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Outdoor Notes / Pete Thomas : Fishing Trips Help Feed the Homeless

Thanks to the efforts of organizer Tony Salas and 54 Southern California fishermen, nearly 11,000 needy persons will have enjoyed fish dinners by the time the holiday season is over.

Salas, a Los Angeles businessman who has sponsored similar trips for the last 3 years, said the results of the third annual Fish for the Homeless Derby, held Dec. 11 and 17, far surpassed his expectations.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas present than to feed all those people,” he said. “We have definitely made an impact in the downtown area.”

The catch was originally meant for the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, which serves fish to the homeless on Fridays when it is available, but because of the volume--about a ton was caught on the first trip and slightly less on the second--the mission not only will have a good supply of fish, but it has distributed some of the catch to 16 other agencies that help the needy.

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“It’s rare to have fish here, because we’re on a budget,” Jan School, a Union Rescue Mission worker involved in the project, said. “Tony (Salas) has done a fantastic job. It’s a real treat to be able to serve it to our guests.”

Salas, a longtime fisherman, said he got the idea to organize such trips while fishing aboard party boats. “I started asking people to give me what they were throwing back, and then I’d drop (the catches) off at the mission,” he said.

The first two events, held off San Diego and San Pedro, targeted surface fish and produced mostly bonito and mackerel, neither of which is prized for its food value.

This year’s trip targeted rockfish, which abound in the deeper waters off San Nicolas Island and are considered excellent table fare. Fishing out of San Pedro aboard the Deluxe, an 80-foot state-of-the-art sportfisher, all of the anglers caught their limits.

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“It’s really a manifestation of the Christmas spirit,” said Phillip Friedman, the voice of the 976-TUNA fishing line who participated in this year’s project. “I’m thrilled this kind of thing can happen in the sportfishing industry, and I hope it will spread and continue.”

Salas said he plans similar trips each quarter.

Contrary to an earlier report, two of the hunters--Ursula Schalich and Jeffrie O’Neil--who drew permits for the limited bighorn sheep hunt in the eastern Mojave Desert failed to get their rams.

Whether they failed because they had to leave early or because of interference by anti-hunting activists was not clear.

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Schalich was reported to have left after 5 days of the 2-week hunt because one of her children was scheduled to have surgery. She also was said to have been suffering a serious reaction to poison oak. O’Neil left after 7 days because he had to return to work.

Each had beaten 423-1 odds by drawing 1 of the 8 permits, which cost $200, but they will not have another opportunity to hunt bighorns in California unless the once-in-a-lifetime policy is eased.

The six other hunters, as well as one who bid $59,000 in an auction to hunt earlier, were successful, despite the activists, who yelled and blew air horns to frighten the sheep. The hunt ended last Sunday.


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