Monthly Archives: October 2016

Lots of Spots at Lake Martin

I love October for many reasons but one of the most important is the annual trip to Lake Martin. All three bass clubs in Griffin get together for a two day tournament the second weekend in October. The weather is usually great, fishing even better and we all have a lot of fun.

This year was a little different. The second weekend in October came a little early since the first was on a Saturday, and a hurricane off the coast brought strong winds to Lake Martin. But the fishing was even better than normal for numbers of fish if not for size.

Some folks went over early. Raymond English spent the whole week at the lake and said he caught over 100 bass and over half of them hitting topwater baits, one of the most exciting ways to catch fish. Niles Murray got there Wednesday and caught a lot of fish each day. I also arrived on Wednesday but didn’t get on the water until Thursday. That day gave me an idea of how good it was since I landed about 14 keepers and the quality of fish was good, with many of the spots in the 2 to 3 pound range.

Friday I went out with Chad Miller to get information for the November Alabama Outdoor News article. Chad guides there and wins a lot of tournaments, and he seems to know every rock in the lake. He fishes differently, too.

Many of us will pull up on a point and start casting, hoping for a bite. And if he fish are biting we will keep casting to that point, no matter what the size. Chad knows the lake so well he will pull up on a point and make five or six casts to a key spot, then move on. He is targeting that three or four pound bass on the point that he needs in a tournament. He may hit 50 places in one day.

It works for bigger fish. Chad and his son fished a tournament Saturday while we were fishing our tournament. They weighed in five keepers weighing just under 16 pounds. Their weight would have won our clubs’ two day tournament beating all of us that weighed in ten bass!

In the two days 30 fishermen weighed in 262 keeper bass weighing about 339 pounds, most of them spots. There were 24 five-bass limits Saturday and 26 on Sunday. Of the 30 fishermen, 22 weighed in limits both days.

In the tournament we pay back each day like it was a separate tournament. On Saturday, John Smith won with five at 9.96 pounds and his 4.49 pounder was big fish, Kwong Yu was second with five weighing 8.47 pounds, third was Robert Proctor with five at 8.43 pounds and Richard Dixon places fourth with five at 8.0 pounds.

The next day Jamie Beasley won with five weighing 9.03 pounds and had big fish with a 3.04 pounder, Zane Fleck was second with five at 9.02 pounds, I placed third with five weighing 8.69 pounds and Lee Hancock placed fourth with five weighing 8.28 pounds. As usual, nobody placed in the top four both days. I have no idea where the quality bass I had been catching went!

I could not wait to go out Saturday. Not only had Chad shown me some places to fish, I had gone out Thursday before daylight and found a dock with a light on. I could see bass under the water around the light and caught a spot that weighed almost three pounds. And there were at least 15 more that size or bigger following it!

Saturday morning there was not a single bass around that dock. That worked on my mind. Then I hooked a two pound largemouth in a tree top on a topwater bait and it jumped and threw the bait, then a keeper spot did the same thing. Starting out so bad messed my mind up.

I fished hard all day but landed only 9 keepers, my worst day, and had 5.83 pounds with my best five. Sunday morning I could see two bass under the light but neither of them would hit. But at 7:30 I went to a rocky point where I caught fish 40 years ago and had a limit in the livewell, all on topwater, by 8:00. That put me in the right mood so I started fishing places where I have caught fish in the past, and landed 19 keepers during the day and placed third.

The point I caught fish on first thing is one I fished back in the mid 1970s. It runs out shallow for about 20 feet and years ago there was a dock on the end of it with a walkway going out to it. Linda and I were fishing it one morning and the cabin owner walked out and talked to us. He was very nice, even pointing out where he had brush piles. We caught a lot of fish with him watching.

The next weekend in the Sportsman Club tournament Harold Cox and I started there at daylight. As we started casting the cabin owner came out on his porch up on the hill and started yelling at us, cussing us for everything he was worth. I ignored it but Harold yelled back so I cranked up and left. There is no place to hide in a boat if the guy in the cabin had lost it and got a gun.

I had not fished that place in almost 40 years because of that, but I noticed Sunday morning the dock and cabin have been torn down and a new house is being built. I am glad I stopped there Sunday morning.

September Sinclair Tournaments

In our September tournament, 14 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished eight hours at Lake Sinclair to land 43 keeper bass weighing about 60 pounds. There were three five-fish limits and no one zeroed.

I managed to win with five weighing 8.95 pounds and had big fish with a 4.58 pounds largemouth. Sam Smith was second with four weighing 6.19 pounds and Robert Proctor and George Roberts tied for third with five at 6.06.

I landed five keepers, including the big one, the first hour we fished. I also missed six or seven fish during that hour, all on a top water popper near grass beds and docks. After the sun got up I caught one more fish in seven hours!

I did have some excitement at about 11:00. I had cast a topwater plug to a seawall and as I worked it across the flat leading to deeper water something blew up on it, missing it by about two feet. I reeled in and threw a floating worm to where the fish had hit, and as it sank my line started moving toward deeper water. I set the hook and something big pulled for about four seconds before coming off.

I knew there was some brush there so I reeled in and cast a jig head worm to it. I felt the bait hit a limb then something took off, running about five feet before pulling off. Although exciting it was disappointing. All I can figure is there were gar around that brush and would hit, but I could not get my hook into their bony snout.


On Saturday the Sportsman Club held a youth tournament at Sinclair. There were five youth competing and three of them caught keepers. Blaze Brooks, fishing with JR Proctor and Zane Flake, won with 5.80 pounds and his 1.78 pounder was big fish. Austin Lynch fishing with Raymond English and two other youth was second with one 1.95 pounds and Treston Cheeves, also fishing with Raymond, was third with 1.59 pounds. The other two youth, Kamron Cheeves and Caleb Dague, fishing with Sam Smith, fished hard but did not land a keeper.

Alabama Adds to Vast Artificial Reef Zone

Alabama Adds to Vast Artificial Reef Zone
By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Another artificial reef was deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast this week in Alabama’s vast artificial reef zone. While a reef deployment may not seem like news, this was indeed special because it could change the way industrial and corporate entities view options for recycling materials.

(Billy Pope, aerial courtesy of Alabama Power) A 195-foot barge loaded with two 100-ton boilers from Alabama Power Company plants in Washington and Mobile counties became the latest artificial reef to be deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast last week about 25 miles south of the Sand Island Lighthouse.
The new reef deployment was the result of a multitude of partners. Alabama Power Company provided a pair of boilers that had been taken out of service from plants in Washington and Mobile counties. Cooper/T. Smith provided a barge and transportation of the reef material. Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) worked as liaisons to start the process and complete the deployment.

“One thing I’m so excited about with this Alabama Power reef project is that it just shows that the more we’re involved with the community, community leaders and business leaders, there are a lot of great things we can do as partners,” said Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship. “Tim Gothard with the Alabama Wildlife Federation and Matt Bowden with Alabama Power are the ones who reached out to us with this idea. Then it grew with the work with Angus Cooper and Cooper/T. Smith. They had a barge that had neared the end of its useful life, and we needed a barge to transport the material to the deployment site.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities out there to get companies to rethink the ways they’ve always dealt with materials that have reached the end of their service life. The more we get involved with these organizations and companies, the more we can show them there are other opportunities to partner together. It’s good for the companies and good for the marine habitat. That’s why we think it’s important to get the word out about this project, because it can show what we can do with other private companies. I also hope this is a long relationship with Alabama Power as they continue to provide service for their ratepayers and, at the same time, enhance the environment.”

The new reef is located about 25 miles south of the Sand Island Lighthouse in a depth of about 120 feet in the Tatum-Winn North General Permit Area. The boilers are about 18 feet tall and about 40 feet long and weigh about 100 tons each. The barge is 195 feet long.

“A reef this size would take at least a dozen of our super pyramids,” said MRD Artificial Reefs Coordinator Craig Newton. “So this reef is a big cost savings for our artificial reef program. Alabama Power is experiencing cost savings as well because they don’t have to hire skilled personnel to disassemble the boilers and salvage them.”

To prepare for the deployment, Newton said holes were cut in the sides of the boilers to expose an array of small tubes inside the boiler.

“That’s really going to increase the surface area for encrusting organisms to attach to the reef,” Newton said. “It increases the complexity of the reef by providing refuge for small fish, and it’s really going to be easy to find on your bottom machine.

“Within days, the reef will have red snapper on it. Within months, it should have mangrove (gray) snapper on it. Then we’ll start to see the blennies and damselfish and all the little critters that will help support that ecosystem. By the time the season opens again on January 1 (2017), you could see amberjack on the reef because of the vertical relief.”

Blankenship said Cooper/T. Smith’s donation of the barge is a significant enhancement to the reef.

“The barge is part of the reef,” Blankenship said. “The barge and two 100-ton boilers will make a reef that’s going to be there for decades.

“This is the kind of partnership we’re looking for in our reef program. A company like Alabama Power can realize some savings by partnering with us as they upgrade their equipment. That material doesn’t go to the landfill or get cut up for scrap. Instead, we use it for marine habitat. It’s really a win all around. We want to reach out to other companies that might have these same opportunities.”

Angus Cooper III of Cooper/T. Smith said during his time as AWF president, he was able to witness the work Alabama Power is doing to enhance wildlife conservation in the state.

“Alabama Power is truly one of the leaders in our state when it comes to water quality and wildlife conservation,” Cooper said. “We at Cooper/T. Smith are extremely excited to partner with them on this reef project, our first such collaboration. We look forward to seeing the success of this project, both to the ecosystem and in providing a source of outdoor entertainment for our community.”

Wes Anderson, a team leader with Alabama Power’s Environmental Stewardship Projects, said the boilers had reached the end of their useful service, and it was time to either scrap them or find another useful purpose for the material.

“We became aware of other possibilities through our work with Coastal Cleanup and Renew Our Rivers programs on the Alabama Coast,” Anderson said. “Some of our guys said, ‘We sank 60,000 Christmas trees in our freshwater impoundments. Why don’t we make some nice saltwater reefs with some of this salvage equipment?’ When we approached our bosses with the idea, they were very supportive and thought it was a great idea. We were able to show a cost savings for our ratepayers and a great addition to the marine environment.”

Alabama Power Vice President of Environmental Affairs Susan Comensky added, “Being involved in the construction and deployment of this reef is especially exciting for us at Alabama Power because it’s a first for us. In the past, we have simply disposed of old equipment like these boilers, so seeing them repurposed to create a habitat for marine life is very gratifying.”

AWF Executive Director Tim Gothard said the organization’s commitment to Alabama’s artificial reef program made it easy to help foster the partnerships that led to the deployment of the Alabama Power reef.

“We were just glad to be able to connect the dots between all the key players,” Gothard said. “It’s a great public-private partnership for Alabama Power Company to be alerted to a piece of equipment they were retiring and its possible use as an artificial reef. Then Marine Resources was able to evaluate the material to make sure it was suitable for an artificial reef. And, finally, Cooper/T. Smith was able to make transportation available and add a barge to enhance the whole project.

“To me, the exciting part is to see the public and private entities work together with the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to accomplish a project that will be great for the reef system. It will provide really great opportunities for our citizens and general public who like to fish our offshore reefs.”

The Alabama Power reef was deployed near the 70-foot Offshore Supply Boat Reef to provide additional habitat for species that anglers can target outside of the short red snapper season. MRD officials expect species like vermilion snapper and triggerfish will inhabit the reef as well as amberjack.

“The more diversified we can make the reef program, the more ecologically sound and more stable the reef system will be,” Newton said. “The size of this reef will make it better suited to handle storm events and other stresses that might happen.”

Boating Comedy Can Be Dangerous

The boating comedy show continues at area lakes. After a relatively sane weekend at Bartletts Ferry two weeks ago, this past weekend at Sinclair proved the inconsiderate and those too stupid to follow rules and laws have not put boats away yet.

The most dangerous thing I saw as at the Highway 441 Bridge. I had pulled under it around noon to get in the shade and was watching two young boys fish from kayaks. The older looked to be about 14 and the younger one maybe 10. They were having a great time fishing around the pilings in their tiny boats.

All bridges in Georgia have big “No Wake” signs and buoys on them. There are at least two reasons for that law. Going under a bridge your visibility is limited by pilings and riprap. Going slowly helps avoid an accident. No wake also helps protect other boats from being slammed into pilings and thrown around under the bridge.

As is usual many barges slowed down enough so their wake was only a foot or two high rather than the three or four foot wakes they usually throw off. The kids in the kayaks had a tough time when hit with even a one foot wake. If their boats had been damaged or if they had been swamped and drowned, the boat driver making the wake would be legally liable for it.

The worst I saw was an idiot in a pontoon boat. He came at the bridge wide open, having to go around the no wake buoy on the way, and duck down to keep from hitting the bridge with his head. There is no way he could see other boats under the bridge or coming to it since he could not even keep his head up. He went under the bridge at full throttle. I tried to get my phone out to video it and get his registration numbers to report but did not have time.

The dumbest thing I saw was at the boat ramp. I came in a little early and the only other club member at the dock was Kwong. He tied up and went for his trailer as I idled in. As I tied up I knew we were in trouble. The double ramp had a big SUV with a trailer backed in almost taking up the middle of the ramp. The big barge he wanted to load was tied to the dock and when he got out of the SUV he left his door open, further blocking the other side of the ramp.

Kwong finally got his trailer backed in around the open door and I pulled him to the top of the hill, went back to my boat and he tried to back my trailer in for me to load. But now not only was the inconsiderate idiot’s door open, the three people with him were standing in the middle of the one open ramp. They finally moved when Kwong almost hit them with the back of the trailer.

I got my boat loaded and Kwong pulled me to the top of the hill. I watched as another club members pulled their boat out. The guy with the barge was still trying to get his on the trailer right. Then he pulled up just enough to clear the water with the back of his boat, not only blocking that ramp but also blocking the area where you have to swing around to back you trailer in.

I think the whole club took our boats out on one ramp while that idiot blocked the other one. Maybe it will get too cold for such inconsiderate folks soon.