whitney trout.

The Angler’s Edge specializes in fly fishing, Weirauch said fly anglers usually doesn’t make appearances at Topaz until April or so, partly for the cold weather.

Bait fishing can be very effective from the shore here. Simply casting a weight with an inflated worm or with a marshmallow attached to the hook about 6 inches above so it stays off the bottom works well if you don’t have a boat to troll with.

But fly anglers when they do go out tend to use float tubes at the south end of the lake. Purple buggers and midges are a popular choice. Weirauch also said anglers are not permitted on the California side of the West Walker River diversion canal that feeds into the lake. But the outlet canal on the Nevada side is open all year-around. Both California and Nevada fishing licenses will work on Topaz.

Topaz Lodge (; 800-962-0732) will host the lake’s annual fishing derby from Jan. 1 to April 14.

PROS/JOES: Dial in your electronics to become a better winter bass angler

Technology has changed the game of bass fishing forever. Period.

If $500 nanosilica rods, $360 magnesium reels and $30 vacuum-metalized, 3D-etched baits aren’t proof enough that the catching of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bath has advanced to a level of science that would confound Mr. Spock (the Vulcan, not the child psychologist), take a peek at the 9- and 12-inch sonar/GPS screens that are now adorning bass boats across the country.

Thanks to manufacturers like Lowrance and Humminbird, your on-board electronics can now tell you where you are in the world down to a few inches, shuffle your iTunes playlist, draw you a picture of a rusted-out car body that you used to think was a brush pile at the bottom of your local bass lake, and serve you a salami sandwich.

Maybe not the sandwich. But everything else on the list above (courtesy of GPS mapping, Sonic Hub, StructureScan and Side Imaging), is now part of the well-equipped bass angler’s electronics cluster. And all of that gadgetry and science can translate into one thing: your on-board computer systems can help you catch more fish.

Oh, how times have changed.

“Years ago when I put my first boat together, I had probably $1,200 worth of electronics total,” says Kent Brown of Ultimate Bass Radio in Sacramento ( “This year’s boat when it’s all together, it’s upwards of $5,000 of electronics, which is about half of what I paid for my first bass boat. Electronics have become a really, really big part of your boat, but there’s a reason for it. It just cuts the learning curve so much, it’s incredible. Simple as that.”

Brown is a shining example of the evolution of the modern-day bass fiend, and the necessary adaptation to/use of technology. While he still uses old-school Lowrance buoys to help mark his spots when he’s fishing deep structure, he’s also about as well-versed on the tweaking and functionality of the electronics on his new Triton as anybody in the West. He’s gone from paper and pencil notes to punch-of-the-button information storage, and he’s a better angler for it.

“Dude, I learned to run the Delta with a map folded between my legs,” he says. “That’s how all of us old farts learned it. Now, the GPS will give you a topographical reading – a perfect map of the Delta – tell you exactly where you are, tell you whether the tide is coming in or going out, how much it’s going to move that day. It’s all right there with the touch of a button. You’re getting information that you had to scratch for years to learn back in the day, and it’s making you a better angler, if you’re using it right. We have a distinct advantage that we’ve never had before. It’s not cheating, either: you still have to get the fish to bite.”

Seeing what’s down there: The best example of how profoundly a good set of electronics can influence your fish-finding ability crept up on Brown one afternoon as he was idling across a channel at his home lake, Folsom Lake near Sacramento. It’s a body of water that he’s been on hundreds upon hundreds of times and knows like his own back yard, but one cruise over a spot with a new array of Lowrance HDS electronics completely changed the way he’ll fish a certain area from now on.

“I was idling over a channel, talking on my cell phone and happened to look down at my screen the first year I had StructureScan,” Brown recounts. “I found an area that’s about 150, maybe 200 yards long where there’s a stretch of trees still standing in the main channel, about 60 feet down. When they cut the trees to make the reservoir, they just left those trees down there. I had no idea they were even there and I’ve been over that spot 500 times, but StructureScan drew me an absolutely perfect picture of what was down there. My first drag through there with a purple rubber worm and a jig, I caught one 5 pounds.”

Your first step: take your units out of automatic mode and ditch the basic, video-gamey fish-finder setting. Brown cranks the sensitivity as high as he can.

“I want to see everything that’s down there,” he says. “If I’m pre-fishing or on a new lake – of if I’m deep-structure fishing on Oroville or Shasta and I just want to see that darterhead working down there – I can pick up stuff that I couldn’t see otherwise.”

Finding new territory: Topographical mapping features are a godsend when fishing a new lake. SideScan and the like are fantastic detail-providers once you’ve identified a piece of structure, but smart use of a topo map is the first step in actually finding potentially fishy new areas.

“Once you understand how to read those maps – you know, the lines running real close together are a sharp break, the long lines represent a flat tapered area – it gives you the structure, and lets you expand on stuff you’re already fishing,” Brown says. “If you usually fish the end of a point, a topographical map might sow you that there’s really an even steeper break 75 yards away.”
Stay on your spots: While old-school sight triangulation and reading what your sonar is telling you are still functional ways to find your way back to your favorite ledge, brushpile or submerged roadbed, the simple touch of a button saves you time untold.

“When you find that rockpile, ledge or break that has fish on it, it’s ‘beep’ and it’s stored forever as a waypoint,” Brown ways. “The ability to store a waypoint it just awesome. You can leave a spot and go back 10 years from now, and be literally 3 feet from it.”

Port Lions Lodge

Port Lions Lodge is located in the community of Port Lions on the north coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Port Lions Lodge is a premier, full-service hunting and fishing lodge that offers comfortable accommodations, first-class family style dining, and breathtaking views of the stunning natural beauty of Kizhuyak Bay and the Kodiak Mountains.

Enjoy fishing, hunting, whale watching, bear sightings, berry picking, hiking, sea kayaking, and more from our scenic waterfront property. With professional guides, cooks, and hosts, a vacation at Port Lions Lodge is not your typical hunting or fishing vacation. Warm showers, hot meals, and comfy beds await you at the end of every day.

Nature is all around us at Port Lions Lodge. Enjoy daily sightings of local marine and land-based wildlife, including the famous Kodiak brown bear, humpback whale, orca, sea lions, puffins, arctic fox, Sitka deer, bald eagles, and more. Our owner-operated lodge is the perfect place to experience all of the natural beauty Alaska has to offer.

For more information, visit

Gone steelheadin’ …

Dear Friends, Family and Loved Ones

This is where I'll be this winter ...

I wish I could explain it all to you, why myself and so many of my crazy-ass little band of misfits fall so far off the radar this time every
year. No, we don’t suffer from the dreaded holiday depression. No, we don’t all go away on sabbatical. No, we don’t have second jobs as secret agents

A handful of you – Bill, Nick, Ade, Squires, Martin, J.D., etc. – know the story. Hell, you’re probably not even reading this letter. You’re
standing right next to me. Can I borrow your leader roll, please

For the rest of you, though (especially those of you living outside the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes), I’ll do my best to explain.

To my bass-fishing buddies (listen up Luke Clausen, Brandon Palaniuk, Kent Brown, Joe Everett, Mike Long, etc.), the next four months for
us are like the longest pre-spawn you’ve ever seen in your lives. I know how every one of you get when that time comes around and you start catching 10-plus-pound largemouth: you lose your freakin’ minds. You start to talk in gibberish. Your eyes get sunken, you lose weight, and your families start to think seriously about calling a help line.

Some of us will suffer from that same affliction for the next four months.

To my tuna-fishing buddies, I’ll give you this: You understand what it means to suffer some discomfort to satisfy your affliction. You’ll
travel miles and miles and miles offshore and get your butts whipped by both Poseiden and a fish that swims 50 miles per hour.

Kudos to you. Still, most of you scratch your head about this wintertime disappearing act that many of us pull.

My dear mother, God rest her soul, would start worrying around Thanksgiving and eventually stop fretting around Easter. She never understood it, and Lord knows, my exes certainly didn’t understand it, either.

So, dear loved one, maybe I can’t explain where I’ll be, who I’ll be hanging out with, or why I’ll be there between now and late March. Just do
your best to be patient with me. I’ll check in when I get out of the Canyon.


Gone Steelheading

P.S. If you’re similarly afflicted and on a different system, share your pictures with me:


Fulfilling a dream hunt with Hunters and Guides Connection

Fulfilling a Dream Hunt
The Search for the Mountain Monarch

Have you ever thought about how your dream hunt would play out? Would you be on an African Safari tracking a Lion, in Argentina hunting Doves, or how about going after a Javan Rusa Deer in Australia? For Drew Zimmerman his dream hunt involved a Stone Sheep Hunt and he knew without a doubt that at some point in his life he would make this a reality.

This really was the hunt of a lifetime for Drew and he describes this as a hunt where you “physically paid your dues and earned” the results of the 10 day hunt. Drew’s whole hunt revolved around one thing – finding the Mountain Monarch. For days, he searched with his guide in the rugged mountain terrain for that perfect ram. They spotted many nice rams, but there was always something that prevented the shot.

Then, after battling the weather, day 9 began to fall into place and after careful stalking Drew was set up with a 250-yard shot, but at a very steep angle. Although this shot didn’t quite connect, after a 300-yard dash to cut the ram off, Drew had another opportunity to shoot and he landed a perfect center mass hit. Finally, Drew had his Mountain Monarch!

Drew had always wanted to make his dream hunt a reality and he is grateful that “being a member of the Hunters and Guides Connection provided this opportunity at a considerable savings and sooner than anticipated!” Drew also shared that by being a member of the Hunters and Guides Connection for only $199 a year he saved $9,000 on this hunt cancellation.

Although Drew’s “dream hunt” has now become a cherished memory, he looks forward to continuing o use the Hunters and Guides Connection to help him plan and save money on his next hunting adventure.

For more information about how the Hunters and Guides Connection can help you save 15% on your next hunt, visit

Web profile:

Started in 2000, was one of the first online tackle shops, and it has grown to be a world leading retailer of sport fishing tackle and related products. began with an emphasis in salmon, steelhead and trout gear, and has expanded to offer a full range of products for a wide variety of species and fishing techniques, including freshwater, saltwater, fly fishing and ice fishing. It boasts one of the largest online selections of salmon and steelhead tackle in the world. It also has an extensive selection of gear for the ice angler.
At its warehouse stocks not only popular products, but also specialty and hard-to-find items, including productsdirectly imported from abroad. It also offers special order services for any tackle it does not stock. FishUSA
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For great product selection, friendly service, fast shipping and reasonable prices, visit today to see why it is America’s Tackle Shop.

Web profile: Triggers Gun Auction


Triggers Gun Auction sells firearms from estates and private sellers to a nationwide audience of pre-qualified gun buyers. As a Federally licensed firearms auction house, we can manage the sale and disposition of auction items from receipt of consignment all the way through to delivery. Our public sales on the nation’s largest live and timed auction network ( effectively eliminates nuisance bidding (bidding without the intent to purchase), and the burden of wading through thousands of auto-relisted, initial-high-price items. The majority of our auctions are absolute. But whenever an item of distinction merits reserve pricing, we always start at the reserve. Our monthly schedule of new auctions is designed to keep things interesting for buyers, and speed things along for our sellers (many of whom are trying to close estates).

Consignments Wanted

We are always looking for quality firearms, and firearms related items to represent at auction. Our team is equipped to sell entire collections or individual items, and we work equally hard for estates and private collectors to maximize profit. If you or someone you know has antique or modern firearms, or firearms related items to sell, we would appreciate an opportunity to provide a FREE estimate of auction value and discuss seller consignment terms. We’ve created a convenient online evaluation request form to make contacting us easy.

To learn more about Triggers Gun Auction, please visit our website at: