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Conservation Coalition Files Suit Against State Water Department

The following press release is courtesy of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen:

San Francisco, Calif. — Jan. 17, 2019 Yesterday a coalition of environmental, fishing, and Native American groups led by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association (PCFFA) filed suit against the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to overturn its latest attempt to press former Governor Jerry Brown’s Twin Tunnel (California WaterFix) proposal upon California taxpayers.

The suit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, challenges DWR’s attempt to revamp its 30-year-old Coordinated Operations Agreement (COA) with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to export more water from the Delta through the Twin Tunnels while evading scrutiny under California’s environmental laws.

Joining the PCFFA in filing suit are the North Coast Rivers Alliance, and the Winnemem Wintu tribe.

The lawsuit alleges that DWR’s attempted COA addendum would export more water from California’s Delta and its upstream reservoirs when we can least afford it — during drought years — for export to Southern California water interests.  Although the impacts on the Delta’s beleaguered salmon and other fisheries could be potentially calamitous, DWR has claimed no environmental review was needed. It granted itself an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act on the grounds that their action was merely an “ongoing operation” of the State Water Project (SWP).

Opponents argue that DWR’s revision of the COA would worsen existing SWP operations by increasing exports when the Delta has the least water available for fish. PCFFA Executive Director Noah Oppenheim likened this evasion of environmental review to “old-style political double-speak,” adding that, “instead of restoring the Delta as scientists agree is critically overdue, the Twin Tunnels would steal its flows when fish most need protection, pushing salmon fishermen closer to the brink.”

The lawsuit additionally charges that DWR’s COA addendum would violate the Delta Reform Act and the Public Trust Doctrine, both of which forbid DWR from exporting more water and require instead that it restore natural flows.

Before DWR began exporting Delta waters south some 50 years ago, historic outflows to San Francisco Bay supported salmon runs in the millions of fish. Today, several salmon species are clinging to survival as their numbers have dwindled to a fraction of their historic population.

Excessive Delta exports have resulted in drastically lower Delta flows and higher water temperatures, destroying the habitat salmon need to migrate upstream to their spawning grounds to reproduce, and then return to the ocean as juveniles.

AS PCFFA’s Oppenheim observes, “we are now facing extinction of the Bay Area’s salmon, and the livelihood of those fishing families who make up the backbone of our local fishing industry.”

About PCFFA

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.

 

 

 

May 2019 Be A Great Year For Our Correspondents

The following appears in the January issue of California Sportsman: 

Happy New Year! 

We work hard to put out quality content in California Sportsman – from our executive editor to our designers and specifically, our correspondents. They provide the heart and soul of our publication’s words, whether they’re how-to pieces, news stories that dive deep into some of the state’s issues or just memorable moments that they’ve shared with a fishing rod, rifle or shotgun in the Golden State. 

I’m so thankful for them each month as they send me stories, photos and ideas. But I wanted to make sure they know that this editor appreciates them deeply and wishes them well in 2019. So here are my New Year’s hopes for our regular and semi-regular contributors (and a shout out to all of the writers who have contributed to California Sportsman in my five-plus years on the job). 

For Scott and Tiffany Haugen: That your experiences in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, California and beyond continue to thrill you and inspire our readers. 

The author on the lake

For Mike Stevens: That you find another secret creek or pond deep in the Eastern Sierra wilderness where the trout are biting. And that your L.A. Dodgers make it back to the World Series (preferably against my Oakland A’s!). 

For Nancy Rodriguez: That you get to enjoy more backcountry fishing and hunting trips with your husband Joe. And for you and Joe to have another awesome international vacation with Alaska friends Louis and Ruth Cusack.  

Photos by Tim E. Hovey

For Tim Hovey: That your daughters Alyssa and Jessica never tire of joining their dad (and mom, Cheryl) fishing, hunting and exploring as a family.  

For Todd Kline: That whether it’s commentating at a pro surfing competition on some beautiful Pacific island, competing at an FLW tournament or providing clients with their fish of a lifetime, that your “Adventures of Todd Kline” are, well, adventurous. 

For Bill Schaefer: That there are more trophy bass landed on your boat at the Southern California lakes you have covered so diligently during your stint with us.

For Mark Fong: That we can meet up again this year and have another one of those Feather River striper trips like we had a couple years ago. Another Golden State Warriors NBA championship would be OK too. 

For Brittany Boddington: That you continue to show everyone that women can be just as avid and skilled hunters as the guys. And that you have a great wedding day!

I also wanted to send some thoughts to one of our part-time writers, Don Black, who suffered a terrible tragedy during the Camp Fire in November. Here’s hoping for better days ahead for Don and all of you this year. -Chris Cocoles

CDFW Releases Delta Conservation Plan Framework

CDFW file photo

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive resource and guide for conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050.

The framework provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape. It incorporates feedback from a series of public workshops initiated in 2016, prior planning efforts and the best available science on Delta ecosystem processes.

“The history, culture, politics and ecosystems of the Delta are complex. The Delta is also connected in many ways to the lands, watersheds and communities that surround it,” said CDFW Delta Policy Advisor Carl Wilcox. “If the Delta Conservation Framework is used as a guide toward future conservation project planning and implementation, it is possible to achieve the vision of a Delta composed of resilient natural and managed ecosystems situated within a mosaic of towns and agricultural landscapes, where people prosper and healthy wildlife communities thrive.”

The Delta Conservation Framework includes broad goals that acknowledge the importance of effective communication, community engagement and education, making decisions based on science, and working collectively on conservation permitting and funding. The framework suggests multiple strategies that could be used by all Delta stakeholders to move conservation forward.

CDFW initiated the process to develop the Delta Conservation Framework to maintain and increase conservation momentum in the Delta.

 More information about the process used to develop the framework, materials presented in the public workshop series, and electronic copies of the Delta Conservation Framework, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Watersheds/DCF

Coho Recovery A Major Boon Along the North Bay Coast

Coho Salmon in Dutch Bill Creek from campfirefilms.art on Vimeo.

A few years ago I hiked through Muir Woods with my sisters. Many of the trails we traversed were along Redwood Creek, which empties into the nearby Pacific Ocean. I later spoke with a Golden Gate National Recreation Area aquatic ecologist about salmon and steelhead in those waters. Here’s what I found out back in our November 2015 story:

In 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that less than 10 coho salmon – Redwood Creek is thought to be the southernmost range for silvers in the West – had returned to spawn in five of the previous seven years. Another year of drought only worsened the population.
“We have two salmon species present in Redwood Creek: coho and steelhead. Redwood Creek is not a very large coastal stream and the persistent drought has made it difficult to maintain good summer habitat for both these species,” Golden Gate National Recreation Area aquatic ecologist Darren Fong said in an email.
“This September we had to rescue some coho and steelhead in these drying pools and move them upstream where streamflow conditions were a bit better. The coho population has not been faring well and we have had a dramatic decline in two-year classes following winter 2007-2008.”
Fong added that there is a joint project involving multiple agencies – California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and nongovernment organizations at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and Friends of Lake Sonoma – “to establish a captive rearing program to try to save the Redwood Creek coho population from blinking out,” he said.

Three years later, Redwood Creek and other Russian River tributaries continue to hold out hope for returning coho. The CDFW program made progress as they planted hatchery coho into the waters, including releasing 188 adult coho – 89 3-year-old females,  87 3-year-old males and 12 jack 2-year-olds in January 2018 with more surveying expected.

Further north in Russian River tributaries, the California Sea Grant Russian River Coho and Steelhead Monitoring Program  is working hard to help re-establish coho along these North Coast streams (Redwood Creek along Muir Woods is believed to the coho’s southernmost habitat on the West Coast.) Here’s more from a Sonoma County Gazette report from this week from a different Redwood Creek in Sonoma County:

In search of juvenile coho, CSG biologists opportunistically snorkeled a few pools in Jonive Creek in 2015 and Redwood Creek in 2015, 2016, and 2017. They saw steelhead but not coho; however, those few pools represent only a small proportion of the fish habitat in each stream, so the lack of coho presence was not conclusive.

What makes Redwood Creek exceptional is the cold, clear water it contains—and contributes to Jonive Creek—even through the driest summer months. Ample perennial streamflow is a relatively rare and valuable asset in Russian River streams, many of which become intermittent or dry each summer. Indeed, insufficient summer flow is a significant bottleneck to recovery of local salmon and steelhead, who rely on freshwater habitat for juvenile rearing. …

…In December 2017, the US Army Corps personnel who raise the fish for the Broodstock Program released 3,041 coho young-of-the-year throughout 1,200 meters of the stream. Just over 600 of them (20%) were tagged with Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) to allow for tracking at CSG fish monitoring stations, or antennas, in Green Valley Creek and throughout the larger Russian River basin.

The story also states just two of the tagged fish were spotted again the following spring, but when another 3,000-plus juvenile coho were released in December, a new PIT-tag attenna was installed to help improve detection.

Bottom line: When I wrote about the lack of fish in Marin County’s Muir Woods waters, things looked pretty bleak. These days there does seem to be some hope, and that’s all we can ask for.

 

 

 

Government Shutdown Causing A Literal Mess At Now Closed National Parks

Kings Canyon National Park photo by National Park Service.

Some of my first visits to California national parks didn’t go well. I was in probably seventh grade when my mom and I got in our Brady Bunch-era station wagon, which promptly broke down somewhere near Stockton. By the time we got to to Yosemite National Park it was near dark and we couldn’t find a place to stay. We argued several times on that trip, so it wasn’t exactly a John Muir moment for yours truly.

Further south and years later, I remember getting my first look at Kings Canyon National Park and camping with college buddies who made the trip over from nearby Fresno. I remember the park was beautiful but the next day after a night of doing what college students did we got in a bit of trouble from the park rangers. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, those early national park experiences aren’t anywhere near as dreadful as it seems now for Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia NP visitors amid a controversial government shutdown.

Yeah, it’s a litteral mess in some of the state’s most pristine wilderness areas.  Herre’s the Associated Press via the San Jose Mercury News with more on the closures:

Bathroom facilities had an accumulation of human waste and toilet paper, while overflowing trash bins had resulted in animals eating and spreading garbage around, the statement said.

Lack of parking has prompted people to park on highways.

Kings Canyon and Sequoia aren’t alone. And the outrage in this time of outraged Americans is omnipresent:

 

 

Here Our Are Favorite Stories Of 2018

 

Happy New Year and I hope starting at midnight tonight all of your 2019 resolutions come true.  But we can’t watch that ball drop without remembering some of the most memorable stories from 2018. So here’s a little job down memory lane:

Profile of country music performer, outdoorsman and new vintner Craig Morgan, (January)

(SUB7)

(SEAN O’HALLORAN)

Craig’s family – like many in that part of the country – had a passion for hunting. But it was far more than just the sport of it that got his parents outside.
“As much as they enjoyed it and it that was it was local and on public land, it was really for the meat,” Craig says. “My family and parents weren’t trophy hunting; they were hunting for the meat.”
“We were eating organic before organic was a term. But it was out of necessity more than a choice. When you’re born into a lower-middle class income family, you have to do those kinds of things. So we grew up eating wild game or pork from pigs that we had raised ourselves. We had a better idea of what was going into our bodies than most.”
That lifestyle never left Morgan’s mind as he progressed on into his own path – first during 17 years in the Army and then has his singing career elevated him into a fixture on the Nashville music scene.
“Now I’m in a position in my life where I can afford to go buy what I want to eat, but I choose to hunt because I know the meat that getting is going to be better for me,” he says. “It’s going to be cleaner. We try to use that term a lot in our house: eating clean. But it was very much a part of my life and still is, probably more so today than it was then.”
As his career took off, Morgan’s passion for hunting scored him a gig as host of Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors, an Outdoor Channel series that chronicles adventures from around the globe.
Among the most memorable episodes was a California turkey hunt with friend and former major-league baseball player Ryan Klesko.
“We donated a hunt with he and I to the (National Wild Turkey Federation), and I’ll never forget that the lady who bought the hunt; she was so excited to be out hunting with Ryan and I,” Morgan says. “We all killed turkeys and it was just a phenomenal hunt (near San Francisco). It was awesome because we hunted for a few days and then got to visit all the wineries.”

Brittany Boddington on hunting ibex in Central Asian nation Kyrgyzstan (February)

Briittany Boddington photo.

There were frozen waterfalls from a once cascading mountain stream that we were crossing on horses, which slipped and tripped and had me holding my breath most of the way up. I kept thinking the whole time of how awful it would be to come back down.
Atop of the valley I got to play the waiting game again after the guys took off toward the top of the mountain with hopes to catch sight of an ibex. Through a few saddles they finally located two males feeding and one sleeping on the top of a ridgeline that was below the ridge the guys were on.
Everyone had to rock climb around the face of the mountain to get a better view and make sure that the males they could see were mature. They found the best spot they could, though it was still pretty precarious. Brad got set up with one bipod leg fully extended and one as short as possible and perched himself on a rock in the most uncomfortable shooting position imaginable. Fortunately the ibex had no idea they were there so he got as steady as possible.
The shot went off and all three ibex took off, but they assumed the shot came from below and ran uphill toward the hunters. The ibex went out of sight and then came back into view while coming straight at Brad, who had lost sight of his ibex.
He called out, “Which one?” to the guide, although the language barrier prevented an answer.

Tim Hovey on catching bass for a survey (March)

Photo by Tim Hovey

We fished hard for another hour without a bite. Russ had mentioned that we needed to be off the lake by 3 p.m., and with two fish in the tank, we decided to head back to the dock.
I parked the boat and we offloaded our catch. A few members of Russ’ group grabbed our fish and began inspecting them carefully.
Species that qualify as subspecies, or strains, of one another can differ slightly in many different ways. In the case of the largemouth bass, the true Northern strain has a different number of lateral line scales than the Florida strain.
Members of the fish inspection group carefully counted the scales that ran the length of the fish and determined which strain we had caught. As it turned out, both of our fish were determined to be the true Northern strain and were returned to the lake.
With the early start and the long drive home, Jennifer and I got back on the road. The fishing had indeed been tough, but spending a day on the lake fishing for science is never tiring.
On the drive home, I thought about that 5-year old boy that dragged his first fish, a bluegill, through the muddy bank of a Central California lake. I thought about all I’ve done between then and now, having no idea that my love of fishing could actually lead to a career.

Nancy Rodriguez on hunting with her niece Audrey, who has type 1 diabetes (May)

Photo by Nancy Rodriguez

We start closing the distance on the fired up birds as Audrey’s eyes get bigger and her smile grows wider with every gobble. As the four of us sneak through the tall grass, I spot a hen downhill about 80 yards away. We quickly set up and Shawn starts to call softly. The gobbling is getting closer and our hearts pound.
Audrey props up the gun on her knee and gets lined up in the direction of the gobbles. Two jakes pop over a little rise and into view about 40 yards away. She lines up on the closest one, as Joe calmly whispers, “Take him when you’re ready.”
“Really?” she responds. Her moment has arrived. I know once that trigger is pulled, she will be changed forever
With the steady pull of the trigger, the gun sounds and the turkey drops instantly. A flood of emotions rolls through her. I hold Audrey’s hand as we walk up to her bird. This could be an emotional time for her, so the guys stay back and let us have a few minutes alone.
Together we hug and sit silently. Her emotions are mixed as our eyes well up. I am extremely proud of her – not for shooting the bird, but for her willingness to see what hunting is about.

Deadliest Catch’s crabbing skipper, Capt. Keith Colburn, a Lake Tahoe native who was once an aspiring chef at a Tahoe French restaurant (June)

Photo by Discovery Channel

But a turning point happened a few years earlier, when a restaurant coworker named Santo had had a proposition. He needed to get a Hans Christian sailboat moored in Petaluma down the coast to San Diego and wanted a passenger to go along.
Why not? The fearless 18-year-old was up for any adventure. Colburn was hardly a sailor, and by the time they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco Bay and hit the open water of the Pacific, he wasn’t sure if Santo knew what he was doing either.
“It went from flat water to 10-foot seas. That’s when I got my first instance with seasickness. We’re on a 36-foot boat with 25-foot seas sailing down the coast. It was a pretty scary situation,” Colburn says. “But at 18 years old when the captain is sort of a big bulletproof guy – I didn’t know what kind of mariner Santo was, I didn’t know anything about sailing, but he seemed calm enough and faithful enough that I never really became afraid when I was out there. I was crazy.”
The weather was violent enough that they had to hand-steer rather than use the autopilot. They were essentially surfing downwind with 20- to 25-foot waves crashing over the deck.
“Every two minutes I’m waist- or chest-deep in water trapped to the helm trying to follow a little red globe as a compass and keeping the boat on course,” Colburn says. “It was nuts, but I fell in love. And a few years later, I was getting a little burned out on cooking.”

Hovey on golden trout fishing in the Eastern Sierra (August)

Photos by Tim E. Hovey

After a few more casting pointers from Ed, I started making better casts. I found a small bend in the creek and presented the fly with a decent roll of the line. The dry fly settled on the surface and sat motionless. A dark shape rushed from the undercut and grabbed the fake bug. I tightened the line, raised the rod and lifted my first golden trout on to the bank.
I yelled to Ed and he hurried back to check out the trout. I carefully cradled the small fish in my hands and something just clicked. I don’t know if it was watching the trout take the fly, the almost flawless, albeit lucky cast or the fact that I had caught my first golden trout with a fly rod my dad had given me more than 40 years earlier, but I was hooked.
I quickly released the golden and crept up to the next stretch of water. I spent the next 90 minutes practicing my casting and catching fish. Being a 7-weight, the old rod was a little stiff for the task, but I wouldn’t have wanted to use anything else. With every cast and every catch, I felt a true satisfaction in that awesome spot my friend Ed had shown me.
I was lost in the stalk when I heard a whistle from near the trail. I looked over and Ed was standing on a boulder waving. I had hiked further than I thought and Ed was reeling me back in.

Filmmaker Shane Anderson’s documentary, A River’s Last Chance, told the story of the salmon and steelhead Northern California’s Eel River, which due to multiple causes were near death before making a remarkable comeback in recent years. (October) 

Photos by Jason Hartwick/A River’s Last Chance

Political issues aside, the Eel’s story of excess, decline and rebirth of its wild fish is told beautifully in A River’s Last Chance. Anderson, who despite his deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, has an emotional attachment to the Eel, is filled with a feeling many have lacked or been leery about embracing over the last half-century: hope.
“I think we’ll get to over 100,000 Chinook. If you look at it there’s no harvest; there are no hatcheries; the timber practices have dramatically changed. There’s a really good chance that (Potter Valley Project’s dam is) coming out, especially how that PG&E has said they’re going to auction it off. And at the very minimum, even if the dam stays there will be better management of it,” he says.
“And there all these habitat projects in the estuary being redone and dug out. CalTrout just pulled out a barrier in (Mendocino County’s Woodman Creek) and they’re doing it right now. It’s going to access another 14 miles (of spawning water). So we’re going to keep building with this restoration economy and we’re already seeing a lot of the spawning tributaries heal from a lot of the last wave of the timber boom in the mid-90s. So I’m just seeing recovery all over the place… I don’t see another boom/bust in the future. I don’t even know what that would be. How can you not be optimistic? I think it’s the first time in the Eel’s history and the salmon’s history that they actually have people on their side.”

Rodriguez on an all-women’s salmon fishing trip in San Francisco Bay and the Pacific (October)

Photos by Nancy Rodriguez

Photos courtesy of Nancy Rodriguez

As the hours and miles drifted by, my throat became hoarse and my hand sore. These feelings weren’t brought on by the cold or a strained tendon; it was from hooting and hollering and endless high-fives from salmon after salmon being brought onto the boat! These women certainly could fish! The 21 women on our boat (including me) were from all over California. And the coolest part was some had never caught a salmon and a few had hardly wet a line before this day. Talk about excitement!
Cat and the GGSA seriously spoiled us with breakfast, lunch, drinks and even chocolate! We all received GGSA hats and shirts and some of us were even lucky enough to leave with dinner: freshly caught salmon.
The fishing gear was well maintained and the boat was in tiptop shape – spotless and it even had two heads. As “Fish on” was being yelled from bow to stern, the ladies’ excitement grew and grew.
We were blessed by several whale sightings and not so blessed when one very clever sea lion decided he needed one of the anglerettes’ salmon for lunch! We all had a laugh and raised our fists when Jessy pulled up nothing but a salmon head on the end of her line while the sea lion gulped down its tasty meal.

It’s hard to explain how much support was felt on this boat. I have been around men who will say, “Nice catch” or “Good job,” but there is no comparison to the support and encouragement women give to each other.
As we all started to get to know one another, the cheering grew louder. We even cheered on neighboring boats that we would see fighting a fish. How fun is that?
As the sun started to break through the coastal fog, Capt. Jared held strong in his desire to catch his ladies some fish and make this one of the best day’s on the water they’ve ever had.
The ladies ended up bringing home 16 fish, with many smaller salmon (future dinners) caught and released as well as a few lost kings. My niece even landed a silver, which was admired and quickly returned to the sea. The crew of the Salty Lady went above and beyond any of my expectations and I would be thrilled to go out on this boat again.

Scott Haugen on hunting brant on Humboldt Bay (November) 

Photo by Scott Haugen

 

The shots came against a rising sun, so I had no idea if I was shooting at mature black brant or juvenile birds. A week prior I was brant hunting Cold Bay, Alaska, the black brant hunting capital of the U.S., and I took a possession limit of birds, including multiple brant with bands. I was hoping to bag a banded brant on this hunt, thinking how special it would be to get one that had been banded in Cold Bay.
But when I approached the downed brant, my search for a leg band instantly stopped. One of the birds was laying on its back, belly up. And what a belly it was. As light gray as a slab of slate, the lower breast was separated from the upper chest by a crisp, dark line. It was indeed a black brant, but what aficionados call a gray belly brant.
Gray-bellied brant look similar to Atlantic brant but are born in the Canadian high Arctic. In fall they migrate down the Pacific Coast line. Most of the 8,000-bird population winters in southern British Columbia and Washington’s Skagit County, north of Seattle.
I immediately knew what I had, and that it truly was the bird of a lifetime. Then I picked up the other brant, and it too was a gray belly. Just like that, my two-bird brant limit was secured, and what a limit it was.

 

 

Shooting Stars Abound In Charity Dove Hunt

 

The following appears in the December issue of California Sportsman: 

By Brittany Boddington 

One of the wonderful things about Arizona is that the state sells over-the-counter dove tags to resident and out-of-state hunters. You need to buy a hunting license and a bird stamp, of course, but otherwise you are ready to go! The bag limit is 15 per person per day, and it is not hard to hit those limits if you are decent at hitting fast-moving birds. 

We sponsor an event here every year called the AZ Celebrity Wing Shoot, where we get a bunch of friends to fly in and we go out to a dairy farm in teams of four to try and get the most birds. Team fees are donated to an Arizona charity called Wildlife for Tomorrow (wildlifefortomorrow.org) to help fund the organization’s children’s education program. We didn’t win last year, so this year I decided to bring in some help.

 

SHOOTING STAR

At the She Hunts Skills Camps (California Sportsman, July 2017) we always have industry professionals teach our seminars. This year Olympic shooter Kayle Browning taught the girls how to shoot beautiful Krieghoff shotguns. 

She is an incredible instinctual shooter and was able to coach each and every girl into breaking at least one clay, if not many others! Browning did a demonstration after the coaching and showed us some pretty incredible tricks, like holding the shotgun over her head to break a clay or shooting from the hip. 

I thought perhaps she would be a good addition to our team for the dove shoot. I invited her on a whim and she jumped on the idea. Browning offered to bring her dad Tommy Browning and do a trick shoot exhibition for us. (Keep in mind that she does these trick shoots professionally and typically gets paid, but because it was for a good cause she offered to do it for nothing to help us raise money for Wildlife For Tomorrow.) 

Browning, a 2018 bronze medalist in trap team shooting at the world championships, showed off her trick shooting prowess. (BAILEE MCKAY PHOTOGRAPHY)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT 

The dove shoot rolled around and sure enough, Kayle and her dad held to their word and flew into Arizona. We had a big sporting clays competition the day before the doves to kick off the event and to give the shooters some practice. Kayle and her dad shot spectacularly. They took first and second place, with Tommy Browning breaking every single clay. Such accuracy inspired me. 

I have never been a good shotgun shooter. I learned to shoot on a scoped rifle, so open sights is a struggle even though I’ve learned to do that pretty well. For some reason I could never translate my open-sight shooting into good shotgun shooting. Kayle explained it to me. She said that I was too busy focusing on the little sight beads instead of looking at my target. 

Kayle was right. I was so focused on lining up my beads that the target was getting lost. She explained that the beads are actually only to check the fit of the shotgun and not to be used for aiming. In order to shoot well you should get a gun that fits, get your check weld tight, and keep both eyes on the target. 

Kayle said to keep both eyes on the clay and your hands will know what to do. It sounded like witchcraft to me, but I tried it and I broke the clay. This all took place at the She Hunts camp, but sure enough when we started shooting sporting clays I was back to closing one eye and lining up the beads and missing the target. Luckily I had my coach there to remind me of my lessons and Kayle got me back to breaking clays regularly. For the first time in my life I broke at least one clay at every station. 

FLYING TARGETS 

I was pretty excited heading into the dove shoot the next day, but once we started shooting I realized doves are much harder to hit than clays. I did alright but I was happy I had my team to help pick up the slack. My fiancé Brad and I sponsored three teams for the shoot, with most of our team members hitting their bird limits. 

We were able to take home the trophy – thanks to some incredible shooting from Kayle and Tommy – and after the dove shoot ended the Brownings put on an incredible trick shot demonstration. Kayle even shot upside down! 

I highly recommend a lesson with her if you want to up your shotgun game. See kaylebrowning.com or join us for the next She Hunts Skills Camp by registering at shehunts.comCS

Editor’s note: Los Angeles native and Phoenix-based Brittany Boddington is a hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, check out brittanyboddington.com and facebook.com/brittanyboddington.

All Ashore Who’s Fishing The Shore

Photos by Tim Hovey

Hey, it’s California, so why not celebrate this Christmas Day by thinking about fishing a SoCal beach in your bare feet! Here’s our lead writer Tim Hovey. Happy Holidays!

By Tim E. Hovey

When I was younger, I completely immersed myself in all types of fishing. 

Back then, it was all about catching the most and the biggest fish. I competed with friends and family, learned absolutely everything I could and took pride in knowing that in almost all angling situations, I could catch fish. My obsession with fishing was the driving force behind my becoming a fisheries biologist.

These days I fish for a different reason. I find that when I’m able to break away for a few hours, I do so to relax. To me, nothing beats shedding my shoes, walking through the sand and letting the cool Pacific wash over my bare feet. When it comes to recharging my batteries, I grab my surf gear and head to the shore.

The coast is where fishing started for me. I honed my angling skills at the beaches of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego as a boy. I refined my terminal gear, tried different types of bait and I caught my first fish on an artificial lure wading in the Pacific. 

Easy access to find bait on the beach.

COASTAL SHORE FISHING IS not just a summertime activity.  If you watch the tides and water temperature, you can catch fish year-round. Cooler winter air temperatures mean that, at times, you’ll have the beach all to yourself. 

What can be better than no crowds or wayward surfers trying to ride waves you’re casting into? The water will be a bit colder, but cold is all relative to us Californians. Wintertime surf fishing sessions are a great way to just unwind.

I normally try to fish a low tide coming into high. I’ve noticed this tide alignment will provide me with cleaner water to fish in and allows me more time at the shore. While I do normally try and fish this tide, alternate ones don’t stop me.

Water movement over the sand crab beds will keep fish feeding no matter the tide. I tend to search out these beds when water conditions are varied and begin fishing there. Sand crabs buried in the sand are usually pretty easy to spot. 

When an incoming wave recedes, crabs will expose their feeding appendages, filtering the water for particles of food. Thousands of feeding crabs will leave tiny channels or “V’s” in the wet sand. Find these feeding patches and fish will always be nearby.

My standard bait for fishing the surf is the Berkeley Gulp! 2-inch Sandworm. However, there are times that I prefer using live bait available right there at the shore. I’ll search the sand crab beds by grabbing a handful of sand as waves move over the crabs. I like smaller crabs loaded with brightly colored orange eggs. If I can find a newly molted or soft-shell crab with eggs, I can almost guarantee a hookup.

The fish – especially the ubiquitous barred surfperch (above) and corbina Hovey regularly catches – aren’t always big, but the atmosphere and solitude can compensate for the lack of big ones biting your bait.

WHILE A NUMBER OF fish species cruise the surf looking for food, the most common I encounter in the areas I fish is the barred surfperch. These fish are members of a family that actually gives birth to fully formed live fish that are ready to swim and feed as soon as they leave the female. 

It isn’t out of the ordinary to catch pregnant females plump with baby fish during the spring and summer. During our summer fishing trips to the shore we almost always practice catch and release.

The barred surfperch is a voracious predator of the shore and can seriously be considered the piranha of the coast. They are agile and successful in an environment that is chaotic and constantly moving and changing. 

Surfperch are habitat specialists and have made the churning surf their home. Riding incoming waves, schools of surfperch quickly search the temporarily exposed shore for sand crabs and sand worms, riding the receding waves back to deeper water seconds later.

Their ability to navigate in only inches of water puts barred surfperch in easy casting range of shore anglers. I use a Carolina rig and concentrate my casts in the white frothy water of a shorebreak wave and let the churn of the surf roll my offering in the shallows. Bites can be subtle or violent. Making sure you fish a tight line can be the difference between a missed strike and a fish.

IN LATE FALL I grabbed two rods and headed to the coast. The evening before I checked the tides and noticed that everything looked good for a morning session at the beach. The low air and water temperatures meant I’d likely have it all to myself.

I pulled up to the shore, donned a second sweatshirt and grabbed my gear. The low tide was coming to high and would be good moving water for a few hours before it slacked off at full tide. Two hours was all I really needed.

In bare feet, I walked to the water – and nearly abandoned the day once the frigid surf hit my legs. But once I adjusted to the cold, I watched the water for a few sets. A large wave broke early and sent acres of frothy white water to the sand. 

The cast was automatic and I engaged the reel once the weight hit the water. As I ran the line over my index finger and under my thumb, I could feel the approaching water move the weight and the bait over the sandy bottom. The bite was subtle.

The tight line twitched slightly and I instantly set the hook. The angry tugging at the end of the line made me smile. Thirty seconds after casting into the white water, I was unhooking the first barred surfperch of the morning. 

With short casts and tight lines, I kept catching fish. I also added a nice corbina to the surfperch count using a soft-shelled sand crab I caught in the sand. None of the fish were monsters, but the action was consistent, which is what I strive for as an angler.

I TAKE GREAT PRIDE in knowing that no matter where I cast a line, I can catch fish consistently. In over 40 years of chasing anything that swims, I have developed techniques and acquired knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. I learned a long time ago that catching fish consistently is the true measure of angling success. 

For over an hour I was the only one on the beach. Even alone, I kept track of how many fish I had caught. It’s just the competitor in me. As the tide came to high and the beach began to shrink, I decided to call it a day. 

Back at the truck, I sat on the tailgate and watched the waves. The fishing had been good and the short shore session had definitely recharged my batteries. By choice, I don’t have a lot of stress in my life, but I’ve noticed that the drive home after a fishing trip to the beach is more than calming. 

I’m grateful that my parents allowed me the freedom early in life to explore the coast on my own. I seriously do not remember any trips my family took just to go to the beach. Back then, if I wanted to fish the shore, my brother and me would simply jump on our bikes with our gear and ride the few miles to the coast. That early freedom certainly guided my future. 

The trips now are more about relaxing and reflecting. I think about my dad, who passed in 2007 and how proud he’d be of my growing daughters. I think about how I continued that fishing tradition with them, teaching them to fish at this very coast. 

And at times, I just come down to the shore to feel the sand beneath my feet and the cold Pacific wash over my legs. And it doesn’t matter if I’m fishing with friends or fishing alone, I will always keep count of my catch. That will never change. CS

 

Another Delay In Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Opener

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham announced an additional and final 15-day delay of the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season. Pending possible closures due to elevated levels of domoic acid, the season is now set to begin on Jan. 15, 2019.

Quality tests as prescribed by the Pre-Season Testing Protocol for the Tri-State Coastal Dungeness Commercial Fishery were scheduled to occur this week, but rough ocean conditions prevented vessels from safely deploying and retrieving traps. This protocol requires that tested crab achieve a meat recovery rate to ensure that crab are ready for harvest. Previous quality test resultsfrom Dungeness crab collected on Nov. 3 and Dec. 4 indicated that crab did not have enough meat. Without any passing test results from these areas, the Director continued to delay the season to Jan. 15, the final date a quality delay can be set to occur.

Delays due to quality only affect the northern commercial fishery in California Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties). The season in these districts is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2019.  Two areas in northern California continue to be sampled for domoic acid and it is unknown whether any further delays may occur based continued domoic acid testing.

Crab are evaluated to compare meat weight to total crab weight to determine whether they are ready for harvest under testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee. If results indicate low or poor quality, the Director may delay the fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.

No vessel may take or land crab in an area closed for a meat quality delay (i.e., Fish and Game districts 6, 7, 8 and 9) or within an area closed for a domoic acid delay. In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses onboard or lands crab from ocean waters outside of a delayed area is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in any delayed area for 30 days following the opening of those areas. This applies to any delayed areas in Oregon and Washington as well as in California.

Please refer to the latest Frequently Asked Questions for the current 2018-19 season that addresses questions regarding the Fair Start provision.

For more information about Dungeness crab fisheries in California, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories.

Despite Hatchery Woes, Holiday Stockings Enhance Fishing Opportunities

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

The winter holidays are a popular time for families and individuals to enjoy recreational trout fishing, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) trout hatcheries plan to provide plenty of opportunities for anglers of all ages over the next two weeks. Specific plants of catchable trout are scheduled at 53 waters in 25 counties.

Anglers planning trout fishing outings over the winter holidays should check CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule to see the latest waters planted with trout.

CDFW stocking of hatchery trout in central and Southern California waters has been hampered by ongoing infrastructure upgrades at four of CDFW’s 13 trout hatcheries. However, CDFW has been working diligently to ensure that trout stocking will continue in these and other parts of the state.

“Our Moccasin Creek Hatchery flooded, and supersaturated well water impacted the Fillmore, Fish Springs and Mojave hatcheries” said Dr. Mark Clifford, an environmental program manager for CDFW’s hatcheries. “Seventy-eight-year-old infrastructure and acts of nature are problematic. Our dedicated staff, including engineers, are consistently addressing issues as they arise.

“Overall, state trout production has increased incrementally since 2015 when the drought severely impacted our operations,” Dr. Clifford said. “This year was projected to be the best year in the last five. We have experienced setbacks but will continue to strive to meet our production goals.”

The spring flooding of CDFW’s Moccasin Creek Hatchery in Tuolumne County required evacuation of both staff and fish. The hatchery suffered $3.2 million in damages. Repairs are ongoing, and the hatchery is expected to come back online in the spring of 2019 and then return to full production by 2020.

Historically, Moccasin Creek Hatchery produced more than 200,000 pounds of fish per year and was a major supplier of trout for the 12 counties in CDFW’s Central Region – Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne. To mitigate the loss of trout production at the Moccasin Creek Hatchery, CDFW’s San Joaquin Hatchery in Fresno County has maximized production and is currently raising and stocking trout for waters in these counties.

To maximize angling opportunities with limited resources, Central Region fisheries biologists have prioritized stocking waters adjacent to major highway corridors such as State Routes 108/120 in Tuolumne County, State Route 168 in Fresno County and State Route 178 in Kern County. The region will also prioritize children’s fishing events.

In Southern California, the 78-year-old Fillmore Trout Hatchery in eastern Ventura County is closed for maintenance, upgrades and modernization. Prior to its closure, Fillmore Trout Hatchery fish were moved to the Mojave River Hatchery in San Bernardino County, which underwent renovations in 2017, and has been raising trout for much of Southern California.

CDFW is maximizing Mojave River Hatchery production with existing inventories along with trout brought in from other hatcheries and expects an improved Fillmore Trout Hatchery back online in coming months. Trout stocking in Southern California will be focused at urban parks, fishing derbies and Fishing in the Cityevents.

The following list offers a county-by-county breakdown of stocking locations throughout the state that will receive winter holiday trout plants between now and Jan. 4, 2019:

Alameda County

  • Lakeshore Park Pond

Contra Costa County

  • Heather Farms Pond

Butte County

  • Desabla Reservoir

El Dorado County

  • Folsom Lake
  • Jenkinson Lake

Fresno County

  • Fresno City Woodward Park Lake
  • Kings River Below Pine Flat Dam

Inyo County

  • Diaz Lake
  • Owens River (Bishop to Big Pine)
  • Pleasant Valley Reservoir
  • Orbit Pond

Kern County

  • Ming Lake
  • Kern River (Powerhouse #3 to Riverside Park in Kernville)

Lake County

  • Blue Lake Upper

Los Angeles County

  • Reseda Park Lake
  • Kenneth Hahn Lake
  • El Dorado Park Lake
  • Castaic Lake

Madera County

  • Bass Lake

Marin County

  • Bon Tempe Lake

Mendocino County

  • Mill Creek Lake

Nevada County

  • Rollins Reservoir
  • Scotts Flat Reservoir

Orange County

  • Centennial Lake
  • Huntington Park Lake
  • Eisenhower Park Lake

Placer County

  • Halsey Forebay
  • Folsom Lake
  • Rollins Reservoir
  • Auburn Regional Park Pond

Plumas County

  • Lake Almanor

Riverside County

  • Little Lake
  • Rancho Jurupa Park Pond

Sacramento County

  • Elk Grove Park Pond
  • Hagen Park Pond
  • Folsom Lake (Granite Bay boat ramp)
  • Howe Community Park Pond
  • North Natomas Park Pond
  • Granite Park Pond
  • Rancho Seco Lake
  • Mather Lake

San Bernardino County

  • Glen Helen Park Lake
  • Prado Regional Park Lake

San Diego County

  • Cuyamaca Lake
  • Murray Lake

Shasta County

  • Baum Lake
  • Clover Creek Pond (weather and road conditions dependent)
  • Kapusta Pond (weather and road conditions dependent)

Stanislaus County

  • Woodward Reservoir

Tulare County

  • Mooney Grove Park Pond
  • Del Lago Park Lake

Ventura County

  • Rancho Simi Park Lake

Yuba County

  • Collins Lake