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October 07, 2003|PETE THOMAS

Sparkling waters

She wore a necklace with a diamond as big as a golf ball -- "OK, so it was a fake diamond," she said -- because she felt it was appropriate for the occasion. Her fishing license holder, likewise, was studded with precious (or not so precious) stones.

Duly adorned, Andrea Nicoll, her husband, Chris, and their guest, Sharon Coburn, went out among the eager masses and participated in Friday's grand opening of Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet.

And what they found -- and what so many others found -- was that while this may, indeed, be the Southland's largest and most prolific fishery, the bass, bluegill and trout were not going to simply jump into the boat.

"Opening day was great," Nicoll said. "But fall weather decided to kick in, and it did affect the fishing. Many people had difficulty hooking a bass and switched to trout gear. We were equipped."

Their hooks tipped with worms, they nabbed a 2-pound rainbow, then a 4-pounder, then several 2- and 3-pounders. "Then out came the secret weapon: lead-core trolling line with shad-pattern crankbaits," said Nicoll, of Fallbrook. "Wham-wham-wham, one after another. It truly is a jewel of a lake. Clean and beautiful. We hope it stays that way."

Going deep

Michael Giusti, the California Department of Fish and Game biologist in charge of the Diamond Valley Lake fishery, added that many anglers "had expectations that were larger than the lake could deliver.

"Those who knew how to bass fish did well, with one boat catching [and releasing] 100 fish," Giusti said. "The fish were deep, and the people who figured that out got fish. Nothing really big reported but a lot of 7- and 8-pounders."

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which operates the reservoir, said an unidentified fisherman caught a 9-pound, 6-ounce bass.

Lured by change

Many saltwater anglers blame Gov. Gray Davis for what they call unjustified restrictions on fishing imposed in state waters over the last two years -- most notably an effort to protect bocaccio, a rockfish species whose numbers later turned out to be higher than previously believed, resulting in an easing of the restrictions.

So it's not surprising that representatives of some fishing groups and saltwater fishing businesses have joined those supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger in today's recall election.

A news release issued last week by the California Sportfishing Coalition attributed this statement to Schwarzenegger: "Recreational angling has traditionally been part of the quality of life for millions of Californians, and as long as scientific measurements of fish populations show surpluses available for harvest, California anglers should be allowed the opportunity to be out on the water angling for those fish."

The quote was written by a representative of one of the sportfishing groups working within the coalition, delivered to campaign headquarters and, a source said, approved by the candidate.

"That's the way these things are done. We have no problem with it," said Philip Friedman, a spokesman for the Sportfishing Assn. of California. "The fact that Arnold at least looked at it and approved it means he's on board with us."

Short casts

The albacore bite remains solid out of San Diego, with the fish unusually large, running 25- to 40-plus pounds.... Annual harvest limits have been reached for cabezon, sheephead and greenling, prompting the Department of Fish and Game to announce closures for the remainder of the year beginning Wednesday.... Safari Club International has announced dates for its annual convention -- Jan. 21-24 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center -- and its keynote speakers: former President George Bush and retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Details:

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