Our Columns

AutoMatters & More: The Fred Hall Outdoor Experience Shows

live fish
One of the many live fish Jan Wagner

At the 2019 Fred Hall Shows, visitors learned about activities in the great outdoors through informative and entertaining seminars and demonstrations, and thousands of products for sale from leading outdoor recreation manufacturers. This year’s three California shows were held at the Long Beach Convention Center, the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield and at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County, which is where I visited for my first time.

The Fred Hall Shows are billed as “The Ultimate Outdoor Experience.” They began in 1946 as a sportsmen’s show at the Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles. Since then they have grown into what they describe as the world’s larges consumer fishing show, the largest boat show in the western United States, and California’s finest travel and hunting show. They are renowned for providing a full day’s worth of fun for the entire family, and are a go-to event for anyone wanting to learn about fishing, boating, hunting and outdoor recreation.

boat show
A premiere boat show Jan Wagner

There were more than 700 booths, over 400 seminars, and indoor and outdoor activities and demonstrations throughout the large exhibit halls and outdoors at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. While there, show patrons were encouraged to support the Coastal Conservation Association of California.

For boaters, The Fred Hall Shows offers California’s largest marine electronics display (fish finders to the extreme!), presented in the electronics seminar room and for sale in the vendor area. This is one of the nation’s premiere boat shows, and one of the largest boat shows in the Western United States. There were acres of boats, including fishing boats, cruisers, tow boats, pontoon boats, deck boats, high performance boats, kayaks (including a Hobie kayak demonstration) and stand-up paddleboards.

For anglers, there were aisles of booths filled with fishing tackle from hundreds of manufacturers, for sale and on display, plus casting ponds and international fishing booths. There was a saltwater mobile aquarium, the Mammoth Lakes “Kids Fish Free” trout pond and the Mammoth Lakes Seminar Stage. Marine touch tanks were presented by Dr. Larry Allen, Cal State Northridge’s Marine Biology Department.

show hunters
A show for hunters too Jan Wagner

For fishermen, hunters and everyone who likes to get away from it all, this year there was a new off-road section, with angler- and hunter-specific vehicles. There were air gun and archery ranges, and hunting travel booths.

My favorite activities were the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, the Great American Duck Races, cooking demonstrations and the Ultimate Air Dogs.

At the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, spectators enjoyed watching traditional lumberjack skills demonstrated. Timbers were felled and pairs of competitors rolled a floating log to see who could remain standing on the log the longest. Hint: the loser got very wet! One lucky child got a custom-made, one-of-a-kind wooden chair.

At The Great American Duck Races, kids each held a duck at the beginning of one of the lanes, until tossing it in the water when the race began. These were very quick races, as the ducks half flew and half swam to the finish line. We need those at the San Diego County Fair, to go along with the turkey races and pig races!

Log rolling
Log rolling competition at the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show Jan Wagner

At the Costa Sporting Chef Café, Scott Leysath and his singer-songwriter partner Gary Shiebler prepared fish and game recipes to share with audience members. I would eat fish much more often if it was even half as delicious as the small sample that I tasted.

The Ultimate Air Dogs were amazing, as they leapt into a long pool of water to catch a baton before it hit the water. The competition was to see which dogs jumped the furthest. I don’t know who enjoyed that more – the dogs or we spectators!

Spending only part of a day at The Fred Hall Show was not enough. There was much more to see and do, including the Deep Blue Dive Pool, where I’m told that people could step into a dry suit and take a scuba lesson – complete with free dive and scuba diving equipment – without getting their clothes wet.

Air Dog
An Ultimate Air Dog Jan Wagner

Seminars included “Fishing the Eastern Sierras” (gifts and prizes from Berkley) and “Surf Fishing from California to Cabo San Lucas” (gifts and prizes from Daiwa).

For more information, and to find out dates and locations for upcoming Fred Hall Shows, visit

To see additional photos, visit, click on the magnifying glass, select “POSTS” and enter “AutoMatters & More #591” in their search bar. Please send your comments to

Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #591

Get the Del Mar Times in your inbox

Top stories from Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Solana Beach every Friday.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Del Mar Times.