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Steve Merlo

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Rian Grell (left), 7, of Tehachapi, caught this 10-pound catfish at Lake Isabella on April 18 while fishing with his grandfather Ben Stephens of Tehachapi and cousin Caiden Grell, 10, of Bakersfield. They were using brown PowerBait. The fish was released despite a protest by Rian.

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Francisco Palos of Delano caught a 7- and 4-pound catfish April 21 at Lake Wollomes, using nightcrawlers for bait.

Some lunker-sized carp are being caught at the California Aqueduct as the fish move into the head gates to spawn. I sampled the action for a couple hours and hooked one that was 43-inches long and weighed close to, or even over, 40 pounds. It was the largest carp I've ever seen alive, or dead, and was impressive. During the fight, several other fish of equal or larger size swam beside the lunker, seemingly trying to egg it on in the 25-minute fight.

For the past few months, the "buglemouth" catches have been eye-opening, with a ton of fish going over 20 pounds each. With over two-thirds of the world's population seizing every opportunity to eat the fish they consider a delicacy, America's anglers are finally getting the word that these once maligned fish are tough to catch, hard-fighting and actually great eating.

Carp are one of nature's most "intelligent" fish and can be very difficult to catch, but the new fluorocarbon lines should make attracting one to a hook a lot easier. One of the better concoctions I've used to get them to bite is a mixture of strawberry soda, Wheaties cereal, creamed corn, garlic powder and an occasional shot of Jack Daniels whiskey. Mix the ingredients until the bait is just firm enough to squeeze into a tight little ball, add it to a hook tied on fairly light, weightless line (8-10) and lob the bait out leaving a little slack. Wait until the fish straightens out the line before setting the hook and then hang on for a wild ride!

It's not a stone fly

In last week's column, I mistakenly called a hellgrammite the larva of the stone fly, and, as usual, readers were quick to jump in and correct my inaccuracy. The proper definition should read that the cricket-looking creature is the larval stage of the dobson fly.

Most of the creatures we called hellgrammites were stone fly nymphs, but either one makes an incredible bait for trout wherever one might put out a line. We simply lifted flat-bottomed stones from beneath the surface, flipped them over quickly, and captured any alien-looking larvae living there.

We also used the larval stage of an insect that, while the correct name escapes me, lives in small, pebble encrusted cylinders beneath the water. We'd grab them too, sometimes by the dozens, and my friends and I would break them open to get at the half-inch-long grub living within its sometimes 2-inch-long "home." Impaled on a hook, trout jumped all over them, and because they were so tough, one could often land three or four fish on one before losing it.

Hunter safety

Kern Shooting Sports' partner Jay Busby reports that the "Hunter Safety Course" scheduled for May has already filled up. Fortunately, there are still spaces available for the popular "Internet Course" to be held May 19. Remember, hunters going out of state or prospective new hunters must have a valid proof of hunter safety before a license can be issued. With the cottontail and bow-season deer openers only a few months away, don't get caught wishing you'd taken the time to give Jay a call at (661) 871-9025 to sign up to take the course.

Turkey season kaput

Sunday marks the end of the general spring wild turkey season in California. With most hens already on their nests, desperate male birds in search of a receptive partner can still be found strutting their mating rituals and gobbling their fool heads off, especially at elevations above 3,000 feet. Most, but not all, are being taken on private property, but a growing number of birds can be found on national forest lands as wild turkey numbers increase. The season reopens in November for the fall turkey season when both sexes can be taken.

Sierra trout season opens

Despite low water concerns in a host of waters in the Eastern Sierra, excellent fishing will be available for those making the trek up Highway 395 and beyond. According to my friend Bill, who lives Mammoth, snow hampered fishermen last weekend, but the June Lake loop lakes (Gull, Silver, June and Silver) were producing excellent fishing, including some nice browns and some decent rainbows. Lakes Mary, George, Crowley, Virginia and Twin, while not up to traditional water levels, still furnished plenty of action.

By the way, with the cancellation of one of the Sierra's big draws, the Alpers Trout program, hopefully the DFW will take up the slack this year and plant some decent sized fish for the crowds. The Alpers Trout, a genetic invention created to grow large, pink-meat rainbows in a short time, has always been a draw at nearly all the lakes. Last year, my wife, her close friend Amy and I enjoyed virtual non-stop action on some lunker fish in the 3- to-4-pound range.