Monthly Archives: August 2018

Guide To Inshore Fishing

A Beginner’s Guide to Inshore Fishing
Proven Tips and Techniques from Mark Davis

Dr. Jason Halfen
The Technological Angler
From The Fishing Wire

Catch fish like this inshore

Set foot on a beach, a jetty, a pier or even a small boat, and if your senses are filled with the sights, sounds and smells of saltwater, then you’re likely within casting distance of terrific fishing. Whether your targets are redfish or speckled trout, snook or tarpon, stripers or sharks, opportunities for great angling abound inshore. Even when faced with such apparent bounty, many first-time inshore anglers encounter a significant speed bump on their way to success, posing the question, “how do I begin?”

Of course, we need to pick a location for our trip and a variety of fish to pursue, but we ultimately ignite a passion for inshore fishing by considering the primary tools of every angler: bait and tackle. Indeed, a stroll through the fishing-related aisles at a major retailer, or even a hometown “ma and pa” bait shop, can be an overwhelming experience. Which rods and reels are best suited for the fish I’m going to chase? How about line and leader? Hard baits, soft baits, or live bait?

Professional saltwater angler Capt. Mark Davis offers sage, time-tested advice: “for a beginner, keep it simple.”

“The top two goals for a novice inshore angler are to catch fish and have fun,” noted Davis, the host of BigWater Adventures, a long-running, successful television series currently airing on the Outdoor Channel and World Fishing Network. “Those early successes will breed excitement and a deeper passion for the sport. Not only will successful anglers want to return to the shore – as soon as possible – but they will also start to think more carefully about the resources we all share; indeed, catching fish and having fun are the first steps in creating future stewards.”

What is Davis’ equipment recipe for an inshore angler at the beginning of their briny career?

“Anglers should think about a set of three rods and reels. With these, they’ll be covered from trout to tarpon and everything in-between. One tip for keeping things simple is to have all three rods the same length –six-and-a-half feet is a good place to start – with each rod rated for a different line class. Think about the combos that you’ll build from those rods like you’d think about drink sizes at the coffee shop: you want a small, a medium, and a large, each for a different size of inshore fish you’ll encounter.”

Davis continues: “For your small rod – one that will see the lion’s share of duty for fish like speckled trout – look for a rod rated for six to ten-pound test line. Equip that rod with a 3500-series spinning reel and spool up with 20 lb. test Seaguar Smackdown. Finish off that rig with a leader of 10 or 15 lb. test Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon and it’s ready to go.”

A braided main line with a 100% fluorocarbon leader is a common theme that you’ll note in all of Davis’ recommendations. “Seaguar Smackdown gives me strength and sensitivity, and it lets me cast farther than I could with other lines. Seaguar 100% fluorocarbon leaders are big difference makers for me, no matter where I fish, and I’ve fished all over the globe. Fluorocarbon is nearly invisible to fish under water, is impervious to the sun’s damaging UV rays, and has remarkable abrasion resistance – so rubbing against rocks, dock pilings, mussels or anything else it might encounter underwater is far less likely to cause line failure. A two or three-foot section of Blue Label leader is a perfect length for inshore fishing. Connect the Blue Label leader to the Smackdown main line with a Double Uni knot, which is an easy knot for beginners to learn and tie.”

When discussing the all-important braid-to-leader connection, Davis cautions, “the Double Uni is fine if you don’t wind the knot into the rod guides. If you do so repeatedly, the Double Uni may start to fray on the braid side of the knot. If you decide to use a longer leader, one that will end up passing through the guides on every cast, then learn to tie the FG knot instead.”

Rods for medium- and super-sized fish will be rated for higher line classes and will be equipped with larger reels spooled with stronger line. “Your mid-range rod,” continues Davis, “the one that you’ll use on redfish trips, will be rated for 10 to 20-pound test line. That rod will get a 4500-series spinning reel, spooled up with 20 lb. test Seaguar Smackdown and a 20 lb. test Seaguar Blue Label leader.“

“The big boy, the one that you’ll turn to for bull reds, cobia, and maybe even tarpon, could be rated for anything from 15 to 40 lb. test line. That heavy rod is going to get a big reel – a 5500 series spinning reel – which will be spooled with 30 lb. test Smackdown and finished with a 30 or even 40 lb. test Blue Label leader.”

Now that our beginner inshore angler is equipped, we can turn our attention to the business end of the line: what should we choose for bait?

“Without a doubt,“ remarks Davis, “we’re going to start with some sort of live bait. Now, you can certainly purchase bait, but I strongly recommend that you learn to catch your own, either with a cast net or hook-and-line. You can learn so much about what your target fish are feeding on by catching your own bait. If you catch shrimp, then use shrimp; if you catch mullet or croaker, then use mullet or croaker. Let the most prevalent forage guide your bait selection, because that’s what the fish are used to chasing and eating.”

“Now, let’s put that live bait in a place where it can be killed and eaten,” adds Davis. “A simple bottom rig is a great way to stay in direct contact with the bait and feel the bite. Use 1 oz. of lead weight for every 10-20 feet of water depth, depending on current and wave action. I recommend strong and crazy sharp Gamakatsu circle hooks – 1/0 for your small combo, 3/0 for your medium, and 5/0 for your jumbo. Remember that with circle hooks you don’t want that big sweeping hookset like you’d use when bass fishing. Just come tight to the fish and set the hook by reeling fast as the rod loads up. Circle hooks basically set themselves when you do it right.”

When it’s time to graduate into the world of artificial lures for inshore fishing, Davis has high praise for soft plastics, particularly those from Z-Man Fishing Products. “Z-Man soft baits are like nothing else in the tackle shop. They are made from a unique material called ElaZtech which fish simply cannot break. Remember that we’re chasing fish with teeth, and those teeth will rip a “traditional” soft bait to shreds – but not Z-Man baits. I can use one Z-Man bait over and over again, switching only when I feel like changing color or profile, which is a big timesaver on the water and also keeps more money in my pocket.”

“Heading out for redfish? Hang a 4” Z-Man Scented PaddlerZ under a popping cork, and let the fun begin. Got a spot close to the beach that has some red snapper hanging around? Rig up a 10” HeroZ and go put them in the boat. And the Z-Man Trout Trick baits are absolutely deadly on speckled trout. Pick up a few bags try out and you’ll quickly learn that inshore fish eat artificial lures too!”

Inshore fishing offers virtually limitless possibilities. These time-tested tackle and presentation tips from Capt. Mark Davis will put you on the path to inshore fishing success!

About the author

Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage modern technology to find and catch more fish. Let your learning begin at

Modern Fish Act

Modern Fish Act Offers Hope
This article originally appeared in Sport Fishing magazine. To view it on the original page, click here.

By Mike Leonard
from The Fishing Wire

While federal fisheries law (the Magnuson-Stevens Act) has been successful in preventing overfishing, it has never been adapted to fit recreational fishing.

Federal marine fisheries management is not a topic that’s frequently in the public light. However, in the buildup to the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote on H.R. 200 — a bill to reauthorize the nation’s primary law governing offshore fisheries — the topic received way more media attention than usual, for better or worse.

Competing narratives arose: that the bill was either a reasonable set of changes to improve fishing opportunities, or would wipe the oceans clean of fish entirely. What’s the average angler — who cares about conservation but also wants reasonable fishing access — to believe?

Leading up to the vote, many environmental groups expended a tremendous amount of effort and resources in drumming up opposition to H.R. 200. Some even dubbed it the “Empty Oceans Act.” Meanwhile, most commercial and recreational fishing organizations acknowledged that the bill wasn’t perfect (no legislation is, certainly not something so complicated and with competing interests such as this), but supported it on the whole because it included provisions of importance to each constituency.

For example, the nation’s leading recreational fishing organizations supported H.R. 200 because it included provisions of a separate recreational fishing-specific bill, the bipartisan Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act (Modern Fish Act).

Why Mess with Success?

Opponents of H.R. 200 noted that overfishing is at an all-time low, and questioned why Congress would want to muck around with a law that’s working. No one can argue that the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that H.R. 200 would reauthorize, hasn’t been effective at ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted fish stocks. Indeed, earlier this year, NOAA Fisheries released a report showing that the number of overfished stocks in the U.S. has reached an all-time low.

The problem for the recreational fishing community is that, in many cases, increased fish abundance of federal fisheries hasn’t necessarily led to increased fishing opportunities. While I believe that anglers support conservation because of an inherent appreciation for aquatic resources, we also have historically benefitted from our conservation ethic because more fish generally equals more and better fishing.

Somehow, that simple formula has fallen apart in federal marine fisheries management. That’s largely because the Magnuson-Stevens Act was designed to manage commercial fishing, not recreational fishing. Unlike the most prominent commercial fisheries in places like Alaska and New England, in most recreational fisheries, federal fisheries managers lack the data needed to meet the prescriptive management targets required by law.

Lack of Data to Achieve Goals

The core of the Magnuson-Stevens Act is the requirement of annual catch limits and accountability measures in federal fisheries to end and prevent overfishing. If catch of a stock is approaching or exceeding its annual catch limit, fishery managers use accountability measures to ensure the limit is not exceeded or correct for any overage.

That’s all well and good when sufficient data exists to both calculate the annual catch limit based on current stock abundance, and to estimate how many fish are being caught relative to the catch limit.

Of the over 500 federally managed fisheries, on average, only 185 are assessed each year to develop scientific information needed to determine the current status of the stock. In the southeastern U.S., this discrepancy is even greater. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is in charge of 75 different stocks, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is tasked with 44. However, only about seven stock assessments are conducted annually between the two regions combined.

Despite lacking accurate and up-to-date information on the health of these fisheries, federal fisheries managers must still somehow arrive at annual catch limits for each of them.
The system for estimating how many fish anglers are catching in order to adhere to catch limits also has significant limitations. To date, saltwater recreational fishing harvest estimates have been based on a survey of coastal household landlines. That means someone like me, who doesn’t live in a coastal county or have a landline but goes saltwater fishing (albeit not as often as I’d like), was never going to be surveyed.

Obviously, this survey has some serious limitations. This system is now transitioning toward sending surveys by snail mail, which is a modest improvement but not exactly a major technological advance in the age of smartphones. Unfortunately, significant limitations in the timeliness and accuracy of angler harvest estimates will persist.

Because of the scientific and management uncertainty inherent in trying to calculate and manage toward a hard, poundage-based catch limit based on limited biological and harvest data, and because the Magnuson-Stevens Act is very explicit about preventing overfishing, precaution is built into catch limits. The worse the data, the more precaution that’s built in. Not only does this mean lost fishing opportunities when actual stock abundance is greater than what was used to estimate the outdated catch limit, it also means managers may in some cases not be accounting for declines in abundance that could warrant tighter regulations.

Given the economic, social and conservation importance of recreational fishing to the nation, as well as the importance of maintaining healthy fish populations, prescriptively managing this activity on guesswork is not a recipe for success.

How Do We Fix It?

The Modern Fish Act, which was included in H.R. 200, includes a variety of management and data collection improvements aimed at narrowing the gap between what the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires and how well fisheries data can meet those requirements. The bill will allow for alternative management approaches to the way annual catch limits have been implemented that are better suited to the nature of recreational fishing and available data, while still preventing overfishing.

These approaches are already being explored in fisheries like summer flounder in the Mid-Atlantic and red snapper in the South Atlantic, and the bill will clarify that they are allowed under federal law.

The Modern Fish Act also aims to improve fisheries data to better meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by facilitating the development and use of new, innovative angler harvest surveys that can supplement and improve existing surveys.

The goal of the Modern Fish Act is to address the significant gap that currently exists between the rigidity of management targets and the lack of quality data to meet them, by working the issue from both ends. It will provide fisheries managers with the tools needed to manage recreational fishing in a way that better aligns with what anglers are experiencing on the water, while also bringing angler harvest data into the 21st century.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act in a way that helps to address the problems with recreational fisheries management without creating new problems elsewhere, particularly rolling back on conservation gains, is a tough balance to strike. These issues are not simple or easy. It’s unfair and inaccurate to characterize attempts to address the very legitimate problems with how the Magnuson-Stevens Act manages recreational fishing as “anti-conservation.”

The provisions of the Modern Fish Act are thoughtful, sensible and grounded in conservation. Unfortunately, in these hyper-political times, even these modest legislative improvements are being swept up into the partisanship and tribalism that is pervasive in our political discourse.

Like much of what comes before the U.S. House of Representatives these days, H.R. 200 passed on mostly partisan lines. In the coming months, the Senate will likely take a run at its own Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill. The recreational fishing community will be exploring opportunities through Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, or whatever other options are available, to move the provisions contained in the Modern Fish Act.

In the meantime, hopefully the spotlight that has been shone on the Magnuson-Stevens Act leads to a collective realization that while the Act looks pretty good overall, it’s far from perfect. It has some wrinkles we still need to iron out.

*Mike Leonard is the conservation director for the American Sportfishing Association, where he advocates for policies that benefit fisheries management, conservation, and angler access.

Fish Tagging Program

Fish Tagging Program Yields Interesting Results
E. Weeks
South Carolina Coastal Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Big South Carolina Drum

Friends Andy Ball and Brent Milgrom pose with two large red drum captures from their day at the Winyah jetties. NOTE: SCDNR biologists suggest leaving fish this large in the water for photos, or pulling them out for no more than 30 seconds and providing the proper horizontal support, as shown here. (Photo: Provided)

Last month, Charlotte resident Andy Ball headed to the South Carolina coast for a summer escape.

“We were down with five other friends on a reunion of sorts – South Mecklenburg High School class of 1985,” Ball said. During the trip, Georgetown Coastal Adventures’ Captain Dan Scarborough took Ball and his friends out to the Winyah Bay jetties to target large red drum.

The friends got what they came for – including a three-and-a-half-foot bull red that topped out at 30 pounds, which Ball reeled in after a challenging fight.

The fishermen could tell it had been caught before: a plastic yellow tag protruded from the spottail’s back.

Tags are thin, nylon cords that let biologists track fish and other marine animals. Each tag has a unique number identifying that fish and the SCDNR number to call and report recaptures. Since the 1970s, SCDNR biologists have operated a volunteer tagging program whereby recreational anglers can turn their fishing trips into valuable scientific information by tagging the fish they’re already catching and releasing. Using a specialized tagging device, researchers and volunteer anglers typically insert the tag into the muscle of a fish just by the dorsal fin. Harmless to the fish, the tags can remain anchored there for decades as the fish grows.

Andy Ball contacted SCDNR’s tagging coordinator, Morgan Hart, to report the tag number and details of the red drum he’d recaptured. Every time a tagged fish is reported, Hart sends detailed updates about the fish’s history to both the original taggers and the recapturers. It’s a neat way to see where a particular fish has traveled since you last saw it.

When Hart ran the fish’s history, she was amazed – it had first been tagged over 21 years prior.

“I could tell right away that the tag report was special,” Hart said. “The tag number was different than anything I had seen recaptured before. Once I realized how long ago it was tagged, I think my mouth literally fell open.”

“I reached out to the original tagger, Kevin Mischke, and he was delighted to hear that one of his fish was still contributing to the population,” Hart said.

James Islander Kevin Mischke, who first tagged fish ‘A033559,’ dug up this photo from the 1990s, when he regularly tagged spottails in Wappoo Cut. (Photo: Provided)

Mischke was an active volunteer tagger from 1990 to 2006. In 1997, he’d caught a large red drum at Wappoo Cut, near his home on James Island. Mischke tagged the fish with a yellow, nylon tag labeled ‘A033559.’

When Mischke caught it, the red drum was already a mature fish at 35 inches – meaning he/she is now likely to be well older than 21 years of age. SCDNR research has shown red drum are impressively long-lived fish, with biologists documenting fish up to 40 years old.

A decade later, redfish ‘A033559’ showed up once again in the records, when angler Warren Wood caught and measured the fish in 2008. By this time, the red drum had grown five inches and migrated to Georgetown, where Wood reported catching it off the Winyah Bay jetties.

And that’s exactly where Andy Ball caught the fish this summer – no larger this time, but another decade older.

Redfish By the Numbers

Over the past 25 years, South Carolina anglers in the tagging program have tagged ~61,000 red drum. Those fish have been recaptured nearly 10,000 times, with individual fish being reported as many as four times each.

“Seeing how many fish are recaptured in our state really shows how important it is to carefully handle any fish you catch and release,” tagging coordinator Morgan Hart said. “Since we can’t just look in the water and see how many fish there are, it’s easy to assume that there are an infinite number of fish available to catch – but our recapture rate shows that’s just not the case.”

How to Report a Tagged Fish

You don’t have to be a volunteer tagger to help – we count on anyone who fishes in South Carolina to report tagged fish they encounter. Your fishing trip could provide valuable scientific data that helps biologists studying how far and when fish migrate, how long they live, and how best to protect different species in South Carolina.

Tagged fish can be reported online or by calling (843) 953-9832. Be sure to write down the tag number, date, location, species, and size of the fish so that you can accurately report it later.

If you’re interested in learning more about the tagging program, check out our website and/or contact program coordinator Morgan Hart at

Report a Tagged Fish Here

Tagging Program Tracks Redfish, Speckled Trout

Alabama Tagging Program Tracks Redfish, Speckled Trout
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

While the fanfare surrounding the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) proceeded nearby, Reid Nelson deftly made a series of surgeon’s knots to sew up an incision on the belly of a redfish that was a part of the live weigh-in category at the rodeo.

Tagging redfish keeps track of them

Nelson, a graduate student in the University of South Alabama’s Marine Sciences Department, inserted an acoustic tag in the redfish, red drum if you’re a purist or marine scientist, as part of the Coastal Alabama Acoustic Monitoring Program (CAAMP).

CAAMP monitors 55 receiver stations strategically placed in Alabama coastal waters to catch pings, which happen once a minute during the one-year lifespan of the acoustic tags in the fish.

Reid Nelson carefully inserts an acoustic tag into a redfish during the live weigh-in competition at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Photo by David Rainer
Nelson said 100 red drum were tagged in 2015. In 2016, another 100 red drum were tagged. Also in 2016, all tagging that didn’t occur at the ADSFR was transferred to Dog River and Fowl River on the western shore of Mobile Bay.

Nelson said the goal of CAAMP is to study fishing mortality, natural mortality and fish movement in response to water temperature and salinity levels.

Last year, the team added speckled trout to the tagging program and will continue to work with trout this year. As expected, redfish is a hardy species that handles catch-and-release very well. Speckled trout are not quite as resilient but still survive well enough to justify the live-release effort.

“With the popularity of the live weigh-in at the rodeo, we looked at it as a nice opportunity to tag live fish from different places,” Nelson said. “You can actually look at how successful live weigh-ins are. What we have seen from fish tagged at the rodeo, about 98 percent of the red drum have lived. About 78 percent of the speckled trout that we tagged at the rodeo have lived.

“Overall, mortality is pretty low, which I think is amazing. Some of the red drum were brought from all over, as far away as Mississippi and Louisiana.”

Nelson said 20 red drum and 15 speckled trout were fitted with the acoustic tags, which cost about $300 each, and released during the 2018 ADSFR. CAAMP is funded through the Alabama Marine Resources Division with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“What was really interesting about the rodeo is the map where the fish came from that were released at the rodeo,” he said. “One of the main concerns about a live weigh-in program is the fish won’t leave that area once they are released. Unlike the fish we tagged in the rivers, the fish we tagged at the rodeo leave Dauphin Island pretty readily. We’ve detected those fish as far away as Raft River in the Mobile Delta. We’ve detected them in Fowl River. We’ve detected them off the Gulf State Park Pier. They have even been detected by receiver arrays that other groups have out. It’s really remarkable how quickly and widespread these fish disperse.

“It’s interesting to do science with a part of the tournament. That’s really never been done. Another interesting thing is fishermen have been really good about telling us where they caught the fish. What we have seen is about 25 percent of the fish have gone back to where they were caught. With red drum that were caught in the rivers and brought to the rodeo, about 70 percent of those fish will disperse and end up returning to one of our local rivers. That’s been an amazing aspect of the study. We have no idea how those fish find their way back. It could be olfaction or chemoreceptors. It’s probably a combination of many navigation senses.”

Natural mortality with the red drum tagged in the first year of the study has been surprisingly low, according to Nelson. Out of the 100 fish tagged, only three died of natural causes. Fishing mortality took 10 out of the population in Fowl River from 2016-2017, and nine redfish were lost to fishing mortality in Dog River during the same time span.

“One of the other interesting things we saw is the seasonal peaks in the rivers,” Nelson said. “We saw more fishing mortality in the fall and spring.”

An eye-opening aspect of the CAAMP data when speckled trout were added to the study is the significant disparity in movement between species in response to weather and salinity changes.

“One of the most interesting things we’ve seen is a lot of the red drum really didn’t move that much from where they were actually tagged,” Nelson said. “Out of Fowl River, we had 13 fish leave the river over the course of the year, which is not very many in the grand scheme of things. Only five left Dog River during that year. For the year we have data, they were pretty much resident fish. Some of them would use different parts of the river. But for the most part, they tended to remain in the area where they were originally tagged.

“In fact, we had a family call in a fish a few months ago that had been tagged about a year ago. They literally caught that fish where we tagged it at Delta Port in Fowl River. That was amazing.”

Nelson said the most movement observed during the study came in December of 2016 when the water temperature was cooler than normal and the salinity was very high because of a lack of rain in the fall.

“The big conclusion so far on redfish is the majority of the slot fish tend to be resident,” he said. “It looks like they are pretty resilient to changes in temperature and salinity. We’ve seen big fluctuations in those two factors, and the fish didn’t leave the rivers when the salinity and temperature varied quite a bit. I thought that was really interesting.”

Now, throw speckled trout into the study, and the movement patterns are vastly different.

“During the first year of the big study with speckled trout, it was almost the complete opposite story,” Nelson said. “The trout were tagged last November and December. They were resident in the deep holes in the rivers until about February. When it was really cold, they were staying in the rivers. Once it started to warm up, we saw a push of fish leaving the rivers pretty quickly, moving down to Mississippi Sound and Dauphin Island. That is what you would expect.

“We had a couple of fish that moved from Dog River to the Mobile River. One of those fish actually came in at the rodeo. Instead of staying in the river, they pushed out relatively quickly.”

Nelson is also working with another program to study fish movement. The TAG Alabama program is sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association of Alabama and relies on local anglers to insert dart tags in red drum and speckled trout caught in Alabama coastal waters.

“What we’re seeing with TAG Alabama is that many of those redfish are coming back right close to where they were tagged as well,” he said. “With TAG Alabama, we get a much larger spread of tagging locations instead of just the rivers.”

Anglers participating in TAG Alabama go to the website at to log tagging and recapture efforts for trout and redfish as well as red snapper, tripletails and sharks.

“We’ve had 743 red drum and speckled trout tagged so far,” Nelson said. “Considering we launched the program in April this year, that’s a lot. We’ve had 65 of those fish recaptured.

“I’m excited about this. CCA Alabama is providing the funding for this. I’m hoping we can keep this going.”

Another tagging effort that occurred partially during this year’s ADSFR involved tarpon, known as the silver king.

With the help of local tarpon enthusiasts during the ADSFR, researchers from Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Mississippi State University managed to attach eight satellite tags. Two more tarpon were caught and tagged the Saturday after the rodeo.

Of the eight fish tagged during the rodeo, all but one high-tailed it toward Louisiana, one traveling as far as the southern tip of Louisiana near South Pass. One fish, however, decided to explore Mobile Bay and made a huge loop inside the bay before heading west.

Do You Hunt or Just Shoot Game Over Bait?

It is now legal to shoot deer over bait in our area, in north Georgia. This change from last season came because of pressure from people wanting to kill deer easier. In meetings around the state, a fairly high majority of those attending wanted the change. The legislature sets hunting laws but could not come to a decision, so the governor passed the decision on to the DNR.

To make shooting deer over bait legal, the DNR changed the rules, not the law. They simply shrank the Northern Zone, where baiting is still illegal, to include only some federal lands in the area, where baiting was always illegal. Almost all of Georgia is now considered the “Southern” Zone, where baiting has been legal for several years.

I very intentionally said it is legal to shoot deer, not hunt them, over bait. Drawing animals and birds to you to shoot them is not hunting. That is why we go quail hunting but to a dove shoot. You look for quail in their habitat. You draw doves to a field to shoot them.

There are good and bad things about shooting over bait. For young hunters, especially those seeking their first deer, they are much more likely to be successful over bait. That is also true of some of us older folks as well as those with other handicaps that keep us from really hunting. But it does not teach hunting skills and the pride in working to take your quarry.

Deer tend to browse while feeding, moving a lot as they seek natural food sources. Even with food plots they will walk through them, pausing to eat but not staying in the same place for very long. But a pile of corn makes them come to the exact same place every day and spent more time in a very small area.

This concentration tends to make diseases spread among the deer. And it also makes it easier to predators other than us to pastern and kill them. There are many pictures from trail cameras set up around feeders showing coyotes and bobcats hanging around feeders, waiting on an easy meal to come to them.

To me there is no difference between putting out a corn feeder to attract deer to you and planting a food plot to do the same, except for the amount of work involved. Food plots have always been legal, and they do have the benefit of providing food for deer year-round, not just during hunting season.

I try to stay legal although I do not consider myself a deer hunter. I simply want to harvest two or three deer, preferably does, each year for the freezer. I’m a meat harvester. When younger I did thrill in looking for bucks in their natural habitat, figuring out their movements and patterns, and placing a stand in exactly the right place to get a shot at a buck.

I am proud of the first buck I killed 50 years ago this fall, a small eight pointer. I went out on public land, found signs and figured out where to put my stand, all on my own. It was tougher back then with fewer deer and fewer open days to hunt. I have killed much bigger bucks since then around my food plots but there is no pride in taking them.

I found out a few years ago how effective baiting is. I have 75 acres I hunt on in Spalding County. I plant a small field with wheat, clover and winter peas each year hoping to make it easier for me to get my meat. I have also planted crab apple trees and fertilized persimmon trees. For years I was successful.

About four years ago I stopped seeing deer in my food plots. They had changed their movement patterns. I was told a neighbor withless than ten acres of land had put a corn feeder and I found it. His stand was on his side of a gulley between his land and mine, but his feeder was actually on my property.

Deer had changed their routes, going by the corn in preference to coming by my field. I found lots of signs around the corn and trails that led to it from bedding areas, then to other areas that bypassed my field. That was frustrating.

Since baiting is now legal, I will put out a couple of corn feeders. I will continue to plant food plots if for no other reason than to have food available year-round for them and keep them healthier. And I will move my feeders every few months, so the deer will not stay in one small area all the time and help spread disease. And moving them will confuse other predators, at least a little.

Baiting is not a bad thing for some animals. Wild hogs are not game animals, they are a serious problem for farmers and the environment. So, putting out bait and shooting or trapping as many of them as you can is a good thing.

Baiting bears in some states has been legal a long time, but not in north Georgia. Bait gets bears to come to where the waiting person can shoot them. In some areas it is almost impossible to actually hunt bears due to their inconsistent movement and impenetrable habitat. Still, it is bear shooting, not hunting.

Are you a hunter or a harvester? You can be both, but not on the same property unless it is huge. Putting out food for deer and shooting deer over it but hunting for a quality buck is possible, but if your bait changes the bucks habits you are not really going after him on his own natural habitat. Since bait will attract deer for an area covering at least a square mile, you really need two different places to separate the two.

What will you be this year?

Why Are Dams Coming Down?

Unneeded Dams Coming Down, Fisheries Improving

By Chris Wood, President
Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

Unneeded Dam?

Last week, I saw a video celebrating the removal of the Tack Factory Dam on Third Herring Brook in Massachusetts. Like all dam removals, it involved many partners especially the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, local TU chapters, the MA/RI Council, NOAA, and Steve Hurley of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, an unsung hero in the effort to protect salter brook trout—a unique form of brook trout that often occupy saltwater habitat.

What makes the story of what happened on Third Herring Brook so cool is its now commonplace nature. Rivers in the East are riddled with dams that were built for long-forgotten purposes. Some dams are important for power generation or flood control. Some make awesome tailwater fisheries for wild trout. But many are deadbeats, liabilities for their owners—serving only to to pond water, warm streams, and block passage for migrating fish.

Ten years ago, I remember walking along the Musconetcong River in New Jersey, and looking at a dam adjacent to a restaurant, and asking Agust Gudmundsson, then the New Jersey council chair, “what is the dam for?” He said, “who knows? That’s why it is coming down.”

Most TU members and supporters are aware of TU’s role in re-opening over 1100 miles of the Penobscot River in Maine, and our contributions to reopen more than 500 miles of the Klamath River on the California and Oregon border. Across the eastern United States, TU, and its chapters, councils, and partners, have become quietly expert in working together to remove old and obsolete dams. This work is particularly vital as trout and salmon need to move in response to flood, fire, and drought. Dams also block access for spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon.

The Squanatissit and Boston chapters removed a dam on the Nissittissit River, a gorgeous trout stream that flows into the, once blighted but now cleaned up, Nashua River. The Nor’east chapter is working on dam removals on the Shawsheen and the Ipswich Rivers.

On the Boardman River TU is working with an array of partners on a series of dam removals that will reconnect over 160 miles of rivers and streams.

In the Adirondacks, the Lake Champlain chapter is working with the Tri-Lakes chapter and using funding from a variety of sources, including Embrace A Stream to remove the Quarry Dam, which will open the upper West Branch of the Ausable to spawning and as a summer refuge.

TU removed a dam, and is replacing two culverts on Kinne Brook in Massachusetts— an area that TU scientists call a brook trout portfolio stronghold.

In Pennsylvania, we worked with American Rivers to remove an old stone dam and open up nearly 100 miles of ChestCreek, a priority for native brook trout recovery.

My favorite dam removal story comes from the Sebago Chapter in Maine. They worked with several other chapters, the Nature Conservancy, and others to remove the Swett Brook Dam in 2013. The chapter then set a goal to remove at least one dam or culvert that blocks fish passage every year through 2020!

Every one of these dam removals, and the dozens more that are happening around the nation, share a common theme—local people working together to improve the places they fish, live and love. The same combination of pluck, ingenuity, and smarts that led us to build dams to allow a young nation to prosper are helping to remove them today, and we are a richer country for it.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C., and works from TU’s Arlington, Va., headquarters.

Terrible Tournament at Jackson Lake

A week ago last Sunday 15 members and guests of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our July tournament at Jackson Lake. We also had one youth competitor. After fishing from 5:30 AM to noon, we brought in 38 keeper bass weighing about 43 pounds. There were no limits and one fisherman didn’t catch a keeper. There were 11 largemouth and 27 spots landed.

Glenn Anderson won with three weighing 6.52 pounds and had big fish with a 2.38 pound largemouth. Niles
Murray placed second with four weighing 5.54 pounds, Kwong Yu was third with four at 4.96 pounds and Jay Gerson had three weighing 4.03 pounds for fourth.

Jackson Terry, our only youth competitor, had one weighing 1.59 pounds and won that division. And he beat me and several other adults!

Fish were reportedly caught on a variety of baits, from buzzbaits to shaky head worms. I guessed wrong. I had gone to Jackson on Thursday to look around and went way up the Alcovy River where the water was cooler, had a little stain and was flowing. I caught one keeper and lost two more in the hour I fished there.

In my vast wisdom I figured all the rain the two days before the tournament had muddied up the river, so I stayed in Tussahaw Creek. Of course, several of the people that finished in the top five or six said they went up the Alcovy and the water was not muddy.

I could not get a bite on anything but a shaky head worm and landed one keeper. Several other fish made a fool out of me. At least three times I cast right beside a seawall and when I started tightening up my line it stayed slack. By the time I caught up with the fish it was all the way out back under the boat and I did not get a good hookset and lost the fish.

I did learn from those first three and when it happened the fourth time, as soon as I realized my line was slack I set the hook, and landed a 1.10-pound spot, my only keeper. Then I got lazy and let two more get back out under the boat before setting the hook. In my mind I should have landed five more fish, and I saw two of them as they came off that looked like keepers.

I did catch several spots about 11 inches long and kept them to eat. That size bass tastes good, is easy to filet and need to be killed. Spots have overpopulated some of our lakes so badly there is no size limit on them. If you go to Jackson, West Point or other lakes with lots of little spots, keep some to eat.

Reefs Fishing


Nice snapper

The author nabbed this chunky snapper during a Gulf of Mexico reef trip.?
Knowing what’s down there maximizes fishing time

By David A. Brown
from The Fishing Wire

It’s the sea’s food court; a place where a diverse array of patrons find an equally diverse meal menu. We’re talking about reefs; those of natural or manmade design provide shelter for baitfish and prime feeding opportunities for progressively larger predators, many of which rank high in the metrics of the sport and table fare.

Popular species include pelagics such as kingfish, tuna, wahoo and sailfish. But while these fast movers typically pay only short visits, the stars of the show are the home bodies that spend most of their lives in and around reef structures. Topping the list — grouper and snapper.

Raymarine pro Ron Mitchell likes red, mutton and yellowtail snapper, and his Raymarine units (twin gS165s and a gS95) play an integral role with each unique species strategy.

The food dynamics of the reef habitat are what holds sportfish in the area. (Photo courtesy of St. Croix Rod)
Mutton Snapper: These beautiful and aggressive fish tend to hold over sand on a reef’s exterior, so well-defined bottom readings give Mitchell a road map for where to present his baits.

“We like to drag baits with heavy leads and long leaders,” he says. “So knowing where the outer edge of that reef is lets me know where I need to drop those baits.”

Yellowtail Snapper: “When we fish for yellowtail in The Keys and off Stuart and Palm Beach, we like to get them off the reef,” says Mitchell. “You gotta work that current and the wind to get your boat backed in so your chum feeds down into that reef to pull some of those fish up to the boat.

“Yellowtail will gather into a big ball off the reef. On your sonar screen, you’ll see a red ball about the size of a quarter or 50 cent piece. Right when I see that on my Raymarine unit, I’ll turn and go up-current and set up so I’m not right on top of the fish. Then, we’ll start our chum so it slides back to the fish.”

Red Snapper: Bold and voracious, these ruby-scaled treats closely relate to structure; and it doesn’t have to be something as large and obvious as a Northern Gulf of Mexico drilling rig. Often, red snapper hover above isolated patches of reef or small rocky outcroppings. Pinpointing these spots has always been one of Mitchell’s objectives, but he shares a serendipitous revelation that deepened his appreciation for the clarity and definition of Raymarine’s CHIRP sonar.

“You’re going to need to be in some type of area with an ecosystem that gives those fish a reason to be there,” Mitchell said of a reef’s inherent drawing power. “Your bottom machines are your eyes for the depths where you’re fishing. If you didn’t have that, you’re guessing and it’s a big ocean out there. If I can’t narrow down and know what’s underneath me, I’m just hunting and pecking.”


No doubt, identifying these lively areas promotes time-management and enhances the value of invested time and resources. Just consider that not all reef life is a welcome sight. Maybe they’re out of season, or just notorious time-waster species you don’t want; Raymarine’s incredible clarity and target separation will show you what’s down there so you can best manage your efforts and expectations.

“You have to be careful that the spot isn’t covered up with amberjack, sharks, or things you don’t want to be a part of,” Mitchell says. “Raymarine’s DownVision is getting so detailed and sophisticated that you can actually see a ledge with fish under it.

“The definition is so good that, when you start bringing up fish, you relate what you’re catching to what’s on your screen. So the next time you go out you say ‘Those are the same marks that I had at that other spot.’ So you start relating what you’re seeing to what you’re catching.”

To keep his day efficient, Mitchell typically sets up a milk run of known waypoints, all within a mile or two. Bouncing back and forth between a handful of sites within a mile or two allows him to let a productive spot rest, while also sampling others in close proximity.

“You have to narrow it down and your Raymarine units can help you do that,” Mitchell said. “On top of that, I’ve found some of these places by accident. Maybe I’m running out of Jupiter Inlet at 40 mph and all of a sudden, I see my machine spike up.

“I’ll whip it back around and go over my track and I’ll find a spot that maybe people haven’t been fishing for a while and it’s loaded. You find spots like that because of the Raymarine technology that we have on the boat, you can run at 40 mph and still pick up bottom that’s showing you a good enough mark to let you know there might be something there worth fishing.”


When your favorite species isn’t cooperating, the season’s closed, or maybe you’ve just capped your limit; don’t despair, reefs offer a bountiful array of B-Teamers who are usually more than willing to step and take a few reps.

Grunts — mostly white grunts and margates. Side by side with mangrove snapper filets, most would have a tough time distinguishing. Scaled-down slip sinker rigs, knocker rigs and jigs tipped with squid.

Triggerfish — This tasty fish’s name comes from its curious design, which finds a rigid anterior dorsal spine standing immovable until a smaller spine is pressed forward to “trigger” the latter’s collapse.

Porgies — Several varieties including pink, jolthead and knobbed, offer an aggressive and tasty opponent.

Seabass — One of the most highly valued of the alternative species, this one falls for jigs tipped with cut bait.

A popular option for smaller reef species, the chicken rig leverages the inherent feeding competition among reef fish, especially these alternative species. Essentially a set of two to three dropper loops with 12-18 inches of leader below for sinker attachment. (A simpler option: Buy a heavy sabiki rig, clip off the bottom two or three branches and leave two to three hooks intact.)

Whatever style of multi-hook rig you use, don’t overdo it on the bait. You don’t want whole sardines or the fist-sized chunks of squid you may drop on traditional grouper rigs; rather, small thumbnail sized cuts of shrimp, squid, or clam.

With any reef scenario, the abundance of life can foster an ill-conceived notion of automatic cooler filling. There’s nothing wrong with keeping legal catches for dinner, but know the regulations (size, season, daily bag limits) and practice careful catch and release for the non-keepers. Let the reef reload, rest and reset the clock for your next visit and hopefully, your Raymarine screen will light up with another stacked show of fish.