California Chapter host San Diego ‘Surf, Sand and Public Lands’ day


Photos: Eric Hanson, Devin O’Dea, Justin Bubenik, NganHa Tran

Members of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers California Chapter traveled from various nooks and crannies throughout the state to join our Co-Chair, various Board Members, Wild Game Cookoff Chefs (Jason Jones, Devin O’Dea), Chapter Members, friends and family to enjoy a truly amazing Surf, Sands, and Public LandsEvent at the Southern California beach of La Jolla on June 29th.  The event provided an opportunity for all participants, regardless of skill level or experience, to learn different types of ocean fishing methods including specific tips, tricks, and safety considerations as well as share their own experiences and stories. 

Many eager participants from California Chapter (novice to the expert) joined us for a great day on the beach to enjoy fishing demonstrations, different methods of fishing, an amazing backyard cookout, and an evening showing of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Public Land Owners Film. The morning kicked off early with some hot coffee as we all gathered, dug our toes in the sand, and greeted the amazing day unfolding in front of us.

Justin Bubenik, California Chapter Co-Chair, led the group in a fly fishing tutorial.  Justin covered all aspects of this method of take, including the planning, packing, relevant equipment, various fishing strategies, fly casting techniques, basics and tips for beginners, as well as advanced techniques such as the use of weighted lines and use of a variety of handtied flies.  He fished a number of setups, including a heavy sinking fly line (around 300 grains) and a variety of clouser minnow patterns with chartreuse being the most productive, enabling Justin to land a respectable number of calico bass.


Later that morning, Devin O’Dea gave a talk on spearfishing.  Devin brought a wealth of knowledge and experience and shared a ton of great information. He demonstrated the use of both the Hawaiian sling (or pole spear) which comprises a simple spear shaft and loop of rubber tubing used to propel it forward, and the speargun, which has a stock and barrel constructed either from wood or composite material that manually launches the spear with the use of two bands or “slings”.  Other key discussion areas focused on selection of the right wetsuit, mask, and snorkel as well as the proper maintenance and use of equipment. 

Devin also discussed and demonstrated important safety tips and practices to his captive audience.  For example, Devin explained the risks of shallow water blackouts, which are all too often deadly to both novice and experienced free divers, especially when coupled with the adrenaline rush inherent in the pursuit of a fish. One of the most common scenarios occurs when a diver sees a fish and makes repeated successive dives without allowing for enough surface time to recover. A good rule of thumb for divers in < 60ft is adhering to a 2:1 ratio of surface time to underwater time and a 3:1 ratio for depths of > 60ft or breath holds lasting longer than 90 seconds. 


Following the tutorials, BHA members and friends dove into the Pacific in search of fresh fish to add to the smoker. There were sightings of yellowtail, California corbina, shortfin corvina, calico bass, barracuda and plenty of kelp perch and three sargo were gratefully harvested for the afternoon barbeque.

The morning and afternoon sped by with good fishing action, comradery and fun.  The excitement and experiences all culminated with several of our California Public Land Owners learning and experiencing new fish methods, while also contributing to the evening barbeque.

The late afternoon included a wild game, fish, and forageables potluck and barbeque.  The list of food prepared and provided was simply amazing.  The California Chapter came together and and enjoyed an amazing bounty of harvested foods and wild recipes.  Some notable dishes of the evening were the smoked and reverse seared mooseburgers, Hawaiian axis deer venison tacos (2019 BHA Rendezvous Wild Game Cook Off California Chapter Recipe), homemade upland game and tuna terrines, clam ceviche and cilantro chimichurri, along with the smoked and grilled elk sausage, bacon wrapped pheasant, dove breasts, bonito, sargo, and yellowfin tuna belly.  The turnout, generosity, and contributions of members was truly inspiring. Also, a special shoutout to Refuge Brewery in Temecula, California (, @RefugeBrewery) for providing some delicious brew parings to accentuate our fine feast!


The California Chapter’s first Surf, Sands, and Public Landsevent wrapped up with a viewing of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Public Land Owners Film Fest. The film is an inspiring and hilarious selection of BHA member short films that range across backcountry hunting and fishing topics and themes.  It was also a perfect way to cap off a remarkable and productive day bringing together likeminded individuals all in support of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers mission of a membership dedicated to protecting our traditions, heritage, wild lands, waters, and wildlife.


About Devin O'Dea

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