Pat McDonell's Blog

WONews Column by Pat McDonell

Pat McDonell is the Editorial Director of Western
Outdoors Publications and has fished and hunted all over the world, from Brazil’s famed peacock bass waters to Morro Bay for albacore.

A graduate from San Diego State University in Journalism, he coordinates the staffs of the weekly newspaper and magazine. He was a founding member of United Anglers of SoCal. He’s an avid saltwater and freshwater angler and hunter. He is also the director of the annual Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament held each November in Cabo.  McDonell, 52, is married with two daughters and resides in Carlsbad.

Heading north for fish, back for dove
There’s no way to truly take advantage of this job and its hunting and fishing opps and stay married. And get any sleep. But in these next few days and weeks, I will push the envelope. For you readers, of course, Not for me. Yeah, right.

Now that I have the two hip surgeries behind me, which were perfectly timed around fishing, tournaments and weddings, I’m a little gimpy but none the worse for wear and tear after 60 years and a lot of running, surfing and marathons. Yes, I’m that old, and if you give it some perspective, I started here at WON 31 years ago, the year before the last, great El Niño of ’83 and 84. Ah, the good old days. Hell, I like the new ones. Better meds.

I’ve never been one to sit still. Four days after my latest replacement surgery I drove to work. The paper goes out every Monday. I want to be there. But, I also want to fish and hunt, and being on the sidelines is no damn fun. So I’m getting busy, starting today.

It’s 4:30 a.m. as I write this on Sunday before I head to Orange County to board a flight to Sitka, where a one-week “business” trip begins with a charter float plane trip to a remote lake. Not part of the WON trip I am hosting for 30 people at Kingfisher Lodge two days after I arrive.

I decided to take my own advice to folks who come up for ocean fishing, and am going for a little coastal lake fishing with lodge owner and longtime friend Seth Bone. There’s three of us on the trip tomorrow, and we’re bringing tackle, and a large handgun for bears. They scare the hell out of me, more than sharks off Manhattan Beach, I can tell you that. Sharks can’t run or climb, and I ain’t that fast a runner these days.

We rented a national forest cabin for the day, for $65 online, primarily because it comes with a boat. Seth is bringing the Dirty Harry handgun with a shoulder holster and the freshwater tackle. I’m pretty stoked about this trip, a bucket list item. When we get back, we have a party for the WON group and the lodge does its thing as the perfect host, and I just record the fun on my Canon camera and iPad. A short YouTube video is on the way on both trips.

So, after three days of amazing scenery and food and fishing for silvers, kings, rockfish, lings and halibut I head to Portland and then to the coast to troll downhill 100 miles for — get this — albacore, on Eat Me Lures owner John Boyer’s sleek Cabo 35. Been saying I’ll do it someday. When you hit 60 and have what Billy Crystal calls “procedures,” those somedays are todays.

Then it’s back to work next Monday to get the dove opener results and the paper out the door, and then the next Friday Saturday, the 5th and 6th my attention goes to the Yamaha/WON Dana Landing San Diego Open I direct (sign-ups are coming in fast now), maybe a skiff trip on my boat midweek, then a dove weekend at a local ranch with Bart Hall and a bunch of friends. Three weeks later is the Cedros Island trip I host each year (yeah!) then I finish prep for 9 days in Cabo for the WON Tuna Jackpot, in early November. We are, by the way, 40 percent ahead of our sign-ups at this time last year when we had 136 boats, our fourth straight increase. So, 150 teams this year!?

By now you’ve gathered that I’m either nuts or confident that my new hips will take the stress of five days of fishing and two days of dove hunting a month after surgery. No problem. Hip replacement is a blessing and I’m already riding my bike 20 miles a day, swimming and lifting. I’m ready to let the games begin. You folks had a head start, but I’ll get my licks in. Starting now.

Quick dove note: Reader confusion. After Jim, a reader, called the DFW office and was told that WON was wrong, that the limit is still TEN birds, I went ballistic. Know your regs, DFW guys! Okay, so the state dove limit is now 15 birds. The old DFW regs for 2013-14 are still up on the web confusing even some of the office personnel, obviously, and they have the limit as 10, but the new limits posted under the 2014-15 regs on the DFW site now show, correctly, 15 birds, 10 of which can be whitewing, max. Or 15 mourning dove, or whatever mix gets you to 15, and 45 max possession. Eurasian have no limit and no season starting Sept. 1. All year, all the time, all the birds you want, kicking off with the beginning of this year’s dove season.


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Pat McDonell is editor of WON, he can be reached at­

Bluefin, Pier Updates
Bluefin ban still in effect, Manhattan Pier will see new regs

The written confirmation from Conpesca, Mexico's fisheries department did not arrive Monday, nor Tuesday and now it's Wednesday. Thus, Ken Franke, president of the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC), has sent a directive to the fleet of sport fishers and landings that the verbal okay on Sunday was not official. The written confirmation from Mexico City, when it comes, will officially reopen recreational take of bluefin in Mexican waters. Thew fishery has been closed throughout Mexico for weeks after Conpesca directed all commercial and recreational bluefin in Mexican waters be halted. 

On Sunday, Franke sent out a text message internally to boat owners and captains and landing operators that are part of the SAC group in SoCal. Franke now admits, he jumped the gun and that the text was not meant for public consumption through the media, but the news quickly spread. He told WON Saltwater Editor Merit McCrea on Wednesday afternoon that out of respect and consideration for Mexican officials, the ban will remain in affect for SAC boats until he receives the written confirmation.


As for the Manhattan Project, or the Manhattan Pier Fiasco, at last night's Manhattan Beach City Council meeting, the expected happened. The City Council flexed is community muscles and announced that the pier will be reopened to fishing in two weeks after proper signage is created and posted on-site for new regulations that effectively ban shark fishing. The use of heavy wire leaders, large hooks, chumming and overhand casting will not be allowed due to public safety concerns after a swimmer was attached July 4 by a juvenile white shark that was hooked by a pier fishermen.

It has long been known that the pier is a favored spot to fish for sharks. Great White sharks are protected, but other species of sharks are legal to take. The issue, the city council members and mayor said at the meeting, is public safety in a heavily populated recreational area.

The question now is whether the City is correct legally in shutting down fishing in the first place, and setting new regulations. The State Fish and Game Commission, in an Aug. 7 letter by Commission President Michael Sutton, advised the City Council that the jurisdiction over fishing in the state its regulations in general, rest in the authority of the commission, not cities, counties or municipalities. 

The right to fish on public piers is currently guaranteed under state law, and it would take a constitutional amendment through a legislative vote to change that. Very unlikely. 

Still, the city will keep the pier closed, and city officials said they will look into whether they can legally prohibit fishing from the pier near the surf line where swimmers and surfers are vulnerable, and at the end of the pier where many anglers — including shark fishermen, ply their sport. 

Stay tuned. It is not over. But until it is, any infraction of the new regs will be a $100 misdemeanor when the pier is reopened to fishing and the new ordinance signs are posted.  


What is the tuna limit?

Lot of people really don't know. The DFG regs are online and it's all there, but here it is. This is SoCal only. Not Mexico. Just our Socal waters south of Pt. Conception. If you go north of that, the difference is that you can whack 25 albies. 

okay, so here it goes, and keep this in mind. All tuna are not treated the same. 

Albies and bluefin: 10 fish each, and so you can keep 10 of each, 20 fish, PLUS 20 other finish in accordance with those species by species regs. Total of 40 possible. A nice target if you are man enough.

Bigeye and  yellowfin: Limit is 10. Totals of any of the two. That's it. 10 total. But here is the nutty part. That 10 fish is part of your 20-fish aggregate total possible daily bag limit.  Don't ask me why. It's not explained in the regs.

Final note: These new regs for halibut, including an August closure,  they are for Pacific halibut, not California halibut.  Have no fear.



Keep ’em coming
With the kind of season we are having, it is almost impossible to get all of the reports and photos in. But keep ’em coming. One report was classic. Nothing monsterous, but a PB for a young guy, 19-year-old Sean Hanson, who fished last week over parts of three days Wednesday through Friday on his dad’s Mako My Day skiff.

Said WON reader and Huntington Beach resident Mike Hanson, “We picked up live squid and sardines from Nacho and starting at the Suicide Kelp on the backside, The 8- to 10-pound yellowtail were hammering slow trolled sardines right off the bat. We even had a double hookup.”


THIS QUALITY CATALINA yellow of 28 pounds, a PB, was caught by Sean Hanson of Huntington Beach last Friday.

Thursday they headed offshore to the 152 and 277 for zilch, then went back to the island’s Palisades area for a few more yellows. On Friday a bait pump issue slowed the day’s departure, but as Martin said, “we decided to give it one last try. Blue Magnum Rapala X-Raps went in and about 15 minutes later, Sean’s reel starts screaming the real deal (I love that sound!). Sean worked like a champ, with the fish making many long runs. After about a 10-minute fight, a chin music gaff shot put 28 pounds of personal best yellowtail on the deck for Sean.”

And the best news is that these stories will keep coming on what many captains describe as the best season offshore in decades. This week I get a shot at the tuna aboard my skiff, a few weeks after my second hip replacement surgery. (Shhh, don’t tell my doctor.)

THE PAPER YOU ARE READING is available to you, as a subscriber, digitally, as of each Tuesday. The codes are on your mailing label. Just bookmark it on your computer and Note­book or phone (kinda tough to read using that!) and you are done. You also have all the archived papers and supps for reference, plus both north and south editions.

AND, HARD TO BELIEVE the day has come, but if you want to take the paper digitally only, it is now available for $24.95 for a one-year subscription. This offering should meet the needs of those outside of California or those for whom timeliness of delivery is a primary concern. As our circ guy Bill Jaenicke explained, the WON Digital-Only subscriptions must be ordered online so that the subscriber can create a unique User ID and a Password which will be used to the WON Digital Editions. To subscribe, browse to and click the SUBSCRIPTIONS tab — you’ll see the WON Digital Editions subscription as the third option. Print subscribers also get access to the WON Digital Editions as part of their print subscription.

COMING UP NEXT WEEK is the dove preview, and after that, the annual Fall Fishing Guide to the Sierra with an area-by-area report on fishing and water level conditions, best places to see fall colors, fall tactics, and features on the Brown Baggers and the Big Pine area. Good stuff.

IF INTERESTED IN THE CABO Tuna Jackpot preview, go to and look to your right where the logos are, and click on the cover that is marked as a link to that great preview supplement of 28 pages. The link is… but I seriously doubt you will type that in. So go to the web page.

THE SIGNUPS ARE COMING IN NOW for the second annual Sept. 5-6 WON/Yamaha Dana Landing Jackpot. The fishing is just going off, so that helps, and the lifting of the bluefin ban can’t hurt, but let’s face it, a $50 entry fee per angler, and a FREE entry for two people on all Yamaha-powered teams is the big impetus. If you are going fishing anyway, this is a pretty good event. This event has Big Fish $100 optionals for yellows and tuna, but if I get interest enough from big bucks teams, I will have a mega optional of $1,000, 90 percent payback. We will see.

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Pat McDonell is editor of WON and director of the Cabo, Catalina and Dana Landing jackpot events. He can be reached at (949) 366-0030 ext. 33 or by e-mail at

Commission weighs in on fishing ban

Commission says no to Manhattan pier closure

Following a July 4 shark attack of a swimmer that eventually caused the closing of pier fishing in Manhattan Beach, the California Fish and Game Commission wrote the City of Manhattan Beach on Aug. 7 stating that its pier fishing ban was illegal.

The commission President Michael Sutton wrote that the city had no legal authority to pass new pier fishing regulations as proposed for consideration for the Aug. 12 city council hearing. The long distance swimmer survived after being attacked by a juvenile great white that had been hooked and was currently being fought by a pier fisherman.

All along we have been saying the city had no jurisdiction to close down the pier to fishing. The city is entitled to regulate behavior and some methods of fishing, but it cannot legally ban the act of fishing on the pier. Why it took the commission several weeks to write the letter is a mystery, but better last-minute than never. State law is clear on this, and WON has reported this in recent editions while most anglers have gone off the deep end as though this one incident, and closure, would set a precedent for other municipalities to closure piers to fishing.

Commission President Sutton in his letter also called on the city to lift its illegal ban. On Tuesday, Aug. 12, the Manhattan Beach City Council was scheduled to revisit their pier fishing ban imposed after a recent shark attack — and propose new, illegal regulations on pier fishing. A good crowd is expected tomorrow night.

The city council meeting is slated for Tuesday night, Aug. 12, at 6 p.m., at the City Council chambers, at 1400 Highland Ave,. Manhattan Beach. It is the 11th item on the agenda.

The link to the Commission letter is below, and below that is the city council’s link to its agenda, provided to the media by the California Sportfishing League (


August 7th, CSL letter to the City Council

August 11th, Fish and Game Commission letter to the City Council

Link to City Council Agenda

Mexican Bluefin ban lifted
Mexico gives fleet okay 

The recreational ban on the take of bluefin tuna in Mexican waters by Conpesca, the fisheries arm of the Mexican federal government, has been lifted as of today, it was reported by the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) 

In a brief text message to the fleet today, SAC President Ken Franke  informed the captains, boat owners and landing operators that the "(Mex bluefin) Bluefin tuna fishing now authorized in Mexican waters by Mexican government. Written notice will be available Monday."

The original decree by the Mexican government to ban the take of bluefin due to dwindling global stocks, did not contain specific language that would also eliminate sport fishing, but Conpesca still issued a directive to ban both recreational and commercial take. While recreational Mexican fishing operations said they would still fish recreationally because the original document did not specify recreational take, the U.S. fleet and private boaters honored the ban, which appears to be lifted. 

We will have more on the lifting of the recreational ban in this week's issue of Western Outdoor News, available digitally to subscribers and on the newsstands and in the mail soon after.

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