Monthly Archives: August 2015

Don’t Drink and Drive – Drunk Boating Kills

Drunk Boating Kills

As Labor Day approaches—one of the busiest boating days of the year—the Coast Guard is issuing a somber warning: Drunk Boating Kills.

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham
from The Fishing Wire

Drunken boating destroys lives.

A Coast Guard Station Boston response boat crew is underway, Friday, July 3, 2015 in Boston Harbor. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Karen Kutkiewicz)
Drinking alcohol and driving any vehicle is taking a risk, but on the water risks are elevated and consequences are devastating – and deadly.

This summer, New England Coast Guard crews have responded to multiple incidents involving alcohol and boating. In one of the most recent, it was not another boater who reported the reckless behavior aboard a boat near Martha’s Vineyard, but a fearful passenger on the boat who called for help.

The marine environment – the sun’s heat and water’s motion – intensifies the effect of alcohol, and an inebriated mind, coupled with relaxed inhibitions and inexperience, is why alcohol is the number one contributor to fatal boating accidents.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Ciarametaro, a coxswain and boarding officer at Coast Guard Station Boston, put it simply; Boston Harbor has no lanes.

People generally have a lot more experience and confidence on the road than on the water. In fact, national data shows recreational boaters average only 110 hours – less than five days total – on the water each year.

Walt Taylor, the 1st Coast Guard District’s expert in recreational boating safety, said the Coast Guard wants people to have enjoyable boating experiences, but also to know things can and do go wrong.

“Alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time,” said Taylor. “Combining alcohol with environmental stressors and motion of the boat can cause fatigue, dehydration, and may unknowingly intensify the effects of alcohol.”

A sudden change of weather, boat malfunction, or medical emergencies can quickly turn a pleasant day on the water into a disaster. If tragedy strikes, boat operators and passengers must have clear, sober minds to take appropriate action.

Consider what happened in May, when a boating disaster near Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor cost a woman her arm, and nearly ended her life.

The woman was one of many passengers aboard a boat partying with an operator who was under the influence. After jumping in the water, the woman was swimming near the boat’s stern and the propeller struck her, sliced off her arm, and inflicted severe body lacerations.The party turned to chaos.

When the Coast Guard rescue crew, which included Ciarametaro, arrived on scene, the boat’s operator was intoxicated and disorderly.Ciarametaro said the Coast Guard crew quickly focused on saving the woman’s life while the State Police took the boozed-up boat driver into custody.

This kind of inter-agency teamwork is common during emergency responses and routine safety patrols.

Operating a boat, including paddle boats, with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is reckless and illegal. The statistics are scary. A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration just above the legal limit, at .10 percent, is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than a sober boater.

Ciarametaro said the station’s crew does recreational safety boardings every day, and if there is probable cause to conduct a Field Sobriety Tests on a boat’s operator, they will.

In other situations, if a Coast Guard crew observes a boat operating erratically or putting other boaters at risk, they will board that boat and test the operator without hesitation.

Operators may decline, but in Massachusetts for example, refusing to participate in the test is an automatic civil penalty, admission of guilt, and a fine up to $3,000.

Legal repercussions, coupled with the severe risks to life and property, are real, terrifying consequences of drinking and boating.

Alcohol use on one boat threatens everyone on the surrounding water. If you plan to party on the water, have a designated sober boat driver and a reliable means to call for help.

Channel 16 on a VHF-FM radio is the preferred method to contact the Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard also has an easy-to-use boating safety app that features an emergency assistance button, which with locations services enabled, will call the closest Coast Guard command center. It could save your life.

How Far Did A Shark Tagged Near Cuba Swim?

Rare Shark Tagged Near Cuba “Phones Home” Near U.S. Coast

by Hayley Rutger, Mote Marine
from The Fishing Wire

 Shark tagging

Shark tagging

Tagging of longfin mako shark was featured in Discovery’s Shark Week, will air with updates in Shark Weekend

A rare longfin mako shark satellite-tagged near Cuba recently “phoned home” off the U.S. Atlantic coast, say Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and colleagues who tagged the mako during the first-ever expedition to satellite-tag sharks in Cuban waters.

The shark was tagged on Feb. 14 offshore of Cojimar in northern Cuba, during an expedition by scientists from Mote, a world-class marine research institution in Sarasota, Fla., from Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, the University of Havana, and other Cuban institutions, and from the Environmental Defense Fund, which facilitates U.S.-Cuban collaborations in science and conservation.

The expedition — including satellite-tagging the longfin mako — was filmed by Tandem Stills + Motion, Inc. and Herzog Productions and featured in early July in “Tiburones: The Sharks of Cuba,” a program of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. An updated version of the program with these fascinating findings will air at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 as part of Shweekend on Discovery.

The team also tagged three silky sharks in the Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) National Marine Park off Cuba’s south coast. Each tagging was a dream come true for the U.S.-Cuban scientific team that had worked for years to obtain permission and resources to place the first satellite tags on sharks of Cuba.

“Our dream was to be able to deploy satellite tags on sharks in Cuban waters, on both the north and south coasts, in an equal partnership of Cuban and American research teams,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote. “We were able to accomplish these goals for the first time with this expedition.”

Tagging the longfin mako was especially exciting. This species generally inhabits deeper waters and poses more unanswered questions than its shallower-water cousin, the shortfin mako.

“There is a ton known about shortfin makos and almost nothing known about the longfin, which wasn’t described until 1966 by the Cuban ichthyologist Dr. Dario Guitart Manday,” Hueter said.

"Maximum likelihood track"

“Maximum likelihood track”

“Maximum likelihood track” of the longfin mako shark tagged by the U.S.-Cuban team off the north coast of Cuba in February 2015. Credit Mote Marine Laboratory.

On July 15 the longfin mako’s tag separated from its tether to the shark, as it was programmed to do, floated to the surface and began sending its archived data to Mote scientists via satellite. Since then, the research team has received and analyzed all the data to accurately document the shark’s movements.

After being tagged in mid-February, the shark departed from waters off Cojimar in northern Cuba, traveled with the Gulf Stream current between Florida and the Bahamas, and then doubled back into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where it swam in a clockwise loop in April and early May between Florida and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Then in May the shark swam back along the Gulf Stream, through the northern Bahamas and into deep waters of the open Atlantic, where it proceeded north until it was offshore of New Jersey in late June. Finally, it headed south to waters off Virginia, and its tag popped off and surfaced about 125 miles east of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The total track covered nearly 5,500 miles in five months, averaging about 36.5 miles per day.

This shark is the second longfin mako tagged by Mote, and one of just a few tagged worldwide. Its travels are raising exciting questions.

“The amazing thing is this longfin mako’s tag popped up in nearly the same exact location as another one we tagged in the northeastern portion of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico a few years ago,” said John Tyminski, who processed the satellite data and was joined on the expedition by Mote scientists Hueter and Jack Morris. “The movement patterns of the two sharks are remarkably similar: both sharks were in the eastern Gulf in April/May, showed comparable movements through the Straits of Florida, and ended in a similar area off Chesapeake Bay in July. Both tags came off during the month of July and both sharks were mature males. Clearly there’s something in that location that’s attracting mature males in summer.”

One possibility is mating, but satellite tags alone cannot confirm that or rule out other possibilities like feeding or just passing through.

The tag also showed the mako spent a majority of its time in depths of less than 1,640 feet (500 meters), staying mostly deeper during the day than at night, but the shark made some extreme dives including one to 5,748 feet (1,752 meters), more than a mile deep. “At that depth the shark is dealing with extreme cold, close to freezing,” Hueter said. “The data from this tag will help us understand why these sharks are diving so deep and how they are dealing with such cold temperatures.”

Two of the silky sharks reported back when their tags popped off early, about a month after the expedition. The tags revealed that the sharks had made movements away from the inshore reef area where they were tagged and into deeper offshore waters, spending most of their time in the upper water column but also diving during the day. One of the sharks reached a maximum depth of 2,073 feet (632 meters). The remaining silky shark wears a real-time satellite transmitter that can relay data to scientists when the shark’s fin surfaces — but so far it has tended to stay below.

The longfin mako’s results remain the most tantalizing — shedding light on the life of a rare species while demonstrating an important point: The U.S. and Cuba are fundamentally connected by the sea.

“The fact that these sharks go back and forth among the waters of multiple nations – in this case, Cuba, the United States, the Bahamas and Mexico – shows the importance of coordinating our fisheries sustainability and conservation efforts on a multilateral, even global, scale,” Hueter said. “Clearly it is important for the U.S. and Cuba to work together to protect vulnerable marine resources like these rare and depleted species of sharks.”

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is celebrating its 60th year as an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization. Mote’s beginnings date back six decades to the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.
Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Fla. with field stations in eastern Sarasota County and the Florida Keys and Mote scientists conduct research on the oceans surrounding all seven of the Earth’s continents.

Mote’s 25 research programs are dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans, with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to the conservation and sustainability of our marine resources. Mote’s vision also includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at

Contact Us:
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Fla., 34236. 941.388.4441

Fishing and Writing About Fishing

Im a pretty good club fisherman. Over the years I have won the yearly point standings in the Sportsman Club 19 times and 18 in the Flint River club. And I have made the state team finishing in the top 12 fishermen out of over 500 at the Top Six tournament, the club championship of all clubs in the state, five times over the years. But I will never be as good as the top level fishermen, or even those guys that do well at the state level.

I love fishing and writing about fishing. The articles I write in GON and AON and Georgia sportsman are really like research reports I wrote getting masters degrees and a doctorate. I do research, going out with other fishermen, and report what they say. The research part is the fun part, the sitting at a computer for three hours writing it is not the fun part

The research can get hectic tho. I often drive four or five hours to the lake, go out in the boat for four to eight hours, then drive home. Makes for a long day!

The longest day I ever had was several years ago. I was doing an article with Karen Elkins on Neeley Henry Lake in Alabama. I made the mistake of telling her I could get her picture on the cover of the magazine if we could catch a five pound bass for pictures.

I drove four hours to meet her at 6 am. We went out and stayed on the water until 9 PM that night – 15 hours! And then I drove 4 hours home, arriving 23 hours after I left. And the biggest bass we caught was about two pounds!

I also write my column in the Griffin daily News each week and every other month in Kitchen drawer. And I do a web site on fishing. In those I sometimes try to write creatively but Im not sure how successful I am. But I write about anything that I want in them. Some of my favorites are about growing up wild in Georgia – my memories of the 1950s and 60s – a very different time.

In 2001 I wrote “The Everything Fishing Book” for Adams Media. An agent contacted me and asked if I would be interested. I had just retired from my day job and it seemed like a good idea at the time. When I found out the details I almost backed out. They wanted a very specific book, kinda a “fishing for dummies” covering all the basics. The worst thing was they gave me four months to write 85,000 words! I did manage to get it done and I think it sold a few thousand copies.

I have also put some of my Map of the Month articles into book format. For both Clarks Hill and Lanier I put together an article for each month of the year. It is in eBook format and I also sell it on CD and email it in Microsoft word format. Some fishermen have found it useful.

Those articles do help. I have won a good many tournaments following the old articles. One of the best was at Allatoona. I don’t fish that lake much, I had been on it only three times, all for articles, when the flint River Club scheduled a September tournament there. So I pulled out those articles, printed out the one for September and took it with me.

The article was with David Millsaps, one of the best fishermen on Allatoona and in Georgia. The article said start by going around a certain small creek up the Little River, fishing a jig and pig, so I took off at the start of the tournament and ran to it.

After going around the creek and catching two keepers I fished the upstream rocky point of it with the jig and pig with no bites. That was hole number 2. I pulled in the trolling motor, cranked the big motor and pulled out the article to check where hole three was. I noticed the last line on hole two said throw a big crankbait across the rocky point before leaving.
I turned off the motor, picked up a rod with a big fat free shad on it and the first cast caught a 3.5 pound spot. That fish turned out to be big fish in the tournament. And on hole three and four I got a keeper on each one, filling out my limit. I had five weighing 11 pounds that day – second place was five pounds! So the article works.

My wife says I can remember every bass I have ever caught, and I used to be able to. I still remember most. I may not remember her birthday or our anniversary some years but I do remember bass!

Its funny. I have been the secretary of both bass clubs pretty much since I joined, and I have all the old tournament results. A lot of times someone will talk about a tournament from years ago and how they weighed in a limit of fish weighing 18 pounds or in a tournament they had a nine pounder. But when I look back at the actual results, they had ten pounds. Or the big fish they caught was actually five pounds, not nine. Fishermen don’t lie, but our memories surely do grow! I have always heard a fish gets bigger the longer it has been since you caught it and that seems true.

Sometimes lucky bounces happen at tournaments even if they don’t seem lucky at first. Last weekend the Flint River club fished Clark Hill for our August tournament – which Niles won, by the way. I went over on Wednesday to practice two days before the two day tournament.

At 1:30 Thursday – On my birthday of all things – I was about five miles from the ramp and ran out of gas. No problem, my boat has two 25 gallon tanks and I knew I had at least ten gallons in the other tank. But for some reason I could not get the motor to pick up gas from that tank. It took me over two hours go get back to the ramp with my trolling motor in the hot sun.

But going in I saw the symbol for an old underwater house foundation on my GPS – something I would not have noticed if riding faster with the gas motor. Friday afternoon I rode over it with my depthfinder, saw fish on it and caught a two pounder. During the tournament my partner and I caught our three biggest bass from that foundation.
Another lucky bounce!
You have to take advantage of all your bounces! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or Margaritas if you prefer

What Is Bowfishing?

Bowfishing – combining two pastimes into one sport

Editor’s Not: Today’s feature comes to us from the Michigan DNR, but it applies to anglers anywhere who might like to combine a bit of hunting with their fishing.
from The Fishing Wire



Michigan DNR photos

Roy Beasley grew up fishing, but when he discovered bowhunting, he changed his technique. He became a bowfisherman.

“I still bass fish at my parents’ cottage or with the guys at work,” he said. “But I like doing this more.”

A research vessel captain with the Department of Natural Resources, Beasley is one of a growing number of sportsmen and women who like to combine hunting and fishing, using bows and arrows to take a wide variety of fish, including many that are generally not targeted by hook-and-line anglers.

Bowfishing is legal for bowfin, bullheads, burbot, carp (including goldfish), catfish, cisco, drum, gizzard shad, longnose gar, smelt, all species of suckers – including buffalo and quillback – and whitefish.

Beasley has taken most of them, including a number of Master Angler fish of six different species. But he particularly likes chasing gar and gizzard shad, because their narrow bodies make them more of a challenge.

Except in the spring, when a number of species are in shallow water spawning, most bowfishermen go out at night, using lights to see down into the water. Beasley said going at night “is easier and your shots are closer,” but he likes going in the daytime “because it’s more challenging.”

“A lot of people associate carp-shooting with night, except in the spring when the fish are spawning and wallowing around on the surface,” he said. “You can still shoot carp during the day in the summer, but they’re spookier.”

Bowfishermen prefer clear water and calm days with sunny skies.

“You can shoot them on cloudy days, but they usually see you before you see them,” he said.

Bowfishing is a shallow-water sport.

“Five feet is pretty deep,” said Beasley, who mostly plies the Great Lakes and connecting waters of southeastern Michigan. “To get shooting more than five feet deep, you’ve got to be pretty much right above them.”

Beasley said the transition from bowhunting to bowfishing is fairly seamless. Seth Rhodea, president of the Bowfishing Association of Michigan, agrees.

“If you’ve got an old hunting bow lying around, you can buy a kit with a reel and a line and an arrow for around $40,” said Rhodea, who also is a DNR conservation officer in Sanilac County. “You don’t need a boat – if you’ve got a place to wade in the spring when the carp and gar are up shallow, you can have fun all day chasing them around.”

Rhodea, who started bowfishing half a dozen years ago, isn’t a bowhunter. He said a buddy took him, and he enjoyed it and got into it. Lots of people have the same experience.

“In the last three years, it seems like it’s growing,” said Rhodea, who added there are about 175 members in BAM, but more than 2,000 “like” its Facebook page. “In the spring, it’s not uncommon to see half a dozen boats from one of the launches out bowfishing. A lot of guys have gotten into it in the last few years. Seems like every time you take a new person out, he gets hooked, gets his own boat, and gets going.”

As a conservation officer, Rhodea says he gets a lot of complaints about bowfishermen – lights bothering riparians or the sound of generators disturbing their peace, for instance. And there are complaints about improper disposal of fish. That isn’t a problem for most bowfishermen, who put the fish to use, often for fertilizer in their gardens.

Beasley says he has no problem disposing of the fish. He’s given some to bear hunters for bait, some to raptor rehabilitators to feed the birds, and even some to the Department of Environmental Quality for contaminant testing.

“And I’ve eaten some,” Beasley said. “The gar aren’t too bad. The drum is a little bit different texture – sort of reminds me of alligator.”

Beasley gets started in April and bowfishes into December some years, adding that spring is usually the best time.

“You can do big numbers,” he said. “My best day was about 40 fish – I shot until my cooler was full.”

But bowfishing is as much about quality as quantity. Of the five state records that have been set so far this year, three of them – a blackmouth buffalo and two quillback carpsuckers – were taken bowfishing. In the last two years, six state standards have been set by bowfishermen.

The DNR doesn’t have any data on how many anglers participate, but there’s reason to believe the number is growing because of increasing submissions of fish taken by bowfishermen in the Master Angler program. Either that or those doing it are just getting better at the game.

“I’m usually pretty successful,” said Beasley, who says he’s had 100-shot days. “But it’s like anything else…you don’t always get them.”

To learn more about fishing in Michigan, visit

Memories of a Special Camping Trip

The end of August always reminds me of a special camping trip I took the summer I graduated from High School. My best friend Harold and I decided to do some “wilderness” camping to celebrate the end of high school and the beginning of college.

Harold was the only other boy my age in Dearing where we grew up. He lived less than a half mile from me and we did everything together, from hunting and fishing to building tree houses and forts.

We started Kindergarten together and graduated from the University of Georgia together. Way back then Kindergarten was not offered in public school. Ms. Lively had a private kindergarten in Thomson, eight miles from Dearing.

Each morning Harold and I would get on Mr. John Harry’s school bus and he would take us to Ms. Lively’s kindergarten at her house, which was near where his bus route started. One of our mothers would pick us up at noon each day.

The summer we graduated from high school, a couple of weeks before we were to go to UGA, I stopped working at National Homes, my summer job for three years, a week early. We gathered our supplies, loaded our 12 foot Jon boat in the truck and drove to Raysville Boat Club.

My family had an outdrive ski boat at a dock there and we used it as our tow boat. After loading the big boat with sleeping bags, fishing tackle, canned food guns and everything we would need for four days we tied the Jon boat to the ski boat and headed up Little River.

After about an hour going slowly we came to a small creek with a high rock bluff on each side. Inside the mouth of the creek was a good place to tie up the boats and be protected. We went a little ways into the woods, build a fire circle from rocks and cut down saplings to make a table between two oak trees.

To make the table we lashed two sapling trunks between the two big oaks, one on each side. We then cut shorter pieces to lay across them for the table top. We also cleared brush from the area so we would have a nice opening for our camp.

We had not brought a tent, just sleeping bags, so I raked up leaves for a mattress and rolled out my bag. It had a canvas canopy at the head end that you could use to keep rain out of your face, so I rigged it up with some forked sticks and long straight ones between them to hold it in position.

For the next three days and nights we were all on our own. I will never forget how peaceful and quiet it was around our fire at night and in the little creek during the day. At night the stars were amazingly bright. When it got hot in the afternoons we went skinny dipping – we knew no one else was around.

We put out trotlines and fished every day but I don’t remember catching much. For breakfast we cooked bacon, eggs and toast on the open fire. For lunch we had potted meat, Vienna sausages, sardines and crackers. At night we ate out of cans, too.

For one night I had brought a big can of pork and beans and heated them in the can on the fire. That was a feast with some saltines!

We didn’t worry at all about anybody or anything bothering us. Back then out in the country you really didn’t have to worry much about crime and we knew there were no critters, other than snakes, that might be a problem. And we had our .22 rifles with us just in case.

We were lucky, the weather was nice the whole time. No summer thunderstorms hit and soaked our sleeping bags. Although the canopy may have kept rain out of my face, I knew my bag was not water proof and if it rained it would be soggy within seconds.

Back then we thought we had really gone a long way from civilization to camp. But now, in my bass boat, I can be at that small creek from the boat club in about five minutes. Everything is relative!

But that trip will always be one of my best memories. I wish all kids now had the chance to do things like I did growing up. We were on our own, totally self-reliant and had to make do with what we had. It was a great experience.

Are There Snakes On My Property?

Yep, You’ve Probably Got Snakes Around

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s feature from David Rainer of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources points out the fact that healthy land means you have all sorts of wildlife on it- including….snakes.
from The Fishing Wire

Like humans this time of year, just about all God’s critters are looking for some shade, even those that give a good many people the shivers.

Despite being cold-blooded animals, snakes don’t like to get too hot in the summertime, and you may find a variety of reptiles seeking shelter from the hot summer sun.

A buddy of mine was concerned about finding a snake, which may or may not have been a cottonmouth, near his house recently.

Roger Clay, Non-Game Biologist with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF), said if landowners and homeowners aren’t seeing a snake every once in a while, then something isn’t right.

“A lot of people always try to attribute seeing snakes this time of year to some kind of weather phenomenon,” Clay said. “It’s so hot. It’s so wet. It’s so dry. Some people say they haven’t seen a snake in X number of years, but there’s got to be snakes around. By some coincidence they see a couple in a short amount of time. Because they hadn’t seen any in a long time, they think they are suddenly overrun with snakes. But they’re really not.

“If you have a healthy environment, you’re going to have snakes. That’s the way it is. If you have a field next to you and they’re doing construction work or something, they may run a few snakes onto your property. That might be the phenomenon that accounts for you seeing a couple of snakes.”

Clay said if you live near water, then you’ll likely encounter a few snakes and other critters that live in and around the water or are just coming by to get a drink.

“Some people still don’t realize that any snake that lives around water is not a cottonmouth,” he said. “There are many more snakes that live in and amongst the water other than a cottonmouth.”

Clay said it’s sometimes hard to convince folks there are more than two kinds of snakes, what they call “water moccasins” and “ground rattlers.”

“For some people, every snake they see is a venomous snake, but in Alabama there are only six venomous snakes,” he said.

The venomous species include the pit vipers: cottonmouth, copperhead and the three rattlesnakes – eastern diamondback, timber and pygmy. The sixth venomous snake is the extremely rare coral snake.

“The coral snake is so rare you’re not going to find it in the front yard,” Clay said. “Coral snakes are usually limited to the southern half of the state, although we have records of them in the central part of state. A coral snake is so boldly colored people are not going to mistake it for one of the other snakes.”

There is an old saying about the coral snake that will give people an idea of what they’re looking for in identifying a coral snake.

It goes, “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. Red touch black, friend to Jack.”

Clay said there are a couple of snakes that mimic the coral snake’s banding, but a coral snake has the only banding where yellow touches red.

“If somebody does see a coral snake, please let us know because they are so rare,” he said.

In terms of identifying the pit vipers, Clay said the dead giveaway is the elliptical pupil in the eye, although he realizes most people don’t want to get anywhere close enough to see an elliptical pupil.

“Some people say you can identify them with their triangular-shaped head,” he said. “That might be kinda true, but you can’t use that for positive identification. There are several non-venomous snakes that can change the shape of their heads to look triangular. It’s not doing them any good, but they want you to leave them alone.”

Clay said the appearance of a cottonmouth can vary depending on its age.

The juvenile cottonmouth (top) has distinct markings and a noticeable lightly tipped tail as it swims through the water. An adult of the species displays its “cottonmouth” (center) as a warning signal. The round pupil in the eye of a rat snake (bottom) indicates it is not a pit viper, which has an elliptical pupil similar to a cat’s eye.

Juvenile Cottonmouth

Juvenile Cottonmouth

Adult Cottonmouth

Adult Cottonmouth

Non-poisionous Snake

Non-poisionous Snake

“When a cottonmouth is young, it has a pretty distinct pattern,” he said. “As it gets older, the pattern gets obscured. Secondly, when cottonmouths and copperheads are young, they’ll have a brightly colored tip on their tail. If you come across anything with a brightly colored tip on its tail, leave it alone.”

Obviously, most rattlers are identified by a diamond-shaped pattern and other markings as well as the rattlers. But other snakes also have distinctive patterns.

“If somebody sees a rat snake, they might think it has a pattern similar to a rattlesnake,” Clay said. “Rat snakes are definitely beneficial. It might be the best mouse and rat catcher out there.

“The question is whether you would rather have a rat snake out in your yard or a rat in your house?”

Clay said all snakes are beneficial in their own ways, especially the kingsnake, which regularly dines on several of the venomous species.

In fact, there was a video on Facebook of an eastern kingsnake consuming a rattlesnake. The video starts with the rattlesnake hopelessly snared in the kingsnake’s coils. The kingsnake then slowly swallows the rattlesnake head first. About 10 minutes later, the rattlers disappear down the kingsnake’s mouth.

“Kingsnakes are famous for eating other snakes, including venomous snakes,” Clay said. “Obviously, you don’t want to kill a beneficial kingsnake. The thing about a kingsnake is that its head is not going to look like a pit viper.”

Clay said sometimes people will mistake other reptiles for a rattlesnake because they hear some kind of rattling noise.

“A lot of snakes will vibrate their tails when they feel threatened,” he said. “If they’re in dry leaves, it may sound like a rattle. That’s just a defense mechanism.

“The good thing about snakes is they eat only small animals and other critters. They don’t eat fruits or vegetables. The small snakes are going to eat insects or small invertebrates. The larger snakes like the black racer, garter snake and rat snake will eat what they can catch, which is mice, rats and other snakes.”

Most snakes will seek an escape from the summer heat and will typically find shelter underground.

“Snakes don’t like it too cold or too hot,” Clay said. “You’re going to find them in shady areas in the summertime. If they get caught out in the sun for too long, they’ll get too hot and die. So they’ll be seeking shelter during the hot times of the day.”

If a snake is encountered, Clay recommends that you give the reptile a wide berth and leave it alone.

“A lot of people want to know if there is anything they can buy that will keep the snakes away,” Clay said. “The short answer is no. Snakes generally like hiding places, so keep your yard mowed low and keep it nice and tidy to eliminate hiding places. If you’ve got a pond nearby, keep the edges trimmed of tall grass.”

—David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

How Can Pro Bass Fishermen Catch More Bass Than Me?

Bass fishermen are also getting the chance to start earlier.
You may have seen the article in the Griffin Daily News last Friday about Cody Stahl and Tate Van Egmond, CrossPointe Christian Academy students that live here. They have a high school fishing team and the two of them placed 10th in the Bass National High School Fishing Championship on Kentucky Lake in July. Cody plans on being a professional fisherman and is starting out right.

Both the FLW and BASS now have high school and college organizations. Some colleges offer bass fishing scholarships now. I have been doing articles with some of those high school and college fishermen the past few years. This year BASS named a National High School All American Bass team. Two of them are from Alabama and one from South Carolina and I have done articles with all three. They all are very good fishermen, especially for their age. The current issue of GON has the article with Lori Ann Foshee – the only female member of the team, and on the cover is a picture I took of her holding up two five-pound bass she caught t Seminole on our trip.

Dawson Lenz grew up in Peachtree City and was a good high school fisherman. He chose to go to North Alabama College since it had a fishing team, was right on a great Tennessee River chain of lakes, and they gave him a full scholarship. His team won the College National Bass Championship twice. He graduated this year and is starting to fish the pro trails and I expect him to do well.

I have gotten to spend some time in a boat with some of the top pro fishermen in both trails doing articles. To give you an idea of the kind of money they can make:

Kevin Van Dam – $5,690,476.33 – 370,950 6 million
Casey Ashley – $1,173,262.00 – 230,999 2 million
Rick Clunn – $2,247,191.53 – 882,477 4.5 million
Boyd Duckett – $1,542,753.47 – 27,087 2 million
Micah Frazier – $34,194.00 – 225,728 300,000
Kelly Jaye – $89,051.60 – 80,187 150,000
Steven Kennedy – $1,262,763.00 – 786,277 2 million
Randall Tharp – $335,220.00 – 141,323,144 2 million
Greg Vinson – $512,957.06 – 123,930 650,000

I often wonder, and many fishermen ask me, what is the difference between a club fisherman like me and the top pros, and I have asked them that question. How can pro bass fishermen catch more bass than me? Part of it is time on the water, learning how to find and catch bass under varying conditions. Part of it is the mechanics. I can get a bait under a dock a couple of feet most of the time. Those guys can skip a bait from the front of the dock all the way to the back with little splashing almost every cast. And, unlike me, they hardly ever hit the dock!

I think there is something else, a sixth sense they have about catching bass. I compare it to baseball and playing the piano. Anybody can learn to play both, and practice constantly to become very good. But few will ever play in the major leagues or play a concert at Carnegie Hall. The people that make it to the very top of any profession have something special that gives them an edge.

At times I have a flash of that insight or sixth sense. Before a tournament I will just know in my mind if I go to a certain place and do specific things I will catch fish, and sometimes it works out. It doesn’t happen much to me. But those pros admit they often have that insight. It is so common that one pro is known for saying “if you think it, do it.’ He and the others are listening to that insight.

One of the first top pros I fished with was Boyd Duckett. He had won the Classic the year before we went and was at the top of his game. Even those pros, like all others, have ups and downs. I went with Boyd on his home lake, Demopolis in Alabama, and we were out from daylight to dark. He worked as hard as anyone I have ever been out with showing me his techniques and trying to help me catch fish. At the end of the day he had landed 33 bass – and I had landed 4! We were using the same baits, fishing the same places, but he still beat me eight to one!

A similar experience happened to me on Eufaula. We had a club tournament the same weekend a BASSmasters tournament was going on. That morning I caught a 3.5 pound bass the first place I stopped. As I went to the next place I wanted to fish I saw a bunch of boats – I counted 17 when they stopped – running up the lake behind another boat.
All those boats were following Denny Brauer – one of the top pros at that time. During the day I saw him six times – he was going into places as I was leaving, fishing the same cover and structure I had just fished. I found out later he was fishing a jig and pig on the edge of the grass in them, exactly what I was doing.

At the end of the day he had five bass weighing over 20 pounds. I had my one 3.5 pounder – I never caught another fish that day!

That happens often.

What Are Some Levels Of Bass Tournament Fishing?

After a few years of writing mostly about bass fishing for them I came up with an idea. I tried to think of something that the average bass fisherman like me would like to read, and I knew we wanted specific information that would help us catch bass. We always want something, whether it is a new plug or special worm that will help us.

I came up with the idea to get a local expert to show me ten places on a lake where you could catch bass the month the article would run, talk about how to fish each place and what baits to use. I have done that article every month except one in GON for 19 years now.

The one I missed I was supposed to go to Russell on Friday, write the article on Saturday and leave on a two week trip with my wife on Sunday. Thursday night the guy called and said he couldn’t do the article and I had no time to find someone else and set it up.

About nine years ago GON started Alabama Outdoor News, the same magazine just in Alabama. And I started doing the Map of the Month article there, too, and have not missed and issue since that magazine started.

I have gotten to meet some of the best bass fishermen in the US and spend time in a boat with them. I don’t know how much you guys know about bass tournament fishing.

At the lowest level are club tournaments like I fish. There are over 100 bass clubs just in Georgia and three of them are here in Spalding County. Many fishermen start at the club level and work up. Clubs usually have monthly tournaments with an entry fee of around $25 and you might win $100 for first place. It is not about the money at the club level, it is more fun and camaraderie – and bragging rights.

Next are local trails and state level tournaments. These usually cost $100 to $200 to enter and first place will often win around $5000. They are much more competitive and are in a pro-am format, with the pro paying more and fishing from the front of the boat all day. The amateur pays about half as much as the pro and has to fish from the back of the boat all day and can win about half as much as the pro. It is a great way to learn about fishing, tho.

The next level are the regional tournaments put on by two big national organizations, The FLW and BASS. In those the entry fee is around $1000 and first place pays about $50,000 so you are getting in a much more professional group. And those doing well on these trails start getting sponsors to help pay expenses and give them equipment, including boats.

At the top level the two organizations have a trail fishermen have to qualify for through their lower trails and entry fee is about $5000 per tournament, but first place pays $100,000. And if you are at this level you have to have sponsors that give you cash as well as equipment, and pay your entry fees.

Each group has a final tournament each year for the best of the best. There is no entry fee but it by invitation only and limited to around 50 fishermen. The Bassmasters Classic pays about $400,000 for first and the FLW Championship pays the same or more. And if you win either, you will get somewhere around one million dollars in sponsorships the next year.
Two years ago I went to the Classic in Birmingham as a press observer. A few weeks after I got home my editor at GON called and said I was famous – I was quoted in Sports Illustrated. It is common to say the Classic is the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing. One day on the way to an event I said we should say the Superbowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football. A Sports Illustrated writer overheard me and quoted me, even getting my name and web site right!

So fishing is big business!

What Is the Trouble With Ethanol for Boaters?

Trouble with Ethanol for boaters
Will New Regulations Mean More Costly Problems for Boaters?
from The Fishing Wire

Ethanol fuel attracts water,

Ethanol fuel attracts water,

Ethanol fuel attracts water, and this sometimes separates from the combustible portion of the fuel, creating a mix that will cause serious problems in internal combustion engines.

Unless you haven’t put fuel in your car in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with the term E10. It refers to the 10 percent ethanol that is blended into the gasoline you buy at the pump. If you’ve owned an outboard-powered boat during that same time period, you are far more familiar with E10 than your over-the-road counterparts.

The introduction of ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply was the result of an EPA regulation called the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it caused a lot of costly headaches for boaters at the 10 percent level. Now, the EPA is doubling down under intense pressure from the agri-industry’s ethanol lobby in Washington, increasing the mandated amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, a move dreaded by boaters and marine engine manufacturers alike.

Ethanol is derived from plant sources, mostly corn, and the government mandate has been a major boon to farmers and refiners. Basically, it is a fermented and refined grain alcohol that is denatured and then blended with gasoline. It initially found its way into the nation’s fuel supply as a replacement for a chemical additive called MTBE, which was used to increase octane and reduce emissions. After years of use, the EPA determined that MTBE was harmful to the environment, and the hunt for a replacement began. Domestically manufactured ethanol replaced MTBE, and was also promoted as a way to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil. However, the use of ethanol in fuel came with a host of problems for marine engines and fuel systems.

Never use E15 in a boat engine

Never use E15 in a boat engine

At the fuel pump, it’s critical never to use E15 in a boat engine, and manufacturers say even E10 can be harmful if precautions are not taken.

Not long after the introduction of E10 gasoline, boats using it began experiencing problems. Almost immediately mysterious substances began clogging fuel filters that were later identified as a byproduct of mixing fuel still in the tank containing MTBE with ethanol-blended gasoline, but that was only a harbinger of things to come. Fuel lines approved for gasoline engines on boats reacted badly with the ethanol additive and started breaking down causing clogged filters; and in cases where the problem was not identified quickly, possible fuel leaks were the result. Any sludge deposits in older fuel tanks began dissolving and were pumped into the fuel system, damaging components and making a mess of filters. And boats with fiberglass fuel tanks were subject to the added nightmare of ethanol actually eating away the resin, which required replacement of the tank and in many cases, serious damage to expensive engine components like valves, carburetors and injectors.

Why were all these problems manifesting as a result of a simple switch from MTBE to a 10 percent blend of ethanol? As mentioned, ethanol is a form of alcohol and alcohol is a highly efficient solvent. So when it is introduced into older metal fuel tanks, it gradually begins to break down accumulated sediments and washes them into the fuel system. Those same properties can cause resins and fillers used to make fiberglass fuel tanks to leach out into the fuel system where they adhere to internal engine parts. Ethanol-blended fuel can also be responsible for the decomposition of rubber gaskets and fuel lines that heretofore had been approved for use in gasoline fuel systems.

Boat and engine manufacturers took on the challenge of upgrading their products to avoid these problems going forward, and have done an admirable job. Yamaha Marine was an early leader in identifying these problems and correcting them in their popular lineup of outboard engines. They upgraded fuel systems with hoses and gaskets that are resistant to ethanol’s solvent properties. The company also developed injection systems and revised ignition modules so that Yamaha outboards can run efficiently with E10, which has a lower combustion temperature and therefore a slightly lower power output than gasoline without ethanol. Even though most of the problems with E10-blended fuels have been accounted for by outboard manufacturers, there are still some issues that are inherent to the product that continue to plague boaters.

Internal corrosion

Internal corrosion

Internal corrosion is among the issues that can result from use of high-ethanol fuels in boat motors.

Ethanol is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the air. While this is rarely a problem in automobiles that live on dry land and have sealed fuel systems, marine applications are another story altogether. Boats live in a moisture- and humidity-rich environment, and boat fuel systems are vented to the atmosphere. Without venting, an outboard’s fuel pump would not be able to draw fuel from the tank. Venting allows outside air to enter the tank along with moisture and humidity where it contacts the ethanol in the gas.

“Water can and will collect in your fuel, and when the concentration of water molecules reaches just one half of one percent, those molecules will bond with the ethanol in the gasoline and sink to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pick up is located,” said David Meeler, Product Information Manager, Yamaha Marine Group. “This is called ‘phase separation’ and depending on the amount of water ingested into your outboard, it can result in everything from rough running to catastrophic engine damage.”

In the new brochure titled “Maintenance Matters
– A Simple Guide for the Longevity of Your Outboard,” Yamaha offers the following recommendations for avoiding the potentially damaging effects of burning ethanol fuel in your outboard engine.

10-micron fuel water filter

10-micron fuel water filter

A 10-micron fuel water filter like these from Yamaha can be the boater’s best defense against poor quality fuels.

1. Be sure to use a 10-micron fuel/water separating filter­—with proper flow rating for the engine—is installed in the fuel line between the tank and the outboard. This will filter out any debris that ethanol might loosen in the tank, and it will separate out and collect any water from the fuel. (Yamaha offers high-quality canister filters with large water collecting reservoirs for their outboards.) Filters should be replaced every 100 hours of operation or checked/replaced more frequently if the presence of significant water is found.

2. Add a high-quality, marine specific fuel stabilizer and conditioner to every tank of fuel. Yamalube® Fuel Stabilizer and Conditioner is a non-alcohol-based formula that helps counter some of the problems associated with ethanol blended fuels. They caution boaters about claims from some additive manufacturers stating unequivocally that, “no additive will restore stale fuel, remove water or cure ethanol-related issues.”

3. Add Yamalube® Ring Free Plus internal engine cleaner to every tank of fuel. It will do the job of keeping your fuel system clean and corrosion free.

4. Buy your gas where they sell a lot of it! Today’s ethanol-blended gasolines have a notoriously short shelf life and actually begin to degrade in a matter of days after refining and blending. Purchasing gas at a high volume retailer helps insure you are buying the freshest gas. Then be sure to add stabilizer and engine cleaner at the time of purchase. This will go a long way in helping protect your investment in your outboard engine from ethanol problems.

If you are like many boat owners who only use their boats on weekends or even less frequently during the boating season, it’s advisable to keep your fuel tank level at 7/8 full with properly stabilized, fresh fuel. Keeping your tank at that level helps prevent condensation build up in the tank while the boat is not in use. Condensation occurs when any moisture in the air in the tank condenses with changing temperatures. It is another source of water entering the fuel and bonding with the ethanol.

With all of the problems associated with the use of E10 gasoline in marine engines, you would think the federal government might do something to mitigate the effects by reducing ethanol requirements. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The EPA, under the guise of the Renewable Fuel Standard, is mandating a 50 percent increase in the use of E15 gasoline, which will further exacerbate the problems associated with ethanol in marine engines. In an interview with Martin Peters, Manager, Government Relations for Yamaha Marine in Kennesaw, Ga., he laid out the case from the marine industry against the ethanol increase, along with a dire warning for owners of existing outboard engines.

“The marine industry has determined through research and testing that E15 harms outboards by doing internal damage to moving parts such as valves and pistons – devastating, irreparable damage,” said Peters. “While Yamaha could engineer outboards that will run on E15, doing so would increase cost to the consumer without increasing consumer benefits.

“More importantly, if E15 becomes the predominately available fuel in the U.S., that would leave ‘legacy’ outboards at risk of damage,” he continued. “There are more than 10 million outboards currently in service that would be destroyed by the damaging effects of E15. As an industry, we cannot allow this to happen to consumers.

“We strongly urge consumers and members of the marine industry to make their voices heard and stop the EPA from going forward with a plan to increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply. They can do so by contacting the EPA—or their Congressman/Senator—directly over concerns that higher ethanol blends will have on their products or by accessing a number of marine advocacy websites such as the National Marine Manufacturers Association® (”

For more information about caring for your outboard engine, check out Yamaha’s Maintenance Matters website at:

Have You Planned Out Your Life Or Did You Just Bounce?

Does your life ever feel like the ball in a pin ball machine, bouncing from one bumper to the next in seemingly random patterns? My life does. There is an old Yiddish saying I like “Man plans, God laughs.” I also like the saying from a Robert Burns poem – “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray.”

Both those seem to sum up my life. Maybe some of you planned your life out and it is going like you want it to. I have never had that happen to me.

My life has a lot of bounces like a pinball, but looking back I have been really lucky in my bounces.

One of the first really big bounces was in college when I was a sophomore. One day in class I told the guy sitting to my right I Had gone to a fraternity rush party the night before. The guy sitting in front of him turned and invited me to a keg party at Delta Chi fraternity that night, and I went. After most of the keg was gone I somehow pledged!

One of my pledge brothers got me a blind date a few months later. We didn’t really hit it off but did go on another date. That is how I met Linda – next Thursday is our 44 anniversary – August 20, 2015. Getting invited to that party was a really important bounce I never saw coming!

No matter what I planned for my life I seemed to end up somewhere else, but I have no complaints. That is how I ended up in Griffin. Although I hate to fly now, I wanted to be an Air Force Pilot. The year I graduated from UGA I passed a flight physical in January at Warner Robbins AFB and went to officer training school as a pilot trainee when I graduated in June. After a week there they gave me an eye test like the one you take for a driver’s license – and I failed! I have 27 days active service, they gave me a medical discharge real fast.

So much for those plans. When I started college my dad told me to get a degree in education to fall back on if my air force plans failed, and I did. So I had something to fall back on.

Daddy was principle of Dearing Elementary School in McDuffie County for 22 years. I knew he could get me a job in that county, but I was hard headed and didn’t want to get a job just because of him. He did check around for me. One of his teachers was Mildred Moore and her daughter, Carol Ann Marshall, taught in Griffin. He told me there were some job openings here so Linda and I applied. She also was qualified to teach.

We got jobs here in 1972 and got an apartment at Grandview. I found out later I was hired as a teacher at Atkinson Elementary mainly because they wanted another man there. I guess that was sex discrimination, or some kind of quota, but I took it not thinking about that at the time.

To get to Atkinson from Grandview I drove up College, turned right on 6th Street and went over the old bridge. The first day I made that trip I noticed Berrys Sporting Goods and stopped on the way home that afternoon since I always loved fishing and everything associated with it, and met Jim Berry.

That was one of my lucky bounces. Now some of you that know Jim may not consider that lucky, but it changed my life in two important ways.

Jim got me in the Spalding County Sportsman Club in 1974 and I fished my first tournament with him that April at Clarks Hill and fell in love with tournament fishing. I joined the Flint River Bass Club in 1978 and have not missed many tournaments in either club since joining them.

I had told Jim I always wanted to write. Part of that desire was from my insatiable reading growing up. And a big part of it was my 11th grade English Teacher Ms. Lewis. I was not a good student, just did enough to get by, I wanted to be out fishing or hunting, not in school, but Ms. Lewis bragged on the themes I wrote in her class. That was one of the few successes I had in school and it fueled my writing desire. Teachers can really have a long lasting influence on a student.

In 1987 Jim and the editor of the Griffin Daily News were playing poker, and there might have been adult beverages involved, but they came up with a scheme to run an outdoor column each week. Jim sponsored it and got me to write it, paying me the grand sum of $8 a week, in fishing stuff from his store. My first column was on crappie fishing in March, 1987 and was my start of writing.

Another lucky bounce that later paid off was in 1983. I made the state team through the club state Top Six that year and went to Kentucky Lake for the Southern Regional tournament. Two team Members, Les Ager and Carl Logan, wrote for Georgia Sportsman magazine and I had read their articles. One night on the way to dinner in a van I told them I always wanted to write articles like they did.

In 1988, five years later, I got a call from the publisher of a brand new magazine offering to let me write an article for them. I was happily surprised and started writing for them regularly. I didn’t know at the time that Carl and Les were two of the founders of GON and they remembered I wanted to write, and suggested to the publisher, Steve Burch, that he contact me.