Local Yellows Nibble
Net Update by Bill Roecker

No wide-open bite yet, but on Thursday, April 17, at least two San Diego boats found some biting yellowtail at the Coronados Islands. Malihini of H&N reported a catch of 22 yellows, and Seaforth’s San Diego took 13, along with a lingcod. Rockfish were also caught by Malihini.


Rick Marin at H&M said, “The bite’s pretty consistent, with 20 to 40 fish a day. The little ones are around 12 and the best fish around 40 pounds. It’s mostly been a jig bite on yoyo iron. A good color has been mint and white but no particular color is that much better than the others. Larger jigs are getting the most bites, like the full-size Salas 6X and the Tady 4/0. The water’s still off-color, about 62 degrees, with lots of krill.”

Seaforth spokesman Mike Gauger said, “San Diego was mostly fishing on the anchor, with flylined mackerel and surface iron in sardine color. Bob Fletcher got 5, and three were with treble-hooked mackerel. They’re fishing in more places now, in improving conditions, around South Island and The Middle Grounds.”

Visit Bill Roecker’s web site at:

Jim Niemiec's Blog

TOUGH CUSTOMERS: In quest of a turkey grand slam
WON’s Jim Niemiec kept at it, and finally bagged the elusive Eastern turkey to come one bird closer to his goal of bagging all four species of North American turkeys

MONTGOMERY, AL. — The eastern turkey is considered by avid bird hunters across the U.S.. to be the smartest, most elusive and by far the one very difficult bird of all turkey species of North American to hunt. This turkey hunter can attest to those findings of the largest native bird of America.

As Western Outdoor News hunting editor I have been in quest of my North American Grand Slam of Turkeys since shooting a jake Merriam's over a quarter of a century ago. Even while working as Conservation Director of Bill Jordan's Realtree camouflage company, the Eastern gobbler proved to be the hardest to add to my harvested gobbler list.

TEAMED UP ON THIS BIG ALABAMA TOM — Local turkey hunter Johnnie Wood and WON's Jim Niemiec teamed up on this big Eastern gobbler that was called into a single hen decoy after flying down from his nearby roost.

Over the course of this quest there were no less than 6 states hunted in the Eastern turkey range with many hours and long days spent sitting on a Hunter's Specialties Strut seat with my back pinned to a stately oak with a selection of slates and box calls close at hand. There were some very close encounters along the way, but none close enough to do more than take the safety off and ready a shotgun to a shooting position.

Pennsylvania offered a shot off a nearby roost that went sideways, the 5 days spent in West Virginia was a total bust, was forced out of turkey country twice in Mississippi by advancing tornados (2) and torrential rain and near success on day 2 of last year's hunt in Alabama.

Local Alabama double "World Grand Slam" hunter Mr. Johnnie Wood, born in Montgomery and a true southern gentleman if there ever was one, was my guide in Mississippi 3 years ago and again last year. His turkey calling skills, knowledge of wild turkey and access to some fine turkey properties were more than enough for me to ask for his assistance again on this year's turkey hunt. Mr. Johnnie is currently working on his third world grand slam and is very focused on shooting a gobbler in every state.

Wood is known in Montgomery and adjoining counties at the "turkey talker," a name pinned on him for the work he does with youth and adult groups in teaching the skills of turkey hunting at various conservation and church events. Wood is also a preacher and faithfully spends most every Sunday in church greeting parishioners and leading hymns sung prior to the start of services.

A few days prior to my arrival in Montgomery the region was hit hard by a tremendous rain storm that dumped over 8 inches of rain that pushed the wide Alabama River to more than 10 feet above flood plain and put a lot of "turkey country" under standing water. Not a good condition for spring turkey season and Wood was a little more than concerned about how the gobblers and hens might behave with so much water on the ground.

Day one of our hunt had us hunting on a 225 acre timber plantation accompanied by owner Ed Thrash, another very nice southerner and good golfer as well, with whom I shared a pop-up camo tent blind, a Benelli at my side resting on a neat short HS Shooter's stick (ideal for hunting out of a tent) which allows a shotgun to be at all times in a ready position to shoulder quietly and quickly.

As daylight broke there were no less than 6 different toms echoing gobbles across a meadow as the gobblers were roosted in nearby hardwood, a very good sign to start of the hunt. Wood got on his Primos Pretty Boy slate call early with some soft purrs and subtle yelps of a seductive hen which resulted in multiple responses. Unfortunately, the gobblers all headed off in different directions, likely with hens, and the results of the early morning hunt period were just 3 hens quietly walking and feeding past the blind well within shooting range, but no gobblers or jakes tagging along. Ed had to leave early and Wood suggested we just stick it out as many of the turkeys he has shot over the years were killed during the day.

FIRST EASTERN GOBBLER — WON's Jim Niemiec shot this Eastern gobbler last week while hunting outside of Montgomery, Alabama. This was Niemiec's first Eastern tom and he now ONLY needs the Osceola turkey of Florida to succeed in shooting a North American Grand Slam of Turkeys. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHNNIE WOOD

My trusty guide was sporadic with his selection of calls and after two hours a huge gobbler popped silently into view. Even though that tom was responsive to every call made by Wood, that bird seemed to be on a mission and disappeared into a stand of hardwoods. Another hour passed slowly when a second tom appeared straight out from the blind and was kind of responsive but not hot enough to come into shotgun range before moving off into a mixed stand of pines and some very beautiful dogwood trees in full bloom.

After what seemed an eternity, with more than one quick power nap by both hunter and guide under the warmth of a clear spring Alabama sky, a distant putt got us on alert! Rounding a small curve in the terrain came a hen followed by two gobblers in full strut. These toms were stuck to that hen out some 50 to 55 yards. Wood asked if I could make that shot and I assured him that I could, as there was no way of closing the distance.

With shotgun shouldered the largest long beard dropped its tail and raised his head as a load of Federal Premium High Velocity turkey load #5's headed his way. The first shot hit the tom but only turned him around. The second tom moved out of range and the hen moved right beside the bigger bird not allowing for a second safe shot.

Once cleared, I shot high and off the mark, but the Benelli cycled flawlessly and that last load of #5 shot rolled him down for the count. WOW!!!!...after a quarter of century this hunting editor had finally harvested an Eastern gobbler with a 10-inch beard, 1.25-inch spurs and weighed 22 pounds. That gobbler was beautiful with bright colorful tail and back feathers and a glistening neck. It was then time for high 5's and definitely time to celebrate and set up a trophy photo shoot.

Day two also proved successful right off the roost for a new gobbler on a different parcel of land with Wood and this shooter doubling up an another big Eastern that proved difficult to kill when Wood's Remington Mdl. 11-87 jammed. After his first shot, with this shooter following it up with a few pellets hitting the big tom and bringing it down for a short time, and Johnnie finally was able to finish it off as it tried to limp off to safety in the bottom of a brush filled creek bottom. Not a bad day to end a wonderful turkey hunting experience in the fine state of Alabama.

With an Eastern finally harvested, this hunter now has set his sight(s) on finishing off a North America Grand Slam of Turkey by booking some kind of hunt for the Osceola turkey species found only in central Florida; with a Rio Grande, Merriam's, Eastern and my Gould's shot in the Mexican state of Chihuahua 4 years ago with the assistance of guide Enrique "Kike" Perez and booked through the Sinalo Duck and Dove Club already accounted for. I would hope to harvest this final turkey next spring and any suggestions, hints, tips, advice or recommendations from WON readers sent to my attention at would be greatly appreciated.

With an Eastern turkey population in excess of 500,000 Eastern birds other hunters looking to harvest this bird, Alabama would be a very good destination. A non-resident 3-day hunting license runs $132.25 available on line, with rooms, meals and flights reasonable into either Montgomery or Birmingham. There are guides available across the state, a number of fine southern hunting lodges that offer first class turkey hunting and the Alabama game and fish department have management areas open to the public by permit that hold a very huntable population of Eastern turkey. For more information on this state's turkey hunting program log on to the Alabama Game and Fish Department's - Department of Conservation and Natural Resources web site.

Merit McCrea's Blog

CenCal landings in flux, but ready for May 1 opener
With the May 1 rockfish opener right around the corner, boat and landing operators were positioning and conditioning in preparation for another terrific rockfish and lingcod season.

As it stood at press-time Monday, several reorganizational possibilities were being considered and boat crews were working busily to have their rigs ready for the opener. The best confirmed information this writer had so far was the following:

Morro Bay Landing has its landing office on the waterfront next door to the venerable Harbor Hut and across from the famous Morro Bay stacks. Its docks and bait receiver were all in now.

That landing will have at its docks the 65-foot, Black Pearl, owned and operated by Capt. Rick Craddick, and the San Pedro Special, now owned by Capt. Pat Manion. The plan is for the Special to run ½-day fishing and the Pearl to run the longer trips, being a 28-bunk boat with a full galley. It remained unclear whether the ‘Special would retain its almost legendary SoCal. moniker or be re-named.

Virg’s Landing, while not having an on-the-water location or its own docking facility for its boats, is recently under new ownership and is working towards relocating its landing office to the waterfront and having permanent, proprietary docks eventually.

In the meantime Virg’s will have the Rita G and will book the Fiesta and Princess from its current Market Street location. This location is several blocks from the waterfront and dock area.

In Port San Luis Harbor, Patriot Sportfishing’s landing will have the Patriot and the Sea Angler running trips from their location on Port San Luis Pier.

This last week saw Patriot’s boat Patriot out on the water some fishing both salmon and dungeness crabs. They caught the occasional legal salmon and several shakers each trip while running with light loads. Crab catches continued to be good but well off of the terrific scores of earlier in the crab season.

With 16 anglers aboard Saturday the Patriot had a pair of keeper kings, while on its crab combo trip earlier in the week the same number of folks caught 5 kings, one of which kept, and 20 crabs, 17 of which were the bigger dungeness variety.

Grady Istre's Blog

Alternative training methods
I think most dog trainers would embrace a training method that involved the least amount of discipline possible‚ I know the idea of less force is appealing to all novice dog trainers/ hunters. Heck, it’s a fascinating concept even to me, until reality sets in, that is.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen a few hard-core trainers switch from force to clickers, or some other soft-core training method and I’m not foolish enough to believe that there isn’t a dog out there that can be reasonably well-trained without the use of force. But these dogs are rare, even though some dog owners believe they have one.

In my many years as a professional dog trainer, I have never had a dog in training that had such a high level of trainability that I could satisfactorily train him so he would reliably perform for his owner without the use of some force. It would be difficult for any professional trainer to transfer all the skills a trainee has learned to his owner without first making damned sure the animal understands that he must perform every command to his training level.

I know of one professional trainer and breeder who boasted that he was breeding a litter of dogs that would not need to be force fetched. Really, that falls under the category of “show me don’t tell me.”

All that said, I do admit that It’s much easier for an owner to instill hunting techniques into his own dog without using force than for a professional. Just the act of teaching a dog the many hunting skills necessary to make a descent dog will add a low level of discipline to his methods.

Endless repetition can be a certain kind of pressure for a dog and a mind numbing substitute for correction. The result is usually a dog that behaves but many not be a joy to work. Something in between repetition and force with a willing student with good trainability can produce a dog that is adequate in the field. The same trainer would probably fail to produce a descent hunting dog out of a rebellious, hard charging, meathead. Lessons learned in the yard are tested in a hunting situation because obedience can be forgotten when live birds are falling. Most dogs fall in between both of the categories of pliability and stubbornness.

Every dog trainer — amateur or professional — must be true to his training beliefs. As for me, I personally will not teach a client or write articles that encourage a novice person to train a mediocre dog. I want all the trainers who read my articles to strive for the best hunting dog they can possibly produce. I know that’s not an easy task, especially for a beginner who has never trained a hunting dog. The challenges proper training present are worth the effort. My hope is that you will not become a card carrying member of the “that’s good enough for me” club.
Have fun training!

* * *

Grady Istre’s column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

Gary Graham's Blog

A Baja Adventure of TITAN proportions
Fall season 2013 began in early September with an invitation to join Captain Peter Groesbeck, Jimmy Decker (aka the Calico Guru), and Captain Rich Hamilton from San Diego, aboard the luxurious 75-foot TITAN sportfisher, the "C Bandit." The boat, owned by Bill McWethy of San Diego, was on a trip “downhill” for its annual run to Cabo San Lucas. Equipped with Seakeeper©, the boat rides smoothly regardless of sea conditions; however as luck would have it, calm seas followed us throughout the entire four-day trip.

At first morning’s gray light we were below Ensenada, paddy-hopping our way downhill catching bluefin, yellowfin and dorado until the sun set. '

The second morning found us cruising down the lee of Cedros. The morning was quiet with nothing showing when Groesbeck decided to honor Decker with a visit to a secluded kelp bed across Dewy Channel and bending in toward land where the living was easy and the big calicos were biting. On somewhat of a time schedule, we only stayed for an hour of fun before continuing down swell.


Back offshore, we headed for the ridge and the bites kept coming. A yellowfin here, a dorado there and to close out the day, our first striper of the trip was framed by a fantastic Baja sunset! Bluefin sashimi followed by dorado steaks cooked to perfection on a George Forman grill set the stage for a great dinner punctuated with many fish stories and laughter.

Early to bed and early to rise was the mantra for a night filled with a few hour wheel watches for each of us before the blood red Baja sun peeped over the Baja Peninsula to the east. The timing was impeccable and our first high spot and gray light arrived simultaneously.

Out went the Marauders four deep across the stern followed by the tortured howl of reel clickers under stress. HOOK UP! Soon, the skinnies were on the deck flopping in their iridescent blue splendor, slapping their tails on the deck creating a rhythmic song that only an angler can appreciate. Woohoo! Wahoo on the barbie for dinner was now more than a fantasy; it was a promise.

Zigzagging our way from bump-to-bump toward Magdalena Bay, we continued to score. As we grew closer to Lazaro we came upon a high spot with several pangas slowly idling about. Approaching, we realized there were free divers in the water hunting wahoo. Like oil and water, the two techniques of fishing are just not compatible. Not really being able to troll with the divers in the water, we moved on down the line.

[As a footnote, since that encounter I have heard some rumblings from locals at both Magdalena Bay and Cabo decrying the practice. Without taking sides, this is going to be a problem that will need to be addressed soon by the Mexican fisheries as tempers flare.]

Below Cabo San Lazaro outside the entrada to Magdalena Bay, the gear was changed to squid chains with a ballyhoo attached in the corners and naked ballyhoo with circle hooks down the center. "FOLLOW" was heard repeatedly as the stripers chased us and the baits down swell. Throughout the afternoon it was one hookup after another, sometimes doubles. When that happened more often than not we would leave the second rod in the holder for Decker, our designated rookie for the trip. When he would release one we would gently tap him on the shoulder and point to the second rod. He took the ribbing good naturedly and admitted by the end of the day that he had seen more striped marlin during that day than he ever had.

Our final day was reserved to search for one of the big’uns: a black or blue marlin to complete Decker's initiation into the world of big game fishing. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and for the first day during our four-day adventure, we were blanked.

As we rounded the familiar Cape Rocks at Land's End, the three captains all agreed that while we couldn't remember how many times we had made the journey from San Diego, we still shared Decker's belief that this had been one of the most fun trips we had ever experienced.

*Footnote – This started as a story about my Baja Bus Adventure after I left ‘C Bandit’ in Cabo and headed to East Cape; obviously I got sidetracked, so maybe next time. It was somehow easier to write about the fishing today; I think it must be time for me to pack my rods and head to Baja.

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