Rich Holland's Blog

WONews Column by Rich Holland
Rich Holland  covered the saltwater scene for WON for over 20 years and fished for just about anything that swims as angling editor and columnist for Western Outdoors magazine during that same time. Holland was editor of the magazine until publication was suspended due to the economy, but he is still Senior Editor of Western Outdoor News and a regular blogger and occasional columnist with a focus on fishing and the environment -- and catching fish. He also is WON BASS Editor and runs that blog, the monthly WON BASS supplement and covers the WON BASS tournament circuit. And he gets to go to Cabo every November to cover the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot.

This will be my last column for WON. After 24 years it’s time to move on. Instead of writing something new, I have chosen to reprint a column that originally ran in July of 1992 in a special issue following the passing of WON founding publisher Burt Twilegar. The references are definitely dated, but it’s still one of my favorite columns and I resisted making any changes.
Thanks to Burt Twilegar, the magic of our saltwater sportfishing heritage was chronicled in WON for close to four decades. I want to thank his son Bob for continuing the tradition and thank all you readers for your support throughout the years. Now here’s “Burt’s World.”

The docks in San Diego — a bubble of white light spread by the sport boats with generators humming and diesel engines fired up. Bundles of rods, wooden tackle boxes, duffel bags and dock carts. The bite is on and cars and trucks roam the parking lots, waiting for a spot.

A barge anchored off the coast, in a cove, beside a breakwater. Children pulling in their first fish — a mackerel, a tomcod, a halibut, it doesn’t matter. The taste of salt and sun and life.

A half-day boat makes a galley move. Burgers hit the grill and sizzle, the sharp scent of onions frying spreads a chum line in the air and the frenzy increases. Birds dive, the wheel turns and an old white feather with a ruby eye is slashed by a bonito. A human torrent floods the deck, and spinning reels grind out a screaming refrain.

The bubble of the tide as it pushes up a midnight beach, a crackling staccato of surf and the bioluminescent surge of a line tied to a hook, attached to a sand crab, inhaled by a barred surfperch.

A cove with water clear, sand white, and the rocks blotched red, green, brown and black with moss, kelp, weeds and mussel. A swell peels from end to end, and the fleeting image of a school of corbina is flashed across the wave face.

Scales and water shimmer in the morning light, a braille of anchovies flung from the scoop with a deft hand. The baits scatter in a pattern akin to a fireworks burst, but the real explosions follow. The tranquil kelp bed erupt with bronze of calicos, the moss back of a yellowtail darts from the paddy, a bigeye tuna cleaves the water with muscled bulk. Albacore so thick the stern of the boat resembles the skeleton of an umbrella.

Striped marlin off Cabo, world record yellowfin tuna off Clarion Island.

The crank of a power handle on a 12/0 Senator, the Dacron snaking on the reel with a slimy hiss as the thick rod bends under the pressure of a loaded gangion. The weightless lift of line and subsequent bloosh as cowcod pop to the surface.

A broad spread between dorsal and caudal fins, the king of the billfish lazes in the sun, almost rested for the next dive to the dark richness of squid in the depths below. For the hundredth time in its life a mackerel is cast on its nose, for the first time the sword slashes, the greenback disappears. A wire leader and heavy gear — this could finally be it…

The reason I headed up to June Lake over this past weekend was to visit my sister Patricia. The plan was to share the last weekend of the season on June Mountain on our snowboards. We had a great day of carveable spring conditions on Saturday and things were a lot firmer on Sunday as a big storm was on the way. By the time we left  the mountain Sunday afternoon it was already snowing. By morning close to three feet of snow had fallen. Luckily my nephews Jake and Nick worked on the mountain as instructors this winter so I got to be a guest at the employee party Monday that featured deep powder all the way down to Hwy 158 (dry and black) and face shots on every turn from top to bottom. I was just about done when Jim Mitchell, also a guest of an employee, found me catching my breath at the bottom of chair 7. He talked me into a couple more runs down Sunset that provided some of the best powder turns I can remember.

The next day I could barely move but dragged my butt down to the East Walker and  worked out the kinks casting a fly or two in absolutely perfect sunny, breezy weather. Had a bite and saw a couple caught in the short time I was there, but I have only a casual acquaintance with the water. Brother Bob, who rode with us Saturday, is the real fly fisherman in the family, even has friends who guide there, and he nailed a dozen or more beauties from the EW each time coming and going from his Truckee home.

Ice-free Bridgeport Reservoir April 13.

Took a shot of the wide open Bridgeport Reservoir with the Sawtooth Range of the Sierra in the background. I'm about to put on my Eastern Sierra reporter hat for the season that starts April 24th and I think all the water stocked up in "them hills" is pure gold for our fishing prospects this year.

On the way home I took this shot of Crowley Lake (April 14) with the ice all but gone. There's some thin stuff you can see from Pelican Point (Hilton
Bay) across to Sandy Point. What you can't see is the open water in McGee where the creeks come in. The wind also pushed ice up against the dam, so it was stacked up in that arm, but you can see the clear water extends up into the North Arm. I'll be covering Crowley opening day and I expect there will be some great fishing, what with most of the fish still in the lake and not up the creeks spawning.

While things move fast in the Sierra and change comes overnight,  including fish moving up to spawn, there's no doubt a lot of fish are going to be caught on opening day Saturday April 24. And I plan on catching a few of them myself.

The excitement could be felt throughout cyberspace — Capitol Hill was finally paying attention to recreational fishermen and major media sources ran stories on the very real threats facing both a way of life and the sportfishing industry.

Sure, some of the right-wing bloggers used the occasion to blow things out of proportion and indulge in another round of Obama bashing, but what mattered was the truth was out in the open.

Or was it?

The uproar started when Robert Montgomery, Senior Writer for BASS Publications (ESPN owns BASS and the BASSMaster Tour), wrote the article “Culled Out” for ESPNOutdoors.com, one in a series of articles following the progress of the president’s Ocean Policy Task Force, which has been under the direction of NOAA’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco. In the article, Montgomery reported that the Task Force was in the process of finalizing a plan that would create ocean zoning that would necessarily include no fishing areas, that the public comment period had ended, and indications were that President Obama planned to use the Monuments Act to implement the marine spatial planning, which would in effect bypass the normal legislative process and create a finished package. Done deal, no more comment, no more input, no chance for sportfishing proponents to safeguard their rights or economic interests.

Which was factual.

What wasn’t true was the translation and paraphrasing of the bloggers: Obama to ban recreational fishing.

What followed, however, does not reflect well on ESPN (which is part of ABC and owned by Disney) or the Freedom of the Press in America.

Almost at the same time the uproar was reaching its peak, Montgomery was told he could not represent himself as a writer for ESPN and that he was not to honor any of the many requests for radio interviews he received. He was also told ESPN would not post any more of his articles until after the Task Force decision was reached.

But worse followed. ESPNOutdoors.com went beyond the gag order, and Executive Editor Steve Bowman discredited Montgomery’s work: “Regrettably, we made several errors in the editing and presentation of this installment… while our series overall has examined several sides of the topic, this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view.”
WON examined all the articles in the series and the article in question and found no difference in approach or viewpoint. The only “error in presentation” ESPN made was allowing the voice of fishermen to be heard.

The fact the company went to such extraordinary lengths to distance ESPN from Montgomery’s piece shows how much influence and money there is behind the movement to restrict access to America’s fisheries. NOAA’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco has deep-rooted ties and documented associations with the principals behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process in California, which has closed hundreds of square miles to fishing and is on the way to closing more. Forget the rhetoric, more Federal fishing closures are coming.

We say shame on ESPN for crumbling to outside pressure and smearing the reputation of a writer who has worked hard to protect the interests of fishermen. Then again, it doesn’t look like ESPN gives a damn.

BLOGGER's NOTE: The above is slated to be the editorial in the 4/9 issue of WON. Here's some background. As a journalist and columnist for an "enthusiast's" publication, the weekly tabloid Western Outdoor News, this blogger is more than aware that all forms of media have their own editorial slant. You would expect our publication to promote the rights of fishermen and hunters, especially when it comes to access to a managed resource.

So we (and I) have been vocal in our opposition to the Marine Life Protection Act process that is using questionable science to close big chunks of the California coastline to all fishing. As close as I've studied the process, I was amazed I had somehow overlooked what I can only call a "fun fact." That is that Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the Under-Secretary of Commerce and head of NOAA, is related by marriage to Dr. Steve Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara (he married her sister). It is Gaines who came up with the size and spacing guidelines for both the closures at the Channel Islands and those created by the MLPA Initiative. I already knew that Lubchenco had associations with the Packard Foundation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was good friends with MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force member Meg Caldwell of Stanford's School of Environmental Law and with Mike Sutton, who works for the Aquarium (owned by Julie Packard) and is a member of the California Fish and Game Commission. So it was no surprise to me when one of the first things NOAA did was kick into high gear the Ocean Policy Task Force's plan for marine spatial planning, otherwise known as ocean zoning. Caldwell (as a source author) and Lubchenco (speaker) were part of a symposium last spring at the International Marine Conservation Congress. The title? THREE STAGES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MARINE ECOSYSTEM-BASED MANAGEMENT: “EXPLOITATION EVERYWHERE,” MARINE RESERVES, AND COMPREHENSIVE ECOSYSTEM-BASED OCEAN ZONING So judge for yourself. Is there reason for recreational anglers and the sportfishing industry to fear the current administration will restrict access to ocean waters, deltas and watersheds that are currently taken for granted by fishermen? It's not like the action would be unprecedented. President George W. Bush used the Monument Act to create two giant reserves in the Pacific Ocean, but those are remote in both distance and current use. And there's no doubt there are some very wealthy and influential individuals who would like to see it happen. So why hide the truth?

Two old friends, Bob Hoose and  Jimmy Decker of Berkley, worked the show at Del Mar this week and Jimmy brought his boat down from Newport so he could fish in the morning before the Fred Hall doors opened to the public.


He called Thursday afternoon to say he fished that morning  and the bite was wide open on small calicos off La Jolla. “Let’s meet at Dana Landing at 6:30,” he said.


A choppy swell ran down the entrance to Mission Bay, but by the time we got to the south La Jolla kelp Jimmy was actually hoping for some wind to push us through the kelp loaded with birds, both diving and sitting. His first few casts with a 7-inch Berkley camo Jerk Shad produced a few bass, but just as soon small barries moved in. It took a move right into the kelp to get more action, but that came when a switch to WAR heads got a couple of the baits close to the bottom.


The WAR Head with a Berkley Gulp! 7-inch Jerk Shad got deep for this calico bass for Jimmy Decker.

But then the breeze kicked in out of the west and the best bet was the jerk shad fished on Owner’s Sled Head. This Owner jig head has their patented Twist-Lock screw at the base of the bullet-shaped head and an oversized hook that buries just perfectly into the Gulp! in a weedless presentation that let Decker, Hoose and this reporter cast in any direction without regard to the kelp.


In fact, it was best to disregard the open lanes and fish the Jerk Shad over kelp into the open pockets. Either dropping the bait on the sink or giving it  the “tap, tap, tap” that Decker recommended not only produced a lot of bites, but produced plenty of followers, too.


“The only thing you don’t want to do is just wind it straight in,” said Decker of the Jerk Shad technique.


While the calicos were willing to slurp the bait as it slid off the kelp, they were not willing to romp on the surface iron or blow up on the big MC Slug. The water was up to 63 degrees in areas, but they just weren’t really ready to rock and roll, I guess.


I do know that when we found the schools of bass, double hook-ups were not uncommon and it was “like fishing in an aquarium,” as Decker put it, the way you could look down into holes in the kelp and see the snouts of calicos poking out of the strands.


The best bet for lots of action was the Gulp! Jerk Shad fished weedless with the Owner Sled Head jig head. The fish would hit when the bait was pulled over the kelp or twitched in open water.

But the best action was up top, when the fired-up calicos would get a scent of the Gulp! and then get all ticked off when their up-top attack only ended up hanging them on the tip of a sharp Owner hook. We all agreed we couldn’t be fishing the way we were if not for rigging the Gulp! Jerk Shads weedless on the Owner Sled Heads.


The best part was the “surprise” attacks, like when I was pulling a cast out of the water and one of the better calicos of the day came halfway out of the water to try and eat the Jerk Shad. The fish suspended, wondering where its meal went, just a couple feet off the boat, and the reappearance of  the lure meant a hooked calico in no time.


Rich Holland pulled a few of the better fish of the morning in using the Jerk Shad/Sled Head combo and letting it drop into the holes in the kelp.

The fish were definitely schooled up on the inside edges and no sooner than you thought the bite was done for the morning than we would find another batch of biters. Lots of pencil barracuda – a great sign for the newly dawning season – were in the mix, but if you kept the baits mostly in the kelp you mostly caught bass. Too soon it was almost 11 a.m. and we had to pack it up and head for the Fred Hall Show.


Still it was a great morning of catching with some old friends and just as we entered the harbor the wind came up strong, too late to bother us. All that was left to do was to head for the show with big smiles on our faces.

To book a trip with Capt. Jimmy Decker, call 949 280-4597.




Below you'll find some commentary from Robert  Montgomery, the writer whose piece published on the ESPN Web site brought much needed attention to the plight of recreational fishing. But, going backwards, I'm going to put my response ahead of his letter. After all, it's my blog. More importantly, I want to lay out what I feel is the true scope of the plan under consideration by the Obama administration. I wrote in this space months ago that the appointment of Dr. Jane Lubchenco to head NOAA meant a national agenda mirroring the MLPA in California. When I tried to contact Lubchenco when she was a candidate, I spoke with her assistant who freely offered up the fact Dr. Jane was good friends with Meg Caldwell of the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Michael Sutton of the Fish and Game Commission, both familiar to readers of this blog as staunch proponents of broad fishing closures.

Anyway, here's my response, with Montgomery's letter and some great links below it.


Nicely put, but from my intimate experience with this crowd, I think that the zoning would be put in place wholesale and then the easing  of restrictions, permits, etc. would be piecemeal.

After I wrote the above line, I stopped and thought about it some  more. I don't know if you have followed the battle between the NOAA  Sanctuary system and NMFS Fisheries Councils over the right to  control fishing -- which was a necessary power for a sanctuary to  have in order to create reserves.

Well it's my notion the "zones" will be like sanctuaries but with  fully vested powers, eliminating the need to rewrite the charters and/ or expand the sanctuary system,  which was originally put in place to  stem offshore drilling. NOAA sees a huge challenge from FERC, which  is issuing wave farm, etc. permits all over the place. In fact, they  issued one right on top  of a marine reserve that is pending approval  in the MLPA Initiative South Coast  project that is in its final legs.

Here's the deal -- once they get the zones set up, it will be much  like the passage of the MLPA  legislation in California -- a legal  mandate that takes precedence over other laws and even constitutional protections. Not that there won't be an "open and transparent"  process put into place that will satisfy all NEPA and state  requirements -- it's just that it won't matter because the scientists  put in place will all be Lubchenco's hand-picked champions of MPAs  and eco-system-based management. Since the process will  be based on  the "best available science" the outcome is predetermined other than  how much power brokers such as the energy companies will be able to  carve out for their own.

In other words, if Obama uses the Monuments Act to create a system  that doesn't have protections for recreational anglers already in  place, it's as good as over.


Rich Holland
Senior Editor
Western Outdoor News

An Open Letter from Robert Montgomery

Robert Montgomery is Senior Writer for BASS Publications and Contributing Editor to Stratos Magazine. He has been involved in educating the fishing public on a potential political agenda that might have a harmful impact on recreational fishing. Below is an open letter from Robert that includes links to a couple radio interviews and links to a series of articles he has written on the future of recreational fishing.
Fishing friends and relatives,

I'm doing yet another interview Monday on the threat to fishing posed by the Obama administration's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and its strategy for federal management of our waters.

You can catch this one if you'd like, no matter where you live.  Here's the information:

Here is the link where the archived show will be posted for any time, anywhere listening:
Outside Iowa Radio
Please pass this on to others as well. And please go to KeepAmericaFishing to speak out on this issue.

If you missed it: Here's a recap:

Okay, here's the real story regarding President Obama and fishing:

On Tuesday, March 9, media frenzy and national hysteria erupted over my article on the ESPN Outdoors web site ---- "Culled out." One link showed up on Google declaring that ESPN reported that the President was about to ban fishing.

 That is NOT true. Plus, I never have said that Obama is banning or plans to ban fishing. That's wild exaggeration and fear-mongering. Those on the right used the rumor as ammunition for their hatred of the President. Those on the left used it as license for righteous indignation.

Because of ESPN's "disclaimer,"  which many viewed as a "retraction," some who first believed the threat was real found themselves reconsidering and thinking that they had been duped. The threat is real.

What I did say --- and will continue to say --- is that a federal structure is in place and a strategy is being implemented that threaten our rights to fish public waters. Additionally, this was my 10th article since last September on this subject, with most of them receiving few comments. No one seemed to care about this danger until some wild exaggerations were made.

This started last June, with the President issuing a memo to create an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. Staffed with "high-ranking" administration officials, this task force was to design a "spatial planning" --- zoning --- strategy for our oceans, coastal waters, and the Great Lakes . Plus, the door is left wide open for the feds to expand into  management of inland waters as well.

 Stated intent is to provide better protection and management of our waters, and, in general, that is something that most people could agree with. All sports fishermen want to stop pollution, maintain and enhance habitat, and conserve fisheries for future generations.

But keep in mind that zoning means restrictions, as with lower speeds in "school zones." Only this plan would deal with how we use the water:  wind farms, gas and oil drilling, commercial fishing --- and recreational angling, among others.

One of the most frightening aspects of this power grab is that it is being driven by preservationists, both within the administration and in environmental groups behind the scenes. Within weeks of Obama's election, these groups put together a "Transition to Green" document that provided a blueprint for the administration to follow.

More than a left/right, Democrat/Republican issue, this is one of conservation versus preservation. Fishermen are conservationists, who believe in being good stewards for the resource, as they also enjoy it. Preservationists believe in "look but don't touch," as in antiques shops. At best, they are indifferent to fishing. Some would like to ban it.

With the first document it created, what was important was not what was said, but what was NOT said. This clearly showed the bias of those in charge. The task force showed absolutely no consideration for the social, cultural, economic, historic, and conservation importance of recreational fishing. Instead, it mentioned only "overfishing" and unsustainable fishing," and seemed to lump together recreational anglers and commercial fishermen, who are responsible for most of the stock depletions.

With the second document, it recommended establishment of a massive top-down bureaucracy to manage our waters.

Before the public comment period for the second had ended, the environmental groups were pressuring President Obama to bypass Congressional oversight and sign an Executive Order, confirming the task force's recommendations --- even before a final report was issued. My sources told me that intent was to issue final report sometime in March --- with no public input to follow --- and the order to follow soon thereafter.

That might have changed now because of the firestorm of controversy. What we do know is that the White House has issued two strongly worded statements in support of  recreational fishing. That was something that the fishing industry wanted, but had been unable to obtain.

But recreational fishing is not safe yet, especially if the President bypasses Congress and follows through with an Executive Order.

Would recreational fishing be banned right away on your favorite waters? Almost certainly it would not. The likely route would be "death by a thousand cuts," with the movement starting slowly, taking away one fishery here, another there --- until the feds tell you to get off your favorite waters.

That's why it's important for all anglers --- salt and fresh --- to get involved, to press the advantage that we now have, with this issue gone viral and mainstream.

First, educate yourself. Read my series of articles at"

 Angling for Access Archives

Also, go to KeepAmericaFishing to find out more about what you can do.

Robert Montgomery
Senior Writer, BASS Publications;
Contributing Editor, Stratos Magazine

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