Backcasts archive: Through May 30, 2008

Blog calendar: May 29 | May 28 | May 27

posted May 29, 2008

Get motivated for summer boating and fishing with a top-10 list of what to do

If you're like us, you HATE being sick.

Backcasts is ill today, and being in the infirmary all day is no place to find inspiration for something smashing to share with outdoor enthusiasts.

Enter BoatU.S. … to the rescue.

Just in time for the unofficial start of the summer, and the official start of National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1-8, its freshwater fishing segment, BoatU.S. Angler, has issued a top-10 list of ways to celebrate and, well, get out and fish, which we will not-so-surreptitiously lift for our purposes. (With the amount of links back to BoatU.S. Angler, we're certain the sweetwater-fishing members of the nation's largest association of recreational boaters won't mind a bit.)

So, to help you get in the spirit of summer boating and angling:

1. Get hooked, online

Need a little help finding fish? Do you want to attend a nearby tournament or go charter fishing? Localized fishing reports, charter and tournament information can all be found at BoatU.S.'s Angler's Alley, or call (866) 906-0013 for additional information.

2. Take a friend who has never been boating out for the afternoon

And after you get back to the dock, send your friends to DiscoverBoating.com or DiscoverSailing.com where they can get a free DVD to get them started in powerboating or sailing. You can also find a "Spousal Conversion Kit" at discoverboating.com that offers a step-by-step, seven-day plan with video testimonials that could help convince your husband or wife that boating is for your family.

3. Go fishing for free

In honor of this special week, many states offer one or more days during which you won't need a license to go fishing. Click here for a list of dates.

4. Brush up on your angling skills

From learning about fishing tactics, equipment and safety, to advice and stories from pro anglers, BoatUSAngler.com has all the right info to keep beginners or experienced anglers at their peak. Click on Angler How-To's.

5. Go window shopping

Dream big and sign up for your free, online copy of weekly boat classifieds. There are four separate weekly Classified Ad E-Newsletters, each for powerboats, trailerable boats, fishing boats and sailboats.

6. Take the Anglers' Legacy pledge

The pledge is all about ensuring the growth of recreational fishing and boating. Visit Anglers' Legacy for more information.

7. Make a fishing trip memorable for a child

Take a photo of your child's catch and send it to the BoatU.S. Angler Catch of the Month Photo Contest. Photos will be displayed on the association's Web site and entered into a monthly prize drawing.

8. Borrow a kid's life jacket for free

If you're not used to having kids aboard, you may not have the right size life jacket. But the BoatU.S. Foundation's free Kids Life Jacket Loaner program offers free child and youth life jackets for the day, afternoon or weekend at over 350 waterfront sites across the country. Click here for locations.

9. Teach your kids about catch and release fishing and how to measure a fish

Click here to show your kids how to safely return fish to the water and grow healthy fishing stocks by practicing catch and release.

10. Attend one of hundreds of fishing, boating or aquatic stewardship events

Many events happen throughout the year and provide opportunities for families and friends to share quality time together while learning about two of our nation's favorite pastimes: recreational boating and fishing. To find one near you, click here.


posted May 28, 2008

The coolest bear in Florida makes a very public appearance

Yogi likes his pic-a-nic baskets, Smokey has a thing for putting out forest fires and Baloo, well, he was the hippest bruin in the jungle.

But none of those furry characters are nearly as cool as the bear that went skinny-dipping this morning in the pool of the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Security spotted the fuzzy wuzzy and the police were dispatched. But it was The Country Bears who were most put out, and who can blame them – upstaged, by a freeloader, no less.

What? Oh … really?

Well, come to find out, the bruin band wasn't actually scheduled to play the Hard Rock. And it's a good thing, too, because those bad boys of the stage would have been growling over this incident.

In reality, such a poolside scene isn't entirely unexpected. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Sara Sillars speculates the hotter weather of central Florida might easily cause bears to look for a place to cool down, according to the Tampa Tribune and Associated Press.

"'We mostly have gotten reports of sightings in orange groves," Sillars said, "or that they were just wandering around and somebody just happens to see them."

Backcasts is betting this was a common black bear, which, according to the newspaper and wire service, are typically docile and nonconfrontational and can weigh up to 350 pounds if leviathan by Florida standards. However, there is an outside chance the Hard Rock bear was an escapee from a zoo or wildlife park.

Either way, no human guests of the hotel were harmed or threatened. But some who witnessed the event were seen holding lighters aloft and lit, but, alas, the beast did not make an encore plunge.


posted May 27, 2008

Editor's note: My Back Pages recalls previous columns penned by the author.

Tuna Club reputation, mystique
has been 110 years in the making

Members hope to soften their image
as a bunch of stern, bigheaded, rich guys

AVALON, Calif. — It is the world's oldest big-game fishing coterie – one with sporting feats of historic proportions – and average anglers have long thought the Santa Catalina Island institution unapproachable.

Indeed, its celebrity is matched only by its mystique.

But members of the Tuna Club, which was founded in 1898, are extending an olive branch not only to the angling community but the general public to abolish the cone of secrecy – however intentioned – that has engulfed their beloved affiliation.

They hope to emphasize the club's history, public education about sportfishing and the conservation of game fishes by means of competitive angling techniques and sportsmanship upon which the pioneering group – and others that followed in its path – was founded.

"There are 162 million anglers in the United States, and many of them still don't know us," said club president John S. Griffith of Corona del Mar, Calif., a member since 1984. "Those who do, I think, are either intimidated by or aghast about all the accomplishments."


The first tuna, marlin and swordfish ever taken on a rod and reel were caught by club members – in 1896 (two years before the club was formed), 1903 and 1913, respectively. The development of the modern drag system for reels. The invention of the first fishing kite. The birth, in essence, of saltwater sportfishing.

"The founder, Charles Holder, is kind of known as the godfather of big-game fishing and made it a sport," said Eric Huff, a Ventura, Calif., tackle-shop proprietor and antique gear collector whose life goal is to become a member of the Tuna Club. "I want to get in there, but you almost have to be somebody. Look who's been in it."

Consider again:

Zane Grey, Gen. George S. Patton, movie directors Hal Roach and Cecil B. DeMille and performers Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby. Theodore Roosevelt fished with the club.

Winston Churchill was an associate member who boated a 168-pound striped marlin in 1929 following a 20-minute fight within sight of the Tuna Club. Afterward, the future prime minister of Great Britain discussed his milestone over a cigar and a gin and tonic in the Bait Box – the club's bar – with members who had fished for years without enjoying such a cherished prize.

"He made it look easy and he said he was blessed that way," said club historian, vice president and centennial chairman Mike Farrior of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., author of "The History of the Tuna Club, 1898-1998." "Everything he tried to do, he succeeded."

Thanks largely to the lofty reputation of its predecessors, today's membership is viewed by some outsiders as a bunch of stern, bigheaded, rich guys.

True, their methods are rigid. Monofilament line is forbidden because its forgiving nature benefits the angler; only linen or Dacron are permitted. One person may assist in a catch, but the fisherman must either grab the leader himself when a fish is brought to gaff or gaff it himself. Only members can nominate prospective newcomers, and women are not allowed to join.

But by sharing their history and message with those unfamiliar with the club, members hope to melt its icy image without compromising membership rules and fishing regulations.

"We want to see if we can't tell our story to a broader group of fishermen," said Griffith, a third-generation Californian who fishes primarily for marlin Thursdays through Sundays from July through mid-October.

"It's a small club and it doesn't pound its chest very often, despite its tremendous accomplishments. We are saying for the first time that this is the world's home of big-game fishing. It was all started by the Tuna Club.

"The first rules of fishing were established here, and sportfishing ethics were adopted by angling clubs throughout the world. We try to elevate the sport and establish equal ground rules for every angler."

Holder himself – who established the club in 1898 with conservation and sportsmanship in mind – would be proud of the outreach efforts.

Upon first visiting Catalina in 1886, the transplanted Massachusetts naturalist was "amazed and horrified" at the sight of men shore-fishing with handlines and beaching yellowtail as fast as they could cast and retrieve. Many of the forktails were fed to sea lions and sharks or left to perish in the sand because there were more than could be consumed.

Holder left depressed at the notion that the species would not survive the intense pressure and became consumed with proving that the quarry could be successfully targeted by more challenging means – rod and reel from a boat.

His conventional gear would become "the first to bend in these quiet bays" and bring him yellowtail – and larger specimens. In 1898, he boated a 183-pound bluefin, and news of the world's largest sport-caught tuna was telegraphed around the globe by the Associated Press. Hence, big-game fishing – and the Tuna Club – was born.

"It was this capture and the unsportsmanlike conditions of fishing (the practice of handlining) at the Island which caused me to suggest the organization of the Tuna Club," Holder would later write.

While Holder's visions of angling as sport, not slaughter, remain the club's cornerstone, the language in the charter that speaks to public education and sharing historical facts about saltwater fishing in California became less emphasized by membership, Farrior said.

He hopes that Tuna Club Week – a string of public events in Avalon designed "to help people understand what the club is all about" – will assist in opening the doors to the club, at least figuratively. (The clubhouse of white with green trim – a state and national historic landmark – is open exclusively to members and select guests.)

The change is good news for anglers who know of the club only through books and articles. Huff believes that making the club more public oriented would benefit it twofold:

Descendants of former members who learn it is still functioning might donate tackle or other memorabilia from bygone days, and it's a good way for old-timers to meet prospective members.

The latter is a must if the club is going to survive to see its bicentennial. "A lot of us don't think we'll be around for the 200th year," Griffith joshed. But his point is well taken.

The average age of the 152 mostly businessmen members (total membership is authorized to 200) is about 55.

"We'd like to bring that average down, because you get younger guys who are a little bit more active in fishing," Griffith said.

"The offset is that they are starting families, and they don't get as much time on the water. The wife doesn't give him a pass every weekend."

Even so, it will be tough getting in the club for hopeful anglers like Huff.

"It's going to take a long process of working and meeting people," he said. "But it will be well worth it."

This article originally appeared Dec. 25, 1997, in the Los Angeles Daily News, on the eve of the Tuna Club's bicentennial-year celebrations. For more information on the Tuna Club, consult its Web site.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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