Backcasts archive: Through June 22, 2007

Blog calendar: June 22 | June 20 | June 19 | June 18

posted June 22, 2007

Hall calls flyangling queen, billfishermen and "Uncle Homer"

The Hall of Fame class of 2007 is full of big names, but perhaps some of whom aren't familiar to most sports fans.

Being inducted this year will be the queen of flyfishing, a rod-making visionary and "Uncle Homer."

What hall is calling, you ask.

Why, the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame, of course.

The IGFA is more than the keeper of angling world records. The nonprofit organization based in Dania Beach, Fla., is dedicated to conservation. The membership-supported institution to all things sport fishing was founded in 1939 and sports members from more than 120 countries.

Past inductees in its 65-member Hall of Fame include such angling heavyweights as Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey, Curt Gowdy, Ted Williams, Lee Wulff and Ray Scott.

Joining that prestigious group in October (with bio material prepared by the IGFA):

Joan Salvato Wulff

Considered among the most influential women in flyfishing, Wulff has been a tournament caster for more than 20 years. She won 18 titles while raising casting to an art form. The widow of IGFA Hall of Fame inductee Lee Wulff continues to share her expertise in books, films and at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing on the Catskill's best known river, the Beaverkill. She also remains committed to the conservation of Atlantic salmon fisheries.

Homer Circle

The "dean" of North American outdoor writers, Circle has covered the fishing scene for more than 50 years, including more than 35 years as angling editor of Sports Afield magazine. A noted bass authority and senior writer for Bassmaster Magazine, Uncle Homer is a tackle designer, teacher and lecturer, and in addition has enjoyed roles in more than 50 fishing films.

Gary Loomis

Loomis revolutionized tackle design with his advances in graphite rod production, and G Loomis went on to become one of the most successful rod-making companies in the country. In 1995, Loomis launched Fish First, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring steelhead and salmon runs in Washington State.

Dr. Ruben Jaen

A legend in Venezuelan fishing, Jaen is a pioneer of light-tackle billfishing in South America. This cardiovascular surgeon introduced night-time swordfishing and caught the first broadbill in Caribbean waters. An author, he has released more than 3,000 billfish and was instrumental in protecting the La Guaira Bank from commercial fishing interests.

Peter B. Wright

Wright is a world-renowned angler, scientist, journalist, consultant and an advocate of circle hooks and tag-and-release billfishing. As a captain, he's targeted waters around the globe, has won dozens of fishing tournaments and has guided numerous anglers to world records, in the process, catching more billfish granders than anyone in history.


posted June 20, 2007

Florida man attacked by rabid bobcat hailed as a hero

It's been three weeks since Vietnam veteran Dale Rippy took on a crazed 25-pound bobcat on the porch of his Wesley Chapel, Fla., home and prevailed.

The wild beast tested positive for rabies, and authorities are praising Rippy for dispatching it before the cat attacked again, the Associated Press reports.

Rippy, 62, endured the bobcat's slashes and bites until it clawed into a position where he could grab it by the throat. Then he strangled it.

Authorities praised Rippy for clear thinking under pressure, according to the AP.

"We give this guy a lot of credit for what he did," said Pasco County Animal Control manager Denise Hilton. "The man was definitely using his head when he did that. If he let the cat go, we could have had more victims."

Rippy said it was apparent the unhinged bobcat had to be stopped during the May 30 attack in this suburb 25 miles northeast of Tampa.

"I was bleeding everyplace," said Rippy, who was later treated for bites, cuts and exposure to rabies. "If that cat had attacked a child, it would've been really bad. It wouldn't have quit."

Clearly this is a hero whose military training served him well. Backcasts salute you, Dale Rippy.

Where's a bobcat when you need one? Squirrels attack 3 in German town

Talk about deranged. A squirrel reported by the Associated Press out of Berlin to be unusually aggressive unleashed its tiny rodent chompers on three unsuspecting townsfolk in Germany near the Austrian border.

The furry critter was finally done in by a crutch-wielding septuagenarian in the sanctuary of a garden … but not before biting a construction worker.

Before either of those attacks, the squirrel began its rampage by jumping through a living-room window in Passau, Germany, and gnawing on a woman in the home. She ran out of the house with the squirrel hanging on by its teeth, then managed to shake the animal off her body and onto the street, according to the AP.

The squirrel then took on the laborer before meeting its fate at the hands of a crutch-swinging 72-year-old man — who undoubtedly is also now considered a hero in his fair town.

And, yes, the dead animal was to be tested for rabies.


posted June 19, 2007

Just another day on the water for Calif. angler … oh, and a world record

He had to get talked into even submitting the paperwork and can't justify the cost to mount the sizable trophy, but it appears understated Rolla Cornell is well on his way to earning his first world-record catch.

And Cornell didn't just break the record for mullet snapper, he obliterated it.

Becky Reynolds, world record coordinator for the International Game Fish Association, confirmed yesterday she has received Cornell's application that states the brutish mullet snapper (Lutjanus aratus) weighed 45¾ pounds, or nearly 10 pounds heavier than the standing all-tackle standard of 36 pounds even.

Cornell's fish was taken June 6 on a live-trolled 3-pound ladyfish, or sabalo, off Mexico's Cerralvo Island near La Paz in Baja California Sur. (The current record was hooked in April 2005, out of Los Suenos, Costa Rica, by Michael S. Scroggins of Cape Corral, Fla., according to Reynolds.)

"It felt good," Cornell, 65, of Palmdale, Calif., said of his pending record. "I was fishing for fun. I was surprised it was a world record. I didn't know it was until I got to shore."

Cornell usually hunts for dorado and pargo of different varieties. In fact this was his first mullet snapper, a k a pargo lisa south of the border, where Cornell — a regular client for the past decade out of David Jones' Fishermen's Fleet in La Paz — is called exclusively by his surname. "It's easier that way," he said.

And easy is what Cornell is all about.

"I was pretty much talked into (applying for) the record; I just go for fun," Cornell reiterated. "I guess it's like any other thing: Records are meant to be broken."

The size of the mullet snapper wasn't the only oddity of the catch, according to a Fishermen's Fleet release.

Pargo lisas feed almost exclusively on small sardines and green mackerel matched to small hooks. Ordinarily extremely line shy, the mullet snapper took a size No. 8/0 trap hook knotted onto 80 pound leader — a rig meant to target the more vicious strike of cubera pargo, or dog snapper, that are common to the area. The catch was one of several in recent weeks involving large mullet snapper attacking outside their normal routine.

"Oh, my God, that's a big fish," Reynolds reportedly exclaimed when contacted about the catch at IGFA headquarters, according to the release.

Cornell said his skipper — Enrique Lucero Lucero, of Agua Amarga, Mexico — skillfully motored the boat away from the rocks once the big mullet snapper was hooked.

"Usually they fight like crazy because they want to get to the rocks … and you just hold on. And usually the rocks chew you up pretty good," Cornell said. "Getting over the sand at least you have a halfway chance."

From there it was a 20-minute tussle to bring the fish to gaff, or roughly twice the amount of time it took Cornell to be talked into applying for the all-tackle record once he reached shore. So instead of being cut into fillets, his mullet snapper is one ice in La Paz, "in case they have any problems," Cornell said.

Cornell, who considers a 90-pound roosterfish his previous personal best, will display his certificate should the weight stand and give a copy to Lucero. But the fish won't be mounted, according to the eight-time grandfather.

"I know it costs a lot to have it stuffed or something, and that's not worth it to me," Cornell said.

We like that attitude here at Backcasts. We like it a lot.


posted June 18, 2007

Editor's note: This is the third installment of My Back Pages, which recalls previous columns penned by the author.

My Back Pages: The Joy of Bass Thumb
Anglers know it hurts so good

When it comes to thumbs, Little Jack Horner's got nothing on these guys.

Plucking a plum from a Christmas pie is all very nice, Jack. Call me when you pull your battered, bruised and bloodied thumb from the maw of a calico bass. That's true prestige, not some wimpy nursery rhyme.

You see, Little Jack, when seafaring boats return to port after a day targeting those beautiful, fierce-fighting kelp bass, it's the anglers with the pummeled thumbs who had the best luck. Dubbed bass thumb, or calico thumb, it's caused while "lipping" the quarry — subduing the stubby-toothed bass by holding its lower jaw between the thumb and forefinger — in order to retrieve the hook or lure. And it hurts so good.

"I've been victimized by it many times," said Joel Zide of Northridge. "I've had some of the best calico-fishing trips and my thumb has been torn apart, red, raw.

"You show your buddies, 'This is a good day on the water.'"

Now, don't get me wrong, Jack, this isn't some masochistic custom. On the contrary, conscientious anglers intent on returning their prizes to swim another day handle the bass in this manner for the health of the fish — and themselves. By lipping the fish in similar fashion to how a freshwater bass fisherman releases a largemouth, the calico isn't injured by being bounced on the deck. And the angler isn't impaled by sharp spines when those prickly fins are flared.

"If you grab it like a football, you aren't going to use that hand for a week," said Westlake Village angler Dimitri Peros. Those whose sense of taste override their sense of conservation couldn't care less about the well-being of the catch, but they need to get their bait back.

Either way, the calico's bite leaves a scratch at the least and draws blood at worst. Multiply that by the number of fish caught — the limit is 10 fish over 12 inches, but catch-and-release fanatics might boat twice that many on a good day — and you can come home with a thumb looking worse than a tractor mechanic's.

It's something to cherish, Jack, not hide. And at work the next morning, you can snap your suspenders proudly to show off your fishing prowess.

Bass thumb is a tangible, tactile memory you'll treasure for a week, longer if the healing process is slow. Grizzled topwater anglers have trouble recovering at all because they fish so often, enjoying layers of bass thumb.

"It's one of those injuries that I'd rather didn't heal, to remind me of the day I had," Zide said.

You can try to diminish the damage by wrapping that precious opposable digit with tape. But what's the point? Hold that marred thumb high and be content in knowing that the bites you received came from a real Marv Albert of the fish family. Yesss.

Because the calico bass is a "talent fish" — that is, Jack, they are tough to catch — bass thumb is a mark of status.

To catch the handsome sea bass with the distinctive checkerboard markings on its olive or brown sides, one must be adept at casting over kelp and frequently at great distances. Once hooked, the calico will never give up easily. Like the yellowtail, the bass will fin for the seaweed, rocks, reefs and other submerged structure it favors, tying up your line beyond recovery or breaking it off completely. There's an art to realizing when the bass has hit, setting the hook and reeling before the fish speeds off to safer havens.

Many anglers prefer hunting calicos with plastic swim baits on 12-pound line, a 9-foot light-action rod and a light baitcaster reel. Metal jigs, cut squid and live anchovies are also popular baits. Throwing a 1-pound mackerel with 30-pound line is another recommended technique that can bring back bigger specimens.

With all the jabber about El Nino pushing exotic species into area waters, you can wait for yellowtail, tuna and dorado to turn up in greater numbers or you can take a multiday charter to richer fishing grounds. But if you want a local standby on an afternoon outing, Jack, little can compare to the feeling you get from calico fishing. Ohhh, that bass-thumb feeling.

"It feels good, because that's a sign that you been active catching fish," said George Soto of Sunland. "People will come up and say, 'I got a calico thumb.' They show it to you and it's scraped and white from the saltwater being on it.

"When you're bleeding from calico thumb, it's a sign of bigger fish with bigger teeth. It's impressive." So, Jack, someday when you're grown up enough to go beyond plums, give me a ring. We'll go lip some calicos and rip some thumbs.

This column originally appeared Oct. 2, 1997, in the Los Angeles Daily News.

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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. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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