Monthly Archives: December 2019

Whiteoak Tree History

Joyce Kilmer said he would never see a poem as lovely as a tree, and he was right.  Did he ever consider the value of a tree beyond its beauty?  A tree’s beauty is much more than bark deep.  

Sitting on my deer stand on the ridge overlooking Buck Creek, I am near a huge whiteoak farther along the ridge. I often look at that tree as it goes through changes from early fall to winter and consider what the tree has seen over its lifetime.

The big whiteoak is about 40 inches in diameter, giving it an estimated age of 300 years.  And whiteoaks can live to be 600 years old, so it is just middle aged!  It was standing full-grown on that hillside long before I was born and could be standing there long after I am gone.

In the way back time machine of my mind, I imagine a squirrel burying an acorn on that ridge in the fall 300 years ago, then not being able to find it during the winter.  That spring, a small twig pokes out if the ground and two tiny leaves sprout from it.  It is dwarfed by the grown oaks and other trees living there.

The twig slowly grows, getting taller with the passing years.  When about 20 feet high, a bluejay builds its nest in the fork of a limb.  Many more bird and squirrel nests will decorate the limbs of this tree as it becomes the giant old man of the area over the next 200 years.

During that time, the strong limbs and trunk protect the nests in storms that the tree weathers. Although other trees on the ridge get hit by lightning and killed, somehow the big one avoids this fate.  And its spreading roots hold it in the wind and bring in enough water that it survives droughts that kill others nearby.  It lives by taking water they need, but that is nature.

When the whiteoak is 20 years old and 25 feet tall something wonderous happens in May. Small knots appear at the ends of last year’s branches while others grow at the tips of new branches.  Those knots on old branches grow into green two-inch-long fuzzy stings that produce pollen.  The female ones on the new branches become tiny eight of an inch-long greenish red flowers.

After pollination, a bud starts to grow.  By fall it is an acorn an inch long.  The tree has only a few dozen this year, but by the time it is fifty years old it is producing thousands of acorns every year.  The acorns come in three to five-year cycles, with best years producing up to 10,000 from our tree but only a few hundred at the bottom of the cycle.

Those acorns control wildlife numbers. In abundant years whitetails store up plenty of fat to survive the winter. Squirrels bury many more than they will need during the winter, and other animals and birds find and eat them.  In lean years deer starve during the winter without their fat reserves and many birds and animals do not survive.  Whiteoak acorns are the manna of the woods and many depend on it.

When the tree was young, I imagine a Native American sitting on the big rock a few feet from the tree, patiently knapping a piece of flint.  I have found some of his failed efforts by the rock. The females of his tribe gather the acorns, grind them up and boil them, making a kind of acorn meal that sustains the group.

Based on the size of the trees growing on the flat areas, about 100 years ago a farmer cleared and terraced this hillside.  The remains of his small house sit at the top of the hill, up the long gentle slope from the sharp drop on ridge at the creek.

He and his family slowly and painstakingly cut trees, dug up stumps, move rocks and flattened areas to create bands on the hillside to grow crops.  The rocks were moved to the terraces he created between the flat areas, the remains of them are piled ever fifty feet or so.  This ground was very rocky and not very fertile.  

Based on that and the size of the house remains, he was probably a poor farmer with a family that did all the work.  They managed to scratch out a living, growing most of the food they ate and a small cash crop to buy the necessities.   

And they depended on wildlife from the woods and fish from Buck Creek for much of their protein.  I imagine one of them sitting under the big oak, hoping to “bark” a squirrel with his muzzleloader or, even better, shoot one of the rare whitetails. 

The big oak survived their axes, probably because of its size and location. Smaller trees up the slope were easier to get to the fireplace, and the big one right on the ridge did not interfere with their crops.

The whiteoak continues its life cycle, taking in water, carbon dioxide and sunlight during the day to produce oxygen, acorns, leaves and wood.  The falling leaves decay and fertilize the ground around the tree for other plants. And its roots hold the soil, preventing erosion.

At some point the mighty tree will fall, its life ended by lightning, drought or old age. Its trunk lying on the ground will provide hiding places for all kinds of bugs, as well as food for them.  It will slowly rot away, leaving its final nutrients in the ground where it fell.

In the way forward time machine in my mind, I see a squirrel burying an acorn from a nearby oak, probably the offspring of the fallen giant, in the rich soil where the big oak died, starting the cycle all over again.

Keeping Florida Fish Alive

Keeping Florida Fish Alive as Temperatures Drop
With temperatures dropping, can you handle the fish?

While many anglers sing the praises of Florida’s warmer fishing months, seasoned anglers know that winter can offer great fishing opportunities for some of the state’s most sought-after fish species. As the temperatures drop, you’ll spot many anglers, including veteran kayak angler Stephen Stubbs, following spotted seatrout to fresher water, where the fish congregate in large schools.

While this can make spotted seatrout an easy target, this species is also especially vulnerable to fatigue and exposure, so as the winter bite turns on, it’s important to use proper gear and fish handling techniques. This ensures the best chance of survival for released fish. Read on for some tips to help you handle the fishing as the weather cools down and the action heats up.

Prepping for the Day A successful day of fishing begins with preparation. Be aware of the area you will be fishing and local fish you might catch. Know the regulations for your target species and make sure you have all the proper gear. Determining ahead of time which fish you are going to keep versus which fish you will release is an easy step to take and something that Stubbs practices regularly.“My friends and I tend to harvest only slot trout under 19 inches to keep the more productive egg-layers (20 inches and over) in the water to continue the sustainability of this wonderful species,” Stubbs said.

Knowing which fish he plans to release helps to get those fish back in the water quickly, increasing survival and benefitting the fish population.

Some great gear to have in your stash is:

Barbless circle hooks – Are 90% more likely to hook a fish in the mouth. Hooking a fish in the mouth reduces internal harm and decreases dehooking time, getting the fish back in the water faster and increasing its chance of survival.

Dehooking tool – Allows anglers to quickly release their catch while minimizing injuries and handling time.

Correct weight tackle – Using tackle heavy enough to land a fish quickly is important so fish are less exhausted and more able to avoid predators upon release.

Knotless, rubber-coated net – These support the weight of the fish while removing a minimal amount of slime, which protects the fish from infection.

Fish On!Make sure to reel the fish in as quickly as possible. According to Stubbs, the key to landing a nice trout, especially a big one, is to manage the drag tension. Horsing a trout into the boat can usually result in additional tearing of the area they are hooked, especially around the mouth. It can also cause you to lose the fish. Work them in as they tire and keep tension on the line to prevent a hook release. Playing the fish too much can result in an exhausted fish that cannot avoid predators once released.

Landing the FishStubbs reminds anglers to always use a net for landing medium-to-large trout and dip/wet any measuring board with water before laying the fish on the board. That helps reduce the loss of slime and scales. Once you’ve got your catch to the boat, use these additional tips to ensure that fish are landed quickly and safely for the best outcome for both the angler and the fish.

Avoid removing large fish from water. If you must remove them, support their weight horizontally to prevent damage to their internal organs.

Take pictures of your catch while it is in the water. This puts less stress on the fish and the fish will look bigger.If a net is needed to land or control a fish, always use a knotless, rubber-coated landing net. Fish Handling Using the correct methods to handle your fish once you’ve landed them is important to ensure that released fish are in prime condition when returned to the water.

Return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. One of the major factors in the survival of a released fish is how much time it spends out of the water. The more fish that survive upon release today, the more fish there will be available to catch tomorrow.Wet your hands before handling a fish to prevent damaging its protective slime coating.

Don’t use gloves or towels, as this will remove the protective slime.
Never hold a fish by the gill cover or eyes.

Hold fish horizontally to support their internal organs.

Gripping devices can be effective for controlling and handling fish, especially ones with sharp teeth. Grip behind the lower lip and support the weight of the fish in a horizontal position.

Removing the Hook Removing a hook can be tricky. Use these tips to get the hook out and protect your trout (and other catches).If possible, keep the fish in the water while removing the hook.If the fish has swallowed the hook, cut the line as close to the hook as possible. Attempting to remove the hook can do more harm than good. Use non-stainless-steel hooks since they eventually dissolve or pass naturally.

Using a dehooking tool will allow you to remove hooks safely and quickly without touching the fish, giving it a better chance to survive. 

Releasing and RevivingTaking steps to return fish to the water properly can be a significant factor in their survival. With a little extra effort, you can give your fish a fighting chance at survival to reproduce and fight another day.

Place the fish in the water and allow it to swim away on its own; do not toss the fish back.

Revive fish that do not swim away immediately or appear lethargic.Place fish in the water head first – it is easiest to hold one hand on the bottom lip or tail and one hand under the belly of the fish.Move the fish forward in the water – this allows the water to be flow through the mouth and over the gills. The fish must face the direction of water flow.Use a figure-8 motion to move the fish forward constantly, ensuring water continues to flow over the gills. Never jerk fish back and forth, since this action prevents water from properly flowing through the gills.For fish caught in deep water with signs of barotrauma, use a descending device to return fish to depth or vent the fish by inserting a sharpened, hollow tube at a 45-degree angle, one inch behind the base of the pectoral fin.

Practice C-P-R: Catch-Photo-Release. Quickly land your fish, have a friend snap a quick photo during the action and return fish to the water expediently. Then submit your photos on com to earn prizes for your fishing achievements!

Ensure Fish Survive to Help Populations Thrive!The steps you take on the water today can help positively impact the future of your Florida fish populations! Dropping temperatures don’t have to mean a drop in the survival of the fish you release. To learn more about proper catch-and-release techniques, visit

The quarterly Gone Coastal column is one of many ways that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love the opportunity to share information through in-person presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations.

To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email

Where and How to Catch Lake Seminole August Bass

August 2015 Seminole Bass
with Laura Ann Foshee

Hot August weather, grass and bass just go together on some lakes. Throwing a frog to grass beds and getting explosive strikes is just about the most thrilling way to fish. And Lake Seminole is one of the best lakes anywhere to fish grass beds. Even better, right now Seminole is at the top of its cycle with lots of quality bass feeding in the lake.

Seminole is a big Corps of Engineers lake in the corner of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Formed by a dam on the Apalachicola River just downstream of where the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers join, it is very shallow and full of a variety of kinds of grass that form thick beds that bass love.

    Laura Ann Foshee is a rising senior at Gardendale High School near Birmingham.  She fishes with the high school team there and they fish both the FLW High School Trail and the BASS High School Trail.  They are also in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association.  She does well with the team, finishing second in both the FLW State Championship and the TBF open which qualified me for the SEC Championship in September on Lake Lanier.  She also fishes some local pot and charity tournaments.

Laura Ann’s uncle is Scott Montgomery, owner of Big Bite Baits. He got her excited about fishing when he took her with him practicing for a tournament and she caught a big bass. He and members of the Big Bite Baits Pro Staff have taught her a lot about fishing. She also raises money for the Outdoor Ability Foundation and Pink Fishing, two charities that she cares deeply about.

She received the highest honor any high school fisherman can get this year when she was named as one of the 12 members of the BASS All American High School Bass Team, and is the only female angler to make the team this year.

By late July bass at Seminole are well into their summer pattern, setting up on ledges in deeper water. At Seminole, many of these ledges come up to a shallow grass bed where they move in to feed. Some bass will move back to deeper water after feeding, usually early in the morning and late in the day when light levels are low, but others will stay in the heavy grass shade and feed all day.

A variety of baits will catch those feeding bass. Early in the morning a popping frog, buzz bait or walking bait will get hit on top. Those baits will work later in the day if there is cloud cover. Some wind just rippling the water helps, too, as does current moving down the lake.

On brighter days a Sugar Cane eight inch paddle tail worm or Fighting Frog swam right at the top of the grass will catch them. A big Texas rigged worm like the Kriet Tail ten inch worm is good to work through the grass. And punching the mats with a Texas rigged Fighting Frog is also a good way to get bites from big bass, especially on calm, sunny days.

In late June Laura Ann and fellow Big Bite Pro Staff member Matt Baty from Bainbridge showed me how to catch these bass. First thing that morning Laura Ann caught a five pounder on a Spro popping frog and she and Matt also missed some big bites as well as catching several keeper bass. Then, just before we left, another five pounder hit a swimming Fighting Frog.

The following ten spots had bass on them when we fished and will be even better now. They are in the order we fished them, leaving Wingates Lunker Lodge and working downstream, then going up the Flint River and working back down to Wingates.

1N 30 45.844 – W 84 46.235 – If you put in at Wingates you can run the flat downstream without going all the way to the channel if you are careful. The channel is on the opposite side of the Flint River across from Wingates but swings across the lake and comes close to the south bank at red channel marker 8.8.

Go to it and you will see a good grass line running from the channel marker upstream. Start there or on the upper end of it in front of a house sitting up on the ridge with a dock in front of it. This house has a cleared bank in front of it and the dock is the first of four docks fairly close together.

Keep your boat in 10 to 12 feet of water out from the grass line and cast a popping frog into the grass and work it out. Laura Ann expects the bass to be swimming the grass line and feeding, so she works her frog from the grass to the edge and pauses it for a beat, expecting a reaction bite when the frog clears the grass. This is how she caught the five pounder here.

2 N 30 46.314 – W 84 46.086 – Follow the channel upstream across to the opposite bank. Near the bank just downstream of the black channel marker where the channel comes to the bank there is a small island. Go to the upstream end of this island and start fishing the grass line working upstream. This is the Fort Scott Island area.
The channel edge here has rocks that hold a lot of bass and the grass itself has points, cuts and ditches in it the bass use for ambush points. Cast your frog into the grass. You can also cast a buzzbait or walking bait to the edge of the grass and into cuts in it.

Laura Ann likes a Strike King half-ounce white buzz bait and a bone Spook for fishing the more open water over the submerged grass. Another effective way to get bit is to cast these baits across the ends of points of grass that stick out from the main bed. A very good one is near the channel marker as you work upstream from the island. We got a good keeper bass here.

3 N 30 46.163 – W 84 46.995 – Going downstream past the small island a big bay opens on your right. This is Carl’s Pass where you can go between the islands all the way to Spring Creek when the grass is not too thick. A channel comes out of the middle of this bay and turns and goes downstream to come back in near the bank at the downstream end of the bay.

Bass use this ditch to move in and out and feed along the grass lines on it. Keep your boat in the ditch in about six feet of water and fish the grass with topwater. Laura Ann likes a white frog first thing in the morning since bass are usually feeding on shad, but later in the day she will switch to a more natural color frog since the bass are usually feeding on bluegill then.

If you have a good GPS with a good map chip you can see this ditch and follow it. If not stay out from the visible grass and work from the middle of the cove toward the downstream side of it, fishing the grass edges and changes in it. A keeper bass hit a buzzbait here when we fished.

4 N 30 45.181 – W 84 50.577 – River Junction Access is a boat ramp on the south bank near where it turns toward the dam. Go down to it and stop well out in front of it at the pole marker showing the channel in to the ramp. There is a small number 508 on this marker.

If you leave hole number 3 you can follow the north bank down and hit the channel markers coming out of Spring Creek, or go back upstream and follow the markers from hole number 2, but there is standing timber in the middle of the open water between the north bank and the river channel, so it is not a good idea to go straight across.

The green marker pole is on a small hump just off the river channel that has a good grass bed on it. Keep your boat in 10 feet of water and fish all the way around it. The points on either end are usually best, especially if there is any current moving down the river.

Fish topwater on this hump, especially if you are there early in the morning or late in the day, or if cloud cover keeps the light low. A light breeze rippling the water helps, too. So the best time to fish grass beds is a hazy to cloudy day with a slight breeze just rippling the water.

5 N 30 45.554 – W 84 47.555 – Go back up the river to red channel marker 7.4. The grass line along the drop here is good so fish both sides of the marker along it. The grass is thick from this edge all the way to the bank and you can get in the grass and punch through it with a Fighting Frog behind a one to one and a half ounce tungsten sinker.

For a different look Laura Ann also likes to punch mats with a Big Bite Tube on the same rig. Drop your bait so it falls through the grass to the bottom and be ready to set the hook if you feel anything different, like it feels a little heavy.

If you are fishing near the time of a full moon another pattern can often catch big bass and this is a good place to try it. Go into the bank. You can punch the mats as you work in. When you get a long cast from the bank, throw a Spro bream colored popping frog to the bank. If the bream are bedding some big bass will often be hanging around the bream beds and hit it.

6 N 30 47.019 – W 84 43.648 – Upstream of Wingates a huge flat runs for a long way on the south bank. You can run this flat if the grass is not too thick. On the bank you can see some houses and docks, and Brocketts Slough is a big slough with a spring in it. Across from it the river makes a definite wide horseshoe bend to the north bank.

Stop way out from the mouth of the slough. Bass hold along the grass bed here along the seven foot contour line. Follow this grass line for about 200 yards, keeping your boat in eight or more feet of water and cast to it. Try topwater as well as punching the mat here. Fish any changes in the grass that will give the bass a holding and feeding spot. Points, cuts and holes are all good.

7 N 30 47.227 – W 84 42.883 – If you go upstream on the flat the grass will be very thick, possibly too thick to run. But if you do you will see a small gap ahead of you near a red channel marker where the river swings back across the lake on the upstream side of the horseshoe bend. The gap is where boats cut through to run the flat so there is a channel in the grass made by them.

The river channel is just off this grass bed at the gap and is a good place to fish. Current coming down the river hits it and it drops off fast. Stay in the channel and fish the grass with all your baits.
When boats come by and cut through the grass line, don’t get mad, just fish behind them. Their props and wakes disturb the baitfish in the grass and make them move and that will often turn on the bass and make them feed. Fish all around the cut when a boat goes through it.

8 N 30 47.365 – W 84 41.753 – From the bend in hole 7 the channel runs fairly straight up to Butlers Creek as it narrows down. On your right, out from the creek mouth, the grass forms a point running downstream. The creek channel comes in and turns downstream to join the river channel and the point of grass is an excellent feeding spot. There is always some current here due to the narrow area and that makes it better.

Fish the point of grass on the river side and on the creek side. Start with your boat in the channel and fish the outside edge, working along the point until the grass ends. Then move in and fish the grass line on the inside, following it as it curves toward the mouth of the creek. Try topwater and punching the mat. But also swim a paddle tail worm or Fighting Frog over the submerged grass and through any openings in it.

Rig your Fighting Frog behind a one quarter ounce tungsten weight Texas rigged. Keep it down so it bumps grass as you swim it along. If it hangs up on the grass jerk it loose and keep it moving. Bass will suck it in as it swims along so be ready to set the hook if your rod loads up at all.

9 N 30 47.327 – W 84 43.967 – Go downstream to red channel marker 12.6. A good grass line runs along the channel edge between this marker and marker 12.5. Start at either marker and fish all along the grass between the two. Keep your boat in the channel and cast to the grass with all your baits.
Laura Ann uses Sunline FX2 Braid for fishing grass since the bass will bury in it. Fifty to sixty pound test works well.

And she fishes it on Lews Tournament Lite Reels and custom rods wrapped by TigeRodz with Rainshadow Revelation & Eternity rod blanks to suit her different kinds of fishing.

10 N 30 46.318 – W 84 45.291 – Go down to the entrance to Wingates. There are three double sets of poles marking the channel in to it. Stop at the middle set of poles and fish all the grass around it. A ditch goes both ways from this set of poles and fish feed along it, and it is restocked with tournament released fish at Wingates.

The other five pounder hit a Fighting Frog swam along the top of the grass here. Try it and topwater, too. But also work a big Texas rigged worm through the grass. Laura Ann likes the green pumpkin ten inch Kreit Tail worm with a chartreuse tail. A light tungsten sinker, one quarter ounce or lighter, will make your worm come through the grass better. Move it along with pauses and let it fall into holes in the grass.

All these places hold bass right now and there are a lot of quality bass from four to six pounds on them. Give them a try and you can see the types of grass to fish and find many more similar grass beds all over the lake.
You can keep up with Laura Ann’s fishing by following her on Facebook and Twitter at lauraannfoshee or on Instagram at Foshizal_Fo_Sho.

Tarpon Tagging Program Yields Results


Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Tarpon Tagging Program Yields Results
It’s hoped the 5-year acoustic tagging program will help answer many questions about tarpon movements around Florida’s coasts.

The Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project is a collaborative, five-year program designed to broaden our understanding of tarpon movement and habitat uses. The results will help shape future conservation measures, including the protection of critical habitats and improvements to fishing regulations.  The project is generously sponsored by Maverick Boat Group.

Tarpon Acoustic Tagging is addressing the following questions:

Is the tarpon population large and robust or small and vulnerable? If anglers in a particular location are fishing for the same fish every year, then the tarpon population is probably smaller than we think, and issues like shark predation will become a bigger concern. If fish move among regions every year, and anglers are fishing for different fish each year, the tarpon population is probably relatively large.

Do tarpon gather in the same areas for spawning each year or move among areas? On average, ocean currents will carry the larvae from a spawning site to juvenile habitats in a specific geographic region. If it’s the same adults at the spawning site every year, then local adult losses will cause local declines in juveniles. If tarpon move among spawning sites, then the population will be more resilient.

How do changes in freshwater flows into coastal waters influence tarpon movements? Do the problems with Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration impact tarpon? Are the water issues in Apalachicola causing changes in tarpon movements?

What are the movement patterns and habitat use of mid-size tarpon (20-50 pounds)? How will these tarpon be impacted by coastal water quality issues? This size class, which is the future of the fishery, is very vulnerable to changes in coastal habitats and water quality.Until the Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project began, there was little information available to answer these questions. Satellite tagging provided spatial and temporal data that was limited to tarpon weighing 80 pounds and larger. After a few months, most satellite tags detached from the fish, making it difficult to study their movements over the important multi-year time frame. Acoustic telemetry has helped to combat these limitations.Why Acoustic Tagging?Acoustic tags provide the ability to track tarpon for five years. They are also small enough that they are being used on tarpon as small as 5 and as large as 200 pounds!

Acoustic telemetry has helped to broaden the scope of tarpon research. When deployed, a tag is surgically implanted in the fish’s abdomen before safe release. The tagged fish swims within range of an underwater receiver, which detects and stores the tag’s unique code. BTT and collaborators have approximately 100 receivers deployed, but we are also able to take advantage of the network of receivers being used by collaborators studying everything from redfish to sawfish. This vast network exceeds 4,000 receivers deployed from Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. As scientists detect tagged fish on their receiver networks they share data with other scientists, effectively expanding the study area.

All years are concurrently playing with the date displayed in the upper left corner. The movements shown here are represented “as the crow flies”, thus the movement tracks may cross land.

How You Can Help

Sponsor a Tarpon: Sponsor an acoustic tag for $3,000. You can name your tarpon and will receive a certificate with its name and initial capture info (general location and measurements).  Sponsors will receive access to a password protected site where they can see periodic updates of their tarpon’s movements.

Sponsor a Receiver: Sponsor and name an acoustic receiver (listening station) for $3,000.  Sponsors will receive periodic reports summarizing the tarpon detections it has recorded.

Help us tag tarpon: Prior to every tagging trip, our team of scientists will notify sponsors  about when and where they will be working, along with contact information. If you are fishing in that area on tagging dates, all you need to do is call us when you catch a tarpon. We’ll come to your boat, transfer the tarpon to our sling, and take implant a transmitter. Remember to always keep the tarpon in the water!

Contact Us Today! For more information and to sponsor a tag or receiver, please contact Mark Rehbein, Director of Development at 703-350-9195 or

Where and How To Catch July Lake Hartwell Bass

July 2015 Lake Hartwell Bass
with Trad Whaley

Hate the heat of July? Think it is too hot to go fishing? You should plan a trip to Lake Hartwell and enjoy catching quality fish on topwater plugs to make you forget how hot it is!

Lake Hartwell is a big Corps of Engineers lake on the Savannah River. The lower lake is full of long points, humps, standing timber and brush piles. Blueback herring are a favorite food of the bass in the lake, making them grow to good average sizes and making the bass feed on specific patterns this month.

The water on the big water is very clear and topwater plugs draw bass from the depths to smash them. Bluebacks tend to come to the surface on sunny days so the bass’s attention is focused toward the top, so surface activity is attractive to them. That combination insures good topwater fishing all month.

Trad Whaley lives in Abbyville, South Carolina and has fished Hartwell all his life. Although he has not been fishing a lot of tournaments lately he is well known in the area on the tournament trails. His father Danny is also a well-known tournament fisherman and taught Trad a lot about catching bass on Hartwell.

When he was just eight years old Trad started fishing team tournaments with his father and learned how to catch fish in competition. It paid off. Trad has won two BFLs on Hartwell and placed seventh in an FLW series tournament there. He also won many local tournaments over the years.

Right now Trad is concentrating on helping kids learn to catch bass. He is one of the coaches for the Abbyville High School Team and his nephew, Carter McNeil, who Trad taught about fishing, is one of the 12 students on the BASS High School All American Team this year. And Trad’s daughter Caelyn is a good bass fisherman winning tournaments although she just finished Middle School this year.

For July Trad relies on a small selection of lures. He will have a top-water walking bait like a Spook or Sammy, a top water popper, a frog, a wobble head jig and a Fluke ready for fishing near or on the surface. And he always keeps a drop shot worm ready for casting or dropping down to fish or brush piles he sees on his depthfinder.

“In July bass on Hartwell are on main lake structure feeding on herring,” Trad says. They will school on top in the morning then move to brush piles when the sun gets high. They will still come up to hit a bait fished over the brush even in the bright sun.

We fished Hartwell in mid-June and the bass were feeding. In just a few hours we caught or lost four or five bass in the four pound range and several more not much smaller. The following ten spots were holding bass then and will have even bigger schools on them now.

1 N 34 20.745 – W 82 49.680 – If you put in near the dam at daylight go to the riprap on the Georgia side of the lake. A small island sits off the riprap and the gap between the island and the riprap focuses any current and bass feed on herring on the rocks and the shallows around the island on top before the sun gets on the water

Bait is the key here and on other places. Trad asked me if I could smell the herring as we idled to the rocks to start out day. That is one way to know they are in the area. You can also see them on your depthfinder or, hopefully, see bass chasing them on top before the sun gets bright.

Fish the rocks and the shallows near the island with your Spook or Sammy. Always keep close watch for anything on the surface and cast to it. Make long casts, the bass are often spooky in the clear water. Walk your bait fast back to the boat and fan cast the area if you are not seeing surface movement.

2 N 34 20.752 – W 82 50.300 – Watsadlers ramp sits on the point on the north side of the first pocket at the dam on the Georgia side. A series of humps run off this point and there are shoal markers on some of them. Trad starts on the big flat between the ramp and the first shoal marker and fishes out to the humps marked by two shoal buoys.

Again start with a walking bait and watch for surface activity. Bass will scatter in the shallow water and chase herring before the sun gets bright, then move to brush piles on the humps. If you watch your depthfinder you will find many brush piles on every hump. In fact, there are so many it is often hard to fish them all.

Trad likes the Sammy 100 in chrome or similar colored Spook. He will also cast a Zoom white or transparent Fluke to surface feeding fish or fan cast it in these areas early. Sometimes the bass want something worked just under the surface and a Fluke is perfect for this. Make long cast with it and fish it back fast with a lot of action.

3 N 34 22.816 – W 82 50.602 – Powder Bag Creek is the first big creek north of the dam on the Georgia side. The upstream point of it runs way out and Long Point ramp is on it. Out from the downstream edge of this big point are three shoal markers forming a triangle. Line up the two just upstream of the one downstream and stop on the hump that comes up to 16 feet on top. You will be straight out toward the middle of the lake from the point and markers.

Fish all around the hump with topwater and Fluke, keeping your boat in 25 to 30 feet of water and casting to the top of the hump. This hump has a hard bottom like the others marked and that makes them better, but the brush piles on them are more important so keep a close watch for them as you fish.

If you find brush piles mark their location to fish over them. Bass concentrate around and over the brush even at first light and roam from there, so they are hotspots all day. If you get right on top of one before seeing it, remember where it is to fish later in the day.

4 N 34 23.138 – W 82 50.430 – Channel marker 7 sits upstream and out from hole 3. Upstream from it, out right on the river channel, a danger marker with “Danger Tree” on it marks standing timber on the edge of a hump. The trees, hump and brush piles on it make an ideal place for bass this time of year.

Keep your boat near the marker in 25 feet of water and cast over the trees and the hump. Work a topwater bait over them. Bass will school here but will also come out of the trees and brush to hit on top when the sun is up.
Some wind blowing across this spot and others makes it better. Trad says the perfect day is when the sun is fairly bright and the wind is making the water ripple. If the waves and ripples are big enough to make working the walking bait ineffective he will throw a popping bait like a Pop-R to make more noise to attract the fish.

5 N 34 23.076 – W 82 50.841 – Go back in toward the point just north of channel marker 9. There is a shoal marker on the upstream side of the big point behind it, the same point hole #3 is on the downstream side. Stop out upstream of the shoal marker in 25 feet of water and fan cast over it.
Trad will often idle in fast toward the hump here and in other places and stop before he gets to the 25 foot depth. He says the boat moving in will often push the schools of bait toward the hump or point and turn the bass on.

Fan cast all over the hump from the deeper upstream side. Trad got a solid four pounder here on his Spook and there were several more that size and bigger following it as he fought it to the boat. If two people are fishing it often pays off for the second person to cast to the fighting bass to catch followers.

6 N 34 23.238 – W 82 51.134 – West of hole 5 is the mouth of Gum Branch. Go toward it and the big white house sitting on a point back in it a little ways. There is a marked hump with bushes on top of it just inside the big point. Stop out in 25 feet of water and fan cast all around the downstream side and end of it. I lost a four pounder that hit my topwater plug three times before taking it here.

Work topwater first but also try a wobble bait like a Pulse Jig with a Fluke on it. Sometimes, especially when the sun is higher or if the wind is fairly strong, the Pulse Jig will draw strikes better than the topwater. Make long casts, let it sink a little then reel it in slowly. When you feel weight just keep reeling until the rod loads up. Trad says if you set the hook as soon as you feel the fish you will miss it.

7 N 34 23.430 – W 82 51.321 – Toward the mouth of Gum Branch an island sits west of channel marker 11. A flat around it drops off into the channel and bass hold on it and feed. There are a couple of ditches on it and many brush piles. The island helps concentrate any current in this area.
Stop in 25 feet of water and fish the flat on the river side. Try topwater then a Fluke and a Pulse Jig. Watch for brush piles on your depthfinder and fish them with a drop shot when you see them. Trad caught several bass out of brush here but they were smaller and there were several spotted bass. He says you can catch keeper size bass all day by fishing brush with dropshot but they tend to be smaller than the fish you will catch on topwater.

Trad hits many places fast during a day of fishing. He will pull up on a place like this and do what he calls his 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 punch – topwater, Fluke, pulse jig then drop shot. He quickly fishes all four baits then moves on to the next spot. We hit about 15 places in four hours and he says that is not unusual.

8 N 34 24.408 – W 82 51.270 – Go across the mouth of Lightwood Log Creek to the islands on the upstream side of it. Stop on the island closest to the bank, between it and the one further out. A point comes off this island toward the outer island and fish hold on it and feed.

The two islands concentrate current here and current always makes these spots better. For that reason, week days are better fishing since there is less current during the weekend. Many fishermen have seen this change from week day practice to a weekend tournament.

Fish all your baits here. With the drop shot, Trad uses a fairly heavy three eights ounce sinker and puts a Zoom Meathead or Tiny Fluke about 18 inches above it. He drops it to the bottom around the brush and moves it very little, with light shakes of the rod tip to make the bait dance. He will also drop the bait down to suspended fish and hold it at their level, shaking it a little right in front of them.

9 N 34 25.669 – W 82 51.527 – Going upstream a small double creek enters on the Georgia side between channel markers 19 and 21. In the mouth of this creek, out even with the island downstream at Lightwood Log Creek and the upstream point of the double creek, is a hump that holds bass.

This hump is near the river channel and comes up to a feeding table. It has brush on it to fish. Keepyour boat in deep water and cast to the top of it all around it. Trad says be ready to follow up with a Fluke if a bass boils on your topwater plug but doesn’t take it. We had several fish hit up to three times before taking the plug the day we fished. Following up quickly with a Fluke will often catch a bass that misses the topwater.

10 N 34 26.692 – W 82 51.527 – There is a big island right at the mouth of the Tugaloo River on the left going upstream at channel marker T1. A point runs off this island toward the channel. It slopes off on one side with a sharper drop on the other and current moves across it making it a good feeding spot.

Keep your boat out in 25 feet of water and fish across the point with the current if it is moving. Trad says the key depth here and on all other places in July is 18 to 25 feet deep. Fish hold at that depth in brush so watch for brush in it, but fish over it, too.

All these places held fish a couple of weeks ago and are even better now. Try Trad’s baits and learn from these places for the kind of structure and cover you want to fish in July and you can find many more all over the lower lake.



Impacts of Invasive Lionfish
Lionfish are native to coral reefs in the tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. But you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to see them. This is an invasive species that threatens the well-being of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, including the commercially and recreationally important fishes that depend on them.

NOAA and its partners are working hard to develop ways to prevent further spread and control existing populations.

Lionfish have become the poster child for invasive species issues in the western north Atlantic region. On par with zebra mussels, snakeheads, and even Asian carp in notoriety as invaders, lionfish populations continue to expand, threatening the well-being of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, including the commercially and recreationally important fishes that depend on them. NOAA and its partners are working hard to develop ways to prevent further spread and control existing populations.

History The common name “lionfish” refers to two closely related and nearly indistinguishable species that are invasive in U.S. waters. Lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, were first detected along Florida coasts in the mid-1980s, but their populations have swelled dramatically in the past 15 years. Lionfish are popular with aquarists, so it is plausible that repeated escapes into the wild via aquarium releases are the cause for the invasion. Lionfish now inhabit reefs, wrecks, and other habitat types in the warm marine waters of the greater Atlantic.

Lionfish continue to expand at astonishing speeds and are harming native coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. Biologists suspect that lionfish populations have not yet peaked in the Gulf of Mexico, which means that their demand for native prey will continue to increase. Recent research has also revealed that lionfish can tolerate brackish coastal zones, so mangrove and estuarine habitats may also be at risk of invasion.

Impacts to Native Fish and Coral reefs Adult lionfish are primarily fish-eaters and have very few predators outside of their home range. Researchers have discovered that a single lionfish residing on a coral reef can reduce recruitment of native reef fishes by 79 percent. Because lionfish feed on prey normally consumed by snappers, groupers, and other commercially important native species, their presence could negatively affect the well-being of valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.

As lionfish populations grow, they put additional stress on coral reefs already struggling from the effects of climate change, pollution, disease, overfishing, sedimentation, and other stressors that have led to the listing of seven coral species in the lionfish-infested area. For example, lionfish eat herbivores and herbivores eat algae from coral reefs. Without herbivores, algal growth goes unchecked, which can be detrimental to the health of coral reefs.

What’s Next? NOAA has created an Invasive Lionfish Web Portal—a clearinghouse for all things related to lionfish outreach and education, research, monitoring, and management. Interested parties will no longer need to browse through multiple web pages to find accurate information; it will be available in a centralized location.NOAA researcher and lionfish expert Dr. James Morris recently hosted the 7th annual lionfish symposium at the 2014 meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute in Barbados. More than 35 presentations were given on lionfish research around the region.

This meeting built upon the results of a 2013 GCFI lionfish workshop focused on harvesting invasive lionfish: An invasive lionfish food fish market is practical, feasible, and should be promoted.Alternative invasive lionfish end-uses, such as the curio and aquarium trade, are also viable markets.

Regarding consumption and the risk for ciguatera poisoning, invasive lionfish should not be treated differently than other tropical fish species and a general caution statement should be displayed within all establishments that serve fish and on all fish products.Local control is effective at minimizing invasive lionfish impacts at local scales and should be encouraged where possible.

Though no confirmed cases of ciguatera poisoning from eating lionfish have occurred, fears persist. A Caribbean-wide assessment of lionfish ciguatera levels is nearly complete and a report will be publicly available in the coming months. If lionfish are proven to be safe, and if cost-effective harvest and distribution mechanisms are developed, small-scale fishermen may be able to capitalize while simultaneously helping to control the invasion.

Cooperation and communication among local, state, federal, and international partners is crucial for proper management of lionfish and other widespread invasive species. Accordingly, a National Invasive Lionfish Prevention and Management Plan was developed by members of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force—an intergovernmental organization co-chaired by NOAA. The plan will be publicly available in spring 2015 pending final review and approval. NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries Program is working to finalize their own lionfish plan that will guide the management of this invasive species in the affected sanctuaries in the Gulf and southeastern United States.

Together, these plans will guide the management of invasive lionfish and ensure that all are working toward common objectives.More information on NOAA’s lionfish research programs can be found online.An animated map of lionfish spread is available on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species web page.

Walking In A Southern Winter Wonder Land

As a southerner, walking in my winter wonderland was quite different from the song.  No sleigh bells rang, but there were cows lowing, squirrels barking and crows crawing.  And almost never did snow glisten, fog and wet glittering leaves were much more common.   

 Treks in the woods were more stalking than walking since my trusty .22 semiautomatic, a gift for my 8th birthday, was always with me.  Squirrels were my usual target but just about any wild critter was fair game, if in season.   

Those trips were always learning experiences to a curious boy.  I learned to identify green briar, which we called smilac, as one of the few green vines in the gray and brown woods.  There was scattered honeysuckle, too, and later I found out how much deer depend on them for food in harsh winters.   

Often, I could smell a cedar tree before seeing it, especially after as rain. And I did seek out thick cedars as protection from a sudden shower.  I still got wet, but not as soaked as I would have without the tree over me.   

I had favorite places to sit and watch for squirrels, and I often time traveled from them.  Some of those travels were fantasy, some based on history.  Although no cave men ever lived in my part of the world, I could imagine crouching on my rock grasping a club waiting on a sabretooth tiger.  

  A little more realistic were the times I would have my bow and arrow, dressed in a loin cloth and hoping for a deer for the tribe’s dinner.  At times I could be dressed in gray, clutching my rifle hoping to spot a hated Yankee in his blue.  

  My favorite were the times I imagined my coonskin cap topping my head, with my flintlock rifle that never missed any target.  I did carry a small hatchet and pretended it was like the one the frontiersmen carried.   

The woods had moods, too.  When the sun was bright and the sky clear and cold, everything seemed to sparkle.  Even the drab browns and grays of winter seemed happier on those days. The branch gurgled louder, and everything seemed more lively.  

  On rainy days, the world was subdued.  Colors were almost nonexistent and sounds muffled.  Footsteps didn’t crunch in the leaves and even the branch seemed to sigh over limbs and rocks rather than have a happy gurgle.  

  Foggy days were different still.  Like on rainy days, everything was subdued, but familiar objects became strange.  The big white oak still looms large but seems threatening as it disappears into the gloom. That tall stump you leaned on yesterday now looks like a scary figure with the limb behind it an imagined raised arm and knife.   

In fog, everything is muffled.  I could actually move through the woods as quietly as I imagined I could as Davy Crockett. Leaves that still fell ghosted down without a crunch.  And the branch gurgles were deadened by the thick fog.   

Most winter days required a fire as some point, to either warm hands or cook a kill.  Dry days were no problem, just get some leaves and twigs to start slightly bigger sticks.    

But on foggy or rainy days, it was a challenge.  I would first find a fairly flat rock to keep my effort off the soggy dirt.  Then I would gather bark from a cedar or pine tree, peel some of it off to get to the dry under layer and carefully protect it from the wet.    Nothing on the ground was suitable since twigs and leaves were soaked. So breaking small branches off a dead tree was the option.  If I was careful enough I could get a fire started even on the worse days.   

I always wanted to start my fires the same way as the imagined people of my mind, but flint and steel never worked for me, and a bow and stick never produced even a whiff of smoke.   

To be prepared I always had some strike anywhere matches, heads carefully dipped in melted wax to seal them, with me.  They were usually in a small pill bottle in my pocket and in the bottle were some cotton balls soaked in the same melted wax.     The waxed cotton would burn hot for a few minutes and start a fire on even the wettest day.   

Some of my best meals were eaten over such a fire. I liked roasted robin, they were easy to shoot and clean.  And they tasted good, even if as tough as an old shoe after roasting on a spit to too well-done chewiness. Squirrels were also a regular feast roasted on the fire, but for some reason never tasted as good as the ones mama fried with gravy or made into squirrel and dumplings.   

Trying to find other things to cook was interesting.  I read about cooking and eating acorns but every way I tried they were so bitter they were inedible.  Later I found the acorns needed to be ground up and soaked to remove the tannin from them.   

Mushrooms popped up like magic throughout the woods after a rain, and I wanted to try them but was always afraid of them. It was drilled into me that toadstools were poison, and I never learned to be sure enough of the ones that were edible to try them.   

Fish were in the branch and I caught them regularly, but they were never big enough to cook on a fire.  A dozen of them cleaned and boiled barely made good stock for a fish stew. I never tried to cook fish in the woods.   

Try walking in a winter wonder land around here this year, and take a kid with you if possible, to enjoy the imagination of the young.

Wintertime Crappie

Staying on Top of Wintertime Crappie
from The Fishing Wire
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Of all the outdoor experiences my mother, now 86, enjoyed the most, it was watching a cork disappear as a slab crappie grabbed the minnow at the end of the line.

As is normal procedure, I check in on her every few days, and she wanted to know what I’d been doing.

“Catching crappie,” I said.

“I didn’t think you could catch crappie this time of year,” she responded.

“Well,” I said, “You haven’t been crappie fishing with Tony Adams.

”Adams is the fish-catching wizard who can catch crappie any time of year on his home impoundment – Lake Eufaula.

Although Eufaula is known as the “Bass Capitol of the World,” Adams spends most of his time on the water catching crappie.

When most folks in the outdoors community are in the woods chasing whitetails or cottontails, Adams is locating the likely spots where crappie congregate this time of year. He uses his Humminbird Helix 12 bottom machine (manufactured in Eufaula) to locate the fish on the spots he has found over the years. He uses the side-scanning feature to locate the spot and then switches to down-scanning to pinpoint where the fish are located on the structure.

“I find structure in 15 to 20 feet of water,” said Adams, who manages the Eufaula Marvin’s building supply store when he’s not catching crappie.

“When I see the fish on the Humminbird, I’ll drop down a minnow anywhere from 8 to 10 to 12 feet, depending on where the fish are holding.

”Adams uses 10-foot B&M poles and spinning reels with 6-pound-test, high-viz line. When the fish are deeper in the winter, he uses a No. 2 gold hook and a split-shot pinched 12 to 18 inches above the hook. If it gets a little windy, he’ll use a second split-shot to keep the bow out of his line.

The reason he uses the high-viz line is because it’s a lot easier to watch during the sunny, clear days.

“Obviously, you watch your rod tip, but I also watch that line,” Adams said. “Sometimes crappie will bite and come up with it. You can tell by the slack in the line that you’ve got a fish.

”When Adams hits the lake, he always has a bait bucket or two with plenty of minnows.

“In the summer, I’ll tip a jig with a minnow and bounce it off the bottom,” he said. “In the winter, I just use a minnow.”

Adams prefers to hook his minnow through the bottom lip and through the hard cartilage on the front of the head to allow more action from the bait.

“In the wintertime I try to keep the bait right at about the depth the fish are holding,” he said. “Then we just wait to see that rod tip bounce or go down and then pull in a slab.

”Of course, the weather plays a significant role in his fishing success during the winter, especially the wind. The cold doesn’t bother him. He just adds more clothes. It’s the wind that dictates his strategy.

“During the winter, the less wind there is, the better the fishing I can do,” he said. “You have to keep the bait in front of the crappie most of the time. The fish are in big schools on the structure. The more time you can have that minnow in front of the crappie, the better your chances of catching them.”

Adams said the wintertime pattern kicks off on Lake Eufaula around the first of December, and crappie will remain on structure until the weather starts to warm in February.

“In the middle of February, they’ll start moving into the mouths of the creeks to do some pre-spawning,” he said. “We’ll start catching a lot more fish in the creeks. Then when they move up to spawn, we’ll catch a lot of fish in the creeks. That’s when I start throwing jigs around the grass, the rocks and bridge pilings. I’ll be shooting (casting underneath) docks because the fish are getting shallow. On Lake Eufaula, it seems the bigger fish come up first.

“In the spring, sometimes they’re in 12 inches of water all the way down to 5 feet of water. Some of them spawn in 5 feet of water. Sometimes they’ll spawn deeper than at other times.”

Adams will do two things while the crappie are in their transition period from spawn to summer. He catches plenty of catfish, but he also makes sure plenty of structure will be available to fish for the summertime and wintertime patterns.“While the fish are spawning, I’ll put structure out in deeper water,” said Adams, who uses mainly bamboo but will also sink crepe myrtles and small cedars. “I’ll take a 5-gallon bucket, fill it about halfway with water. I’ll pour in some concrete mix. I’ll have the bamboo already trimmed at the bottom and start sticking it into the concrete. I’ll make sure the bamboo is sticking in every direction. Then I’ll look for spots where the new structure will cover about half the water column. If I’m going to put it out in 20 feet of water, I’ll have the bamboo about 10 feet tall.

“Right about Memorial Day is when the crappie are back on that heavy structure in the middle of the lake,” he said.

On our trip last week, we hit the lake with a cold front approaching. It was the kind of day a bass fisherman dreams of – cloud cover with mild temperatures and the barometer falling. Those conditions usually put the bass species into a feeding frenzy.

We found out that doesn’t translate to crappie fishing. With a light fog and heavy cloud cover, the fish weren’t really in a biting mood. We’d catch two or three fish in one spot and then have to move to find a few more.

Then – cue the Hallelujah Choir – the sun broke through the clouds, and the bite began in earnest. Within six or seven minutes, we had put 10 nice keepers in the boat. That trend continued until the approaching front forced us back to the boat ramp.

“My favorite time to fish is when the sun is shining,” Adams said. “I think the fish get tighter to the structure. I also think maybe the sun shining may give that minnow a different kind of look in that deep water. That sunshine seems to kick off the bite. We definitely did a lot better when the sun was shining.

”Back to the wind, which will determine whether it’s worth launching the boat on certain days.

“On a real windy day, it’s hard to crappie fish,” he said. “Based on where you are in the lake, if you have 6- to 7-mile-per-hour winds, it could be white-capping. That will mean 15-inch to 2-foot waves. That minnow is moving up and down with the waves, which is not natural. With the crappie not as aggressive in the wintertime, they’re not going to bite something moving like that.

“I’m looking for 5 miles an hour or less. Calm is even better. Cold is not a problem. You can drop that minnow right in front of his face. It may take him a few minutes to hit it, but he will eventually hit it.

”Although we didn’t use any types of bobbers to catch the fish, I’m sure my mom won’t mind when I fry her up a batch of fillets from the 38 crappie we put in the ice chest.

How and Where to Catch June Lake Russell Bass, with GPS Coordinates To Ten Spots

June 2015 Russell Bass

with Carter McNeil

    June is finally here and its time for vacations and fishing. If you want to catch a lot of spotted bass on a beautiful lake with a natural shoreline and clear water, head to Lake Russell. And keep some of the small spotted bass for a fish fry!

    Russell is a Corps of Engineers lake on the Savannah River between Hartwell and Clarks Hill.  Shoreline development is restricted, so it is one of our prettiest lakes.  And it doesn’t get as crowded with pleasure boaters as most of our lakes.

    The lake has a lot of good rocky points and humps that spots love. And the channels are marked by poles where they drop off so it is easy to find them and fish. Brushpiles have been put out on many of them and there is standing timber all over the lake, giving bass ideal habitat.

    Spots were illegally introduced into Russell not long after it was filled and they have overcrowded the lake, as happens all too often on lakes where they are not native.  They are fun to catch and eat but they tend to harm the largemouth population and fill the lake with “rats,” spots around 12 inches long. Since there is no size limit on them you can keep ten a day to eat and actually help the lake.

    Carter McNeil lives near in Russell in Abbyvile South Carolina and fishes with the Abbyville Panthers High School team. He also fishes many pot and open tournaments on Russell and other area lakes.  His Grandfather Danny Whaley and uncle Trad Whaley brought him up fishing and taught him a lot about bass and he fished his first tournament when only ten years old.

    Their training has paid off. Carter is going to Bethel College this year on a fishing scholarship and will be on their fishing team. And he had an incredible honor this year when he BASS named him to their High School All American Bass Team, one of only 12 fishermen nationwide to get that recognition.

    In their press release on the All American Team, BASS says about Carter: “He and his partner won the B.A.S.S. Nation High School Southern Divisional on the Pee Dee River in April and took third place in the 2015 Costa Bassmaster High School Classic Exhibition. McNeil is the founder and president of his fishing team and a frequent volunteer for Corps of Engineers projects aimed at planting aquatic vegetation on South Carolina’s Lake Russell.”

    Carter likes fishing Russell and does well in tournaments there.  In June he says the bass will be set up on their summer holes, points and humps out from spawning creeks, and can be caught on a variety of baits. 

    “Shallow water that drops off fast into deep water is key this time of year,” Carter said.  Any hump or point that falls into the channel will hold fish, and the key depth to catch them is eight to 15 feet deep. So he wants his boat to be in at least 20 feet of water when casting to water eight feet deep.

    A variety of baits to cover those key depths is fairly simple. A Norman’s Deep Little N, a drop shot worm, a shaky head and a Pulse Jig all work well and are really all you need for a good day of fishing.  You will catch a lot of bass on those baits but for bigger fish he will have a big worm like a Zoom Old Monster Texas rigged to flip standing timber.

    The following ten spots are good right now and give you an example of the kinds of places you want to fish in June.

    1.  N 34 08.284 – W 82 41.570 – Go up the Savannah  River to Channel Markers 43 and 45 and stop about one third of the way across the river out from them.  There is a hump that comes up right by the channel and tops out about ten feet deep.  There is some brush piles on the hump and standing timber around it.  You will be at the tip of a triangle with the two channel markers on the bank as the base.

    When you find the hump stop off the river side of it with your boat in 30 feet of water and cast to the top in about ten feet.  Carter starts with a Deep Little N in a baitfish color like sexy shad or glimmer blue, with some chartreuse in it.  Cast past the top of the hump so the bait is hitting bottom on top in ten feed and fish it back to the boat. Carter got a keeper spot on the crankbait here the day we fished.

    Carter reels his crankbait fairly fast and sweeps his rod every few feet to make the bait dart forward. He says fish will often follow the bait and when it speeds up will eat it.  Fan cast all over the hump from the river side with a crankbait, then fish a jig head worm, drop shot and Pulse Jig around it, too.

    2.  N 34 08.039 – W 82 41.513 – Go in toward the small creek with the big island in the mouth of it just downstream of channel marker 43. Behind and downstream of that channel marker a ditch comes off the bank in the mouth of the spawning creek that is behind the island and bass move to it in June.  Stop in about 20 feet of water and cast to the top of the flat along the ditch.

    This is the kind of “feeding table,” a flat area that drops into deep water that Carter concentrates on in June.  Fish your crankbait over the top of the flat and ditch edge then try your other baits.  Remember that bass seem to feed best in eight to 15 feet of water so work that depth hard.

    Carter keeps a Robo morning dawn worm on a drop shot rig ready to drop down to fish he sees on his depthfinder.  He likes a fairly heavy lead to get to the bottom fast and stay there as he gently twitches his rod tip to make the worm jiggle in place. His leader is about a foot long.

    3.  N 34 07.677 – W 82 40.182 – Across the river and a little downstream a fairly big creek enters the lake between channel markers 42 and 44.  In the mouth of the creek, not far off the upstream point of it, you will see four shoal markers.  Out from the downstream point of the creek there is a hump that is good.  It is way off the red clay small bluff bank on the point. 

    This hump tops out about 15 feet deep and an old road bed crosses the deep side of it.  Sit out on the river side in 30 feet of water and cast across it. Carter will switch to a DD 22N on deeper places like this so he can bump the bottom.

    The bottom here is hard, a key since Carter says bass like hard bottoms.  Fish along this long hump downstream. It will drop off some on a more narrow area then come back up on the end of that section of it.  Fish that area where it comes back up shallower before leaving.

    4.  N 34 07.163 – W 82 40.277 – Back across the river and downstream channel marker 35 sits on the upstream side of a point where the channel hits it. On the back side the point drops off fast and there are some brush piles here and on almost all the other places, too.

    Stop in at least 20 feet of water on the back side of the marker and cast your crankbait and jig head up on it. Rocks here hold mostly spots and we got a couple of small ones when we fished it. Work from the end of the point toward the bank a short distance, keeping most of your cast in the area around the pole.

    Current moving across this point in both directions, from generating power and pumpback at the dam, make this and other places much better.  Baitfish move across the shallow water with the current and the bass wait on them to feed as they pass.

    5.  N 34 06.090 – W 82 39.937 – Downstream on the same side Indian Creek enters the lake between channel markers 29 and 31.  There is a small island on the downstream side and underwater timber signs warn that the creek is full of standing trees. You can see many of them sticking a little out of the water.  

    In tournaments or other times when bigger bass are the goal Carter will go to timber like this and flip it with a big worm.  He rigs a big worm or lizard Texas style behind a one quarter ounce sinker for a slow fall and flips it to the trees, letting it fall on the shady side of the trunk. The bigger the wood the better.  Fish will hold on these trees at different depths at different times of the day and the higher the sun the deeper they go.

    Carter will work through the trees, targeting the bigger ones, going into the creek. He lets his worm fall watching his line for a tick or if the worm stops falling before hit should.  That is the time to set the hook!  He seldom lets his worm go all the way to the bottom, expecting the fish to be suspended in the tree.

    6.  N 34 05.817 – W 82 39.543 – Further downstream on the same side of the river there is a big double cove between channel markers 27 and 29. The middle point of this cove is a good feeding flat table and it drops off into deeper water on the downstream side. Carter says many fishermen ride past places like this a little off the main points so they don’t get fished as hard as the spots marked by poles.

    Stay on the downstream side of the middle point out in 20 plus feet of water and cast up on the point to eight to ten feet of water with all your baits.  When fishing a Pulse Jig Carter puts a white or translucent Fluke on a half-ounce head and counts it down to the depth fish are holding. He then reels it back with a steady retrieve, keeping it at that depth.

    The Pulse Jig is a wobble head jig and is a more subtle bait than the crankbait, but you can fish it faster than a jig head or drop shot.  Keep it near the bottom and don’t set the hook when you feel a hit. Just keep reeling until your rod loads up then sweep it to bury the hook.

    7.  N 34 04.238 – W 82 39.332 – In the mouth of Beaverdam Creek, just upstream of Elbert Park, usually called the Highway 72 ramp, the first big cove on the left going upstream has three islands in the mouth of it. The downstream one has a shoal marker on a point running off it toward the channel.

    This big long point has some rocks on it and fish feed on it.  Stay out in about 20 feet of water and cast up on the top of the point to about eight feet and work your baits back.  Stay on the river side of the point. 

    “Wind is your aggravating friend,” Carter said.  Some wind blowing across these spots helps like the current does, making baitfish move across them.  It makes boat control and positioning more difficult but can help the fishing as long as it is not too strong to allow you to fish.  We caught a couple of small spots here, too, so fish were on it in mid-May.

    8.  N 34 04.909 – W 82 40.477 – Going into Beaverdam Creek channel marker 8 sits on a hump off the bank and there is a shoal marker between it and the point.  Carter says this is one of the biggest community holes on the lake and there is a race to it in tournaments since it holds so many fish.

    The water drops off on the downstream side of the channel marker and forms a ledge going toward the bank. Stay on the downstream side in deep water and cast up on the hump around the channel marker then work all the way to the point. There is a big flat that is an excellent feeding area and fish hold all over the edge of the drop so fish it carefully.

    9.  N 34 04.880 – W 82 41.725 – Further up Beaverdam Creek channel marker 9 sits on the creek side of a small island.  It marks a point coming off the island and dropping into the channel.  Carter says it is a real good rocky point and has some brush on it, too.

    Stop on the downstream side near the island and fish that side of the point out to and past the channel marker.  This is the deeper side and holds the most fish so Carter works it rather than the flatter upstream side.

    Fish all your baits.  With the shaky head Carter slides it along the bottom until he hits brush or rocks, then stops it and shakes it a little before moving it more. He uses a quarter ounce homemade head and likes a Zoom red bug Trick worm on it.

    10.  N 34 05.260 – W 82 42.390 – Going upstream Beaverdam Creek makes a fairly sharp bend around an island on the left side. On the right just off a point channel marker 18 shows where a good flat drops off into the channel.  The channel swings in right by it making it even better.

    Stay out in deep water and cast along the shallow flat that runs parallel to the channel around the marker. Here and other places keep a watch on your depthfinder for fish holding out in the deeper water. Carter got a spot here by dropping his drop shot worm down to fish he saw holding well off the flat.

    Check out these places, fish them the way Carter suggests and try his bait.  Once you get the pattern down you can find many similar places all over the lake and catch fish from them.

Black Sea Bass

Grace of the Food Chain
By Zach Harvey
from The Fishing Wire

“What a @#$%! racket,” I mumble to no one in particular, as I take in the massive southward sky, a dome of high cloud centered directly overhead, everything bending down and in toward the horizon and into the drink. To the north, the Rhode Island mainland floats on a shimmering band of bent light. I, the “nature boy,” confirm that everything’s set, as my boss rounds up for a quick pass over a little cluster of boulders, cobble and mussel beds off the south side of Block Island.

I feel the 35-foot Down Easter slide out of gear and, on force of habit, pluck my rod out of the holder, tuck it under my left arm and swing the rig up for a final inspection. We glide for a second while Cappy checks his screens. Then we rumble into reverse for a moment to halt forward progress and wait for the prop wash to settle out.

We’ve just baited and dumped the last of eight large old-school fish pots in a half-mile square. Now we wait. And by wait, I mean rod-and-reel a bunch of huge sea bass.

In the two decades I’ve spent working on the water, the days I’ve felt downright smug about my lot in life have been variations on this morning’s undertaking: a windless, flat-ass calm, early-fall hard-bottom recon trip, working on big black sea bass, 3 pounds to more than 6. The world record black sea bass scaled a terrifying 9 pounds and change.

I don’t believe in the hierarchy of “worthy” sportfishing quarry, where a handful of species — tarpon, bonefish, marlin, tuna, striped bass and sails, among others — are ascribed incredible strength, cunning, wits, beauty and prowess, while other species get scoffed at. It’s an underdog thing. It’s also a different ethic about our waters, the fish, the food chain, where the noblest quarry is what everyone eats with gusto, because in my world, the familial (blood or elective) feasting completes a rite that began predawn when we hung the last spring line on its designated piling.

When you lay same-day sea bass on a grocery-store seafood consumer, the gratitude radiates tenfold. Fish this good can’t be bought for all the Franklins in a Manhattanite billfold, but it’s traded for tomatoes or corn, or gifted to neighbors who understand the weight of the gesture.

Few things fill a soul with sacred human purpose like a cooler full of well-iced, bled, rinsed and packed black sea bass — or its yield in well-cut fillets, translucent, almost iridescent, on a plate beside the stove.Our first drift, I hang up inside a minute — one hazard of fishing adrift around the broken ground that concentrates sea biscuits. Cappy rips his rig in, liberates a pair of wallet-sized specimens, each sporting a 4/0 octopus hook that looks, proportionally, the way a gaff head might in the maw of a 3-pounder.

Not what we’re after.I fetch a replacement rig from a bunch dangling off the plumbed bait barrel up against the wheelhouse. I slip on a sinker and bait up with squid and an oozing black glob of sea clam belly (the former for staying power, the latter for scent power) on each hook.

“This feels a little better,” my deckmate announces, just as my sinker contacts the ground floor with a clank.

I note a respectable bend in his heavyish setup. I’m about to speak when I feel a wild thump and discover the fish has more or less hung itself with no help from me. I’m just squaring up to the rail, starting to pry the fish out of the seabed when a strange weightless plucking sensation shoots through the line to my brain. I snap the rod skyward. The tip barely moves.

For a second I worry I’m hung up again, but as I lean back on the rod, I note my new rock is bucking an awful lot.

“Got two,” I announce.

Two good sea bass on one rig have a distinct feel, a weird, disjointed tugging and a consistent, substantial weight. Fish under 5 pounds fight comically hard in a way that makes it almost impossible not to smile, especially when your rig is full-up and you can lean back on the rod, balance yourself against the strain.

I will concede that bottom fishing isn’t a fishery of endless technical complexity, by which I mean: “simple,” not to be mistaken for “easy.

”The fact that we’re in the thick of a sea bass boom doesn’t change one hard truth of the hunt for thick sea bass: the guys who have the real estate, the hangs, the wrecks, the rock piles, the little nothing bump off in the geographic center of mudflat nowhere, the mussel bed in 41 feet surrounded by an acre of 41 feet, the lat-lons corresponding to a bed, two Cadillacs long, one Prius wide, of small, still chewable mussels. Or the little nugget you steamed over on the way to or from tuna grounds, mined 7 years of logbook to find three almost identically worded entries — lat-lons, followed by “load of stuff hard on bottom.”

They’re the ones with the good stuff.Subsequent recon unearthed a flurry of honest-to-Christ 4-pound sea bass and a lone cod pushing 20 pounds. You can now recite the coordinates along with your wedding anniversary, wife’s birthday, your bike lock combination and your first telephone number.

Here’s the deal: You can prattle on for weeks about hooks, knots or teaser colors, but if you don’t have some sea bass ground, debating tackle minutia is like rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs.

Anyone can catch black sea bass if it’s a purely quantitative exercise. But without the possibility of cracking 5 pounds in the process, I’d rather make a couple swipes at the lunch cooler, stuff my face with cold cuts, wipe my hands on opposing sleeves and stare into the briny middle distance, trying to remember, say, the joke that goes with the punchline, “the potato goes in front.

”Now, after a minute taking back line I’d deployed to hold bottom, the fight is vertical. I’m genuinely surprised how hard the mystery fish are dogging me. I’m half expecting to see a big cod emerge from the murky depths.

“Good one, huh,” says my boss as he dumps his reel in freespool. “Let me know if you need a net on that.

”The suspense is killing me. It could be almost anything down there. A few more cranks, and I see the barrel swivel on my rig flash into view, but still no sign of whatever’s on there. Almost no other species in our waters can out-camouflage a sea bass from above.

A 3-pound sea biscuit has the top hook solidly in its jaw hinge — nowhere near enough to explain this fight.

“I’m up,” I announce, “Got that net?”

The bottom fish is a good one. My partner deftly bags that one first, gathers up the smaller one on the way up. The larger looks obscene. I’d guess 7 pounds if I didn’t know better. So 5, probably.I glance toward my railmate just as his rod goes down hard. A split-second later mine does, too. No head-shakes. No bounce. Obscenities all around. It takes a moment to figure out what’s happening.

The line’s clearly hung up, but there’s some limited play: I can gain about four cranks before it stops dead. We scan in all directions for evidence of lobster gear, the buoys on up-and-down lines, but see none. Probably an unmarked gillnet or a string with too-short buoy lines sucking under in the tide — standard fare for Block Island’s south side. We break off, then gather around the helm to investigate.

Sure enough, it’s a gillnet. We find another string a couple of tics east of where we’d started that first drift, then some lobster gear just west of the mystery net. Trying to anchor hemmed in like that seldom ends well.

Two hours later, a couple dozen solid sea bass and a handful of big porgies on ice, the skipper wants to go check the pots. When sea bass are thick, a mesh bait bag of sea clams seldom holds on beyond a couple of hours. Rod-and-reeling seldom, if ever, keeps pace with good fish pots.

At least we got a few, and more importantly, I got the biggest one in the box, which means Cappy’s buying the Guinness.

This mission was more than a decade ago, well before the abrupt spike in black sea bass populations across the Northeast. With the change came not only more and bigger BSB on the old ground, but swarms in all sorts of places no one could recall having seen them before. The places that had always collected a few suddenly had knots of them. No doubt, the transformative effect of aptly-named Hurricane Sandy had a hand in the distribution shakeup. A storm that changed the entire lay of Block Island’s south side had even more dramatic effects below the low-tide mark. Some known wrecks silted over and vanished completely, while whole constellations of hitherto unknown structures got cleared off and began to take on tenants within a season or two.

More important, climbing water temps — which have sparked a marked shift northward and eastward in the migratory patterns of other stocks, such as summer flounder — have also likely triggered our recent BSB invasion.

In the seasons since, the rod-and-reelers have embraced the advantages of the new arrangement.

Unfortunately, the population explosion has been tempered by one huge regulatory caveat: Lack of the statutorily mandated science to guide decisions, and a call for management accountability, have subtracted from already miniscule catch targets. As stocks grow exponentially and spread out, more anglers catch more sea bass, and landings spike, triggering quota-overage paybacks in each successive year. We call it the “death spiral”: booming resource destroys fishery.

And so a fish in exponential population growth, a fish hard-wired to run other same-tier predators off ground, a fish aggressive enough, fishermen argue, to threaten other rebuilding stocks where they overlap, will flourish indefinitely. Sadly, this fish, which could easily shoulder some pressure from overburdened fisheries such as striped bass, fluke, tautog or cod, remains trapped in bureaucratic limbo.

Our new sea bass bonanza, then, will be fished as black sea bass always have: as a welcome bycatch bonus for guys targeting other species. Then, for a short period according to state regulations, when the possession limit jumps just enough to support an hour or two of dedicated sea bass highgrading, we’ll attempt to put up fillets for winter.

I’m less worried about the big kill than with maintaining the spirit of celebration around seasonal bounty that imposes some predictable order on my charmed life of perpetual adolescence beside the sea.The black sea bass could be the most strikingly beautiful of any creature that lives coastal — long, graceful fins, striking white and electric-blue highlights, big fleshy humps on the foreheads of the joes.

According to my increasingly eccentric take on the fishing life, where the avoidance of macho B.S. lives in my bones, black sea bass swim on both sides of the jagged line between the fire in my belly and the water in my soul: proof that I still live by the grace of the food chain, and evidence, by their very design, of larger gears turning, a greater clockwork presiding over the fleeting eons.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Anglers Journal magazine.