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Tom Stienstra

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The Mail Bag

I enjoy reading every letter that is sent to me. While I don't have time to answer each letter personally, I will pick letters and answer them on this site regularly. -Tom Stienstra

Legal trap -
"Here is the scenario: Some of the game wardens in the Monterey Bay area are telling us that it is illegal, after we have caught our limit of salmon or have a salmon on board, to go fishing for halibut with a conventional hook."
Dick Tamagni

That is absolutely true in what is turning into one of the biggest legal traps in California. Once a salmon has been caught when mooching and is taken on board any boat, all fishermen aboard that boat must use circle hooks to fish for anything, whether it be rockfish, halibut, striped bass or anything else. In response, after a salmon has been caught, fishermen are using the same technique for other species, mooching with a single anchovy with a circle hook. If no salmon are aboard, the circle hook regulation does not apply.

More fishing & hunting -
"Been aware of you for years and have seen you at some fund-raiser dinners. I wish you could write more articles pertaining to hunting and fishing in the Sunday Chronicle instead of articles on mountain climbing, bird watching, and the such. Maybe it has just gotten too politically incorrect for you to provide much-needed information and unity for the sportsmen, especially hunters. Well, don't forget us little guys in the minority who helped your career be where it is."
Don Coelho

My job is defined as communicating the outdoor experience, and that includes all phases of it. I am free of all faction, and that includes any shadow of any purported correctness. If you check the archives on the, the past 400 stories in two years cover adventure and getaways, fishing, hiking and camping, wildlife, conservation and ethics, with an additional mix of hunting, boating, water sports, diving, RV travel, and of course, many of the special people who take part in these activities.

Abalone bust -
"Thanks for the report on the abalone bust by the DFG, and thank you also for putting the names of those greedy pigs who were poaching. I hope that they all get a lot of time and are fined big time. When I was diving out there north of Jenner, I'd see full ledges at 30 feet deep with little 8-10 inch holes on the rocks (from where abalone had been). Totally picked clean. Unbelievable. Hats off to the DFG for a job well done."
Greg Gretz

Wildlife conservation laws are finely tuned by biologists. It is unconscionable for poachers to undermine the rest of us who obey the laws, and to rake in huge profits while they're at it.

Feral pig invasion -
"I was hiking today at the Arastradero Preserve and noticed that the City of Palo Alto had posted a "feral pig warning" sign at the information kiosk in the parking lot. I volunteer frequently at the Midpeninsula Open Space Preserves along Skyline, and know from chatting with the rangers that feral pigs are spreading onward and upward from Santa Cruz County, but geez, pigs sighted that close to San Mateo County, in the valley? I find that alarming."
Jane Littell

At the present rate, wild pigs are a timebomb for the San Francisco Peninsula and its fantastic watershed lands, eventually to be opened to the public for hiking. Wild pigs destroy oak saplings, disturb top soil and devour endangered plants, and so far, there is no attempt to control their spread on the Peninsula.

The anchovy showdown -
"Noticed the article in the newspaper on this crazy request from a commercial fisherman, and of course associates, on the anchovies for fertilizer usage. This is an outrage just as the suggestion. These folks are clueless to the disaster that this type of idea would foster in the marine food chain. Well enough of that, but what is the progress from the Half Moon Bay area?"
Kenneth Darr

The proposal to net anchovies (for fertilizer) in the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge was defeated by one vote, 6-5 with two abstentions, by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Feels good, don't it? -
"Hey, thanks so much for mobilizing us to make that one-vote difference. I had not previously heard about the anchovy issue but due to your heads-up I feel like I helped to make a difference by writing and spreading the word. Truly a rare and precious feeling."
Hugh Stickney

A modest proposal -
"I have some vacation dates planned with my family and would appreciate a little help. Please send me the best places to camp, fish and maybe a short hike would also be nice, and not too far away. I'd prefer not many other people around, and real pretty, like along a lake, though a good stream would be acceptable. There are four of us, including a baby, so we can't be too far from a town. Enclosed is a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Thank you in advance for your help."
Victor Chang

For years now, I've been getting a letter (or e-mail) like this about every day. That is why I write guidebooks so the answers are always available, and why I do public events now and then with time to answer all questions. To better service destination requests, I'm planning occasional live e-chats at my website that will be a new attempt to allow a good interchange. I also will continue to post Q&A sessions here on my website. But when I return from a trip, and there's 150 letters waiting for me, and I have a 7,000-word series to write, and another trip starting in a week, well, it kills me to put them aside, but that's why they don't always get answered. I do read every letter closely, and sometimes use them to jump-start columns.

Best fish & chips around -
"As usual your column on places to visit on the coast was entertaining. I want to include my two cents: After hiking the 25 or so miles of the Lost Coast Trail from the mouth of the Mattole River to Shelter Cove, my hiking partners and I (and a whole lot of other people) always eat at the deli at Shelter Cove where we have the best fish and chips around with plenty of authentic malt vinegar and salt. It's a great finish to a 21/2 day backpacking trip along the beautiful rugged coast."
Jim Jackson

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