Monthly Archives: January 2019

Ice Fishing

Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream magazines were staples of my reading while growing up. I could not wait for new issues every month and read each from cover to cover.

Every winter, articles and pictures about ice fishing fascinated me. I dreamed of drilling holes through the ice and sitting in a nice warm shanty while catching everything from perch to pike.

In middle Georgia, ice fishing does not happen. I knew there was little chance of me ever going up north to try it, but I wanted to. In the winter when Dearing Branch froze over, something that didn’t happen every year, I tried to ice fish, but the ice was never strong enough to hold me.

I did manage to stand on the bank over deeper holes and punch a hole in the ice with a stick, no drilling needed for the ice that was seldom an inch thick. And I never caught a fish, I guess most of our southern fish don’t eat much when it is that cold.

I have fished in Wisconsin ten times, but in the fall just after Labor Day. Although I experienced snow and sleet on those early September trips, there was no ice, I was a couple months too early.

Signs of the coming ice were everywhere. All docks there are removal, they can be rolled up onto the bank to keep the ice from crushing them. And I was amazed by trees and brush around the bank. There was a clear line about five feet above the water line where no leaves or needles grew.

I thought it might be a browse line where deer ate the foliage, but the local fisherman that hosted our group on those trips told me it was the snow line.
Snow around Rhinelander, Wisconsin covered the ground and lake ice about that deep for several months each winter, killing the tender parts of the plants.

A few years ago, I did catch a fish though the ice. My pond froze over about an inch thick, way too little to support me, but I took an idea from my past. Out on the end of my dock where I fed the fish all summer, I punched a hole in the ice with a pipe, baited up with a piece of floating fish food, and landed a two-inch bream.

That will probably be the only ice fish I ever catch.

Little Manatee River

Snook-Rich Little Manatee River (FL) to Get 7300-Acre Watershed Preserve
Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings
from The Fishing Wire

With most of the shoreline along Tampa Bay either developed or restored, planners are looking upstream to protect tidal tributaries and provide higher ground for critical habitats as sea level rise continues to affect the region.

Lots of snook here

Miles of trails make much of the corridor easily accessible to hikers and much of the land is in its original state.
An important step in addressing that long-term trend is the development of a conceptual plan for nearly 7,400 publicly held acres in the Little Manatee River watershed, It is estimated to take at least 20 years and $30 million to complete the projects identified in the plan, said Brandt Henningsen, chief environmental scientist at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM (Surface Water Improvement and Management) Program.

“The district and Hillsborough County have purchased the land over the past 30 years, and the Little Manatee River State Park makes it a nearly contiguous 30-mile corridor along the river so wildlife can transverse it as needed,” he said. “When completed, it will be a passive preserve area for hiking and kayaking – not ballfields or ATVs.”

The plan itself was a $200,000 initiative funded jointly by the district and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

Much of the corridor remains in a relatively natural state, although other areas that had been converted to agricultural uses are covered in invasive species including cogongrass and guinea grass, as well as Brazilian pepper and hairy indigo. In some places, mosquito ditches drain land quickly rather than allowing water to slowing sink into the aquifer or naturally create low-salinity habitat. One location – the Willow Site – has become a popular, albeit illegal, spot for ATV enthusiasts who create ditches that drain to the river, increasing sedimentation and diminishing water quality.

To create the long-term plan, the district, county and Cardno assessed different parcels, dividing them into 10 sections ranging in size from 283 to 1,500 acres. Restoration plans are based on historical photos so that lands continue as close to their natural state as possible, Henningsen said. In some cases, the parcels can be restored to capture runoff from nearby agricultural fields, filtering nutrients before they get in the river.

Using a complex matrix that looks at water quality impact, groundwater impact, habitat value and enhancing regionally scarce communities, the district and county created a priority list based on average cost per restored or enhanced acre. The 1,423-acre Gully Branch Creek site was selected as the first phase of construction for an estimated cost of $5.9 million.

Although it is further from the bay than some other sites, it ranked well for its ability to improve water quality, improve groundwater discharge and establish a natural hydroperiod. It also ranked highly for easy site access, which will be a challenge at some of the sites, Henningsen said.

Within that section, the 444-acre Gully Branch upland restoration project is expected to be funded by SWFWMD in 2019. Formerly agricultural land, the site is now covered in cogongrass, considered to be one of the top ten worst weeds in the world. “The (SWFWMD) Governing Board has been very supportive of the SWIM Program and seen the value of these restoration projects,” Henningsen said.

Hillsborough County is responsible for most of the management and is participating in the restoration of multiple sites, adds Mary Barnwell, environmental lands management coordinator. “We’re already doing a lot of prescribed burning, exotics control and maintenance, including several recreational trails and trailheads that allow hikers back into the property.”

The Little Manatee River corridor is critically important over the long-term because it’s among the highest land in Hillsborough County with multiple bluffs overlooking the river. “We’re restoring both for the short term while also taking the long-term land use into consideration,” Barnwell said. “As sea level rise continues, we’ll need to create a west-to-east corridor that provides wildlife and plant communities room to move. We’ve seen them adapt to change in the past, but it was very gradual – now we’re looking at accelerated adaptation.”

The long-term plan for restoration of the Little Manatee River will function as a blueprint for habitats to accommodate a range of possible impacts from climate change. “This project is key to protecting some of our most vulnerable habitats, like juncus (black needle rush) marshes,” adds Maya Burke, science policy coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

By Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings

Setting the Hook and Falling

Last Sunday ten members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our January tournament at Jackson Lake. It was a bit breezy and cool when we started at 7:30 and not much better when we weighed in at 3:30. The only thing that got cold on me were my hands, thanks to insulated underwear, flannel jeans and wind proof pants, with toe warmers in my boots. That, along with six layers on top and a hard hat liner and hooded jacket, left only my hands exposed. I have tried dozens of expensive fishing gloves but never found any I can wear while fishing, so my hands are exposed all day.

We landed 25 bass weighing about 37 pounds and 18 of them were spotted bass. One person had a limit and one did not catch a keeper. That morning before take-off Jay told me he had fished Friday and found some fish and was confident he could catch a limit weighing ten pounds. Of course, he was the only one without a keeper.

Raymond English started the year right, winning with four keepers weighing 7.69 pounds. Kwong Yu was second with two keepers weighing 6.33 pounds and had big fish with a 4.76 pound largemouth. Wayne teal had the limit weighing 5.24 pounds and placed third. I managed to scratch out four little spots weighing 4.71 pounds for fourth.

I started near the ramp where I won a Flint River tournament last January under the same conditions but never got a bite. I noticed Raymond and Niles going across the cover at take off with trolling motor only and found out later Raymond had motor trouble. Sometimes it pays to fish rather than ride around. I should have stayed in that area!

Instead I ran up to Tussahaw Creek to my favorite point but got no bites there, either. At 9:30 as I fished out of a shallow cove, I pulled up on my shaky head worm and felt a fish spit it out. With cold hands and wind blowing my line, I never felt the bite.
But on the other side of the point I landed my biggest keeper of the day, a 1.5-pound spot, on a crankbait.

The next stop was a shallow cove with a seawall around it. I pitched my shaky head worm to it in about a foot of water and felt a bite. My legs and feet were hurting so, rather than stand up and set the hook like I normally do, I tried setting it sitting down.

That was a mistake. For the first time in my life I feel flat on my back trying to set the hook. Fortunately, I fell into the boat, not out of it. And as I fell my line went over the trolling motor head and I pulled the 13-inch spot out of the water. It hung there until I could get up, get my line off the motor and land it. Some fish are just meant to get caught.

A little further around the cove I landed a short spot, then missed a bite, both on the worm. I hoped that was a pattern, but after several more stops without bite I went another point and landed two keepers on a crankbait within a couple of casts.

The fish seemed to be bunched up a little, and I got bites in only three places all day but got several on each. Although I went back to them, I didn’t get any more bites the rest of the tournament.

Tournament on Lake Sinclair

Closer to home the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our first tournament of the year at Sinclair last Saturday. The water was very muddy in the Little and
Oconee Rivers. Even the creeks at the dam, usually clear, had very stained water. I do not like cold muddy water, especially like it was Saturday when my chartreuse crankbait disappeared about two inches deep.

In the tournament, seventeen fishermen caught 45 bass weighing 80 pounds. Niles Murray showed us all how it can be done in cold muddy water by winning with five that weighed 14.50 pounds. Edward Folker placed second with two weighing 8.54 pounds and had big fish with a 5.79-pound bass. Doug Acree came in third with five at 8.10 and Ryan Edge was fourth with three at 6.65 pounds.

Niles is in the groove fishermen love. It happens sometimes that everything just seems right. Maybe he is getting that “sixth sense” that some have. He has won three of four club tournaments in the past month and also placed third in the Berry’s tournament in January against some of the best fishermen in the area.

Me, not so much. At Sinclair I started on a mud flat with a small hard clay patch I found years ago. It has produced some good fish for me over the years, especially in January. But my hopes fell when my crankbait did not show up in the muddy water.

I fished that area for about 90 minutes without a bite then decided to run to the dam to look for clearer water rather than fish the next place I had planned in Beaverdam Creek. Rocky Creek usually has the clearest water on the lake, and its rocks are good this time of year, but the water was very stained, even there. My chartreuse crankbait disappeared about four or five inches deep, better but not great.

I fished that area for over four hours and had two bites, one on a jig and one on a shaky head worm but missed both. They could have been bream or crappie, or a big bass, but I will never know. I made the decision to go back to Beaverdam Creek for the rest of the tournament.

I again fished the clay spot but got no bites, and a deep brush pile where I won a Sportsman Club tournament last January, but nothing. At 2:00 I went to where I did not go that morning. At 2:20 I hooked and landed a largemouth a little over three pounds, then a few minutes later landed a keeper on a spinnerbait. The hooks fell out of both in the net, so I knew the fish were just nipping the bait. I was lucky to land them. That was enough to make me decide to fish that point the rest of the day.

At 3:00 I hooked a fish on a crankbait. It rolled on top and I could see I had barely hooked it on a back hook and was another three pound plus fish. I carefully worked it toward the boat and put the net in the water. As may line got close to the net I could not see the bass in the muddy water. I did see it as it swam by the net and for a second though it was in it.

No such luck, the front hooks of the plug hung in the net as the fish swam under it and the bass pulled off. I ended up with about 5.5 pounds. That fish would have put me in second place, but the big ones always seem to get away. I needed Niles’ luck and skill!

Veterans Find Healing and Hope

Veterans Find Healing and Hope on Public Lands
from The Fishing Wire

A visit to America’s public lands is more than an opportunity to see an epic vista, learn about history and experience wildlife. It’s also good medicine.

Connecting with the outdoors can heal the mind, body and soul. For veterans, time in the outdoors can help them recover from traumatic combat injuries and find relief from pain. All across the country, Interior is partnering with groups to make it easier for disabled veterans and others to discover the therapeutic qualities of America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Check out some of the inspiring partnerships and locations that are helping veterans find healing on America’s public lands.

Casting a line for a day of fun and fishing

Fishing is often the line that connects people to their public lands. Florida’s Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area is using this favored pastime to unite veterans and their families for a day of fun, friendship and fishing. This year, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse hosted the 4th annual Veterans Fishing Classic as part of the Fisheries for Veterans Project — an effort to connect veterans to the therapeutic qualities of outdoor recreation, while promoting stewardship of public lands. The day was filled with fishing and tales of missed catches as 140 veterans and their families attempted to reel in a big one.

Veterans fishing public waters

Veterans and their families enjoy the lapping waves, coastal breeze and thrill of fishing as part of the Veterans Family Fishing Classic at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area. Photo courtesy of Kathy Williams,

Preserving history and finding relief at Lake Mead

Deep underwater at Lake Mohave lies a historic aerial ferry that used to serve the lake in the 1930s. This unexpected spot at Lake Mead National Recreation Area is helping disabled veterans find comfort from painful combat injuries. Working with WAVES Project (short for the Wounded American Veterans Experience SCUBA), the park took six wounded veterans on dives to inspect and preserve the underwater artifacts in Lake Mohave. But there was also a benefit for veterans — they experienced relief from pain. Not only has scuba diving helped veterans with physical disabilities, it’s also helped those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Learn more about how Lake Mead is working to give wounded veterans a fresh start through diving experiences.

Experiencing the peace of wild Alaska

For seven years, disabled veterans have trekked to Alaska’s Delta River for world-class fly-fishing and to find peace in this remote location. The Delta River rises from a chain of 21 lakes surrounded by picturesque mountains and is known for its amazing Arctic grayling fishery. Since 2011, the Bureau of Land Management has hosted Project Healing Waters events here to raise awareness of the restorative values of public lands, and most importantly, to give back to those who have given so much to our country. As part of these fly-fishing events, veterans will routinely catch and release 25-100 Arctic grayling in a day, and at night they’ll share stories around the campfire — strengthening camaraderie, building relationships and connecting with their local community. The Delta River event is just one of many Healing Waters outings on America’s public lands. There are also float fishing trips on the Bighorn and Beaverhead rivers in Montana, both of which are ribbon trout fisheries below Bureaus of Reclamation reservoirs.

A participant of a Project Healing Waters event last year hooks an Arctic Grayling along Alaska’s Delta River. Photo by Matt Vos, Bureau of Land Management.
Giving hope by improving access to public lands
Whether it’s with a camera in hand or a shotgun, there’s something thrilling about sitting in a blind waiting for a flock of mallards to take off or listening to the wind whistle through the trees. But for wounded veterans or others with disabilities, the chance to hunt, fish and hike isn’t always a given. To change that, wildlife refuges in Washington have partnered with disabled veteran Rick Spring to build accessible blinds so that all visitors can experience the Pacific Northwest’s outdoors. Rick, who volunteers his time to improving accessibility on public lands, has built three custom blinds for two wildlife refuges — each one large enough to accommodate two wheelchairs. Rick hopes to expand the use of his custom-designed blinds to Oregon and then to the national level so more people with disabilities can have access to the outdoors. It’s Rick’s way of giving hope to injured veterans.

Discovering the restorative powers of the outdoors

The Upper Colorado River spans a unique and beautiful landscape, known for its diverse water features, gold medal trout waters, abundant wildlife and cultural landscapes along the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway. It’s also an ideal place for therapeutic outdoor adventures. A number of organizations and outfitters host whitewater and fly fishing trips on the Upper Colorado River for wounded warriors. These experiences on public lands not only let veterans tap into the restorative powers of nature but also helps them build long-term support networks and connections.

Bonding with horses to improve health and well being

People often form strong bonds with animals. With a saddle and some trust, people and horses work together in a powerful partnership with surprising results. Equine therapy is a proven method to help patients recover from both physical and mental injuries, and improve their confidence, awareness and patience. At Rock Creek Park Horse Center in the heart of Washington, D.C., the Ridewell Program provides active duty military personnel and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD a chance to come to ride and learn about horses with the help of officers from the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit. Thanks to the teamwork, natural setting and the time spent with horses, doctors and families have noted improvements in their balance and mental wellbeing, as well as pride and joy in the wounded warriors’ accomplishments. These events are able to happen with funding provided through Rock Creek Riders, an all volunteer non profit organization that provides local children, active duty military and veterans the opportunity to heal through the power of riding.

Healing while hunting

Even though physical injuries can change veterans’ lives forever, they can always find adventure and rejuvenation at National Wildlife Refuge System lands across America. At the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the annual deer hunt for disabled sportsmen is making sure all Americans have access to excellent hunting opportunities, regardless of their physical limitations. Since the refuge started the hunt in 2007 at the Lost Mound Unit of the refuge, more than 1,000 hunters from all over the country have participated. Much of the program’s success depends on partnerships to provide travel for hunters. As part of the program, the refuge also partners with a deer tracking service to make sure the hunters can locate the deer they shot. In addition to providing hunters with mobility limitations the chance to experience a high-quality deer hunt, the event also opens the door to all sorts of recreational opportunities that national wildlife refuges have to offer — from hunting and fishing to birding and hiking.

Calm waters bring peace

Known best for dams and reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation also plays a major role in meeting increasing public demand for water-based outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities. Using these resources, Reclamation has several programs with federal, state and local partners that support recovery and rehabilitation for disabled veterans. The Purple Heart Anglers have used Reclamation’s Lake Berryessa and New Melones Lake for several fishing events in California. At a recent event, disabled veterans were bussed to Lake Berryessa and paired with boat owners for a day of fishing. Reclamation concessionaires provided lunch, music and prizes. It’s a great way to say thanks to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Fishing Lake Allatoona with Carter Koza

Carter with Allatoona largeamouth and spot

Bass are biting, if you do the right thing. A couple of trips in the past week proved my point that some people can catch bass, even on the worse possible conditions. On days I think they are just not biting because of one of my excuses for not catching fish, some are catching fish.

For years folks called Lake Allatoona “The Dead Sea!” After a trip a week ago, I won’t ever call it that again. I had a great trip with Carter Koza and his father Jamie Koza, owner of The Dugout, getting information for my February Georgia Outdoor News Magazine Map of the Month article.

Carter caught nine keepers in half day fishing, from 7:30 to 12:30, including a two-pound largemouth and two spots about three pounds each. All hit a Spro Rock Crawler 50 on rocks, the pattern for the article. It was what I consider the worst weather conditions possible for catching fish, first day of a strong cold front. Bright sunny skies. Windy, but that is usually a good thing. The water was very stained, but Carter said that makes for the best winter fishing at Allatoona – cold muddy water is a good thing there!

Carter is a sophomore in high school. Younger fishermen like him amaze me with their skills and knowledge. Cater had a great mentor in his father, and he learned well. He explained patterns, what the bass were doing and eating, and why he chose the bait he used, as well as any pro. His knowledge is better than mine even though I have been tournament fishing for almost 50 years!!

I would like to fish Allatoona more often, but its location up I-75 north of Atlanta means ridiculous traffic, especially pulling a boat. I avoid going inside I-285 whenever possible. Traffic is bad on I-285, but there are fewer bad merging places. The absolutely worse place, unless there is a wreck, is coming south on I-75 where it merges with I-85. I hate pulling a boat through there anytime since you have to change several lanes fairly fast to avoid exit only lanes, and with thick traffic it is dangerous with a boat.

Help Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Take Steps to Help Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species
By Monica Garrity, TPWD Aquatic Invasive Species Team Leader
from The Fishing Wire

Recently a fisherman contacted me at TPWD with a question about decontaminating waders and fishing gear—we appreciate your interest in protecting our natural resources for future generations!

Here is some information—hope it helps:

Any gear used in the water should be decontaminated before you use it on another water body or at another site on a river or creek, especially if you move upstream.

For waders, we recommend that, at minimum, you remove any mud, plants, or other water and let them dry completely. Make sure to pay special attention to gravel guards, boot treads and use a flathead screwdriver or toothbrush followed by a wash-down of the gear with a good strong spray nozzle on a water hose. If you can, go the extra mile and decontaminate after cleaning and before drying. Here are three options to decontaminate your waders and nets—the first option will kill any disease-causing organisms (like whirling disease of fish). Be sure to wear eye protection and gloves, and protect your clothing.

Best option: use a 10 bleach/water mixture—this can cause some waders to fade.

Add ½ gallon of household bleach to a five-gallon bucket filled with water—make a new batch of bleach water every time you decontaminate.
Put the waders and gear in a big Rubbermaid tub or mop sink, weight them down with something that won’t corrode, like bricks or rocks.
Pour the mixture in and make sure everything is submerged.

Set a timer for ten minutes—no less and no more than 12 (for your gear’s sake—10 min is the recommended time).
Rinse the gear and let dry completely—hang waders upside down.

Dump the bleach/water down the sink drain. If outside, dump the bleach water at least 300 yards from the nearest outdoor water source.
Good option: use a 50% solution of Formula 409 or Lysol (buy a big jug of it!)

Make a mix of half Formula 409 and half water—just enough to cover the waders in the tub.

Put the waders and gear in a big Rubbermaid tub or mop sink, weight them down with something that won’t corrode, like bricks or rocks.

Pour the 409/water in and make sure everything is submerged.

Soak for at least 10 minutes and try to agitate (just slosh the liquid in the tub around a bit).

Rinse the gear and let dry completely—hang waders upside down.

Best to dump the solution down the sink drain.

Acceptable option: use hot water; for invasive species but not disease.

Follow the same basic soaking/weighting procedures as above.

Soak for at least 20 minutes in the hottest water your tap can provide—aiming for 120°F.

Add hot water periodically during the 20 minutes if you think it’s needed to keep the water super-hot.

Let dry completely.

Some other options—not the greatest—are to run waders through a very hot cycle in the washing machine or dishwasher and let dry. For other fishing gear, do the same thing—remove any mud and plants, rinse, and let dry completely. For dip nets or other nets that won’t be damaged, the extra decontamination steps described above are good practice—even though they won’t be good (or really necessary) for fishing rods.

Here’s a link to a nice fly-fishing group website that I like because it gives good, clear information and a nice flow chart. Even though the group is in the Rocky Mountains area, the methods apply everywhere. Thanks again for your diligence to protect our waterways!

Dogs In My Life

Dogs have always been an important part of my life. Although I don’t remember my first dog, my parents told me stories of a feist we had when I was two or three years old. That dog would go out in the yard when pecans were falling, bring one to me and crack it with its teeth so I could pick out the meat, according to my parents.

Growing up I never had an inside dog. They were yard dogs or hunting dogs, or both. Daddy’s two English setters were not pets, they were hunting dogs and lived in an old chicken house about a mile from our house. Other dogs lived under the porch and lived on table scraps. They had no real job other than sleeping and getting petted every once in a while.

Since Linda and I got married we have had six dogs, half of that number now live in our house. All have been “rescue dogs,” one from a shelter, one from the ditch in front of my house, one wandered up at a rental house and one showed up at my farm. One even showed up at a gun club meeting and went home with me. The last one I rescued from a trip to the shelter from a renter that could no longer take care of it.

The first three were sources of great joy but also great sadness. Merlin, our first dog rescued from a city pound in Maryland, slept under our bed for 14 years. She went everywhere we went from Canada to Clarks Hill and spent most of the days I went fishing in my boat with me. She was mostly border collie and extremely smart, constantly amazing me with her abilities.

Squirt was in the pipe in front of my house one morning when I went out to get the paper. He was so tiny I could hold him in a cupped hand but grew into a 115-pound cross of two breeds, Labrador and big. He was lovable and affectionate but gave lie to the claim all labs are smart.

Rip showed up at my farm one day. I tried to run him off but for two weeks he greeted me every time I drove up to the barn with wagging tail and smiling face. Like most labs, he was the happiest dog in the world and everyone seemed to know it. He loved to ride in the back of my truck and went most everywhere around town with me. I seldom came out of the grocery store that someone was not petting him. He just oozed friendliness and happiness.

Those three are gone now. Merlin at 14 and Squirt at 13 years old got hip problems and I had to put have them put down when they could no longer stand up. Rip managed to dig out from under the fence around the back yard and got hit by a car when he was ten and had injuries so severe he had to be put down.

All three are buried under the pear tree in the back yard. I softened the ground with tears as I dug the graves.

Ginger, a pit bull, showed up at a rental house. She had a broken choke collar around her neck and was skin and bones, covered in fleas, and very weak. But she was friendly and wanted affection. I took her home and washed her with flea shampoo then took her to Memorial Drive Vet Clinic where they found she had heart worms. The treatment was expensive but now, five years later, she is healthy and happy. And she proves Pit Bulls are not vicious, even though she had a hard life before I found her.

Cinnamon, the other Spice Girl, showed up at a gun club meeting the Monday after I had to have Rip put down. It was almost like fate sent her there. She was young and very friendly and happy. She is some kind of hound with a good nose but all she gets to use it for is finding tennis balls in the leaves. She loves to fetch.

Mika is a full blooded, registered border collie. One of my renters had to get rid of him and I agreed to take him. He lives to chase a tennis ball and will jump high in the air to catch it. I think he would run after a ball until he turned into butter!

I have had many kinds of pets, from hamsters and flying squirrels to cats and raccoons, but dogs are special. No other animal so closely identifies with people. They seem to adopt our habits and characteristic and some even seem to look like their masters.

Dogs are also useful, helping us hunting, working and playing. It is very difficult to hunt quail and raccoons without dogs and they make rabbit and hog hunting much easier. But they are also important for playing, sharing in our fun in many ways.

The only problem with dogs is their relatively short life. We almost always outlive our dogs and have to see them age and weaken much faster than we do. But they seem to get a lot out of their relationship with us other than food and shelter.

There are many stories of dogs traveling long distances to get back home after being lost. And there are examples of dogs going to their owners graves every day, refusing to accept the fact their human companion is gone. And the videos of dogs re-united with their owners when separated, even for years, are common. There is great joy on both sides when a soldier comes home and sees his dog for the first time after his tour of duty.

My three are not old in human years yet, but I still expect to outlive all three, even at my age. I dread the day I again have to dig graves under the pear tree but know it will happen three times.

That makes me even more determined to enjoy the time we have together.

Trout Unlimited

Trout Ulimited Looks Back on Successes and Challenges of 2018

By Chris Wood, President
Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

Trout Unlimited restores habitat

Conservation is a long game, so it is especially important to celebrate successes.

After decades of decline, 2018 may mark the year that we turned the corner on the recovery of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake. The world’s first national park had lost more than 95 percent of its native cutts, and their path to extirpation looked as close as the mouth of the nearest non-native lake trout. Working with the park, and Yellowstone Forever, TU began supporting the commercial-grade fishing of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake (although the trapped lake trout have never been used for commercial purposes). Dave Sweet of Wyoming, who led our efforts, fished the park’s streams this past summer, and said cutties are everywhere. “The biggest fish caught was pushing 25 inches, healthy and fat. The average fish was 20-23 inches.”

TU-supported science helped to identify the best places to target invasive lake trout. TU scientists are also helping to revolutionize the recovery of imperiled native trout species. With support from NASA, TU worked with partners to develop a new spatial analysis that allows managers to determine extinction risks for Lahontan cutthroat trout. This tool could be a game-changer in helping move the conversation from stopping extinction of native trout to promoting recovery.

As state and federal agency commitments to science decline, the investments of TU and our partners in fisheries science become ever more important. For example, our partners at the USGS Leetown Science Center discovered that almost all brook trout populations in the eastern U.S. have a unique genetic signature. In the Southeast, almost all populations are isolated from one another, with essentially no gene flow. This makes the work of chapters and staff to remove obsolete dams and fix perched culverts more essential to the long-term health of brook trout and other wild and native trout.

Recovering the natural resiliency of rivers and streams is a top priority in the face of increased floods, fires and drought associated with climate change. The Big Wood River in Idaho has suffered through devastating fires and a massive flood in recent years. TU worked with the local flood control district to reconstruct a major irrigation diversion that was blown out by the flood, and in so doing they recovered the river’s natural floodplain and made future irrigation on the river much less ecologically damaging.

When volunteers and staff work together, magic happens. Consider the fact that advocacy efforts in Pennsylvania by TU staff and volunteers enabled us to secure wild trout status for 476 stream sections in the commonwealth totaling nearly 1,000 miles.

The future of conservation depends on engaging more kids, and the future of Trout Unlimited lies in our ability to diversify the organization. STREAM Girls, a program TU developed in partnership with the Girl Scouts USA, helps us to accomplish both objectives. The program employs STEM-education (science, technology, engineering, math) plus recreation and arts to engage girls while exploring their local streams. STREAM Girls grew into new regions in the last year, and the curriculum expanded to include exciting new technologies and elements of citizen science.

Not a lot happened in Congress in 2018, but a major win was reauthorization of the Farm Bill. This is a major bipartisan victory for private land conservation. Among other things, the Farm Bill cuts red tape to enable more and larger landscape-scale conservation; improves irrigation efficiency and watershed health; and funds restoration of small watersheds.

To be certain, we have our challenges in 2019. Chief among them are improving a backward-looking proposal to remove the protections of the Clean Water Act for 20 percent of the nation’s streams and 50 percent of its wetlands; continue the fight to protect Bristol Bay from industrial-scale mining; and pass an Omnibus Public Lands Bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and pass the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Act.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.”

Your work in thousands of communities across America to protect, reconnect and restore the lands and waters that sustain us are seeds of hope. Your efforts to help a veteran to heal through time on the water or to teach kids about the wonders of the Lord’s creation are seeds to a better future.

Thoreau concluded: “Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Let’s get after it for 2019.

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What Is A Whippoorwill?

Whip Poor Will! That is the sound I heard when I opened my back door just before dark one night last April. It had been a while since I had heard that haunting sound, and it made me remember some past experiences with whippoorwills.

Every spring the sound of whippoorwills calling, looking for mates from sundown to full dark, drifts through our woods. I usually heard them at lakes since I spend many spring evenings around them. I always wondered about the birds that made them.

One night I got a strong spotlight and went hunting. I was able to follow the sound to a pine tree near my camper at Clark’s Hill and spotted a big brown bird sitting on a limb about half-way up the tree. It was a soft, fuzzy looking bird about the size of a crow, with a short, wide beak. It reminded me of a big quail.

When the bird flew, it reminded me of an owl, looking like it silently drifted through the trees as far as I could see it in the almost dark. Although I heard them many times after that, I did not see another one until many years later. While camping at West Point during a spring Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament, a whippoorwill started calling from a pine tree right beside my camp site. The sun had just set and I got a real good look at it.

I looked up whippoorwills in my North American Wildlife book when I got home and got a few surprised. It says the bird is 9 to 10 inches long and eats moths and other night flying insects. Its wide mouth helps them catch flying bugs, much like a swallow does.

The surprise came when I read the whippoorwills spends daylight hours sleeping in dried leaves on the ground. I always thought it roosted in trees. Now I wonder if I have ever spooked one while walking in the woods, but don’t remember seeing such a bird fly up from the ground.

whippoorwills also nest on the ground, laying two eggs in the leaves without making a nest. That reminds me of the way chickens lay eggs. Their range covers the U.S. from the Mississippi River east to the coast and the southern U.S. all the way to California, and also northern Mexico.

There is a first cousin, called the Chuck-wills-widow, that also covers most of that southern range. My book says it is very similar to the whippoorwills but its call is slower. That makes sense if it is a southern bird!

Listen for whip-poor-wills after the sun sets this spring. Try to track one down if you can. They are very interesting birds, and a part of the evening around here.