Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Hatchery Concerns In California

Nimbus Hatchery on the American River. (KIRSTEN MCINTYRE/CDFW

Nimbus Hatchery on the American River. (KIRSTEN MCINTYRE/CDFW

Eyeopening piece in the Sacramento Bee about the concerns of fish hatcheries in California.  Drought conditions and fear of disease within the fish populations are the main theme of this report.

Here’s a little bit from Bee reporter Ryan Sabalow:

The browns and rainbows at the Mount Shasta hatchery are under isolation for a very different reason from their redband cousins.

State fisheries officials worry they may be carrying the spores of a highly contagious parasite that causes an ailment called whirling disease, which can decimate trout, salmon and steelhead populations. The parasite has been found in various state waterways for decades, and hatchery officials are trying to stop it from spreading further through infected hatchery trout.

They have quarantined Mount Shasta and another north state hatchery, Darrah Springs, where the new outbreak is believed to have originated. All told, the 3 million trout under quarantine equal about 15 percent of the trout stocks at state hatcheries.

Those imperiled redband trout at the Mount Shasta hatchery should be safe from the disease, despite their proximity, officials said. They’re being kept in an area that draws on a contained, parasite-free water system.

But as California weathers a fourth year of drought, the scenario playing out at the oldest trout hatchery west of the Mississippi River could portend a more complicated future for the state’s fish-hatchery system. As streams holding rare native fish dry up, it will put more pressure on the Department of Fish and Wildlife to choose between two distinct and sometimes competing mandates: sheltering endangered species to prevent their extinction, while simultaneously producing ample fish stocks for recreational anglers.

Read more here:


Gauging An ‘Unprecedented’ West Coast Algae Bloom


 Pseudo-nitzschia, the diatom that produces toxic domoic acid, collected off the Oregon Coast in May. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC

Pseudo-nitzschia, the diatom that produces toxic domoic acid, collected off the Oregon Coast in May. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle has mobilized extra scientists to join a fisheries survey along the West Coast to chart an extensive harmful algal bloom that spans much of the West Coast and has triggered numerous closures of important shellfish fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California.

The bloom stretches from the Central California Coast north to Washington and possibly Alaska, and involves some of the highest concentrations of the natural toxin domoic acid ever observed in Monterey Bay and off the Central Oregon Coast. In early June elevated toxin levels led shellfish managers to close the southern Washington Coast to Dungeness crab fishing, the largest-ever closure of Washington’s multi-million-dollar crab fishery.

“We’re taking advantage of our active surveys to focus research on a serious concern for coastal communities and the seafood industry,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The better we understand what’s happening out on the water, the better we can address the impacts.”

While localized blooms of marine algae that naturally produce domoic acid are common in spring, the bloom that began earlier this year has grown into the largest and most severe in more than a decade. Sardines, anchovy and other fish that feed on the algae and other microorganisms known as plankton can accumulate the toxin, in turn poisoning birds and sea lions that feed on them.

“This is unprecedented in terms of the extent and magnitude of this harmful algal bloom and the warm water conditions we’re seeing offshore,” said Vera Trainer, manager of the Marine Microbes and Toxins Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle. “Whether they’re related we can’t really say yet, but this survey gives us the opportunity to put these pieces together.”

State agencies monitor toxin levels closely and impose harvest closures where necessary to ensure that all commercial seafood remains safe to eat. NOAA Fisheries and others are also developing advanced robotic systems and models to better detect and forecast harmful algal blooms. See state agency websites linked below for the latest details on closures inCaliforniaOregon and Washington.


The NWFSC’s Marine Microbes and Toxins Program is working closely with the University of California Santa Cruz, University of Washington, Quileute Nation and Makah Tribe to add scientists to an already scheduled fisheries survey leaving today (June 15) from Newport, Ore., aboard the NOAA research ship Bell M. Shimada. The survey is a partnership between the NWFSC in Seattle and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., to assess sardine and hake populations on the West Coast. The additional scientists will examine levels of marine toxins and the organisms that produce them.

The researchers will collect samples of water, the microscopic diatoms that produce domoic acid and another form of marine microorganism called dinoflagellates that produce another type of toxin called paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) that have also been detected in some shellfish. Domoic acid and PSTs are rarely found in shellfish at the same time, but they have been this year.

The scientists will also sample plankton-feeding fish such as anchovies and sardines that concentrate the toxins and transfer them to other marine animals.

Research during previous harmful algal blooms found “hot spots” of toxin-producing organisms along the West Coast, Trainer said, and the survey will search for similar concentrations this year.

The Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) Research Program is completing a study of one such hot spot in California’s Monterey Bay and provides funding for UC Santa Cruz to analyze samples that will be collected during the survey. The results will help investigate connections between the current bloom and unusually warm ocean temperatures that have dominated the West Coast since last year, which may offer a preview of ocean conditions likely to become more common with climate change.


California officials have warned against consuming recreationally harvested mussels and clams, commercially or recreationally caught anchovy and sardines, or the internal organs of commercially or recreationally caught crab taken from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.


Officials in Oregon have halted all shellfish harvesting from the Columbia River south to Tillamook Head and closed the entire state coastline to razor clamming because of elevated levels of domoic acid. High levels of PSTs have led to the closure of mussel harvesting along the Oregon Coast north of Gold Beach.


All coastal Washington beaches have also been closed to razor clamming, at an estimated loss of more than $9 million in revenue for coastal communities in the last month alone.



Background: Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act


Current closures in California


Current closures in Oregon


Current closures in Washington


Washington coastal domoic acid levels


USFWS Proposals Would Add Outdoor Opportunities

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From our friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced as part of Great Outdoors Month the agency is proposing to expand fishing and hunting opportunities on 21 refuges throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System. The proposed rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 100 additional refuges and wetland management districts.

“The Service is committed to strengthening and expanding hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Ashe. “By expanding hunting and fishing programs across the Refuge System we are furthering a rich tradition of providing quality recreational opportunities to the American people. These programs support local economies, help people connect with the outdoors, and encourage people to value nature.”

National wildlife refuges provide premier outdoor recreational opportunities across the Nation. There are more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, including one within an hour’s drive from most major metropolitan areas. The Service manages refuge hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service permits hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation when they are compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on 335 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on 271 wildlife refuges.

Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities on refuges help stimulate the economy and generate funding for wildlife conservation. The Service’s report Banking on Nature shows that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs. More than 47 million people visit refuges every year.

Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation, and interpretation.

The Service also proposes expanding hunting and sport fishing on the following refuges:


Serpent-like Oarfish Washed Up On Catalina


Photo by REUTERS/TylerDvorak/Catalina Island Conservancy

Photo by REUTERS/TylerDvorak/Catalina Island Conservancy

With the latest in the Jurassic Park franchise hitting theaters later this month, perhaps it was ominous   fitting that a prehistoric-looking creature has washed ashore off Catalina Island in Southern California. An oarfish was spotted by bird surveyors.

Here’s Reuters with more:

Amy Catalano said she and a co-worker at the Catalina Island Conservancy were conducting a bird survey on Monday and standing on a bluff when they spotted the long body of the creature on the island’s shore below.

“It was amazing, it felt like a movie prop, it looked make-believe almost,” she said.

Oarfish are of interest to scientists because they live in a largely unknown ecosystem of the oceanic mesopelagic zone, the part of the ocean that is about 660 to 3,280 feet (200 to 1,000 meters) below the surface.

This oarfish measured about 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) long, said Catalano, a conservation coordinator who said she believes the fish had washed ashore only minutes before the discovery. The serpent-like creatures can grow to be more than 20 feet (6 meters) long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oarfish were also spotted off the Southern California coast in 2013. There hasn’t been a Loch Ness monster buzz associated with these sightings, but who knows? Perhaps we’ll have our own “Nessie” legend soon.

Californian Elected Ducks Unlimited President


Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited

Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited


Ducks Unlimited had its national convention in Milwaukee last week and announced the election of California native Paul Bonderson, Jr. as the organization’s 43rd president. Bonderson has spent the last nine years on DU’s board of directors, including spending time as its vice president.

Here’s a 2009 profile from the Contra Costa Times with some additional background on Bonderson, who was a successful electrical engineer and businessman while being a dedicated supporter of wildlife conversation in both the Bay Area where he lived and throughout Northern California.

From Times reporter Robert Jordan:

Bonderson became actively involved with Ducks Unlimited in 2000, when he and his wife, Sandi, began purchasing land in the upper Butte Basin south of Chico.

Nine years later, the Bondersons own a 2,500-acre ranch of which 1,500 acres have been restored from rice fields back to natural wetlands.

“His primary interest is in wildlife,” said Rudy Rosen, director of the Western regional office for Ducks Unlimited. “He would not have done what he did to make a place to hunt. He could have done a whole lot less.

“What he has done has nothing to with hunting. It has to do with restoration of habitat and protecting wildlife.”…

Bonderson inherited the conservation bug from his father, Paul Bonderson. The elder Bonderson spent his life dedicated to water issues in California as the executive officer of the state Water Resources Control Board.

The elder Bonderson was also an avid duck hunter and conservationist, taking his son hunting any chance he got.

When he wasn’t working on ways to improve California’s water quality or finding ways to keep Lake Tahoe blue, the elder Bonderson was teaching his son the importance of conservation.

“I have always been an outdoor person,” Bonderson said. “I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and am aware of how much it’s been destroyed. I have been focused on preserving it for future generations.”


Here’s the Ducks Unlimited release:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – June 2, 2015 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) welcomed Paul Bonderson Jr. as its 43rd president during DU’s national convention in Milwaukee on Saturday, May 30. Bonderson succeeds George Dunklin Jr., who now serves as the chairman of the board.
“I was honored to be elected as president of such a great organization,” Bonderson said after the election. “I have worked with Ducks Unlimited for quite some time, and I couldn’t be more proud to serve as its president for the next two years.”

Bonderson delivered his acceptance speech immediately following the elections and said he will focus on several priorities during his presidency including the Rescue Our Wetlands campaign, which seeks to raise $2 billion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation.

“The success of this campaign will in great measure shape not only our organization, but the future of wetlands conservation for many years to come,” Bonderson told the audience. “Rescue Our Wetlands is a continental wetlands and waterfowl conservation effort and comprehensive in nature – meaning everyone at every level within Ducks Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico has a role to play.”

Bonderson said his other priorities included overseeing the implementation of DU’s next strategic plan, a continued focus on DU’s policy work in Washington, D.C., overseeing a new IT system upgrade, continued growth in DU’s youth and education programs and ensuring DU has a voice in addressing severe drought issues in his home state of California.

“As a native of California and a lifelong duck hunter in the Central Valley, our current drought situation is of great concern to me and all residents of the state,” Bonderson said. “Ducks Unlimited has long played a role in resolving water issues in the West. However, we have reached a point where water use and availability will now be a primary factor in our ability to engage effectively in conservation delivery and policy with our partners in this part of the country.”

Bonderson has been a member of DU’s board of directors for the past nine years, serving as first vice president, regional vice president, senior flyway vice president and senior advisory vice president for conservation. He is also a member of the Wetlands America Trust board – the land trust foundation arm of Ducks Unlimited. Bonderson and his wife, Sandi, live in Sunol, Calif., and have two children. He is retired from Brocade Communication Systems where he was co-founder and held various positions including Vice President of Engineering and CTO.

“My time spent on DU’s board of directors has been amazing, and I look forward to continuing my work as president,” Bonderson said. “I can’t wait to see all the great things we will accomplish over the next two years.”

This year’s convention also featured presentations from U.S Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack; Virtual Instruments CEO, John Thompson and Caterpillar Inc. CEO, Doug Oberhelman. Next year’s convention will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, June 1-5.

For more information, visit

Kokanee Derby Moved For Low Water

Photo courtesy of Rick Kennedy

Photo courtesy of Rick Kennedy


Our friends at Kokanee Power announced the kokanee derby that was originally scheduled to be held at New Melones Lake has been moved to Pardee Lake on June 13-14.

“Due to minimal ramp availability with the low water we moved the 2-Day Melones derby to Lake Pardee. It’s the same 2-Day format,” Kokanee Power’s website reports. “The fish are as big as Melones and the lake has lots of water with a six-lane concrete ramp.”

Check out this flier for more information.

Honoring Our Troops

Please take a moment today to remember the reason why you are either off work or school today.

And check out this story that ran in our sister magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, that honors some of our brave troops. Today is a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Wounded Warrior 1 Wounded Warrior 2


Story and photys by Tom Reale
When someone asks you if you
want to go on an eight-day
fishing trip down a remote
river in Alaska, helping to
guide a group from the Wounded Warriors
Project, what is the range of possible answers?
For me, they went from “Yes,” all the
way to “Hell, yes.” This was in spite of
the fact that my river guiding experience
was, shall we say, limited. And
by limited, I mean nonexistent. But
when Steve Schaber, one of my wife’s
colleagues at Providence Hospital in
Anchorage, asked if I’d be available
for the trip, I made sure I had the time
and took him up on the offer before he
could reconsider.
It turned out that Steve, along with
his friend, Karl Powers, had been running
these trips for a few years. Karl
owns and operates Bethel-based Papa
Bear Adventures (907-543-5275; papabearadventures.
com), hunting and
fishing outfitters and transporters.
Several years ago, the two of them
contacted the Wounded Warriors to
ask if it would be possible for “Papa
Bear” to take some of the GIs on a float
trip out of Bethel.
Steve and Karl initially had no sponsors
and no financing, so they did
the trip on their own. Karl supplied
the rafts, the camping gear and the
transportation out to the river in his
floatplanes. Steve supplied food and
more gear, and they made their first
trip in 2011 with two boats and four
passengers on the Kwethluk River out
of Bethel.
In 2012, they switched to the Kanektok,
on the southwestern coast of the
state. Since then, they’ve patched together
sponsorships, donations and
discounts to the point where they’re
no longer funding the trips out of their
own pockets.
That’s not to say that it’s all smooth
sailing. The logistical and supply challenges
of finding guys suitable for the
trip, arranging transportation and gear,
and getting all of the material from Anchorage
to Bethel are big. Then there’s
flying the whole shebang into a remote
lake for dropoff, making it downstream
without catastrophe, and, finally, getting
it all back safely.
After Steve contacted me, we made
plans to get to Bethel. Steve had already
spent untold hours arranging
gear and food before I signed on; for
me, this was a cakewalk. In addition
to buying food, he also solicited help
from his co-workers at Providence
Hospital in Anchorage, where Steve
is a pharmacist. People there gave
cash donations, made and packaged
meals and sent along cards and letters
to the guys.
“I’m surrounded by the kind of people
who get the feeling that they’re
making a difference with these guys.
With big charities, we put the money
in an envelope and never really see
the effect,” Steve said. “With this project,
people get to see the pictures of
the trip, hear the feedback and know
that they put a meal on the table for
the guys or bought some fishing tackle; they can kind of feel like they’re out
there with us.”
And as Steve was making final
plans, the inevitable monkey wrench
was thrown into the mix. Just days
before leaving, one of his prospective
guides wound up in the hospital and
had to bow out.
In a mad scramble, Steve called
the Alaska Flyfishers and asked if they
knew of anyone who would be both
qualified and available as a late fill-in.
Fortunately, someone there recommended
Mike Morelli, who turned out
to be perfect for the job. Mike is an accomplished
fly fisher and rafter and a
volunteer for Project Healing Waters,
an outfit that offers services such as flyfishing
outings to injured and disabled
service members and vets. He is also
a retired Air Force first sergeant; Steve
couldn’t have ordered a more suitable
prospect from a catalog.

Wounded Warriors 3 Wounded Warriors 4


ON JULY 21, we all flew into Bethel for
the unavoidable last-minute scramble
to get items left behind and to get
gear sorted out. For example, a couple
of the guys had gone to a sporting
goods shop and bought stocking-foot
waders. However, nobody thought to
tell these guys that they’d also need
wading boots. Yikes. Karl had some
stuff available, to avoid catastrophe.
Our cast of characters included
four guys still on active duty (three
Army, one Navy), and two guys who
were out – one Army, one Air Force.
One had flown up from Montana; the
rest were either living or stationed in
Alaska. It would prove to be an interesting
collection of citizens.
As far as the levels of fishing experience,
it ranged from moderate all the
way down to nearly nonexistent. Flyfishing-
wise, one of the guys had spent
a short trip at a remote lodge in Alaska
and received some instruction there,
but that was about it.
On the 22, we were due to fly everyone
in by shuttling groups of guys and
gear in Karl’s two Beavers and a Super
Cub, all on floats. The weather looked
iffy, to say the least, and remote lakes
in the Y-K Delta don’t exactly have
control towers and weather stations.
Figuring out flights involves talking to
other pilots who have been in the area
and keeping a weather eye out.
Karl’s brother Steve flew me in on
the first trip in the Cub. We unpacked
the plane and Steve showed me how to
set up the tent. He left me with a survival
kit and a satellite phone – in case nobody
else got in – and took his leave.
After playing Robinson Crusoe for
about an hour, I heard approaching airplanes
and waited for them on the beach.
Two of the Papa Bear Beavers landed and
unloaded five guys and their gear.
We got the gear squared away, set
up the tents and waited for the last of
our crew to make it in. Alas, it was not
to be. The weather refused to cooperate,
and we gave up on the last three
guests as evening deepened.
The next day one of the guys was
complaining about the rocky beach
and how his Thermarest pad was terrible.
I looked at the beach, and having
spent a lot of nights on some iffy terrain,
I was surprised that he’d been uncomfortable
– the rocks just didn’t look
that bad to me.
“Did you have the pad all the way
inflated?” His blank stare told me
all I needed to know. “The pads we
had in Iraq, you just threw them on
the ground and that was it. I had no
idea you had to blow these things
up,” he said. A short instruction
session followed.
After breakfast we decided we
might as well fish while we waited –
fortunately the tackle wasn’t on the
plane in Bethel. We rigged fly rods and
light spinning rigs and headed down to
the river.
We quickly started to catch fish.
Small Dolly Varden and grayling were the
order of the day, and the guys got into
the mood quickly. Nathan, who’d had
some fly-fishing experience, was helping
his brother, Wayne, learn the nuances of
fly fishing. Pat Upchurch, Thermarest
boy, started out using the spinning rods
before switching to fly rods.
Never have you seen such a quick
and immediate convert from flinging
hardware to presenting flies and beads.
The fish were very cooperative, and, after
landing a few Dollies, he was literally
hooked. There’s nothing like lots of quick
positive reinforcement for converting
hardware flingers into fly casters.
As the day progressed, we kept
an eye on the sky and our ears alert
for airplane sounds – nothing. So we
fished, got the guys familiar with the
tackle and had a very relaxing day.
When dinner approach and no airplane
around, Steve cobbled a meal together
out of our supplies (one of the
coolers was still in Bethel); we ate and
awaited our missing comrades. By the
time evening rolled around, there was
still no Beaver.

Wounded Warriors 5 Wounded Warriors 6
THE NEXT DAY, at breakfast we found
out that “Church” slept much better
on a fully inflated pad. While the guys
honed their fly skills, we waited.
Around 4 p.m., eureka! Airplane
sounds. The last three guys arrived
along with the rest of our food; we
quickly packed everything onto the
three rafts and were underway in
an hour.
The extra days in camp played a
bit of havoc with Steve’s trip plan, but
nothing that couldn’t be overcome.
He’d wisely planned on a lay day so
we could spend one day not having to
break and set up camp and pack and
unpack rafts, but that idea went south.
But, we persevered.
The top of the river was, as the real
river guides like to say, boney – lots of
shallow water and searching for sometimes
nonexistent channels, I ordered
my guys out of the boat to push. Soldiers
make really good pushers!
In addition to the shallow water, it
doesn’t help when the guide misses a
turn and goes on an inadvertent jungle
cruise or two. My guys were very
good-natured about the detours and
the extra work. Frankly, if everything
goes smoothly, you’re left with no stories
to tell and no insulting nicknames
to give to the guide.
From the beginning, sorting out the
levels of fishing ability, backcountry
and wilderness comfort and camping
know-how was interesting. A few lessons
were necessary in things like tent
setup, kitchen hygiene and the inevitable
lessons in how to efficiently and
cleanly do what comes naturally to a
bear in the woods. No “surface mines,”
as one of the guys said.
Quickly, personalities emerged. The
level of profanity and trash talk started
out high and ascended rapidly as the
trip progressed. To someone unfamiliar
with military acronyms, large portions
of some conversations seemed unintelligible.
Rosetta Stone should come
up with a military-to-English program
for civilians.

Wounded Warriors 8 Wounded Warriors 9

THE RIVER ITSELF was a learning experience.
After the first couple of days
there was a lot less getting out and
pushing, but the meanders produced
some alternate routes that weren’t
always easy to dope out. Occasionally,
the boats would get separated for
a bit, but the walkie-talkies and GPS
units were invaluable. On a GPS with
good maps, you can follow your progress
down channels and figure out if
you’re in the main stem or hopelessly
turned around.
As far as tackle, Steve supplied
7- and 10-weight fly rods, and medium-
and heavy-action spinning rigs.
We were anticipating using the lighter
stuff for rainbows, grayling
and Dollies, and the heavier
outfits for the salmon we anticipated
running into as we
drifted downriver.
The thinking was that, for
the less experienced guys,
the spinning rods would be
more forgiving, and if anyone
wanted to transition into fly
fishing, we’d have the gear
necessary. As it turned out,
there was a range of reactions
from jumping right in
to casting flies to gradual
and/or intermittent use depending
on circumstances,
all the way to a couple of the
guys just having no interest
in making the leap. Getting
guys to warm up to the
whole flyfishing idea isn’t
easy-making fishing harder
isn’t an easy sell for some.
For terminal tackle, we
had floating line on the
7-weights and sinking line on the
10s. Leaders were mostly 15-pound
Maxim fluorocarbon for the trout and
20-pound for salmon. Mike used 1X
and 0X on his rod, the same sizes that
he uses on the Kenai River.
For the fly rigs, we had Wooly Buggers,
leeches, egg-sucking leeches
and some streamers, plus a variety of
bead sizes and colors. By far the most
productive were the beads. Steve had
boxes of them, and once we got the
right sizes and color dialed in, they
were dynamite.
It seemed like the size choice on
the beads depended on where we were
in the river. The bigger, 14mm eggs
worked pretty well, for me at least, in
the upper river, and as we got farther
down, the 8mm and 10mm sizes performed
better. The best color was a
pale pink, but anyone fishing a remote
spot would be well-advised to bring a
variety of sizes and colors – this is not
a place where you want to pinch pennies.
Tackle shops are in very short
supply out there.
Streamer and leech patterns
worked well too, especially on rainbows,
but after a while, most of us just
quit experimenting and stuck with
the beads. We pinned the beads a
couple of inches above size 8 or 10
barbless hooks.
Strike indicators worked well to the
point where, at times, the fish were hitting
them at least as well as they were
hitting the beads. And all of the fishing
was catch-and-release style, except
for some salmon on the lower river.
For the spinning rods, we used a
variety of sizes and types of Mepps
spinners – the Flying C was outstanding
– especially once we started seeing
Since we went in late July, we
didn’t start seeing silvers until the last
few days. We saw kings at times, but
they were looking pretty ragged, as
were the chums.
An earlier float than late July would
get you into kings in better condition,
but going a bit later will have silvers
more evenly distributed throughout
the river. Humpies are an even-year
phenomenon, which puts a lot more
eggs in the river and gets a bit of a
feeding frenzy going on, as will having
more silvers in the upper reaches.
This makes for even better rainbow
fishing than what we had, which is
kind of hard to imagine.
But the Dollies were the hot ticket
for us. Occasionally, we’d find spots
where there were just scads of them
hanging in clear pools, and we’d get
into places where literally every cast
would ensure a hit.
Again, there’s nothing like loads
of positive reinforcement to keep
guys who are only occasional fishermen
to jump into the action, especially
when they’re just learning to
handle a fly rod.
The rainbow fishing was intermittent,
and finding them was a real bonus
for us. When just catching Dolly
after Dolly got too boring, occasionally
we’d tie on a leech or a streamer
and go prospecting for ‘bows.
Some very nice ones were landed
on flies; then again, we caught
more than a few on beads, so there
were no sure things.
The other occasional break in the
constant stream of Dolly Varden was
when we’d hit a grayling. Most were
average size, but one of the guys
caught a very nice one in the upper
river. Again, they were hitting beads,
and I’m sure if you’d target them with
dries you could have an absolute field
day with the little sailfish.
Speaking of grayling, Nate earned
himself a bit of ribbing when he landed
a whitefish in the upper river and
told his brother he’d caught a “female
grayling.” While lots of groups
might have let something like that
pass, with these guys, any possible
excuse to embarrass or humiliate a
companion doesn’t go unnoticed.

ON THE FIRST full day downriver, one
of the guys caught the first fish of his
life. This is a guy who has done several
combat tours, been fishing a few times
when he was younger, but this really
was his first. “Thomas, you’re way too
country to have never caught a fish before,”
Nate joked.
On the second day out, our guys
were in for a surprise. In mid-afternoon,
we heard helo sounds. “Hey, that
sounds like a Blackhawk” changed to
“Hey, look, a Blackhawk – they must be
having training missions around here.”
Finally: “Holy (cats) – they’re landing”
and “They’re bringing us pizza?”
Steve and Karl had arranged for the
National Guard base in Bethel to bring
pizzas to the river and deliver them to
the guys, who were understandably
blown away. The Guard guys thanked
our soldiers for their service and posed
with their bird for a truly unique Kanektok
River photo op.
As for working with the guys, when
you have a group dynamic such as this,
you learn that every situation is unique.

“After 10 years as a first sergeant,
I found that it takes a few days for
the personalities to sort themselves
out,” Mike said. “I learned to figure
out the different guys, to learn how
to work with them and to just let
them all be themselves.”
And while everybody didn’t mesh
perfectly with every other individual,
things settled into a good working relationship;
you learned who could take
a joke and who couldn’t.
One thing that was a bit disconcerting
to the more knowledgeable anglers
was that after a few days, some
of the guys were getting pretty jaded
about the fishing. Some got tired of
just catching fish after fish and were
content to just loll around in the raft
and watch Alaska scroll by. Those of
us who knew exactly how spectacular
this world-class opportunity was kept
urging them. “Get your damned line in
the water” was often said to no avail.
It’s like some of them thought that
this was just a typical fishing trip and
that this was a normal set of circumstances.
Well, unless they’re extremely
fortunate, chances are their next trip
will prove to be eye-opening.
“Wait, you mean there are places
where you don’t catch a nice fat fish on
every cast?” It was a rude awakening
for some.
Of course, there are worse problems
to have on the river than a couple
of guys not fishing every possible
minute – like bears. And while we didn’t
see any brown bears after the first few
days, on literally every sandbar we
fished from or camped on there were
lots of bear tracks. So sightings weren’t
an issue, but that sort of thing definitely
keeps you on your toes and your head
on a swivel at all times.
As we got further down the river,
by day five we began to hear and see
some other boats. There are a couple
of fishing camps along the way that
move their clients up and down the river
via jet boat. This was a reminder that
we were getting closer to what passes
for civilization in this part of the state.
While it was nice to stop in at one of the
camps for coffee and some new faces
to see, it still tended to negate some of
the uniqueness of our situation.
However, the guys at Duncan’s upriver
camp radioed to their downriver
camp that we were coming, and they
had fresh-baked cake waiting for us.
It was a pleasant surprise.


Wounded Warriors 7
ON DAY SEVEN, Steve had a brilliant idea
– Guide Appreciation Day. The idea
was this: the guides didn’t have to do
any work except fish, while the soldiers
rowed; then they’d set up camp
and do the cooking and cleaning up.
Since they’d had a week to watch the
real professionals in action, they took
to it pretty well.
We got to fish and give whoever
was on the oars a ration whenever
things didn’t go perfectly, and we were
able to relax in camp while the guys
took care of camp chores. The only
glitch came up in the cooking, when we
heard, “Patrick, how the hell can you
burn beans that were already cooked?”
Otherwise, it was smooth sailing.
Eventually we got down to where we
were seeing boats coming upriver from
Quinhagak on a regular basis. While
the salmon fishing picked up nicely, it
was obvious that the trip was coming
to an end. On July 30 we got to the
village and the work began – hauling
out rafts, unpacking everything, repacking
for transport, making sure
everything was loaded properly.
Then it was off to the airport to
fly back to Bethel. Once there, the
Bethel chapter of the VFW hosted
us for a steak dinner. We were able to
play a montage of photos from the trip
for everyone on a big screen, and they
voiced their appreciation for the guys,
for their service and for all of the sacrifices
they’ve made for their country.
After that it was one last night at
the Papa Bear guest house, then back
to Anchorage. As everyone scattered
to their destinations, everyone made
the usual promises to keep in touch,
and that was that.
So what does the future hold for
trips like this? Steve plans to keep it
going as long as he can. And while one
of the earlier trips was on a different
river, he feels like now that he’s got the
Kanektok dialed in, he’ll probably continue
to stick with it. “It’s been a phenomenal
river,” he said, “And too many
things have worked out too well to
make a change. If we have a presence
on the same place every year, there’s
more continuity with sponsors and the
other people who help us out.”
The range of companies and individuals
it takes to put on an expedition
like this is phenomenal. Steve,
Karl and Papa Bear Adventures have
given time, effort and resources to
make this happen, and their level of
commitment is impressive. In addition,
Steve solicits help from local
businesses and his co-workers for
help, which people supply unselfishly.
It’s a humbling experience to be
allowed to participate.
So a phenomenal trip went into
the memory banks. We had good
weather, excellent river conditions,
and other than the small scheduling
snafu at the beginning of the trip, all
went according to Steve’s excellent
master plan.
And of course, there was the fishing.
To be able to access such magnificent
fishing over such a long period of time, to
hook and land literally hundreds of eager
big fish was truly an experience to savor
and remember always. And to be able
to get to know six guys who have given
so much to all of us was truly an honor.
I was thankful to the Wounded Warrior
Project for allowing me this opportunity.
I was talking to Steve, and he said,
“I think it was a pretty good trip,
don’t you? Would you so it again?”
I replied, “Hell yes, I’d do it today!”
Editor’s note: For more information on
the Wounded Warrior Project, go to

Parasites A Threat To Klamath Salmon

Photo by Chris Collard

Photo by Chris Collard

A deadly parasite in Northern California’s iconic Klamath River is threatening young Chinook salmon before they begin on their long journey to the sea and then back to spawn.  It’s feared many will never make it.

Here’s the Associated Press with more:

A deadly salmon parasite is thriving in the drought, infecting nearly all the juvenile chinook in the Klamath River in Northern California as they prepare to migrate to the ocean.

The Klamath Fish Healthy Advisory Team, made up of state and federal agencies and Indian tribes, warns a major fish kill is likely, and the Yurok Tribe and NOAA Fisheries Service have asked for extra water releases to flush out worms that carry the parasite, known as C shasta.

But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says after four years of drought, it has no water to spare for chinook salmon.

Bureau spokeswoman Erin Curtis said Wednesday the water stored in Klamath Basin reservoirs is already committed to endangered sucker fish and threatened coho salmon, and releasing water now means less for any crisis that erupts this summer.

Water for farmers on a federal irrigation project has also been cut to less than half of full deliveries as mountain snowpacks that supply reservoirs have dwindled to zero.

“We made the decision after consulting fish health experts and reviewing records that releasing a pulse flow at this time was not an advisable use of a very limited water supply,” Curtis said. “We are having to take the long view. We know we have got to get through the whole spring and summer. There are going to be a lot of decisions to make, and this is one of them.”

Sonoma Sheriff’s Bass Tournament

Sonoma sheriff bass 1


The following story is available in the May issue of California Sportsman: 

By Chris Cocoles

Ken Konopa remembers those days spent on his dad’s boat, casting endless hours for Southern California bass.

Now all the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office deputy wants to do is get his colleagues hooked on largemouth fishing. It’s why Konopa is still tirelessly working to put on his department’s 11th annual bass tournament, which is scheduled for May 7 and 8 at Clear Lake. It’s become a labor of love for Konopa to organize this event that’s open to police and fire department employees, plus public safety workers and the military.

“Of course I have helpers who do a lot to help me, but ultimately it’s kind of my baby,” Konopa says of the event, officially known as the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff’s Association Bass Tournament (

“It kind of started small and it’s gotten large – well, pretty large.”

And given his background in fishing, that’s just the way Konopa wants it.

Sonoma sheriff bass 3



Konopa is originally from San Diego and had the genes to be an outdoorsman. His father, Don, spent 45 years in the boat-repair business.

“There wasn’t a lot of hunting (in San Diego) between all the buildings,” Konopa says with a laugh, “but my dad was always a fisherman. We went out and fished in the ocean a million times. We’d go to Mexico all the time, and my dad also owned a lake boat, so I grew up fishing.”

The deep sea excursions were full of excitement with friends who also tagged along. But the more intimate experiences were when father and son hitched the lake boat and caught bass together.

“When we were out on the ocean there would be four or five of us on the boat. It wasn’t quite the same experience,” says Konopa, who has a bass fishing theme as his home email address. “But when we were bass fishing, you were always doing stuff – you’re always changing lures, always trying to figure out the fish. And you’re always moving around. Ocean fishing is pretty much putting the food on the table. Trolling all day for eight hours gets a little boring to me.”

Such a demeanor was also beneficial to how Konopa chose his profession. Many law enforcement careers are based on genealogy, with sons and daughters of cops following in their family’s footsteps. Not in this case; no previous generations of Konopas  served in the field.

“When I went to the academy on my very first day and we talked about our backgrounds, there were 50 people in the class and I was one of two who didn’t have family backgrounds in law enforcement,” he says. “It was just one of those things where it was something I always wanted to do.”

Essentially, if his passion for a certain genre of fishing was going to parallel his career choice, Konopa didn’t want to pursue a job equivalent to simply dunking a nightcrawler and waiting for something below the surface to bite it as he sat back in a lawn chair. He wanted something more.

Wanting to go north for college, Konopa chose Sonoma State and earned a degree in criminal justice. His first job was with the nearby San Rafael Police Department before eventually settling in with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, which he’s been with for almost 15 years now.

“The whole cop thing – I like to be challenged. Being a cop and bass fisherman is kind of the same thing, in a way,” he says with a laugh.

Sonoma sheriff bass 5



After few years on the job in Sonoma (he works out of that city, while the department’s home base is in Santa Rosa), Konopa and three fishing buddies teamed up and split themselves into two boats for a friendly competition on a local lake.

“We said, ‘All right, we’ll all throw in $20.’ We did it and (my team) ended up winning. That following year, I started thinking about and wondered if we could put together a bass tournament,” Konopa says. “There were guys who bass fished at the sheriff’s office. Cops like to bass fish, and so do firemen and we’re all public safety. So we could probably get more people if we add firemen.”

That first tournament saw all of nine boats take to the waters of Clear Lake, just northeast of Sonoma County. Lakeport’s launching facilities and the tournament’s official hotel, Skylark Shores Resort (800-675-6151l; have made for convenient places to hold the event. The hotel essentially closes up for the two days and leaves blocks of rooms for the participants.

“The excellent bass fishing plus the amenities (is hard to pass up),” Konopa says. “They take care of us.”

At the height of the tournament’s participation, before the recession in the last 2000s, 59 boats were entered. Still, most years the boat totals remain impressively around the high 30s.

The tournament previously lasted just a day, but the consensus seemed to be to add a day and make it a getaway overnight trip, and that has been popular. Vacation time gets planned around this event, which takes place on a Thursday and Friday this year. But participants will have the flexibility of fishing both days or just for one day.

And the turnout now includes probation officers, local and state fire officers and prison guards. Military personnel are being officially invited as well this year. Mostly, the anglers hail from offices in the Bay Area and Northern California, but there is a diehard group that makes the trek down Interstate 80 from Reno every year.

“We’ve even had guys who’ve come all the way from Seattle (Police Department). So we have some coming from pretty good distances, and they were saying, ‘It’s great to come down for the tournament, and since we’re driving all this way, why don’t you make it two days?’” Konopa says.

Most years the fishing has been outstanding for the participants. Konopa remembers one tournament where wind and heavy rain slowed down the fishing, but there are high hopes for the norm, when plenty of fish in the 10-pound range have been part of the daily weigh-in. A 14-pounder-and-change is the largest fish caught in the 11-year run.

“I get a lot of people telling me it’s by far the most fun tournament they’ll do all year,” Konopa says.


Sonoma sheriff  bass 4


This idea wasn’t designed to create a police vs. fire department competition or its own version of fish wars. It’s always been meant for a fun, couple days for law enforcement types to catch some bass, enjoy some good food and take a break from their hectic and stressful occupations.

“So many of these tournaments are crazy-competitive and nobody’s having fun because you’re trying to win. Of course people want to win some money. But we’re all good guys; we’re all in public safety, so it’s all about having a good time,” Konopa says.

“We get a lot of bad press (in law enforcement). And doing the job has changed dramatically. We have a lot of Sacramento guys who come down who say they aren’t able to do anything else together. They work in the same department, and they’re friends. Yet this tournament brings them all together every year. Stuff like that is really cool.”

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Association has partnered with a nonprofit organization, Casting For Recovery (see Editor’s Note on page 13) that receives proceeds from an annual raffle during the tournament.

Konopa knows that when the time comes to do the heavy lifting and planning for the event, it can be time-consuming to make phone calls, secure donations for the raffle and fill out the piles of paperwork – law enforcement officials are no stranger to that last chore.

He purchased a new bass boat 1½ years ago, but with a wife and two kids, plus a demanding work schedule, getting out on the lake for more than twice a month on his favorite fisheries like Lake Berryessa is unrealistic. So despite the grunt work required to put this tournament together, it’s well worth it for the end result of F-U-N.

“I get so many emails asking me,  ‘When’s the tournament?’ So there are plenty of days when I think, ‘Man, this is so much work.’ But again, it goes back to supporting Casting For Recovery, hanging out with my buddies and so many people that I know now. I’ve had people for 11 years coming here, so there’s no way I can stop now.” CS

Editor’s note: To see more photos from past tournaments and for more information, go to

Sonoma sheriff bass 6 Sonoma sherriff bass 2

Banning Traditional Fishing Tackle: Bad For The Sport



From the American Sportfishing Association

Alexandria, VA – May 21, 2015 – A report released on Monday by the California Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) demonstrates that banning traditional fishing tackle will have a negative impact on fishing participation, which generates millions of dollars for fisheries conservation in the state.

The report, “Effects on the Ban on Traditional-Based Tackle for Fishing in California on Angler Participation and Associated Economic Measures,” was produced for ASA by Southwick Associates. By surveying anglers and manufactures, the report outlines the economic issues associated with requiring California anglers to switch to non-lead tackle, such as tungsten and tin. Lead is by far the most prevalent, economical and arguably the best performing option for terminal tackle.

Bill Shedd, chairman of the California Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association and President of AFTCO, said, “While California ranks fifth in the nation in number of anglers, we are dead last in terms of per capita participation. However, sportfishing is an important economic generator for our state, and banning lead tackle, as currently being considered by the State of California, is another burden that would increase the cost of fishing, hurt anglers and cost our economy millions of dollars in lost revenue and almost 2,600 jobs.”

Some of the key findings include:

A ban on lead fishing tackle would likely reduce angler activity in California, which would in turn negatively impact the recreational fishing industry and those whose livelihoods depend on it.
A survey of tackle manufacturers indicated that the price impact of producing lures, flies and terminal tackle with lead substitutes would double costs on average.
Only 25 percent of manufacturers surveyed indicated that it was even technically feasible to currently switch to non-lead substitutes.
If a lead ban were to cause prices to double for lures, flies and terminal tackle, the report says that approximately 5 percent of anglers would leave the sport or nearly 80,000 anglers.
The surveys used in the report also suggest that anglers who continue to fish, 18 percent would fish fewer days, each fishing 21 percent fewer days on average.
Combined with anglers leaving the sport, this would reduce total California angler days and expenditures in recreational fishing by two million fewer angler days, and $173 million in lost revenues.
The $173 million in recreational fishing revenues currently supports:
2,582 jobs
$113.6 million in salaries and wages
$24.2 million in state and local tax revenue
$26.4 million in federal tax revenues
Scott Gudes, ASA’s vice president for Government Affairs stated, “This report shows that, in addition to the direct economic losses to recreational fishing-dependent businesses, fish and wildlife conservation programs in California would suffer as prices for tackle increase and overall fishing expenditures suffer. Not many people realize that it is anglers who pay for California’s fishery conservation programs through fishing tackle excise taxes and license fees. A ban on lead tackle is not based on science. Anglers and conservation programs would be the losers.”

Shedd concluded, “Fishing our Pacific coastal waters from San Diego to the Oregon border is part of what makes this state great. It is part of our heritage. We need to start adopting angler-friendly policies in California and not start regulating what’s in an angler’s tackle box.”