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Big Fish Challenge

124.1-pound bluefin is top fish in early going
Getting into the 10-week Challenge is a no-brainer at

We’re into week two of the inaugural WON Big Fish Challenge and things are starting to really heat up. A 124.1-pound bluefin is currently the biggest catch posted so far in the Challenge, but the big blues — and now yellowfin — are still out there and ripe for the picking.

THIS 124.1-POUND bluefin caught last week by Corie Husband of Carlsbad is currently the top fish to be weighed in the WON Big Fish Challenge.

Entering the Challenge is an absolute no-brainer. You’re already going to be fishing this summer — or at least you should be — so why not throw your hat in the ring for a shot at one of six monster grand champion prize packages with weekly winners each and every week of the event. It’s cheap, easy, and you can fish whenever and however often you’d like. A true win-win situation.

Getting in the Challenge is about as user-friendly as it gets:

1) Just log onto and click on the “Enter Big Fish Challenge” tab.

2) Select your target species and add them to your shopping cart for just $10 each, or $40 to go all-in for all six available species (tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, dorado, halibut and lingcod).

3) Enter your information, create a username and password, check out and pay your entry fee and you’re in — it really is that easy.

4) Then simply go fishing!

5) Bring a big fish over the rail? Take it to one of the 10 official weigh stations for the event and have it weighed and get a good photo of your catch with an official weigh board.

6) Upload your photo and catch information to

7) That’s it. You’re done until the next week’s competition or your next big fish. Just watch the leaderboard and hope your fish can hold on to win.

It should continue to be one heck of a saltwater season. Happy hunting!

Bill Varney's Blog

Surf fishing etiquette and safety
Even to me this is a boring subject but I have to admit it’s easier to know the rules in advance then to learn them along the way. Take golfing, if you didn’t know the rules you would be putting first, talking on the tees and picking up strangers balls. To avoid confrontation and have a great time every trip to the beach here are a few tips I live by.

BRIAN PARKER OF San Diego showing off a large barred surfperch.

When you go to the beach remember you’re there for recreation and not confrontation. Every so often we run into some bonehead and have to remind ourselves to keep cool. Be patient and enjoy yourself.

From Seattle to San Felipe Mexico there are more than 3,000 miles of surf fishing coastline. Feel free to spread out and try new areas. If you see someone fishing the beach give them space. If you choose to fish near them, let’s say from the rocks or on the beach, take a moment to ask them for their permission. If they say no, move on. Most often they’ll say yes and may let you in on what they’re doing to be successful.

When dealing with swimmers and surfers here are a few things to remember: Be respectful: Most swimmers and surfers have little knowledge of fishing and don’t know when they’re in danger or in your way. If you can move a bit, or wait for the drift to take them away, you’ll be able to get back to fishing in no time.

Give way to the crowd: If you approach the beach and find it crowded with swimmers and surfers, don’t fish there. Find another place to fish or return earlier and later once they’re gone.

Let them know you’re there: If swimmers or surfers paddle out right where you are fishing let them know with a call or whistle and point out as to where your line is. Most of the time they will move on down the beach. If they don’t, you move on.

SANTIAGO MATA FROM Los Angeles with a hefty Bolsa Chica corbina.

Remove all of your trash when you leave the beach. This is my biggest regret of being a fisherman—seeing all the trash anglers’ leave behind. So take all of your trash with you and dispose of all leftover bait, as it will attract birds and rats if left on the rocks or beach. At the end of a session I will often have a bag along to pick up trash left by others as I make my way back to my vehicle. I’m not here to clean up the entire beach, but every little bit we can do helps.

Over the last few weeks I’ve received some great surf fishing photos of big perch. After the warm water of last summer it’s great to see both the perch and crabs back. I do want to remind everyone that for the large pregnant perch please try to put them back in the water as soon as possible. Jason Scribner from has written an excellent article on how to spot them and place them back properly. Check it out on his site. In the meantime, keep some smaller perch, which seem sweeter and more tender—and make some tacos!

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Check out Bill’s upcoming on-the-beach surf fishing clinics on his site where you’ll find tips on how to rig, bait and find fish at the beach. To explore the tackle he uses everyday in the surf visit

Steve Comus' Blog

Big Iron
Powerful revolvers are good crossover guns

Many discussions of handguns focus on “tactical” semi-autos and easily concealable revolvers. That’s fine. But there is more. There are full-size, powerful revolvers that can be used for virtually anything involving handguns. They come to the fore where tactical/concealable arms are less than the best choices.

Hunting is one such application. For mid-size or larger game (hogs, deer, etc.), “magnum” revolvers are the best handgun picks.

CROSSOVER REVOLVERS INCLUDE the .44 Mag (upper left) and .41 Mag (upper right). They compare with the 1911 in .45 ACP.

Big revolvers can be pressed into defensive service, as well. When concealed carry is not a requirement, a big, powerful revolver has many things going for it.

I am not suggesting that anyone should abandon the tactical/concealable arms if those types serve the shooters’ purposes. Rather, I suggest that shooters consider expanding their effectiveness.

What is a big, powerful revolver? For some, that type of handgun begins with .357 Magnum. For me, big/powerful begins at .41 Magnum. The .357 Magnum is a superb cartridge. But it is a bit light as a primary hunting cartridge for medium to larger game.

I consider the .41 and .44 Magnums to be performance equals. The next step up in power is the .454 Casull/.460 S&W. Both are significantly more effective than the .41/.44 Mags. The .45/70 revolvers also fall into the mid-size biggies. For me, a true big, powerful revolver shoots the .500 S&W Magnum. The .500 S&W is primarily a hunting handgun.

Those considering a hunting/defense crossover revolver, the .41/.44 Magnum size makes most sense. Enough power for hunting, yet not overwhelming in other applications.

SERIOUSLY BIG REVOLVERS include the .500 S&W (top) and .454 Casull.

Big revolvers can shoot ammunition that is less than full power. For example, the .454 Casull/.460 S&W revolvers can shoot ammo that replicates the performance of the .45 Colt. There is the .500 Special ammo that is loaded to less power than the .500 S&W Mag.

Let’s look at the relative performance of cartridges. For comparison, the classic.45 ACP load used in handguns like the 1911 sends a 230-grain .451 bullet out of the barrel at a nominal 855 feet per second for a muzzle energy of 405 foot/pounds.

The .44 Magnum sends a 240-grain .429 bullet out at 1,350 fps for a ME of 971. A .41 Magnum sends a 210-grain .410 bullet out at 1,300 fps for a ME of 788.

The .454 Casull sends a 300-grain bullet out at 1,350 to 1,600+ fps for ME ranging from 1,220 to 1,750. The .460 S&W sends a 250-grain bullet out at 2,000 fps for ME of 2,309. Or, the .500 S&W sends a 300-grain bullet out at 2,000 fps for ME of 2,800 or so.

All of the cartridges above are available in a number of different loadings, but the ones listed show how they compare to each other when it comes to power. They all dwarf the performance of the normal “tactical” cartridges like the 9mmP, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Big, powerful revolvers are not for everyone. But for those who can handle them, these handguns expand opportunities and increase the fun factor in the process.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

MAGNUM REVOLVER CARTRIDGES compare here with the .45 ACP at far left. From right, the revolver cartridges are .500 S&W, .454 Casull, .44 Mag, .41 Mag and .357 Mag.

Carrie Wilson's Blog

Crabbing from Shore with a Launcher?
Question: While crabbing from shore with a rod/reel/crab snare, I was not having any luck. I noticed a guy on a paddle board with a crab trap just past my maximum casting distance, and he was catching crabs no problem. Would it be legal to launch a crab snare, attached to the line of a rod and reel, with a catapult, trebuchet, water balloon launcher or similar device? If only I could get it out 10 more feet or so I feel I would have better success. (Ivan M., San Francisco)

CALIFORNIA CRAB FISHERMEN who is fishing with a crab snare. Crab loop traps (crab snares) may have up to six loops. Creative Commons photo

CRAB LOOP OR crab snare. Creative Commons photo

Answer: There are no Fish and Game regulations that prohibit the use of a device to send your terminal gear out to locations beyond where you can cast. However, you might want to check local (city, county, state beach, etc.) ordinances for the beaches where you will be crabbing prior to using one of these devices. Some people use kites or remote controlled boats for this purpose.

Can retired peace officers countersign a deer tag?

Question: I was reviewing the persons authorized to countersign a deer tag recently and was wondering if you could clarify whether peace officers (salaried and non-salaried) are authorized? If so, can retired peace officers also sign off another person’s deer tag? I have been told yes and no by two different wardens. (Mike D., Salinas)

Answer: Retired officers are not authorized to countersign deer tags. The only people authorized to countersign deer tags are those people listed under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708.6., which include:

(A) State:

1. Fish and Game Commissioners

2. Employees of the Department of Fish and Game, including Certified Hunter Education Instructors

3. Employees of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

4. Supervising Plant Quarantine Inspectors

5. Junior, Intermediate and Senior Plant Quarantine Inspectors

(B) Federal:

1. Employees of the Bureau of Land Management

2. Employees of the United States Forest Service

3. Employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

4. All Uniformed Personnel of the National Park Service

5. Commanding Officers of any United States military installation or their designated personnel for deer taken on their reservation

6. Postmasters and Post Office Station or Branch Manager for deer brought to their post office

(C) Miscellaneous:

1. County firemen at and above the class of foreman for deer brought into their station

2. Judges or Justices of all state and United States courts

3. Notaries Public

4. Peace Officers (salaried and non-salaried)

5. Officers authorized to administer oaths

6. Owners, corporate officers, managers or operators of lockers or cold storage plants for deer brought to their place of business

Question on abalone start time

Question: I know that the start time for abalone diving is now 8 a.m. If it takes me 15 minutes to swim out to the spot I want to start diving for abs, can I enter the water at 7:45 a.m. and not make my first dive until 8 a.m., or does the law mean that there is no entry into the water at all until 8 a.m.? Thanks, (Don C.)

Answer: Abalone may be taken only from 8 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(b)(2)). Although “take” includes the pursuit of abalone, as long as you are just swimming on the surface out to your dive spot and don’t begin your actual searching or diving down for these mollusks until 8 a.m., you would not violate the start time.

What determines wanton waste of fish?

Question: What would be considered deterioration or waste of fish? I understand that leaving them on the shoreline or in a garbage can would be waste, but would it also apply to using the whole fish as fertilizer or something like that? (Zach T.)

Answer: Anglers are expected to make reasonable efforts to retrieve and utilize any fish taken. It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (CCR Title 14, section 1.87). Although most fish taken under the authority of sport fishing licenses are utilized for human consumption, the regulation does not prescribe how fish are to be used.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at

Gary Graham's Blog

Mex 3 – 5: Roads less traveled
Several weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, Yvonne and I took our first trip through Guadalupe Valley. Kenia Zamarripa, SAC’s Director of Marketing and International Affairs, and Heidy Salum, Binational Liaison for the Government of Baja California Secretary of Tourism of Baja California, guided us through Guadalupe Valley to kick off a weekend trip to Ensenada at Hotel Coral and Marina with the Sportfishing Association of California President, Captain Ken Franke, and the “Let’s Talk Hook-Up” crew which included Pete Gray and his sound engineer, Rick Cutler, ( The SAC group was there to continue the very successful series of interactions between Mexican and American representatives from Government agencies, hotels, and fishing fleets, and on Saturday morning, the two-hour radio show shared information vital to anglers, tourists and boats cruising the waters off Baja’s coast.

KNOWING THERE WAS over 20 miles of dirt road ahead, I stopped and visited with "Coco" at his elaborately decorated (literally) “wide spot in the road” named appropriately "Coco's Corner."

Guadalupe Valley, with its many vineyards, restaurants and wineries was quite a pleasant surprise. It reminded Yvonne and me of Sonoma Valley in Northern California — certainly an interesting option for a weekend getaway. The sprawling vineyards with the beautiful mountains behind them made a picturesque backdrop for the unique selection of restaurants and quaint hotels. A bonus: there were menus to fit every budget.

Later that evening we had a great dinner at a small restaurant near the waterfront area with an unusual floor-to-ceiling back bar -- straight from the U.S. Prohibition years delivered from San Francisco by a two-masted schooner. We arrived in "Uber" taxis . . . yes, Uber . . . another surprise and convenience to find Uber in Ensenada!

After a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel on Saturday, Yvonne hitched a ride with the gang back to the border and I began my journey southward on several roads I had never traveled. The first was Mex 3.

Mex 3 is located on the south side of Ensenada where Mex 1 continued south. Meandering east through town before climbing into the mountains which looked similar to San Diego's East County. Eventually, the road descended into an agricultural area with more vineyards and farms, ultimately reaching the coast.

There it ran into Mex 5 heading south toward San Felipe. Up to that point, both Mex 3 and Mex 5 were in good condition and repair.

However, beyond San Felipe there were potholes and some of the worst dips I've encountered in Baja on a paved road. They would catch me unaware and even traveling at a normal driving speed, I could find myself airborne. I counted at least three damaged and abandoned boat trailers, apparently from the dips. TAKE IT EASY!

Once you reach Gonzaga Bay the road is new and in great shape.

LATER THAT EVENING we had a great dinner at a small restaurant near the waterfront area with an unusual floor-to-ceiling back bar — straight from the U.S. Prohibition years delivered from San Francisco by a two-masted schooner.

I spend the night in my Roadtrek next to a palapa ($20) on Gonzaga Bay Beach and resumed my trip the following morning. Knowing there was over 20 miles of dirt road ahead, I stopped and visited with "Coco" at his elaborately decorated (literally) “wide spot in the road” named appropriately "Coco's Corner."

He served me a cup of coffee and proceeded to give a thumbnail version of his compelling life story. Born in Tijuana in 1937, he first visited the area in 1966 during the first NORRA Baja 500. Overwhelmed by the area’s rugged beauty and remoteness, he returned several times and grew fonder of the isolation and solitude he enjoyed with each trip.

He lost both legs in an accident prior to1990 and was confined to a wheelchair. Upon receipt of a settlement and pension, in his words, he said "bye-bye Ensenada." Since that time, he has called that desolate corner his home, making infrequent trips to Ensenada in a specially equipped truck.

I asked him about the new highway being built through his home of 27 years. Either he didn’t understand the impact the new road would have on him or he didn’t mind.

His observation was that the completion would be three more years coming before the entire project would be completed. He also pointed out that work had stopped for a month and a half because of a lack of government funds and all the equipment 14 kilometers south was currently silent.

I had read in Baja Forum that Coco liked to read so I brought him some paperbacks and magazines. He seemed pleased to receive them. However, while he spoke English, he had friends translate and read the books written in English to him.

Beyond Coco’s Corner, a serious Baja Dirt road was littered with big and small rocks requiring speeds of less than 10 mph in many places. I encountered a number of large semi-trucks that seemed to prefer the new route already as well as a few passenger cars. The length of the dirt portion was about 20 miles which took me less than two hours to reach the junction onto Mex 1.

Undoubtedly, eventually the new route will change the face of Baja from a driving perspective, but for now, in my opinion, a drive on the less-traveled Mex 5 makes one appreciate Mex 1 more.

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