Gary Graham's Blog

The final chapter of the show season
The 71st annual Fred Hall Shows will soon be history as the last one of the three takes place on March 23 – 26 at Del Mar.

Although few have a reason to attend every show, many in the industry do and the reviews have been stunning. The behemoth Long Beach show is held first in early March and according to the staff, the show was a complete “Exhibitor” sell-out which in itself seems to speak to the health of the industry.

WAHOO TAKEN SOUTH of Frailes on a CD-18 Rapala by angler Chris Kirkwood, Orange County while fishing aboard a Rancho Leonero boat.

By all appearances the spectator turnout was equally impressive. Day One, the line to enter the show formed and continued to grow long before the 1:00 p.m. opening. When gates opened, the aisles filled rapidly and they remained that way most of the day. The true test of the crowd was simply attempting to move easily from one booth to another.

By Sunday afternoon, many exhibitors shared Doug Kern’s, of Fisherman's Landing Tackle Shop, observation that “ This was our best show . . . ever.”

Of course, the fact that there were more than a dozen Baja and other below the border groups represented at the show was great for me, allowing me to catch up on all of the latest “Baja and Beyond” news.

For the first time, added to the Fred Hall Show line-up of shows was the Fred Hall Central Valley Sports Show; it is the largest show of its kind in the Central Valley on the Kern County Fairgrounds. The three-day event was spread out over three buildings with many of the same exhibitors plus others from the central and northern part of the state.

This excellent show features Fishing, Hunting, International Travel, Boats and acres of RV’s. As was typical for all three Fred Hall Shows, there was a full day’s worth of family fun activities; however, the Bakersfield show offers some fun events that are only available at this unique site with almost unlimited outdoor space.

In addition to the popular “Duck Races” and “Dock Dog Jumping competition,” there was a huge custom car show, the 4th Annual Southern California National Tractor and Truck Pull and Bako Sand Drags. If you missed it this year, don’t miss it in 2018…it’s a hoot!

So it boils down to this. The final, final Fred Hall show in going on right now at the Del Mar Fairgrounds . . . and it is also bigger than ever and promises to be as exciting as its predecessors. Four days filled with fishing and “how-to, where to go” seminars, Paul Bunyan Lumberjack show, Great American Duck Races, Ultimate Air Dogs, Sporting Chef Café and much more.

For my “Below the Border” bunch, Baja is going to be well represented by exhibitors, some of which are offering show specials and the latest up-to-date information on their respective areas:

• Baja Fishing Convoys

• Baja's Van Wormer Resorts

• Cedros Adventures

• Cedros Kayak Fishing

• Cedros Outdoor Adventures

• Clark’s Outdoor Sporting Adventures

• Rancho Leonero Resort

• Pesca La Baja Secretaria de Pesca y Acuacultura de B.C

• Tailhunter Sportfishing

• Tony Reyes

In case you don’t make it to the show, here’s a quick update on the fishing and upcoming season.


So far that seems to be the refrain I’m hearing. Yellowtail boiling on the surface at Loreto; dorado, a few roosters and jacks already in the counts at La Paz. Down at East Cape, the season has exploded out of the gate with wahoo, 100-plus-pound tuna, and sierra chasing sardina schools along the shore. This is just a sampling of the fishing news filtering in now.

The north wind, always a winter factor in the Sea of Cortez, seems to be blowing itself out a little early. This may account for a few scattered reports of swordfish sightings at East Cape and farther down on the Gordo Banks where the first cow-sized yellowfin tuna have already come over the rail.

This is enough good news to replace the dreaded “Cabin Fever” with excitement and anticipation.

I will be at the Del Mar Show every day. If I’m not roaming the aisles, I can be found in the International Game Fish Association Booth. Stop by and say ¡Hola!

Jim Niemiec's Blog

Turkey opener this Saturday, March 24, so get your Gobble on
Conditions afield are making predictions for the spring turkey season more difficult every day. After weeks of strong rains, came those very warm dry days and in turkey country this means that gobblers are likely to become more unpredictable on opening day of turkey season. As reported in earlier hunting columns there appears to be good numbers of 2 year olds and jakes out and about along with a huntable count on those more mature 4 year old gobblers that probably have outsmarted many turkey hunters to grow that old.

TURKEY SEASON OPENS Saturday, March 25.

The first peak of spring turkey breeding season in the southern part of the state has likely already occurred or soon will, based on reports afield, possibly hit right over opening weekend. A little farther up the coast line, those hunting on public land in the Los Padres National Forest or who have booked a guided hunt on a private ranch, might luck out as traditionally the central coast region does not evolve in its first peak phase until the 2nd or 3rd week of the season, according to guide Chad Wiebe of Oak Stone Outfitters.

Western Outdoor News felt it would be a good idea to find out what goes on in turkey country during the first peak and how that might affect hunting for a big gobbler. One of the most knowledgeable sources for biological information on the wild turkey is retired wildlife biologist John Massie of Ramona. Massie filed the following assessment for WON readers.

“The first peak of gobbling may only involve a few adult birds that will become very noisy, as they search for willing hens, but it depends on where the hens spent most of the late winter relating to how much sunlight they absorbed. The numbers of lumens of light hens are exposed to will determine when they start dispersal, which has been going on for a couple of weeks already in San Diego County. It follows then that the farther south they are the earlier they will get their lumens up, and conversely the farther north they are the later they will be. The agencies (CDFW) try to start the season slightly before the first peak, but that is so variable up and down the state that it is just a big gamble every year,” reported Massie.

Massie added, “Gobbling may be better in certain areas and that’s a good thing, but it predates the “henned up” period by only a few days. Henned up gobblers have all they need so they stop gobbling or coming to calls making it seem like there are not so many birds (around). However, just over the ridgeline there can be other birds that have not found their hens yet and are still gobbling.”

In a final note Massie stated, “It has always been a good generalization that turkey hunting doesn’t get really good until the first 10 days of the season have passed, and we seldom get to hunt the first peak. It’s not until breeding hens have left a gobbler for incubation that gobblers really get turned on and go off looking for willing hens.”

Massie’s best tip for being successful in turkey country is, “Patience and persistence is the name of the game.”

New regulations call for the mandatory use of non-toxic shot are in place for hunting turkey in California. Hunters need to clean out their turkey hunting vest and field bags to make sure there are no lead shot shotgun shells in either piece of hunting gear.

One thing is for sure, come opening day is that native cover and oat fields will be standing high in ground cover, this will provide an awesome advantage for gobblers once on the ground. Current reports from the Central Coast indicate that much of the grasses, at least along the western slopes of coastal mountains, are still green. Farther to the south much of the grass and other native vegetation has already started to dry out and turn brown. No matter where your hunt will take you in the southern part of the state you will have to contend with knee to thigh high cover.

I would suggest that every turkey hunter, no matter where you plan on hunting, pack along a strut seat or a turkey vest that has a built in seat and backrest combo. Come early morning of opening day there is likely to be a lot of moisture on green cover and getting a wet fanny is not a good way to start off the morning. Another advantage of sitting on a strut seat is that this will raise you about 2 to 5 inches off the ground, allowing for better viewing of the surrounding terrain and being able to better sport the bouncing red, white and blue head of worked up gobbler. Believe me, based on years of hunting turkey, taking along a strut seat has not only made a long hunt more comfortable, but being able to shoulder a shotgun or archery gear at a higher level accounts for better odds at harvesting a big old tom.

LOTS OF JAKES THIS SPRING — Excellent hatches the past two spring nesting seasons have produced a bumper crop of jakes and jennies. The outlook for opening weekend is promising, but hunters hoping to shoot a big gobbler might have to be patient. Based on field reports jakes will likely be coming into a decoy ahead of toms. This photo was taken on an Oak Stone Outfitters leased hunting ranch north of Paso Robles. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

New regulations call for the mandatory use of non-toxic shot are in place for hunting turkey in California. Hunters need to clean out their turkey hunting vest and field bags to make sure there are no lead shot shotgun shells in either piece of hunting gear. Even if you are loaded up with non-toxic shot and a game warden checks you out in the field, IF, you have a lead round in your immediate possession you are likely to get a citation.

This turkey hunter has been loading up with Federal non-toxic shot for a couple of years after having success with new loads on the market during waterfowl season. My choice for the first round in the chamber when hunting a tom over a decoy has been Federal Premium FS steel #5 shot, backed up with a round or two of Federal Premium Prairie Storm FS Steel #4’s, with a muzzle velocity of 1600 FPS. When hunting open terrain, where possibly a long shot could be the only option for bagging a gobbler, #2 shot (the largest allowed under CDFW rules and regs) would be a good choice.

Unfortunately, Federal, Browning and even HeviShot introduced new turkey loads at SHOT Show, but these are lead based shotgun shells.

****A word of caution**** With all the high cover and warm weather there are sure to be rattlesnakes out and about turkey country. Watch where you step, sit or reach. Last year a veteran turkey guide was bitten when he opened a gate surrounded by knee high grass.


Rockfish Rumble moved back a week
Rockfish Rumble is moved back a week due to weather


Due to poor weather expected this Thursday, the fifth annual WON Rockfish Rumble has been postponed one week, said Rumble Director Ben Babbitt who has been calling all 150 entrants. The fifth annual Rumble based out of Ventura Sportfishing  has been moved to Thursday, March 30. A few spots are now available due to the change in schedule as a few anglers had to drop off, and you can grab one of those spots on one the four boats for $85.

Call Ben Babbitt at (949) 366-0726 to grab one of the open spots. Email him at to let him know you saw this and are aware of the date change, and whether you will be able to reschedule for the 30th.

Pat McDonell's Blog

Isabella Derby: Biggest in the state
Giving it all away at Isabella

Fred Roach has this weird concept. He wants to give away every possible dollar at the three-day April 8-10 Isabella Lake Fishing Derby, and that’s a lot of money. He says it’s simple math and economics. The more people that enter, the more cash he can give away, and if there’s any money left over as profit for the Kern Valley Chamber, he just buys even more Nebraska Tailwalker trout after the derby for the season. Then he takes the remaining cash and increases next year’s derby pot of money.

WHERE ELSE can you have a three-day weekend of fun and fishing competition for $10 a day? Lake Isabella, located in Sequoa National Forest, will have all of the campgrounds open and ready for the derby, service officials have told the Chamber of Commerce. Book ahead, though. Note that many previously available spots on the shore may not be above the shoreline this year.

”We really just want to give away the money, and the more money we give away, the more people get excited, and the more people who get excited means more people the next year will be coming to visit us in the Kern River Valley,” said Roach.

It’s a fun, inexpensive event that showcases the lake and Kern River Valley, which is spectacular this trime of year, especially with all this rain. Green hills, and the surrounding Sequoa National Forest make for a beautiful warm, spring weekend backdrop. For the family, you cannot beat the price. Much of the event’s popularity comes from the fact it is a destination event in Kern Valley, and this year a big draw is the higher water levels. Entry fees are only $30 for individuals and $65 for families of husband, wife, and three children. Registration closes at 7 a.m., April 8.

Fishing Reaganomics, you might say. This isn’t a new philosophy after 10 years of running the 28th annual event, which is quite likely the biggest trout derby in the world. I don’t know of a bigger event. Roach and the other organizers are just getting better at figuring out the best way to unload all the money and make it fun for families, 70 percent of whom camp or bring RVs to campgrounds that surround Lake Isabella. The other 30 percent stay in local hotels, two within walking distance of the lake. Others have the option of staying a few miles away at Wofford Heights just two miles away, or Kernville 10 miles away.

For a few years, they tagged trout, $1,000 a fish. Damned if the fish stayed free to roam the lake after the derby.

“We didn’t want that, and so we stopped doing it, and now we give away $1,000 a day over three days in a blind bogey $100 to 10 people in a drawing. Any trout brought into Derby Headquarters will be eligible for the drawing.

THE LAKE LEVEL is at its highest allowed level, 350 acre feet. Areas on the shore available in recent years are underwater, so a campground for $10 a night is an easy, inexpensive choice. Many are being opened and ready for the derby. Check the Kern Valley website to reserve. KERN VALLEY CHAMBER PHOTOS AND GRAPHICS

Unfortunately, the last five years the water levels have been dropping, and as well as entrants for the derby from a heyday of 2009 when 8,820 entrants battled over $75,510 to last year when 1,443 anglers attended. Still, last year Roach and the derby officials gave out $29,181, topped by a $10,000 payout to Joe Newman from Norwalk who landed a 27 ¾-inch trout off Engineer Point that weighed 9.88 pounds. Let me repeat that, ten thousand dollars.

JOE NEWMAN TOOK the big fish honors  last year for his 27 ¾-inch trout from Engineer Point. It weighed 9.88 pounds. Newman is from Norwalk.

This year, due to the rains, the lake level is at capacity, 360,000 acre feet, the fullest it can be for a safe level, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The lake could go as high as 560 acre feet, but the Army Corps has the last word.

So, the lake level is the highest it can ever be, and interest and signups are also way up, and added to the pot this year is the chance to win a Crestliner/Mercury boat package provided by Western Outdoor News and Richard’s Boat and RV Center in Lancaster. Then there was there was the cancellation of the 50th annual Blake Jones Blind Bogey last weekend in Bishop due to anticipated and unsafe high water levels. The Lake Isabella Derby committee also embarked on ad campaign in various publications, including this one, and backed that up with exhibiting at the two Fred Hall shows in Long Beach and Bakersfield the past two weeks. As P.T. Barnum said, “If you don’t market, nothing happens.”

The two tackle shows were indications the derby is back on track.

“That really helped, being at the two Hall shows,” said Roach. “People really wanted to know about the lake and derby. The story line for us is simple, the lake is up, it looks fantastic, there’s plenty of water, the most water in six or seven years, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. And it will be planted with a lot of fish. The 10,000 fish we got from the DFW are going to be released before the derby and they’re all beautiful and at about 1 pound, and we are buying Nebraska Tailwalkers, 5,000 pounds of them, 2 pounds and way bigger. We are way ahead of where we were last year in signups, so excitement is building.”

The big draws are the low cost to enter and camp, and the chance to win money in a variety of ways that involve skills and the luck of the draw. Much of the event’s popularity comes from the fact it is a destination event in Kern Valley, and a great three-day family value. Entry fees are only $30 for individuals and $65 for families of husband, wife, and up to three children.

As mentioned before, RVers and campers crowd the shoreline. This year some of those spots from previous years might not be available with higher water.

“There’s plenty of room,” said Roach, “But it would be wise to call ahead for reservations at the campgrounds because you can’t camp in many of the usual places on the shore as in the last few years. The high water this year is a good thing but it also means there will be many spots on the shore that will now be unavailable, but there’s plenty of campgrounds around the lake.” (See Map below)

As for being right on the water, the forest service is allowing the usual day use-only permit to extend to overnight, so a camper can be on the water’s edge all three days. The key is to get there early, in line by Thursday, and when it opens in the morning, the lakefront spots are first-come-first served. Then there are the campgrounds spots. It is wise to get a reservation before you come up. There are also access rods to the shore, and a map on the chamber website shows those, and those water-edge sites are open for three-day overnight stays.

There are a few restricted areas on the shore, and Keri Swindle of the Kern Valley Chamber says the Forest Service rangers will warn offenders first, and then ticket the offenders eventually. It’s rare for the derby. “Please have them call us (760-379-5236) if they are unsure of where to put their RVs or camp on the lake’s edge. “We want people to have a good time up here, not get a ticket.”

Let’s get back to the money and how it is handed out. In lieu of the state no longer allowing tagged fish, and the fact those tagged fish worth big money were often not caught, leading to criticism, there are two major ways cash will be handed out. The method that replaced the tagged fish is now based on the five longest fish. The Longest Fish is worth $2,000 and if the angler wearing the official t-shirt that amount is raised to $4,000. Second is $1,500 third is $1,000 forth is $500 and fifth is $250.  

 Said Roach, “This way it’s guaranteed we are giving the money, and that has seemed to solve the problem, and when I explain it to people they quickly understand, but unfortunately I usually have to explain to every person why we don’t have tagged fish.”

So, someone might ask, that top 5 payout is fine and dandy for those five top anglers, but we are talking about 2,000 to 3,000 anglers this year. Maybe more. The best method for spreading out the wealth among the masses, and keeping it fair for everyone and especially kids is a new derby wrinkle: The weigh-in/ Draw method. Each day those who weigh in fish at the tourney headquarters at the Moose Lodge by 5 p.m. will be eligible for the drawings. There are 10 drawings each day for $100 each. That’s 30 checks for $100.

Roach said there is also the “very popular” Bobber Bowl prize for anglers to win up to $300, and the Lake Trout Lotto splitting the pot for the “longest trout” guess.

Again, this is an inexpensive derby, $30 for individuals and $65 for families of husband, wife, and three children. Campsites are $10 a night. Warm weather, full lake, lots of chances to win. Maybe it’s time to take a break from watching your kids’ mind-numbing incessant soccer games that weekend. And you can’t have a phone in your hand if you are holding a fishing rod or playing in the lake.

So, again, the derby is over three days, and it’s coming up quick, April 8,9 and 10. Go to the website for more details on campgrounds and boat permits and various rules and the signup sheet. Registration can be done online at, or by application available at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce at PO Box 567, 6416 “D” Lake Isabella Blvd. Lake Isabella, CA. Phone (760) 379-5236. Applications received before March 20, 2017 will be eligible for the early bird prize of $500.

THIS TABLE OF teams and payouts shows the amazing numbers of teams that fish the derby when the water levels are up.

BOATERS: Lots of water this year

Boaters are going to be more plentiful this year, said derby chairman Fred Roach, and the chamber can help you plan your trip. While boats are not inspected for quagga mussels, rangers hope anglers will make sure boat’s bilges are dry.

There are two marinas, French Gulch and Red’s Marina. For example, French Gulch has 100 boat slips, secure and lighted, with a full array of boat and watercraft rentals, and they sell permits. As an example, an 18-foot boat costs $20 a day for a slip. It varies as to length of boat. Call the marinas to get all the details on bringing a bat or renting one, or renting a kayak. 

There is a small boat permit for the lake, annual or three-day $45/$15, and available at the marinas, the ranger station, Lake Isabella store, and the Crossroads Shell Station. For launching, there are several ramps located at various points around the lake, including the Main Dam (which is closest to the French Gulch marina), South Fork Recreation Area, Paradise Cove, Tillie Creek Campground and Camp 9.

Float tubes and kayaks are allowed on the lake, as well. No permit is needed for anything under 8 feet. Call French Gulch at (760)-379-8774. Check the two marinas’ websites for photos and other information.


A 2017 CV 1667 CRESTLINER BOAT, 9.9 hp Mercury Motor and trailer rig will be awarded as the Grand Raffle Prize.

Fred Hall - Del Mar Seminars

Del Mar show opens Thursday
San Diego Show: 41 years and BIGGER than ever!

The commercial: Pretty fun..


 The seminar list link


Fred Hall’s Del Mar edition for 2017 will be a huge expansion of boats, tackle, travel, seminars and more in an area at the Del Mar Fairgrounds that is bigger in square footage than the Long Beach show It opens Thursday....Join CCA at the door and get in free!

The Fred Hall Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds will be celebrating its 41st year in 2017. From it’s humble beginning in Golden Hall (downtown San Diego) it has grown to become one of the premiere outdoor recreation shows in the United States.

“Over the last several years this San Diego tradition has shown remarkable growth. Shows that are over four decades old seldom see the kind of growth that has been happening to the Fred Hall Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds,” said show producer Bart Hall. “The 2017 version will see the biggest expansion of the last four years. There will be more booths and more boats at this show then have ever been there before.”

Hall said the O’Brien Building, which is the only entrance and exit to the show, has been completely redesigned. 10x10-foot booths now cover the entire southern and south western wall of that giant building. The remainder of the building is entirely filled with boats. The northern wall of the O’Brien building was often filled with campers and a hospitality section.

“All of that has been moved to other locations in order to accommodate the number of boats on display,” said Hall. “Almost every kind of boat will be seen at this show. There will be tow-boats, pontoon boats, cruisers, aluminum boats, kayaks and, of course, the largest selection of fishing boats ever seen in San Diego.” There will be most of Southern California’s key boat dealers at this show: He listed them: Sea Witch Marine; M2O Marine; Anglers Marine; Sun Country Marine; Johnson Marine; Newport Pontoon Boats; Schock Boats; West Coast Marine; Inland Boat Center; Scout Boats; Tradewind Marine; Bayport Boats; and Last Chance Marine.

The boat brands on display will include: Sea Fox; Yamaha Boats; Nautique; Malibu; Axis; Ranger; Triton; Tracker; Nitro; Bayliner; Everglades; Defiance; Arima; Well Craft; Premiere; Parker; Grady White; Cutwater; Boston Whaler; Sea Ray; Klamath; Scout Boats; Lund; Skeeter; and Phoenix.

As you exit the O’Brien building you will pass through the canopy that connects O’Brien with the Bing Crosby Hall. In that canopy will be more booths and more boats. Trade Winds Inflatable’s will be in that location.


 Hall said that as you enter the Bing Crosby Hall there will be more inflatable boats, the giant Daiwa Bass Tank and the expanded Last Chance Marine Display. Right next to them is the Fastlane Kayak display.

“Ron and Debbie Lane have been coming to the Del Mar Show since it started. Their knowledge and experience with all Hobie products is unmatched in the Southern California market,” said Hall. “Part of their booth is the Hobie Kayak Fishing Theater that is packed with Hobie kayak Fishing seminars from some of So Cal’s best kayak anglers. The new Dodge Ram Trucks and the Chrysler Pacifica products take up 5,000 square feet of space filled with new vehicles. The Mammoth Lakes Seminar Theater and the Giant Mammoth Lakes Trout fill up that Hall along with archery, Free Dive and lots of cool exhibits for boats and fishing.”

As you exit the Bing Crosby Hall and pass into the Seaside Pavilion you come to one of the most active areas in the show. The Captain Rollo Spin To Win wheel is right there and everybody that spends $10 to spin the wheel is guaranteed to get a prize worth at least $10, and usually a lot more, said Hall.

You want trucks? This is a great place to see the new models without the pressure tactics. The San Diego County Ford Dealers will be displaying the new Ford products and having a casting contest for a new Lew’s rod & reel with the spectacular Winn grips on it.

Seminars are throughout the show, more than ever.

“Cousins Tackle will, again, host the main Seminar Stage with hourly speakers on saltwater fishing and long range fishing,” said Hall. “The Accurate Saltwater Tank will have continuous seminars from some of the Southland’s most famous near shore anglers.”

The tour continues. There’s so much to see!

“From the Seaside Pavilion you will pass into the Exhibit Hall,” said Hall. “It is the largest building in the show and houses most of the fishing tackle and international fishing and hunting lodges. But it is also home to the Costa Sporting Chef Café. The Sporting Chef Café will feature Chef and TV host Scott Leysath cooking fish and game for you. Following Scott will be chef “Yanni” who will talk about proper fish preservation, techniques and recipes. Filling in the gaps will be local legend Tommy Gomes showing us how to fillet fish and later in the day Capt. Tiffany Vague will give us her tips on proper fish filleting.”

Kids are a huge part of the show. As spectators of the great shows and exhibits, and kids gets in free with an adult. There’s plenty to see and be entertained by. For example, outside the Exhibit Hall will be the Great American Duck Races, The San Diego County Ford Dealers Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, The Mammoth Lakes Kids Fish Free Trout Pond, the Fishing in the City Kids Casting Contest, fly casting lessons and the Ram Ultimate Air Dogs.

The show program at the door, published and produced by the staff at WON in cooperation with Fred Hall & Associates, has all the show and seminar schedules and an exhibitor list. Pick one up. And be sure to sign up for Western Outdoor News, the only weekly hunting and fishing newspaper published in the U.S., and there are fantastic gifts and a discounts in two-year new subscriptions or renewals. They are located right inside the final exhibit hall on your left as you enter.

The Fred Hall Del Mar Show has been around for 41 years and is a San Diego institution. It is one of the best shows of its kind in the world. This show has become San Diego’s Biggest Fishing Show, Biggest Boat Show, and Biggest Outdoor Recreation Event of the Year.

Don’t miss it March 23-26 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Open Thursday and Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And just like all Fred Hal Shows kids 15 and under are FREE. It’s a Whale of a Show!!!!!

JOIN CCA and get a book of vouchers worth hundreds of dollars and get in free to the show, a $15 value.

A FULL ARRAY of marine electronics is coming to the show in the massive Johnson-Hicks display.

Page 1 of 698 First | Previous | Next | Last

Buy a WON Tshirt