Category Archives: What’s Hot Now

California 2013 ocean salmon season gets under way this weekend

Anglers get their first shot at Chinook this weekend as waters south of Horse Mountain open for a two-fish limit. (Photo courtesy Executive Charters)

Golden State trollers and moochers will have their first shot at the Central Valley Chinook salmon Class of 2013 this weekend as the ocean season gets underway in waters south of Horse Mountain. Federal fisheries managers are calling (cautiously) for a productive season, but one with the possibility of in-season closures due to a shortage of winter-run fish.

In the fall of 2012, nearly 35,500 jack Chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento River and 21,500 returned to the Klamath-Trinity basins. While most Chinook salmon return to spawn after three years in the ocean, jacks are fish that return after just two years, making them a reliable predictor of the number of adult salmon remaining in the ocean. Fishery biologists estimate roughly 1.5 million Chinook salmon will be in California coastal waters through the summer.

“While ocean populations for Sacramento River and Klamath-Trinity basin Chinook salmon are predicted to be high, the potential for anglers to catch Sacramento River winter-run Chinook and California Coastal Chinook salmon, which are protected under endangered species laws, will be taken into consideration by the PFMC and the Commission when setting the remainder of the salmon season,” the California Department of Fish & Wildlife announced. “Fishery constraints to protect Sacramento River winter-run Chinook will mostly affect recreational anglers fishing south of Point Arena, while protections for California Coastal Chinook apply mainly to commercial anglers along the northern coast.”

Regulations: The daily bag and possession limit is two salmon of any species except coho. The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length between Horse Mountain and Point Arena. For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. For anglers fishing north of Point Conception, no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. In addition, barbless circle hooks are required when fishing with bait by any means other than trolling.

For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during April, please visit the Ocean Salmon Web Page or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline (707) 576-3429.

Continuation of the season: Three alternatives are being considered by the PFMC and the Commission for recreational ocean salmon seasons in effect on or after May 1, including the ocean waters north of Horse Mountain. The range of alternatives north of Horse Mountain are from various dates in May through at least Labor Day weekend. The season south of Horse Mountain will extend through various dates in either October or November. For ocean areas south of Point Arena, alternatives include higher minimum size limits, mid-week closures, or short period closures during the summer months to avoid impacting endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook.

The alternatives can be found at

Final 2013 ocean salmon regulations will be decided next week by the PFMC (April 6-11) and the week following by the Commission (April 17,) and will be published in the CDFW 2013 supplemental fishing regulations booklet available in May at

Lake Isabella Derby approaching, still time to enter West’s biggest trout derby

By Rex Emerson

LAKE ISABELLA – With the lure of over $250,000 in prizes, the 24th Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby, sponsored by Berkley & Shakespeare, is shaping up to be one of the best ever. Don’t miss your chance at the big money April 20, 21, and 22.

The water level being lower than normal could very likely provide anglers with much better odds, with the same amount of tagged fish in a smaller pool, plus added shoreline that normally would not be available. There is plenty of water in the lake, though, and due to the winter run off the level is rising daily.

Entrants in the 2013 Isabella Derby can walk away with big cash prizes. Derby runs April 20-22.

The derby trout, (approximately 3,000 pounds/12,000 fish) were provided last December by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), through a memorandum of understanding, (that the committee be responsible for rearing, feeding and planting.) By derby planting time, those fish weigh an average of 1.5 pounds  The trout are fed three times daily by members of the Kern Valley Fish & Game Habitat Club and other dedicated community volunteers.

During the process, the DFW assist with the overseeing of the raising of these fish; they frequently weigh the fish, provide fish rearing expertise and pathology services in case of disease outbreaks or other problems associated with the trout in the derby net pens.

“We want our participants to have the most enjoyable fishing experience possible,” says derby chairman Fred Roach.

Sponsors & cash rewards: The number of “major” sponsors this year is nine, with each sponsoring a $10,000 tagged trout. In addition, the Kern River Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a trout worth $20,000!  Adding even more to the anticipation, if the $20,000 Chamber of Commerce fish is caught while the lucky angler is wearing an “official” 2013 Isabella Lake Fishing Derby T-shirt or hoodie, the prize will be doubled to $40,000.00.  This year, the official derby apparel will be sold, while quantities last, by on-line order up until April 10 or at derby headquarters during the event. The other 990 fish are worth between $50 and $1,000.

This is the third year Berkley will be involved and second year for  Shakespeare.  Bob Hoose, field marketing manager for Shakespeare, has arranged to provide over $2,500 in fishing equipment for this year’s raffle, guaranteed to be some nice gear as well as give away gear at check-in.

Both Berkley and Shakespeare will be on hand with booths to display products as well as teach angling technics.  Berkley will also be displaying some of their new baits for the 2013.

Additional prizes: For the third year derby organizers will be offering a chance to win a fantastic fishing boat. This year’s boat is a Lowe GS 202 Suncruiser Pontoon with trailer and Mercury 4-strke 25HP outboard. This entire package, supplied by Galey’s Marine Supply in Bakersfield, CA, is worth close to $20,345. The boat will be on display at the California Central Valley Sportsman’s Boat, RV and Outdoor Show on April, 5, 6 and 7, 2013, at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield, CA., and of course at derby headquarters during the derby. The boat drawing ticket prices are $20 for one and $100 for six.

The Longest Trout Contest is back again this year, with first place prize netting the entrant $1,000 for the longest trout caught.  There are prizes of $500 for the second longest, $250 for the third longest and $200 for the fourth longest trout caught during the three day event. The trout does not have to be tagged, however the winner must be a registered entrant in the event.

Entry/information: Applications for the derby are now available at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce office, several local merchants in the Kern River Valley, as well as in Bakersfield. You can also enter the event and get additional information online at

The final date and time to register is 7 a.m. on Saturday April 20, 2013. Derby ends on Monday April 22, 2013 at 6 p.m.

Quick hitter report: Here’s what’s biting south of the border …

By Joel Shangle

Dorado are among the many species on a furious bite now out of various Mexican ports. (Photo courtesy Red Rum Sportfishing)

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – It might be a slightly dreary time in the northern fringes of the Golden State, but the sun is shining and the fish are biting in waters to the south. South of the border, that is.

Here are a handful of fresh reports from some of our friends scattered throughout Mexico:

CABO SAN LUCAS: It’s a wildly mixed bag of wahoo, dorado and yellowfin tuna for the men and women fishing with the Red Rum fleet, with a healthy dose of crevalle, amberjack and various other species. Check out the Red Rum reports page.

LA PAZ: When longtime La Paz vet Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunters International calls the yellowtail fishing “crazy good”, you know it’s time to start booking reservations for La Paz and Las Arenas. Check out Roldan’s reports page for more info.

MAZATLAN: It’s the traditional time when striped marlin are the glamour species out of Mazatlan, but waters here have been consistently higher than normal. Best bite is about 18 miles out. Check out the Worldwide Fishing reports link for updates.

PUERTO VALLARTA: Striped marlin, sailfish and tuna on the outside, a mix of roosterfish, sails and yellowtail in the bay, according to Capt. Pete at Vallarta Fishing. Check out the Travel Vallarta fishing report for more info.

‘New water’ benefits Santa Ana River Lakes trout anglers

By Joel Shangle

Monster trout like this have been regularly stocked since the November opener at Santa Ana River Lakes. (Photo courtesy

ANAHEIM–It might sound like an oxymoron to describe the water conditions at a stocked lake system just off the Riverside Freeway in Anaheim as “natural,” but you could get away with it in the case of Santa Ana River Lakes. Check that. Make that the “newly improved” Santa Ana River Lakes.

To the veteran SARL trout angler – and there are thousands spread throughout the L.A. metro area – last summer’s shutdown of the three-lake, pay-to-play lake system on La Palma Boulevard probably seemed like business as usual. All of SARL’s business (and stocked fish) was transferred to neighboring Anaheim Lakes for the season and the “under construction” signs came out.

Nothing new, this.

“We’ve had to move out every three or four years in the past to replenish the underground aquifer,” says SARL owner Craig Elliott. “The silt would back up and plug up the drainage, so we’d have to go in and ‘break the crust’ and scrape the lake bottom to clear it all out. It wasn’t a big, new deal that we closed up for the summer and moved everything over to Anaheim Lakes because we’ve done it before.”

Ah, but this summer closing was different. Not only was the goop scooped off the bottom of all three lakes (Big, Small and Catfish), but a new drainage/water-movement system was installed. That new series of pipelines will now transfer “settling water” near the bottom out of the lake, which replenishes the entire system and makes the habitat much more friendly to SARL’s stocked trout.

“The neat thing about it this construction work they did and the re-channeling of flow through these huge, huge pipes at bottom of the lakes has completely changed the flow of the water and made the fishing at Santa Ana River Lakes phenomenal,” Elliott says. “Unlike in the past, where the only water that flowed out of the lake was up near the surface, now the first water purge out is the stuff at the bottom. The fresh water flows in, it sinks to the bottom, and then it’s automatically purged. That old stagnant water was where the fish weren’t. This fishery is now replenished on a constant basis.”

The improvements to the fishery were apparent immediately when SARL reopened in early November.

“Santa Ana had possibly the best opener ever,” Elliott says matter-of-factly. “Lots of big, beautiful fish and plenty of action for almost everybody.”


SARL's new drainage system will translate into better conditions for the fish, and better action throughout the lake for local anglers. (Photo courtesy

Ridding the lake of ‘hot spots’: In previous years, a handful of locations (Sandy Beach, etc.) would inevitably produce the majority of the action at SARL because those areas held the most trout-friendly, oxygenated water. The improved movement of water through the new 8-foot drainage pipes virtually eliminates those hot spots and spreads the bite over more of the system.

“Fish were always looking for the best water, and they’d almost always search out these hot spots and just stay there,” Elliott says. “With overall better water, it changes everything. Those three or four hot spots are still good places to fish, but there are so many other areas that you’ll find fish in now.”

Back to the old school: Back in the heat of the “Trout Wars” days, metro L.A.’s handful of pay-to-play trout spots would all take pride in sheer poundage, and would publish stocking numbers as a means to attract anglers to their location. Elliott has peeled away from the Trout Wars mentality and now says simply: “People catch more big trout out of our lakes than the entire state of California. We’re still stocking a lot of big fish, but along with that we’re putting a lot of catchable size fish in, too. You still have the quantity to catch limits, and, man, jackpot fish over 10 pounds, up to 20 and maybe even larger. The biggest so far was around 18, and we’ve had a lot of 13- to 17-pounders.”

The bottom line is that there’s plenty of trout and catfish biomass to go around.

“We’re probably the largest buyer of trout and catfish in the nation,” Elliott says. “For both the quantity and size of trout, nobody stocks as much, anywhere.”

The family’s fish lineup: SARL and its sister lakes, Corona Lake and Anaheim Lake, are stocked with fish from Mount Lassen Trout Farm. Mount Lassen fish wizard Phil Mackey’s “Sierra ’Bows”, which were developed specifically for SARL, are raised in earthen ponds near Payne Creek, in rural Lassen County, which makes them about as close to a natural trout as possible.

“There are no concrete runways there – they’re raised where the bears could come scoop them up,” Elliott says of the Mount Lassen facilities. “These are farm ponds out in the pine trees and snow. That’s why they have such beautiful fins and tails. They’re absolutely gorgeous fish with pink meat.”

Corona Lake also stocks Mount Lassen’s “Lightning Trout,” which are a cross-bred strain with a recessive color gene. The fish, which are stocked in limited supply whenever they’re available, are orange-skinned with a bright crimson stripe down the side, and blood-red meat.

Latest from the long range grounds: Royal Polaris scores seven cows, good times for Interpid, Excel

Filed by Bill Roecker –

SAN DIEGO – Here’s the latest from the San Diego long range fleet:

Getting the job done aboard the Royal Star, long-range veteran Art Nolen with a nice yellowtail. (Photo courtesy Royal Star)

Five Over Off The Mainland: “Our day started out similar to yesterday with a little bit of action on smaller grade tuna up to 50 pounds,” recalled Excel skipper Justin Fleck January 27. “We decided to move on from that area in search of bigger fish. Late in the day there were a few bird schools around with some good grade tuna crashing underneath. We picked off ten fish from 140 to 250 pounds, with five cows. Phillip Bruce was first to hook up with his biggest tuna ever at 225 pounds. Next was Max Dallorso with a 237. Then Nonon Alvarez got a 209. David Christopher one at 210. And the final cow was caught by Scott McCall; a chunky 251. Overall I’d have to say this is tough fishing but there is definitely a chance for a trophy here.”

“Good Times!”: Intrepid’s entry for January 27 reads, “Another good day of fishing here, as we boated another 51 fish today. We had one to three going almost the whole day with the exception of a lunchtime lull. There were 18 more nice Wahoo in the mix as well. Chef Mark Pariano fixed up some fresh Ahi Sushi for an afternoon snack, then backed it up with an incredible Wahoo dinner! We have three more days down here in the far reaches before we head up the line. We’ll see what the next couple of days bring before we make a move.”

All Nice: Red Rooster got a late report in January 28 that said, “26 tuna! All nice size fish! 2 fish over 200lbs, the majority of fish being 90 to 190pounds! The weather was absolutely fantastic. We are out here at the (Hurricane) Bank, we will spend about half the day here, then go out to the island, and give that a go.”

Seven-Cow Day: Frank LoPreste spoke with his crew aboard Royal Polaris about fishing January 26.

“The Jerry Brown 18-day, 18-passenger group continues to have outstanding fishing: 23 yellowfin tuna were put aboard yesterday, with many 100 to 130-pounders released. There were seven fish over 200 pounds: Joe Amagrande 231, Jim Nailen 227, Robert De Loach 215, Joe Cruz 219, Jim Tallerico 215, Richard Keely 233, Dan Gaudy 203. The center hold is absolutely packed and today they will start on R.S.W. fish. On all Jerry Brown spectra trips there are a multitude of cash prizes that the group can receive throughout the trip plus many, many other gifts. We are quite privileged to have Line One Spectra as a sponsor.”

Premium Scratch: “Steady scratching on premium quality today in fine working conditions,” wrote Royal Star skipper Tim Ekstrom January 26, “a welcome change enjoyed by all. Fishing conditions themselves were not so easy, and incredibly unpredictable, but it did not seem to matter much to the only ones in that equation who count, the tuna. Satisfied with the pace and quality we forge into day five with a building sense of satisfaction, and relief. If this fishing holds we’ll be in fantastic shape sooner than later. Photo for the day features Royal Star veteran Art Nolen, who matched his personal best with this stocky 240-pounder landed mid-morning on the chunk.”

Bundle up for limits of trout this month at Topaz Lake

Topaz Lake’s trout season opened Jan. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. And like Lake Tahoe to the north, since Topaz straddles the border, California anglers won’t have to wait until the traditional late April trout opener to catch Topaz’s nice supply of rainbows.

Just dress warm for the occasion.

By Chris Cocoles

TOPAZ LAKE – There’s really no other way to put it: It’s not warm and toasty at Topaz Lake this time of year. The fish, though, don’t seem to mind.

“Sometimes it’s just miserable out there (in January),” says Liz Weirauch of The Angler’s Edge in Gardnerville, Nev. (775-782-4734; “You’ll go out there, set your rods up and run back to your car and watch. But they put tens of thousands of fish in Topaz just as soon as it closes in October. They stock the crap out of that lake with everything from fingerlings all the way up.”

Quality fish like these on display at Topaz Lodge are part of the attraction of Topaz Lake in the dead of winter.

Weirauch wasn’t sure the last time California Department of Fish and Game made a plant at Topaz, but the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s stocking more than compensates. Just before the New Year’s opener, Topaz also received a stocking of Mount Whitney Strain rainbow trout from Jim O’Banion’s trout farm in Wellington, Nev.

“They are gorgeous fish, bright sides and heavy shoulders that just fight like a son-of-a-gun,” Weirauch says of the Mount Whitney trout.

The Angler’s Edge specializes in fly fishing, Weirauch said fly anglers usually doesn’t make appearances at Topaz until April or so, partly for the cold weather.

Bait fishing can be very effective from the shore here. Simply casting a weight with an inflated worm or with a marshmallow attached to the hook about 6 inches above so it stays off the bottom works well if you don’t have a boat to troll with.

But fly anglers when they do go out tend to use float tubes at the south end of the lake. Purple buggers and midges are a popular choice. Weirauch also said anglers are not permitted on the California side of the West Walker River diversion canal that feeds into the lake. But the outlet canal on the Nevada side is open all year-around. Both California and Nevada fishing licenses will work on Topaz.

Topaz Lodge (; 800-962-0732) will host the lake’s annual fishing derby from Jan. 1 to April 14.