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RIP To Teen Hunter Shot In S.J. Valley

File photo by CDFW

File photo by CDFW


I was on vacation when this news broke, so sorry for posting it so late. But a teenage hunter from Exeter, a tiny town near Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, was tragically killed in a hunting accident earlier this month.

The Visalia-Times Delta on the terrible accident:

Luke Burns, 16, an Exeter Union High Schoolstudent, was hunting with family and friends just before 8 a.m. near Horse Meadow when he wandered in front of hunters. He was hidden behind some brush when another hunter fired and struck the boy in the torso.

Family and friends tried to give CPR and first aid, later rushing the boy to the California Hot Springs Ranger station, where he died.

Luke is a twin. He is survived by his brother Levi.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Departments Violent Crimes Unit were called to investigate the shooting, which they called an accident.

The Sheriff’s Department is using the incident to bring words of caution to hunters.

“The Sheriff’s Department would like to take this time to remind hunters during this hunting season to practice good firearm safety measures,” according to a statement. “Know the direction you are shooting, what you are shooting at and what your shooting backstop is.”

Condolences to the young man’s family and friends.

Gold Rush Season 6 Premieres On Friday

One of the Discovery Channel’s flagship shows has been Gold Rush, which we profiled in the December, 2014 issue of our sister publication, Alaska Sporting Journal. The show’s sixth season premieres on Friday. Here’s the Discovery Channel with more:

As the Klondike winter comes to an end, a new mining season begins. And this year, the tables have certainly turned. There are bold new challenges, new equipment and massive power shifts. It’s a battle like never before among the crews as they push to find the most gold yet. Gold mining is a dangerous business and you never know who’s going to come out on top. Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH returns for its sixth season on Friday, October 16 at 9 PM ET/PT, with the pre-show, The Dirt, at 8 PM ET/PT.

Last year, Todd Hoffman rose from the ashes and brought his crew back from the brink of bankruptcy. This season he has gold-rich ground, a seasoned crew and is in position to keep his hot streak alive. But Todd’s a big dreamer and this year even his crew is blown away by the staggering season goal he sets. For the first time, he’ll have three generations of Hoffman men working on the claim as Hunter, his 16-year old son, keeps the family tradition alive. The only thing standing in Todd’s way could be his ego. Can he keep it in check and finally give young Parker Schnabel a run for his money? Or will his lofty season goal backfire leaving the Hoffman crew disappointed yet again?

Meanwhile, Parker Schnabel has his hands full. Last season, he mined an unprecedented $3 million of gold. But it came at a price as he drove his crew into the ground leaving many questioning whether they would ever work for the young mine boss again. Parker, who turns 21 this year, finds out the hard way that one season of gold mining has nothing to do with the next. He’s forced to draw on everything his beloved Grandpa John has taught him in order to avoid a disastrous season. Parker has to do more than find a lot of gold this season, he has to figure out how to become a leader of men.

Tony Beets, aka “The Viking,” is a Klondike legend. As winter closed in at the end of last season, Tony was finally about to resurrect his million dollar, 75-year-old gold mining dredge. But this year, he has to get the machine, which hasn’t run in 30 years, to actually produce gold. Tony desperately needs the dredge to start paying for itself but more than anything, he wants to shut up the naysayers that think he’s crazy to gold mine the old fashioned way. This season it’s all hands on deck as dredging for Klondike gold becomes a family affair. Can the Beets, the first family of Yukon gold mining, revive an ancient way of pulling gold out of the ground or will the massive undertaking turn into a giant money pit? Tony’s out to prove that the old timers had it right…that dredging is the future of gold mining in the Klondike.

Also returning is the GOLD RUSH pre-show “The Dirt,” a series of one-hour shows, beginning 8 PM ET/PT on Friday, October 16, where the miners give the inside scoop on all things GOLD RUSH and where fans can get access to behind-the-scenes, cutting room floor material that never makes it into the show.

Season 6 of GOLD RUSH is full of shocking twists and far more gold than our miners have ever seen before. The question is…who gets it all? Tune in on October 16 to see all the drama unfold on Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH.

Photo by Discovery Channel

Photo by Discovery Channel

Here’s my interview with Parker Schnabel (above right) that appeared in the December, 2014 issue of ASJ:

By Chris Cocoles

Parker Schnabel is just 20 years old, so please forgive the young man if he’s not satisfied with finding over $ 1 million in gold last year.
“We’re going all out this season – I’m setting a 2,000-ounce goal for us,” the Haines, Alaska, resident tells his crew from his claim on Scribner Creek in the Yukon, during a Season 5 episode of the Discovery Channel hit, Gold Rush.
Schnabel’s rookie season running his own Klondike operation brought in quite a haul – 1,029 ounces worth a cool $1.4 million. You know that had to bring a smile to the face of Parker’s grandfather John Schnabel, an Alaska-toughened 94-year-old who has battled through an aggressive prostate cancer to see his original mining company, Big Nugget, handed down to his wunderkind of a grandson.
At one point, John visited Smith Creek, a Southeast Alaskan mine site the family’s patriarch has vowed to find gold at before he runs out of time, and found his son, Roger and grandsons Parker and Payson. It was an emotional moment for the family.
“I think my grandpa was really pleased to see us up here working together, side by side,” Parker Schnabel says. “That’s a big thing, and at his age he’s gotten pretty sentimental about family.”
It’s become the most human element of Gold Rush. Sure, it’s about striking it rich; but for young Schnabel, it’s about carrying on a family tradition at the youngest of ages and doing quite nicely for himself.
We caught up with Parker Schnabel and talked success, family and his clashes with landlord and fellow miner, Tony Beets.

Chris Cocoles I’m sure you get asked this all the time: you’re 20 years old having  this success and leading your own crew, but have there been moments when you’ve asked yourself what you’ve already accomplished before the age of 21?
Parker Schnabel It’s a little surreal sometimes, for sure. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m awfully lucky; I’ve had a hell of a lot of good opportunities. It’s not like I started at the very bottom shoveling ditches or anything. Really, a whole lot of it has to do with being at the right place and the right time, and I don’t forget that.

CC But you’re clearly way ahead of the curve from a business sense.
PS I grew up doing this, watching my dad run a business –  and a pretty successful one. And I was pretty lucky because he didn’t really keep any secrets from me. He was letting me watch what he was doing. I’d sit in his office during meetings while he’d hire people and fire people; anything I wanted to see as a far as a business goes, I could. It got me into a position where, two years ago, it wasn’t all completely foreign. So while a lot of it is a little scary and daunting, if you just tear into it it’s not that bad.

CC What kind of positive influences have you had from your family?
PS My grandpa was the one who was doing the gold mining. My dad runs a construction business. But it’s the same idea. You’re trying to move dirt from Point A to Point B as smooth as you can. And it’s not like I’m the most organized person in the world. I pay my bills as long as I have money in the bank, and that’s about it.

CC What I love most about the show is the dynamic of the relationship between you and your grandpa. How much of an impact has he had on your young life?
PS It’s pretty easy to say that none of this would be happening if it weren’t for him. But he’s definitely a big part of my life and my whole family’s life. He’s one of a kind – that’s for sure.

CC Is there one moment that stands out between your relationship?
PS There’s no one thing, really, I don’t think. I basically spend three to four months a year with him for almost 10 years, from the time I was 8 until I was 18. When I’d get out of school I’d still be staying at home. But I would go there every day. I can’t really say there’s one specific thing that defines us.

CC Is there one word that defines what it takes to be successful in finding gold? Persistence? Patience?
PS Stupidity? Honestly, it’s probably that you have to be a pretty stubborn. You look at the guys who have been in the Yukon for a while mining like Tony and a lot of those other guys, you’re a long ways away from anything that you need. If you need parts or some steel, things like that, you’re not going to be able to get it anytime soon. So you really have to work with just what you’ve got and to make due what you have there. And I’m not very good at that; I don’t have the greatest imagination. But the guys on my crew like Gene (Cheeseman) and Mitch (Blaschke), and another new mechanic I brought in, Mike Beaudry – they’re some of the best of the best when it comes to that kind of stuff. We can pretty well make do with whatever we have laying around.

CC As a team, have you built it around each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
PS For sure, especially this season because it’s our second year together for most of them. And now that we kind of know what everybody’s good at and bad at, things go together fairly smoothly, usually. [pauses] Maybe I shouldn’t put my foot in my mouth too far in case a few things don’t work out too well.

CC Over the course of time, have you found yourself needing to earn the respect of a crew that’s mostly older than you?
PS There are always issues with that. I don’t really think it has to do with my age; maybe it does. But I haven’t had those kinds of issues before with people. I’m going in blind to certain extent and I do the best I can. But it’s still tough. I would say it’s still an issue. When you watch this season you’ll see there are still some of the same issues with my crew as there were last season. And it’s just part of the game.

CC Does it sort of feel like a big family that you know will have moments of insanity?
PS Yeah, one big dysfunctional family.

CC What about Tony Beets? I’m sure at times he’s been both a mentor and the enemy along the way.
PS Tony is a tough guy to work with. He’s very demanding as far as the way he wants things done. And that’s OK, but it changes too. You think you’re doing everything perfectly fine, he’ll see you doing it and won’t say a thing; and the next day, you’re doing the worst thing you could do in the world. And that I don’t really appreciate. He’s probably the toughest guy who I’ve ever worked with.

CC What was life like growing up in Haines? Was it normal or pretty unique?
PS For Alaska and the town I grew up in it was normal. There were a lot of kids I grew up with, who, at the same age I started doing what I was doing, they bought a fishing boat and started commercial fishing. Or there were other people who don’t really own a business but are running a business. Everything is obviously smaller, but it’s still a lot of responsibility. I still (had time to) play basketball. I played all four years of high school. And it wasn’t like I was some social outcast.

CC Was the haul you had last season with over 1,000 ounces in gold a surprise?
PS Last season was [pauses], we were surprised with it, but, at the same time, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have anything to base it off of. We didn’t know what the grade in the ground was going to be as far as how much gold we were going to get every day or every week, or anything. We didn’t how to deal with permafrost or any of that kind of stuff. So anything would have been a surprise – either 500 ounces or 5,000 ounces.

CC It had to be awfully satisfying to accomplish what you did.
PS Yes, it was. And it put us in position where there is a huge amount of startup cost with a new operation.

CC On an episode recap show your mom and you talked about wanting you to go to college. But what’s in store for you in the future?
PS There are a lot of things I want to do, like getting back to college. But, at the same time, I’m getting the opportunity do something (special). I’m not going to learn any more than I am now sitting in college.

CC I guess what you’ve done is already quite the education.
PS Two days ago I was having lunch with the COO of Discovery Channel. That’s not going to happen sitting in some college classroom, as fun as that sounds. ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Gold Rush can be seen on the Discovery Channel on Fridays at 9 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Central. Check out Parker Schnabel on Facebook (facebook.com/pages/Parker-Schnabel/266076300104716) and Twitter (@goldrush_parker).

Get In On SoCal Bass Action


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Our friends Marc and Amy Mitrany of the Ojai Angler filed this report:

Guide Marc said, “I’ts spring like conditions at Lake Casitas.” Incredible right now! Harvesting live threadfin shad. Bass boiling on the surface, Bass are hitting both live and artificial baits, topwater baits and crank baits TOP WATER BAITS with Lunker Potion Fish Attractant.


Dates available:

Friday, Oct. 16

Sunday, Oct. 18

Tuesday, Oct. 20 or Wednesday, Oct. 21




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Last Chance For Caples Lakes Boat Rentals

Caples Boats Oct 15 2015


Kurt Gaare with a nice haul of Caples Lake trout. (Caples Lake Resort)

Kurt Gaare with a nice haul of Caples Lake trout. (Caples Lake Resort)


From our friends at Caples Lake Resort:


Well, summer has come to an end and there is beautiful fall weather and fantastic fishing. The lake level is holding at 14 feet down and the water temperature is 56 degrees.

We will close for our fall shutdown on October 19 and we will take our last rental boats and docks out of the water.

However, we will have cabins 7 and 8 available through the end of October and maybe into November.

We will reopen for the winter season December 19, snow permitting.

Have a great fall.

Caples Lake Resort





Is El Niño Arriving To Save The Day?

The late great Chris Farley would likely be intrigued by the possible return of El  Niño to hopefully California’s drough woes. Even a massive rain-fueled El Niño hasn’t been projected to fully rescue the state of its historically low rainfall totals and snowpack.

But CBS News reported the coming of the meteorolgical phenonmeon could be one avenue to an eventual restoration of California’s water:

“This is as close as you’re going to get to a sure thing,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, calling this El Nino “too big to fail.”

A strong El Nino arrives about once every 20 years. Ocean temperatures show this one to be the second-strongest since such record keeping began in 1950, said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. That would make it weaker than the El Nino of 1997-98 but stronger than the El Nino of 1982-83.

Both of those winters were known in California for relentless rain, strong winds and heavy snow. Waves pounded the coast, mudslides rolled down mountainsides and floods swamped homes and claimed lives.

Storms blamed on El Nino in 1997-98 killed at least 17 people, wiped out strawberry and artichoke crops, pushed houses off hillside foundations and washed out highways. Damage was estimated at more than $500 million. …

Weather models this year show a 60 percent chance of above-average rainfall in Southern California, but that figure declines farther north, Boldt said.

From the San Francisco Bay Area to Sequoia National Park, there’s a 50 percent chance of above-average rainfall. From Eureka to north of Reno, Nevada, that estimate drops to 33 percent. It’s likely to be drier in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rocky Mountains.




27-Pounder Wins Sacramento River Salmon Derby


Golden Gate Salmon Association

Mark Chow (center) took home $1,000 for winning the Golden Gate Salmon Association Derby.

Mark Chow (center) took home $1,000 for winning the Golden Gate Salmon Association Derby.

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association

San Francisco, CA. –  Fisherman Mark Chow won the $1,000 first prize for the biggest salmon in last Saturday’s Golden Gate Salmon Association Red Bluff Salmon Derby held at the Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff.  Chow’s big male salmon weighed in at 27.15-pound gutted and gilled.  Chow’s winning salmon broke the fishing rod early in the 40-minute fight that ended with the fish in the boat. Second place went to first time fisherman Wyatt Brazell whose 26.56-pound fish was caught fishing with guide Robert Weese.  Third place went to Chris Tomasetti who caught a 20.65-pound salmon.

“The salmon derby was a great event because it was clear that everyone had lots of fun while supporting GGSA’s work to rebuild big salmon runs in the Central Valley,” said GGSA executive director John McManus.

Proceeds from the derby will support GGSA’s working, including projects to restore key juvenile salmon rearing areas and guard against losing salmon to heated water or sudden reductions in flows from Shasta Dam. Stronger salmon runs provide a major economic shot to both the coast and along the Sacramento River.

“On both the coast and in the upper Sacramento River basin, people view salmon as a valuable food source. All of these derby fish will likely get smoked before they’re enjoyed by the lucky fisherman who caught them,” said McManus

Although 2015 hasn’t been the best salmon season in recent years, GGSA expects 2016 to be better.  That’s because in 2014 and 2015 GGSA succeeded in getting virtually all Central Valley hatchery produced baby salmon transported around the drought to safe release sites, a move that should pay off with higher survival and more adult salmon to catch next year.

“My fish may have gone 32 pounds in the round in the river, perhaps more in the ocean. This fish was holding over two pounds of milt,” Chow said.

Chow said he was looking forward to eating the fish after it’s smoked, with fishing guide Scott Ferris Jr.’s special dry brine recipe.  Chow said, “Thank you GGSA for hosting such a great fund raiser and for helping support our fishery.”


Mountain Lion Takes In The View From Telephone Pole

Photo by Peter Day/Victor Valley Daily Press

Photo by Peter Day/Victor Valley Daily Press


The Victor Valley area in Southern California’s high desert is experiencing multiple mountain lion sightings.  Victor Valley Press reporter Peter Day got his own look at one of the big cats in a rather pecuilar place.

Here’s some of Day’s report:

A mountain lion climbed up a 35-foot-high wooden power pole Tuesday afternoon about two miles south of Cougar Buttes on East End Road.

The mountain lion came down from the pole sometime Tuesday night and was not seen in the area on Wednesday, according to local residents.

Two California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers, who were parked several hundred yards away, were requesting passersby to not stop. They hoped the animal, which appeared to be a healthy adult, might climb back down from the high voltage wires and go back into the wild.

Jose Ruiz, a resident who lives across the street from the pole, told the Daily Press that the mountain lion was startled by children coming home in a Lucerne Valley Unified School District school bus. They were yelling with excitement and the big cat scurried up the pole, Ruiz said.

The mountain lion went down from the power pole sometime Tuesday night, Ruiz said.

Ruiz said several ravens were cawing and making a ruckus when the cougar was up the pole.

“It was funny,” Ruiz said. “It was like the one crow was saying, ‘Hey, you’re not a crow’ to the mountain lion.”

What Is Going To Happen To The LWCF?




Editor’s note: Andy Walgamott is the executive editor for California Sportsman and the editor of our sister magazine, Northwest Sportsman.

Despite a wave of support from Northwest hunters, anglers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the important Land and Water Conservation Fund may not be reauthorized by the deadline to do so, today, Sept. 30.

Supporters are deeply worried that the fund, created in 1965, will for the first time ever not be allocated new revenues.

A hugely important funding mechanism — Washington alone has benefited to the tune of $600 million — for setting aside lands to hunt on, access fisheries and provide other outdoor recreation, LWCF has been put on hold by a Utah representative who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Revenues for the fund come from royalties on offshore gas and oil leases and are then disbursed through federal agencies and to the states. Rep. Bob Bishop’s stated beef is that 60 percent of the LWCF is earmarked for stateside programs, but in 2014, only 16 percent was actually sent to them.

He claims he wants to modernize the fund to “(protect) state and local recreational access.”

I don’t really buy that. I think it’s cover for the greater Sagebrush Rebellion II going on in the West, one that is not in the best interests of hunters, anglers or other outdoor users of any political stripe.

LWCF needs to be put above politics. Washington Reps. Dave Reichert (R) and Derek Kilmer (D) have recognized the value of the program. They’ve called on Congress to reauthorize the fund.

(It should be noted that in July, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) teamed up to unveil a bipartisan energy bill to endorse and renew the LWCF before it expires). 

In an urgent email earlier this week, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association director Liz Hamilton pointed out, “LWCF is responsible for hundreds of miles of river access, thousands of acres of land for hunters to enjoy, and numerous national parks.”

“NSIA commissioned study in 2013 which found that more than 7,200 jobs are created due to fishing on public lands in Oregon and more than 10,000 jobs in Washington.  Not surprisingly, 65% of fishing related spending takes place due to public access.  Our access to public lands means that guides, tackle makers, rod builders, etc. have a strong and faithful customer base,” she added, urging readers to email their U.S. Senators.

Though LWCF can disburse up to $900 million, last year it was funded to the tune of $306 million.

But it wasn’t included in Congress’s continuing resolution to keep the government operating for a couple months, so no money may be available for 2016.

This is just dumb.

Flat stupid.

But maybe not the end of the world. The call for permanent reauthorization is going on as I write this.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R) just tweeted out, “HAPPENING NOW: I’m leading a group of Senators in calling for permanent reauthorization of . Watch live:

His counterpart on the other side, Sen. John Tester (D), earlier tweeted, “ is one of the most important conservation tools we have & the majority is letting it expire.

LWCF needs to be above rightwing and leftwing politics. It’s for the good of all. Permanently reauthorize it so we don’t have to go through this BS during hunting season, some of the best fishing of the year, and most scenic hiking weather.

Is Federal Plan To Help Salmon Being Done Right?



Editor’s note: The following press release is courtesy of the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

Salmon fishermen and industry advocates are giving mixed reviews to a federal plan to spend millions restoring salmon in 2016. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) funded the plan in 1992 with $50 million annually to be used to restore waterfowl and to double the wild salmon populations. The salmon advocates note progress has been made in moving more funds to on the ground projects that will help salmon soon.  However, a significant part of the money is still being spent on unproductive projects, overhead, and activities that do not result in increased ocean salmon populations, according to the salmon stakeholders.

Since creation of the fund in 1992, funding decisions were made solely by the two federal agencies overseeing the fund, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.  However, in July, the two federal agencies announced a major revision to how salmon projects will be selected in the future.  Salmon and public water and power agency stakeholders are being invited to help create a new model which will provide data on which salmon restoration investments will yield the most salmon. This new stakeholder input comes in response to requests from the Golden Gate Salmon Association and others seeking greater input.

Dick Pool, Secretary of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We strongly support a major change in the way future projects will be selected and we are cautiously optimistic that the new system will work.”

The 2016 spending plan proposes to spend $48 million on salmon projects between 2016 and 2018.  The industry strongly supports fourteen projects totaling $17.4 million but rejects fifteen others totaling $17.3 million.  The rejections were based on projects that did not have a meaningful value to the early salmon population doubling objectives called for in the CVPIA.  The full text of the industry comments can be seen at www.water4fish.org/salmonspending or at http://goldengatesalmonassociation.com/2015/09/22/8568/ .

John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, praised the plan’s proposal to open four new rearing areas in the upper Sacramento River and its tributaries.

“Rearing areas allow the newly hatched juvenile salmon a place where they can grow and avoid predators.  The lack of adequate rearing areas for salmon in the Sacramento River has been a major problem for years.”

Shifting money to projects likely to produce near term results follows criticism by the salmon industry and the public water and power agencies that provide much of the $50 million in the fund.  The fund has failed to double the salmon populations, as required by the CVPIA.  In 2012, twenty years after the CVPIA passed Congress, the salmon populations stood at only 13 percent of what they were in 1992 when the act originally passed.  In the opinion of the salmon industry and others, millions of dollars have been spent and wasted on projects and activities that did not yield results.




Caples Lake Yields 6-Pound Rainbow

Photo by Caples Lake Resort

Brandon Burrell’s 6-pound rainbow from Caples Lake. Photo by Caples Lake Resort

A report from Caples Lake Resort:


Hello to Fall from Caples LakeJ

The lake is down about 12 feet but on September 16 the EID (Eldorado Irrigation District) reduced the lake outflow from 70cfs to 5 (cubic feet per second).

This means the lake level be will reduced 1/4-inch a day (instead of 3 ½ inches per day for the last month) through the fall.

The public boat launch 1/2 mile east on Highway 88 will be open through October or later. The water has cooled down to 60 degrees and the catching is picking up.

Brandon Burrell from Elk Grove , Ca. caught a 6-pound rainbow from the dam using a fly rod on September18.

We will have cabins and lodge rooms available as well as fishing boats and kayaks into November.

The  past three years of drought are making the fall colors come early so come on up early this year.

Caples Lake Resort