Predicting Muddy Water At West Point

Muddy water makes bass fishing tough.  Bass tend to get very tight to cover and not move much. It is like us in a heavy fog, we like to stay in familiar places and not run around and get lost!

My Garmin Panoptix has confirmed this. In clear water I see bass holding near but not down in brush and just over rocks and stumps. In muddy water they are down in the brush and right against rocks and stumps.   

Bass still have to eat, though. They can be caught, especially if the water has been muddy for a couple of days and they have gotten used to it and have gotten hungry.  

  A bright lure that sends out sounds in the water is usually best. I will be fishing a bright chartreuse spinnerbait with chartreuse blades and skirt. A rattling chartreuse crankbait will also be used as will a black and blue Chatterbait, the bait I caught the three-pounder on at Neely Henry in the mud. Even my jig and pig, a black and blue one with bright blue trailer, will have rattles in it.  And I will fish all of then slowly and tight to cover.   

I home something works for me at West Point!

It did, somewhat. I caught three keeper spots on my chartreuse crankbait, three on the jig and ig and one on a dark Trick worm on a shaky head. My best five weighed 10.18 and gave me third out of 28 fishermen!

Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras

Look underwater

See What You’re Looking at With Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras
Three ways underwater study will help you find and catch more fish.

Crosslake, MN – For most anglers, watching the fish is something that happens only in the mind’s eye. You picture what your lure looks like, and how it moves underwater. You visualize what the weedbed or brushpile looks like and you wonder what types of fish might be inhabiting it. You imagine what it looks like when a bass first sees your lure and moves in for the strike.But unless you’re scuba diving or looking through the lens of an underwater camera, you don’t really know what’s happening below the surface.

For anglers truly interested in learning about fish behavior from an underwater perspective, an Aqua-Vu camera provides rare and incredible opportunities to observe, marvel and ultimately, catch more fish. No matter if you’re an ice angler, lure troller or a shallow water bass angler, an underwater camera can revolutionize your subsurface understanding.

Pole-Cam Perspectives Bass and crappie anglers have joined the ranks of underwater scholars, probing into and examining hard-to-reach areas beneath boat docks, inside brushpiles and under matted vegetation with a camera. Reaching out to inaccessible areas with his Aqua-Vu HD10i camera connected to a telescopic push pole, Major League Fishing pro Ott DeFoe likes to peek below boat docks. A special XD Pole Cam Adaptor makes connecting to any telescopic pole an easy five-second process.

“The pole-cam set up lets me look for big bass living in remote locations and under hard-to-reach shallow cover, like docks, without spooking them,” notes DeFoe, a longtime advocate of underwater study.“The Aqua-Vu also allows me to find concentrations of bass during pre-tournament scouting, without having to catch them before competition begins. That’s a huge asset in a tournament, and it works in clear as well as stained water, when all you need to see is the presence of fish a few feet from the lens.”

Visual Ice Fishing Mike Hehner, photographer, angler and producer for Minnesota based Lindner Media Productions has been a longtime fan of real-time underwater viewing with an Aqua-Vu camera. “I’ve spent the last few ice fishing seasons watching how bass and other fish behave in their natural habitat,” says Hehner. “What you learn is that every individual fish exhibits unique behavioral responses to lures or livebait.

“While ice fishing, I like to train the lens of my micro Revolution 5.0 Pro camera on a live minnow. Hit the record button and just start capturing footage. I can watch the video on the screen, live, or view it on my computer later on.

“Most people would be amazed to see what’s really happening down there—even during those periods when you’re not getting strikes. I’ve seen huge schools of bass move past the bait without even stopping to sniff. Other fish stalk and examine the minnow for many minutes at a time. Some bass lightly mouth the bait or nudge it, as if to taste or test it for palatability. Other times, they’ll nip the splitshot but totally ignore the minnow. I’ve also seen days when bass absolutely crush an artificial rattlebait over and over but completely ignore the livebait.

Trolling Goes Interactive A great way to add spice to the otherwise mundane task of trolling lures around the lake, sight trolling allows anglers to watch fish react in real time, right on the Aqua-Vu display. “The XD Live-Strike system connects the camera to your fishing line, letting you watch fish react to and bite lures, live,” says Dr. Jason Halfen, owner of the Technological Angler.

“What makes sight trolling with an Aqua-Vu such an amazing experience is the ability to see fish strike right on the screen, as it happens. With other Go-Pro type cameras, you don’t get to see what unfolds on the water until you’re done fishing.”Halfen and other anglers who’ve tried sight-trolling have seen some remarkable fish behaviors unfold on the screen. “You can’t believe how many fish—trout, salmon or walleyes—might be following your lure at once,” he observes. “Or the fact that a single muskie might follow your lure for 5 minutes or more before biting. You learn that a rapid acceleration in lure speed or a sudden interruption in its forward momentum, perhaps by contacting structure with the lure, can prompt an immediate violent response from fish.”

“After watching the fish for the past few years,” adds Hehner, “I realize how many times underwater study has revealed fish in spots I wouldn’t have otherwise found them. It’s also helped me make key adjustments to my presentation—a different way to hook my bait, lure size or a new color—that resulted in more bites and more fish on the line.“You never get bored watching the underwater show. You see something different, something new and exciting, every time you go out there and drop the Aqua-Vu. You learn and you absolutely catch more fish.”

View Online Version About Aqua-Vu The Original Underwater Viewing System, Aqua-Vu® is manufactured by Outdoors Insight, Inc., and has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds other popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera (iballhitchcam.com). For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit www.aquavu.com.

Fishing Neely Henry with Peyton Nance

When it rains it pours – or snows!   

Last Thursday a week ago I left to go to Neely Henry on the Coosa River for my March Alabama Outdoor News article.  I had three choices of ways to go.  Unfortunately, I chose to go up to I-75 and around I-285 to I-20 so I could drop a couple of reels and a rod off for service at Tara Bait and Tackle, what used to be Big Ernies.   

Typical luck for me, the owners had closed up and gone home due to the weather.    Going around I-285 at 70 mph I thought I had made a good decision.  Then, a mile from the I-20 exit I came to a full stop.  For the next hour I moved a few feet, stopped, then moved a few more.   

On I-20 a couple of miles from the Six Flags exit a sign said, “Left two lanes closed due to flooding.”  I thought the Chattahoochee River was flooding, but when I started down the hill toward the river, the reason the left two lanes were closed flooded was all the drains were stopped up with trash.  DOT workers were trying to get them open.   

The rest of the trip went fine, but as I crossed the Coosa River going into Gadsden it was running high and fast, with many logs floating in the ripping current. And it was very muddy.  That did not look good for fishing the next day.

I got checked into a room in Gadsden and went to Capeside Fish Market, a restaurant I found on my last trip there, for dinner.   I had some of the best fried scallops I have ever eaten, and that is saying a lot since I seek them out everywhere I go.  

  I met Peyton Nance, an Auburn University bass team member and reserve defensive tackle on the football team.  We managed to get the boat in and to the dock in the ripping current.  The water level had dropped four feet overnight. Peyton explained they were trying to get it down to hold all the flooding water coming downstream.   

We looked at and tried to fish ten spots that are good in March, but the current made river places impossible to fish and back-outs very muddy. I did manage to land a three-pound largemouth on a Chatterbait, my only bite. Peyton lost a five-pound spot right beside the boat when it pulled off his crankbait.   

We had a hard time loading the boat in the current, then I took a nap before going back to Capeside for more fried scallops!   

Sunday morning, I got up in Gadsden to rain.  As I got loaded up to come home and get my boat ready for the Flint River tournament at Lanier on Sunday, I got a text asking if we could postpone the tournament a week because of dangerous roads.  I had no idea there was a problem.   

I responded, as tournament director, that rules said tournaments could be canceled due to dangerous conditions, but they would not be rescheduled.  That rule was put into place years go when, all too often, a group in the club would try to postpone a tournament a week hoping for conditions they thought would be better for them.   

I sent the president of the club a text asking his vote. It is up to the three officers.  I stopped for breakfast at I-20 and Highway 431 and the temperature was 44 degrees.  Forty miles later, as I crossed into Georgia, my thermometer read 40 degrees. And signs over the interstate warned of icy roads ahead.   

I was able to pick up WSB radio and get the information that roads were icy around Gainesville. Then the president responded that the roads up that way were bad, so we canceled.   

I had no problems getting home and Tara Bait and Tackle was open, so I left my rod and reels to be fixed, got home and started contacting club members to alert them the tournament had been canceled.  Of course, Sunday turned out to be a nice day, but I’m not sure of the road conditions before daylight around the lake. It was probably a good decision not to take a chance.   

Coming home over the Chattahoochee River, it was flooded and orange, as were all the creeks, so West Point today is expected to be a mud hole for the Potato Creek tournament!   

Sunday Peyton and his dad fish a big Rat-L-Trap tournament at Lake Guntersville with about 250 boats entered. They won with five bass weighing 22 pounds and had a kicker weighing seven pounds, so fish were biting somewhere!

The Salty Ned Rig

Red on Ned

The Salty Ned Rig, with Captain C.A. Richardson
Captain C.A. Richardson believes the ‘Salty Ned’ shines during the toughest conditions.

Ladson, SC  “We call it the ‘Salty Ned,’” quips exceptional inshore guide, Captain C.A. Richardson. “A lot of days, it’s even better than livebait.”

In recent years, as Richardson and other intelligent inshore anglers recognized the parallels between freshwater bass tactics and those for redfish, seatrout and other saltwater species, a fresh approach began to emerge.

“We followed the evolution of freshwater finesse techniques and the rise of the Ned Rig for smallmouth and largemouth bass,” says Richardson, the brains behind Flats Class TV and University. “It made perfect sense that similar methods and baits could excel in saltwater for a lot of reasons.”

While cold-fronts, heavy fishing pressure and other adverse factors often make bass tough to catch, these same dynamics can have a multiplier impact on saltwater species. “From the first day we experimented with a Ned Rig under cold, bluebird skies our results spoke volumes. Three little baits—a 2-3/4-inch Finesse TRD™, TRD TicklerZ™ or TRD CrawZ™— on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ™ jighead are all you really need to continue catching fish when conditions turn tough. With water temps in the high 50s and low 60s, we start fishing a Salty Ned around December 1 in Florida and catch fish with it all the way through the first half of March.”

Richardson, who today focuses much of his redfish, trout and snook efforts on the fertile though popular waters between Tampa to Fort Myers, believes a Salty Ned easily outfishes previous-era finesse baits like a 3-inch stingray grub or a small bucktail jig. On some days even a live, juicy shrimp or strip of cutbait can’t equal the appeal of a soft, buoyant ElaZtech® bait on a small jighead.

“Even for a novice or someone accustomed to using shrimp on a jighead, it’s an easy-to-fish bait that also eliminates pinfish and other nuisance biters. Admittedly, you’ll often catch smaller reds, trout and flounder, but you certainly won’t lack action.“The buoyant nature of ElaZtech and the mushroom-shaped jighead make the bait pivot and float tail-up off the bottom when you stop your retrieve,” says Richardson. “These baits are the perfect match for so many of the small creatures eaten by inshore predators—marine worms, shrimp and other invertebrates as well as sea horses. The upright posture of a TRD on a jighead shows fish a lively morsel that moves with the slightest underwater current—even when you’re not moving your rod at all.”

A Z-Man Ned rig remains affixed to Captain Greg Peralta’s inshore rods at least eighty-percent of the time, all year long.Like its freshwater counterpart, fishing the saltwater Ned Rig is all about keeping the bait close to the bottom, letting its buoyancy and soft, active composition do the heavy lifting. “We might fish the Ned a little more aggressively in saltwater,” notes Richardson. “The best presentation I’ve found is to let the bait sink to bottom and then shake the rodtip to make it quiver. Give the jig a 6- to 12-inch pull, pause and then reel slack and repeat. You’re making the back of the bait quiver; when you stop, the bait pivots and goes tail-up.

With a bait like the TRD TicklerZ or TRD CrawZ, you’ve also got little appendages that undulate subtly in the current. The bait never really stops working for you.”Even while fishing high-pressure zones like Tampa Bay, Richardson says the Salty Ned remains a non-threatening presentation to which fish react positively. “What’s also cool is you can sight fish for really spooky reds up on clear shallow flats because the bait touches down with such a small, compact signature.” To fish the Salty Ned on featureless flats, in depressions on flats and bends in creeks with deep holes, Richardson rigs one of the aforementioned Z-Man TRD baits on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jighead. He spools with 6-pound test braid and a 50-inch leader of 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. Wielding a medium-light to light action 7-foot spinning rod, he can cast a light jig close to 30 yards.

For fishing around heavy cover or docks, Richardson switches to abrasion resistant monofilament line and a Pro ShroomZ™ Weedless jighead.The TRD TicklerZ quivers subtly, even at rest.

Summer Catches “Although we primarily finesse-rig in the winter, I’d argue with my guide buddies that even in the warmer months, when spooky, pressured fish won’t hit a faster-moving reaction bait, I can still get bit with a Salty Ned,” Richardson offers.It’s a notion shared by Charleston, South Carolina based Captain Greg Peralta, a now-retired guide who still fishes almost every day of the season. “Several years ago, we started fishing a Finesse TRD with a 1/5- or 1/6-ounce NedlockZ™ jighead and found it to be a super productive coldwater and post-coldfront bait. But when it got warm, we kept fishing the Ned Rig to see when they’d stop biting it. They never did.”

These days, Peralta says he fishes the Salty Ned about eighty-percent of the time. Particularly when the water gets warm, Peralta prefers a slightly more aggressive retrieve to entice a reaction. Keeping his rodtip low, Peralta gives the bait a hard snap, followed by a pause. He describes the cadence as similar to working a jerkbait.Z-Man Trick ShotZ on a NedlockZ HD jighead.

“Snap and give slack,” he explains. “The lure will pitch or roll left or right, showing fish alternating flashes of dark and light. Color becomes a critical factor because flash is a key indicator of something alive—dark on top, light on the bottom. It’s why I choose colors like The Deal in clear water. As clarity fades, I go brighter with patterns like Hot Snakes—still has that dark-to-light transition, but with a louder chartreuse belly.

”Peralta notes that the length of the pause between snaps depends on conditions. “Colder water, coldfronts and when the barometer is switching from low to high, I go with a longer pause. Because fish typically strike after the snap, when the bait is descending, I like using high-vis 8-pound braid. You don’t always feel the bite on the rodtip; you’re watching your line for a pop or a sudden acceleration.

“I can’t say the TRD looks like anything they eat. The action you give it just instinctively makes fish react to and bite it. But it’s so versatile, durable and buoyant you can fish it almost anywhere. I can even throw it on top of an oyster bed or other gnarly areas in a foot of water. The bait’s buoyancy largely keeps it out of trouble. But it also works for fish hunkered down in 15-foot holes. Catches all three of species—redfish, trout and flounder— with regularity; what we call a Lowcountry Slam.”Texas angler Chris Bush fooled a rare 30-inch seatrout with a Finesse TRD on a NedlockZ jighead.

The Speckled Truth Even while redfish and snook garner much of the spotlight, select anglers like Chris Bush place the highest esteem on seatrout of trophy proportions. This past September, Bush, who authors a blog called the Speckled Truth, caught a monster 30-inch trout from Upper Laguna Madre, Texas. Stuck in the fish’s jaw was the bait Bush describes as possessing “magic appeal.”

A PB&J or The Deal-pattern TRD rigged on a 1/10-ounce NedlockZ, says Bush, has proven itself when the water’s warm and seatrout aren’t responding to traditional presentations. “A Ned Rig has been really effective when other baits aren’t—when there’s so many baitfish in the water that trout aren’t looking for huge meals, but for selective opportunities. Same deal under heavy fishing pressure. The fish are just chilling, feeding opportunistically for short windows. That’s when it’s so effective to put a little TRD down there and sort of invade their personal space.

“I give the bait one or two hard twitches and let it fall back to bottom. I try to maintain contact with it at all times, because these big, sluggish trout don’t thump the bait aggressively. Rather, they sort of sit on it, and all you feel is a sudden weight on the line, almost like you’re hung on the bottom.Bush adds that the smallest 3.5-inch Trick ShotZ™ rigged on the same jighead, at times, yields equally productive results as the TRD. “Fished on light tackle in the most grueling situations, these little bitty baits just seem to have a magic appeal for really big trout.”

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. 

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

West Point Lake Striper and Hybrid Fishing

A little over a week ago I went to West Point to learn how guide Andy Binegar catches stripers and hybrids during the spring. The information will be in the March Georgia Outdoor News magazine. 

We trolled all day in very muddy water and caught a few of both species on a cold, rainy day.

The fish were still stacked up in the mouths of big creeks on the main lake. Maple Creek and Wedhadkee Creek both had clouds of baitfish and bigger fish around them out in 30 plus feet of water.  With the muddy water, the fish would not chase our trolled baits.

Captain Mack Farr, Andy’s mentor, joined us. He has been a guide for stripers on Lake Lanier for many years.  In the post trip discussion, we agreed we probably would have had better luck sitting right on top of the fish and dangling live bait in their faces, giving them time to eat it.

We tried the Chattahoochee River out from the pumping stations, too. Andy says he checks that area often and when he starts seeing fish on his electronics and catches some.  That tells him the fish have started their “false” spawning run up the river. Once he finds them there, he follows them up the river to catch big stripers.

Andy contacted me Monday and said the water was clearing in the river and Maple Creek and the fish were biting much better. Then all the rain Thursday muddied it up again!!

On Facebook some folks are posting picture of big crappie they are catching at West Point and other lakes. They are biting good for people trolling jigs and live bait 15 to 20 feet deep out over creek and river channels.  This is a good time to fill your freezer.

Florida Sawfish

Sawfish

Florida Sawfish–Help to Keep Them Healthy
By Jasmin Graham, FFWCC

When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.

The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.

As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.

Sawfish encounters Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats. 

When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw).

For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw. If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can.

Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets.

If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish.

Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species.

If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population.

Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email sawfish@MyFWC.com or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Sawfish background Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.

In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.

Engaging in sawfish recovery During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.

The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.

”For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:
YouTube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&t=3s

Democrats Want To Control Me and Take My Guns

 Sitting at my desk listening to democrats running for president explain how they are going to control everything I do, I can see into my gun cabinet.  In it are eight long gun and a couple of pistols. 

The guns range from the Remington .22 semiautomatic rifle I got for my eighth birthday to the Colt AR 15 semiautomatic rifle with a 30 round magazine attached that I treated myself to a few years ago. 

Its funny when I think most gun banners don’t bat an eye at my .22 although it holds 16 rounds of ammo in its magazine and is the same caliber as the despised AR 15. Bullets for the .22 come with the warning on the box “Warning, range one mile.” And both shoot each time I pull the trigger, with the same semiautomatic actions.

Also in the cabinet is the 12 gauge pump Winchester daddy passed on to me from his daddy. When I was a kid cleaning it, I found his first hunting license from 1938 when he was 16.  It was rolled up in the hole under the butt plate on the stock. 

Next to it is the similar “goose gun” my father-in-law gave me, another pump 12 gauge.

My Marlin lever action 30-30 is there, the gun that killed my first deer in 1968, a 16th birthday present from my parents. Daddy’s two bird guns are there, a short barrel 12-gauge Winchester for quail and a longer barreled Remington for dove. He gave both to me when he quit hunting. Both are the dreaded “semiautomatic” action.

All the guns my relatives gave me have one thing in common.  If the liberals “universal background check” was law back then, I would have had to undergo a background check before they could give the guns to me. Can an eight-year-old pass one?  How about a 16-year-old?  And how much would it have cost and how long would it have taken?  Would I still be waiting on those presents?

 If you give your child a gun, should you have to run a background check on them first?

A few years ago Ben Moore took the Griffin Gun Club Board of Directors to Callaway Gardens to shoot Sporting Clays. I took one of daddy’s guns, the wrong one for shooting Clays.  Ben let me borrow and shoot his backup over and under 12-gauge skeet gun.

Under proposed “Universal Background Check” laws, that would have made Ben and me felons.

The variety of pistols, from the semiautomatic .40 Glock with the 15 round magazine sitting within easy reach on my desk to the variety of other manufacturers .40 semiautomatic pistols still in their cases, would be banned. As would my AR 15 and AK 47. Both those guns have killed nothing but targets over the years I have had them.

Oddly enough, the most “powerful” gun I have, my bolt action 7 mm mag, would be ok at first.  That is until the gun grabbers started calling it a high-powered long-range sniper rifle and banned it.

I have had guns and shot them since I was five years old and daddy or Harold’s daddy, Mr. Bill, would take us out in the field to shoot a single shot .22. I got a BB gun as a reward after having my tonsil out at six years old.

My guns have never harmed anyone.  A couple of my pistols have scared people twice when driving on the interstate and some fool started harassing me for some reason. Both times they would run by me, pull over in front of me and slam on brakes. I was running with cruise control and there was little traffic, so I could go around them.

Both stopped when, on the fourth pass, I had my semiautomatic pistol lying on the dash in plain view and reached toward it.  I never even had to touch it.

Some folks ask why I am so terrified I need a gun handy.  I’m not, just as keeping fire extinguisher in my boat, all vehicles and house does not mean I am terrified of fires. I am just prepared.

By the way, if democrats get their laws passed and find someone to come confiscate my guns, they were all destroyed in the earthquake yesterday.

Alabama’s Coastal Hatchery


Young Pompano

Alabama’s Coastal Hatchery Restocks Gulf Coast Waters
The Alabama Marine Resources Division (AMRD) maintains the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center (CPMC) located in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  CPMC was created in 1970 when 40 acres of land were donated to the State by Ms. Mildred Casey.  An additional 5 acres was purchased by the State which provided access to the Intracoastal Waterway and a brackish water source needed to fill ponds. 

By 1973, thirty-five (35) 0.2-acre ponds and a small pump station located on the intracoastal waterway were installed on the property.  A small hatchery building used for broodstock holding and egg fertilization and hatching was completed in 1975.   From 1970 through the early 1980s the infrastructure and operational costs of CPMC were primarily funded with federal grants related to the culture and stocking of Gulf of Mexico strain striped bass (Morone saxatilis)in Alabama waters.

During the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, a variety of species were cultured at CPMC including spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus)red drum(Sciaenops ocellatus), Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus).  During this period the ponds were lined with high density polyethylene to prevent seepage and greenhouse structures with tanks and recirculating water systems were completed.  Beginning in the mid-2000s, shrimp and Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) were the primary species cultured at CPMC.  A saltwater supply line which begins at the Gulf State Park Pier was installed in 2004 but the intake was destroyed by hurricane Ivan.  The intake was not replaced until 2009. 

In July 2013, a new 23,000 square foot hatchery building was completed replacing the old hatchery building.  The new building provides a significant upgrade in fish production capacity.  It contains areas for broodfish spawning, algae production, live food production, egg incubation, larval rearing, and juvenile holding.  The hatchery also includes a greenhouse complex containing several re-circulating tank systems.

Currently, three species of fish popular among Alabama saltwater anglers are cultured at CPMC including red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus), and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma).  Southern flounder broodstock were collected in 2018; however, due to a protracted acclimation period documented by other southern flounder researchers spawning is not anticipated by CPMC staff until early 2020. 

Although most fish reared at CPMC are primarily for stock enhancement purposes, some fish may be tagged prior to release to assist with determining growth rates and movement patterns.  AMRD is also planning to modify the infrastructure to allow for the culture of the Eastern oyster by Spring 2020.  Oyster spat produced in the hatchery will be used to repopulate natural oyster reef areas in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound which have degraded in the last decade due to various natural and man-made causes.

Fish Culture Method:Juvenile Florida Pompano Raised at CPMCBroodstock (parent fish) are collected from local waters and relocated to maturation tanks within the hatchery.  Collected fish undergo temperature and photoperiod manipulation within the maturation tanks to mimic natural conditions and stimulate spawning activity.  Broodstock will spawn on their own within the maturation tanks or be removed from the tanks and strip spawned, the technique of manually removing eggs and milt (sperm) which are combined to initiate fertilization.  Fertilized eggs collected from egg collectors built into each broodstock tank or from mixing containers used during strip spawning are counted using a volumetric method and distributed among hatching jars/tanks.   

Eggs hatch within a 36-48-hour period and larval fish are counted by sampling a portion of the water column.  From this point, larvae will either be stocked into ponds or remain in within the hatchery. Tank Culture:Conditions affecting growth and survival are maintained much more easily in a tank system; however, labor and operational costs needed to maintain fish in an indoor culture system are greater than a pond system.  Larval fish are maintained in a temperature-controlled re-circulating system using full strength seawater (salinity greater than 30 ppt).  Twenty-four hour care is provided for larval fish in a tank culture system soon after the eggs hatch.  Once eggs hatch, the hatchlings are considered yolk-sac larvae.  At this point, they have no mouths or eyes, but will develop them over the next 36-48 hours.  

Once fish develop their eyes, they need to eat immediately.  From here, the fish need to be moved from hatching containers to the larval rearing systems for further grow out.Larval fish cultured at CPMC require live foods for the first 14-16 days after hatching.  The fish require a certain size of food particle that can be captured and ingested.  Two types of zooplankton are used to feed the young larval fish.  Rotifers are used as a first food for the first 8-10 days after hatching.  Brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) is used as a second live food.  As fish continue to grow, they require larger sized prey items, thus the need to change food sources.  Larvae are weened onto brine shrimp Artemia spp. starting around 8 days after hatching.  At the same time, larval fish are also introduced to a formulated feed.  Fish will be completely weened to an artificial diet by approximately day 16 after hatching.

CPMC Tank Culture Facilities For red drum and Florida pompano, the culture period is approximately 35-45 days to grow to a 1-2-inch fingerling.  Southern flounder require approximately 60-75 days to grow to a 1-2-inch fingerling.  At 1-2-inches the fish are of ideal size for harvesting and transporting to the release site.  Once fish reach the appropriate size and after a sample of each group of fish pass inspection for common diseases, they are released in coastal Alabama waters.Pond Culture:For extensive systems, ponds are utilized, and less care is required.  Prior to a spawning event, ponds are filled with brackish water, then fertilized with both organic and inorganic fertilizers to establish a phytoplankton bloom. 

This phytoplankton bloom is the food source for the zooplankton in the water.  As the phytoplankton blooms, the zooplankton populations will increase and “bloom” as well.  These zooplankton are the food source for newly hatched fish. Once fish develop and eye, they are transferred to the ponds for further grow out.  During the transfer process, fish are acclimated to pond temperature and salinity.   Fish will grow on the natural foods in the ponds for approximately 20 days.  After that time, a crumbled, pelleted feed will be provided for the rest of the culture period.  The culture period lasts approximately 45-60 days after which fish will be 1-2 inches in length.  Once fish are of size and after a sample of each group of fish pass inspection for common diseases, they are harvested from the ponds and released in Alabama waters.

In recent years, the operations and maintenance of CPMC has been funded through the Fish and Wildlife’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and your fishing license purchases.  

Bare Limbs and Squirrel Hunting

The stark bare gray limbs of hardwoods right now offer the best of times and the worst of times for squirrel hunting.  Tree rats are easy to spot a long way off, but they can see you the same distance, too.  It is easier to find them but harder to get close enough for a shot.   

The population is lower than at the start of season back in August. Human hunters and natural predators have taken some of the squirrels that survived last winter.  But both have killed many more of the dumb young ones born during the spring and summer.  They are much easier targets.  

  Sitting and hunting is tougher this time of year.  Squirrels aren’t coming to an oak or hickory that is full of nuts to feed.  They are scrounging around, looking for nuts they buried earlier when they were falling, and looking for anything else edible in the winter woods.  You can’t sit under a good tree waiting on them to come to you.   

After a rain you can find them eating mushrooms in pine thickets, but that food is scattered, like everything else.  And the green needles on pines make it hard to spot a squirrel when they scurry up a tree and hide from you.  

  Creeping up on a feeding squirrel is possible, but deer hunters would be impressed with the abilities of a squirrel to spot you and flee.  Any movement in their world draws instant attention and they will either flatten against a limb or tree trunk, making them very hard to see, or head for a hollow tree where they are totally protected.

One of the best tactics for me was to take off running through the woods when I spotted a squirrel in a bare tree. That usually made them freeze in place, trying to hide rather than running to a hollow.  With no leaves on the tree I could usually find the hiding critter.

A little breeze helped in several ways.  It would move bushes and limbs enough to confuse squirrels’ senses, making it easier to creep up on them. But when searching for them up in a tree a little breeze would often fluff their tail a little and the hair moving or sticking out from the tree trunk would make them easier to find.

Another trick was to scan for their ears sticking up.  Not much natural up in a tree looks like squirrel ears.  It helped that I had a good scope on my .22 to scan limbs and trunks, looking for any telltale sign.  I always carried it rather than my .410 in the winter, expecting to get shots at squirrels sitting still rather than running through the limbs when the .410 helped.

I also learned to throw a stick to the far side of a tree where a squirrel hid.  The noise and movement of it hitting a bush would make the bushy tail move to my side of the tree.  I could see him from the movement, and could usually get a good shot.

Every squirrel killed when I was growing up was eaten. I was pretty good as skinning and gutting them and mama could cook up fried squirrel with gravy, squirrel and dumplings, BBQed squirrel and squirrel stew that was delicious.  The younger squirrels were best for frying, but even tough old boar squirrels were good and tender when cooked right.This is a great time to take a kid out and teach them gun safety and hunting skills.  Deer season is over and the woods are quiet and bare, offering fun and good food!

St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods

Surf casting with St Croix Surf rodz
Caris and Broderick on the Right Surf Rods at the Right Time
Handcrafted in the USA, redesigned St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods provide surfcasters a significant edge
Park Falls, WI (February 5, 2020) – Serious surfcasters encounter an incredible variety of conditions over the course of their fishing seasons. From working chilly back bay flats in early spring to the roaring rips of major inlets during mid-summer, and the heavy, wind-driven suds along open ocean beaches come fall, the challenges are wide-ranging. Add multiple presentations for varying species, and the difficulties are compounded.The bottom line?

A surfcaster’s gear must not only be up-to-task, but also be well-matched to the conditions and opportunities at hand.“That’s why I love my Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods,” says St. Croix pro-staffer Matt Broderick of Medford, NY. “Between them, I can cover any surf-fishing situation Mother Nature tosses my way.” It’s the classic tale of having the right tool for the job at hand and these two families of American-crafted surf sticks let me fish with confidence throughout the season – whether I’m dealing with schoolies or cows in quiet waters, a rough-and-tumble surf, or anything in between.”
Broderick likes the versatility of both St. Croix series, but notes that each has a special place in his arsenal. Together, he explains, they allow surfcasters to cover all the bases, throw lure weights and styles to probe any kind of water from top to bottom, and turn big fish before they reach the nearest snag.“Take the newly revamped Avid Surf series,” Broderick explains. “Featuring premium SCIII carbon blanks and IPC technology, these smooth and powerful rods are designed for maximum casting distance and superior fish-fighting performance. I really like the 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model. It’s a terrific plugging rod that also excels working big pencil poppers and smaller options like bucktails, too. I’ll use it to toss anything from a half-ounce jigs to 2.5-ounce Super Strike, Cotton Cordell or Tsunami poppers. It has a sensitive tip and loads smoothly on the cast so you can throw those bigger lures a mile. It also has plenty of backbone, so I have no fear of targeting big fish around nasty structure.”
While Broderick lauds the Avid Surf series for its versatility, dependability, power and value, he says the Legend Surf series pushes the performance needle even further with high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon and FRS for unparalleled strength and durability, plus upgraded components and grips.“Legend Surf series sticks are extremely sensitive,” notes the 25-year-old striper sharpie. “The blanks and guide trains combine to create rods that cast exceptionally well and allow anglers to respond to the slightest bump or strike with an instant lure adjustment or powerful hook set. They also have tremendous stopping power.

Overall, Legend Surf rods deliver an edge in every department, which really comes in handy when the fish are far off the beach, while fishing in tight quarters, or when the bite is cautious and light.

”Broderick’s overall favorite surf stick is a Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model rated for lures ranging from 2 to 6 ounces. It’s his go-to rod when using finesse techniques in rocky areas and inlets along the Long Island coast.“There was a night last year when I was throwing 2-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastics at a single piece of structure protected by numerous boulders,” Broderick recalls. “A lot of lures are lost in that stretch, but the sensitivity of my Legend Surf 10’6” allowed me to pop those jigs up and over the rocks the instant I felt them. That placed my lure perfectly in the rip where I knew those bass were waiting. The stripers were biting light that night, but with the Legend’s super sensitivity and power, I was able to respond instantly to the pick-ups, drive the point home, and guide my fish out of the trouble zone before anything could go wrong.

”Like Broderick, St. Croix pro Shell Caris puts both his Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods to work targeting everything from schoolies to slobs as he mines the New Jersey Shore each spring before heading up to the Cape Cod Canal to concentrate on bigger bass. 
“I use every one of the Avid and Legend rods during the course of the year,” he says proudly. “Among my favorites for stripers and blues are the Avid Surf 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model, which I love for its backbone and overall versatility; the Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model, which is my go-to rod in spring and early summer; and the Legend Surf 11’ medium-heavy moderate-fast (GSS110MHMF2) model, which is perfect for making really long casts and battling cow bass in the Cape Cod Canal. I match any of these three rods with 30- to 50-pound test braided line.

”Caris, 73, finds the backbone of the Avid Surf 10’ medium power, fast action model especially helpful when working big bass and chopper blues around large baitfish like adult bunker along the Jersey Shore in the early spring. He appreciates Avid Surf’s new charcoal color as an aesthetic improvement, noting this redesigned series now “looks as serious as it fishes.” He’ll grab his 10’6” medium-heavy, moderate-fast Legend Surf model when tossing smaller lures or tangling with anything from school bass to 20- and 30-pounders. On Cape Cod Canal, he enjoys the fast action, sensitivity and responsiveness of his 11’ Legend Surf stick, noting that with today’s braided lines, this is a rod that can cast far off the shore and still have the responsiveness to work a pencil popper or walk the dog with a surface lure.“I love that you don’t have to retrieve surface lures at bluefish speeds with this rod,” he says. “Just reel at a steady pace with a short, sharp twitching motion and it provides a tantalizing action that calls predators to the surface.”
Both Broderick and Caris believe that the recently redesigned St. Croix Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods give them an added advantage whenever they step up to the water’s edge. “You need a rod that can really stand up to big fish, tough conditions and a lot of time in the suds,” notes Broderick.

“These St. Croix surf rods have the pedigree and the new enhancements that prove themselves as superior fishing tools day after day and night after night.”Caris agrees. “To be successful in the surf, you’ve got to put in the time – so you might as well put your best foot forward with the Best Rods on Earth®.”Designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. for maximum casting and fish-fighting ability, the St. Croix Avid Surf Series features seven spinning and three casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length.

All are made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology with premium, high-modulus SCIII carbon and a charcoal gray color that fades into the background, especially at night. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® K-Series KW tangle-free guides with Alconite® rings and Corrosion Control™ (BC matte grey finish), a matte grey Fuji® DPS Deluxe reel seat with Back Stop™ lock nut, and a custom cork tape handle with machined trim pieces provide surf casters maximum casting distance and a firm, comfortable grip. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $225 to $420.
ST. CROIX AVID SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, fast action (VSS70MF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS90MMF2)9’6” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS96MHF2)10’0” medium power, fast action (VSS100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX AVID SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’0” medium power, fast action (VSC100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSC110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSC120HMF2)Engineered and built for extreme surf-fishing performance, St. Croix’s Legend Surf Series is also designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. It features ten spinning and two casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length, all made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology and Advanced Reinforcing Technology™ (ART™). They feature premium, high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon with FRS for unparalleled strength and durability. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® Torzite® RV K-Series tangle-free surf guides with titanium frames provide unrivaled, 100% corrosion-proof performance, while a Fuji® Torzite® surf top with flanged ring greatly reduces line friction. A Fuji® DPS reel seat with PVD-plated hood ensures a rock-solid connection under extreme conditions and a custom neoprene handle improves comfort and durability while providing a positive grip even when wet. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $470 to $670. 
ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS70MMF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS90MMF2)9’0” medium power, moderate action (GSS90MM2)10’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS100MMF2)10’6” medium power, moderate action (GSS106MM2)10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS110MHMF2)12’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120MHMF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC110MHMF2)
#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Shop now! 
MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at factorytour@stcroixrods.com to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.#stcroixrods