All posts by Chris Cocoles

Spring Spawning Bass Tips

The following is courtesy of Traditions Media

Photo courtesy of Jon Ray

Cold Winter Equals

Condensed Spawning Season

The calendar provides the macro view, but it’s the meteorological and lunar factors that spur this seasonal show.

By David A. Brown

Anglers can catch largemouth bass in every season; but hands-down, spring dominates in terms of accessibility to quantity and quality. Essentially, the fish are at their heaviest of the year, they display voracious feeding interests — pre and post periods — and often position in areas where they can be visually located.

Broadly described as a trident of prespawn, spawn and postspawn stages; spring sees bass moving from their deeper wintering haunts to the shallow bays, pockets, coves and flats where they’ll set up shop. With the exception of Florida, whose mostly warm climate and lengthy geographic profile generally, most of the nation sees a more well-defined spawning season during which fish efficiently utilize favorable windows to launch the next generation of rod-benders.

But that’s not always the case.

In weird years, it’s tough to nail down specifics, as historical norms often yield to a catch-as-catch-can reality during which the playbook goes out the window and the team adopts a “just get it done” mentality. That being said, fundamentals of fish behavior do not change much; so, while the 2018 spawning season may experience some off-script moments, we can offer a handful of guiding principles to help you dial in your search.

Transitional banks where larger rock meets gravel usually marks a good area to start looking for spawning fish.


The calendar provides the macro view, but it’s the meteorological and lunar factors that spur this seasonal show.

Warm Water: When the temperature gauge on your Raymarine Multifunction Display reads 55-65 degrees, that range usually gives bass the confidence to hit the nests. Higher is better, as eggs need warmth for complete development and hatching.

Water Level: Sounds obvious to say that bass need to keep their nests submerged, but when heavy spring rains and snowmelt swell reservoirs, lake managers will strive to bring them down to normal pool. The rising water may push that ideal spawning zone into new territory, but as soon as the water starts falling — high and dry.

This is why daily observation, either on the water, or online release schedules stand essential for finding dependable bedding areas. Tidal environments see daily rises and falls, but local bass know the deal and will bed in that compromise zone that’s shallow enough to allow sunlight penetration, but deep enough to stay wet during low tides.

The ultra-realistic LIVETARGET Sunfish Swimbait is lights-out for spring and summer bass.

Moon phases: Full and, to a lesser degree, new moons will stimulate spawning movements; assuming other factors fit the fish’s preference.

One thing to consider is that not all the fish in a lake — especially large bodies — will spawn at the same time. Generally, the fish will advance in waves, almost like a shift change at the grocery store.

This year has really scrambled the schedule, as an extended winter and some pretty fierce temperatures have delayed the spawn in many southern waters that would have already seen significant levels of activity in April. The result in many areas may be a condensing of the spawning waves. Picture a multi-screen theater that properly staggers movie times so show-goers arrive and depart in manageable groups most of the week, but botches one night’s schedule with several overlaps. That throws off everything from parking to popcorn lines.

Kinda the same deal with a delayed spawn. The upside is greater opportunity for anglers, as more fish may converge on the spawning areas.

Laydowns can offer prespawn staging habitat, but the ones tucked back in a spawning pocket may also shelter bed fish.


Often, tournament anglers will talk about staking out spots like hydrilla lines, shallow ledges and points where they can catch fish “coming and going.” This refers to staging areas that host prespawners preparing to move up and post-spawners that have recently left the beds and need a comfortable recovery lounge before moving to their summer haunts.

Other key habitat features for the spring season include:

Transitional Banks: Could be boulders to chunk rock, chunk to pea gravel, or even clay to rock; in any case, these seams in bank makeup represent progression points in the bass’ spawning migration and, therefore, natural pausing points.

Docks: Cover, feeding angles and shade are always popular with bass, but look under those walkways and along the shoreline between docks and you’ll often find bedding bass.

Natural Wood: This is a bigger deal than many may think this time of year, so pay attention to big laydowns, standing timber and even wood jams in the backs of those small, secondary fingers running into major spawning pockets.

Docks offer that ideal combination of shade, protection and feeding opportunities for pre and postspawn fish. Also look between adjacent docks for spawners on the bank.

Electronics play a key role here in not only identifying the sweet spots, but also finding the bait schools that will interest staging fish on both sides of the spawn. This is where your Raymarine CHIRP SideVision excels at scoping the adjacent areas for a bass buffet.

Below the boat, CHIRP DownVision will show you a key element of the annual bass trek — the ditch. Fish may rise up on the flats of a creek or pocket to feed or sun, but their movements into and out of the spawning areas trace a distinct course along the deeper drain.

The depth variance may only be a few feet, but this is the travel route the fish will follow year after year, so look for those staging spots close to this drain. That’s particularly relevant during a delayed spawn, as the ditch will often look like a parade route.

Once the fish move to the beds, the game becomes mostly visual; but note that grass lakes often find the bigger fish staking out isolated holes and pockets in a shallow hydrilla, milfoil or eel grass bed. Raymarine Axiom’s RealVision 3D will help you find well-defined grass features where the pickier big fish like to spawn.

Raymarine’s RealVision 3D reveals submerged timber, grass, bait, and bass. Dropping waypoints allows the angler to precisely work the fish-holding area, thus eliminating dead water.


When bass are in that transitional mode, it’s wise to prepare a two-pronged approach that addresses looking and targeting. Easing through likely areas with a steady trolling motor level that won’t spook jittery fish, blind cast from shallow to deep with tempting search baits like LIVETARGET’s ultra-realistic swimbaits. Bass despise nest-raiding bream, so the sunfish replicas will draw their ire, but you won’t go wrong with the threadfin or gizzard shad pattern.

Note: While prespawners will bite to eat, bed fish, especially recent arrivals, will be more concerned with bed defense. They’ll often chase a bait until it’s out of their security zone, but even these wakes, boils and pushes are helpful, as they define a target area for potential sight fishing, or at least an estimated toss with a wacky-rigged Z-Man ZinkerZ stick bait.

The Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait and Z-Man RaZor ShadZ combo has turned bass fishing on its ear, winning tournaments and producing fish for everyday anglers like magic.

Another effective search bait is the Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait with a Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ or RaZor ShadZ trailer. Noisy and flashy, this reaction bait is meant to resemble a range of prey and potential nest threats, so expect arm-jarring bites. Same goes for your shallow running crankbaits, both the lipless and squarebill design. The former’s great for machine-gunning an area with rapid-fire casts, while the latter likes to ricochet off the hard stuff.

Savvy anglers also keep a topwater frog handy for covering water in search mode and targeting beds. Unlike the bottom-oriented baits most commonly thrown at bedding bass, topwater frogs hover overhead in a menacing display that bass simply cannot handle.

For those who dig the sight-fishing game Texas-rigged craws, lizards or stick worms will irritate protective bass. Natural colors like green pumpkin tend to get the more aggressive responses, but white’s easier to spot when spooky fish require lengthy presentations. Watch target and when the white disappears, you’re in business.

Shorelines with shallow vegetation and docks are spring gold mines.


Mother’s Day Fishing Special From Dana Wharf


Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, sky, outdoor and water

The following press release is courtesy of Dana Wharf:


Moms can fish FREE on ANY 3/4 and any half day trip she chooses on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13. And if she wants to go on a Whale Watching Trip, mom receives a free glass of champagne.

Help Us Celebrate 47 Years in Dana Point Harbor

It’s our annual Anniversary Special and Thank You for being a valued customer. We’ve rolled back the prices May 15 – May 21
Take advantage of our in store promotion for our email members!*

1/2 day fishing tickets for future trips only $15 (normally $46)
3/4 day fishing tickets for future trips only $35 (normally $64)
ALL DAY fishing tickets on the Fury for future trips only $55 (normally $75)
Whale Watching tickets for future trips only $15 (normally $45)

*Print/show this email at the store when you purchase your tickets for a future dateThis special is not available online and is not valid on same day tickets are purchased. Limit 10 total tickets per email member.
No other discounts apply.

Fish Overnight and All Day

The 65-foot Fury has overnight and all day trips. The bunkroom is furnished to sleep 46 passengers, blanket and pillow provided for each bunk. Book your epic fishing trip today!Join us on our 1/2 day and 3/4 day trips running all week long. We’re targeting all kinds of species. Check the schedule

Twilight fishing has begun – every Tuesday,  Friday and Saturday night only $29

Check Dana Wharf Sportfishing Schedule

Charter a Boat this Summer

Board any of our clean, well-equipped vessels or private yachts for an unforgettable trip! Dana Wharf Sportfishing charters come with expert captains, friendly crew and live bait.The time to book your fishing charter is NOW! We are taking reservations for summer fishing season and dates go fast call us today 949-496-5794 ext 2

Wildlife Forever Announces State Fish Art Contest Winners


The following press release is courtesy of Wildlife Forever:

White Bear Lake, MN – Wildlife Forever and title sponsor Bass Pro Shops are proud to announce the winners of the 20th Anniversary State-Fish Art Contest.  A distinguished panel of five honorary judges selected the following Top 12 National Awards from the 1st place winners of all 50 states plus international.

2018 judges included Jeff Edmundson, KARE11; Doug Grann, Wildlife Forever board; Ed Rudberg, CD3; Bob White, wildlife artist and  Erin Williams, National Park Service.

“Students, educators and parents from across the United States and around the world connect with this contest, with its amazing student’s art and aquatic conservation message,” remarks Bob Ziehmer, Senior Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops.

And the winners are…


Top12_Korea_NaEun_Kim_Gr12_Nat1st_SFA18 2

The grades 10-12 top honor went to Na Eun Kim from the Republic of Korea with, “Trout’s Recovering Memories”, his stunning watercolor of a brook trout. Second Place was awarded to Ian Oh of California.  Yejin (Shelly) Lee Li from Virginia received Third Place.



Mindy Zheng from Herndon, Virginia took First Place in grades 7-9 with a captivating acrylic, titled “Northern Pike”, swimming out of the deep. The Second Place winner was Nicole Li of Georgia and Third Place went to Yuzhe Tian from Massachusetts.



The 4-6 grade category winner is Alston Leung from Great Neck, New York with his watercolor of a kid on a dock fishing for bluegill titled “Bluegill”. Second Place went to Calvin Yu from Massachusetts and Third Place to Bethany Zhao of California.


Top12_NY_Ivy_Mo_Gr2_Nat 1st_SFA18

Top honors in the “Mighty Minnows” K-3 grades division went to Ivy Mou from New York with her delightful watercolor painting, “Hawaii Triggerfish”.  Second Place was awarded to Aadya Ganjalagunte from Arizona and Third Place to Zia Lee from Washington.



This Award recognizes creativity, originality and unique artwork from across the world. This powerful acrylic painting, titled “The Expert Fisherman“,  features a bald eagle grasping an American shad in its talons. “Wildlife Forever is pleased to honor a very talented 7th grader, Angelina Drost from South Carolina, with the 2018 Art of Conservation® Award,” said Pat Conzemius, Executive Vice President, Wildlife Forever. “This painting depicts two species that are conservation successes.. By recognizing the work of students today, we hope to inspire the conservationists of tomorrow.”



The Smile Award is given to a painting selected from all the contest entries that “makes you feel good inside when you see it. You just can’t help but smile!” said Karen Hollingsworth, Manager of State-Fish Art.  Vritika Gupta. a talented kindergartener from Princeton Junction, New Jersey, is the winner with, “Sad Fish”, a delightful smile-worthy oil pastel.



The artist winning this year’s Invader Crusader was selected from all the entries in the Silent Invader Category. The artist needs to paint not only a state-fish species, but also an invasive species.  The 2018 winner is Mark Acker, a 9th grader from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, with his watercolor and colored pencil art “The Underwater Fish”.  It shows a native humuhumunukunukuapoa’a swimming in water infested with the invasive aquatic plant Hydrilla.  Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats.

National 2018 “FISH MAKE YOU SMARTER AWARDS” are announced on for the best essay that is required in addition to the art.

All state winners in the four grade categories from across America and internationally are listed at The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest seeks to involve students in the outdoors through the arts. Students compete in four grade-level divisions: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.  Deadline for submitting entries to the contest is always March 31 each year.

The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest™ is celebrating its 20th year of bringing children, adults and aquatic conservation together through the Art! To enter, young artists create an original art illustration of any official State-Fish and an essay detailing its behavior, habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Entries are in four grade levels: K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Educators nationwide utilize Fish On!, the State-Fish Art Lesson Plan, combining the disciplines of science and art. It is available free on CD and by download. Entries are always due on March 31st.  Visit

Controversial Delta Tunnels Project Gets Another Financial Boost


Paul Hames / California Department of Water Resources

First, it was Southern California making a big financial commitment to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan that salmon conservationists and anglers are concerned about. Now it’s the Santa Clara Valley Water District offering up money to get the project going.

Here’s more from the Sacramento Bee: 

A Bay Area water agency agreed Tuesday to pump $650 million into Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels project, providing a meaningful boost for the controversial $16.7 billion plan.

The 4-3 vote by the Santa Clara Valley Water District brings the tunnels project, which would overhaul the troubled heart of California’s aging water delivery network, a step closer to being fully funded.

Just a few months ago the project, officially known as California WaterFix, was sputtering for a lack of funds. Brown’s administration was forced to consider a phased-in approach that called for building one tunnel first and constructing a second tunnel only if enough money became available. WaterFix is to be paid for by south-of-Delta local water agencies that get supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The original twin-tunnels concept was revived a month ago, when the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to spend $10.8 billion on the project. Metropolitan in effect is stepping in for San Joaquin Valley agricultural districts that have refused to support WaterFix because of its price tag. To recoup the costs, the big Los Angeles agency expects to sell some of the tunnels’ capacity to the farm groups in years to come.

Of course, while water districts are in clearly in favor of the tunnels, it’s not so much on the wish list for salmon advocates. Here’s John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

“Today SCVW’s directors voted to saddle their ratepayers with a double-digit rate increase in order to subsidize water to almond growers in the western San Joaquin Valley. Some water managers would have you believe the tunnels are a fait accompli but it is far from that. GGSA and allies are already in court challenging this project because federal fish experts have found the twin tunnels will be a disaster for salmon. Getting permits for this project will fall to the next governor and hopefully he will appreciate the damage the tunnels would do to our salmon fishery, so we don’t have to wait for the courts to decide this in our favor.”

Klamath Management Zone Salmon Season Opening On June 1

Thomas Dunklin/NOAA

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Additional sections of the California coast will open up to recreational ocean salmon fishing in June. In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude), the season will open June 1 and continue through Sept. 3, 2018. The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude), respectively, will open June 17 and continue through Oct. 31, 2018. The Monterey area between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico Border opened on Apr. 7 and will continue through July 2, 2018.

Shorter recreational ocean seasons in 2018 are the result of two key California salmon stocks attaining ‘overfished’ status this year. Both Sacramento River fall Chinook and Klamath River fall Chinook have experienced three successive years of poor adult returns, in response to the drought and poor conditions for survival.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point and 24 inches in all areas south of Pigeon Point. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of Coho Salmon (also known as Silver Salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

In 2019, the recreational ocean salmon season will open Apr. 6 south of Horse Mountain. The minimum size limit will be 20 inches total length in the area from Horse Mountain to Point Arena and 24 inches total length in all areas south of Point Arena. The daily bag limit will be two Chinook salmon per day. The remainder of the 2019 ocean salmon season will be decided at the PFMC meeting in April 2019.

For the first time, state ocean salmon regulations will automatically conform to federal regulations using the new process described in the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 1.95.  Federal regulations for ocean salmon were published in the Federal Register (83 FR 19005) on May 1, 2018, and are effective as of May 1, 2018.

Public notification of any in-season change is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Hotline. Before engaging in any fishing activity for ocean salmon, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:

  • CDFW website,
  • National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Hotline, (800) 662-9825
  • CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline, (707) 576-3429


Pelican Products Introduces Pioneering New LED Flashlight

The following press release is courtesy of Pelican Products:

TORRANCE, CA – May 7, 2018 – Pelican Products, Inc. (Pelican), the global leader in the design and manufacture of advanced portable lighting tools, today introduced the new safety certified Pelican? 3345 LED flashlight as its first flashlight with a variable light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness to its surroundings.
“The new Pelican 3345 flashlight is like a self-driving light,” said Scott Jones, Director of Lighting Sales, Commercial/Government, US. “The variable light sensor measures the ambient light and automatically adjusts the brightness. For example, up close it’s at a low level but it will instantly adjust to full brightness at hundreds of feet away if needed.”
With dual beam, spot and flood capability, it delivers up to 280 lumens with both beams, 117 lumens in flood mode, and 219 lumens in spot mode – allowing the user maximum versatility. The dual beams provide the ability to illuminate a pathway and at a distance simultaneously. For those jobs that go into overtime, the Pelican 3345 flashlight’s variable light sensor automatically regulates power as needed, which stretches run time to its ultimate potential.
Unlike most flashlights on the market, the Pelican 3345 flashlight has a full-time battery level indicator integrated into the switch and carries IPX7 ingress protection, allowing it to be used in the most inclement weather conditions and for work in hazardous areas around the globe.
Additional key features include:
  • Class I, II and III, Division 1 / IECEx ia safety certified.
  • Spot beam can shine a distance up to 137 meters.
  • Run time of up to 13 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Integrated clip, allowing for hands free use when needed.
  • Lightweight at 7.5 oz with batteries.
The new Pelican 3345 flashlight MSRP is $41.95 and it’s available for purchase now through Pelican’s stocking dealers. For more information visit As with all other Pelican flashlights, it comes with the legendary Pelican lifetime warranty.
Pelican Products, Inc. is a portfolio company of Behrman Capital, a private equity investment firm based in New York and San Francisco.

A ‘Dam’ Controversial Issue At Shasta


Wlkimedia user Apaliwal

When I was in high school. my dad and I took a road trip from the Bay Area up into Oregon. We went the California coast via Highway 101, cut across at Crescent City and crossed the border into Cave Junction, spent our second night in Medford, took a day trip to spectacular Crater Lake and then made better time going home by getting back to I-5. I remember stopping at the vista point and snapping some photos – I sure don’t know if I have them around anymore – overlooking three Shastas -Dam, Lake, Mountain, similar to the shot above via Wikimedia. It’s a great view.

Years later I better understood the importance Shasta Lake and its Dam has on the state’s water supply.  Now as California has endured another devastating drought and what appears to be a dangerous situation forthe state’s Chinook salmon population.  Now Shasta Dam is at the forefront of a proposed reconstruction.

The Sacramento Bee has a report on the dam and the role the McCloud River, which is formed on the eastern side of Shasta Lake.

A higher structure also would inundate parts of the McCloud, altering its current state.

“This is unquestionably a beautiful stretch of river,” said Westlands general manager Tom Birgmingham, as he walked along its banks last month. “The river deserves to be protected in its current form, but that’s going to have to give a little bit to raise the dam.”

Opponents of the dam project, however, are refusing to give at all. They include the state of California, a local Native American tribe and environmental and fishing groups.

They say raising the dam by 18.5 feet, under the current federal proposal, would submerge sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and ruin a stretch of a river prized by recreational trout anglers. They say it also would be a violation of the 1972 Wild and Scenic Rivers act, which prohibits the state from supporting projects that alter certain natural waterways.

Disagreement over raising Shasta Dam has been going on for decades. The Obama administration essentially tabled the issue over questions about who would foot the bill.

Now the $1.3 billion project has returned with force. Congress in March appropriated $20 million for pre-construction planning. The appropriation, part of a massive federal budget bill signed into law by President Donald Trump, was enough to touch off a political fracas stretching from Washington to Sacramento.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s natural resources secretary, John Laird, sent a letter to congressional leaders saying raising Shasta Dam would be flat-out illegal under California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The law protects the McCloud against projects that would harm its “free-flowing condition,” Laird argued.

Here’s a little bit more from the Bee about the fishing ramifications:

Others have strong connections to the banks of the McCloud as well. For more than a century, much of the land along the river belonged to the Hills family of San Francisco, which owned the Hills Bros. coffee empire. The family turned the property into a private fly-fishing enclave known as the Bollibokka Club. Each year, wealthy sportsmen from the Bay Area and beyond come to the remote spot northeast of Redding where the Hills family had built a handful of rustic cabins.

In 2006, Birmingham, from the Westlands Water District, happened to vist the Bollibokka Club as a guest of his brother-in-law when a fishing guide began lamenting that the good times on the river were in danger of ending: A Bay Area developer was preparing to buy the land and build a bloc of posh vacation homes.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation had been kicking around the idea of raising Shasta Dam since 1980. Birmingham, seeing an opportunity, persuaded Westlands buy the property – the last seven miles of McCloud River canyon and the fishing club – in a deal worth $35 million.

Westlands took control of the Bollibokka, a club so exclusive that renting one of its cabins costs $7,300 a week and only 10 fishermen are allowed to wet their lines at a time. Westlands contracts with The Fly Shop in Redding to run the fishing operations. Maintaining Bollibokka is a loss for Westlands, but that’s besides the point, Brimingham said.

“Our concern was if this was the location of multi-million dollar vacation home sites, it would be more difficult to raise the dam,” he said.

Short Season Means High Prices For King Salmon

Photo by Harry Morse/CDFW


With a very limited salmon season facing not just recreational anglers but commercial fishers, the impact will likely come at your local supermarket. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle with more on the opening week of ocean Chinook fishing.

The local commercial salmon season opened Tuesday, but only in the region south of Half Moon Bay for a weeklong period. It will reopen for a 12-day period in late June. The region north of Pigeon Point/Half Moon Bay to Horse Mountain/Shelter Cove (Humboldt County) will be open for salmon fishing from late July through September and part of October. The Klamath Management Zone, a coastal area in Northern California and Southern Oregon near the Klamath River, will be open for salmon fishing for most of May through August, with daily and monthly quotas.

Two fishermen from the San Francisco Community Fishing Association planned to bring up 1,000 pounds of salmon Friday after landing them in Monterey, said member Larry Collins.

“The conditions are really good down there. The bay’s full of life,” said Collins, who noted there are a lot of squid and anchovies for the salmon to feed on and that the fish are coming in larger than normal for this early in the season.

Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley has California king salmon for $29.99 per pound, while Bi-Rite in San Francisco is selling it for $34.99 per pound at its two locations. Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley planned to start selling it Friday.

Usually open from at least May to September, this year’s California commercial salmon season is very limited because the current batch of adult salmon were born during the drought in 2015, which made their Sacramento River spawning grounds too warm and killed off many juvenile salmon.

OC Man Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Valuable Aquarium Fish

Wikimedia photo by user “Gingko100”

The Orange County Register has the details on a Garden Grove man who plead guilty to smuggling aquarium fish, and needless say it’s not the goldfish that you’d find at your local pet store.  Here’s OCR’s  Sean Emery with more:

A Garden Grove man is facing federal conspiracy and illegal wildlife-importation felonies after authorities say he was caught helping to smuggle Asian arowana fish into the United States from Indonesia.

Shawn Naolu Lee, 29, was one of two men indicted this month after federal prosecutors allege that they broke the Endangered Species Act by importing a species of fish facing extinction.

According to the indictment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors on Feb. 9 found eight live arowanas inside of a postal package from Hong Kong.

Federal officials, who apparently intercepted the package, would not disclose what alerted them to it.

Fish and wildlife agents, dressed as delivery men, brought the fish to Lee’s Garden Grove home, according to the indictment. With the help of immigration and homeland security investigators, they took Lee into custody and searched his home. The search turned up bundles of cash totaling $15,370, according to a court document.

Lee denied any knowledge about the contents of the package, but an investigator wrote in a court filing that he referred to Asian arowanas as “Arrows,” which the investigator described as a “term of art of those who traffic in that type of fish.”

The story also says a single arowana can fetch as much as $150,000.