Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fish Kill on the Kings

We are finally getting a sprinkling of rain but the effects of the drought are still noticeable. Carp are one of the first fish to die off with low oxygen. Hopefully we get some flow before the bass are affected. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Surf Fishing San Simeon

          My mother in law is in town and my wife wanted to show her the coast. My wife figured I'd be happy fishing leaving her and her mother to wonder beaches and coastal gift shops. The tide was low which is bad for surf fishing but it was not about catching. It was about enjoying the beach and relaxing. Lucky for me my friend Willy was able to drive out and join me on the water. 
Before Willy got there I found my first ever sand dollar. I was surprised it was there because it wasn't hidden or anything and about ten people walked right past it beach combing.
We were using Gulp sand worms with an ounce of weight. It was hard getting the bait past the breakers with the low tide. We got sick of fighting the surf and headed to the pier for some more comfort.  I ended the day with a break off. Willy ended up with two barred surf perch. Hopefully the next time I am able to get out the tide cooperates.
Not the best day on the water ever, but it was a welcome break from the normal routine. The best part of the day was I got to fish with my friend and catch up on what is going on.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kings River Report January 2014

                 I hadn't driven down near the weir I used to fish in almost a year. I knew the water on the Kings river was low but I figured there would be a pool towards the end of the stretch that runs through Lemoore. Driving down the dirt road to along the river it became apparent it was not going to be a good trip. I was told the fish would be concentrated, but it was not so. The water was clear and about a foot deep. The mud bottom was visible and there were no fish to be found, not even a dead carp. The birds must have had their fill.  
South Branch Kings River January 2014
To give you an idea of how bad things are this next photo was taken February two years ago about twenty yards down river and twenty feet closer to the bank.
Kings River February 2012
Even the mistletoe in the trees is dead, none of the plants are active. This is a part of the country where it is greener in the winter then in the summer.
The weir back when there was water
The structure I was stepping over to get ten yards closer to the shallow fish-less water held bass. It is hard to believe the fishery will bounce back any time in the next year even if we start to get snow in the mountains and rain in the foot hills.
At this point the wood slats are pointless
We Fished the water on the other side of the weir, but quit after an hour because we didn't get a nibble. The water was on lower than normal on the other side, but there was still some. So hopefully the fish were able to make it through.
Will this guy get to grow any bigger? 
The whole place seemed dead. The tules were brittle and breaking off and even the trees seemed to be suffering. I just hope the larger fish somehow found their way to safe water and did not end up on a plate or ripped apart by birds and other scavengers.
Six pound bass caught on the Kings River March 2012
But for now at least I can see the structure on the river bed...
Kings river bed

Thanks for reading, please pray fro rain.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Slow Day on the Delta Near Stockton, California

              My father came all the way from Illinois where the snow was falling and the river behind the house was frozen. Needless to say he was eager to do some fishing. I called my buddy Ed of to see if he was up for taking us out to the Delta. A few days before we planned to head up we got word the bite was dead. All of the reports were bleak, but we were determined to make the most of it.  Some battery issues kept us off the water until around eleven. The current was fast and the bite was slow. The fish seemed to stick back in the tules (the reeds that make up most of the structure in the Delta) away from the pull of the tide. The bite was so light it was hard to tell you had one until it was half way to the boat.
I was glad I was able to get my dad out, I just wish the bite had been a little hotter. One thing that got me really excited is I got one on a new three inch dropshot bait I started pouring.
The weather was beautiful. the skies were clear and it was a fairly quiet day until this giant barge came steaming past us. I was so glad I was not in a kayak because it took most of what the trolling motor had to keep us from getting sucked into the ship.
Judging from the tules the water dropped almost a foot in the matter of a few minutes and came rushing back in. At least now I know if I see a ship that big near me while I am in my kayak I am going to make for land and beach myself because it doesn't look worth fighting. 
Ed had some luck with a purple Pro Worm dropshot bait and a small green swimbait. My last fish of the day came on a sexy shad colored crank bait near some boat docks as we were putting in. We ran into some striper fishermen who only caught one keeper and two shorts in the same time we were out. It was a tough day on the Delta for sure. 
For me the highlights were being able to fish with my dad and catching a fish on a lure I poured. It just does not get old. It was worth the six hours of driving to get there and back as well as the flack from my wife about being out all day.

Dad thanks for making this possible, and Ed  thanks for taking us out.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Below and Above Pine Flat Dam

             My dad is in town so we decided to go out over the weekend and explore the Kings river around Pine Flat Reservoir. At the first park before the dam it was apparent the water was low. About two feet lower than I remember it the last time I was there.  There was a bald eagle circling low but it flew off before I could get out of the truck with my camera. We hit the spillway under the dam and tried our luck for trout. A few were being caught close to the spillway under the road. All the good spots were taken, so we set up across the river to try our luck. Yellow Power Bait floated off the bottom seemed to be all that was catching that morning. we saw action for about an hour and it shut down before any took out spinners or night crawlers so we packed up and headed up river.

Pine Flat is low, real low. The California Department of Water webpage says it is at 14% capacity. We really need snow and rain this year or the Valley is going to be in some big trouble.

Driving up the road that winds with the lake and the river I came across some beautiful spots but no trout.

It actually wasn't a disappointment not finding fish because the view was so good. I know there is fish here, but I just am not a good enough trout fishermen to find them.

The clarity of the cool water was amazing. I could count the rocks if I had to. This is one of the things I love about California. Such beauty and it is relatively close to home.

Driving the road was a treat, but leaving the truck and getting a better look was even better. I walked out onto some rocks to fan cast a small spinner bait when I noticed some movement it the water. I thought it was a sculpin or a brook trout but I scooped up a tadpole.

I posted the picture to my Tumblr page and asked for an ID and was told it is a Del Norte salamander tadpole, but I am not convinced as the Del Norte's range is much farther north than where I was at. So it is still a mystery.
Photo via
The further up we drove the more beautiful it got. It was hard to not take a picture of everything. Every view, river bend, and rock was magical in some way. The water was truly blue as if it was a painting. It was literally picture perfect... Except for the litter.
Right after I took this picture I came across the box this beer came up in. The lower dam area where all the people were fishing was so full of trash I didn't want to even take a picture. I took two hand fulls of garbage with me just from there. Someone had to take this Starbucks cup at least thirty miles to leave it on the rocks where I found it. It would not have been that much more energy to pack it back down. 

The fish decided to snub us, but the clear skies and fair weather made the sight seeing worth the trip. I am glad I got to share this with my dad.

Thanks for reading,


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Thursday, January 2, 2014

How To Cook: Bacon Wrapped Venison Backstrap

               Venison is on of my favorite meats and when I can get my hands on it I savor it the best I can. Because I am not a hunter myself getting venison has its challenges. there are options at high end butchers and websites dedicated to game meats; however, the best way I have found to get my hands on the good stuff is to get it from hunters. If you have friends who hunt there is a good chance they have some meat they are willing to give or trade willingly. I once received a whole deer when a member on one of the outdoor forums I visit realized he had less room in his freezer than he realized.

              The fact is hunters are often excited to share the spoils of their hunts as long as the people they are sharing it with truly enjoy it. Venison sadly has a reputation for being gamey. The American diet in some locations was mainly venison before the second world war, but these days it is more of a rarity. Being so rare if someone is offered venison and given poorly prepared meat that was over or under cooked there is a chance the person is going to form a negative opinion that may last a lifetime. It is sad how often I mention eating venison and people make a face and say "I don't eat that. It tastes gamey."

                Preparing venison is not difficult and takes  about the same time to prepare as beef. Venison does lack the fat (and cholesterol) content of beef so you must take better care not to over cook it. Without this natural inner basting the meat will go dry and tough if you are not careful. If the deer was cooled quickly, and butchered properly it will be evident in the final product. A marinade will bring more depth to the flavor of the meat and help earthy tastes in the meat taste earthy instead of what people call gamey. I like to use a fillet knife to cut and tendon or silver-skin left on the meat. I use the same knifes I use for my fish because they are sharp, flexible, and thin making my cuts precise and limiting waste. I have a bacon wrapped recipe that I just threw together--it's good.

One Back-strap Steak
Six Slices of Center Cut Bacon
A Drizzle of Olive oil
Two TablespoonsVinigar (your choice)
Toothpicks (to hold the bacon)

        I let the back-strap marinate in the vinegar and olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper for at least eight hours. I set my well seasoned cast iron frying pan on medium heat and set my oven to 400 degrees while I wrapped the steak in bacon using as few tooth picks as I could. A good rule would be to count the number of toothpicks so you don't leave one in when you serve it. Lucky for me I didn't serve any tooth picks to my wife--just myself.

                I set the burner to high and when water danced on the pan I put a good sear on both sides before moving the whole into the oven. I checked in on the steak about every ten minutes, flipping it and making sure it was not getting too well done. Using the oven to finish the steak is great because it crisps the outside and the meat on the inside is protected by the bacon from drying out of getting too well done.

             Once there was good color on the outside I let it sit for five minutes. in hindsight I should have let it rest for ten minutes because I lost quite a bit of juice once I got to the center section. I portioned it out using my trusty little Rapala Fillet knife. By cutting the back strap across the grain of the heat in thin sections I insured a good tender bite. My wife is a reformed vegetarian and freaks if she has any excess fat or tendon in her meat. Her plate was clean before I knew it.

           My wife was very impressed with the taste, texture, and presentation. This recipe should be good for the seasoned hunter as well as someone new to wild game. It only took about an hour to prepair form the fridge to the table. Plus it is wrapped in bacon--you can't go wrong with bacon! you could use the same  technique on  a elk, bison, moose, antelope, or beer steak as long as it has about the same shape. In fact if it were a bigger cut it would have worked out better than mine because the bacon would have had more time to crisp and render more of its fat. I served the whole thing up with a side of quinoa and steamed veggies making this a fairly balanced meal. The good thing about eating your vegetables is it means you may be around longer to eat more meat.  

Venison is a lean, delicious, tasty meat that is more American than apple pie and if you aren't willing to try it you truly are missing out.

Thanks for reading,