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Catch and Eat? … Why not? That’s what St. Helena angler Pat Fetzer and his son, Alec, did with a big Cabo dorado last month. That fish was a small part of the over 20 fish Pat and Alec caught on their late December “Vicarious Fishing Adventure” with Grant Hartman’s Baja Anglers out of Cabo San Lucas (619-955-7026). Also included were roosterfish, jack crevelle and sierra mackerel.

Here’s what Pat said about the “eating” part: “ … we took the dorado to a local (San Jose del Cabo) restaurant and had it cooked up three ways (tacos, ceviche and sautéed) – excellente!”

“Catch and Eat” is an historic outdoor activity. Native American men were hunter gatherers returning to the campfire at dusk as their families anticipated the dinner fare. Back in the long cold Rhode Island winters of my youth we ate the venison carved from the deer that my Uncle Eddie shot in season. To balance take and sustainability, we have robust regulations and laws to control the take for specie renewal — and still let us bring home fresh, nourishing wild food for our families.

What about “catch and release?” I love it — practice it regularly. We are taught simple methods to handle the fish safely for a quick photo and slide it back in the water unharmed. Official bass tournaments have strict rules to foster this. Ice water barrels line the path to the weigh station so fish can be kept cool along the way. A contestant is penalized for bring a dead fish to the scales. Finally, a special boat with a big center tank is employed to return the tournament fish to the middle of the lake and released. I’m proud of these safeguards.

Winter Fly Fishing … in Brazil? No, targeting striped bass right here on the Napa River. Here’s the short version (and working version) that Tom Dudenhoeffer, Sweeney’s Sports ace field scout, told me: “Big white flies; may need to gun and run till you find a honey hole; fish slow and slower; when stripping don’t move that bug more than four inches at a time; then wait till you can’t stand it — then wait some more. Short strip set when you feel a bite; if he misses, drop your tip and stop till he turns around and lips it again.

What happens when you find the honey hole? Tom pulled 50 stripers out of one small spot last week. Any size? Yup — 8 to 10 pounds.

Whither Winter Water? ... It’s time to set 2018 base lines for the waters where I report depths and flows for your angling preparations.

*Smith River (JED Reporting Station): Saturday, Jan. 20 — Stage (depth) was 11 feet with a flow (cubic feet per second) of 8,000 cfs. That is as close to perfect for prime steelhead hunting as you will ever find. That depth gives the water a “steely green” cast that keeps the fish from spooking. The good flows tend to concentrate the fish travel in defined channels — letting the guides concentrate on the best potential drifts.

*Clear Lake (Rumsey Gauge): As of Saturday — in the past eight days the Rumsey has moved just slightly from 2.64 to 2.70 feet. While that might not look like much, remember, Clear Lake is huge, the largest natural lake in the state and covering 68 square miles. So, those little bumps on the Rumsey really count for a lot of water. A Rumsey of 7.5 signifies a full lake — usually attained by the end of the spring rainy season each year of normal rainfall.

*Sulphur Creek (near Pope Street in St. Helena): Well, finally. On Monday, the creek was up, brown and rushing. When it flows well, it is various shades of tan/brown from washing mud down off the banks. There are tasty little critters in the mud that wash down into the Napa River — and bring sturgeon up close to town. Stay tuned; we are already seeing good diamond back action at the top of San Pablo Bay — next stop Napa when it rains hard. Yes, there are some sturgeon in the river system and I’m told that mud shrimp are the hot bait. Better check with Sweeney’s Sports on Imola (255-5544) to see what’s hot and what they have in stock.

Out And About … I’m a political junkie — started as a 15-year-old “poll watcher” back in Rhode Island. So, you can imagine my delight to see thousands of participants in the Women’s March, Napa Valley on Saturday. Downtown Napa was full of women, men, teeners and kids — all dedicated to action needed to broaden opportunities for women and other minority populations. It was thrilling to feel this positive energy. Inventive signs covered a wide spectrum of issues. The strongest — and simplest — just said “VOTE.”

That one word of grassroots activism was in my mind because I marched to honor those black women in Alabama who made the difference in sending Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate in a recent election. A significant victory; incredibly, Jones is the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in close to 30 years.

No matter your party preference, please get active in our political process … we are all served best when we all vote. That way, we can truly call it “by the people.”

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