Category Archives: weather

Cold Weather Fishing

Two trips last week indicated this winter is not going to be a warm one. I went to Jordan lake near Montgomery Alabama on Wednesday to get information for an Alabama Outdoor News article then went to Jackson on Friday for information for a Georgia Outdoor News article.

Wednesday was not terrible. I met Nate Johnson at 8:00 AM and, while waiting at the dock, debated if I needed my heaviest clothing. I was fairly comfortable standing on the dock in my jacket, but the wind was growing stronger so I decided to put my Cabellas Guidewear suit on. The weather guessers said the wind would be calm by 10:00 AM but I know better than trust their predictions.

The wind never calmed down, it just got stronger. And blowing across the 51-degree water made it feel even colder. And the fish did not bite. Nate has won several January tournaments there in the past with five bass weighing over 20 pounds total, but neither of us hooked a fish that day.

Our excuse was the water had come up over a foot and gone from very clear to stained almost overnight due to the heavy rains. And the water temperature dropped a couple of degrees due to the cold nights and wind. All those things can make fishing tough this time of year.

Friday I met Willie McMullen at Jackson at 7:30 and had no doubt I needed my Guidewear. Willie grew up on Jackson Lake and his father Wayne and uncle Ronnie McMullen were well known for their great catches on Jackson. Before he died a few years ago Wayne taught Willie everything he knew, starting him tournament fishing over 30 years ago when Willie was only nine years old.

Last weekend on New Years Eve Willie won a tournament at Jackson with five bass weighing almost 15 pounds. But once again the changing weather and lake level changed the fishing. He landed four bass in the seven hours we fished but I never had a bite. I was too busy taking notes and pictures to fish – that is my excuse and I am sticking with it.

To anyone other than a diehard bass fisherman, we were crazy to fish on a day when the high temperature was in the mid-30, it was cloudy and rainy and snow was in the forecast. But to me it was the perfect kind of day to fish this time of year. Low pressure and clouds often mean the bass bait good in the winter.

One Christmas this was proved to me at Clarks Hill. I got up that morning to find my boat parked at my mobile home at Raysville Boat Club covered with six inches of snow. I raked enough off the front deck to get to my trolling motor foot control and to stand without slipping down.

After putting the boat in I idled out to a point where I have caught fish in the past in January. The wind was howling as a cold front move in and the air temperature was in the low 30s. The water temperature was about 50 degrees.

For two hours, every time I dropped a spoon down it never got to the bottom. I landed hybrids, stripers, largemouth bass, white bass, white perch and crappie from that point. Since my live wells were frozen shut I just threw the fish in the snow in the bottom of the boat. When I went in I had to climb over the windshield to get to the drivers seat.

I quit fishing because as soon as the wind blew the cloud cover away and the pressure jumped up the fish stopped biting. I kept trying for about 30 minutes after the last bite but they were just gone.

Another Christmas the wind was blowing sleet sideways one morning. I tried to fish some points but it was just too cold and rough, so I idled behind an island where the bank dropped off fast into deep water and was covered with rocks. And best of all I was out of the wind.

Within a few minutes, I hooked and landed a bass weighing just over eight pounds on a Deep Wee R. After landing it I decided I had used up my luck and headed to the ramp and a warm mobile home.

Don’t let cold, windy, cloudy weather keep you home this winter.

Global Cooling Becomes Global Warming Becomes Global Climate Change

I guess if the unusually warm weather on Christmas Day proves global warming, the weather this past weekend proves global cooling. Weather and climate change. Always have, always will.

In 1975 I was working on my first Masters Degree at West Georgia College and took a course titled “Environmental Science.” I had to write a report on the coming ice age. All the scientific “evidence” proved that half of the US would be covered by glaciers within the next 25 years.

To prevent this catastrophe US taxpayers had to ante up billions of dollars for changes. And we had to change our lifestyles to keep polar bears out of downtown Chicago. Just like the Italian scientists of his time told Christopher Columbus, the science was settled and they would not fund his trip because he would fall off the side of the flat earth.

I fish year-round and some winters water temperatures stay in the 50s. Other years lakes around here drop into the low 40s and I have seen Jackson lake with solid ice sheets in some covers and a thin layer of ice on parts of the main lake. I have also seen years when there were few days when fishing with only a light jacket was not enough.

I enjoy warm winters, it is much more fun fishing when you can actually feel your fingers holding a rod and reel, and when you don’t have to dip your rod into the water every cast to melt ice out of the guides. That was the way it was during the winter three years ago. I hope it does not get that cold this winter.

Ripe Tomatoes in December

You just gotta love this global change warming climate thingie. I picked ripe tomatoes and peppers Thursday, December 8, 2016 since the weather guessers said the temperature would dip into the upper 20s Friday morning. My tomato vines were still lush and covered with green tomatoes. They were still blooming!

The latest I can ever remember picking fresh tomatoes is December 1. It takes only a light freeze to kill the vines and that often happens around Thanksgiving, but this year, even though the “official” Griffin temperature Friday morning was 28, my vines were still fine and the temperature at my house at 8:00 AM was 33 degrees. Maybe I picked them too soon!

I got a greenhouse a couple of years ago but was too lazy to put it up. Now I wish I had done so. No telling how long I could have tomatoes this year.

Warmer temperatures here show global climate change, according to some, but I had ice on my windshield on a trip to Detroit on November 1 and some northern states have several feet of snow on the ground right now, so the change must not be too global.

Dry Weather Affects Hunting and Fishing

What a difference a year makes. Last year it rained so much the first two weeks of November I didn’t go hunting. My back yard stayed about a foot deep in water for weeks. Lakes, and my ponds, were full and muddy from all the rain.

About this time last year when I finally got in the woods I could not cross the creek between my two ponds. It was full to the banks and flowing fast. Water was running over the upper pond dam. Friday I went down there and walked across it barely getting my boots muddy.

My lower pond is about three feet low, as expected. But the upper pond, the one that usually drops faster and further than the lower one, was full. And the water was a milky color. Not sure what is going on. I need to check the spring that feeds it and see if it caved in or something, making it flow faster and adding silt to the water.

There are lots of jokes about how dry it is but the drought is no joke. I didn’t even try to plant fall food plots for deer this year, and I think they all left my area. Other than acorns, there is nothing much for them to eat. And the acorns have quit falling.

Last year I had Austrian Winter Peas, clover and wheat greening my field. This year it is brown and crunchy. And several folks that spent a lot of money on seed and fertilizer in late summer say their food plots never came up, it was just too dry.

I checked to see if it was legal to put tubs of water out for the deer, and it is. But the deer don’t really need to come to the one I put out since nowhere on my land is further than a few hundred yards from a pond of creek.

I moved one of my climbing stands down to where I can see the trickle of water between the two ponds. That is the only place I have seen any sign of deer, but the tracks in the soft ground around the creek may have been there for a long time.

Sitting on the hillside overlooking the creek Friday morning I thought “why would a deer even be here?” There is some water, but there is lots more nearby. And the hillside has a couple of small privet hedge bushes on it and a little honeysuckle for them to eat, but other areas have a lot more of those two winter foods for them as well as one of their favorites, green briar.

I decided where I was hunting was like fishing on a flat, muddy bottom a long way from deeper water. There is nothing much to attract bass in a place like that and there is nothing on that hillside to attract them, either. I guess it is time to move to another area. I need to kill a couple of does for the freezer before the end of season.

Handling the Heat and Staying Hydrated This Summer

Tips for Handling the Heat and Staying Hydrated This Summer

From GoBoatingFlorida

In many parts of the country, summer boating safety tips revolve around the increased number of boats and activity on the water. In Florida, we experience that issue between Thanksgiving and Easter during what we affectionately refer to as ‘season’. However, summer boating in Florida does come with its own set of seasonal challenges, which are either heat or weather-related. Let’s start with weather…

Afternoon Storms

Spend any time in Florida between mid-June and late August and you will notice that almost every day, the skies open up in the middle of the afternoon and send (you’d swear) nearly every drop of precipitation they have down upon us for about an hour and a half. For those of us on land this simply means staying inside and dry.

If you’re out on a boat, it’s a whole different story. Depending on sea conditions, this could be a long hour and a half, especially if there is lightning—the biggest concern. The best way to deal with this kind of weather is to, obviously, not be there. Check the forecast and schedule your time out to be before or after the storms. When this is not possible or something comes rolling in quickly, seek protected water or, better still, head to shore.

Staying Cool

The Florida sun is intense most of the year, but summer is the worst…especially mixed with increased humidity. Which means sunstroke or overexposure to the sun is a real danger. This, unlike weather, is more within your control. Sunscreen is an easy precaution. Use a high SPF and make sure to use the water/sweat-proof kind. Apply before you go out and one or two times during the day depending on your skin type.
The other thing to do is add or use the boat’s canvas top. If it has a hard cover, which is common on larger boats, this is easy. Smaller boats usually include a Bimini top which provides great shade but many boaters don’t use them while running as they can often vibrate underway…a small price to pay for shade.

Finally, jump in. After all, you’re on a boat. A quick swim can lower your body temperature quickly and refresh you all at the same time.

Staying Hydrated

Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. Your body even uses water to maintain its temperature.

Water makes up more than half of your body weight. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot—so if you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated.

Symptoms of dehydration include: Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual, dry mouth, sleepiness or fatigue, extreme thirst, headache, confusion, dizziness or producing no tears when crying.

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms of dehydration to take action. Actively prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water. For some people, fewer than 8 glasses may be enough on an average day—this amount should be increased 50-75% when outdoors in hot wether. And don’t forget, you can stay hydrated via fluid intake and eating water-rich fruits and vegetables like grapes, watermelon, tomatoes or lettuce.

Following these guidelines can help keep you safe, healthy, and none the worse for wear on your next outing. Boating safe is boating smart!

Read more like this at www.GoBoatingFlorida.com.

Blackberry Winter Fishing at Lake Eufaula

I have to smile when people seemed surprised at the cold snap we had last week. Since I grew up on a farm in rural Georgia I know to expect “Blackberry Winter” in late spring each year. When the blackberries are blooming we will have a cold snap.

Blackberry Winter is folklore in the south and Midwest, not a scientific term. But as with many things, folklore based on generations of experience by people living through it is worth paying attention to, even if not backed up by science. And this year certainly proved the folklore right.

Last Wednesday, even though I should know to expect it, Blackberry Winter caught me by surprise. I met Matt Baty at Eufaula just as it started getting daylight. We were going out to get information for a June Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article.

When I got out of the car at the boat ramp I remembered my jacket – in my van at home. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt under a long sleeve shirt and light summer pants. I was cold the whole time we were on the water.

Not only did the wind blow, making it colder and rough to ride, Matt had a new bass boat and seemed to enjoy running 70 mph, no matter how cold or rough it was. He had s console and windshield in front of him, I did not.

He had warned me fishing would be tough, and it was. The first place we stopped he hook a three pound plus largemouth that jumped and threw his crankbait. For the next three hours neither of us hooked a fish.

As we idled up to a place near the bridge that we marked “hole number 8” for the article Matt said “look at that.” The flat point was covered with fish. He said hybrids and largemouth often stack up on that flat and feed, especially when there is some current coming under the bridge like it was Wednesday morning. He said he liked to catch them even when bass fishing.

Although we were after largemouth, hybrids are fun to catch. Matt started throwing a crankbait while I fished a jig and pig on the bottom, trying to catch a largemouth. After Matt caught about six hybrids I gave up and fished a crankbait, but they didn’t like mine.

Soon Matt said he wanted to try something. He got out two rods rigged with Alabama Rigs, a wire harness with five jigs on the arms. We started slowly trolling across the flat and catching hybrids on nearly every pass.

The biggest of the day, one weighing about five pounds, almost snatched Matt’s rod out of my hand when it hit. Hybrids hit hard and fight even harder. We caught about a dozen hybrids trolling there before we gave up, with them still biting, and went to mark the other spots for the article. It was a lot of fun.

Lightning Thunder and Fishing

When the crashing thunder woke me Thursday night I smiled – thinking how glad I was to be at home and not on the lake. Lightning thunder and fishing do not go together for me! While I was growing up lightning terrified me no matter where I was. That came from spending the night on our screened in porch when I was about eight years old during a huge thunderstorm.

After that night lightning and thunder scared me. As I got older I learned that I could be safe, even outside, but I still will not be out in open water when a thunderstorm is near.

I was supposed to go to the Alabama River near Montgomery for an Alabama Outdoor News article early Thursday morning. On Wednesday night I talked with the fisherman taking me and we agreed to postpone it till this week due to the weather. Both of us agreed we don’t mind rain but do not want to be on the water during a light show!

That was the right decision. There was a BASS Open tournament on Smith Lake north of Birmingham starting Thursday. BASS sent out a text at 4:00 AM Thursday morning to the 350 fishermen entered in it that the first tournament day was canceled and it would be a two day rather than a three day tournament. They don’t do that except in dangerous circumstances.

Over the 42 years I have had a bass boat I have spent some scary hours in one on lakes during a thunderstorm. One of the first was in the early 1970s in late June on Bartletts Ferry just north of Columbus. Bob Pierce and I had gone down and camped before a tournament to practice.

Back then we always put in at the dam. Bob and I decided to run way up the Chattahoochee River one day. It is still dangerous but now there are channel markers to keep you off the mud flats. There were none back then.

We slowly worked our way up the river in my 1974 Arrowglass bass boat with a 70 HP motor, finding our way around the dangerous shallows. About 3:00 PM, without warning, lightning started popping all around us. We had not heard anything up until that time so did not have time to try to get back down the river. It was raining too hard to see even if the lightning had not bothered us.

I eased into a small creek where I felt safe with big overhanging trees on the bank, thinking if lightning hit one of the trees we would be ok in the boat. I had to keep using the trolling motor to hold us in the creek. The wind kept trying to blow us back out onto the river and open water.

After about an hour of this I realized the boat was no longer moving. It was so full of water it was sitting on the bottom, with the motor stuck in the mud. I turned on the bilge pump and it ran constantly for the next three hours.

As it started getting dark at about 8:00 the storm broke and we managed to get back to the campground. That was a miserable afternoon of sitting and not fishing.

A few years later on a hot August afternoon I went to Jackson to practice for a night tournament the following weekend. I had been fishing up Tussahaw Creek and catching a few fish but as it got dark I rode to the dam, in the same Arrowglass boat, and started fishing near it.

Again, suddenly and without any warning, the wind started howling over the dam and lightning started cracking around me. It was one of those storms so close you hear a crack, boom and thunder so close to gather it is almost one sound.

Back then there was no drum line keeping boats away from the dam. I pulled my boat right in the corner of it where it hit he rocks and put my trolling motor down between two rocks to hold me in place. The dam rose about 20 feet over me and had a metal railing that I thought would work as a lightning rod.

When I looked up the rain blew over the top of the dam sideways the wind was so strong. I sat down in the drivers seat and put my head on my arms on the steering wheel. I could still see the flashes of lightning. It was so bad my dog Merlin crawled under the console to hide.

After sitting like that for two hours the storm passed and I ran to Kersey’s, put the boat on the trailer and came home!

In a Top Six tournament at Lanier in the early 1990s I was in the first group of boats to go out. There were 91 boats in my flight and all were sitting in a group out from the ramp at Laurel Park waiting on the signal to start taking off.

We heard some thunder off in the distance then suddenly it was right on top of us. I told my partner I was not going to sit in open water and we idled over and got under a dock. The other 90 boats sat there and ignored the lightning.

I was boat number 89 of the 91 and when the others were let go the storm had moved on. I waited a few minutes then took off. Fortunately that was the last storm of the day!

We have lots of thunderstorms this time of year. Be safe, stay out of open water when fishing if one is near!

Rain and Fishing

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day. We used to say that when it rained on weekends, messing up our plans. A few years ago we were happy with rain any day since it was so dry. But this winter has been almost ridiculous with all the rain.

Although I live at one of the highest points in my area, as a Pike County water tank a few hundred feet behind my house proves, my back yard still looks like a rice paddy. There is what we called a swale growing up – a shallow dip – that drains the whole hill side through my back yard. The ditch in front of my house has been full of water for months.

Area lakes that were low for years are now full to overflowing. Georgia Power and the Corps of Engineers are no longer trying to hold water back to keep lakes filled. Instead they are holding water back in some lakes to avoid flooding downstream – them main purpose of our federal dams – and releasing water as fast as they can when it is possible.

For fishing, rain can be a blessing or a curse. Rain and fishing go together it seems. It ruined two trips for me in the past few months. Last November I went to Lay Lake to do an article with BASS Pro Matt Herren. He had said we should be able to catch a bunch of three to five pound spotted bass in the Coosa River at the upper end of Lay, just below the Neely Henry dam.

When I got over there we checked the Neely Henry dam and all the flood gates were open, the current in the river was very strong and fast, and the water was high. Mat said that made it unfishable. So we went down the lake where the current was a little lighter and caught some small keeper bass.

Last Wednesday I went to Mitchell Lake on the Coosa River just north of Montgomery. On the way over there at 6:00 AM I hit heavy rain, wind and lightning just across the state line on I-85. The rain was so bad that some crazy drivers had their emergency flashers on and were driving 20 miles per hour on the interstate. If it is that bad to them they need to get off the road!

By the time I got to the lake the rain had ended and it didn’t rain on us the rest of the day. I met Dustin Connell, a young professional fisherman and guide, there. He said he was worried. He expected to catch some big spotted bass up the river, below the Lay Lake dam, but the heavy rain might have caused a problem.

Sure enough when we started up the river we hit a bunch of floating trash and the water got muddier and muddier. By the time we got to the good places to fish conditions were terrible. We went back down the river to a place just ahead of the mud and trash, and Dustin quickly caught a 3.5 pound spot.

Last Monday Dustin had caught a six pound largemouth and a four pound spot and lost another largemouth he estimated at seven pounds in some grass beds in a creek. When we got to the area the rain had muddied up the creek making fishing tough.

Rain helps fishing since fish tend to bite better when it is cloudy, and during hot weather it cools the water some. And water running into a lake can wash food into the water, turning on the bass and making them feed. You can often fish faster and catch a lot of bass after a rain.

It really doesn’t matter since we have no control over the weather, we just have to adapt and go when we can!