Category Archives: Fishing

The Barracuda Question

While catches of exotics are on the rise, these Toothy Fish have been mysteriously absent. Could they return?

By Steve Carson

The last couple of years have seen unprecedented action for California saltwater anglers due to a strong El Niño. Highly desirable pelagics like yellowtail and tuna, along with true exotics like wahoo and blue marlin, have been dominating the headlines and anglers’ attention. Over the past 50 years, barracuda catches have fluctuated up and down considerably, as has the species’ popularity. In the late 1960s, Southern California party boat operators ranked barracuda as the No.1 species that drew anglers to their ticket offices. The last few years have seen a combination of fewer barracuda and diminished effort as anglers chased after abundant yellowtail and tuna. As the population of anchovies in California waters increases, it’s hoped that the substantial barracuda population in northern Baja will come back up within range of local anglers.

Barracuda sightings have been diminishing in recent years, but it’s hoped that even in an El Niño year that the fish will return in 2016. (STEVE CARSON)

Barracuda sightings have been diminishing in recent years, but it’s hoped that even in an El Niño year that the fish will return in 2016. (STEVE CARSON)

In non-El Niño years, the barracuda would start to show up in San Diego waters in early April. They continued to move northward along the coast and then spread to the offshore islands. May and June would often see huge areas of barracuda, from the Huntington Flats to Santa Monica Bay, and even to the Channel Islands. Local party boats would check in with hundreds of barracuda, and occasional heavy weekend crowds  would score full 10-fish limits, totaling 500 or more barracuda. By mid-summer the fish would disperse, but catchable numbers were still around. Exactly how 2016 will play out re- mains to be seen.

California barracuda do not get especially large. The state record is just over 15 pounds, although there are moderately credible reports of fish in the 17-pound range being caught in the late 1940s. These days, anything over 10 pounds is a whopper, and typical legal school-size fish range about 4 to 6 pounds, with 8-pounders often taking the jackpot. As such, the main line can be only 15- to 20-pound monofilament, and private-boat anglers can easily get by with 10- to 12-pound mono. Spinning, baitcasting and conventional gear is all suitable for barracuda, although the presence of larger species mixed in with the school may dictate selecting heavier tackle. Some lures such as “surface irons” will also require specialized tackle for proper casting.

Most serious barracuda chasers tie on an iron jig like a Tady 45 or Tady C. Blue/white or chrome combinations are the most popular, but as always with surface iron, action is more  important than color. Sometimes,  deep-swimming schools simply won’t come up any higher than 75 to 100 feet, and yo-yo jigs like a Tady 4/0 or Sumo C2 can be sent down deep.  A not-too-well-kept “secret” lure to pull out when the fish have seen everything is a chrome or blue mackerel-color 2¼-inch Krocodile. The Kroc’s exaggerated action and bright flash definitely trigger lethargic barracuda into biting. Cagey old-school anglers often tie on a feather jig with a hexagonal chrome head. Rigged on singlestrand wire and with a chrome torpedo sinker about 3 feet in front of it, this setup is deadly in the right hands. Barracuda will also readily go after soft plastic swimbaits of various styles and colors, and it goes without saying that their teeth are pretty destructive. A large percentage of barracuda will be under the 28-inch size limit in some areas. If possible, relocate when this happens, or at the very least minimize the damage done to short fish. Convert lures with treble hooks to single hooks, never grab the fish with a towel, and don’t let the fish hit the deck.

Barracuda will go after a variety of live baitfish species, but for the most part prefer either anchovies or sardines best. As with most open-water species, the livelier the bait the better. Way back in the day, many anglers used “shorty” wire leaders for barracuda, and some tackle stores still sell them. However, wire leaders will often spook wary barracuda. Much more productive is a live bait-rigging trick made popular by the late Capt. Russ Izor. Using a basic three- or four-turn surgeon’s knot, attach a 4-foot piece of 30- or 40-pound fluorocarbon to your main line, then tie on your hook. Some fish will still manage to bite through the fluorocarbon, but for the most part, it will hold until the fish is landed. You will then need 4 to 6 inches of frayed line cut off and retied. Gradually the leader will grow shorter with each retie, and when it gets down to less than

California barracuda don’t grow particularly big, but they are fun to catch and can make for a delicious meal compared to their East Coast cousins. (STEVE CARSON)

California barracuda don’t grow particularly big, but they are fun to catch and can make for a delicious meal compared to their East Coast cousins. (STEVE CARSON)

12 inches, start over with a new piece of fluorocarbon. Hook choices should match the bait, but heavyweight hooks are not needed. Some anglers claim to be able to use long-shank or circle hooks to just get the barracuda in the lip, but in practice this is inconsistent at best. A light-wire hook like the Owner Gorilla Light is perfect. Go with size 1 to 4 for anchovies, and size 1/0 to 4/0 for sardines.

Specific trolling effort is not usually directed at barracuda, but they are often caught incidentally, primarily by anglers trolling for yellowtail. Almost anything with flash will draw a barracuda’s attention, but it would be hard to beat a silver/black Rapala in the XR15MAG or XR20MAG sizes  for trolling, and those choices would also appeal to yellowtail

Of course, we are talking specifically about “California barracuda,” which is a highly edible species. The tropical species found in Florida and Hawaii known as “great barracuda” are generally not considered edible. After gently determining if the catch meets the 28-inch minimum-size requirements, private boat anglers should immediately bleed the catch by cutting a gill raker. Lay the fish out completely flat in an  ice chest as quickly as possible; cover with crushed ice if you have it.  Party boat anglers should take extra care their fish do not go awkwardly into the gunny sack, and end up in a stiff curved shape. An easy trick is to make a 6-inch loop of monofilament line after cutting a gill raker, attach it to the barracuda’s tail, then hang that from the same hook the gunny sacks hang from, letting the fish hang straight down.  Barracuda can be steaked out, but are more often filleted. The flaky  white meat can be baked, broiled,  fried or barbecued. The legal bag limit is 10 fish, with a minimum length of 28 inches. Barracuda do not freeze especially well, so take home only what you can consume while fresh, and then go out and catch more.

Editor’s note: Email the author at

For Anglers First

By Jon Baiocchi
Lake Davis has long been considered the best public still water for fly fishing in all of Northern California.
The lake sits at an elevation of 5,885 feet in a setting of a coniferous forest, mixed with willows, aspens, cottonwoods and meadowlands. Most of the west shore is shallow and offers fertile flats and expansive weed beds that make stalking trout from the shoreline so incredible.

The evening hatch at Lake Davis can be magic if the wind lies down. A high-elevation fishery in Plumas County, fishing is the top pastime with water skiing and Jet Skis prohibited. (JON BAIOCCHI)

The evening hatch at Lake Davis can be magic if the wind lies down. A high-elevation fishery in Plumas County, fishing is the top pastime with water skiing and Jet Skis prohibited. (JON BAIOCCHI)

On the east shore, deeper water exists where you can find the Grizzly Creek channel that lies parallel to the lake. This lake has one of the biggest bio masses in the entire state of California, and because of such, aquatic insect hatches can be profuse here.

The beauty of Lake Davis is amazing, as is the wildlife and birds. Rainbow trout average 18 to 20 inches and display abundant girth; using 6- to 8-pound tippet and strong knots is a must to prevent breaking one off. Lake Davis is for fishing only – there is no water skiing or Jet Skis allowed.
The best times for the fly angler to visit are right after ice out at the end of March, and mid-May through the first weeks of July. During this time, the famous damselfly hatch commences where resident rainbows will cruise the shallow water, eat nymphs as they migrate to the shore and hatch into adults.
The damselfly hatch offers sight fishing at its finest – like fishing the flats in the South Pacific – and casting to moving targets.
Another short-lived phenomenon that occurs in early spring is the flying ant hatch, where the rainbows come to the surface and gorge themselves when the wind blows this source of food from the forest to the water. It pays to have some carpenter ant patterns in your box during this time, as one never knows when the hatch will happen or how long it will last.Lake Davis 101 Lake Davis 3 Lake Davis Jon Baiocchi 2005

A selection of tried-and-true Lake Davis flies: the hexagenia mayfly (the largest mayfly in North America), a Jay Fair Strippin fly in barred olive, a Blood Midge emerger and a damsel nymph hatching into an adult. (JON BAOICCHI)

A selection of tried-and-true Lake Davis flies: the hexagenia mayfly (the largest mayfly in North America), a Jay Fair Strippin fly in barred olive, a Blood Midge emerger and a damsel nymph hatching into an adult. (JON BAOICCHI)

Also during spring, there are blood midge hatches, several different species of chironomids and callibaetis mayflies. When June arrives, during the last hour of light magic happens with a special hatch.
The hexagenia is the biggest mayfly in North America; they are a vivid yellow in color, with females as large as a size 6, and males at a size 8. These big bugs bring trout to the surface and offer exciting dry fly fishing. Unlike Lake Almanor, about 90 miles northwest of Davis, making presentations with nymph patterns is fair at best. The rainbows prefer the emerger and the adult on the surface. The hexagenia mayfly appeared in Lake Davis only four years ago and it appears they were blown in from Lake Almanor, Mountain Meadows Reservoir or Antelope Lake, which all hold good populations of the hex.
These new inhabitants have thrived since then due to the perfect habitat the nymph relies on to make its burrows, mud and clay. It’s safe to say they will be permanent residents of Lake Davis and a part of the ecosystem. As summer approaches and water temperatures exceed 70 degrees on the surface, the trout head for deeper water near productive weed beds and dropoffs.
The one food item that has not been as prolific of late is the freshwater snail. In my opinion and from observations on the lake, the two rotenone treatments of 1997 and 2007 to eradicate illegally introduced northern pike affected the snails. When a lake is killed off and must begin again, the entire ecosystem is changed and unbalanced. There are still snails in Lake Davis, but not nearly in the numbers that were found pretreatment. Bulging crunchy trout bellies in the fall are a thing of the past, though we could see a change for the better in the future.

The other key time for the fly angler to visit is September through mid-November, when the water temps become too cold and winter takes over as the lake starts to freeze up. September can offer some incredibly good dry fly fishing with the last brood of blood midges hatching for the season, along with the return of the callibaetis mayflies.
During autumn the trout reappear in the shallows and gorge themselves to fatten up before winter. October is usually the peak of the fall fishing and when the rainbows will stay in the shallows for longer periods of time. Also during this time the aspens, cottonwoods and willows blaze with glowing fall color making for spectacular back drop while hooked up.

Rick Serini hooks up with a Lake Davis trout while sight fishing during the damselfly hatch. (JOHN BAIOCCHI)

Rick Serini hooks up with a Lake Davis trout while sight fishing during the damselfly hatch. (JOHN BAIOCCHI)

The most effective way to fish this still water is by a personal watercraft, where you can either fish deep or skinny water or have the availability to get out and fish the shoreline.
Stripping flies slowly with pauses will result in success as long as you are presenting your flies at the correct water depth. The trout graze like cattle and move slowly like the aquatic insects they are feeding on.
Using a strike indicator is a very effective method at Lake Davis while hanging midge patterns underneath. Early morning is best to present your flies close to the bottom, and as the hatch progresses, having your flies 3 to 5 feet down below the water’s surface will target the upper water column where the trout will be.
If the opportunity exists, presenting dry flies is the most sought after game, especially if you have active rising fish to cast amongst. When casting to a working fish, figure out their intended path and softly place your dry fly at least 3 feet ahead of them. To able to see the take is the most fascinating aspect of fishing the dry.


Clark Harrison gets in on the Davis action from the west shore. The lake is at an elevation of just under 6,000 feet, so the end of this month when the ice is should kick off a fine season of fishing. (JON BAIOCCHI)

Clark Harrison gets in on the Davis action from the west shore. The lake is at an elevation of just under 6,000 feet, so the end of this month when the ice is should kick off a fine season of fishing. (JON BAIOCCHI)

Must-have fly patterns include the Sheep Creek Special, Jay Fair Wiggle Tails and Wooly Buggers in brown, olive, black and burnt orange, Pheasant Tail Flashback nymphs, and the Albino Wino midge pupa. For dry flies, Blood Midge emergers, Adams Parachutes, the Martis Monstrosity, RS ant, and Parachute Midge emergers are the most effective.
No matter what season you choose to visit, Lake Davis offers a variety of different ways to catch these large rainbows that will please any fly angler. Besides great fishing, the lake has excellent campgrounds, access areas, hiking trails, single-track mountain bike trails and the opportunity to kayak into the secluded coves for wildlife viewing. If you have never been to Lake Davis, it’s time to make a plan and visit Northern California’s legendary still water.

Author Jon Baiocchi with an average Davis Lake rainbow, healthy fish that measure about 18 to 20 inches. (LANCE GRAY)

Author Jon Baiocchi with an average Davis Lake rainbow, healthy fish that measure about 18 to 20 inches. (LANCE GRAY)

Editor’s note: Jon Baiocchi has been fly fishing and tying flies since 1972 and is a California-licensed fly fishing guide, published author, educator, innovative tier and a highly acclaimed public speaker. Jon now owns and operates Baiocchi’s Troutfitters Guide Service In Northern California where he has been guiding for the last 19 years. Visit Jon’s website at

Big Bass Are Lurking

By Bill Schaefer

As spring approaches, it increases the chances of a trophy bass for your wall, with the males running the banks looking for a place to nest and the big  females just waiting to move into the shallows.
Southern California is already putting out some giant  bass, and lots of big largemouth seekers are already catching them, some on the record and some not. While most anglers tend to just post for a few friends on Facebook, they’re not officially recording the catch with the local lake’s staff. But the regular weekend warriors are scoring at some lakes as well and coming in with some massive specimens. Water temps are up at most lakes, which is starting to create the magic.
At the time of this writing, the largest bass on record is a 14.30-pound largemouth from Lake Otay in San Diego County. I talked with angler Ashley Hayden and she was thrilled with the catch.
“My dreams came true. I got to catch a 14-pound bass on a crawdad. The fight was fun and everything felt perfect,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better day!”
While crawdads are a staple of the bass and are great old-school bait, most trophy seekers are throwing swimbaits right now as we come out of winter into warmer  weather. A lot of lakes plant trout during the winter or  there are holdover fish from previous years that the giants eat up for a fast meal. Remember, the big mama bass need nourishment to lay their eggs and make it through the spawn during those times when they rarely eat.
Heading into spring there will be giants on beds and the baits that get them to bite will vary, but a lot of larger fish spawn out a little deeper and you cannot see them,
especially once the wind comes up. This is where having an assortment of swimbaits helps you out.
Once on a bed, the bass will protect it at all costs. Predators include other bass, bluegill and many other species  that swim in the lake; all

Ashley Hayden used a crawdad to land a giant 14.30-pound largemouth at Lake Otay, one of the largest fish around San Diego’s bass fisheries caught this year as of press time in mid-February. (ASHLEY HAYDEN)

Ashley Hayden used a crawdad to land a giant 14.30-pound largemouth at Lake Otay, one of the largest fish around San Diego’s bass fisheries caught this year as of press time in mid-February. (ASHLEY HAYDEN)

are trying to eat those nutrient-rich eggs. Swimbaits come in all species now, so make sure you have a diverse assortment. Sometimes swimming a bluegill by a bed won’t work, but the first pass with a baby bass will trigger a reaction strike.
For tackle, a strong trigger stick and reel are key components. Most of all, make sure your drag is set correctly.
I like to use the Daiwa Lexa 300 with Maxima braid in  the 50- to 60-pound range. A short fluorocarbon leader of 20 to 30 pounds will help. Tackle is as important as the baits, and just like your swimbait options, you should also have an assortment of actions and line size. You want that trophy in the boat, and as Hayden and others have discovered, the waters are teeming with giant bass.

Marlin Sinks Fishing Boat

A while back according to Marlin magazine reports of a marlin capsizing a fishing boat off the coast of Panama while it was being reeled aboard.

The following is an excerpt from Marlin magazine:
Marlin Magazine, which obtained the epic pics and uploaded them to Facebook, the fish didn’t actually play a role in sinking the boat, though the boat did eventually end up on the bottom of the ocean. Instead, the captain had been “backing down” on the fish, a practice where the boat is put in reverse to help reel in line. A large wave overtook the stern, upsetting the captain’s balance, which caused him to slip backwards and accidentally hit the throttle into full reverse. This rapid movement in reverse ended up swamping the yacht and sinking it.


A person claiming to be a spokesman for the boat manufacturer, Strike Yachts, took to boating forum The Hull Truth to offer a similar take on the incident: Direct from Panama I was told that the sea conditions were not as calm as they seem to be in the pictures and the Captain was an experienced Captain. The seas were full of big swells and large waves. A large wave came over the transom and with the anglers all being in the starboard corner the boat leaned… the Captain in the tower lost his footing [and] while the boat was still in reverse another wave came over the transom. At this time, the captain slipped and, believed to still have his hand on the throttle, putting the boat in full reverse burying the transom into the next waves and swells.

Black marlin have a reputation for being among of the largest, most difficult fish to catch. The BBC has labeled the creature, which can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds, the “fastest fish on the planet.” Indeed, black marlin can reach a top speed of 80 mph.

No one aboard the boat was harmed, and they were soon rescued by the same boat that captured the event on camera. As for the marlin, this is the one that got away.

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Source: Marlin Magazine, Outdoors360 and Youtube

Angry Fishing is a Bad Idea

Angry Fishing tends to be hard on your Equipment

We see a lot of fishing videos, many of them are boring. When this video came across my screen I pretty much laughed out loud and made everyone around me have to watch it with me, over and over again. I have been a victim to angry fishing more than once, and these guys take it the extreme.

As you are about to see, angry fishing is a real thing. Unfortunately, the only real victims are the rods and reels.

When I first started learning how to use a baitcaster, I was very close to doing what that kid did in the video as well. As far as breaking my rod in half goes, have you ever tried to fly fish? It’s still that way.

I think we all can agree that fishing is supposed to be fun, but that letdown when things just don’t work out is pretty darn overwhelming, as you just saw.

Perhaps some day when I miss a fish, get a backlash at the worst possible time, hook myself in the head, or just overall have a total breakdown on the water, it’s at least not on video.

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Story by Brad Smith

Insane Fishing Technique: Snake is the Angler

Gotta be one of the craziest fishing techniques, ever.

We’ve all heard of oddball fishing techniques or crazy fishing stories, but this has to be one of the craziest. A fisherman uses a snake to his advantage in this fishing video.

It’s hard to tell exactly what the fisherman was trying to accomplish. My guess is that he was fishing, caught a snake, and while the snake was hooked it bit a fish. What are the odds of that?

The other option is the fisherman was using the snake intentionally, to prey on fish. That would certainly be an interesting technique. It appears he was fishing with some variation of a spoon that hooked on the side of snake.

Instead of stopping at the bait shop, maybe fisherman will be stopping at the pet store to pick up a snake.

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Story by Jake Hofer
Source: Youtube

Trout Fishing Tips

Trout count as some of the loveliest (and tastiest) fish in America. As such, many a trout fisherman would love to know the secret to catching more. Not only are they abundant in lakes, rivers, and streams across the land, but they also respond to a variety of baits, making them one of the easier types of fish to catch.

Go With a Light Line
These fish have sharp eyesight, so you don’t want to scare them away with a line that’s too heavy. Most trout can be pulled to shore with some simple two-pound test line plus a light rod and reel. That said, they do like shiny objects, so experiment with spinners, jigs, and other “attracters” for the best results.

What To Do With No Casting Room

Streams offer some of the best trout fishing around, but unlike fishing in a river or a pond, these often don’t provide you with much casting space. An old-fashioned technique called “dap a dry” does the trick here. Basically, you lightly “drop” the fly or bait on the surface of the water and then quickly pick it up and set it back down again. This movement mimics the movement of the mayfly or the caddis when they’re laying eggs on the water. Trout find this hard to resist. And as a bonus, this opens up trout-fishing spots that you might not otherwise get to fish due to space constraints.

Food for Trout
Some trout fishermen swear by PowerBait, that clay-like stuff you find in the jar. Just put it on your hook and go. That said, the lowly worm still counts as a fish favorite and shouldn’t be overlooked. Most fishing outfits carry them and often, if you’re fishing in a little town know for its fishing, you can even find live worms at the local convenience store on your way to the fishing hole.

Change Your Fishing Times
Trout like to get up early, and if you want to catch them, then so should you. More specifically, they’re up at early morning light looking for breakfast. Plan on casting your line before 8:00 a.m. for the best results. The warmer temperatures cause lethargy in trout. Plus as water-users like boaters and swimmers start to get into the water, the fish get scared away. An early-morning fishing trip allows you to catch dinner before breakfast and then head out for some water-related fun. And as a side note, the reverse holds true as well. When things start to cool down, the fish come back out. If you can’t see your way to the water for a 6:00 a.m. fishing call, maybe try to head out just around dusk. It’s a great way to end the day.

Catching more trout usually relies on you trying more techniques that speak the trout’s language. From getting up earlier to using some older, but still excellent casting techniques, you’ll find that the ways you can net more fish are numerous. The best bet is to experiment until you find the ones that work best for you.


Story by J Hines


Anchovy Diner For Bonito

SAN DIEGO-The much-discussed return of anchovies is already yielding a substantially increased catch of perhaps California’s most exciting near-shore game fish, the bonito. A massive school of anchovies, estimated to be over 100 million strong moved in tight to the beach in La Jolla last month, drawing lots of attention from news outlets.

After over a decade of scarcity, the bonito started showing up in the catch counts for several local San Diego landings. Biologists have been saying that bonito population cycles closely follow the anchovy population cycle, so with luck the striped micro-tuna will stick around for a while.

During their peak abundance in the 1960s and 1970s, bonito were often treated with little respect and shunned in favor of more desirable species like yellow tail. In today’s fishingworld, they are much more popular on the table. Part of the reason is that aboard most sport fishing boats back in the day, bonito were simply dropped into a dry gunnysack and allowed to sit in the sun, which did not result in good table fare.

These days it is standard procedure to bleed the fish and immediately get it chilled down. This results in an amazingly good food product, although anglers should take care to remove the bloodline in each fillet.

The bonito’s fighting qualities as a game fish are unquestioned, and they rank among the world’s hardest fighters on a pound-for-pound basis. Heavy tuna tackle overwhelms them, of course, but 12- or 15-pound spinning gear like a Penn Spinfisher SSV4500 is ideal.

Bonito are also generally cooperative biters, and will hit a variety of casting and trolling lures, along with fly-lined live anchovies. Many trollers go with small-sized albacore feathers, as the classic bonito feathers are difficult to find these days. Even more effective are the smaller Rapala X-RapMagnums in size XRMAG10 or XRMAG15, and, not surprisingly, the silver color that replicates anchovies is usually best.

Casting lures similarly run the gamut of almost anything that resembles an anchovy,with a chrome or chrome/red Krocodile being among the longstanding champions of bonito catching. The best size of a Krocodile for smaller school-size bonito is usually the 5?8- ounce variety; for better-grade fish, the 1 ounce is standard.

Pier anglers love bonito, which are the biggest adrenaline rush they usually get. A live anchovy fished on a slide line or trolley rig is the most reliable way to catch bonito off of piers. Another soon to- be-revived pier rig for bonito is the splasher, which is a 5-inch piece of wooden dowel with 6 feet of line behind it and a 2/0 saltwater streamer fly. A chrome/red Krocodile in 5?8 ounce is also a good pier weapon as well.

California’s marine environment has changed somewhat since the last time bonito were abundant, but they were traditionally present to some degree most of the year. The peak is in summer and early fall.Weights ranged from little 1- and 2-pound tigers up to 12- pound-plus powerhouses. Just about every inshore zone from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara hosted bonito, as did the offshore islands, and many harbors. Older anglers will fondly remember the legendary runs of bonito inside Redondo’s King Harbor; with luck, those days are about to return.


Since last month, even more El Niño-related oddities have been noticed by California anglers, including:

*A  hammerhead shark off Orange County in Southern California, schools of Pacific green back mackerel off Marin County near the Bay Area, various tuna species spotted inside both Newport and Alamitos Bays, and a huge shoal of anchovies right on the beach at La Jolla.

*Although not exactly an El Niño oddity, a juvenile great white shark was hooked by an angler off Manhattan Beach Pier during the Fourth of July weekend. A handful of 6-foot great whites have been caught there over the past decade, so it’s not that unusual.

However, as the angler was fighting the shark, a marathon swimmer who was about 300 yards off the beach passed by the pier. In one of the most unusual collisions of fishing circumstance in history, the swimmer and the shark literally ran into each other,with the hooked shark lunging and snapping at the swimmer. Luckily the bite was not too serious, but a firestorm of controversy erupted.

Great whites are protected under California law, although fishing for all other shark species is perfectly legal.
Theoretically, the law requires that if the angler finds himself hooked up to a great white, the line is supposed to be cut immediately. In practical application, cutting the line and leaving 200 to 300 yards of line trailing from the fish’s mouth would be a death sentence.

Top this all off with the smartphone video that shows the angler laughing out loud as the shark got close to the
swimmer, and even right when the bite first occurred. Chumming is also perfectly legal, but much of the public’s wrath was directed at the fact that the angler may have been chumming (he denies it). Ironically,Manhattan Beach is a known pupping area for great whites, so anglers or no anglers, the sharks are there almost all the time.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife chose not to issue a citation in this case, but the knee-jerk reaction of Manhattan Beach officials was to close the pier to fishing for 60 days. The long-term ramifications of large numbers of people fishing around large numbers of swimmers may be irrevocably changed as this case will likely receive several legal examinations.


My July column started out with this: “For the first time ever, yellow fin tuna and dorado have been caught within range of San Diego one-day boats.” It was poor proofreading on my part, as I should have added “in the month of June” to the end of that sentence. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

By Steve Carson
Editor’s note: The author can be reached at

Shane Kohlbeck instructs the author’s friend Chris Barnes on landing one of many lower Sacramento rainbows the trio pulled in while ?y ?shing with the Redding-based guide. (JEFF LUND)


By Jeff Lund

There are lines all around us. Some are written, drawn and paved; others form, whether at the DMV, the grocery store or for a beer and a hot dog at the ballpark. But the most important, by far, are fishing lines.
On a March 2014 trip to the lower Sacramento River, my buddy Chris Barnes and I booked a guide from The Fly Shop (800-669-3474; in Redding to ?oat us over some of the legendary rainbows that stalk these waters. It was my third trip through The Fly Shop and second with our guide, Shane Kohlbeck.

We started just upriver from the Sundial Bridge, and on the first four drifts down a line, I had three fish and Chris had one. Chris has an extensive fishing résumé, including 8-foot sturgeon, hundreds of shad, stripers and largemouth bass. What he hadn’t done to that point was lock the butt section of a fly rod into his forearm and feel the thrashing of a ?sh down his ulna.
He didn’t say much as he fought his first fish on a fly rod; yet between the grunts, it was obvious the sensation was new and impactful.
“He’s ruined now. He’ll never be the same,” said Shane. I agreed. As


Shane’s fly box reveals some of the patterns that can lead to big-number days on the lower Sac. (JEFF LUND)

the current slowed to an imperceptible crawl Shane told us to strip in our rigs. He turned the boat and rowed back up to the top of the run. He swung into the slow, slack water where the smooth river rocks were made slick by a layer of orange organic material.
“We’ll be going left side. Chris, go ahead and start casting,” Shane directed us.
Shane had spent a good 20 minutes on a drift boat-fishing tutorial before we started. As a guide who is interested in getting his clients into fish, he felt the need to be thorough in his instruction about how to cast and, you know, do things that catch fish. So when Shane told Chris to start casting, the beginner knew what to do, and by the time we reached the top of the line, Chris was fishing.
I glanced downriver before I flopped my rig into the fray. I noticed another boat that had been fishing the same area. The craft started down a parallel line but probably 6 feet closer to shore than ours. I didn’t pay attention to how they did; I just noticed the difference in lines.
As instructed, I kept my unblinking eyes on the strike indicator – hoping it would stop, dip, bounce or dive. It did. My left hand pulled the slack fly line through eyes of the rod Shane and I pinned the now-tight line to the cork. Fish on. I stripped to keep the rod bent and felt the shake of the fish. It wasn’t big, but it was another rainbow in the net.
It was going to be a good day.

Once we were convinced that particular fast-water edge had given up what it would, we continued our drift. The other guys went through the same section once more, then passed us and we didn’t see them again until the takeout.
In the meantime, Shane had lines all over the place, so we were consistently getting hit as we made our way down the 5-mile float. We didn’t get them all, because sometimes even when you’re ready for a strike, the spit happens faster than the set, but we were rather busy.
At the base of a shallow riffle, Shane dropped anchor. As a guy used to fishing from boats or fishing slow-moving water, this didn’t seem fishy to Chris. Rather than doubt, he just nodded his head and readied himself for instruction.
With weight on the rigs to get the nymphs down, it would appear that an angler would almost immediately get caught on the rocky lengthy description of tips pertaining to the articlebottom, which was less than a foot deep. It was a spot that most guides – people, really – hardly mess with. There’s anchoring involved, some potentially tough rowing, and, of course, a real threat of snags. But Shane is concerned with trout, not excuses.
Shane told Chris to flop a cast into the whitewater, mend it quickly, give it line and get ready. What Shane saw in that shallow riffle wasn’t the shallow riffle, but the dropoff, which was evident by the change in the color of the water.
After a few fruitless drifts, Shane took the rod and was immediately into a fish. It was close to a foot long and provided the evidence Chris was looking for.
Chris executed the next cast perfectly and had his own. As the river deepens, the fast water continues on top, providing slow water for the fish to hold and wait for food to float by. The speed of the current also prevents snags and sinks the nymphs just enough that they’re prime for a take at the dropoff.


two men, one holding two rainbow trout.

The river’s rainbows can run into the 2-foot-long range. (JEFF LUND)

Chris had it now. He sent his next series of casts further and further from the boat, working all the feeding lanes. The indicator dove,
and as he looked down to get the line between his finger and the cork, the massive rainbow jumped. Shane and I shouted in unison.
Chris didn’t see as he tried to pin the line, but sure felt it. The rod tip continued to bounce spastically. It was probably the biggest fish of the day, a rainbow deep in belly and color thrashing away at the other end. As Shane extended the net to scoop, the nymph came free and the fish swam off.
I felt bad for Chris. He was ruined. The gape of his mouth told me that, though he’d been catching and losing fish for decades, this one would haunt his immediate future. His shoulder was sore from all the fishing, but in that moment he forgot about it and instead stood with the pain of losing a sick fish.
Sometimes great days have their flaw. We landed a few more – including a double – then reeled up for the last quarter of a mile. We’d been on the water for hours and the sun had taken its toll, but we didn’t notice until we didn’t have an indicator at which to stare. We’d been so focused on lines and ?sh that we’d even forgotten trivial things like hunger.

When we arrived at the takeout, we saw the dudes with whom we’d shared similar but not exact lines to start the day.
They asked how we had done as the rower retrieved the truck and Shane got his vehicle.
There was a temptation to shout our number because we’d had a great day, but they seemed more urgent to find that someone else had endured a similar day.
“We did alright; a couple around 20.” The truth was a couple of the 20 we caught were 20 inches.
They mentioned it had been a tough day. The wind was bad. The bite was bad.

Chris Barnes with fish

Chris Barnes left the river a happy, rookie fly angler after some deft strategic moves by his guide (JEFF LUND)

We hadn’t noticed. Shane’s lines were true.
When Shane and their rower, who it then occurred to me could have been a guide, exchanged notes, we discovered we were fishing similar rigs, but our lines and depths were different. That’s the difference between a 20-fish day and a two-fish day.
Shane drove us back to the launch where we left Chris’s truck.
We thanked him, shook hands and followed the drab, gray asphalt south. We had three hours ahead of us, but stories of good lines to keep us company. CS
Editor’s note: Jeff Lund formerly lived in Manteca and writes for our sister magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal.

Heavy rains in drought-stricken California are again flooding the cover where bass like to congregate. (BILL SCHAEFER)

Pulling Bass, Not Weeds

By Bill Schaefer

SAN DIEGO—It’s a new year in more ways than one, and bass anglers will most likely find fish up in the shoreline weeds that grew during the drought. A couple of winter storms had already dumped some good rain, and more should be on the way well into 2015. With lakes rising, brush will be in the water at most, and even if it’s only a few feet deep, the bass will head into the cover.
Baitfish will hide and feed along the shore, and the bass will follow their food. Brush can be a little hard on tackle and line. You should

Kelly Salmons with a fresh-caught fish in his boat.

Kelly Salmons admires a bass he pulled from newly flooded shoreline brush. Anglers who upsize their rods, reels and line can hook up with some big fish in the thick stuff. (BILL SCHAEFER)

keep this in mind when readying your equipment for this season.
Make sure you go through your reels; lube them up, check the drags and change the drag washers, if necessary. You may need to go with some new line; one idea is to maybe put some strong braid on a reel or two. If you are attacking brush, you’ll want a strong abrasion-resistant line; Maxima and other lines tout this.
Again, a super line or braided line is also a good bet when around brush. Sometimes the braid will just cut right through the fresh green brush when horsing that big one out.
Different shoreline cover can dictate the use of different lures. New tule growth can be attacked with a spinnerbait. Throw it as far back into the new tule cover as possible. Retrieving back through them, bouncing back and forth and off the young growth, will draw strikes. It’s a fun way to fish.
Spinnerbaits can also be run through small bushes. Don’t be afraid to go right through the middle of them. Matted weeds or brush might be attacked with a frog. And, of course, you can always throw a jig or worm in the middle of that mess. Yes, there is a bass in there; all they need is an inch of water over their back.
You might want to go with a little heavier rod and reel for this application. Maybe break out that flippin’ stick that has been collecting dust while all the tules have been 20 feet up on the shore. And as I suggested, go up in line size as well. The rains will have created a lot of brush to fish and you need to be prepared.
When the water rises, bass head into the shoreline cover. They build a new home there and they eat, sleep, and raise their family there. Don’t hesitate to invite yourself in. Don’t be afraid to throw that bait right into the fish’s living room window and wake him up. The battle, once you hook him and the excitement of the fight, will make you forget about the couple lures you might lose. CS