CERRITOS — A young kid who trekked from East Los Angeles to nearby ocean with his parents in hopes of catching some fish grew up to become one of the most iconic figures on the Southern California angling scene.
There’s hardly a moment at a Fred Hall Show or other local fishing event when someone isn’t asking Dan Hernandez to pose with them for a photo – and for good reason. Hernandez celebrated his 30th year in front of the camera in 2017, bringing recreational fishing to Southern California anglers since the 1980s.
The Los Angeles County native grew up in Montebello and L.A.’s Eastside, but Hernandez had been fishing in California for more than 50 years.
Hernandez found his love for fishing as a young child living in East Los Angeles when his parents took him to the piers across town.
“We would fish on the pier, and the only rule was you couldn’t leave the pier. You had to fish on the pier,” Hernandez said. “You go out to the end of the pier, try to catch a bonita, or you could go toward the beginning of the pier and try to get a halibut or surfperch, but it was always about going out and fishing.”
His early professional life featured stints as a photographer at Sport Afield magazine and writer at Western Outdoor News. Eventually Hernandez produced his own television show, “Sport Fishing with Dan Hernandez,” and launched a youth foundation to foster angling activity among younger generations.
Through it all, Hernandez has been more than a steady presence in Southern California’s sportfishing scene.
Hernandez likened his 30th year on television as being equivalent to 200 years in regular life.
The idea of hosting a sportfishing show started when, one day, Hernandez watched Rolan Martin and Jimmy Houston on television and they said they were heading west for a fishing expedition – and by “heading west” they meant traveling to Louisiana. Hernandez quickly realized a television show was needed for anglers along California and Mexico’s Pacific coast.
“They weren’t even on this side of the Mississippi,” Hernandez said. “I decided at that point that I really want to try to do it. I worked with some guys and did a show for two years. That fell apart and then I went on my own and did it.”
Hernandez also set the show apart from the competition by featuring tidbits not found in other fishing programming.
Cooking fish, for example, was a major element of the program since the beginning. He has his own cookbooks and experimented with certain catches rarely or never found in restaurants.
Also unique to Hernandez’s show is his interaction with viewers: Hernandez speaks into the camera, effectively breaking the fourth wall and giving viewers valuable information about catches and fishing techniques.
“A lot of the other T.V. shows are just fishing action and no host, really, talking to the camera. I do that a lot,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes I’ll stand next to somebody that’s hooked up and I’ll talk through it, or I’ll talk into camera and explain what’s going on.”
Yet what makes “Sport Fishing with Dan Hernandez” a mainstay in the fishing world is the program’s consistency and ability to connect with the everyday angler.
“The show is pretty much the same: we still catch fish, show people where to catch fish, how to do it and we still cook fish. The industry’s changed a lot with all the consolidation. There are fewer companies,” Hernandez said. “I think what people like is we show them something local they can go do. There hadn’t been a show like mine … [since the 1960s]. We were the first one to be on regular broadcast T.V. I hear from a lot of the public that they’re thankful we’re on free T.V.”
Hernandez recalled hearing of plans to kibosh funding for the fishing in the city program about 17 years ago and expressed his disagreement with the policy direction.
“I was at a Fish and Game Commission meeting and told them … that’s a great program, you should be throwing money at it,” Hernandez said. “During the meeting they were talking some more about how they had to cut budgets and they were going to cut this. They had a break and one of the commissioners pulled me aside. They said, ‘if people like you start foundations and make our money go farther then we won’t close this down.’”
He agreed on the spot and has since used his Dan Hernandez Youth Foundation – also known as Dan’s Kids – to host fishing events at local lakes, serving tens of thousands of youth along the way.
“The neat thing, since we’ve been doing it so long, is last year and this year was the first time I saw young adults coming [who were about 25 years old] and bringing their four-year-old or five-year-old. They told me they learned how to fish at one of my events, and now they are bringing their kids to learn,” Hernandez said.
The foundation itself offers youth to become involved with fishing through a variety of events in Southern California, be it San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County or the Inland Empire.
In fact the first-ever Riverside event is on tap, with the foundation essentially working with local parks and recreation departments to host fishing activities. Hernandez essentially helps local cities use their lakes to teach people about fishing.
Legislators have been deliberating Senate Bill 187 (SB 187) during the current legislative session. The bill proposes to change California’s fishing license scheme to a 12-month cycle, as opposed to being issued through Dec. 31 regardless of purchase date.
Hernandez is supportive of State Sen. Tom Berryhill’s proposal, stating California should really take a cue from one of her neighbors.
“California should do what Mexico does. When you buy your license it’s good for 12 months from the day you buy it,” Hernandez said. “I see it when I go into stores, someone’s there to get a license and it’s November, and then they tell them how much it is, and it’s only going to be good for two months, then they don’t want to go [fishing]. I’d rather see a license good for a full 12 months.”
Hernandez, beyond the television show and foundation, also hosts private charters now. He hopes to continue growing the foundation to make it self-sustainable. Hernandez puts a lot of his own resources, both time and financial, into the foundation, but hopes more people will eventually support the organization’s efforts to bring fishing to local youth.
More information about Dan’s television program, private charters and foundation efforts is available online at sport-fishing.com or DansKids.org.