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Feather River Hatchery Fish Ladder Set To Open

The Feather River Hatchery's fish ladder will open on Monday with salmon heading upstream to spawn. (CDFW)

The Feather River Hatchery’s fish ladder will open on Monday with salmon heading upstream to spawn. (CDFW)


From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The fish ladder at Feather River Hatchery in Oroville will open Monday, Sept. 14, signaling the start of the spawning season on the Feather River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder about 8 a.m. and will take more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process. Thousands of school children tour the Feather River Hatchery each year. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222.  For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please visitwww.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.



Huge Caples Lake ‘Bow Landed

Leonard Martin with a huge rainbow caught on Labor Day weekend. (CAPLES LAKE RESORT)

Leonard Martin with a huge rainbow caught on Labor Day weekend. (CAPLES LAKE RESORT)


Our friends at Caples Lake Resort sent us this photo and update:

Wow…this 7-pound, 25-inch trophy rainbow trout was caught in a kayak on September 6, 2015. Leonard Martin from Caldwell Banker in Sonora used a water bobber and threaded night crawler with a marshmallow near the Caples Lake Dam.

Fishing is definitely picking up here at Caples Lake Resort. Lots of nice rainbows were caught last week, and a 2,000-pound trophy and catchable rainbow Trout fish plant on Friday, August 28, courtesy of the Kirkwood Meadows PUD (KMPUD) and El Dorado Irrigation District (EID).

We still have good availability in our cabins and lodge rooms into November and our store/marina is open daily 8 a.m.5 p.m. Come on up and enjoy the great fall weather and good fishing at Caples Lake Resort.





Have Spear Will Travel





The following story currently appears in the September issue of California Sportsman:

CS Cover (1)

By Chris Cocoles

She’s so comfortable – if not at home – in the water now, it’s hard to believe Valentine Thomas once almost drowned in it.

Of course, that was a half a lifetime ago, when this spearfishing maven from London via Canada was vacationing seaside with her family in the south of France. Just 14, Thomas got caught in an undertow – not far from the shore, but far enough for a harrowing few seconds.

“I was caught by the underwater currents. The current had suddenly changed and I remember sticking my head up and there was nobody in the water,” says Thomas, now 28. “I just thought, ‘What the hell is happening?’ I was trying to swim and I could not swim anywhere. I was about 2 meters (about 6½ feet) away from the shore and somehow I got dragged to the bottom. I remember at one point saying to myself, ‘I can’t fight this anymore.’ Finally, a lifeguard managed to fish me out of the water. It was pretty intense.”

The irony is that you can now mostly find this former London hedge fund capital businesswoman underwater with speargun in hand. She not only learned how to freedive, but her top passion is spearfishing whenever she has the time to get out of London and hit exotic locales like Corsica, Greece, South Africa and Zanzibar. In 2013, she established a spearfishing world record for a 25.4-pound Atlantic jack caught off far-flung Ascension Island in the south Atlantic Ocean.

And she hopes to make spearfishing a career and someday host her own TV show to educate audiences about dismissing gender bias and the importance of sustainable eating of harvested fish.

“I would show that if I can do it, anyone can,” she says.

We chatted with Thomas from her home base in London about conquering her fear of water and falling in love with the sea.

Editor's note

Chris Cocoles How did you get involved in spearfishing?

Valentine Thomas It started about five years ago. I had a friend who was doing a freediving course (that Thomas also completed), and after that he and his friend were planning a fishing trip (to Ascension Island, a 34-square-mile piece of volcanic rock with 880 inhabitants between South America and Africa) and asked me if I wanted to tag along. It was quite a unique trip. And I fell in love completely with the sport. My first fish (a black jack) weighed 12 kilos (about 26 pounds), and I thought, “OK – I think I’m going to enjoy this trip.”

CC You also had a mishap in the water that trip, right? Did you have fear going in for the first time?

VT To be honest, I was petrified. I was looking in the water and thinking, “There’s no way I’m jumping in that water.” We’re like 5 miles from the (shore) and it’s raining. The sea was looking pitch black and there was no way I could do this. My friend said, “No, it’s fine.” They went in the water first and they were showing me that everything was going to be OK. And they were right, in a way, in that as soon as I hit the water, everything lit up. You can see everything underwater so clearly. And I thought it was so incredible. But I (got caught in the current) and was completely freaking out. The current was picking up and a guy was really struggling to swim back to the boat. He said he was going to fix the boat and he’d be back. So I was like, “OK; I’ll wait here, I guess.” And he ended up leaving me for like 40 minutes and he was still not back. So I was freaking out a little bit. And my buddy – I couldn’t find him, either. So I was in a complete panic.

CC After your traumatic experience as a teenager in France, were you terrified when you first went in the water after that first spearfishing trip and being left alone for a long time? Was that a psychological barrier?

VT It was a really big step for me to get back in the water and to be comfortable with it. It took me a long time to get over that (near drowning in France). I didn’t want to go swimming other than in Caribbean-type, flat, boring water. Anything else I was like, “No, thank you.”

Spearfishing 8

CC So when you made it back to the boat at Ascension Island, were you thinking, “I’m never going to do this again,” or was it “This is exciting?”

VT I was still really excited, but at the time, I was a little bit nervous. For about two years, whenever I’d go out I’d have a line in the water and the other end on the boat to make sure nothing went wrong. I always had to make sure the boat was close to me; otherwise, at that time, I just couldn’t really do it.

CC I know your dad was a sailor and influenced you, but were you an outdoorsy person growing up in Montreal?

VT My dad used to build boats himself when he was in his early 20s, so I took a lot from him. My parents had a place in the countryside near Montreal, so we’d spend our weekends in the outdoors and have fun in the woods, basically. So I’ve been quite used to being outside and obviously I liked it.

CC Did you do any ice fishing in Quebec in the winter?

VT I never tried ice fishing. I’m a very, very cold person who is always freezing [laughs]. So I tend to stay away from the cold.

Spearfishing 3

CC When did you finally get comfortable in the water?

VT (It was) My biggest obstacle. That’s what took me the longest time. After that, the more you’re in the water, the more you can get close to the fish easier; how to act and how to behave next to them. Then you can learn the best way to hunt them.

It took me a long time –probably two or three years – to be able to finally not have to glance back at the boat every two minutes. I no longer had to check to see if the shore was too far away. But when you do something like blue water hunting (diving for fish in the open ocean), you’re 5 or 6 miles away from the shore. There’s no one else around you. Sometimes the water can be 200 meters (about 650 feet) deep under you. So you need to be calm and get used to it. I think the instinct is you’re going to feel like the prey because you think about sharks. So I learned that you have to transform your mind and make yourself into the hunter.



CC You’ve met some great people along the way. Did they also help you evolve in the sport?

VT By traveling to different locations all the time and meeting so many people, these are people who have been doing this as part of their lifestyle. That’s why when people ask me if I have a mentor, I don’t have one mentor because the fishing is so different in different locations. Everybody (I’ve encountered) has different expertise. So I’ve tried to pick a little bit of knowledge of people from around the world.

CC It must have been a cultural experience for you as well.

VT Exactly. I’ve had a chance to travel a lot and in various locations, and I’ve had a chance to have quite a global experience enjoying the sport. I think that’s part of what I love about it, too, is you go fishing somewhere or you get invited – sometimes by people I’ve never met before. They take me fishing on their boat and I live with their families and in their house; I eat dinner with their kids and I get to meet their friends. I get to be a part of their culture as well. So you really immerse yourself into a different world when you’re traveling. That’s what makes it absolutely beautiful.

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CC Can you share a couple of memorable experiences in the water? You swam with sharks (off Durban, South Africa), which had to be a major adrenaline rush.

VT That was one of the most exciting and fearful moments of my life. First off, we were in the boat and you could see them on top of the water – the dorsal fins would break the surface. The (divers) told me I had to jump in and I said, “Do I? OK, fine.” I waited for my friend to get in the water first, but I did it. When I jumped in, there were sharks everywhere; there had to have been 20 or 30 sharks surrounding us. It was quite interesting. And I couldn’t stop staring. Maybe after about two minutes a shark came really close – almost nose to nose with me. I backed up, which is something you never do because you’re acting like the prey. So they told me to go toward them, which is easy to say but a little bit harder to do. Later, I was going back down and wasn’t sure where I was looking. I did a head-to-head with a shark, and he went one way and I went the other. We both looked at each other and were scared to death. But I don’t think he was as scared as I was. But when I got out of the water, I told my friend this was probably the best day of my life.

CC How have you handled the derogatory responses you’ve received through your Instagram and Facebook pages, and from the media coverage that jumped on the train this year? Is it just the reality of where we are that you’re treated so much differently than men in your sport?

VT It’s a double-edged sword. In some ways it’s a big advantage to be a woman. Most of the people would have not talked about me and what I was doing if I’d been a man. So I get the attention, even though sometimes it’s been negative and others positive. This has given me publicity and some attention from TV producers to maybe achieve my dream sometime. It really works in my favor. And I would say that 90 percent of the feedback I’ve received has been positive, which is quite surprising. I think a woman who hunts on land, she’s going to get trashed at 95 percent. People seem to have different eyes when it comes to fish.


CC Earlier this summer you posted a passionate Instagram message about the killing of “Cecil” the lion in Africa, citing so many other instances of animal cruelty that generally go undetected. Was it important to stand by your principles, knowing you were going to be criticized?

VT I know my post was a little bit too emotional. But for me, it was just so frustrating knowing that the entire world is eating burgers and steaks and they’re crying for one lion. It’s so absurd.

CC Are there places you are eager to visit and fish?

VT Madagascar for sure I want to try. Australia I’m undecided about because there are so many great whites. And I really want to go to Mexico.

CC Have you been to California?

VT I went to Southern California with my sister once, but I didn’t get to do any fishing. I think the water is pretty cold and not too clear. Murky water means there’s a bigger chance to run into sharks. But I’ve heard it’s a little warmer and clearer around San Diego. But I definitely (wouldn’t mind living there), as I’m ready to start thinking about moving away from London. I can’t take this rainy, horrible weather for too much longer. CS

Editor’s note: For more on Valentine Thomas, follow her on Instagram (@valentinethomas) and Facebook (facebook.com/valentine.tb).


Spearfishing sidebar



“Do it all, eat it all.” So says one of Valentine Thomas’ Instagram (@valentinethomas) captions as she fillets a fish on a tropical beach.

Some of her noteworthy hashtags include #catchyourownfood; #doitall and #useitall; #sustainableeating; and #eatwhatyoukill.

“It’s very important to me,” Thomas says of and not wasting what she harvests with her speargun. “Cooking is one of my passions and one reason why I fell in love with fishing. There’s something about cooking food that’s as fresh as it could be. Cooking is as big a part of the sport as (catching). I gut it, I fillet it and I do everything myself. It’s by far one of my favorite things in the world to do.”

Thomas’ passion for using a speargun underwater to catch her dinner was bound to create a stir on social media, where she endures online salvoes that accuse her of being a “killer.” Sometimes, though, Thomas will receive an actual poignant query from a follower who may disagree or, at worst, doesn’t understand what she does.

“Someone on Facebook – a complete stranger – sent me a message. And he asked me a question that made me sit down and think,” Thomas says. “He asked me, ‘Do you enjoy the killing part?’ That’s a really good question, and I was thinking, ‘No, I actually don’t like the killing; I feel quite sad about it. You feel compassion. I love this sport because spearfishing is about everything that’s surrounding you; you’re surrounded by unusual things. It makes you feel so vulnerable. It’s not something that should delight you. It’s actually very haunting.”

The bottom line for Thomas is this: “I’m trying to catch my dinner.”

And other people’s dinners. On a trip to South Africa, Thomas and her party made sure to get some extra fish to distribute to needy families in impoverished areas. In July, she did something similar when she fished on Zanzibar, a tropical island off the coast of Tanzania. Thomas understands that Instagram and Facebook commenting is less about common sense and genuine opposition and more a forum for knee-jerk reactions and hot takes. Some of the hate was so misdirected it was bordering on lunacy, such as accusations that Thomas’ boyfriend was doing the shooting (spoiler alert: he’s never gone spearfishing with her).

“If you want to talk the good about or the bad about it – I don’t care; just talk about it,” she says. “At least they’re having the discussion and making themselves think about where our food comes from.”

For Thomas, that food comes from the sea and she is comfortable doing the ocean-to-kitchen-to-table process.

“My favorite dish that I cook with fish is very basic, but it’s heavenly: a fish burger!” she says. “I love to use healthy bread, ‘rocket’ bread (a European-style loaf), and a homemade tartar sauce, especially since I cut off meat (nonfish),” Thomas says. “It’s my kind of ‘My life can be awesome too without meat’ dish.’”

Water Temps Cooling Down At Lake Del Valle

Jesse and Gabriel Lujan caught a nice catfish and striper at Lake Del Valle.

Jesse and Gabriel Lujan caught a nice catfish and striper at Lake Del Valle.

Ray Benavidez and Mark Gutierrez with a big stringer of catfish.

Ray Benavidez and Mark Gutierrez with a big stringer of catfish.

Young Sophia shows off a Lake Del Valle catfish.

Young Sophia shows off a Lake Del Valle catfish.

From Dan Hollis at Lake Del Valle in Livermore:
 A nice cooldown the last couple days has been enjoyable.  Yesterday’s high was 77 degrees then it dropped to 43 degrees last night.  Water temperatures are still in the high 70s which is allowing the stripers and the catfish to stay aggressive.  They are still eating cut baits like anchovies, sardines and mackerel and some really active cats are hunting down lures.  Last night at 7:45 p.m. I had a 10-pound cat slam my chatter bait that I was jigging with.  Another fishermen caught a nice cat on a trout spinner this week. 
Striped Bass are starting to slow down on the boils and we are seeing more isolated blow ups all around the lake.  The stripes are still chasing shad, jerk baits are becoming more effective than top water baits. 
     Don’t forget that Saturday is free fishing day and adults do not need a fishing license or a daily permit.  We only get a few of these days a year so don’t miss out!  The winds are back since the cool down and the evenings are a windy war zone for fishermen.  Not only has the wind been blowing fishermen around and out of their fishing holes, it has also been a very cold wind so if you don’t have a sweater or jacket you probably wont be out in it that long. 
Good luck everyone now go rip some lips and have a great Labor Day weekend!
For more Lake Del Valle, call (925) 449-5201 or go to rockymountainrec.com/lakes/lake-delvalle.htm.

Deer Seasons Set To Begin This Month



From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

As the Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 general deer hunting season openers approach, hunters across the state are gearing up to head out in search of deer in many of the most popular hunting areas. Deer seasons are already underway for archery and in zones A and B4.mule deer

Deer tags are still available for many of the state’s most popular zones. Hunting licenses and tags can be purchased online, at one of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) license sales offices or through one of CDFW’s many license sales agents. For more information on deer hunting zones and seasons, see the 2015 Big Game Hunting Digest. Specific zone maps and information are also available online.

The sale of hunting licenses and tags provides approximately $25 million every year to CDFW to fund research and management of California’s wildlife, including the enforcement of fish and wildlife laws, crucial habitat conservation, post-wildfire forest restoration and wildlife migration and population studies.

“We encourage hunters to have fun and be safe while exploring California’s wild places,” said CDFW Deer Program Coordinator Stuart Itoga. “We appreciate the role hunters play in conservation and management of the state’s wildlife.”

For the 2015 deer season, hunters need to be aware of two new regulations: Mandatory tag reporting and the use of nonlead ammunition on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves.

Starting this year, all deer tag holders must report to CDFW. Hunters that take a deer must report within 30 days of harvest or by Jan. 31, whichever occurs first. Hunters that received a tag but did not harvest a deer or did not hunt must also report by Jan. 31. Harvest reports may be submitted online or by U.S. mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. Beginning in 2017, anyone who fails to submit a report for the 2016 season will be charged a $20 non-reporting fee when applying for a 2017 deer tag.

Effective July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on state wildlife areas and ecological reserves and for all bighorn sheep hunts. Lead ammunition may still be used on Bureau of Land Management (BLM), national forest and private lands.

Statewide, estimated deer population numbers are up slightly from 443,000 last year to 512,000 this year. Last year, approximately 22 percent of the state’s deer hunters harvested a deer.

Scouting an area prior to hunting and getting off the beaten path can be keys to hunter success, especially during this time of historic drought. CDFW recommends that hunters keep current on possible public land closures in zones they plan to hunt.

“California is in the fourth year drought and large wildfires have caused some forest closures,” Itoga said. “We expect wildfires could cause additional closures of public hunting lands this year. On a positive note, some of the areas burned will provide high-quality deer browse as regeneration occurs in future years. Improved nutrition could lead to healthier deer populations and enhanced opportunities for deer hunters in future seasons.”

Regional U.S. Forest Service and BLM offices provide helpful information regarding emergency closures of public hunting areas. Please visit CDFW’s website for zone-specific information and regional contacts.


King Salmon Bite Slowly Improving On Sac River


Manuel Saldana Jr. of Yuba City-based MSJ Guide Service sent us this update on king salmon fishing:

The Sacramento River is kicking out some beautiful kings salmon. I can’t say it’s kicking out a lot at the moment, but when you hook one it’s a quality fish.  There’s a good amount of king salmon at the Golden Gate staging and ready to make the run up river to spawn. The boys in saltwater have been getting limits!  Fishing should definitely improve up river  in the next few weeks. 
Here’s David Jr. from Southern California with his first-ever river king,  which weighed 25 pounds. This king bit on eggs cured in Liquid ProCure in the Redd Hot  color.


Tulare County’s Water Has Vanished

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


As a former San Joaquin Valley resident, this is just downright depressing.

Tulare County – I went to college in and lived in adjacent Fresno County – is one of the state’s biggest casaulties of the drought, as Time Magazine reports:

As California faces its fourth year in a drought, the farming region of Tulare County, located three hours north of Los Angeles, is at the epicenter of the crisis. To date, 5,433 residents in this rural region twice the size of Delaware are without water. Most live in East Porterville.

PrintMany homes in Tulare County, unlike other drought-afflicted areas, are not connected to a water system; they rely on private wells supplied by groundwater. And for the past 18 months, these wells have been drying up.

Over the past year, Office of Emergency Services (OES), a county agency responsible with responding to large-scale disasters, implemented a bottled drinking water program, a mobile shower unit and a 2,500-gallon potable water tanks that are placed outside a home and connected directly to each home’s plumbing system.

Despite the county’s efforts, it can take up to six months for a family to receive emergency assistance. Tired of waiting, many families are moving to neighboring towns and out-of-state.

Californians Surpass Water Usage



Despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate amid a fourth year of drought, Californians aren’t exactly doing their part to save water.

Here’s a portion of a report from the California Department of Water Resources:

Despite continued hot conditions, Californians surpassed June’s conservation rate and reduced water use by 31.3 percent during July, exceeding Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 25 percent mandate for a second consecutive month since the new emergency conservation regulation took effect.
For June and July, the cumulative statewide savings was 29.5 percent. Saving water in the hot summer months is critical to meeting the State’s overall 25 percent savings goal through February 2016, as the summer is when the greatest amount of water is traditionally used, particularly on outdoor ornamental landscapes. State officials urged residential water users to keep up their efforts to conserve.

Cumulative savings for June and July is 414,800 acre-feet, or 35 percent of the savings goal.

“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear and shows that they get that we are in the drought of our lives. This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought, this is the drought of the century,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Millions of conscientious Californians are the real heroes here — each stepping up to help local water resources last longer in the face of an historic drought with no certain end date.” July’s water savings moved the State 228,940 acre-feet (74.6 billion gallons) closer to the goal of saving 1.2 million acre?feet by February 2016, as called for by the Governor in his April 1 Executive Order. Cumulative savings for June and July is 414,800 acre?feet, or 35 percent of the savings goal.

Conservation programs put in place during the late spring and early summer months by most of the State’s water suppliers are now in full swing, yielding dramatic reductions in water use and heightened water use awareness. With dry conditions forecast to continue through November, the focus remains not only on enhancing current efforts but on encouraging suppliers that are behind to make the commitment to conservation and meet or beat their targets.

Free Fishing Day This Saturday!

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites all Californians to celebrate the end of summer by going fishing. Sept. 5 is the second of two Free Fishing Days in 2015, when people can try their hand at fishing without having to buy a sport fishing license. Free Fishing Days are also a great opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.

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

CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year – usually around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend – when it’s legal to fish without a sport fishing license. This year, the Free Fishing Days were set for the Saturdays near Independence Day and Labor Day (this year, July 4 and Sept. 5).

Free Fishing Days provide a low-cost way to give fishing a try. Some CDFW regions offer Fishing in the City, a program where children can learn to fish in major metropolitan areas. Fishing in the City and Free Fishing Day clinics are designed to educate novice anglers about fishing ethics, fish habits, effective methods for catching fish and fishing tackle. Anglers can even learn how to clean and prepare fish for eating.

Anglers should check the rules and regulations for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visitwww.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.