Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Fantastic Fall

I love this time of year. Shorter days and cool mornings hint at a big change, and everything responds to it. Plants start turning dull green and brown, dying back, storing food in roots for the winter. Game animals are more active, seeking food to help them survive the lean days to come. Bucks leave hints they are getting ready to rut.

But best of all to me, bass move out of their deep summer lairs and look for food, much like wildlife. They are easier to catch for both reasons. And it is much more comfortable to be on the water looking for them. Most pleasure boaters are staying home and many part time fishermen leave the water for fields, woods and football fields.

Topwater can be fantastic in the fall. To me, there is no more fun way to catch fish than seeing them hit on top. But I like catching them on spinnerbaits and crankbaits, both of which work well in cooler water. And for big fish a jig and pig is hard to beat. That bait imitates both bluegill and crawfish, both favorite foods of big bass.

That time is not quite here yet. In a few more weeks a jacket will feel good running down the lake first thing in the morning. Days will still be hot, with clear skies and bright sun. The bright sun positions bass in shade, another thing that makes them a little easier to catch.

The three Griffin bass clubs will make our annual trip to Lake Martin in three weeks for our three-club, two-day tournament. That is my favorite trip of the year. We usually catch a lot of bass and have a lot of fun.

All too soon fun fall weather will deteriorate into the cold, dead winter. Enjoy it while it lasts!

I’m A Climate Change Skeptic

Here we go again.

As soon as Hurricane Florence started looking like a major storm, the global warming fanatics started their usual mantra that their favorite belief would mean more, bigger, stronger, fatter, terrible hurricanes every year unless we immediately change our lifestyles and spend massive amounts of other peoples’ money.

Those true believers just make themselves look even more silly by such hyperbole but they do it every time. Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Those exact same claims were made then. But there was not another major hurricane that hit the US for seven years, until Hurricane Sandy hit us in 2012. They again started their claims after Sandy.

Those fanatics claim folks like me are “skeptics,” and seem to want us treated like the Catholic church treated heretics in the middle ages. They say we must accept their version of science, but they ignore anything scientific that disagrees with their belief and condemn those that point this out.

A simple Google search shows hurricanes have actually decreased over the past 100 years, and that is with better observation and reporting availability. There are all kinds of data out there, interpreted in many different ways. But one chart, showing hurricanes striking the US by decade, shows fewer since 1950 than in any other time since 1850. Others show the same thing, with major hurricanes coming in groups, with four to six years between cycles.

Al Gore predicted Lower Manhattan would be under water by 2015. ABC “News” in 2008 repeated that claim and also said gas would cost more than $9 a gallon and milk $13 a gallon by 2015, all due to global warming.

In his doomsday movie “An Incontinent Truth,” Gore showed a glacier calving and used it to show how glaciers were rapidly retreating now due to global warming. I have been to that glacier in Glacier National Park and watched it calve. The naturalists on board told us that glacier had retreated 110 miles in the past 100 years, the fastest retreat taking place between 1860 and 1870. I guess it was all those civil war SUVs!

Last week the weather guessers said no chance of rain Sunday during the Flint River tournament at West Point. Around noon it poured so hard my bilge pumps came on. Another afternoon this past week
I took a picture of water flooding off my roof while looking at the “prediction” of zero chance of rain for at least the next six hours.

Yet those same folks that can’t look outside and tell if it is raining try to make us believe they can predict two tenths of a degree temperature increase 100 years from now.

I wish I still had the paper I had to write in 1975 for an Environmental Science class I took while working on my first Masters Degree. “Settled” science at that time proved we were entering a new ice age, due to man’s activities. The cure? You guessed it. Same as now, change our lifestyle drastically and spend lots of other people’s money.

I have seen a lot of weather changes over my life. But I have not lived long enough to see climate change, it takes place over thousands of years.

Hurricanes are destructive and dangerous. Weather can kill you. We should take its dangers seriously, but weather is a short-term event and it does change drastically day to day and year to year.

I will remain a climate change “skeptic.” I hope it does not reach the point where the true believers burn me at the stake for disagreeing with them.

Strange Fishing Bait

What is the strangest bait you have ever used to try to catch a fish? I have tried some weird things, and some of them even worked!

When we used to run trotlines, jugs and limb lines at Clarks Hill for catfish, little bream were our best baits. But one time I heard little chunks of Ivory Soap would work, so I cut up a couple of bars and tried it. Never caught a fish on it though.

One summer Uncle Slaton and his family camped with us at the lake. We fished for bass during the day and ran hooks at night for cats. He came in for lunch one day with a nice channel cat and said he got it off a trotline that was baited with black plastic worms.

Since I had some old ones we cut them in half and baited up a line with them. Nothing on the line the next day. Then he told me he was kidding; the line was baited with cut fish. The joke was on me and I will never forget it.

We used a lot of other baits than live bream, too. I heard catfish really loved cut mullet since they are oily, so we would buy one at the grocery store, cut it into one-inch chunks and bait hooks. It worked, but not as good as live bream in my opinion.

We dug bait, too. Big swamp wigglers worked well but for some reason catfish did not seem to like the white grub worms we sometimes dug up and tried. And mole crickets never worked well. Maybe they had a bad taste.

If you run lines, stick with what works for you.

Digging Dirt

I liked digging when I was young. It was not something I had to do, and my body didn’t mind so much. Everything from digging for red wigglers for bait to trying to dig a hole to China kept me busy.

We had 11,000 laying hens in seven houses behind our house. The water troughs drained constantly behind each house, making wet and very fertile dirt the worms loved. It was easy to get a coffee can full of great bream and catfish bait.

On our annual family trips to Ocala Florida to see my aunt, uncle and grandmother, I could not resist digging in their back yard. The sandy soil was great when compared to the dirt at home. I lived on Iron Hill Road, appropriately named for the red clay and red rocks everywhere.

In the week we were in Florida my brother and I would often dig holes deeper than our heads, only about 4.5 feet deep probably. The older folks would jokingly ask if we were trying to dig to China and we took it seriously. We thought we could.

Digging for Indian artifacts and buried treasure was always fun. After reading Treasure Island I was convinced pirates had somehow found their way to our farm and left chests of gold and jewels. Although I never had a map, any unusual rock outcropping had to be a marker for the loot.

One of my cousins lived on a farm a few miles away and I would go spend a few nights several times during the summer. Another cousin lived next door and we spent all the days outside, fishing the creek behind their houses, exploring the woods and generally having fun.

In their field there was a huge boulder, so big we could hardly get up on top of it. It was the only one in the area. My cousin got the idea it marked a grave, much like the pyramids. Although the rock was round, it was buried a couple feet deep in the ground. I spent many hours with them trying to dig down on one side, so we could roll the boulder to the side. And they worked on it almost every week. Even with cut saplings as pry bars, we never so much as rocked the rock.

The only sandy soil on our farm was along Dearing Branch. Every summer my friends and I tried to dam it. A dozen yards downstream from where the branch came under the fence on our property line two trees about four feet apart narrowed down the channel. Above it was a wide pool of water.

The trees made a perfect place to make a dam. We managed to drag an old crosstie and put it in front of the trees. Then we spent hours digging up sand, putting it in old crocker sacks to make sand bags to put around it. Our sandbags got too heavy to move with the wet sand in them, but we learned to fill them half way up, drag them in place then finish filling them.

We must have moved tons of sand over the years. Digging it out of the pool made it wider and deeper. But no matter how much we worked, the first big rain would wash out our dam, and fill in the pool with new sand to move.

As I got older digging became more purposeful. My first house in Griffin on College Street had a full basement that got water in it every time it rained hard. I finally figured out a French Drain ditch along one wall would help.

Daddy visited and helped me dig a ditch along that wall. The lower end was ground level, but the upper end was almost eight feet deep. We spent hours digging a ditch about two feet wide along that wall, putting a couple of feet of gravel in the bottom around a perforated drain pipe, and filling it back up.

That did solve the problem.

There was no good place for a dam on our property since the branch ran along the property line, but my mother really wanted a pond. Daddy got the idea of putting one in a field that was somewhat workable since it had a drain across it. He had a dam built across it and after a heavy rain it did fill part way up, but there was not enough drainage to keep it full.

The neighbor a few hundred yards away had a pond with the dam near our property line, but there was a hill between it and momma’s pond. So, we dug a ditch across the hill, put a pipe in it and put a water ram at his dam.

We had to dig down eight feet at the top of the hill and the ditch ran about two hundred yards. I spent many hours in the bottom of it with a pick ax since there were big rocks there. But we managed to get it done and kept mamma’s pond full.

When I moved to Pike County in 1981 I wanted a garden. I cut the trees behind my house, clearing an area about 150 by 200 feet, got it cleaned up and tilled up some beds.

I quickly found that in the spring, usually soon after I planted seeds, rain water running off the land behind me came right through that area. It did not run fast but it kept the ground too wet. So, I dug a shallow ditch down one side and across the lower part of it. That kept the soil in my garden dry enough to let the seeds germinate.

My digging days are about over but I still have some fond memories of moving dirt.

Rain On A Tin Roof

Afternoon thunderstorms the past few weeks brought back memories of the 1950s and early 60s. I lived in an old wood farm house with a tin roof until I was 12. The sound of rain on a tin roof instantly transports me back to those long, lazy summer days.

Many nights I went to sleep to the sound of rain drumming on the tin. Now I can hear that only if I keep a door open, so I can hear it on my tin roof wood shed. And I don’t do that much since air conditioners don’t work as well with open doors. Bach then that was not a problem since we did not have air conditioners.

Fans provided a little air movement and some cooling. Often at night when there was no rain I would put a fan at the foot of the bed, drape the sheet over it and let it blow up and over me as I went to sleep.
I think that is why I sleep better to this day with a fan running at night. Back then, rainy nights were usually cool enough that the sound of rain was all that was needed for a good night’s rest, but the fan ran anyway.

Weather was very different year to year back then, just like now. Some summers our home-made swimming hole on Dearing Branch would almost dry up due to the lack of rain. Others saw us trying to rebuild our dam almost every week since hard rains washed it out every few days.

We had other ways to beat the heat, too. An ice cold watermelon under the shade of the big pecan tree in the front yard was a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon. And running around under sprinklers under that same tree was fun and cooling.

Every few weeks we kids got a special treat. A couple of times each summer we got to go to Thomson and swim in the cement pool. It was always full of kids and the chlorine in the water made my eyes burn, but it was fun and cooling.

Even better was a trip to one of the two local ponds where the owners had made swimming areas, with sand beaches, diving boards and platforms. For a whole dime we could spend the day at Shield’s or Ansley’s pond, cooling with friends.

Shield’s Pond had a three-story diving platform. The top one was about 15 feet above the water and it took me years to build up the courage to jump from it. I never did try diving, it was just too scary.

When I fished local farm ponds I waded in jeans and tennis shoes. That kept me cool while I tried to catch bream and bass. And I discovered hidden stumps, channels and drop offs with my first “depthfinders,” my feet.

Rainy afternoons make me miss those days even more, when things were simple, and life was easy, for a kid.

Getting A Hook Out Of You

Hooks in your body are no fun, but there is a good, easy way to remove them if they are where you can get to them. And it helps to have someone else do it since you need two hands. You can’t do it alone if a hook is in your hand or arm

There are good illustrations of the process on-line, but you simply put a loop of heavy cord around the bend of the hook just above where it goes into your flesh, hold the eye of the hook against your skin, and jerk the hook out.

Holding the eye against your skin tilts the hook, making the barb go out the way it came in without catching. And popping it out quickly reduces the pain to almost nothing.

That would have worked well when I set the hook while cranking a big crankbait at Lake Martin. It hit a limb and I thought I had a bite, but when I set the hook the plug came over the limb that was just under the water, flew through the air and landed on my upper arm. One of the back treble hooks stuck in past the barb, going in far enough to have the other two against the skin.

My partner that day was a big, burly, tough guy. I told him what to do but when he looked at the hook he almost passed out and had to sit down. Since I could not reach the hook with both hands, I took a pair of needle nose pliers, grabbed the hook at the junction of the trebles and jerked it out.

I did not want to quit fishing and go find someone to help since we were miles up the river and the fish were biting. Luckily there was no pain and no blood at all. That injury never hurt even later in the day.

Sometimes it is best to just jerk the hook back out the way it went in but that can cause the barb to tear meat as it comes out. But it is usually less painful that cutting the hook and pushing it the rest of the way through.

It is important to have an up to date tetanus shot when you get any injury like a hook in you. For that reason, I keep mine current. You never know when you will hook yourself, but it will happen, all too often.

If you get a hook in you, I hope you have someone with you with a strong stomach!


Hooking Yourself While Fishing

If you go fishing enough times, you will hook yourself. It takes only a second of inattention or some unusual motion of you, the fish, or even your tackle, to impale yourself. Hands are most often the on the receiving end of the point of the hook, but some of us have been hooked in many other places.

Sticking the point of a hook a little ways into a finger is common and is not much of a problem. But if the hook goes in past the barb it gets interesting. Barbs are on hooks so they don’t pull out of a fish’s mouth easily. Same thing works for your body.

My first memory of a hook that would not come out easily did not happen to me, but I caused it. Uncle Mayhu, Uncle Adron and I were fishing Usury’s pond in a jon boat. I was in the middle, a dangerous place for an eight-year-old.

I made a cast with a Crème pre-rigged worm. Those worms had three hooks in them attached to each other by a line. At least I tried to cast, the worm ended up as a decoration on Uncle Mayhu left ear. All three hooks were in well past the barb.

There was a lot of blood even before Uncle Adron took his pliers, cut the hooks and pushed the hooks the rest of the way through to get them out. And it did not stop us from fishing the rest of the day, although I didn’t have another plastic worm to use!

If possible and you can do it, cutting the hook and pushing it on through is good way to get a hook out. But its painful, and not always possible.

Two times I have had to go to the emergency room to have hooks removed. The first I was in my early 20s and fishing by myself at Clarks Hill from our ski boat. I cast a Little Cleo spoon and hung it in a bush. Since it was hot I was fishing without a shirt.

I snatched the rod tip to get the spoon loose, and it worked. The next thing I knew I felt a sting on my right side just below my ribs. When I looked down the spoon was hanging there. One of the treble hooks had disappeared into me and the other two were pressed flat, firmly against my skin.

It was weird, there was no pain. I cut my line, put the rod down and cranked the boat. I was fine until I got to the dock where mom was fishing. I stood up, pointed at the spoon, and almost fainted!

Since I had taught Life Science the year before, I knew there were some fairly important things not far under the skin where the hook disappeared. Mom took me to the emergency room where they numbed the area, slit the skin and fat and got the hook out. At least I was still able to use the bait!

The worst time was at West Point about 15 years ago. I had met a fisherman from Atlanta in my website chatroom and asked him to fish as my guest in a Sportsman Club Saturday night tournament. He met me at the ramp and we ran to a roadbed not far from Highland Marina.

On one of my first casts with a big crankbait I hooked a fish. When it got near the boat I started lifting it in. My rod loaded up and the fish came flying at my face. When I threw up my arms to protect my face, one of the hooks went into my wrist.

There I was, with a guy I had never actually met before that afternoon, standing with a spotted bass dangling from a plug that was dangling from my wrist. We finally subdued the fish to make it stop flopping and got it off the hook. It took some effort to take the split ring off the plug to get the hook off it. The hook would not move when we tried to pull it out.

There was no blood. We cranked up and ran to Highland Marina. It just so happened there was an EMT crew there. They took one look at the hook, said there was no way they would attempt to remove it, and told me to go to the emergency room. A drunk hanging around loudly offered to remove it, but I declined.

It was weird. If I wiggled my ring finger the hook would rise and fall. I found out later the hook had gone under the tendon for that finger. When I got to the emergency room and the receptionist saw it she called a nurse and that nurse called several more to look at the strange thing I had done.

Unfortunately, there had been a three-car wreck not long before I came in and the doctors were very busy removing glass from several people. I sat there for five hours, entertaining nurses and other patients with my trick hook, before the doctor finally saw me.

His surgical tools would not cut the hook, so he called the janitor and got a pair of hog nose pliers with a cutter. After sterilizing it he cut the hook, pushed it on through and sewed up the small hole.

I had left my partner fishing from my boat while I drove his truck, since it did not have a trailer attached, to the emergency room. We had never met before that day, but fishermen are like that.

I got back to the ramp with two hours left to fish. When I measured the little spot that caused all the trouble, it was just under keeper size and it was the only one I caught that night!

Be careful out there but no matter how careful, be ready to remove a hook!

Jobs Jobs Everywhere

I get to travel all over Georgia and Alabama doing “research” for my Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News articles. Two things stand out from those trips. One I realized several years ago. Alabama lakes, in general, have better bass fishing than Georgia lakes.

There are a variety of reasons, from water fertility to current flow, that make this true.

The second thing has become obvious the last couple of months. Everywhere I go, “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs are posted on businesses from small communities to large cities. From grocery stores and fast food places to trucking and welding firms, there are a lot of jobs out there.

In my opinion, anyone that can work can find a job if they want one.

Mom’s Cooking

I miss my mother’s cooking. Mom was a great cook. She baked cakes and pies for sale during my pre-teen years, and I always got to help. She taught me to measure dry and wet ingredients and how to mix both by hand and with an electric mixer. One of my favorite things about making cakes was that I always got to lick the bowls and beaters. Mom was nice enough to turn off the mixer before I licked the beaters most of the time.

I think that early training is why I love to cook now. I even enjoy going grocery shopping, something else I did with her on our weekly shopping trips to Augusta. We delivered eggs to Winn Dixie and A&P stores and did our shopping at them. We didn’t have to buy a lot since our farm supplied so many of our needs.

We had 11,000 laying hens so eggs were very plentiful, and milk came directly from our cows. A huge garden in the summer provided all kinds of vegetables including corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, potatoes, string and butter beans, peas, rutabagas, turnips, onions, collard greens and asparagus. Fruit trees and vines gave us figs, pears, apples and scuppernongs.

Big pecan trees in the yard gave us all the nuts we wanted and lots to sell, too. And for a special treat we would labor to pick the meat from walnuts from a tree on the edge of the field.

Mom and dad spent hours picking vegetables and fruit and mom cooked and canned all summer. We had a huge pantry filled with jars of everything the garden and fruit trees provided. More went into the freezer.

Every summer dad could tell the exact day we should pull the corn and we would get up early that morning and fill the bed of the pickup with ears of golden corn. Back at the house we would shuck and silk it and mom would put up bag after bag of cut corn. I usually got to cut it with a tool I slid the ear down and a blade cut it off in to piles in a big bowl.

We found that we could blanch whole ears of shucked and silted corn, wrap each ear in tin foil and freeze it. It was almost as good during the winter as it had been fresh. Dad would fire up his fish cooker, fill the pot with water and blanch dozens of ears at one time.

Mom could turn fresh and frozen food into fantastic meals. Nothing was real fancy. Almost all vegetables were cooked with fatback and meat was baked or fried. We always had a bunch of frozen hens from our layers that had layed out, and we raised pigs for pork. We even raised a few calves for meat.

During hunting season there was always dove, quail, squirrels and rabbits to supplement our meat. And we always had fish in the freezer. There were no deer back then in our area but most of the red meat I eat now is venison.

Although I love to cook and don’t really think of it as work, I found out how much work it can be last week. I decided to cook a turkey on my Primo grill and make dressing, giblet gravy and green bean casserole to go with it.

Holidays meant piles of food for a week. Not only did we have baked hen and dressing, there was always ham, sausage, meat balls and all kinds of vegetables. And when we went to family’s houses we carried lots of food and everyone there brought their favorites. I especially loved Aunt Zelma’s deviled eggs.

My turkey turned out just right and my dressing, although edible, was nothing like mom’s. I never seem to get enough giblet gravy, so I made a huge pot, buying extra gizzards and hearts to go in it since that makes the gravy to me.

The gravy turned out good although it was my first try. But, although I had boiled five eggs the night before and got out the egg slicer, I forgot to put them in. The gravy was even better the next night when I heated it back up, added some more broth and the eggs.

Although I cooked only four dishes it was a lot of work, and I really appreciate the work mom did to make a dozen different things, all turning out perfect and right on time.

I still want certain things together since that was the way it was growing up. With baked ham I want string beans and potato salad. A Boston Butt demands turnip greens, rutabaga, peas, cut corn, tomatoes and corn bread. BBQ chicken is like ham, with those side dishes. Chicken fried cube venison is eaten with mashed potatoes and English peas. And pepper, onion and tomato venison steaks go with fried cabbage, rice and corn bread.

Mom could fry great chicken, as does my mother-in-law Marv, but I gave up after a few attempts years ago. Mine never turns out right. Since we had fried chicken every Sunday I miss it but get my fill at bass club meetings at Bryans Buffet. Its not mom’s but its not bad.

With everything but baking mom just cooked without measuring ingredients. I can’t do that. I need a recipe to follow for most things but do usually wing it a little, adding something or leaving out something depending on past experiences.

Linda is a great cook but since I enjoy it and she does not I do most of the cooking at my house. We hardly every go out to eat since I like my own cooking too much. But fried scallops are my favorite seafood and both Sixth Street Pier and Fishtales have good ones, so that is where we go for a treat.

Tomorrow is a feast day for many of us. I hope you have your favorite foods, cooked by you and loved ones, and enjoy it and the fellowship during this special time of year.


This gator knew to go to the boat ramp for a meal

In five days fishing Lake Eufaula, I saw no soft-shell turtles and only a couple of painted turtles. There is a good reason they are not as common there as they are at Hartwell. Another resident of the lake keeps the turtle population very low.

Alligators abound at Eufaula. During my trip, I seldom fished more than an hour without seeing one, especially when near the bank. Around shoreline grass and lily pads, as my boat eased up the bank, every few minutes a log-like body would glide toward deeper water.

Alligators and turtles have inhabited our waters since long before people were around and have adapted well to man-made waters. When we build in areas where they live, they become a problem, especially when folks feed them. They get used to hand-outs and get lazy and are no longer afraid of people.

Turtles, fish, birds and anything else that gets in the water can be food for gators. And they learn where to get easy food. A few years ago, while doing an article at Eufaula, we were fishing a point early in the morning where shad were spawning. Bass and other fish were feeding on them, as were the birds. And gators were everywhere. They were eating shad, bigger fish and birds.

At Lakepoint State Park where I stayed there are tournaments every weekend and even during the week. Many weigh-ins are held in the basin where the boat ramps are located. A few bass die in tournaments and the live ones as well as dead fish are usually “released” near the ramps.

A big gator has learned there is easy food there many mornings. I was fishing under the nearby bridge and a gator slowly sawm by me headed into the boat basin. I followed it on my trolling motor. It went straight to the corner of the basin where several dead bass were floating against the bank.

I watched from a few feet away as it eased up to one, opened its huge jaws and grabbed a dead fish. It then raised its head out of the water, chomping and swallowing the fish. That gator was at least ten feet long, half as long as my bass boat, and its head was a foot wide.

After eating a couple of dead fish it slowly swam back around and under the bridge. I am sure it has a place where boat traffic is lower than it is in the boat basin, so it can doze the day away without being disturbed.

Gators are ugly and scary. The first one I saw in the wild scared me. Kenneth Hattaway and I were fishing a Flint River Club tournament at Eufaula in March 1980 and fished back into a narrow slough up the river. A gator about eight feet long was sunning on the bank about half-way back.

As we fished by it we looked at it but it did not move and did not really bother me. But after we passed it I looked back and it had eased into the water, moved to the middle of the slough and floated there watching us. We were in a 15-foot bass boat and I got real nervous.

I told Kenneth we needed to go, and he agreed. We went by the spot where the gator had been on plane!

Another time while at Eufaula I had been watching gators for two days. My boat was in the water in the campground with the nose on the bank. My battery chargers were hooked up at the back of the boat. The battery compartment was right at the back and the lid opened forward.

I went down to unhook them before the tournament that morning in the dark. To unhook them I had to squat on the very back of the boat with part of me hanging over the water as I reached inside. As I did that, I kept remembering how silently gators moved in the water, and that they liked to feed in the dark.

It was the fastest I have ever unhooked my chargers!

Gators usually won’t bother you during the day unless you bother them, or if you get near their nest or young. And they are seldom seen near Griffin, rarely moving above the Fall Line.