Monday, December 31, 2012

Diane Schmitt - December 9,1932 - December 30, 2012

I know that I am delinquent on my hunting and fishing reports, but I must pause to pay a little tribute


My Mom introduced me to fishing and is as much responsible for instilling my love for this fantastic pastime for myself and my children as anyone or anything. Her gentle, intelligent spirit was often so much on display on those many occasions that we enjoyed relaxed conversation about things that really mattered and cast our lines in the quiet beauty of a day on the water.

Mom finally got spooled today after a somewhat brutal battle with pancreatitis. Hers was a life that was otherwise a model of active good health and service to her community; the Ocean Institute of Dana Point; St. Edward's Church, and all of the children and grandchildren to whom she demonstrated such love and virtue. She made innumerable friends and always welcomed strangers and loved ones alike with consistent acts of kindness.

Time is the stream that we all go fishing in and Diane had 80 good years - or, as my wife Wendy put it - 80 years of being good. She went out surrounded by her family and we have little doubt that she knew how much all would miss her good company and her constant example of true Christianity. We will always remember sharing nature and the many opportunities to experience the particular joy that made fishing with Mom such a perpetual series of occasions for hope, as well as serenity - it is the lure of that which is elusive, yet attainable. She is resting now on calm waters and watching over us.

These are the Days.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Secret Lobster Report October 2012

     Went Lobster fishing for a weekend at  an undisclosed time, to a pair of uncharted islands in search of large marine insects,  The plan was to go to an ultra-secret spot at an island we'll just call Cantina  We intended to fish for bugs all night and then leave at dawn the next day for another island I'll nickname Roberto Clemente, because he is my favorite baseball player of all time. 

      Our secretive Skipper (let's just say he wouldn't be a starter in the NBA)  took us to a spot that had been producing a late night crawl.  The sky was clear and swimming with stars when we got to this enchanted isle after a pretty bumpy ride across the San Pablo Channel.  I (call me Ishmael) was third in command behind our experienced big game hunting Dentist (we'll just call him the Extractor).

     We tried to get live squid from the San Pedro and Long Beach guys, but everyone was fishing them commercial style because they were getting $700 per ton for the dead ones and they can keep ten times as many dead as alive.  Therefore, no one was selling to the few fishermen with low enough self-esteem to take it in the face for that nocturnal channel crossing.  We got a scoop of trout sized sardines instead.

      After we arrived we put out our hoops in 15 to 35 meters of water, baited with Laguna Tuna and Rushdie heads.  We then commenced to hammering our way through seemingly unlimited supplies of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mountain Dew and extra hot Beef jerky.  The first few pulls were pretty sparse, with lots of ruby red crabs that tried to pinch us as we released them.  We got about 8 legals in the first 40 pulls, as well as twice that many shorts (and not by much).  Things started to heat up around midnight, as we worked out way into the second day of our three day bug hunt (multi day permit).

      We fished until about 4 am when we pulled into a mooring at Valhalla Cove, where we enjoyed a pleasant nap for about 45 minutes before going ashore for the Extractor to deliver a huge dose of internal emancipation at the facilities next to the green pier.  We also got some much needed coffee for the ride  over to Roberto Clemente Island.

     The ride proved to be pretty rough for a dawn patrol crossing, and we were grateful to get to the shelter of North by Northwest Harbor.  We kept chasing bird schools diving on breaking fish with our trophy sardines and surface irons, but all we caught was more lobster bait.  We tucked in for  some big calicos and sheephead along the front side.  It was our intention to fish south toward triangle cove, where we would lobster fish all night at this pristine location.  While working our way down, we noticed thousands of commercial traps, which could prove to be a serious hazard for working a string of rave lighted hoop buoys in the fatigued darkness. 

       When we got to the Sphynx, we took a look around the corner and saw nothing but deadly buoys, so we made the hard decision to run 60 miles back to the front side of Cantina, where we set up at our previous spot about 4 pm. We set out our hoops before dark, but were soon joined by the always oblivious divers who weaved their boats through our well lit buoy line, dispensing humans with flashlights and bags.  One of the boats had no lights, but that did not prevent him from parking his boat in the middle of our string (probably because it was a source of light) while his divers worked around our hoops.  We had several meager pulls - again with the ruby red crabs and a few shorts, punctuated by occasions for hope in the form of a legal or two. 

    We were getting pretty punchy and at one point the Extractor managed to board the drifting  dive masters as they bobbed by us.  He flung himself onto their deck and rolled inside their cabin to release a few KFC -powered farts that sounded like Klaxons.  Their crew was terrified and climbed, with their eyes watering, out onto the foredeck to escape his presence, as well as his presentation. He jumped back onto our boat after telling them they were free to go back to the mainland if they hurried. 

       When the derelict dive boat finally left before midnight, things started to happen for us.  The bugs crawled even later this time, while we consumed a six and a half foot sandwich that the Extractor purchased from a war surplus store for $2.75.  It was like the loaves and fishes all over again. 

     We rolled into San Pedro just before dawn and collapsed into a sleep that lasted a couple of hours - long enough to down a couple of red bulls and get the boat cleaned up.  We caught 38 legal bugs for 3 dudes, so it was close to limit fishing once again on Secret Skippers boat.

      I happened to be staying with my family of seven at the local Residence Inn in Dana Point, due to huge flood created by an unfortunately large species of feces left in a running commode by one of our sleep -over surfing house guests.  Because of that lack of housing, I said I would bring this bounty of the sea to my Mom and Dad's house for a big family feast.  I stopped off at the market to buy some steaks, where I perceived the discomfort of others at the fishy cache' eminating from my clothing.  I wiped my self down repeatedly with those sanitary moist towelettes that all of the stores have at the door and got out of there as quick as I could, with the intention of getting in a shower and sneaking a quick nap at our under construction home before heading over to extended Familyville. 

      We were in the middle of a substantial heat wave and I had been glad for the free air-conditioning at the Residence Inn (A great place to stay, by the way).  When I activated the garage door to our house, I was blown down by the incredible stench of our outside refrigerator, which was surrounded by all of our belongings in our garage.  Our house was in the custody of our contractors and the breaker for the garage got tripped by power tools.  The freezer, containing tuna, squid and salmon, was now in the bloom of a week long cooking  contest.  The warm liquifaction that I got to clean up made the lobster bait scent I was wearing seem like Chanel.  I got it all cleaned up and after a week of several bleachings, scrapings and gallons of high-powered cleaner, I finally got that fridge (for which I had just purchased an extended warranty) back into good enough condition for our contractor to load it into his truck and take it to the dump.

       We are back in our house now, though it is not done.  We have all new toilets, as befits our station in life.  We enjoyed a fabulous surf and turf dinner with all of the family, my folks and my sister Mary Lou, thanks to the efforts of Secret Skipper and the Extractor, so it worked out.  I even used my Iphone's camera feature to snap what I thought was a photo of my bride and two youngest posing with the bugs before i slaughtered them (the lobsters).  You can see from the attachment that I really know what I am doing when it comes to devices like I-phones.

    Well, next week I am off to Colorado to try and shoot something majestic and tasty, so wish me luck, or don't, if you give a shit about the beauty of nature.

Enjoy your pumpkin, because after all...

These are the Days

Halloween surf fishing report

I took Tommy, my 7 year old (David declined) down to go surf fishing yesterday morning and it was a very glorious day at Salt Creek Beach.  The crowds were thin enough so that we could get a late start at 8:30  and get to productive water ahead of most beach goers.  The lack of waves also contributed to getting a pretty swimmer-free zone with which to work.  The water was surprisingly clear, the incoming tide was just right, the wind was slightly offshore and the waves/seaweed were not a factor (often the kelp blowing back and forth in the surf makes it unfishable).

Tommy is getting pretty independent at surf fishing and can cast and retrieve, as well as catch sand crabs for bait as he fishes.    Yesterday, he did not need to stay right  next to me me as we worked back and forth along a stretch of beach.  He caught several large perch that he only needed help releasing.   At the beginning of summer Tommy could not cast and would only reel in if someone handed him a hooked up rod.  

                  It was a very remarkable day to actually get to see fish in the water.  Tommy was able to spot fish cruising the shallows and identify many of them.  We saw leopard sharks, corbina, perch and various rays.  Tommy claimed he saw a white seabass that was bigger than he was (I have never seen that, but they do cruise the beach and can get absolutely huge).  We saw the most corbina I have ever seen in one morning.  They come into water that is less than 6 inches deep and sometimes get their backs out of the water as they  coast in on the foam to feed on sand crabs before flashing out underneath incoming waves.

                  Anyway, we were catching and releasing many pretty good fish for little crowds that stopped to watch us reel in.  Folks are usually surprised when you catch fish right off the beach like that.  I handed off to Tommy what I thought was a big corbina (the prized surf fish above all others), but it turned out to be a shovel nosed shark that screamed off line and took him all over the place before we beached it for the crowd and heaved it back into the sea.

I managed to sight cast ahead of the largest corbina we saw that day (very line shy fish) and saw him disappear toward the cast, after which I got bit and ended up landing one of the biggest ones I have ever caught in my life.  It took close to ten minutes to bring it in as it made several runs and then would stop and frame itself in the lens of a forming wave, which made it look really big. I would like to think he was the one I was casting to.  They are really good to eat, although I have not kept one in twenty years. It was two feet long and we released it to the approval of onlookers. If our kitchen had been put back together, I might have brought it home.

             I did not bring my camera, as we were in the surf at times.  This is the main type of fishing we have done this year and we have had some real good days (as well as days when conditions made it impossible) but this is probably the best conditions we have fished in all year.  We left them biting in the sunshine at noon.

Happy Halloween.  We are still not sure what we will be.  Something with swords, I’ll bet.

These are the Days

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grapes of Wrath Family Vacation

I just got back from my Grapes of Wrath family road trip vacation.  2280 miles through the northern California forests with my bride and five kids in our  165,000 mile Ford Expedition.  That car ran like a champ with a full roof rack and hitch hauler. Visited friends, watched forest fires, went river rafting, wakeboarding, shooting, fishing, hiking…. It was hysterically fun, even when we were arguing on the sometimes long legs of our journey between stops.  We reinforced something we always knew about each other, which is that our family will fight about ANYTHING.
"Look, a squirrel!"
That's not a squirrel.  That's a chipmunk."
There is no such thing as a Chipmunk in California.  The ranger told us that."
"Yeah, those are called California ground squirrels."
"No they're not."
"Yes they are.  I shot two of them with my pellet gun at our last stop in Truckee."
"You asshole.  Why would you shoot a chipmunk?  How does shooting one make you in charge of what I call them?"
I didn't shoot a chipmunk.  I shot a California ground squirrel.  Why are you so stupid?""
"Hey, shut up!"
"No. You shut up."
"Mom!  Isaac said he shot a Chipmunk"
"Isaac, you did not shoot a chipmunk, did you?"
"They are ground squirrels…  and No, I did not shoot any.  I just said that cuz Sarah is bugging me."
"Hey, FUCK  YOU Isaac."
"No, Fuck YOU!"
"Get your shitty pillow off of me."
" Don't kick me. Your feet smell.  You should see a doctor about that."
"Mommy, the big kids are using bad words."

"Am I going to have to stop this car?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lobster report for January 16, 2010


     Larry, Dennis and I went to Catalina on Larry’s new Parker 28 on Saturday afternoon to try and hoop up some lobster before the storm came in.  It was a smooth ride out and we were at the island by the low tide at 4:22 pm.  We baited Promar Ambush, Eclipse, and Danielson nets and had them in for a soak by 5 pm before a 5:22 sunset on a moonless evening.  The standard 100-foot lines were all set in 75 to 90 feet and we had three long lines down between 100 and 150.  Water temperature was 59.8, the wind waves were down to nothing, and air temperature was warmer than we expected.
     We lost a weighted, small-float, deep-rigged Ambush to a combination of seal joyriding or tidal movement right off the bat. We spent some time in a futile  effort to snag the gear with a jig that broke off when we momentarily had it close to the boat in deep water beyond a steep shelf.  This adventure made for a long initial soak when we picked up the remaining set of nine after 7 pm.
     This was my first opportunity to use Larry’s auto-puller, which is the third generation of a design that Larry has been testing.  It is called the Bagram, after its inventor-builder.
    It consists of a pipe-framed arm which extends a suspended pulley through which you pull the line before feeding it around another shaft-mounted wheel and then looping back up to take in the line from the top of a powered fly-wheel.  The large sliding floats are rigged to leave slack in the counter-weighted tag end of the line.  By pulling the float back to the weighted end, you can feed that length of slack through the wheels before hitting the power switch.  This allows you to start the ascent without yanking around the mainline first and spooking the bugs.  At first, this notion about slack turned out to be more theoretical for me than intended, but I got better.  The swift tidal current defeated some of our program by pulling the float to the lead counterweights on the tag end of the line past the sliding float
      The heaviest movement of the tide hit about 6:30 pm, which was when it started actually getting dark.  We pulled 7 legals out of the first set as the tide began running hard.  We also pulled 30 shorts. Three of the hoops had 7 or more in them as they came over the side.  We sent the hoops right back down as soon as we got them emptied out, not realizing that the tide was now running much faster than when we had placed them at slack tide.
     We hit the set again when we noticed that several of the floats weren’t sailing correctly and seemed to be migrating.  Several of the hoops were not in contact with the bottom as the buoys drifted. The situation was compounded by seals grabbing the small float above the hoop.  They would drag the net out as they tried to get at the bait.  We had one bait cage get pulled off, but we had a half-size spare cage.  The upshot is that until we figured out the situation, we made a couple of sets that resulted in chasing down mostly empty nets during the big tide movement.
     Until high tide at 10:45 pm, we had a very slow four hours during which we pulled in one more legal and 20 more shorts.  Shortly after the high tide slack, we dropped a longer soaking set at 55 to 75 feet, with the two deep rigs in about 115 feet.  We started getting a few more to keep us stoked on making more drops until we made a couple of final sets that cashed in on a post midnight crawl.  We had 17 legals before we pulled up our last set after 2 am for two more.  We were too beat to hang out for any more sets and figured 19 was enough.  The size ranged from barely legal to four pounds.  We had six nice ones that all looked over three. We caught well over 50 shorts. There was no obvious advantage demonstrated in favor of  Eclipse, Ambush, or Danielson rigs on this trip.
     Larry’s twin 250 four strokers got us home in about 35 minutes on a calm and clear ride back to San Pedro.
     I got home at 5:30 am with six live lobsters (one short of a limit) in the ice chest.  I showered and fell into bed ten minutes later. When she woke me up at 7:30am, Wendy Jo suggested that I was a pussy for not toughing it out long enough to bag that seventh lobster, but we invited our neighbors over for surf and turf anyway.

     The kids always like to see the live ones, but Tommy and Davey grew concerned that we weren’t doing enough to protect their totally fearless G. I. Joes, who deployed onshore to bring guns and butter to these uncivilized invaders.

          Isaac gave them even more cause for alarm when he threatened to air drop a couple of the biggest roaches behind our lines.  The boys asked us to pull their guys.

              Fortunately, our brave fighting men were victorious.  They joined with us to celebrate their conquest and our consumption of the enemy.

       These are the days    

Catalina Halibut 2010

Fish Report for June 2010

     This report really starts with the last Saturday in May, when Kevin Sage and I took the Fish Finder out in the early morning to try and coax up some local white sea bass.  The weather forecast was for a 7 to 10 foot south swell and westerly winds building to 25 knots.  After we turned the corner to the west after loading up a scoop of really nice anchovies mixed with a few dines from Everingham’s in Dana, we found ourselves in offshore wind conditions that pushed us up toward Laguna. Big south sets rolled into the beach with the spray blowing back off the breakers as the surfers got stoked.  With the forecast for a big wind change, we decided to stay close and cheat toward the west, rather than heading down toward Cottons.
    We bounce-balled in 50 to 70 feet of 63 degree water outside the kelp at Dana Strand and Salt Creek Beaches for nada with squid and sardines. No one seemed to be doing any good and the current ran from stern to bow for the boats trying to anchor up.
     Eventually, the wind started to blow in the opposite direction and steadily gained force.  We were then able to anchor up with the stern into the kelp in about 50 feet of water in front of the Ritz.  We caught bass and mackerel deep in the kelp before I hung a legal halibut on a split-shotted anchovy on a wire hook tied into a 30 inch shot of 20 pound fluorocarbon over 30 pound spectra.  The fish went about 9 pounds and was a pleasant surprise on a pretty slow day. 
     We thought the tide might be turning for us when one of our whole squid on the bottom screamed line off the reel.  We had the perfect kelp-cutter rig and I felt like I was doing a great job of sawing it free, stalk by stalk, from where it had burrowed into the forest. As soon as I allowed myself to think that it might be the WSB we were targeting, or the mother of the halibut we had boated, it revealed itself as just a thirty-pound Batman that pulled like a tractor.  We gave it an honest effort past noon and got off the water as conditions deteriorated from the west.
    We all had halibut for dinner that night, as well as the following day, when the wind blew 30 out of the northwest and closed the ocean off to everybody.

     On Friday, June 4th, I joined the Sage brothers, Kim and Kevin, along with their buddy Ed Sidelinger in San Diego.  We took the Sages 36 foot Egg Harbor, Fiji Girl, to fish the Southwestern Yacht Club halibut tournament the following day.   We had great conditions, a beautiful tank full of big, seasoned sardines from Everingham Brothers and 64 degree water as we headed out to South Coronado Island.  We caught some junk that night in clear water that was most noticeable for the complete absence of current.  It was easy to hold straight up and down with ½ and ounce of lead, with a bounce ball rig behaving like an anchor.  When the current changed (slightly), Ed hooked and landed a nice 8-10 pound halibut on light gear and we thought the bite was on.  It wasn’t.  That was the only one we got.  We spent the rest of the morning drifting different beaches at the islands and middle grounds before slow-trolling some mackerel where the yellows had been popping up and sinking out below the birds.  We got one short bite and that was it.
      When we got in for the weigh-in, it became clear the real action was off Imperial Beach in 40 feet of dirty water where it mingled with a red tide at the river mouth.  The ticket was fishing big ‘dines and mackerel just off the bottom.  Many guys had several legal halibut. The winner weighed 18 pounds.  There were even a couple of brute yellowtail (32 and 34 pounds) that bit the halibut rigs.  That bite went on for over a week and may still be happening as I type this.

       On June 10, Isaac and I joined Larry Marks on board his 28 foot Parker, Legal Limit, to head out in big seas and strong winds to fish Catalina.  Prepared for the worst, we had a pretty uneventful channel crossing against a westerly wind and swell.  After picking up a sparse 50-piece scoop of live squid (despite a 20 buck tip) from the Carnage off Avalon, we set up around 6 pm at the Palisades in about 80 feet of water over some pretty good marks.  There were a couple of light boats and small private boaters to the east of us in the 64 degree water.  As the evening wore on, the area between the Vees to the east and a bit to the west of us filled in with arriving sea bass fishermen.  The current ran uphill, but not that hard.  There was a lot of bait in the water as the squid boats lit up the island.  We had no boats inside of us.  The bite did not happen for any one we were aware of as we fished multiple rods with short flouro top shots over Spectra tied off to white jigs, lead-heads, sliders and dropper loops.  Isaac was able to hit the hay, while Larry and I fished hard all night, getting only pecking perch, mackerel and a bat-ray that got us excited for a few moments before giving us some tangles with which to busy ourselves as the darkness dragged on.
     At 4 am, the wind, which had been blowing out of the west in a traditional way, changed abruptly and started blowing us to the west.  All of the boats swung completely around.  The wind was noticeably colder. At about 4:30 am, I got slammed on my newly wrapped 8 ½ foot Pacific Bay graphite stick while bouncing a white Christy 2, which I had sweetened with two squid. The fish came to the boat after a few head-shakes and short runs.  Larry laid a perfect head shot with the gaff as we got a nice halibut over the rail and into the fish box about a minute before it went Berzerko and tried to break out of its fiberglass mausoleum.  The noise woke Isaac up, and he joined us on the deck. We thought maybe the tide and current might fire up the bite, but as gray light gave way to daytime, more boats fired up their motors and decided to look elsewhere. We did too.
     We worked our way up west, fishing various spot where we thought we might scare up a yellowtail.  The southeast wind picked up and the current really did not get going.  We threw every kind of bait that we were able to make – big sardines, Spanish mackerel, greenback mackerel and squid, as well as jigs and slugs, but it was slow going.  We slid on a bird pile outside of West Cove and I got stopped on a deep cranked Salas 6x Jr. I fired toward breaking bait.  It turned out to be a horse mackerel.
            We finished up the day catching calico bass on the front side, with the most productive spot being near the Red 2 buoy at the Isthmus.  By the end of the day, we were all pretty tired.  I was also pretty sick of fishing spectra with such a short topshot of mono.
          The ride back was kind of sloppy/lumpy as the wind blew harder and crossed up with the west swell. We were back by 4 pm on a trip that lasted about 24 hours.  I did not get the impression that others had much better luck than we did on Saturday.

          Here is a picture of the halibut.  It taped out at 37 inches and weighed 20.7 pounds on Larry’s digital scale. The green water has produced halibut on each trip so far this season. When I got in, I heard that the bluefin and albacore are starting to bite down south, so I am looking forward to spooling more mono onto my reels and heading for blue water. 

These are the Days

Rat shoot

Well, there has not been much to report.  Tuna fishing was a major bust, other than one successful albacore trip in July followed by half a dozen high mileage trips to skunkville in the offshore waters off San Diego for the remainder of the season. I did not get out for the quail opener and I have not made it out for any pheasant shooting at any of the local clubs, much to the dismay of our pointer, Victor the Magnificent.  We have not made it out for lobster season and the word is that the scene is getting more aggressive than fun at our favorite spots anyway.
     On Sunday, October 24th, we returned from a visit to Wendy's folks in Long Beach to our rain soaked residence.  We had recently experienced signs of rat activity on the roof.  We had set traps and purchased those electronic devices designed to make the rats leave the wall spaces where they have been making noises adjacent to Lizzy's bedroom near the roof connection that seemed to be a point of access.
     When we went to the side yard to take out the trash cans for the Monday pick up, Isaac noticed a rat near the roof gutter on that side of the house.
      We quickly sprung into action.  I went upstairs to remove our trusty .22 pellet guns from their place of locked storage and silently pushed past the  neighbor cub scout  and his father who appeared at our front door to solicit funds at this very moment of invasion.  Perhaps our armed rudeness startled him, but we left Wendy to deal with them in a more civilized fashion.
       Isaac and I cocked and loaded our single shot pest control devices and lined up simultaneous shots when the rat poked his head out.  Both shots made one sound as we counted down to achieve a double hit.
     I climbed up a ladder to remove the first course of roof tile when we heard another one scuttling along a barge rafter to the edge metal below the tile.  He stuck his head out and we lined up another quick shot that ended his curiosity.  We got one more in a 15 minute killing spree.
     We all hate rats, but usually catch them in traps, which is gratifying, but not nearly so cool as taking them down in real time with the family tools of the trade.  The little boys (Tommy and Davey) were  impressed with our marksmanship, the girls were horrified, but grateful, and the cub scout learned a bit of suburban game craft that may come in handy against a common enemy.
      We have recently gone into an experimentation with a vegan lifestyle, so our victims were not treated in the usual culinary fashion we apply to creatures we shoot, but it was a great day just the same.

Here is shot straight out of Fred MacMurrays suburban dream.  Find your fun where you can, because

These are the days

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Four Winds pheasant 2008

Today I snuck Isaac out of school to go hunting while his mother and the
rest of the kids were in New York with the Pope.
       We hunted the Four Winds Pheasant Club in San Jacinto with our
trusty pointer, Victor.  It was Isaac's first hunting excursion and he did
really well.  We had the entire facility to ourselves.  We were greeted by
Lee and her husband Ruben, who gave us our field and essentially, the run of
the whole club.  There was no wind and it got hot early.  The grass was
pretty high and there were foxtails in many of the fields, which made it
hard on our metropolitan dog, so we stuck with the greenest field closest to
the shack. The shack is virtually obscured by swarms of flies the size of
Milk Duds.
       Early into the hunt, Victor pointed on several birds that flushed so
perfectly that we had to let them get away, though our guns were blazing at
the empty spots adjacent to the fleeing creatures. One of the pheasants that
escaped our warning shots was snagged by a huge red-tailed hawk that left us
the head of that rooster, just to show us who the real hunters were.
       We started to settle down and hit our targets (mostly chukar).
Victor got pretty winded and was gagging on brush after a few passes through
the field, even though we kept him watered down.  After a while, we put him
in the shade with some cool water and started exploring adjacent fields that
burped out a few more stray birds onto the gravel road between the fields,
where we spotted them and gave chase.  Isaac did a good job of spotting
birds and made some excellent shots with his 20 gauge auto. Being less of a
sportsman, I went with the double 12 gauge Weatherby, which I had the good
sense to modify by welding on a bayonet lug.  I found I was more accurate at
that range.  Once they are impaled on the end of the blade, you really can't
miss them when you pull the trigger.

   Ruben and Lee were very patient with us hanging around the fields to
pick off stragglers. They did a great job of cleaning our birds, as our
exhausted dog watched their satellite TV with an ice bag on his head and
sucked on a large tropical cocktail. While our hosts and dog were so
occupied, Isaac and I uploaded slugs and snuck over the barbed wire to try
and shoot one of the dairy cows from the next ranch over so we could have a
mixed grill.  The dairy farmer got pissed, even though I showed him the cow
stamp on the back of my hunting license.  The guy was a real grouch about
it, so we decided to let him keep his damned cow.  Like he doesn't already
have enough.  I am not sure we could have got it onto the roof rack anyway,
because we were pretty tired from the dogless chasing of dangerous birds.
When we got home, Victor got a nice scented bath and massage.  He is now
reclining on his dog bed with an FDR style cigarette holder as I type this
 Tomorrow evening, we are forcing our neighbors to come over to eat some of
the jumbo squid and tunas we have previously slain, along with smoked
chuckar and roasted pheasant now marinating in anticipation of their own
invitation to this feed.
       We only feed our neighbors things that we kill, which is why that
cow would have really balanced the meal.  Better than that
missing-cat-casserole we had to whip up for the neighbors when the fish
didn't bite before the last barbecue.  I didn't have the heart to tell them
just to take down the sign taped to the gate, offering that reward, with no
questions asked.  They did get some of it back, along with the sherbet we
fed them after the meal to cleanse their palates.  Good times.
These are the days.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

pheasant and chupacabra 2007

Bob Carlson, his son John and their dog Cole joined my son Isaac, our dog Victor and I on a pheasant hunting trip to the Four Winds Pheasant Club in San Jacinto to kick off this years upland bird club season.
     The weather was seasonally appropriate - with temperatures just below freezing to start off the sunrise, followed by the beginning of a Santa Ana wind that brought clear skies and a warming breeze by mid-day.
      It was Cole's first hunting excursion.  He is a tall, one year old black lab pup that displayed all of the youthful enthusiasm and easy distraction one expects from a learning dog.  He followed Victor around as Victor did a good job of tracking, stalking and holding point on lively birds that didn't want to stay put.  Victor's stamina was noticeably better than last year, when he was benched as a result of inhaling a foxtail early into the hunt. This time, we took frequent breaks so that he could recharge his nose and his enthusiasm.
      We also fared better as shooters on this occasion.  We were able to get all 12 birds that flushed for us, which was a significant improvement over the birds that escaped our hail of gunfire on the last hunt we were on.

      This was Isaacs second time shooting at live targets and he is getting much steadier.  He is now over 100 pounds and is long enough to handle the full size Berretta 12 gauge auto I brought our for him to try.  He mostly stuck with his 20 gauge Remington auto in the field, since it is a really quick swing.
      After we got our birds, we were able to relax and shoot some trap
with the club's clay thrower while our charming hostess Melanie cleaned our birds. She did a great job and was as friendly and helpful as ever, stopping in to check on us while we took tailgate breaks back at the truck in between walks.
      When we got home, we gave Victor and our car a much needed bath, before I set into a frantic "iron chef" cooking assault to prepare the six pheasant we took home for the neighbors and my folks.  I prepared the birds a few different ways. I even got my mom, who professes to hate the idea of hunting, to wolf down a few platefuls and then take home some more in a foil doggy pouch.

      We were too tired to clean the guns, which I left out so the three year old boys would have something with which to distract themselves while the adults enjoyed after-dinner beverages in the warm Santa Ana night.  This turned out to be fortuitous, because the hill behind our house began to give off some eerie noises.  The little boys got quite scared, because they recognized the sounds as the peculiar yip of coyotes, which they fear as a neighborhood animal that is perfectly willing to eat them.
      They began crying for me to get the guns out of the cases and shoot the coyotes.  We were knocking back our fifth bottle of excellent cabernet, but the boys' pleas were so urgent that I found it hard to resist, especially when they dragged my double Weatherby out to the table on the porch where all of the adults were gathered around our portable Mexican fireplace.  It was so cute - it took both of them to carry it out to us.
      Although I was beat, I didn't want to let the young ones down.  Even Wendy wanted me to do something about those annoying predators, although they have done some good in terms of harvesting our neighbors small and less desirable pets.
      I went back to the garage, where I have a commercial freezer.  I took out a couple of vacuum sealed freeze-dried dead monkeys from the supply that we always keep around to bait predators.  They are an excellent universal bait – equally effective on land and sea - especially the ones we marinate in garlic cheese sauce.  Everyone knows that dogs love cheese, so cheese flavored monkeys are
a natural.
       I hydrated and thawed them out a bit over the chimney of our portable fireplace, which seemed to turn off some of the wives who previously had been acting kind of frisky, since "Desperate Housewives" was on later that evening. I hopped the fence and hung
the primates by their tails (these were new world monkeys) from a wooden cross bar we have mounted about 40 yards up the slope past our back fence.
      I duct-taped a flashlight to the gun barrels and waited, with my two fascinated three year-olds laying in the dirt by my side, whispering their inquiries so as not to spoil our chances amidst the darkness of this ambush.
      The coyotes came skulking in, but then scattered before they were in range. We heard a low, moaning sound and saw a much bigger shadow heading at a peculiar gait toward the bait monkeys.
      I hit the flashlight, even though it was out of effective range.  Just as I did so, a frightened Chupacabra let out a weird bark and retreated from his advance on the bait.
      I turned to scream back down to our group to get them to look up at the creature I had momentarily frozen in the lights.  It had dark, coarse fur and looked like a large, ugly dog with bad teeth.
No one was on the patio.  One of the women shouted through the screen door that "Desperate Housewives" had started and I should come down and watch.  I looked back up the slope and the creature was gone.
      There was nothing to do except come back down the hill with the little ones, who were chattering about the strange creature they had just seen.  They wanted to look it up in their animal picture book.
      I left the monkeys on the post, since once you rehydrate and thaw them out, they really won’t last.
      I sat down and watched the rest of the show as the boys went to bed.  We were the only ones that saw the creature.  It's good to know that there are still a few of them around. It's probably just as
well that we didn't get a shot off.

These are the days.

mammoth area report for 2007

        My 13 year old son Isaac, 16 year old Ryan Downs and I went
fly-fishing on Hot Creek on Thursday.  It was the first time for the boys
and everyone caught quality fish - browns and rainbows - on small size 20
nymphs split-shotted below an indicator. Hot creek is strictly catch and
release on flies with barbless hooks, which enhances the experience and the
quality of the fish, who are wary of the offerings of the fly fishermen who
constantly ply this water. We were in the canyon below the ranch. The creek
was running great, but the weeds were starting to get a bit thick.  I caught
a 16 inch brown, along with smaller browns and rainbows. All of the fish we
caught were good sized, with most around 12 inches or so and no real dinks.
Isaac ended the day by catching a nice brown all on his own, without the
assistance/direction of our guide, Josh Hueron.  Josh was very knowledgeable
and dedicated, even if he was a bit of a nag about technique. It was a
beginning lesson and he wanted us to appreciate everything at whatever
moment a particular thing needed appreciating. He put us on fish and
dispensed with a lot of lawn-casting practice, so we could maximize our
time.  We went straight to the creek and he taught the boys on the go. He
seemed a little bummed that the fish were not biting as aggressively as they
had been earlier in the week, but we were having a great time, even if we
were a little clumsy. Josh's expertise and help made it a great experience
for all of us and the boys learned more than I could have taught them in
between untying snarls and retying flies (probably the wrong ones). I would
always recommend getting a guide for fly-fishing, especially on the first
day of a multi-day trip. After we finished, we headed off to Grumps for
giant burgers and refreshments.

       Day two - we went to Lake Mary and rented the fanciest pontoon boat
that the Lake Mary Marina had to offer - $225 for four hours. Isaac and I
had reserved it the previous day from the concession when we scouted the
scene at the basin lakes.  I tried to reserve it for the whole day, but no
I tried to get a deal on renting two pontoon boats over the course of a day,
but had to pay for two separate half day rates.  I couldn't even get them to
throw in a free rental net, which turned out to be just as small as my
stream net anyway.  I bought some lures and bait from the shop and observed
that no one else was getting any kind of deal from these somewhat
wieneresque guys who worked at the marina.

   We had ten people, so the seating room on the expensive boat was
appreciated.  We trolled needlefish and kokanee lures 4 to 5 colors down to
catch a lot of planter sized rainbows. I brought my portable depth
finder/fish finder, which really made it easy to find the fish, most of
which were holding at 28 to 35 feet in anywhere from 30 to 60 feet of depth.
Several of the kids, including my twin three year olds, Tommy and Davie,
caught their first trout.

       We were off the lake by 11.  We went back to town and scarfed like
Wendy and Annie stayed back at Annie's massive house in Mammoth with the
napping little boys. I took the five older kids back for another more
standard pontoon boat that we had reserved for the 3:30 to 7:30 pm time
slot.  This one cost $165 for four hours and actually fished better than the
fancier one, which had a CD player, but less access to the rail in the

       At this point we knew where the fish were, but could not make bottom
there with the 30 foot anchor lines that boat had. The kids wanted to throw
the light rigs and bait fish. We used the depth finder to anchor up in 28
feet of water at a spot where the wind pushed us toward the drop off at the
end of the lake closest to the outlet.  We threw toward the deeper water
where we had metered many fish, but they  also swarmed beneath us in the
shallower water from time to time.  We creamed the trout on inflated night
crawlers on #10 hooks, tied to five feet of 2# test fluorocarbon below a
sliding water-filled bubble, with a swivel stop at the top of the leader.
This set-up casts well and sinks slowly through the water column and the
zone where the fish are feeding. We caught browns, brooks and rainbows and
released all that were not damaged.  We ended up keeping eight and releasing
many more. I got to practice my knot tying skills quite a bit on Friday.

       We left that spot and headed back with the trolling lines back out.
We picked up a few more on the troll, which was easier on the release
because we were mouth hooking the fish on lures with single hooks. We were
twenty-five minutes late bringing back the boat, as we ended up chasing down
a floater that we had released.  Isaac was able to revive it and the kids
all cheered as it eventually swam away from Isaac's resuscitation efforts.
After we got our deposit back and were loading our gear up in the parking
lot, the surly marina attendant (not the nicer guy who had been there all
day) yelled for me to come back down to the shop.  He allowed me to wait
while he took a phone call and then demanded another $75 from me for being
late as he waited for one more boat to return (we were not the last boat
in).  I gave him the dough without another word and decided, after spending
close to 500 bucks there that day, that next time I would try the other
concession across the lake (Pokonobe), which seemed to have nicer pontoon
boats.  We decided that the motto of the Lake Mary Marina should be "We
aren't the only fishing concession on the lake.  We just act like we are."

       Saturday, we took the day off from fishing and went to the Devils
Post Pile.  Wendy and Annie took the little boys back from there and I took
the older kids to Rainbow falls and Red's Meadows, where the end of a long
hike was met with the best ice cream we ever ate and a beautiful bus ride
The San Joaquin was running full, cold, and clear and the falls were right
out of the postcards.

       Sunday was our day to leave, but everyone was sleeping in from a
13 year birthday celebration for Whitney Downs at Robertos.  Isaac and I
snuck out for one last try at Lake Mary without the company of all of the
sleepers who had had enough of early rising to catch fish.  We decided that
since we only had an hour and a half to fish, that we would go big on the
lures. Neither marina was open early. We rented a small boat at about 7:50
from the very friendly and helpful guy (Lou) at the Pokanobe Resort.  We
trolled bigger lures 5 to 6 colors down.

       We could hardly go more than a hundred yards without getting bit on
a large Mepps Syclops.  We caught and released several nice sized trout and
then Isaac got one that took a lot of line and ended up almost straight down
in 70 feet of water.  He gradually brought it up and we decided that we had
to keep that one, which taped out at 21 and 1/2 inches.  It was Isaac's
biggest trout to date. It was a bright, beautiful fish, with all of its fins
and tail perfectly intact. We decided to head in, since the rest of our
group would be stirring and we had a big breakfast date at The Stove that
       On the way in, I got bit again and an even fatter rainbow screamed
off line and fought at the surface, jumping several times at long distance
and circling the boat as we tired him out.  The gold single siwash hook
Syclops was red hot that morning and has always been a producer for me.  We
were in by 9:15 and Lou came out to see if there was something wrong with
the boat because we had come in so quickly. We explained that the fishing
Gods had been so good to us that we had to quit early to preserve our karma.
We showed him our fish and he took our picture. There was a Sunday morning
service in progress on the large outdoor deck at the resort.  We walked
right beneath it as we  came down the dock and momentarily distracted the
flock from their devotions.
       These are the days.

Catalina 2007 Sarah's 30# yellowtail

 Isaac, Sarah and I went fishing on Saturday on board Larry Marks' 25 foot Parker "Legal Limit"  at Catalina on Saturday. Our boat was in for repairs and Larry generously offered to take us all out to inaugurate the season.  I woke Sarah up at 2 am so we could get to Larry's slip in San Pedro for a 4 am departure.  She wanted to go back to sleep but I made her endure five minutes of pain to get down to the truck and go back to sleep. Isaac slept through his alarm, but was up like a fireman in his fishing clothes within seconds of being awakened. We pulled out from Cabrillo Marina a little after 4.  The ride over was flat calm.
    We got squid from the Long Beach Carnage at the east end of Catalina.  We proceeded to the backside and set up at the squid grounds outside of the Vees in about 120 feet of water.  Temperature was 60 degrees, with darkness giving way to cloudy gray .  The current was light.  Sarah was using her custom wrapped spinning rod that she inherited from her great grandmother (I wrapped it for her in her lucky colors that she picked out);  an Okuma spinning reel filled with fresh 15# line, and a squid she spent a great deal of time selecting to use as bait.
    She hooked up into a screaming run and this yellowtail immediately pulled her rod down into the water to the lowest guide and ran underneath the boat.  She hung on and pumped it up over the next thirty five minutes, including getting wrapped around the anchor line twice during that timeframe .We guessed right and managed to unwrap it both times at the bow pulpit.  It was spent when she brought it to gaff.  I think Sarah was as well.

    It was not the first yellowtail that Sarah has caught by herself on this outfit, but it is the largest so far.  It weighed 30.1 pounds on a digital scale.  I have never caught one that big.  Our thanks to Larry for showing us such a great time and gaffing this memorable fish.  Sarah also caught the biggest bass later in the day.
    I  took Isaac out two days earlier (Sarah was sick) and we went night  fishing for giant squid.  He caught one that was just short of five feet long.  We had a Memorial Day BBQ and fed 48 people on what my kids killed.  The season has officially begun for us.  
These are the days. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thundershirt --- Are you shitting me?

 I was watching some late night obscuria on TV with my bride recently when a commercial for a product we never heard of entered our consciousness. It was an ad for a product called the “Thundershirt.”  Apparently, it makes your pet calm and fearless.   

It is a vestment for your dog with scientifically proven tendencies to relieve animal anxiety caused by thunderstorms, fireworks, strangers in weird hats, other animals and countless additional sources of irritating animal behavior.  Examples of bad dog actions were shown in a montage of “before” vignettes in which animals (mostly dogs) ripped up upholstery, barked like they were possessed, urinated on sacred family treasures and generally spazzed out.  As soon as they were strapped into the Thundershirt, which looks like a segmented Velcro life vest, these dogs immediately calmed down like they had smoked a pound of Humboldt.                     

Naked dogs that were previously shown freak-barking and going into grand mal seizures at the sound of Rice Crispies being exposed to milk were displayed, clothed in their new Thundershirts and Rastafarian dog hats, swaying to the sight and sound of 4th of July fireworks that now only barely kept them serenely awake.              
Cats actually being launched from catapults calmly accepted their journey with the quiet cool of the Apollo 13 commander once they were fitted into this stylish space suit    The testimonials flowed as folks who you know probably inflicted their ill-behaved pets on everyone they knew, suddenly copped out to  previously owning hell hounds. Now  they could gush their thanks to the inventors of this product for transforming their unruly beasts in to the loving companions they had always unreasonably insisted their victims recognize existed behind this unfortunate mask of  mouth-foaming terror.  
Now you can take your vicious animal to church, a fancy restaurant, or a letter carriers convention, confident that your dog will behave like a valium chasing Harvard professor.                      

My dog Victor is fine, but I was thinking of ordering a bunch of these things for myself and my family, especially for the long road trips we take.  I think perhaps I will get a bunch of vests to stock up in the office closet---- -you know, for clients. “Hey we just got the call that the jury is back with a verdict on your murder for hire trial in that tragic flamethrower death of your wife.  Why don't you and your girlfriend put on these stylish vests and stroll on over to the courthouse with me?”   
Your doctor could have them on hand for you when you get that diagnosis you’ve been dreading.  “I’ve got some good news and some bad news…..the good news is that you can keep this free vest I just had you put on instead of that pesky and embarrassing hospital garment you've been  wearing for all those tests.”      

I hope you all get a chance to see this add.  It’s just the darndest thing and the applications for human use are really limitless..  It’s what Newt Gingrich wears to marriage counseling and Captain Mario Schettino wears instead of a life vest.   

My only question is why didn’t they invent this vest for the rest sooner.

These are the days.