Monthly Archives: December 2016

Why Should I Join Ducks Unlimited?

Are you a duck hunter? Do you like standing in freezing water before daylight hoping to get two or three shots just as it gets legal shooting light? Are you addicted to the thrill of duck hunting?

Or are you an environmentalists, not really interested in hunting but really concerned about conserving our natural environment? Do you want our wetlands kept wild and conserved for the future? Are you rational enough to know our environment can be used while keeping it, which is conservation, rather than totally left alone with no human use like a fanatical preservationist demands?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions you should join Ducks Unlimited.

Ducks, Unlimited (DU) was started in 1937 and currently has about 600,000 adult members in the US, with over 125,000 more in Canada and Mexico. And there are about 47,000 youth members in the US. There are a lot of people interested in conservation and hunting in North America!

The DU mission tells you what the organization does. It says: “Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.“

As of the beginning of this year Du had conserved almost 14 million acres in North America, with projects that affected another 118 million acres. Conserved acres mean land dedicated to wildlife while affected acres may be an area with a project that does not dedicate the total area to duck habitat but improves it.

The most important factor of any organization is the percent of funds raised that actually go to their cause. With DU it is an admirable 87 percent. Only 13 percent of all money they get is used for administration, human resources, fund raising and development. That is better than many other conservation organizations.

DU does not think duck hunting is only for private land owners. Here in Georgia their efforts have helped improve duck hunting in 16 WMAs and other areas open to public hunting. These areas are spread out over the state so most Georgia hunters have easy access to one.

Some of the ones closest to us here in Griffin include Rum Creek, where a perimeter dyke and water control structures that improve 25 acres there. Also, at West Point WMA, Glovers Creek, 90 acres of land were improved through replacement of an old water control structure that gave better use of water on the project.

And on Blanton Creek WMA on Bartletts Ferry Lake, two water controls structures were installed to conserve 50 acres. Water controls structures like these two and others are sometimes as simple as a valve or gate on a dam that allows an area to be drained so grain can be planted then flooded to enhance it for ducks when the grain is mature.

On some areas these devices use natural flow of water but on Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge there are big diesel pumps that drain huge fields each spring so they can be planted, then they are flooded in the fall when the grain is mature.

All wildlife, from deer and raccoons to quail and rabbits, benefit from the habitat improvements of DU. And nongame wildlife benefits, too. All kinds of bird species use the same habitat as ducks. Like bluebirds and cardinals? They definitely benefit from the things DU does.

The ways DU conserves includes: Restoring grasslands since many kinds of ducks nest in grasslands near wetlands and restoring them improves survival of young ducks, replanting forests because flooded bottomland forest give ideal wintering habitat for ducks, and restoring watersheds since the land around wetlands have a big effect in everything from nutrients to contaminants on the wetland.

Other areas of conservation include: working with landowners since nearly three fourths of wetlands are in private ownership and most of those private owners are willing to manage them for wildlife, working with partners from other conservation organizations to government agencies, and outright acquiring land to dedicate to conservation, usually by getting it in government agencies control.

Conservation easements protect land from future development, management agreements give financial incentives to private land owners to improve conservation and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enables DU to find where habitat work will be most effective. GIS includes combining satellite images with other information like wetland inventories, land use, soil type, wildlife use and other information to give a complete picture.

If you are a duck hunter DU can help you with everything from information on waterfowl migration patterns to identifying different species of ducks. The can help you learn the best decoy setups and how to train your retriever. You can even get shooting tips so you hit more of your targets and calling tips so you get more targets to try to hit.

Check out their web site for more information at and consider joining DU to help conservation of all kinds. Its not just for the birds!

Do You Hunt or Harvest?

Are you a hunter or a harvester? Do you hunt or harvest? In my opinion, and many may disagree, if you put out bait for deer or any other animals, even when legal, you are not hunting, you are harvesting. You are not hunting, you are waiting on the quarry to come to you.

The same applies to planting food plots. Don’t get me wrong, I plant food plots and sit in a stand watching the for deer. And I would put out corn and other bait if legal in this area. But sitting near a food plot waiting on a deer to come to feed is not hunting.

Hunting is going out into your quarry’s natural habitat, studying its movements and patterns and then trying to intercept it on its terms. That is why we go quail hunting and dove shooting. To find quail you go into their habitat and try to find them, usually with the help of a dog. But for doves you sit around a food source someone has planted, waiting on them to come to you.

I am not interested in killing a big buck with a pretty rack. The only reason I go after deer is to harvest three or four for the freezer. I am happy to shoot does.

Most of the time I am sitting where I can watch a field where I plant clover, peas and wheat each year. The deer come to it to feed, usually right at dark, and I can harvest one to eat.

Early in the season I do actually hunt. I go out and look for signs like rubs and scrapes near white oak trees. And I put up my climbing stand in an area where I can be hidden from approaching deer but get a shot at one.

I have shot some nice bucks with big racks but most were by accident while I was out harvesting, not hunting. I can take no pride in killing a big buck when all I did was plant something that attracted it. I am much more proud of my first deer, a small eight pointer I killed when I was 18. I actually went out and studied the area where it lived, set up my stand in a good place and was able to shoot it.

It takes some effort to plant a food plot, much more than just putting out corn for deer. But neither is anywhere near the effort it takes to go out and hunt a deer.

The bottom line to me is hunting is going out looking for your quarry, harvesting is waiting on them to come to you because of something you have done to alter their habitat.

There are exceptions. I grew up hunting wild quail and it was hard to find them, even with a dog. And you never knew exactly where they might be until the dog pointed. But one time I went to a paid trip on a quail plantation. It was fun, but it was not really hunting.

A few plantations where you pay to hunt have wild birds but they are rare and expensive. Most put out pen raised birds in an area and you follow a guide with a dog. You do get the experience of watching the dog point the bird, walking close to make it fly then shooting it.

But the guides know where the birds were placed and they usually don’t go far, so they can help the dogs find them. And pen raised birds don’t fly very fast or far. The one time I went I hit 12 birds with 14 shots, highly unusual for me. They are much easier to hit than wild birds.

To show how slow they are, on one point on my trip the bird got up a couple of feet in front the dog. The dog jumped as it flushed and caught it in the air. In a video on the internet you can see a guy actually reach out and catch a quail as it flies by him. That had to be a pen raised bird.

Doves are fun to shoot at, which describes what I do much better than saying I shoot them. And it takes some skill to pick a good place to set up you blind so you will be where they fly coming into the field. But that effort pales in comparison with going out looking for wild quail.

I have never had much interest in killing a bear. Most bear hunting is done by putting out bait and waiting on them to come to it. In many cases it is impossible to find them without bait since they range over such a wide area and are very hard to pattern. In some areas it is also legal to chase them with dogs, letting them do most of the work of finding the bear.

I doesn’t bother me when people say they are hunting when I think they are really harvesting. As long as it is legal it is fine. But I do make a distinction in my mind between hunters and harvesters.

Mid November Lake Allatoona Club Tournament

Last Saturday six members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters took the hazardous journey with our boats through downtown Atlanta to fish Lake Allatoona for our November tournament. We landed 23 keeper spotted bass weighing about 35 pounds. There were three five-fish limits and no zeros.

I managed to catch five weighing 10.08 pounds for first, Raymond English was second with five at 7.08 pounds, Mike Cox came in third with five weighing 5.41 pounds and Donnie Willis had fourth with two at 5.26 and big fish with a 2.76 pounder.

As we got ready to blast off someone asked if it was a 12 inch limit on Allatoona, and I said yes, and a 13 inch fish is a trophy. Allatoona is known for its small spotted bass but very few bigger fish. It is the only lake in Georgia that consistently does not produce a five pound fish each year in club tournaments.

I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped on a shallow point and landed a two pounder on a spinnerbait on my fourth cast. I did not expect to catch one that big all day, but a few minutes later, as the sky got a little lighter, I landed another two pounder on topwater. I was thrilled starting that way.

Two hours later I had missed three bites on topwater but had not landed another fish. Then, in a small pocket I had gone into trying to get out of the wind, I landed a 12 inch fish on a jig head worm. It was the size I expected to catch.

After that I started fishing pockets like that and landed another two pounder on a jig and pig. It was noon now and I moved out to a rocky point and landed another keeper, this one about 13 inches long, on a jig head worm. That filled my limit so I went back to the jig and pig hoping to catch a bigger fish.

At about 1:00 I landed my biggest fish, a 2.66 pounder, on the jig from a rocky point. Since I was in my new boat I headed back closer to the landing, knowing I had a good catch for Allatoona, and worrying something might go wrong. I wanted to be on time for weigh-in!

Another local club weighed in the same time we did and it took 10 pounds to win that club, too. One of their fishermen had a largemouth, the only one weighed in by either club. There was also an ABA tournament the same day and it took just over 10 pounds to win it and only eight to get a check.

Allatoona is hard to get to due to the traffic in Atlanta, especially pulling a boat, but you can catch a lot of keeper spots there.

I was also thrilled to win my first tournament out of my new boat. Twelve years ago I won my first tournament out of that boat when it was new, too. Now, if I can just keep fishing out of this one for 12 years I will be very happy!

What Is First Ice Safety?

First Ice Safety
By Mike Gnatkowski
from The Fishing Wire

When someone tells you “you’re walking on thin ice” it’s meant as words of extreme caution or warning. Ice fishermen need to take it literally. First ice produces some of the hottest ice fishing of the year and ice anglers are anxious to get on the ice to start the new season, but first ice also demands an extra level of vigilance and concern.

“First ice is a time that demands both stealth and safety,” shared ice fishing authority Brian Brosdahl. “If you’ve ever went through the ice it’s a ordeal that you won’t soon forget and don’t want to repeat. With that in mind, make sure you have a spud bar or ice chisel.” A lot of guys may not even have one these days, but it’s a must-have tool on first ice.

Call your favorite tackle shop or a local guide before venturing out and check on ice conditions. If you don’t see others fishing or signs that other anglers have been on the ice, use extreme caution. I don’t know of anyone that hands out awards for being the first one on the ice, but you might end up on the evening news.

“A spud bar is my friend!” joked Brosdahl. “A spud or ice chisel is going to allow you to check ice conditions as you go.” Standard ice chisels, like Frabill’s ( 52-inch, 5.5-pound model, are an inexpensive price to pay for peace of mind when testing ice conditions. Use the spud systematically to check ice thickness every 10 to 20 yards or so while you gradually work your way out to where you’re going to fish. “Be careful to not out walk your spud,” advised Brosdahl. If you’re in a group, don’t walk all together in a straight line. Spread out so if you do fall through you don’t all go down together. That way, the others can help you get out. Don’t stand in a group until you’re sure the ice is safe. Use a long rope to pull your shanty behind if you’re using one so as not to add weight in one location and to keep from spooking fish.

A life jacket is a good idea. It might seem like the inflatable variety of life jacket would be ideal for the situation, but a conventional life jacket may be better. “Some inflatable life jackets have a cord you have to pull to blow them up,” said Brosdahl. “The shock of going through the ice may leave you disoriented or confused or if you get knocked unconscious you won’t be able to pull the cord. There is a pill that dissolves in the auto inflation models. If the pill doesn’t dissolve you’re toast and a regular, conventional life jacket works all the time.” Once you’re on the ice and are sure conditions are safe you can take it off.

Even better is a floatation suit like Frabill’s new I Float Jacket and Bibs ( Several manufacturers make foam-filled suits that are the ultimate life-saving devices. Not only do the suits float, but they also maintain your body temperature preventing hypothermia until help arrives or you can get yourself out. Flotation suits sport bright colors that can aid rescuers in finding you; they also have glow-in-the-dark patches or piping so you can be located after dark.

You can’t always tell ice quality by just looking at it. Clear, blue ice is obviously the strongest, but just because there has been a week of sub-freezing temperatures don’t assume the ice is safe. Mark some increments on your ice scoop and measure the ice thickness so you know exactly how much ice there is. Milky-colored ice or slush is never safe.

Remember that ice thickness can vary greatly from lake to lake. Smaller lakes and ponds will have safe ice first. If there’s snow on the ice, assume that it’s unsafe until you can check its thickness. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice. Keep in mind that ice thickness is not likely to be uniform. Current, springs, waterfowl, and debris on the ice can cause ice thickness to vary greatly from one location to another and in a very short distance.

There’s one safety item that you should put on before you even step on the ice-creepers or ice cleats. Slick, glare first ice is an accident waiting to happen. Creepers provide traction and keep you upright. A nasty spill on the ice can result in a broken arm or elbow, torn ligaments or a concussion. Frabill’s rubber ice creepers ( pull easily over most winter boots. 10 carbide spikes (per creeper) contact and grip the ice to keep you upright and injury free.

Some other first-ice essentials should include a set of ice awls or picks, a length of rope and a cell phone in a sealed container or zip-loc bag. Several of the Frabill ( suits that ice fishermen prefer come complete with ice awls that are at the ready. Should you go through, a set of ice picks can assist you in getting out quickly. Wear them around your neck where you can grab them. If you go through, try to remain calm. Don’t remove your jacket or outer clothing. Clothing can trap air to keep you afloat and keep you warm. Dig the ice awls into the ice, kick your feet and try to roll out onto the ice. Keep rolling until you’re on safe ice. Rolling will help distribute your weight until you’re on safe ice and can stand up or crawl. Try and head back in the direction you came from. That’s where the safest ice is like to be.

A cell phone can be used to call for help and notify authorities that you need help or that you made it out of the water and are safe. If you have a length of rope it can be used by others to pull you out while maintaining a safe distance.

The best policy is to realize that no ice is safe ice. Authorities generally consider 4 inches of ice to be a minimum for safe travel by individual anglers, 6 inches to be safe for group activities and 8 inches for travel via snowmobile or four-wheeler. Traveling on the ice is never recommended by car or truck, but a minimum of a foot of clear, hard ice is required for going on the ice in YOUR vehicle, but not mine!


Christmas is always a time of mixed emotions. There is great happiness in watching kids’ excitement about Santa, spending time with family and friends, eating great food and renewing your faith. But there is also great sadness in remembering those gone from your life, past joys that can never happen again and the ending of another year of your life.

Those of us that love the outdoors and spend time in nature seem more attuned to the cycle of life since we see it first-hand so vividly. In 1985 I built a simple deer stand between two sweetgum trees. Hunting that stand season after season, year after year, the changes in the woods really comes home.

One very noticeable fact is that tree trunks grow out, not up. The spikes driven so laboriously in to the tree as steps are still spaced the same distance apart but the spikes that once stuck out two inches further than your boots’ width are now barely wide enough to get a good foothold.

And although the steps are the same distance apart, thirty years later it is a struggle to raise your foot from one to the other where 30 years ago it was an effortless climb. And there is a soreness in your arms and legs after a hunt that was not there even a few years ago.

The woods themselves go through changes both natural and man-made. I picked the site for the stand because it was on an edge where big pines with a good bit of undergrowth changed to more open hardwoods. Over the first ten years the undergrowth thinned in the pines as they got bigger and provided more shade.

Then the pines were thinned for lumber, opening up the ground to more sunlight. Brush and vines grew and got so thick that it was hard to walk through it. But the deer loved it and I saw more deer for about five years after that than I had before the thinning.

Another man-made change was an accident. I hunted with a lever action Marlin 30-30 with a scope mounted on see through rings. Those rings allowed me to use the iron sights if needed, but raised the scope very high.

One morning a doe moved into the open about 50 yards down a shooting lane I had cut. I eased up my rifle, put the crosshairs on her chest and pulled the trigger. She jumped about ten feet to her left then stood there looking around, wondering what had happened.

Fortunately, I had immediately ejected the spent shell and loaded a live one while the gunshot still made it difficult to locate the source of that sound. While she looked around I aimed and pulled the trigger again, and this time she dropped. I could not figure out how I missed such an easy shot the first time.

The next trip I found out why. While standing in the same position and looking at the spot she was standing, I noticed a three-inch-thick limb on the adjacent water oak was splintered. It was about four feet from where the end of my gun barrel had been when I shot.

You learn as you age, too. Looking at that limb I realized my scope was so high I could not see the limb in it even though the crosshairs were on the deer. My bullet leaving the barrel hit the limb as it rose to intersect with the point of aim of the crosshairs zeroed in at 100 yards.

I watched that limb die and fall over the next two seasons. I didn’t know you could kill a limb with a 30-30 but I did. When it fell I got it and it is still in my garage, bullet hole and all!

For a couple of years a ground squirrel had a hole at the base of a nearby tree. I enjoyed watching it scurry around finding food and watching out for danger. But it drove me crazy when hawk flew over and it would sit in the mouth of its home whistling a warning. Cute for a few minutes, the sound got very irritating after several minutes of it.

That cute little animal emphasized the shortness of life. It was gone the third year and I found their life span is only two to three years even if not eaten by a hawk. Our life spans are about 30 times that long, and we don’t have to be wary of hawks, but even that amount of time does not seem to be enough, especially for those you miss so much this time of year.
A pile of rocks on a small ridge near my stand made me dream of the past. The small ridge is an old field terrace.

At first I thought of some rich farmer making his slaves clear the land, build terraces for flat ground to plant cotton, and move rocks out of the way and pile them. Then I realized this hillside was not prime land that a rich farmer would own. Rather, it was most likely a family farm with the father, wife and children laboring to make terraces to scratch out a living from less than ideal land.

Those rocks tell a story of their own. They sat in one place for hundreds of years, then were move to their current location where they will sit for hundreds more. Eventually they will be worn down into sand by rain and lichens growing on them. Although they last much longer than we do, they, too, will some day be gone.
Life changes. It is too short to worry about the things that don’t matter. Instead, spend time with those you care about and make happy memories for future Christmases.

Tracking Movements of Permit and Tarpon

Focusing the lens: tracking movements of permit and tarpon in the Keys and beyond
from The Fishing Wire

This tarpon and permit tagging project overview is the kickoff of a collaboration between Dr. Andy Danylchuk, Fish Mission, and Moldy Chum.

The research on this ambitious project includes Dr. Danylchuk, along with Lucas Griffin and Dr. Jack Finn (UMass Amherst), Dr. Jake Brownscombe and Dr. Steven Cooke (Carleton University), and Dr. Aaron Adams (BTT).

The Big Three

The ‘Big Three’ flats fish – bonefish, permit, and tarpon – support exciting and productive recreational fisheries throughout the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, these fish are not immune to, as Sandy Moret once put it, the “weight of humanity”. Although predominately catch-and-release species, all of the ‘Big Three’ have suffered from overexploitation and disturbances related to coastal development. To manage and conserve these fish, it is critical that we understand how they make a living, what constitutes their essential habitats, and when and how they move – something scientists call their ‘spatial ecology’.

For bonefish, numerous scientific studies are completed or ongoing focusing on their movements and habitat use in The Bahamas. For example, a study published in 2011 identified an offshore spawning location for bonefish in Eleuthera. This type of information is essential for protecting key habitats for bonefish, for example, from the development of shipping channels or ports. In Florida, however, we still have much to learn about the spatial ecology of the Big Three – ironically, the putative birthplace of flats fishing. Although we have our own observations and anecdotes, information on the essential fish habitat for permit and tarpon is especially scarce.


While often targeting by anglers on the flats, conventional wisdom suggests permit spend the majority of their time in deeper water around natural and artificial reefs and shipwrecks, which are also essential spawning habitats. It is here, in deeper waters, where anglers and spear-fishers more commonly target them for harvest, often around their spawning aggregations when they are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, recent reports from guides and anglers suggest their numbers are declining. A Special Permit Zone was recently established around the Florida Keys including nearshore reefs and shipwrecks, which places greater restrictions on permit harvest, yet it does not prohibit it. Because we know so little about permit movements and population dynamics, it is uncertain whether the current regulations will conserve permit populations and support productive fisheries. In particular, it is unclear what proportion of the population migrates into shallow water flats to feed which in turn supports the flats fishery, and how frequent permit move between flats habitats and nearshore structures.


Although tarpon, like permit, are targeted between the flats and deeper waters, their complex movements between the two have left many guides and anglers ruminating at night: Just how much do fish move between various regions of the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic? What proportion of tarpon are ‘residents’? Is there a certain size when tarpon begin to migrate, or is it some other trigger? Do tarpon use the same spawning sites each year? Do changes in freshwater flows into coastal areas, including the Florida Everglades, Apalachicola, St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River, and Indian River Lagoon, influence tarpon movements and determine the movement patterns and habitat use of tarpon? A few of these questions tried to be answered with satellite tags, but there are considerable limitations to this technology that limited insights into the spatial ecology of the silver king.

The Research

To answer some of these pressing questions, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, in collaboration with Carleton University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Florida International University, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, are conducting acoustic telemetry studies to track permit and tarpon movements throughout the flats, nearshore reefs, shipwrecks, and coastal waters across the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic. These projects involve surgically implanting ultrasonic transmitters into fish and tracking their positions using receivers (listening stations) throughout the Florida Keys and beyond. Along with BTT sponsored receivers, other scientists and research institutions have invested in identical receivers along the continental US coast, and this larger network of receivers greatly increases the ability to detect tagged permit and tarpon as they cruise coastal waters well beyond the Florida Keys.

These studies will enable us to understand the extent of permit and tarpon home ranges, the frequency with which they visit the flats and deeper waters, and the timing and locations of their spawning activity. With the collaborative help from anglers, guides, and scientists, the information gathered from these studies will be critical for the proper conservation of these two important members of the Florida Grand Slam.


Photo: Fish Mission/Andy Danylchuk
These integrated projects would not be possible without the generosity and expertise of local guides. Many thanks to all the great Captains including Will Benson, Brandon and Jared Cyr, Danny Flynn, Travis and Bear Holeman, Sandy Horn, Rob Kramarz, Jordan Pate, Zach Stells, Jason Sullivan, J.R. Waits, and Newman Weaver, to name just a few. Additional support for these projects comes from Costa Del Mar, The March Merkin Permit Fishing Tournament, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, Mavericks Boats, Cabin Bluff as well as from private donations. Donors may sponsor individual tags or receivers, and in return receive information on their tagged permit or tarpon, as well as updates on its movements over time.

If you are interested in supporting these projects, please click on the following links.

For Permit

For Tarpon
You can also contact Mark Rehbein, BTT Director of Development and Communications at 703-350-9195 or

Written by Dr. Jake Brownscombe (Carleton University), Lucas Griffin (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Dr. Andy Danylchuk (University of Massachusetts Amherst).

See more like this at

Bartletts Ferry Lake

Thursday I met Jason Mitja at Po Boys Landing on Bartletts Ferry Lake to get information for a January Georgia and Alabama Outdoor Magazine article. It will run in both states since Bartletts Ferry, called Lake Harding in Alabama, is a border lake.

Jason is a young fisherman from Phonix City and went to Auburn and was on the fishing team there with the Lee brothers. Matt and Jordan Lee have become well known professional fishermen in the past few years and Jason hopes to follow them to the Elite trail.

When my clubs fish Bartletts Ferry I usually hope to catch a limit of spots weighing eight or nine pounds. That is usually a good catch. Back in the 1970s and 80s we caught a lot of four to seven pound largemouth there but since spots have gotten so plentiful the quality largemouth have been hard to find. I did win a tournament there in March with five weighing 13 pounds and had a five-pound largemouth but that has not been the norm.

Jason showed me some good fish are still there. Thursday was the first day of a strong cold front, usually the worst possible condition for catching largemouth. So I expected to catch some spots for pictures.

Jason picked me up and we idled to a rocky point about 200 yards away. I was dressed in my warmest clothes, the sun was bright, the wind was blowing and I just knew fishing would be bad. While telling me how to fish the point Jason pitched a jig and pig to a brushpile sticking out of the water.

He turned to say something else to me then quickly turned back and set the hook. After he landed the 3.5 pound largemouth he said as he turned to me he realized his line was moving out from the tree. That was a good start.

We fished a few more of the spots then, back in a creek, Jason threw topwater plug to the bank. He said he saw some minnows jump there. After twitching it twice a fish hit at it and missed, then came back and got hooked after Jason twitched it again. It was another three-pound largemouth.

I was surprised that the fish hit topwater but should not have been. The water temperature was 60 degrees, plenty warm enough for topwater. I just usually don’t think of fishing topwater this time of year.

By the time we had looked at all ten spots and Jason took me to the ramp he had landed another three pound largemouth on the jig and pig from a dock and we both caught some smaller keeper fish. And we had been on the water only five hours! Jason could have weighed in five bass weighing about 14 pounds, a very good catch to me, but all day he was showing me places where he had won tournaments with five weighing over 20 pounds!

Jason is fishing a two-day tournament at Bartletts this weekend and I will be interested in seeing how he does. I am on Jackson today for the last Sportsman Club and Flint River tournament of the year. I guess I better have a jig and pig and a topwater bait tied on!

Is Pure Fishing Going Away?

Is Newell Getting Ready to Dispose of Pure Fishing?
from The Fishing Wire

When conglomerate Newell purchased Pure Fishing from fellow conglomerate Jarden earlier this year, Newell officials were quick to say that the acquisition wouldn’t have any impact on Pure Fishing and their myriad of consumer fishing brands.

It didn’t take long for that story to get revised, although with considerably less fanfare than the original deal.

Newell has dismissed Pure Fishing’s entire 30-person marketing staff headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina. With the cuts also including experts in everything from baits to fishing lines, it looks like the company’s R&D efforts are being slashed as well.

Other cost-slashing measures apparently include deep cuts in the company’s professional angler roster (that’s underway ) and it’s no secret Newell doesn’t plan to renew many – if any- sponsorship deals when they expire. That includes, we’re told, the B.A.S.S. agreement set to expire next year.

As one fishing industry executive told me, “Be glad you’re not a professional angler looking for sponsors, because that water is getting skinnier by the minute.”

Sources tell us Newell’s plans include slashing as much as $500 million- from Jarden’s overall operating costs. If that’s not doable as the company roster stands now, Newell will likely start disposing of chunks of Jarden properties.

The prospect of seeing brands like Berkley, Stren, Trilene, Abu Garcia, Mitchell and Gulp! Baits coming available has Pure Fishing’s largest competitors salivating at the prospects. Additionally, we’re hearing other companies looking to either break into the outdoor recreation space or diversify their existing portfolios might be looking into the opportunity as well. And don’t count out a knowledgeable group of investors who see a business opportunity (ala the B.A.S.S. acquisition from ESPN) making a play should a breakup be in the cards.

It’s quite a change from 2007 when Pure Fishing was acquired from the Bedell-family by Jarden Corporation. Then, Jarden Chairman and CEO Martin E. Franklin described the acquisition as “an excellent fit for Jarden and our Outdoor Solutions segment.” He went on to describe a vision for cross-selling, channel expansion and geographical expansion opportunities with Pure Fishing and the company’s Coleman and Campingaz brands.

Long story short, none of that happened. And in December of 2015, it was announced that Jarden’s products, including Pure Fishing, would become part of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. in a $15.4 billion dollar deal that brought together a conglomeration of brands ranging from Mr. Coffee and Sharpie markers to Rawlings baseball gloves, Coleman camping gear and Pure Fishing.

We’re still months away from ICAST- the world’s largest trade show for the recreational fishing industry, but it’s apparent there may be some big changes in store for attendees accustomed to Pure Fishing’s usual massive presence on the tradeshow floor.

While we’re on the subject of business changes, the Associated Press is reporting that regulators are putting the brakes on the pace of Bass Pro Shops acquisition of Cabela’s (NYSE: CAB).

It seems the regulators want time to more examine at the $5.5 billion deal. Since it’s well over the $78 million dollar benchmark the FTC uses for scrutiny, it will likely include a store-by-store, city-by-city look at markets where BPS/Cabela’s both operate.

In some cities, there are stores in very close proximity of each other. In both Bristol, Virginia and Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, new or nearly-new stores of both brands are located in sight of each other. Even if the deal closes, it’s not likely both stores would remain open any longer than absolutely necessary.

And it is a big deal. When combined (if combined as-is), the result would be a 182-store chain with 40,000 employees. Great if you’re looking for economies of scale, pricing leverage over vendors as an owner (despite the fact BPS is paying premium for the Cabela’s stock that’s a number the company hasn’t approached in the past 30 months).

But the Federal Trade Commission is concerned about such a deal unfairly impacting other retailers. In May of this year, the FTC took a “closer look” at the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree deal. As a result, 330 stores had to be sold before the FTC approved.

I’m hearing that should the deal be delayed because of overlap concerns, there’s a a closure strategy ready, but no one’s talking in either Sidney, Nebraska or Springfield, Missouri – at least not for attribution.

Bare Branch Squirrel Hunting

The leaves are finally falling in large numbers. The moisture in the air from the rain and colder weather is making them drop fast. This should help deer hunters see better in the woods, but it makes it even more important for hunters to stay still since deer can see better, too.

When I squirrel hunted a lot I loved it when the leaves finally fell off the trees. With leaves on them, a squirrel could run to the top of most any tree and I would never see it again. While trying to find one, seeing them shaking leafy branches as they moved gave them away sometimes but usually I had to get close.

With bare branches I could sit on a hillside and see one move up a tree trunk or through overhead limbs for a long way. And I could usually slip up on them before spooking them. Sometimes I would just take off running to the tree they were in. They would usually run to the top of the tree but I could make them show themselves by throwing a limb or rock to the opposite side of the tree from where I was standing. That would usually make them move to my side.

Sometimes they would hide in nests. Some of my friends would shoot the nest and hit the squirrel, and it would crawl out and fall to the ground. I did that some until I heard my .22 bullet hit one and it did not come out. I did not want to waste any animal I killed. I kept shooting until the nest would no longer hold the body and it fell, but it was too shot up to eat. That is when I quit shooting nests. I figured I could get the squirrel on the next trip in a more sporting manner.

I would try to wait one out that was hiding in a nest, but never was able to. They had a lot more patience than I did. I could sit for 30 minutes without moving and they would not come out. That was about as long as I could stand not moving around!

Deer season ends in about a month. Plan a squirrel hunting trip with a kid then. They will definitely have good memories for the rest of their lives, and so will you.

Farewell Wade Bourne

R.I.P. Wade Bourne
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

He was a fine man, and he ended in a fine way.

My friend of more than 40 years, mentor, co-worker and sometimes-competitor, Wade Bourne of Clarksville, Tennessee, passed away December 15. He was 69. If you follow hunting and fishing in print, on the Internet or on radio or television, you know who Wade was. He was an iconic figure, the guy all of us in the business aspired to be. And not because of his success; because he was a man’s man, a man of honor and intelligence and ability and good humor, and also one who never took his own celebrity seriously.

Wade flew a bomber for the Air Force in the Viet Nam conflict, and never spoke of it unless you pried it out of him. When he was done with the service, he could easily have come back to a high-dollar job flying for Delta or United, but he never wanted to be anything other than an outdoors writer, and he was–as good an outdoor writer as it was possible to be.

We became friends because we were close to the same age and both hooked up with B.A.S.S. and with Southern Outdoors Magazine, and often wound up on hunting and fishing trips together along with Dave Precht, Larry Teague, Colin Moore and Bob McNally–all of whom went on to make names for themselves in the business.

Wade was one of the best anglers I ever had the pleasure of sharing a boat with, and he was also an outstanding turkey hunter and waterfowler. Flipping through my files from back in the days when media folks used film cameras and shot Kodachrome, I find shots of Wade dragging big strings of sea trout at the Chandeleur Islands, holding up an impossibly fat gobbler in south Alabama, and lining up on some fast-moving pintails overhead in a flooded pasture in central Mexico.

Wade expanded into syndicated radio and finally into TV, and did a wonderful job in those venues, too; unlike many of us who write, he was a natural on camera, and he had a deep, rich voice that was perfect for the venue. He was the voice of the largest syndicated outdoors radio show in the nation, going to over 200 stations, and a co-host of Ducks Unlimited TV for 20 years. He wrote six books, and was a strong voice for conservation and hunting and fishing access throughout his life.

He won a ton of awards for his writing and broadcasting. In 2003, he was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. He received the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2014. In 2016, he received the prestigious Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award from the Professional Outdoor Media Association and the American Sportfishing Association, generally recognized as the top national award for outdoors writers. I guess if there had been anything else, he would have won that, too.

Wade lived on a fine old farm that had been in his family since before the Civil War. He built his house right over the log cabin that had been the first home of the family–it became the living room–and he once told me the story of his grandfather walking home from Georgia at the end of the war, coming down that road in front of the house, and of his grandmother unable to recognize the bedraggled, starving skeleton that presented itself at the door.

Wade was cutting down a Christmas tree on that farm Thursday afternoon when he was felled by a heart attack. Though it was much too soon, I can’t imagine he would have rather gone any other way.

He will be truly missed in this holiday season by his family and friends, and by the millions who knew him through his work.

R.I.P., my brother. I hope they have pintails and sea trout in Heaven.