No license needed Saturday


June 06, 2002|By AL KALIN, Staff Columnist

Have you ever experienced the thrill of watching a fishing bobber quiver on the water and then shoot below the surface in a trail of bubbles? Or felt the solid thump, thump, thump of a largemouth bass sucking up your plastic worm? Or held on for dear life as your reel smokes and screams while a monster corvina rips off 100 yards of line?

If you've never experienced fishing but would like to, then Saturday and Sept. 28 offer the perfect chance. Those are the two days a year chosen by the California Department of Fish & Game as free fishing days, when a fishing license isn't needed to fish in California waters. It's a great low-cost way to give fishing a try.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions and fishing hours, remain in effect.

Locally, the Wal-Mart store in El Centro will be celebrating the free fishing day by holding a fishing clinic in its parking lot from 8 a.m. till noon Saturday. Additionally, the KXO Radio PT Cruiser will be on hand and broadcasting live during the event.


A casting contest for kids will be staged, with prizes awarded for the most accurate young casters. Fishing rods and reels for the casting contest will be furnished by Wal-Mart for the youngsters to use while competing in the contest.

State Fish and Game Warden Carol Sassie also will be present to hand out junior fishing licenses, free of charge, and answer questions regarding fishing rules and regulations.

The Imperial County Sheriff's boating safety team also will be present to answer questions about boating safety.

There will be many free prizes for the children who sign up for the casting contest and refreshments will be available including homemade ice cream prepared by the Holtville Athletic Club. Wal-Mart will be donating all proceeds from the event to the Children's Miracle Network. For more information call Wal-Mart at 337-1600 and speak to Kedron Vlecha.

In other news, the Imperial County Fish and Game Commission, Imperial County Parks and Recreation, Desert Wildlife Unlimited and state Fish & Game will be working locally to install cover and habitat for largemouth bass in Wiest, Finney and Ramer lakes during the next year. The first project will involve installing 12 to 15 brush piles in Wiest Lake inside the no-wake zone.

The brush piles, constructed mainly from citrus tree limbs, will provide both protective cover and habitat for all species of fish including spawning fish. The brush piles also will help prevent cormorants, a large black bird that feeds on fish, from ravaging the fish populations in the local lakes. Cormorants have become a problem in other parts of the United States, where these lethal fish killers have decimated whole fisheries.

While fishing a few years ago on well-known Toledo Bend Lake that separates Louisiana from Texas, I caught six fish during a morning outing. All six largemouth bass had large scars, the result of narrow escapes from cormorant attacks. Recently, at Toledo Bend Lake, open season was declared on cormorants, normally protected by federal law, in an attempt to reduce their numbers and save the large-mouth bass fishery.

On the hunting scene, as a result of complaints from growers who suffer damage from white geese while farming near the state and federal refuges, it appears there may be a special season starting next year to help control depredation by snow and Ross geese, which ravage the fields after goose season ends. A new hunting zone near the state and federal refuges will be formed and goose season will start later in the year in this zone as well as run longer after the other seasons have closed. The purpose is to allow hunters to help control the geese on neighboring farmers' fields further into the year before they leave for their yearly migration north.

Everywhere you look this time of year, you can see newly hatched birds coming out of their nests and learning to fly. Lately I've spotted young stilts, killdeers, doves, coots, pied grebes, mallards and even owls.

The mallard population in the Valley has increased by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Twenty years ago mallards were rare here but now they are visible in all our drains throughout the Valley. Nobody seems to be able to explain their explosive increase in recent years. My theory is that many have been raised in private lakes throughout the Valley as well as the hundred-plus golf courses at the other end of the Salton Sea. Last year a field of wheat stubble near my house, left standing all summer and fall, fed a flock of 600 mallards. The ducks spent their day at the Westmorland Refuge and the delta of the New River and every evening would fly the few miles to feed in the wheat stubble field by moonlight. Last week I had to stop for a mother mallard as she led her brood across the dirt road to a wheat field.

>> Outdoor Tales writer, Al Kalin, can be reached on the Internet at

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