Doug Stadelhofer and son Kraig arrived early Wednesday for the opening of the big fishing show in Long Beach, as they have for the last four years.
It was an important day for the father, who said the annual extravaganza represented one of the great American pastimes in fishing and gave his son something wholesome to be interested in.
And it was a monumental day for the 10-year-old son.
“It’s the only day my dad actually lets me miss school,” he said with a smile.
They came from Altadena and were among an estimated 2,000 people waiting in a line snaking through the courtyard of the Long Beach Convention Center, before the 2 p.m. opening of the 57th Fred Hall Fishing Tackle and Boat Show.
The largest show of its kind in the West, it has become a rite of spring every bit as traditional as baseball’s opening day.
“The Fred Hall show is the start of everything,” exclaimed Newhall’s Tom Bradley, 62, standing dozens deep in line with wife Christina. “It means it’s time to go fishing. It means warmer weather and longer days. Plus, you can find more bargains here than at any other show.”
Jay Stammerjohan, 47, of Culver City, arrived four hours early to have first crack at the bargains, but as the opening drew near and those long hours began to take their toll, he became aware of a flaw in his plan. “First I’m going to run to the bathroom,” he said. “Then I’ll go hunt for the stuff I came here to look for.”
At precisely 2 p.m., the doors swung open and into the halls flooded the first of an estimated 35,000 people there for the first of five show days. When the doors close Sunday evening, about 200,000 will have walked through aisles packed with fishing gear and boating equipment.
They will have discussed or booked trips with outfitters from throughout and beyond the West. They will have inspected or bought their dream boats. They will have intently watched the experts give seminars on everything from bass fishing to choosing the proper lure.
And, since this is an adult male-dominated affair, they will have ogled the ever-popular Bongo girls before, during and after their daily fashion shows at the Bongos Sportfishing booth.
“It’s an attraction, that’s what this show is, for first-timers and old-timers alike,” Stammerjohan said.
Lacking at the Fred Hall show is a sizable contingent of fly-fishing groups. Many, including the entire Southwest council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, have abandoned ship because of the “catch-and-kill” nature of some of the conventional fishing operations.
Said one FFF member, "[Organizers] tried to get away from their hook-'em-and-cook-'em image but failed.”
The unofficial boycott has resulted in the fly fishing show’s being scheduled Saturday and Sunday at the Ontario Convention Center.
“They’ve created a fly-fishing-only conservation atmosphere so that a guy or gal doesn’t have to wade through miles of booths with photos of dead fish,” added the FFF member, requesting anonymity.
Details: (800) 420-7582.
Laker fans might want to stop by the 976-TUNA Youth Fishing Program booth at the Fred Hall show Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Guard Brian Shaw, an avid fisherman, will be signing autographs.
If that’s not incentive enough, at least two Laker girls will accompany Shaw. The Lakers’ community outreach arm and 976-TUNA have partnered on several fishing trips for inner-city children.
If cats have nine lives, how many does a marlin have?
Neil Sorenson of Post Falls, Idaho, was aboard Karina out of Cabo San Lucas on Saturday when he hooked a striped marlin and fought it for 45 minutes before bringing it to leader.
Capt. Enrique Martinez and his crew were set to release the estimated 150-pound billfish when they noticed it had another, larger hook in the corner of its mouth: the kind used by long-liners, who are perceived as a persistent threat to Mexico’s billfish fishery regardless of recent toothless efforts -- or such is the popular description -- by government officials to restrict or eliminate the indiscriminate and destructive commercial fishing gear.
“Not only the hook but the swivel and about 10 feet of leader that looked to be [made of] about 500-pound test [monofilament],” said Tracy Ehrenberg, owner of Pisces Sportfishing, whose fleet includes Karina. “The leader was wrapped around its body and it had obviously been there for a while as there were living sea snails around the hook and at several places along the leader.”
The crew managed to remove booth hooks and set the striper free.
Striped marlin have been biting like mad beyond Baja California’s tip, and boats have been flying one to five release flags a day. In a six-day period at the end of February, the Pisces fleet alone accounted for 106 striper releases.
But also noteworthy, Ehrenberg says, is the recent influx of broadbill swordfish. The season’s first was a 220-pounder caught early last week by a Minnesota angler aboard Kathy Too 18 miles off Punta Gorda.
A few days later, Newport Beach angler Paul Bender took only 12 minutes to boat a 150-pounder aboard Summertime. He went out the next day and caught a 171-pounder. Unseasonably warm water had some wondering if there would be a swordfish run this season.
That Sinking Feeling
Aaron Hastings of Boonesboro, Md., is struggling to make a living on the CITGO Bassmasters Tour. And luck is hardly on his side. During a recent swing through Florida, his truck and boat were stolen while he was staying at a friend’s home.
His boat was never recovered; the truck was found wrecked. His insurance company reimbursed him $2,500, although he claimed his tackle alone was worth $45,000.
With a borrowed boat and gear, Hastings fished the next three events without making a splash and was looking forward to a big payday at this week’s competition at Alabama’s Lake Eufaula, where he made the finals last year. He recorded all of his productive hard-to-find spots on his GPS unit and in a loose-leaf notebook.
Trouble is, the GPS unit was in the stolen boat, and “I just realized that my notebook was in the truck when it got stolen,” Hastings lamented this week. “I had been thinking that it was here at the house.”
Going into this week’s four-day event, he was 111th in tour rankings.
* Skiing: Mammoth Mountain Ski Area founder Dave McCoy is recovering at his Bishop home after having been injured Feb. 22 in a motorcycle accident. McCoy, 87, lost control of his bike on a remote road north of Bishop. He was hospitalized overnight with a broken collarbone and two broken ribs.
* Snowboarding: Among athletes competing in this weekend’s Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding at Bear Mountain in Big Bear Lake: Olympic medalists Ross Powers, J.J. Thomas, Doriane Vidal (France) and Kelly Clark. This year’s hottest rider, Shaun White, also will be on hand. Superpipe qualifying and slopestyle finals are scheduled Saturday, the superpipe finals Sunday.
* Fly fishing: The Sierra Pacific Flyfishers’ 19th annual free beginning casting course will be held on consecutive Saturdays beginning March 15 at 9 a.m. at Reseda High. The final class is streamside at Piru Creek. Details: (818) 888-1974 or www.spff.org.
* Turkey hunting: The spring season opens March 29 and Turner’s Outdoorsman is running a series of preparatory seminars, featuring noted caller J.R. Keller. The first is scheduled Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the West Covina Turner’s Outdoorsman, the second next Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the San Marcos store, and the third March 15 at 9 a.m. at Raahauge’s ranch in Norco. All are free. Raahauge’s can be reached at (909) 735-7981.