Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

San Diego Ranked Fifth Among “America’s Most Adventurous Cities”

San Diego ranked fifth in a Men’s Health magazine Top 100 determining America’s Most Adventurous City. (JDrewes/Wikimedia)

Having lived in the Los Angeles area for about seven years in the late 1990s to early 2000s, I simply didn’t like living there. I’m just not an L.A. type of a guy. San Diego? Now that would have been more palatable in my mind. It’s a laid-back city with great neighborhoods, good food  – even barbecue that Maverick and Charlie of Top Gun fame would endorse, an there are plenty of tickets available at Petco Park to watch Padres baseball! 

So I’d be onboard with a relocation someday. Until then, check out this Men’s Health magazine report on ranking the 100 best-to-worst list of the “Most Adventurous Cities in America”:

MOST ADVENTUROUS CITY #5: SAN DIEGO, CA

San Diego is more than just perfect weather and beautiful vistas. It’s also home to more than 40,000 acres of public land spread out over 400 parks and 26 miles of shorelines. If you’re a sea dog, rent some kayaks and paddle through the sea lion-filled waters to the sea caves of La Jolla. Bring your snorkeling gear to have a look at the area’s remarkable array of fish and leopard sharks. There are also more than a dozen beaches for great surfing.

If you’re a beginner, check out Del Mar, considered one of the most reliable spots to catch a wave in the area. For the more advanced surfers, head to the southern end of Black’s Beach for some of San Diego’s best waves. And, while you’re there, walk to the north end of Black’s to visit San Diego’s only nude beach…if you’re into that sort of thing.

For the record: San Diego finished behind winning city Anchorage, Alaska, followed by Austin, Texas, Madison, Wis. and Minneapolis.

Here’s how the rest of the state’s cities ranked:

21. Bakersfield

26. San Jose

32. Riverside

39. San Francisco

44. Anaheim

48. Los Angeles

52. Oakland

64. Sacramento

79. Fresno

84. Stockton

 

Slamming Bass With A Pop

A popper is an extremely versatile topwater bait, easy to fish and capable of catching largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in Bay Area and various Northern California lakes. (MARK FONG)

The following appears in the June issue of California Sportsman: 

By Mark Fong

In recent memory, topwater poppers have become an overlooked option for many of today’s anglers. But those in the know certainly are in on the secret. 

A popper is easy to recognize by its distinctive cupped mouth and slender profile. The cupped mouth pushes water and creates the signature sound of its namesake.

TIE ONE ON 

A popper is an extremely versatile topwater bait. I have caught popper bass on a multitude of different fisheries spanning Northern California and the Bay Area. From small waters such as farm ponds and creeks to large waterways like Lake Berryessa, the Delta or Lake Shasta, poppers catch bass everywhere. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass of all sizes will absolutely crush a popper. It may surprise some that a bait of such diminutive size can account for big fish, but they do. My personal-best popper fish pushed 8 pounds, and poppers are known for catching quality tournament-grade fish.

Poppers are powerful search baits that can draw fish from long distances. In clear water, I have seen bass come from more than 25 feet away to strike a popper. Work them over points, submerged humps or vegetation, and they are also great tools for targeting specific structural elements. Cast them around docks, flooded trees or bridge pilings.

Poppers are very user-friendly lures that do not require a lot of experience to be successful. Cadence is key to triggering the bite, and it is up to the individual angler to determine how the fish want the bait presented. (MARK FONG)

EASY TO FISH  

Poppers are very user-friendly lures that do not require a lot of experience to be successful. This makes them an ideal choice for the novice or beginning angler. To work a popper, simply employ a sharp downward motion of your wrist to action the lure. Cadence is key to triggering the bite, and it is up to the individual angler to determine how the fish want the bait presented. As such, the mood of the bass and the conditions on hand are important considerations.

Old-school wisdom is to make a cast and let the bait sit motionless briefly. Next, twitch the popper once and wait for the ripples to go away. Now repeat the process. Be on the alert, as bass will strike the bait when it is at rest and just as it begins to move again. While this retrieve does work, there are other effective presentations that should be explored as well.

Another option is to make a cast and twitch the bait several times in succession, pause the bait briefly, and repeat. Mix it up and experiment with the number of twitches and the length of the pause.

My favorite way to work a popper is to work the bait fast. I will fish the bait aggressively with a steady fast pace, making it spit and splash water. My goal is to generate a reaction strike.

Some fishermen have a problem making a solid connection with the fish. Remember to be patient when a bass strikes and don’t pull the bait away from the fish. It is easy to react to the visual nature of the strike. Instead, wait until you can feel the weight of the bass and then simply pull into the fish with your rod and reel quickly.

The author happily shows off a couple of beauties. Popper topwater lures, which mainly imitate smaller baitfish, should always be in your tackle box as a potential bass catcher. (MARK FONG)

GEARING UP 

This season I have been enjoying great results using the new Ima Finesse Popper. At 2.6 inches long, the Finesse Popper is the perfectly sized bait for bass that are reluctant to bite or relating to smaller forage. It is equipped with a subtle fish-attracting rattle and is finished with a hand-tied feather trailer on the rear treble hook. I won’t fish a popping-style bait without a feathered rear treble. When the bait is paused in between twitches, the feather will continue to pulse in the water. This is an important action that can trigger more bites.

Poppers are designed to imitate small forage fish. With this in mind, I recommend choosing colors that match the forage base. In clearwater lakes, Real Ghost Shad does a great job of mimicking not only shad but also other small baitfish such as pond smelt. In shallow grass environments where sunfish are present, a bluegill color is my first choice.

Small topwater lures fish best on a rod with a soft tip and a strong backbone. For popper duty I rely on a Cousins Tackle GP 704T popping rod. At 7 feet, it is perfect for making long casts and has the length and power to control and subdue hard fighting fish. I pair the rod with a compact high-speed baitcaster, spooled with 25-pound FINS 40G Braid. I like braid for its low stretch and strength, however braid has a way of tangling itself with treble hooks. To remedy this problem, I use a 7- to 8-foot leader of 20-pound Gamma Polyflex copolymer line tied to the mainline braid with an Alberto knot. Not only does the leader keep the bait from fouling but it also adds a measure of stretch, which helps keep fish from pulling free.

If you have never fished a popper, or maybe it’s been awhile, tie one on and see what happens; you might just be pleasantly surprised. 

Where Stripes Are Big Stars

Guide Manuel Saldana Jr. (left) and Mark Fong.

The author (left) with his 25-pound striper.

Check out videos of this trip here. 

The following appears in the June issue of California Sportsman:

By Chris Cocoles

Photos by Chris Cocoles and Mark Fong

YUBA CITY–Our day on the Feather River essentially began and ended the same way: unexpectedly reeling in fish of a lifetime.

Earlier this spring, California Sportsman correspondent Mark Fong and I rode together from the Sacramento area for a short trip north, where we figured we’d catch striped bass – lots of them. But I was certainly not counting on catching any big fish. The tempered expectations would still have us enjoying the action. I figured that would mean a consistent netting of keepers – California regulations require an 18-inch minimum length – and the four of us reaching two-fish limits without much drama.

Sunrise on the Feather River.

AFTER YEARS OF DROUGHT that turned our guide Manny Saldana Jr.’s backyard river into a water-deprived mess, the Feather was more than compensated by Mother Nature as winter and spring turned biblical. Heavy rains pelted the state, and there was so much water that the heavily publicized and scrutinized spillway damage upstream at Lake Oroville prompted Saldana – who guides both salmon and striper fishing for his MSJ Fishing Guide Service – and his family to flee during mandatory evacuations in Yuba City and Marysville in March.

That crisis was quelled for now, and fishermen could at least feel comforted that the Feather was full of water. On this late April day, Saldana said the river was running at 38,000 cubic feet per second, a far cry from my last visit here for a king salmon trip (California Sportsman, December 2016) when the river was dotted with tree branches poking out of the surface.

This time, the Feather resembled more of a long lake than a drought-stricken river, and we ironically had to find calmer water than faster-running sections around Shanghai Bend Falls, a few miles from our launching point.

“We simply found a small pocket where the water wasn’t raging. I utilized my Minn Kota trolling motor for our live bait that could be eaten up by those hard-fighting stripers,” Saldana told me later.

Saldana and his part-time deckhand Justin Leonard, a young Grass Valley resident who will spend this summer working on an Alaskan fishing boat, set us up with live minnows, held firmer on our Size 1 sickle-style Maruto hooks with Bait Buttons rubber keepers.

Any massive strikes from the resident linesides would be nonchalant – a tap here, a twitch there – and likely meant fish were sampling our bait. The current and our drifting approach would make detecting the subtle strikes challenging. So as we dropped down our lines to the bottom and then cranked up a couple turns, the bites began to come frequently, and less than an hour into putting our lines in the water, we’d already hooked and lost a couple fish. But the initial pull on our Raze series Cousins Tackle rods seemed similar, and when my reel cranking created some tension, I initially anticipated a nice striper, probably a keeper and maybe even the biggest fish of the day so far. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

IT WAS A NONDESCRIPT yank, but quickly the bass had me on the move – from near the bow of Saldana’s 21-foot Fish Rite to the stern in a hurry. The others on the boat became my wingmen – Fong trying to video my stressful turn at the plate; Leonard encouraging me; Saldana coaching me. The instructions were simple and calmly communicated, yet I still felt like I was at boot camp for fishing greenhorns. “Reel! Reel! Reel!” “Rod tip in the water!” “Work the line back around the motor! Don’t get it caught around it!” 

I did what I could to not blow it, and with every zigzag from one side of the boat to the other, it only raised my fears of letting the big one get away. The 50-pound Yo-Zuri braid we were using was being tested. I kept waiting for that striper to tire, but this wasn’t going to be easy. I can’t remember the exact time it took to get the fish close enough to the boat so that Leonard could scoop it into the net.

My wrist was on the verge of being in pain, so at the time it felt more relief when I could loosen the reel and allow the experts to get the striper out of the net. A smiling Leonard showed me the remarkable sight of the hook just barely stuck in the side of the fish’s mouth. I wondered how we could have coaxed this bass into the boat without it wriggling free.

We put the striper in the livewell to give it a chance to recover, and measured it around 36 inches. Saldana estimated it at 25 pounds, but it may as well have been 50 as far as I was concerned. It was as awesome a conquest as I’ve ever had on the water. When Saldana and I teamed up to pose for a couple grip-and-grins, it began to hit us how special this striper was. “Fish of a lifetime” was repeated over and over again through fist pumps and bro hugs.

This was also a female striper, a hen that had traveled from the Bay Area saltwater through the San Joaquin Delta and then up the Feather to spawn. While some consider stripers an invasive pest that threaten Chinook numbers, supporters believe the drought and water allocation have done more damage to the kings than the bass, which were first introduced to this state way back in 1879. So I had no problem releasing this female back into the river.

“To continue the spawn and keep making babies,” Saldana said on a Facebook video. “How was the fight, Chris?” 

“It was awesome.”

Justin Leonard with a keeper striper.

Mark Fong getting all he can handle from his 20-plus-pound hen (below).

 

FOR THE NEXT FEW hours of boating from hole to hole, both upstream and downstream from the launch ramp, we simply fished like the script was supposed to play out. Under much-appreciated sunshine coming off that wet winter, we caught a lot of stripers. It wasn’t quite nonstop action, but just enough to keep us on our toes and allow us to recall the chaos of the earlier big one that didn’t get away. We released plenty of shakers that were too small, and methodically closed in on the limit of keepers (shouting “Fish tacos!” became our inside joke with every 18-inch-plus bass that would later be filleted).

I’d catch and release one more nice hen – about an 8-pounder – and was understandably content. But Fong, who was as excited for me as I was in the morning, had his moment in the afternoon. Fong gets to fish these waters a lot more than I do living so close to the river, but he couldn’t believe the fight he was getting from this particular striper that had swallowed another piece of live bait. It was my turn to point the iPhone on the guy who was going through his own fight.

“Oh, it’s a nice one,” Saldana said on camera. “Just play her on out.”

“Oh, baby,” added Leonard, figuring something special was happening to us again as Saldana got another trophy into his net. “Oh, my gosh.”

Fong’s hen was a little smaller but easily 20 pounds, a spawning bass that he was also happy to send back into the Feather and continue to maintain a robust striper population. We finished off a limit a while later, and back on land all agreed it was an unforgettable day.

On the ride back to Sacramento, in between Fong and I talking about college football and concerts we’d attended, the conversation ultimately swayed back to those two fish that we didn’t expect. CS

Editor’s note: Good striper fishing is expected to continue through June. For more on MSJ Guide Service or to book a striped bass or salmon trip with Saldana, check out msjguideservice.com or call (530) 301-7455. Like at facebook.com/msjfishingguideservice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Refuges Among Deceased Woman’s Philanthropy

Merced National Wildlife Refuge is among six refuges that will receive philanthropic gifts from a woman who passed away in 2015. (Justine Belson/USFWS)

Three California refuges as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were among eight wildlife refuges and four state or national parks named in the will of a mysterious woman who passed away in 2015. Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge will share a donation of $800,000, a USFWS press release stated. The woman, Californian Rita Poe, died of cancer in 2015, but as the following release reflects, little was known about her:

By Brent Lawrence

Nobody really knew Rita Poe until she died.

She moved through the final years of her life with little apparent interaction with others. Few people could recall the tall, thin woman with salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes. She died at age 66 in her home – a 27-foot travel trailer parked in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains – of colon cancer on Nov. 16, 2015.

Though Rita’s life came to a close, her legacy will live on for generations thanks to her final act of astonishing generosity.

With no known friends or heirs in her final years, Rita’s closest connection was Nancy Zingheim, the manager for SKP RV Park in Chimacum, Washington, where Rita had parked her Airstream during the summer of 2015. Their only encounters were when Rita would come in to pay her lot rent or an occasional wave on the street when she walked her dog, an Italian greyhound/basenji mix named I.G.

Then in September, Rita showed up with a question for Nancy: “Will you be the executor of my will?” Nancy agreed.

Rita died a few weeks later, and Nancy got her first look at the will. It was as generous as it was surprising: give almost everything — nearly $800,000 – to eight National Wildlife Refuges and four parks across the West.

On the list were three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges from her home state of California, with one refuge in each of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Texas. The four others recipients were state and national parks from Texas and Wyoming.

Rita’s legacy started Nancy on a path that culminated with a 4,000-mile “trip of a lifetime” during which she learned about wild spaces and public lands, and what made them meaningful to Rita.

A USFWS MAP HIGHLIGHTS THE TOUR OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES THAT  ZINGHEIM TOOK TO BETTER UNDERSTAND POE’S INTEREST IN THEM AND WHY SHE WOULD LEAVE MONEY TO EACH. (USFWS)

Between December 2015 and April 2017, Nancy researched each refuge and park online. She called them with questions, intent on making sure that each refuge and park would live up to Rita’s expectations.

The biggest obstacle for Nancy was fighting to collect $374,000 owed to Rita from a long-ago inheritance. Once Nancy won that battle and the money came in, she could have considered her work nearly done. Someone else might have simply written the checks.

But not Nancy.

Bobcat from Tule Lake NWR, one of the public lands that was in Rita Poe’s will. (USFWS)

 

Over the months of searching through Rita’s paperwork and photos, Nancy started to know Rita on a deeper level. The last photo Nancy found of Rita was from a 1981 Texas driver’s license. Nancy discovered that Rita was born on October 20, 1949 in California and that she once held a nursing license, but couldn’t determine where or when Rita worked. Nursing may have been what Rita did at some point, but it was clear that it wasn’t what fulfilled her. There was an empty spot in Rita’s soul that could only be filled on public lands.

Rita’s devotion to the places that left a mark on her was infectious, and Nancy was determined to see firsthand where Rita’s final act of generosity was going. “I had never heard of a (National Wildlife) Refuge,” Nancy said. “I wanted the money to go to what Rita would have wanted.”

So in April 2017, Nancy took two weeks of vacation and headed south in Rita’s truck to visit six of the National Wildlife Refuges. It was a final trip that Rita would have loved, Nancy said.

First stop was Merced and San Luis refuges in central California. Next up was Tule Lake Refuge in northern California, then Malheur Refuge in Oregon, followed by Camas Refuge in eastern Idaho. Nancy’s final stop was northeast Washington at Little Pend Oreille Refuge, her personal favorite.

At each stop Nancy asked what the refuge needed and how they could best use the money. Most refuge managers suggested giving it to their respective Friends of the Refuge group, which would enable the money to be used on specific local projects per Rita’s intent. Malheur requested it go to the High Desert Partnership, a grassroots organization that brings together disparate groups to work collaboratively in the best interest of the refuge and the local community.

San Luis NWR’s tule elk will benefit from Poe’s generosity. (Lee Eastman/USFWS)

 

The possible projects are numerous. At Camas, for example, they need to replace dying trees around the visitor center for nesting and roosting birds, as well as finishing a pollinator garden. At San Luis and Merced, they need more family picnic areas.

At Little Pend Oreille Refuge, they could leverage the money as matching funds for a bigger grant. “Maybe an overlook/observation point with an accessible trail,” refuge manager Jerry Cline said. “We want it to be something a visitor like Rita would benefit from.”

WHERE RITA POE’S MONEY WAS DISBURSED.
Camas NWR (Idaho) – $96,551.48
Little Pend Oreille NWR (Washington) – $48,275.74
Malheur NWR (Oregon) – $48,275.74
San Luis NWR (Calif) – $48,275.74
Merced NWR (Calif) – $96,551.48
Tulelake NWR (Calif) – $72,413.6
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (Utah) – $48,275.74
Laguna Atascosta NWR (Texas) – $48,275.74
Hueco Tanks State Park (Texas) – $72,413.61
Choke Canyon State Park (Texas) – $48,275.74
Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) – $120,689.35
Wild Birding Center (Texas) – $48,275.74

Nine days and thousands of miles later, Nancy arrived back home from her solo trip. She was exhausted, but happy to see her husband and new dog – I.G., which she took at Rita’s request in her final days.

Nancy finally had a true understanding of National Wildlife Refuges, public lands and, perhaps most importantly, Rita. On the open roads of the West, Nancy discovered how the enigmatic Rita could find her peace on public lands.

“Only one person at any of the refuges remembered Rita, and it was because of her Airstream” Nancy said. “She’d go to the refuges and spend all day taking hundreds of pictures. There weren’t any (photos) of Rita; just the birds and animals she loved.”

And Rita passed that love for wildlife and wild lands on to Nancy. The nondescript stranger in lot #412 at the SKP RV Park changed her life for the better.

“She made me realize that we live in nature and there are animals all around us,” Nancy said. “How often do we take time to sit and watch them? I never stopped to realize the little things like when the birds arrive. I do stop and watch the animals now. … Your refuges are quiet and peaceful. If you’ve never been, you should go to a refuge and spend some time there for Rita.”

Tracy Casselman, the project leader for the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex that includes Camas, didn’t know Rita. But he knows a lot of people like Rita who visit the refuges.

“Rita’s relationship wasn’t with people,” Tracy said. “Her relationship was to the refuges and public lands. She found her peace out there. Her generous gift will ensure that more people will enjoy our refuges in her memory.”

Nancy keeps her memory of Rita and her love of nature close. Rita asked that she be cremated and that her ashes spread in nature away from people. Nancy held on to her ashes for months before finding the right spot near her home.

“A friend found the spot on a hike, and the next day we hiked a mile into the woods and scattered her ashes and some flowers on a hillside overlooking a lake, the mountains and trees. She can hear the birds she loved. I say hello to her every time I drive past.”

No obituary.  No tombstone. Only a marvelous, shining legacy.

Please, carry on the spirit of Rita with a visit to your public lands.

Editor’s note: Brent Lawrence is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public affairs officer in Portla

Happy Father’s Day And Get Well Soon, Dad

My dad sometimes scoffs at posing for pics so I had to sneak this one in when I visited him with my dog, Emma. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! (CHRIS COCOLES)

My dad hates anyone talking about him or bringing attention to him, so I’ll keep this short and to the point. Happy Father’s Day to my pop, who is on injured reserve right now but on the mend. I’ll see you soon!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

CDFW To Offer Special NorCal Elk Hunts

CDFW photo

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is accepting applications for 31 elk hunting opportunities offered through the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program.

The hunts will occur at various times between Aug. 15 and Dec. 24, 2017 on 28 select properties in Colusa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Siskiyou counties. Specific details for all 31 elk hunts can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/SHARE#elk. CDFW will be accepting applications through Monday, July 24.

The SHARE program was created to provide additional hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California by offering incentives to private landowners. Participating landowners receive liability protection and compensation for providing public access to or through their land for wildlife-dependent recreational activities.

“CDFW has been working to increase private lands access for California hunters. In the last year, we’ve enrolled two new elk hunting properties — one in Colusa County, the other in Siskiyou County,” said Victoria Barr, CDFW’s SHARE program coordinator. “We’re now up to 31 different elk hunts, which demonstrates great progress for the program.”

All elk tags will be distributed through a random draw process. While hunters may take only one elk per year in California, these hunts offer additional opportunities beyond those issued through the general Big Game Drawing. SHARE hunt applications can be purchased by anyone with a valid 2017 California big game hunting license from any CDFW license office or online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales.

An $11.37 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt application. Applicants may look up their draw results and download their hunt packets on July 28 by entering their customer information on CDFW’s website at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales.

First Free Fishing Day Looming On July 1

CDFW file photo

 

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages all Californians to give fishing a try for free on July 1 and Sept. 2.

CDFW annually offers two Free Fishing Days, typically around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. On these two days, people can fish without having to buy a sport fishing license. Free Fishing Days also provide an easy opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements and fishing hours and stream closures, remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead, sturgeon, spiny lobster or abalone anywhere in the state, or for salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river systems.

Anglers residing in urban areas also have opportunities to fish close to home. Some CDFW regions also offer Fishing in the City, a program that allows children to learn to fish in major metropolitan areas. For more information on the Fishing in the City program, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing-in-the-city.

All anglers should also check the rules and regulations at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. In addition, information on fish planting is available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/fishplants and a fishing guide can be viewed at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide.

For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

SoCal Captain’s Boat Hooks (And Releases) Coveted Soupfin Shark

Capt. Chris Pica sets a soupfin shark free. In three decades the longtime fosherman and captain has never seen one of Orange county waters. (Photo courtesy Danawharf.com)

As a traveler, I can’t get enough of all of those personalities lucky enough to – on someone else’s dime – visit exotic locales throughout the globe and spew their thoughts on why you should join them in Paris, in Singapore, in South Africa, wherever (you’ll just have to pay your own way, chumps!).

I also remember how many times these hosts dine on controversial gourmet dishes like foie gras, a fancy Franco-fied way to describe the less palatable goose liver pate. Critics will tell you eating such a delicacy promotes cruelty, considering that farmers who raise the birds reportedly will overfeed and stuff the geese or ducks to the point of making even those of those who see PETA as mostly a joke uncomfortable.

Here’s the Telegraph with more:

Foie gras is a luxury substance  made from the liver of duck or geese. It is traditionally associated with France, though evidence suggests it has been eaten for thousands of years in various countries: one Roman emperor supposedly fed his dogs with it. 

The controversy arises from the way the ducks or geese are  specially fattened to produce the delicacy. The birds are traditionally force-fed corn with a feeding tube, a process known as gavage.  All this extra energy gets stored as fat in the birds’ livers, which grow until they are about 10 times their normal size, at which point the animals are slaughtered. The overfeeding causes a chemical change within the liver as it stores fat cells, creating a rich and buttery texture. 

Animal rights campaigners claim this is cruel, citing studies that show the birds find it difficult to walk, try to avoid feeding, and suffer damage to their esophaguses. 

California lawmakers had gone so far as banning restaurants from keeping the dish on its menu (I’m sure that wasn’t fibbed a few times for diners agreeing to go off the board to get a plate to its table). The ban was lifted in 2015, but it’s clear that it’s a bit of a polarizing subject.

In that vein, another species that created a lot of controversy in the culinary arts is the threatened soupfin shark, which is rarely seen in waters around California and is infamously linked to shark fin soup, which like foie gras is no less contentious between those who eat it and those who oppose it.

From LA Weekly:

Shark fin soup has long been savored in some Chinese-American communities as a high-priced, special-occasion dish. Experts say a vast majority of fins found in the United States come through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In 2013 the state banned the possession and sale of shark fins, and last year a challenge to the law was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton would extend a similar prohibition to all 50 states. In the upper house, Sen. Cory Booker’s Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act would prohibit the import, export, sale and trade of shark fins. The fishing industry is fighting the legislation, while animal rights advocates say the practice of finning, in which sharks are often maimed and left for dead, needs to stop.

Shark finning is illegal in domestic waters, but sharks are sometimes caught outside the United States and their fins imported. Advocates for the business argue that federal regulations already require all domestic fishing to be ecologically sustainable and that so few sharks fins traded in the United States — the Sustainable Shark Alliance says the country is responsible for about 3 percent of global shark fin trade — that the law is unnecessary.

I promise I’m getting to the point, so here we go, as the above photo depicts, a Southern California angler incidentially hooked a 7-foot soupfin shark. The Orange County Register has more: 

Just minutes after a fisherman hooked a 100-pound rare soupfin shark, Capt. Chris Pica helped calm and free the seven-footer.

It was during a charter fishing trip Saturday, June 10, off local South Orange County waters when Pica and a group of fishermen out on a birthday fishing trip came across the dark gray shark.

The fishermen were targeting white sea bass when all of a sudden one of them hooked something different.

The shark had a long slender body, a long snout, a small second dorsal fin and a large lobe on the upper section of its tail.

“He put up a good fight and we chased him all around the boat,” said Pica, who three weeks ago made national news after rescuing an entangled great white shark in the surf line off Capistrano Beach. …

But for Pica, who has become a shark whisperer-of-sorts, giving this shark a second chance was important.

“I’ve been fishing these waters since 1989 and I’ve never seen a soupfin shark,” he said. “They are very rare. At one time they were fished out.”

According to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Soupfin was the biggest shark fishery in California in the 1930s and 1940s.

Soupfin sharks were coveted for making a popular sharkfin soup. Their livers also held value, containing high levels of vitamin A.

Well done, Capt. Pica!

Yosemite Bruin Goes On Wild Waterfall Ride

This bear in Yosemite National Park got quite the thrill ride recently. Video was shot of the bruin getting caught in the current and got a free whitewater excursion.

Here’s Grind TV with more:

As he was filtering his morning water, Yosemite backpacker Chas Davis became aware of an adolescent-sized black bear that had hopped into Falls Creek apparently attempting to get to the other side.

Davis, standing with two other backpackers to give strength in numbers since there was another bear nearby, began videotaping the swimming bear from a bridge located near Vernon Lake about a 10-mile hike from the Hetch Hetchy trailhead. …

“Having crossed the same stream in a different spot the night before when the flow was lower, I’m impressed and amused knowing how cold and strong the current is,” Davis told ViralHog, which shared his comments with GrindTV.

“I of course assume the bear is fully aware of this too and knows what it is doing; [it’s] why I start laughing when I initially realize it’s fighting hard against the current. Obviously my amusement turns to nervous laughter as it starts getting drug toward me—still assuming it’s going to be strong enough to pull itself out but feeling better about my own shortcomings in the stream.”

While the video makes it look bad for the bear, Davis happily announced he saw the bear get out of the water a short ways downstream.

 

A NorCal USFWS Biologist Reflects As Retirement Beckons

John Hamilton, a fish biologist and hydropower branch chief for the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, reflects on his long career in the Klamath Basin. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS

 

The following is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region: 

John Hamilton was nervous as he waited to speak at a recent meeting of the Klamath Falls Trout Unlimited.

As a career biologist for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, he was concerned his topic might be controversial, as discussions about Klamath River fish, mines, dams, logging and other human disturbance could lead to strong opinions and heated debate.

As he packs his office and prepares to leave a job he loves, Service biologist John Hamilton looks forward most to his first summer off in 51 years, training his hunting dog and spending time with his daughters Katey and Molly and his wife Lauri. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS

Hamilton knew this subject well, and in the end, his nerves quickly turned to confidence as he skillfully described a time long ago when great numbers of salmon and steelhead spawned in the upper Klamath River, and how those historic runs could return.

John, shown here studying at Michigan State University, knew from a young age what he wanted to do. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

For the past 15 years, Hamilton has been the hydropower branch chief for the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, responsible for of researching migratory fish distributions and writing science-based recommendations to provide safe, effective and timely fish passage spanning an area that includes four lower Klamath River dams.

Along the way, he has experienced his share of setbacks as well as milestones. “The conflicting interests in the Klamath created a lot of challenges in dam licensing and reviews,” he said.

Now, after a successful career spanning 38 years, he reached a personal milestone – retirement.

Hamilton knew early on he was well suited for regulatory biology, as he enjoyed the detail work, reading fisheries and hydrology publications, assimilating facts and analyzing the main points into reports used to make large-scale decisions.

Hamilton’s career choice became clear while attending Michigan State University. He saw a salmon life cycle and habitat diagram, and wondered “how do scientists discover this fascinating stuff, and what did this mean for salmon restoration?”

“I had to learn more. I wanted to know as much as possible about fish life histories and habitat,” he said.”I was extremely lucky to attend Michigan State and have outstanding mentors to guide me.”

John electrofishing while doing graduate work at Humboldt State University. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

After graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries biology, Hamilton joined the Peace Corps, serving in the Philippines and teaching locals the basics of fish farming.

Upon returning to the United States, he landed his first permanent job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Great Lakes Fishery Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Eventually, Hamilton completed a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Management at Humboldt State University. After jobs in Alaska and Michigan, the issues of salmon and dams lured him to the Klamath Basin. His career appeared to have a recurring theme of fish and hydropower projects.

“It took a while to figure out, but once I did, my career fell into place and I was able to advance fairly quickly,” he said.

One of Hamilton’s career highlights came in 2005, as part of the Department of Interior team that appeared before an administrative law judge to defend Klamath River fish passage recommendations. Hamilton said the process was much like a regular jury trial, but without the jury. “I spent about four hours on the witness stand being grilled by high-level power company attorneys about my research. It was pretty intense,” he said.

In the end, the judge ruled in favor of the fish. The power companies settled, and Hamilton’s work on salmon habitat requirements is part of a proposal to decommission and remove the lower four Klamath River dams beginning in 2020.

John takes public transportation while in the Philippines as a member of the Peace Corps. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

“I consider that as my finest hour,” he said. “You can achieve a great deal in complicated situations with perseverance and bulletproof science.”

Nadine Kanim, a co-worker of Hamilton’s, agrees about his tenacity.

“John always seemed like he was pushing upstream for this project, like the salmon he was trying to help,” she said. “There were a lot of powerful people who didn’t want to believe or listen to his science.”

Kanim said that besides missing Hamilton’s quick wit and sense of humor, his retirement leaves a large, hard-to-fill void. “No one has contributed more to the recovery of salmon and steelhead in the Klamath Basin than John.”

Hamilton’s research uncovered accounts from the late 19th century of thousands of salmon in the Klamath River, and how those runs rapidly disappeared due to human progress. At one time, Klamath River salmon migrations were the third-largest on the West Coast.

Now, over 100 years later, Hamilton’s work could play a key role in the return of anadromous fish to hundreds of miles of habitat, benefitting the commercial, sport and tribal fishery.

“I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. It actually helped me decide early on what I wanted to do for a career,” said John, shown here instructing a student in fly casting. Credit: USFWS

Bob Carey,  a supervisory fish and wildlife biologist in the Yreka office said of Hamilton’s efforts: “John saw the value of his work to the resource, and made great strides at modernizing our thoughts on the Klamath River system. He was extremely passionate about his work.”

Throughout his career, Hamilton was able to perfect another of his passions – fishing. “I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. It actually helped me decide early on what I wanted to do for a career,” he said.

For the past several years he has mentored local underprivileged youth, teaching them the art of fly tying and casting. Now Hamilton figures he has about six months’ worth of his own fishing to do after retiring.

As he packs his office into well-organized boxes, he looks forward most to his first summer off in 51 years, training his hunting dog and spending time with his daughters Katey and Molly and his wife Lauri.

“I have been truly blessed to do this work for so long, it was my heart and passion,” he said. “Retiring was a hard decision, but I’m hopeful that salmon and steelhead will return to the upper Klamath River in my lifetime.”

John Hamilton will likely be one of the first to welcome them home.

“Retiring was a hard decision, but I’m hopeful that salmon and steelhead will return to the upper Klamath River in my lifetime,” said John, whose retirement means even more time on the water doing what he loves. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

Susan Sawyer is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s public affairs specialist for the Klamath Basin.