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Cut films or fish

Editor's note: Anglers across the U.S. are buying fishing licenses in record numbers. Following is a story in our series, Fishing America, representing a slice of American angling pursuits.

Filmmaking can be a pressure cooker. After making his final cuts, filmmaker Shawn Hazeleur likes to set up a scene that includes him wetting a line.

"Fishing for me is a great way to relax. I really enjoy the outdoors," said Hazeleur, who grew up in Lewiston, Calif., a small town in the Trinity National Forest just south of Mount Shasta.

Hazeleur, a 1987 graduate of Trinity High School, has been fishing northern California most of his life, except for a two-year tour of duty in Germany during the Persian Gulf War.

"If it swims, I'm interested," Hazeleur said.

That translates into king and coho salmon, steelhead, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and brown, brook, and rainbow trout.

"My favorite river to raft and fish is the Trinity River," he said. "My favorite Lake is a toss-up between Shasta and Trinity. Trinity has the bigger fish and is more remote but Shasta has its advantages as well. Also, I really like some of the smaller lakes of the Trinity Alps. I can't give you the names of them. It's just a fishing thing."

Hazeleur said he continues to use tackle he bought at Cabela's years ago.

"I enjoy the classic Fenwick rod with the older Mitchell reels," he said. "I also like Shimano. I've used the same tackle for many years. I do like to pick up some of the newer plugs that work nicely in Shasta Lake in the spring and fall months.

PHOTO GALLERY

Launch Gallery

"I have started to dabble in fly-fishing, which is a lot of fun. The Sacramento River has an amazing amount of trout that are generally pretty easy to catch in the later afternoon.

"Basically, though, I'm your typical bait fisherman. I use most of the basic stuff you purchase at any sporting goods store — crickets, crawdads and yes, even night crawlers. Sometimes I like to catch grasshoppers close to where I'm fishing. They usually will do better than the store insects."

His secret weapon is the hellgrammite, which he collects from local streams.

"They remind me of that creature in 'Alien' if you were to flatten him like a pancake," he said. "They work incredibly well so long as they are hooked right and the hook doesn't outsize them. A lot of native fish will be looking for these.

"I don't boast to be a great fisherman. I just enjoy getting out and enjoying the tranquility of nature. Much of the time we catch and release our fish, but it's ironic as my dad always seems to want me to release the largest of fish we catch like a 6-pound smallmouth I caught in spring. It's a pretty good size fish for the waters we fish.

"Ironically, he forgets the catch and release ethic on the big ones when he lands that 7-pounder about an hour after me. Sorry dad, I have to go public on that."

One of Shawn's joys these days is passing along the fishing tradition to his son, Taylor.

When Shawn does keep fish, he really enjoys the process of preparing and eating.

"I love to smoke salmon and steelhead. We have a pretty good family recipe but I always tend to smoke more than we can eat, so the relatives and neighbors always get a large sample. One of my favorite fish is bass; smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted. If you batter and deep fry it, wow!"

From a very young age Shawn was captivated by movies and was always full of ideas, hoping that maybe one day he could create his own stories. He first got involved with the art of filmmaking at the College of Marin.

During his first semester he completed a short horror film shot in 16mm, called "Alien Zombie." He worked on various short films and commercials in the Bay Area, and in 1998, he and a friend produced several exercise video for seniors — "Key to Health and Senior Strength Solutions."

In 2000, Shawn completed a student film, "Prey," a horror feature film shot in 16mm with a running time of 51 minutes. It was well-received at film festivals. Some people began to wonder if Shawn is the next Wes Craven.

After finishing film school, Hazeleur shot his first feature length film, "Final Remains," a thriller set in northern California, about everything going wrong in a mortuary. At Hazeleur's Web site, vanhazalaarproductions.com, you can see a trailer of the film that took him five years to make.

In his travels, he's tried his hand at fishing and found a dream place to fish.

"Take me back to Alaska, please," he said.

However, he's not so sure about Austria, where his wife, Claudia, is from.

"I haven't been able to figure the Austrian fish out," he said. "They seem to like bread and corn, but it's not like fishing in America. We really are spoiled with endless rivers and tributaries. No offense to the Austrians, but I think our fish may be a little more sophisticated."

He has plans to include fishing in his next movie.

"It's going to be set in northern California and it will involve hunting and fishing," he said.