Detroit River Fishing

Detroit River Fishing – Some Good Environmental News for a Change
James D. Swan, Ph.D.
from The Fishing Wire

Mainstream media daily bombard us with tales of woe, corruption, scandal, crime, crises, conflict, and disaster. We need to hear some good news, and clearly the recovery of the Detroit River is some good news.

At an average rate of 175,000 cubic feet per second, the Detroit River surges through a strait less than a mile wide for 32 miles, passing five million people as it flows between Lake St. Claire and Lake Erie. As it enters Lake Erie, the river widens and the waters slip past two cigar-shaped islands. Along the Canadian shore lies 2.5 miles long Bois-Blanc Island, a former amusement park that today is a resort community. To the west in American waters is a 12 mile-long cigar-shaped island, Grosse Ile, the quiet home of more than 10,000 people.

A history of the Detroit River reveals how becoming “civilized” can influence water quality. In 1701 the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit on the west bank of this strait. Within a couple decades, each winter the hay, straw, and manure from all the stables in Detroit were hauled out onto the frozen river and dumped on the ice. Spring thaws would then carry away downstream like one giant flush of the city’s toilet.

As Detroit grew from a trading post into a city, waste dumping increased. In 1823 Peter Berthelet was authorized to build a wharf from the shore out to deep water and install a pipe to supply water that would be free from contamination by the debris commonly dumped into the river.

By 1909 the pollution of the Detroit River had become so bad that an International Joint Commission of representatives from the United States and Canada was formed. Four years later the both countries admitted they were dumping untreated sewage into the river and they agreed to build sewage treatment plants. A 1929-30 follow-up study concluded the river was no longer polluted. My father, who lived nearly all his life on Grosse Ile, recalled how in the late 20’s he and his friends used to be able to see the bottom of the river when they dove off the bridge on the west side of the island.

As Henry Ford’s dream of creating the automobile manufacturing center of the world materialized, World War II drove Detroit into round the clock manufacturing of vehicles and the quality of water in the Detroit River again declined. A l946-48 International Joint Commission reported that the Detroit River was seriously polluted by some 1,739,120,040 gallons of municipal and industrial wastewaters that were flushed away on an average day! Oil slicks on the river were reported 1/3 of the time. Once abundant species, such as whitefish, blue pike, trout, and sturgeon, virtually disappeared from the Detroit River and Lake Erie, and those remaining often tasted oily. Major public-access sites displayed public health warning signs. You could still catch some fish from the bank, but not the same assortment of prime species as a few decades earlier, and they often tasted like oil.

A reminder of the bad old days for the Detroit River. James Swan photo.
Two decades later, in waste waters came an infusion of nitrates and phosphates from common household detergents stimulatong the growth of aquatic plants in the river and lake. These aquatic plants became so luxuriant that by mid-summer, boating was impossible in large areas. And as the plants died off in the fall, large amounts of vegetative material sank to the bottom, covering the bottom with a thick mat of rotting ooze. Starting in the late fifties, large areas of the river and lake became biological deserts for all but carp and goldfish.

In l964 an International Joint Commission report declared that the lower 26 miles of the Detroit River were “polluted bacteriologically, chemically, physically, and biologically so as to interfere with municipal water supplies, recreation, fish and wildlife propagation and navigation.” Wildlife biologist Dr. George Hunt estimated that as many as 10,000 ducks, geese, swans and gulls used to die nearly every winter from oil spills in the lower Detroit River.

Little wonder that in 1970 a cover story on Time magazine declared Lake Erie dead.

Earth Day 1970 finally drew focus on the serious pollution problems of that time, and an international movement began to clean up the Detroit River. So much progress has taken place in the Detroit River since then that in 2001 an International Wildlife Refuge was established in the lower Detroit River, with its initial offices on Grosse Ile.

Some examples of recovery accomplishments:

1) In the 1970s there was a nearly complete reproductive failure of bald eagles. In 2013, there were 18 active bald eagle nests in the vicinity of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

2) The falcon population in Michigan was decimated in the 1950s. Falcons were reintroduced in Detroit in 1987 and since the early 1990s falcon reproductive success has steadily increased. Falcons now nest under the Ambassador Bridge

3) In 2009, a pair of osprey built a nest in a cell phone tower adjacent to the Gibraltar Wetlands Unit of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge; the first time that osprey have successfully nested in Wayne County since the 1890’s.

4) Since the early 1960’s there’s been a 96% decline in nesting pairs of terns along the Detroit River. In 2012 two common terns fledged on restored Belle Isle habitat on Belle Isle; the first fledging since the 1960’s.

5) A hundred years ago, sturgeon were abundant in the Detroit River and Lake Erie. No sturgeon spawning was recorded in the Detroit River from 1970s to 1999. In 2001 sturgeon reproduction was documented on the U.S. side near Zug Island and in 2009 sturgeon reproduction was documented near Fighting Island on the Canadian side of the river

6) In 2006 whitefish spawning in the Detroit River was documented for the first time since 1916

7) The walleye population in Lake Erie was rated as in “crisis” in 1978. By 2012, fishery biologists estimated that 22.2 million walleye (age 2 and greater) were present in Lake Erie, resulting in a total harvest through sport and commercial fishing of 2.48 million walleyes. It’s estimated now that 10 million walleye ascend the Detroit River from Lake Erie each spring, The Detroit River and Lake Erie are now considered the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

8) Beaver were hunted to near extinction in lower Michigan during the “fur trade era.” During the 1940’s-1970’s, beaver couldn’t have survived in the Detroit River because oiled fur becomes matted and loses its ability to trap air to maintain body temperature. In 2008, two beaver built a lodge at DTE’s Conner Creek Power Plant. Beaver are now found in the headwaters of the Rouge River, and in 2013, beaver were seen at DTE’s Rouge Power Plant.

9) Steelhead and salmon are now found in the Detroit River and Lake Erie and some spawn in tributaries.

10) Wild celery (an important food for diving ducks) in the Detroit River declined 72% between 1950 and1985 because of oil and other pollution. It’s increased 200% since 1985.

11) The entire length of the Detroit River is now safe for water contact sports.

I’d add that when I was growing up on Grosse Ile, I saw one deer on the island before I left for college. There now is a deer season on the refuge.

The man to speak with about the current status and future of the Detroit River is Dr. John Hartig, Manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/midwest/detroitriver/

A life-long resident of Southeastern Michigan, John grew up in Allen Park in the 1960s, and would pedal his bike down Southfield Road to fish the Detroit River. When he’d come back home, Hartig recalls “The neighbors would say, ‘You’re not going to eat that fish are you?'”.

According to Dr. Hartig, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only international refuge in North America and one of only 14 priority urban refuges in the nation charged with bringing conservation to cities. It covers 48 miles of shoreline along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie – stretching from southwest Detroit to the Ohio-Michigan border and as far east as Point Pelee National Park in Ontario. The Refuge focuses on conserving and restoring habitats for 350 species of birds and 117 species of fish. USFWS currently owns or cooperatively manages 6,202 acres of unique lands and partners with Michigan Department of Natural Resource on conservation of 7,897 acres of state-owned land. A Canadian registry of lands includes 3,797 acres of Essex Region Conservation Authority lands and 981 acres of City of Windsor lands. In total, 18,877 acres of land in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario are now being cooperatively managed for conservation and outdoor recreation for nearly seven million people living in a 45-minute drive.

The cornerstone of the Refuge is the 410-acre Humbug Marsh in Trenton – the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River.

As a result of considerable public outcry over potential development of Humbug Marsh, it was purchased by USFWS and preserved in perpetuity as the cornerstone of the Refuge. Humbug Marsh is considered an internationally important wetland because of its ecological importance in the Detroit River corridor and the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Oak trees around the marsh have been aged at over 300 years old and were alive when Cadillac founded Detroit in 1701, and there’s a local healthy deer herd in that area.

Refuge Gateway Center (top) under construction will help educate the next generation while the 740-foot dock for the Great Lakes school ship (below) will also help teach them about conservation- and fishing. Photo by Tandem with permission.

An automotive manufacturing facility in Trenton that produced brakes, paints, and solvents for 44 years was located adjacent to Humbug Marsh. It was cleaned up to industrial standards and sat vacant as an industrial brownfield for over 10 years. In 2002, Wayne County Parks purchased this brownfield in Trenton to become the future home of the Refuge Visitor Center and to improve outdoor recreational opportunities including shore fishing, hiking, wildlife observation, kayaking, and more. It’s taken 10 more years to cleanup this former industrial brownfield and meet public use standards.

Through this restoration project there’s been: a net gain of over 16 acres of wetlands in an area that has lost 97% of its coastal wetlands to development; restoration of 25 acres of upland buffer habitat; control of invasive plant species on over 50 acres of upland habitats, including control of invasive Phragmites along 2.5 miles of shoreline. It’s also resulted in merging the 44-acre Refuge Gateway with the 410-acre Humbug Marsh into one ecological unit. Citizen involvement has occurred throughout the project, including public meetings, design charrettes, planting trees and wetland plugs, building trails, birding tours, and nature hikes to achieve local ownership/stewardship. It’s the only project in the world to successfully clean up an industrial brownfield to serve as an ecological buffer for a “Wetland of International Importance.”

At the Refuge Gateway under construction are: a 12,000 square foot LEED-certified, Visitor Center (two classrooms, a multi-purpose room, and one-third of the building devoted to hands-on and minds-on activities for children); a 740-foot dock for the Great Lakes school ship that will use the adjacent waters as a living laboratory for children; a universally-accessible 200-foot fishing pier; a canoe and kayak launch; three wildlife observation decks; and an outdoor environmental education classroom. There are three miles of hiking trails that will be connected to over 100 miles of greenway trails. When the visitor center and amenities open in 2018, it will attract hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, changing the image of the river and the refuge from a polluted “rust-belt” dump to a conservation treasure.

The International Wildlife Refuge Alliance and the Friends Organization for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge are currently leading a two-month, on-line fundraising campaign to complete the school ship dock and fishing pier at the Refuge Gateway in Trenton. See link

Their goal is to raise $50,000 in two months to complete this project by August 31. If they do, they’ll receive $50,000 in match funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Donations are welcomed.

One good example of conservation success like the Detroit River recovery can start a national, and international movement that can change the world, maybe even force the media to tell us more good stories.

Building Tree Houses – Growing Up Wild In Georgia

Do kids still build tree houses? That was always a favorite summer activity of mine. From the one in the pecan tree in my front yard to the ones we built down in the woods, they ranged from simple platforms ten feet high to complex ones so far up we put side boards on it to keep from falling out.

The house I grew up in had five pecan trees. There was a huge one in from of the house, another big one to one side and a third in the edge of the field past mama’s flower bed. There were two more smaller trees right beside the ditch on Iron Hill Road to the same side as the flower bed.

One of those smaller trees had a big limb about ten feet from the ground that was perfect for the base of a tree house. Boards nailed to the tree trunk provided a ladder for access. Then two by fours nailed to the limb made the base, with braces going back to the trunk below them.

I rebuilt that one several times over my youth as the boards rotted and became unsafe. I spent many summer days sitting in it, cooled by any breeze that filtered through the limbs and shaded by the leaves above me. I felt completely hidden from the world watching the occasional car or truck that passed just a few feet away. And although mama knew where I was, I could not see the house from my platform.

Taking sandwiches and a drink up in the tree to eat made many summer lunches pass quickly. In the fall there were always pecans on the platform for a snack. One special place was a limb knot hole right beside the platform where I often found pecan hulls where a blue jay or wood pecker had stuck a nut in the small hole and used it as a vice to hold its lunch as it pecked away the shell and ate the meat.

The highest tree house we ever built was in a huge pine tree behind Harold’s house. My memory tells me it was way too high but it was probably no more than 30 feet from the ground, still scary enough for a 12-year-old. It was hard work hauling the boards up that high, either pulling them up with a rope or passing them hand over hand between Harold, Hal and me while we perched with one leg hooked over a limb.

The platform on this one was probably 10 feet square, sitting on a big limb parallel to the ground. Another limb below that one that ran up at more of an angle provided a great place for supports so we could build it bigger. It was cross braced and around the edges we had nailed one by eights to provide a small lip.

We actually slept up there in our sleeping bags one time but near the base of it was our camp. We made prefab walls and a roof and struggled to get them the couple of hundred yards to the site. The three sided shed was a great place to store wood for a dry fire starter and some tools we used every time we camped there.

A rock fire pit with a homemade spit, made from two forked limbs and a cross piece with the bark stripped, was used for roasting squirrels and birds. We cooked breakfast in our mess kits on that fire and also put our “camp dinners” on it. Those were the big patty of ground beef topped by potatoes, onions, carrots and butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Other tree houses ranged from not much bigger than what I now put up for a deer stand to platforms we could lay one and stretch out. We never had anything like the fancy prefab “tree” houses on posts you see in yards nowadays. They are often nowhere near a tree, usually put up by the parents, and very complex.

I can’t help but believe kids are missing something by building their own houses down in the woods, all by themselves, with no adult supervision or help, like we did.

Hot Lake Sinclair Tournament

I didn’t think fishing could get any worse than the three tournaments in July but last Sunday West Point proved me wrong. I thought I had a really bad day until weigh-in.

At the Flint River Bass Club July tournament 10 members and guests fished from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM to land 11 keeper bass weighing about 13 pounds. There were six spotted bass longer than the 12-inch size limit and five largemouth over their 14 inch limit. No one had a limit and there two people didn’t have a keeper.

I won with two fish weighing 2.40 pounds, Wes Delay came in second with two at 2.30 pounds, third was guests Glen Holcomb with one weighing 1.86 and that was big fish. Alex Gober was fourth with one weighing 1.71 pounds.

I started with a buzzbait near the ramp, something that has worked in the past but I never got a bite. After 30 frustrating minutes I ran about five miles down the lake to some trees in the water on a steep bank, the kind of place a friend told me it was easy to catch a limit of small keepers.

At 6:40 I threw a jig head worm to a small pine top in about four feet of water and when I tightened up my line it was moving toward the boat. I set the hook and landed a 13-inch spotted bass and knew at least I would not zero.

After working more trees over the next two hours I ran back up the lake to some more blowdowns but did not get a bite. I knew there was some brush a fisherman had put out way out on a long, shallow point and I fished the point out to my waypoint on it. When I cast my jig head worm to it I got a thump but before I could set the hook the fish took off, luckily for me setting the hook himself,

That was a largemouth weighing over a pound and a half and it hit in 22 feet of water. I decided I needed to fish deep and tried a variety of places but got no bites.

At noon I stopped on another long point with some rocks out in 20 to 30 feet of water and quickly caught four short bass, all under the size limit. I ended the day fishing the brush pile where I had caught the largemouth, hoping another one had moved to it to feed, but got no more bites.

It was so hot by 9:00 I realized I was fishing places where I could sit in the shade or in the little breeze, not really fishing where I thought the fish should be. I wish we still had night tournaments when it is cooler, boat traffic is much less and the fish bite better!

What Is Metered Line Fishing?

The Advantages of Metered Line Fishing
By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Before you go any further, it’s important that you know this about me … I miss opportunities. Often. Hey, I could have bought Amazon stock when it was a mere $71.0 a share, but held off…the other day it closed at $1,012.

Like I said, I am prone to miss great opportunities.

So, when Berkley came out with Metered FireLine I didn’t realize the true potential of the line.

It wasn’t that was ignorant of the FireLine’s performance characteristics—superb sensitivity, solid casting distance and good knot strength—after 20 years of using the line I was aware of them all and more.

But I totally underestimated the advantages of having the fused superbraid marked in 10-foot sections.

After putting the color-coded line through its paces in a variety of settings—both recreationally and in one-on-one competitions while filming Lake Commandos television—I’m convinced it offers anglers some very important benefits.

Available in 4- through 20-pound tests, Metered FireLine changes color every 10 feet, transitioning from blue, yellow, red and green to orange before repeating. By counting colors, you know exactly how far your bait is from the rod tip.

This information is important! It allows you to replicate productive letbacks, cast-lengths and depths. It also alerts you to depth changes that indicate structural sweet spots such as slight depressions in the bottom.

Metered line is perfect for trolling, whether you’re spider rigging slab crappies or pulling crankbaits for big-water walleyes. Without a line-counter reel or metered line, you really have no idea how much line is out, so you can’t reproduce distance with any real accuracy. Those are major problems, because letback plays a major role in determining lure running depth.

For example, a #7 Berkley Flicker Shad runs to 14 feet with 100 feet of 10/4 FireLine out versus just 12 feet with 70 feet of line. That’s a difference of 2 feet! Whether you’re trying to tick bottom or place your bait just above suspended fish, that extra depth is often the difference between getting bit and going home empty handed.

Metered FireLine makes it easy to experiment with length adjustments as needed, and reproduce productive letbacks again and again. You can also help others in the boat do the same.

Metering isn’t just for trolling. I was surprised at its impact on vertical jigging, especially in depths of 20 feet or more. By watching the line’s color change in relation to the surface or some point on the rod, I’m able to detect subtle depth changes that are easy to miss with traditional fishing line. It’s also much easier to tell when you have too much line out and your jig isn’t directly below the boat.

Shore anglers targeting special like salmon, carp, catfish and bass, also stand to benefit. If you’re getting bit with a certain amount of line out, the fish could be feeding along a specific current seam or unseen piece of micro-structure. The color changes of metered line allows you to duplicate that distance—and hit the strike zone—on every cast.

Metered FireLine has ice fishing applications, too.

Last winter, I took son Pierce and a few friends fishing for crappies. The fish were in 50 feet of water and we only had one sonar unit. Rather than bounce from hole to hole marking the boys’ jig depths, I set up all their rods the same and told them to let out four colors to target fish suspended at 40 feet. It worked like a charm.

I share this information because I want you to avoid making the same mistakes I made…like not giving Metered FireLine a shot when it first came out. After screwing up my opportunity with Amazon, you’d think I’d learn.

About Berkley

Berkley is one of the world’s leading fishing tackle companies. They achieved this by offering the broadest array of innovative solutions developed by anglers for anglers. At Berkley their goal is simple—to make fishing fun and help anglers everywhere to Catch More Fish!

About Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns.

Damming Dearing Branch

Damming Dearing Branch was always a favorite summer activity when I was growing up. The branch entered our farm in the woods that ran along the edge of our big hay field. It came under a fence at the adjoining property line and left the other side of our land, running under another fence and going into a culvert under Iron Hill Road.

The woods were about a quarter mile wide from our field to the pasture on the other side at Rodgers’ Dairy. Right where it first hit our woods it was about eight feet wide and the area around it was flat and sandy. In other sections it had cut deep and was only three or four feet wide with two feet of water in that ditch area. The sandy area was only a few inches deep unless there had been a big rain.

About 20 yards past the fence on the upper end two big trees squeezed the water into a narrow gap three feet wide. We wanted our own private swimming hole and those two trees made a perfect place for a dam.

The first time we tried we quickly found that no matter how fast we shoveled sand between the trees it just washed away with the current. I don’t know where we got the idea for sand bags, probably from reading books, but we got croaker feed sacks from the barn and filled them with sand. That worked.

We would dig sand from the bottom of the shallow area to fill the sacks and struggle to drag them to the trees. As the water rose at the gap between the trees it would start running around either side so we extended the dam out to the sides.

Our best effort was one summer when we got an old cross tie and drug it across the field and through the woods to the dam site. It took all the strength three 12-year-olds could muster but we got it there and in place. It made a great base. We then started digging sand and filling sacks.

That summer we had a pool almost four feet deep, coming about chest high on us. We could almost swim in our 20-foot-wide, 20-foot-long private pool. Since it was down in the woods we didn’t bother with bathing suites, we just wore what we were born with. Skinny dipping was so exhilarating!

Every summer our dams would wash away with the first big rain and we learned a lesson about the power of moving water. But the cross tie was such a good base it held up for a couple of months. After a very big rain it, too, washed enough to turn the cross tie sideways, moving it from the trees and destroyed out pool. But that was a memorable summer.

It took a tremendous amount of effort to make the dams. Dragging the cross tie was the worst, but just filling bags with shovels and moving them a few feet was strenuous work. If our parents had made us work that hard we probably would have been upset but our own effort was fun and worth it. That was another lesson learned, if you wanted to do something no amount of effort was really “work.”

Rose of Sharon

My mother loved flowers. Although daddy thought planting anything you could not eat was a waste of time, he made sure she had a nice flower bed that ran between our side yard and the field on the other side. It was about 200 feet long and ten feet wide and contained a huge variety of flowers, including annuals and perennials.

There were also a few blooming bushes, like the Rose of Sharon that grew right at the end of the bed closest to the house. This was her favorite and she thought it was a biblical flower. But it was really a Hibiscus syriacus, a deciduous flowering shrub native to east Asia.

I always wanted one in my yard and thanks to my mother-in-law I do. There is a big one at her house and she gave me one of the sprouts that grew up around it. I planted it near my woodshed but it had a rough life.

A big limb fell and broke it to the ground the third year it grew. But it recovered and was about six feet high when a fire in my woodshed killed the trees around it and, when they were cut down, it was again broken to the ground. But it recovered again and is now about ten feet tall and covered with blooms.

For years I had daddy’s attitude and planted only edible things. But then some of my mama came out and I started planting some flowers. I was never real serious about it, planting marigolds around my tomatoes and some impatiens in a shady bed near my carport, but I did try to have a bed similar to mama’s.

I have always liked wild flowers or flowers growing wild in ditches and old home places. When I worked as transportation director and rode all the back roads of Pike County checking bus routes I kept a shovel and bucket in my truck. If I saw a flower in the ditch I would often stop and dig it up and take it home.

I made a long, narrow bed across my back yard between the woods and yard, something like my mother had where I grew up. It contained several kinds of daffodils, many tiger lilies, another of my favorites, and one of my favorites growing up, butterfly bushes.

Mom never had butterfly bushes but they grew in ditches around my house. I’m still not sure what they are, and they may just be weeds, but some nurseries sell them. They are small and have bright orange feathery flowers. I found several to bring home.

Tiger lilies, or what we called wild lilies, grew everywhere and I had a bunch of them. These bright orange striped flowering plants can be grown from the roots or from seed and they make a great border plant.

A rare flower I saw in the woods sometimes is a pretty, white cup-shaped flower on short stem. The one flower on a plant stands out under trees. I found out they are wood anemones. I tried bringing a few home, but they are hard to find and do not transplant well, so I never had much success with them.

One plant I had way too much success with and should never be planted in your yard is wisteria. I planted a small piece of root by an eight-inch-thick oak tree by my woodshed and another in the edge of the yard. I let the one by the wood shed grow up the tree and kept the one in the yard trimmed, trying to make it umbrella shaped, with hanging bloom clusters.

Both were a big mistake. Within a few years the vine growing up the oak tree was thicker than the tree and all the trees around it were covered in vines from the roots spreading from the original. The one in the edge of the yard spread with roots just under the ground everywhere and I have to cut them away from my garage and yard light pole. They got so thick on the pole they covered the light until you could hardly tell when it came on. And it almost killed the fig bush daddy brought me to plant by the garage.

Although the grape like clusters of lavender to purple flowers are pretty, I wish I had never brought this one home!

Daffodils are pretty and easy to transplant and grow. They line the edge of my flower bed and start blooming before anything else. They are often the only color in late February when everything else is drab browns and grays. The splash of yellow reminds me spring and good fishing is close.

Daddy did like his fresh fruit. We had a huge fig bush by the side door and he planted peach, apple, pear and Japanese Persimmon. And one of my favorites was the overhead scuppernong arbor. I loved standing in the shade under it and reaching up to pick the golden fruit.

Somewhere I tasted Niagara Grapes. You cannot buy them in the store, they do not ship well, but they are delicious. I made trellises around my back yard and planted three Niagara and three Concord grape vines. Home grown Concord grapes taste better than any you can buy, like most anything else you grow.

I was warned we are too far south for those varieties to grow successfully. My vines produced abundant clusters of grapes for about five years then died. Now wisteria covers the old trellises. But they surely were good when I had them.

Fruit trees take a lot of work, and if you don’t spray them they will not produce. My plum tree gets a disease that makes the fruit rot when it first starts growing and I always forget to spray it in the winter when it is dormant. And my pear trees got what I was told was “phony pear” disease, causing the trees to grow tiny fruit like a Bradford pear.

Maybe I should stick with flowers.

Stocking Plans for Lake Guntersville

Stocking Plans for Lake Guntersville (AL) Progressing
By stocking Florida strain bass in the big Alabama lake, local anglers are hopeful Guntersville can be restored to former glory as one of the top bass lakes in the nation.

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Captain Mike Carter and wife Sharon, organizers of the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group, held a meeting in Scottsboro this past Sunday in which Carter advanced plans to go ahead with state-approved stocking of 50,000 Florida strain largemouth bass fingerlings into the north end of the lake next May.

The stocking will be entirely financed by local communities and private donors, with no state tax or license money involved, Carter said. He’s hopeful the infusion of new bass stocks will help to restore the lake to former glory as a fishing lake–it was once ranked as the top bass lake in the nation, but has dropped dramatically in recent years in the rankings.

Carter said he had hoped to get the stocking underway by fall to see earlier returns of catchable size fish, which will require at least two to three years from the stocking date, but the ADCNR district biologist Keith Floyd recommended that the stocking take place in late spring, when he said research indicates the tiny largemouths would have a better chance of not being eaten by other fish, and would also have a better chance to learn to feed themselves without immediately having to deal with the cold water of winter.

Carter said the group plans to put donated funds into a tax-deductable account, so that private parties who donate can get a tax deduction for their funding.

Carter said the fish would be stocked in the shallows of a number of feeder creeks. Though it’s sure that the majority will be eaten by other fish, it’s likely that enough will survive to have a major impact on the fishery in the future, not only with anglers catching the stocked fish, but with their contribution to the gene pool.

Florida bass are noted for growing faster and reaching much larger sizes that the northern-strain bass that are found naturally in the TVA lake system. Florida strain fish stocked in some California lakes have exceeded 20 pounds in recent years, and they regularly produce fish of 13 to 15 pounds from Texas lakes. Pure Florida’s are found mostly from Gainesville, Florida, southward–those in the northern part of the state are primarily intergrades with northern strain bass, biologists say.

Carter said he’s hopeful that the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group can become a continuing funding source for added stocking in the future, with donations allowing restocking every two to three years. The pure-strain Florida fish are obtained from a Montgomery hatchery that specializes in raising them for stocking in private ponds nationwide.

“It’s not just about fishing and fishermen,” says Carter. “When we have nationally-known fishing here, the communities around the lake make a lot of money based on tourism, property values go up, and the tax base grows a lot faster than it would otherwise–it’s a real investment in the future of our area.”

Visit the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group Facebook page here. Carter, who is an active fishing guide on the lake, can be contacted at 423-802-1362.

Top Bass Lakes In The Nation

Mille Lacs Leaps To No. 1 of the top bass Lakes In The Nation
from Bass

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Minnesota’s state motto is “Star of the North,” which seems appropriate seeing Bassmaster Magazine has crowned the state’s second largest lake as the best bass fishery in the nation based on the recent release of the publication’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.

Mille Lacs Lake, a 132,516-acre natural lake located 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, soared to the No. 1 spot after months of research unveiled its unbelievable production of smallmouth bass. Mille Lacs was ranked No. 6 in the nation last year.

“This fishery really got our attention last September during the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before.”

But it takes more than one good event to push a fishery to the top of these rankings.

“After months of research and processing data from dozens of sources, we realized that the Angler of the Year event was hardly impressive production for the lake. Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, including two limits breaking the 36-pound mark. Remember, these are limits of smallmouth. Just incredible,” Hall said.

This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.

The Central division, which has been dominated by Toledo Bend Reservoir the past two years (it was the first fishery to be ranked No. 1 more than one time), experienced the biggest shakeup of the rankings. As Mille Lacs took over the No. 1 spot here, Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas also jumped ahead of Toledo Bend (which fell to No. 4 in the region). Lake Erie, fishing out of Buffalo, N.Y., took top honors in the Northeastern division (No. 7 nationally). California’s Clear Lake ended up the best in the West (No. 3 in the nation). As for the Southeastern division, North Carolina’s Shearon Harris Lake topped all other fisheries (No. 4 in the nation).

“There are a lot of surprises this year,” Hall admits. “Shearon Harris may be one of the biggest. But this lake produced two limits this year that topped 40 pounds. Can you imagine an 8-pound average?”

Other highlights include the comeback of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 lake on this list that faced a serious downturn two years ago. This smallmouth factory has climbed back to No. 9 in the nation. New Bullards Bar in California (No. 4 in the Western division) has produced several world-record class spotted bass in the past 12 months, including an 11.25-pounder. South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion and Moultrie) are again producing near-30-pound limits, earning them the No. 8 spot in the nation and top spot in the Southeastern division.

As for bragging rights for the individual state with the most lakes making the Top 100, Texas wins by a long shot. The Lone Star State features 11 lakes that made the cut. California was a distant second, with a still-impressive showing of seven lakes being ranked in the Top 100.

Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes will be published in an 11-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings will also be featured on Bassmaster.com.

The Top 12 In The Nation
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,516 acres]
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas [114,500 acres]
3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres]
4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina [4,100 acres]
5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,153 square miles]
6. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres]
7. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo]
8. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]
9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles]
10. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres]
11. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50-mile stretch]
12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee [36,240 acres]

Central Division
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
3. Falcon Lake, Texas
4. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana [185,000 acres]
5. Lake Palestine, Texas [25,560 acres]
6. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin [4,945 acres]
7. Newton Lake, Illinois [1,775 acres]
8. Lake Ray Roberts, Texas [29,350 acres]
9. Lake Oahe, South Dakota/North Dakota [370,000 acres]
10. Lake Amistad, Texas [64,900 acres]
11. Lake Fork, Texas [27,690 acres]
12. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri [54,000 acres]
13. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana [25,400 acres]
14. Squaw Creek Reservoir, Texas [3,275 acres]
15. Table Rock Lake, Missouri [43,100 acres]
16. Lake Texoma, Texas/Oklahoma [89,000 acres]
17. Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas [34,300 acres]
18. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma [46,500 acres]
19. Lake Waco, Texas [8,465 acres]
20. Millwood Lake, Arkansas [29,500 acres]
21. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana [15,500 acres]
22. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas [40,324 acres]
23. Mississippi River Pools 4-10, Minnesota/Wisconsin [from Lake City past La Crosse]
24. Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri [45,000 acres]
25. Okoboji Chain of Lakes, Iowa [12,687 acres]

Northeastern Division
1. Lake Erie, New York
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
3. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York
4. Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius of Sandusky]
5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles]
6. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles]
7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide]
8. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively]
9. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island]
10. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres]
11. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide]
12. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles]
13. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres]
14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres]
15. Webber Pond, Maine [1,233 acres]
16. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles]
17. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres]
18. Great Pond, Maine [8,533 acres]
19. Lake Barkley, Kentucky [58,000 acres]
20. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee [160,309 acres]
21. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres]
22. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres]
23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres]
24. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland [The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third.]
25. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide]

Southeastern Division
1. Shearon Harris, North Carolina
2. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina (Marion and Moultrie)
3. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
4. Lake Okeechobee, Florida [730 square miles]
5. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee [43,100 acres]
6. Lake Murray, South Carolina [50,000 acres]
7. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida [37,500 acres]
8. Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee [39,000 acres]
9. Lake Guntersville, Alabama [69,000 acres]
10. Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi [6,700 acres]
11. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes) [22,700 acres]
12. Cherokee Lake, Tennessee [28,780 acres]
13. Lake Istokpoga, Florida [26,762 acres]
14. Cooper River, South Carolina [30-mile stretch below Lake Moultrie Dam]
15. Stick Marsh/Farm 13, Florida [6,500 acres]
16. Fontana Lake, North Carolina [10,230 acres]
17. Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia/South Carolina [71,000 acres]
18. Wilson Lake, Alabama [15,930 acres]
19. Kenansville Reservoir, Florida [2,500 acres]
20. Lake Wateree, South Carolina [13,250 acres]
21. Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina [56,000 acres]
22. Kerr Lake, North Carolina/Virginia [50,000 acres]
23. Logan Martin Lake, Alabama [15,263 acres]
24. Lake Lanier, Georgia [38,000 acres]
25. Davis Lake, Mississippi [200 acres]

Western Division
1. Clear Lake, California
2. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
3. Lake Berryessa, California
4. New Bullards Bar Reservoir, California [4,790 acres]
5. Saguaro Lake, Arizona [1,264 acres]
6. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho [25,000 acres]
7. Diamond Valley Lake, California [4,500 acres]
8. Lake Havasu, Arizona/California [19,300 acres]
9. New Melones Lake, California [12,500 acres]
10. Apache Lake, Arizona [2,568 acres]
11. Dworshak Reservoir, Idaho [17,090 acres]
12. Columbia River, Oregon/Washington [191 miles from Portland to McNary Dam]
13. Siltcoos Lake, Oregon [3,164 acres]
14. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona [21,493 acres]
15. Potholes Reservoir, Washington [27,800 acres]
16. Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah [1,322 acres]
17. Tenmile Lake, Oregon [1,626 acres]
18. Moses Lake, Washington [6,800 acres]
19. C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho [7,500 acres]
20. Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona [26,500 acres]
21. Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon [15,000 acres]
22. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona [108,335 acres]
23. Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico [36,500 acres]
24. Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona [158,080 acres]
25. Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Montana [7,700 acres]

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

One Second After and One Year After Books

In the last two weeks I have listened to two audio books. “One Second After” and its sequel “One Year After” by William R. Forstchen take place at a small North Carolina town near Ashville. The first starts with a normal day in small country town with life as normal. But suddenly every electrical device stops working.

Later you find that two of the countries that have been promising to destroy the US got their hands on enough technology to set off three Electro Magnetic Pulse bombs that cover the US and more that cover parts of Europe and Asia. Those bombs send out a strong burst something like a sunspot does and it burns out anything that uses electricity.

These doomsday books follow a retired Army Colonel that was teaching at the small local college as he and his neighbors try to survive. The author is very good with explaining the big things as well as the little details that would probably happen as civilization falls apart.

Other movies and books like these have made me want to become a survivalist, and if I was not so old I might make preparations. Other doomsday scenarios include nuclear war, epidemics, and invasion by aliens that totally disrupt out way of life. They do make you think about what would happen.

Within weeks, about half the population of the area in the book are dead. The first to go are those on life support at hospitals and nursing homes. Then the folks that depend on daily medication that is no longer available at your corner drug store. Since almost no vehicles run, out of shape people walking to find food and water or cutting wood for fires and trying to carry it home die of heart attacks. But the biggest threat to somewhat healthy people are that most deadly animal, other people.

Riots and looting start within the first day. Hording of food may give you something to eat, but it attracts hungry folks that will kill you for it. Then, when things get brought to a semblance of order, people start starving and dying of diseases like salmonella and other bacterial infections from lack of sewage processing plants. And the folks of the small town, who have tried to keep order and ration what little food they have so they can survive, have to fight off city folks by the thousands arrive wanting to “share” their scant provisions.

One thing surprised me. When folks realize their frozen and refrigerated meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to spoil they start gorging, eating all of it. The professor does try to salt some of his meat down with a bag of road salt he has stored for the winter.

I was amazed that no one thought of making jerky and pemmican. Those relatively simple processes will preserve meat and fresh berries for months to years.

Many of the folks in this rural area know how to hunt and do have guns. They have some outdoor skills. But, without matches, it is amazing how many can’t even build a simple fire for boiling water and cooking game. And many of the ones that manage to build a fire burn their houses and themselves since they do not have a clue about safety with an open fire.

Game starts disappearing but too many, in my mind, do not consider a lot of sources of food. The squirrels the professor kills go to his two golden retrievers rather than to his family. Of course, pet dogs become a serious problem, in several ways, when dog food runs out.

The professor does kill a couple of possums, but they don’t have a clue how to cook them. And it takes weeks for them to realize songbirds are edible. It seems the only wild plants they know is edible are dandelions.

No consideration is given to other wildlife like bugs and grubs, although the book talks of people going into grill type restaurants and scraping grease traps for something to eat. The author does know a little about surviving like people did 200 years ago, about the level society degenerates to, but misses important points.

Bullets and guns become invaluable. In one place he says five .22 bullets will buy you a rabbit or squirrel, after they finally realize tree rats are edible by humans. And higher caliber rounds are horded for protection.

Few realize the value of good boots and clothes that protect you. Many are barefoot, especially those fleeing the cities, since their shoes wear out within a few days of walking. Bathing is almost non-existent since soap would quickly run out.

In the second book the small town has survived for two years and is somewhat stable since they were able to grow some food during the two summers between books. A few small farmers and the professor realize the importance of keeping some seeds for the next year as well as keeping some breeding stock of pigs, chickens and cows rather than eating them all.

But then a bigger threat arrives, in the form of “help” from the reforming US government. Of course some bureaucrats and politicians survived in well stocked bunkers near Washington, DC and some of our military assets from other places not affected by the EMP blasts, like the middle east and South Korea, make it home. And some of our navy ships survive and return.

The problem is many of those government type officials think they have power over everyone else and want to take from them, but have no clue what it takes to survive without confiscating others supplies. Tin pot “supervisors” that become little dictators when sent to places like Ashville to establish regional government are a scourge, almost destroying what the survivors have worked to establish.

These books are interesting and make you think of what could happen, and how important basic outdoor skills can be, even if they are depressing.

Big Catfish

Give CPR to Big Catfish
Today’s feature comes to us from Greg Wagner of Nebraska Game & Parks, on the importance of releasing large catfish to fight again, whether they’re caught in Nebraska or anywhere across the nation.

By Greg Wagner, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
From The Fishing Wire

Did you see that? She released that big catfish back in the water! But, why? She should have taken that big fish home, cleaned it and ate it!

Why do some people get perplexed when they see someone release a massive, master angler-sized catfish? After all, catfish, especially larger ones, sure taste good, don’t they?

So why is it every time we see an angler report or post a mention or picture of a large catfish they have put back in the water, a spirited discussion, no scratch that, a huge dispute ensues over what is ethical?

So how do we move beyond flaming the angler who chooses to release a sizeable channel, blue or flathead catfish?

Allow me to inform you on why I am so passionate about and concerned with that whopper being taken home for the fryer.

First, let me say that I have never judged any licensed angler who has kept a large catfish to eat, and I won’t as long as that licensed angler is obeying the laws and regulations set forth by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

But, let’s go deeper into the issue of catching and releasing voluminous catfish family members.

Unlike other game fish, the growth of catfish is very slow. Actually, catfish are among the slowest growing freshwater fish in our part of the country.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department age and growth studies indicate that a 40-pound blue catfish could be 25 years old! A 30 inch blue catfish in Oklahoma and Missouri averages 10 to 12 pounds and is most likely around 14 years old! And, in Nebraska, Daryl Bauer of the Game and Parks Commission’s Fisheries Division adds that a 10 pound channel catfish is most likely dozens of years old!

So, it takes a while for catfish to reach trophy and spawning sizes with some not even surviving adulthood under ideal or normal conditions. Also, with catfish, larger specimens pass on physical traits and survival instincts to thousands of young. Essentially, proper catch and release fishing improves wild catfish populations by allowing more fish to remain and successfully reproduce in an aquatic ecosystem in greater numbers. Keep in mind that mature catfish can lay anywhere from 4,000 to 100,000 eggs in cavities, and breeding males can fertilize as many as nine spawns a season if the eggs are removed from the spawn site each time.

Furthermore, In-FishermanvMagazine’s Doug Stange, says statistical evidence suggests that once catfish attain a larger size they may continue grow exponentially by weight. One key, he says, to catching bigger catfish in any water body, is to limit the harvest of large fish, in favor of releasing them to be caught again and again. The practice of catch and release fishing provides an opportunity for increasing numbers of anglers to enjoy fishing and to successfully catch a memorable catfish.

Your blogger shows you a hefty channel catfish caught and then immediately released in a private sandpit lake in western Douglas County, NE. Photo by Rich Berggren/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Catch and release fishing works but only if you learn to properly handle and care for big catfish.

Brad Durick, renown channel catfishing guide on the Red River of the North in North Dakota, and longtime Nebraska Game and Parks Fisheries Biologist, Daryl Bauer, both unequivocally agree.

Here are their eight things to remember when putting a lofty catfish back in the water to ensure the best chances for its survival:

Grab that rubber net. Unlike most fish species, catfish aren’t armed with skin-protecting scales. Instead, they have skin and secrete a viscous slimy substance that acts as an antiseptic. So for landing big catfish you need a knotless, rubber or rubber-coated net that won’t abrade their skin or remove their vital slime layer. A rubber-coated net with micro-mesh and a flat bottom panel is a optimum because it gently supports the fish without contorting its body in abnormal angles. Without a net, a large, wild catfish flopping on the boat floor, bank or dock is asking for trouble — broken equipment, sprained ankles and severely injured fish.

Wear rubber gloves. In the case of handling big catfish, a variety of rubber gloves specifically designed to make gripping fish easier without removing their slime, should be worn. They should always be wetted first, before grabbing a fish, in order to be minimally abrasive. Gloves also have the added bonus of protecting anglers from catfish spines, sandpaper-like teeth and even hooks!

No vertical holds! Fully support the weight of that big catfish fish with both hands and hold it horizontally. Keep hands away from gills and gill openings. Grip the narrow body section just below the tail with one hand and then basically cradle the fish’s head and shoulders with the other, avoiding pectoral and dorsal fins completely. If the fish decides to shake, you simply keep a firm grip on the tail and keep its head balanced until it calms down. It’s an safe, easy grip that just works.

Use good quality circle hooks. A huge part of proper catch and release for substantial catfish involves the use of circle hooks and and preferably higher quality, tournament grade circle hooks. Good circle hooks are a must for hooking catfish safely and securely. Employing tournament grade circle hooks, allows nearly all of big catfish to be hooked in the corner of the jaw. This allows for a quicker hook removal, causes less stress on the fish and shortens time that the fish has to be out of the water.

Carry long-handled needle nose pliers. Long-handled needle nose pliers let you to remove hooks with better control and limit your “hands on” contact with big catfish. Fish that are barely hooked or hooked in the lip can usually be freed with your hand, but it’s a good idea to always have a pair of long-handled needle nose pliers for those harder to reach hooks.

Take quick pics. Take a few quick Smartphone or iPhone pics (photos) of the big channel, blue or flathead catfish you landed to preserve the memory of that trophy catch, and then put the fish gently back in the water right away. Practice conservation, practice CPR — Catch, photo and release! Just think, next week, the large catfish you released could be the biggest catfish some other lucky angler ever caught!

Be prepared. Are your rubber gloves or rubber net and pliers within reach? Is your camera ready? Anything you can do to get that big catfish back in the water as soon as possible helps to improve the odds for survival. If you have everything you need handy you won’t have to keep the fish out of the water for very long.

Little, long and cut. Catch and release fishing for weighty cats works if three basic tactics are remembered and followed: Play the fish as little as possible, keep the fish in the water as long as possible and cut the line if the fish has swallowed the hook.

Good fishing!

“Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once” – Lee Wulff, Widely Acclaimed Fly Fisherman.