Monthly Archives: March 2020

Social Distancing Like a Sportsman

Seven Ways to Do Social Distancing Like a Sportsman
By Whit Fosburg, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
from The Fishing Wire

Families all over the world are experiencing serious life impacts due to COVID-19. Aside from health impacts, businesses are closing, travel is banned, schools are being moved to virtual classrooms, and many people are afraid.

So what can you do to make the most of this difficult time? First, you must follow all health advice and wash your hands, abide by social distancing rules, and take this seriously to protect you and your loved ones.

But here are seven other suggestions for making the most of this unexpected off-season from, well, everything.

Pick Up Your Laptop or LetterheadNow is the time to write your member of Congress on the key policy issues that will make a difference when you get back outside. Whether it’s passing the Great American Outdoors Actdigitizing public access routes, or preserving migration corridors, we’re here to help you get your message in the right hands.

Check out our one-stop advocacy shop here.

Get Out and ScoutMalls, bars, and restaurants may be closed. Concerts canceled and museums shuttered. But fear not: Now is the perfect chance to get outside and scout. Look for deer sign from last year and plot your next hunt. Listen for gobblers. Look for late season sheds. Explore that tributary you’ve always been curious about but have never fished. You’re away from the crowds, getting good exercise, and advancing your skills in the woods. (If you do encounter others, say, on our public lands, maintain six feet of distance, per CDC recommendations.)

Practice, Practice, Practice

Can’t get to the range? This is a great time to set up a target in the backyard and practice your archery skills (or, if you live in very rural areas, your rifle skills). Break out the fly rod and a hula hoop and practice your casting. You may be surprised how much you can improve.

Feed a FamilyThis is a good time to sort through your freezer and donate your harvest or catch to the local food bank. There are many families in need right now, so if you have extra, be generous and make sure we’re all doing our part to help our neighbors.

Try a New Wild Game RecipeThat bag of venison labeled “sausage”? Those snow goose breasts? Take a risk, and try a new dish. We recommend checking out MeatEater’s recipe log for something like venison fennel lasagna or rabbit schnitzel.

Reload, Repair, and Tie

For those of you who load your own ammunition, this is a great time to get ahead. Refinishing a stock that’s taken a beating over the years? Do it now. And with trout season around the corner, it’s time to replenish your fly box. Even if you’ve never tied a fly and always been curious, why not start now? YouTube is waiting.

Read Hunting and fishing have always inspired great writing. From Theodore Roosevelt’s many volumes on hunting to Norman Maclean’s classic prose on fishing and life in A River Runs through It, catch up on classics. Or try something new, like Mark Kenyon’s exploration of our public lands in That Wild Country

For more on TRCP’s conservation efforts, visit

Are You Prepared For A Crisis?

To each his or her own. While some panic and buy toilet paper, others with more rationality stock up on ammo and buy guns.  Those waiting until now to do so are kinda late. Many of us have many guns and thousands or rounds of ammo stored away.   

The Brady bunch, in their daily money begging emails, are all in a dither about so many people buying guns and ammo.  They hate that rational people know in times of panic and breakdown of society, the only thing that will protect you is a gun, just like in normal times.   

For those asking what we are afraid of, the answer is “nothing.”  Just like keeping a fire extinguisher or first aid kit handy, we are not scared of fire or minor injuries, we are just prepared for any possibility.   

This crisis will pass with things returning to normal for most of us. For some old at-risk folks like me, we may not survive, but for the great majority life will return to what passes for normal.   

But under worse case scenarios, city folks will not be prepared to survive without food and other necessities delivered regularly.  There are even memes, somewhat tongue in cheek, with those dependent on daily supplies saying they will go to the country and take what they want from those of us that are prepared and have food.   

One meme I like shows the response to that.  It says, “You do realize you are talking about stealing from those that have to decide each day which gun to take with them in their truck?”     

There are great stories of people and businesses helping others out in crisis.  But there are always those that are jealous of what others have and want to take it.    You do not have to be paranoid to be prepared, not just when a crisis hits but every day.

Whirling Disease Resistant Rainbows

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW. 
Colorado’s Whirling Disease Resistant Rainbows
From The Fishing Wire

Some good news for a change to end this week . . . .
By Joe Lewandowski

After more than 20 years of study, frustration, experimentation and dogged persistence by CPW’s aquatic researchers, the tide has turned in the fight against Whirling-disease.Biologists boat electrofishing on the Gunnison River. Photo by © Bill Vogrin/CPW.

Whirling Disease first impacted Colorado’s rainbow trout in the mid-1990s and eliminated many wild populations of this popular sport fish. The aquatic tragedy sparked a decades-long effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife research scientists to find a remedy and re-establish populations.

About Whirling Disease
Myxobolus cerebralis, a metazoan parasite, can cause a serious affliction in some species of trout and salmon known as whirling disease. The water-borne parasite may not directly kill trout, but severely infected young trout often develop debilitating deformities of the skull and spinal column or display the erratic tail-chasing behavior from which the disease gets its name. To learn more, please visit the CPW website.

Since 2003, the researchers have been crossing a strain of rainbow trout resistant to the disease with other strains of rainbows in the hope of developing a trout that would fend off whirling disease. Now, after more than 20 years of study, frustration, experimentation and dogged persistence by CPW’s aquatic researchers, the tide has turned in the fight against the dreaded disease. Whirling-disease resistant rainbows are now thriving in the wild and the agency is collecting their spawn, enabling hatcheries to propagate millions of fish that will be distributed to rivers and streams throughout the state. I

CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW. “Thanks to advance genetic testing, we know these fish are maintaining their resistance to whirling disease,” said George Schisler, CPW’s aquatic research chief. “Now they are surviving, reproducing and contributing to future generations of Gunnison River rainbows.

”This long success story started on an August day in 1994 when former CPW researcher Barry Nehring, while walking the riverbank in the Gunnison Gorge, noticed small fish swimming helplessly in circles. He knew immediately that the fish were infected with a microscopic spore that damages the cartilage of young fish and prevents them from swimming and developing normally. Whirling disease had arrived in the wild.

George Schisler with Hofers trout.The disease was accidentally introduced to Colorado in the late 1980s when infected fish were imported to state and private hatcheries. After those fish were stocked in 40 locations, the spore spread and within a decade infected many rivers throughout the state. The disease kills young fish, so eventually, natural reproduction by wild rainbows ended across much of Colorado.

In search of a remedy, CPW scientists and biologists from wildlife agencies throughout the West started researching the disease in the late 1990s. At a national conference in Denver in 2002, a researcher from Europe who studied whirling disease gave a presentation about a strain of disease-resistant rainbow trout he’d found at a hatchery in Germany. Schisler, working with the University of California-Davis, imported eggs and then tested the hatched fingerlings, known as Hofers – named after the German hatchery. He found they were 100 times more resistant to the disease than the various CPW rainbow strains.

He also learned that because these fish had been raised in a hatchery for decades, they showed no inkling of the flight response needed to elude predators in the wild. So researchers started crossing them with wild strains, such as the Harrison Lake and Colorado River rainbow to produce fish that exhibit wild behavior and maintain resistance to whirling disease. Those fish were stocked in rivers around the state and some natural reproduction started.

Biologists working in the East Portal Section of the Gunnison River gorge began documenting wild reproduction of rainbow trout in that location in the mid-2000s. These fish demonstrated strong resistance to whirling disease, but also had instincts to survive in the wild. Through advanced genetic analysis, Schisler and his research partner, Eric Fetherman, determined that a DNA marker unique to the stocked Hofer-crosses appeared to have been incorporated into this population, resulting in observed resistance to the disease.

The researchers and agency aquatic biologists determined that developing a brood stock using the Gunnison River trout would be the best way to repopulate Colorado’s rivers with wild rainbows. Since 2014, more than 500,000 eggs have been collected from these fish to stock into whirling disease positive rivers and to create hatchery brood stocks.The trout now has its own moniker: The Gunnison River Rainbow. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW.CPW’s Glenwood Springs hatchery is propogating both the pure Gunnison River Rainbows and crosses of those fish and other strains of whirling disease-resistant rainbows. 

This summer more than 1.3 million of fingerling disease-resistant rainbows will be stocked in rivers and streams throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the stocking effort is to restore natural reproduction in the wild, eliminating the need to stock rainbows in the future.However, re-establishing the rainbows continues to be a long-term project. After rainbows vanished, brown trout took over Colorado’s big rivers. They prey on the small rainbows that are stocked or hatch and compete for food and habitat with adult rainbows. Biologists say it will take many years for rainbows to become firmly established.

Research scientists don’t declare victory easily, but Fetherman noted that the research project in the East Portal is officially closed. Populations across the state will continue to be monitored because the tiny worms that produce the spores causing whirling disease will likely always exist in Colorado’s rivers.“I feel like we’ve done some good work and these fish are ready to be stocked statewide,” Fetherman said.

For more information on CPW’s aquatic programs, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.Written by Joe Lewandowski. Lewandowski is a public information officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife southwest region.

Fishing Eufaula In March

 Spring weather means fast-changing conditions for bass fishing. Two weeks ago, it was a ten-degree drop in water temperature in two days at Sinclair. At Eufaula the next week it was a drop in water level.  Those are my excuses!   

I got to Lakepoint Campground a week ago last Tuesday and set up my camper. A couple of folks camping near me stopped by to talk and told me they were catching a lot of catfish, but few crappie.  One of them pointed to a five-foot-high pole by the boat ramp and said it and half the campground had been underwater the Friday before.  The pole showed just over one foot of water on Tuesday.     

A four-foot drop in water level in four days had to hurt, and my fishing seemed to prove it.  I fished about five hours Wednesday and caught only two bass. Both looked like males that had moved in to find a bedding area in the 59-degree water. And the water continued to drop, going down .4 of a foot Wednesday. 

   Thursday morning I got up and drove south to put in closer to the main lake, hoping to find clearer water. It was even muddier! I did catch a keeper spotted bass and an eight-pound blue cat hit my shaky head worm.   

I did get a thrill. While fishing grass beds between docks, I eased around one and looked at the post with my Garmin Panoptix. What looked like a fish was at the base of it about a foot off the bottom.    When I pitched my jig to it and watch it sink, I saw the bass come up to it and the jig disappeared.  I was so shocked I just watched; I had not seen that before.  Then the fish almost jerked the rod out of my hand as it took off, and I did not hook it!  

  Friday, I rode around checking some creeks and found some clearing water that was 67 degrees back in one. I decided to start there Saturday morning in the Potato Creek Bassmasters tournament the next day.  It was a good decision, but a lot of other folks decided the same place looked good. 

   Saturday morning, I put my boat in at the campground ramp and ran up to the bridge where we were to meet.  Due to the Alabama Nation tournament with more than 60 boats and several other clubs taking off from the park, the ramp was a madhouse.  It didn’t help that one set of ramps was closed due to construction.   

Folks were backed up from the ramp all the way back to the highway, at least a mile and a half, waiting to put in before daylight.  It was so bad Niles called me, got the campground gate code and drove around to put in there. He was at the bridge while most folks were still waiting.   

In the tournament the first day, 27 members landed 79 bass weighing about 153 pounds.  There were seven limits and four zeros. Lee Hancock did it right with five weighing 16.02 pounds and had a 4.88 pounder for first. My five at 12.70 pounds was second and I had a 4.62 pounder. Third was Caleb Delay with fiver weighing 12.26 and Edward Folker was fourth with five weighing 11.59 pounds.

On day two, Sunday, the fish bit better – for some. There were 10 limits and three zeros. We landed 58 bass weighing about 173 pounds. Stan Wick had five at 13.80 pounds for first with a 4.59 pounder.  Raymond English had five weighing 13.68 pounds with a 5.11 pounder for second, Trent Grainger was third with five weighing 13.02 pounds and Edward Folker had five weighing 12.73 pounds.

Overall, Lee Hancock won with 10 weighing 26.80 pounds and Edward Folker was second with 10 at 24.32 pounds. Raymond English came in third with ten at 23.14 pounds and his 5.11 pound largemouth was big fish.  Fourth was Trent Grainger with ten weighing 22.91 pounds. I caught only three keepers the second day and dropped to a tie with Drew Naramore.  My eight and his ten weighed an identical 19.12 pounds. 

On Saturday I quickly caught a keeper on a spinnerbait, then two more on a bladed jig.  At 9:30 I laned my four-pounder on a jig. Then it got slow, I did not have another bite until 2:30 when I caught my fifth keeper on a jig then immediately caught another keeper on it.  A few minutes later I set the hook and felt a good fish fight for a few seconds before pulling off.

Sunday did not start well.  I did not get a bite until 9:00 and that fish pulled off the jig. I guess I set the pattern the last fish the day before.  At 9:30 what looked like a four-pounder just came off my bladed jig.  Then, at 10:00, in about ten minutes, I caught three keepers and a grinnel on the jig.

It got slow. Just after lunch I set the hook, my rod bowed up and the fish fought then came off. With 30 minutes left to fish I set the hook on a good fish, fought it to the boat, and reached for it with the net. It jumped, missed the net by THAT much, about two inches, and came off.

I had my chances, as did many others. There was a lot of talk at both weigh-ins of big fish lost.  Part of the problem was the number of fishermen, especially on Saturday. All-day there were at least ten bass boats within sight in the small creek I was fishing.  

Sunday at least four other club members were fishing the same area, it was get in line, go down the bank and hope you got a bite all day both days.

Right now is a great time to get on the lake to avoid the virus and catch good bass. That is my plan!

Covid-19 Hurts Us All

The Spring that Wasn’t – Covid-19 Hurts Us All

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

I just spent a couple hours listening to a collection of my Florida fishing guide buddies complain that all their spring charters are cancelling just at the time when the spring bite has gone off both inshore and offshore. It’s a time when many of them make a major portion of the income that carries them through the rest of the year.

Each year, beginning around St. Patrick’s Day and continuing through May, the coastal fish in Florida go bonkers as all the bait begins to move in and the fish gorge themselves, packing on weight prior to late spring and summer spawning times.

Inshore, it’s snook, reds and trout, while off the beach it’s king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia. Tarpon will be along soon, typically when water temperature hits about 75. Fish are practically jumping into the boats. Some guides run two trips a day during this period.

This year, they’re sitting at the docks. And they’re pissed. Many blame over-reaction by the government and the media. Even driving down to the Florida Keys as a non-resident is impossible. Hotels and marinas are shut down. Most of the big fishing piers are closed statewide.

Most of my pals are not math majors. Me either—that’s why I started adult life as a fishing guide instead of an astro-physicist. But it seems to me the part a lot of us are still not getting is that we are, unfortunately, very early in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the overall percentage of those who have tested positive in the U.S. is relatively low as this is written, about 20,000 on a population of 320 million, it’s the rate that the infection number is going up that is concerning the smart, dedicated people charged with controlling this outbreak.

In fact, I’m writing this Saturday—it’s safe to say that by Monday, the number is going to be closer to 30,000 than it is to 20,000. It’s doubling about every 6 days per the CDC. Multiply that out a few weeks (yes, I’ll have to use a calculator) and even us guide-types can begin to see a very serious potential problem. A problem, in fact, the likes of which we have not had to face in the modern era.

What’s happening in Italy, a fully modernized Western democracy where hospitals—and morgues—are completely overwhelmed, is a more likely projection of where we’re headed than what happened in China, where the Communist regime clamped down with vice-like restrictions that would stop cold the hearts of every member of the ACLU, but also stopped the virus spread among the populace, at least for the time being.

I was among those who early-on believed “it can’t happen here”, but clearly it can and it is. We can hope that the malaria drug with antibiotic turns out to be a miracle cure or at least a palliative, and that a vaccination arrives super fast—but super-fast in that world is at least 12 months. Until then, the only remedy is for us to pretty much stay away from each other, and to wash hands and/or disinfect pretty much anything that comes to our door.

To be sure, the people that are most hurt by a complete shutdown will be small businesses and single-operators like fishing guides. They aren’t going to get unemployment checks, but their boat payments will continue. So will their rent or mortgage payments, and the cost of groceries and shoes for their kids. While some go to other work when guiding slows, there won’t be as many of those jobs available this year as the economy grinds to a halt. (Amazon and Walmart are hiring fast to handle online ordering, but other jobs are disappearing faster than the last ice in Minnesota.)

One plus out of this, when we come out the other side, is that the fish—which don’t catch COVID-19—are getting a long vacation from fishing pressure. Fishing should be great when we can get back to it. And for the meantime, if you have a secret angling spot you like to sneak off to on your own, there’s very little risk—and the fresh air and the chance to get away from CNN and FOX will probably do you good.

We’ll come through this, and it won’t take long for the American economy to gear up and get back to business as usual. In the meantime, we’re all going to have to hunker down and play with what we’ve been dealt, in the Spring that wasn’t.

Fishing Lay Lake with Chandler Holt and Zeke Gossett

I am always amazed at fishing in Alabama.  Tuesday morning, I met Curtis Gossett, a high school bass fishing team coach, and Chandler Holt, a senior on his team, to get information for my April article. 

Curtis’s son, Zeke, is a senior on a college team.  I did an article with Zeke six years ago when he was just a sophomore in high school with his dad as coach and was very impressed with him.

Chandler was impressive, too, with great fishing skills and knowledge of Lay Lake.  He quickly caught a 3.5-pound spot then I caught a largemouth just over four pounds.  A little later Curtis got a largemouth right at four pounds.  So we had three nice fish in the five hours we fished, plus some smaller fish.

Chandler fished the High School Championship on Lay the following weekend and weighed-in on the Bassmasters Classic stage just before the pros weigh-in on Saturday.  He placed Second.

On Sunday Zeke fished the college championship and weighed-in on the Classic stage that day, and he won. Zeke was practicing while I fished, and he caught five spotted bass weighing a total of 20.17 pounds in five hours!   

Watch for both these young men next weekend and in the future!

Catching Ice-Out Crappies

Ice Out Crappie
Catching Ice-Out Crappies in Northern Lakes
From Northland Tackle Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

It’s been an odd spring, and for that matter, and even more peculiar winter.  Open water in the southern part of the northern states has been around for a few weeks, while in the north, there’s still ice, albeit a poor version of it, clinging to memories of a winter that wasn’t. 

Early season panfish bites are a rite of spring, typically happening in mid-late April for most northern lakes.  This year due to the unseasonably warm weather, I’m happy to say, we’ll probably have some bonus time in my state, Minnesota, with crappies already snapping in the shallows. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when tracking down a good spring crappie bite.

Water temperature is a key contributing factor to everything crappies in the spring.  Cold nights below freezing, cool-water runoff from melting snow, and heavy cloud cover can all contribute to the death of a seemingly un-killable bite.  As black-bottom bays and rock-laden shorelines store what solar energy they can, crappies flood to the shallows as water temps hit 45 degrees and above.  In most of the lakes I fish, this seems to be as close to a “magic number” as I can find in helping to predict not only locations, but mood of the crappies I’m after. 

Anything much off that value, and shallow water crappies become much more rare and hard to find.  Even after locating them, you just don’t see the large congregations of fish that are willing to eat like you do in the 45-50 degree range and above.  That said, spring is a roller coaster of conditions in northern states, full of false-starts, short intense feeding periods during warm weather, and then eventually spawn and post-spawn behavior.  Your best bet is multiple trips that allow you to track changes in water temperatures, such that you don’t hit before the front end, or after the spawn.

Regarding location, when warm water is scarcer in the early season, those shorelines that are even a few degrees warmer can be full of fish.  This is true even when they lack good cover, provided you’re fishing the warmest water in the lake and it’s still early.  Black bays on the north side of a lake are a good start, and don’t hesitate to fish shallower than 5 feet, especially in systems with poor clarity.  Even as water temps rise into the 50’s, fish remain shallow, feeding on baitfish drawn to the warm water and emerging life that’s brought on by warm afternoons and an even more aggressive sun angle.

Cover is king for pre-spawn crappies, and while any wood or timber is good for finding them, brush is better.  An isolated log or stump may hold a few fish, but large concentrations of fish will be found where they can bury themselves within and along brush piles.  Unfortunately, most anglers miss the bonanza by fishing only around the edges, rather than within the heavy cover.  Occasional fish are to be had this way, but to do well in these situations, you’ll need to be prepared to fearlessly fish inside of the heavy stuff, not just around the edges.  For that reason, especially in darker, more turbid water, I’ll fish 8lb test mono or heavier, as small jigs and small line are an exercise in brush-fishing frustration. 

In northern natural lakes with broad and shallow shorelines, timber can be hard to find, so crappies focus on bulrush and pencil-reeds for cover.  Whether wood or vegetation, getting in the middle of it seems to pay dividends.What to use is an important factor during this time of year, with water temps again dictating presentation and lure selection.  Especially early, the temptation is to fish fast and cover water to find larger schools.  Just coming out of winter, locations can be a mystery, and bobber-fishing shallows is simply too slow for most anglers. 

That said, especially during the early season, crappies will rarely chase to eat moving baits presented on the edges.  Fish with floats, and use meat.  Crappies are carnivorous little beings, and you’ll be surprised how savagely they’ll strike a minnow offered on a jig with hair, tinsel, marabou, or flashabou.  This larger profile requires some aggression, and hookups seem much more sure as crappies are required to fully inhale such a presentation. 

Keep in mind however, that bluegills which can be found in the same areas this time of year, are less likely to be able to eat such baits.  I have been pleasantly surprised by large perch, especially when fishing backwaters bites, that will be more than happy to eat a 1/32oz jig with a minnow.

Plastics bites are still to come, but typically require warmer conditions yet.  It’s unfortunate that minnows are best fished when your freezing fingers would otherwise want you to use artificial bait-only, but it seems like warm weather and glove-less hands are about the best predictor on when to start looking to retrieved plastic presentations.  For this reason, bring bait until moving presentations readily out-perform more stationary live-bait options.

It’s a great time of year to be on the water.  Wait till a warm afternoon, and pick apart the shallows until you find some fish.  Keep it simple, have fun with it, and save the ultra-serious stuff for later.For more fishing tips, visit

Eating Out At Restaurants While Fishing

One of the perks of traveling around Georgia and Alabama doing research for my Map of the Month articles is exploring places to eat.  Many of the places I eat are memorable, most for the good food, some not so much. And a couple literally gave me a stomachache.  

  I love to cook and most food I cook at home is better than what I can get in restaurants.  I never look for a steak, pork chops, Italian, or any kind of country cooking since that is what I cook at home.  And my fried bass filets are good enough I won’t eat fried fish in a restaurant. But I don’t do fried seafood very well and I love fried scallops, so I seek them out. 

My second choice, usually easier to find, is fried shrimp.    I am seldom in a big city, so I eat in small towns and around the lake.  And after driving several hours to get there, I don’t want to go too far for food the first day. After spending the next day on the water getting information, I really do not want to drive far that night.

Often, small hole-in the-wall type places turn out surprisingly good. And some of them have interesting histories and backgrounds.  A few years ago, when at Logan Martin Lake near Pell City Alabama, I found “The Ark,” a little nothing looking place with a very rustic interior just off the Riverside exit on I-20.

When I walked in I was greeted by my kind of people, with accents like mine. The wood paneling was dark from years of food frying in the kitchen, and the walls were decorated with racing memorabilia. Riverside is not many miles for Talladega and many famous stock car drivers have eaten at The Ark, most loving the catfish if their autographs are any indication.

The back of the menu tells the story of “The Ark.”  Back in the early 1900s most of the counties in that area were “dry” meaning you could not buy alcohol legally. This was long before the lakes were built and the Coosa River itself was the county line of the two counties there, but they considered the edge of the rive the county line.  So, the river itself was not under the jurisdiction of either counties’ law enforcement.

E. O “Red” Thompson, being an enterprising young man, bought an old barge and anchored it in the river about 30 feet from the bank.  He made a four-foot wide walkway to it and provided tie-ups for locals with boats to access the bar onboard.

A salvaged sign from that old bar said “Beer 15 cents” and “All the catfish and hushpuppies you can eat, 60 cents.”  Apparently, many folks had “fun” there, eating catfish and drinking their favorite beverages that were illegal on the nearby bank, all during prohibition and the roaring 20s. The original Ark burned and by then laws were more liberal, so Red build a restaurant on the bank near the road.  It too burned a long time ago, but the current restaurant was built across the highway.  No dates were given, but I would guess sometime in the 1950s.

Catfish is the staple on the menu, but you can get everything from chicken livers to frog legs. The jumbo shrimp I got that first night were exceptional, very lightly battered and fried to perfection.  The cup of gumbo started the meal just right and I loved the hushpuppies served with it.

Every time I am at Logan Martin for an article, I stay at a motel about five minutes from The Ark and have eaten there several times. Last summer the Potato Creek Bass Masters fished our July tournament there and I camped about 15 minutes away for a week, driving up two nights to splurge at The Ark.

Monday I drove over to Childersburg on Lay Lake, the next lake downstream on the Coosa River.  I checked and my GPS said I was 30 miles and 45 minutes from The Ark. After the miserable three hours drive in the rain, I just could not make myself do that, so I went to “La Parrilla,” a Mexican restaurant across the street from my motel.

It was a nice surprise, with bright fresh paint, excellent service and even better food.  I thought it must be new but one of my waiters said they had been there 14 years. I had my favorite, chili rellenos, and they were as good as I have eaten.After a rainy day of fishing Tuesday, I just had to drive up to The Ark Tuesday night for dinner. As expected, it was well worth the drive and the cup of gumbo and dozen big butterflied shrimp stuffed me just right.

Sinclair March Tournament Did Not Meet Expectations!

After Ricky Layton’s great catch on Friday, I could not wait to get on the water Sunday morning in the Flint River Bass Club March tournament at Sinclair. 

I should have known better.   

After fishing from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, 13 members landed 20 bass weighing about 36 pounds.  There was one five bass limit and five people didn’t catch a 12-inch keeper.   

Travis Weatherly won with five weighing 9.02 pounds and his 4.99 pound largemouth was big fish.  My three weighing 7.47 placed second and I had a 4.57 pounder for my biggest fish. Niles Murray placed third with three weighing 5.75 pounds and Brent Drake came in fourth with three weighing 4.20 pounds.   

The cold air made me shiver on my run to my first stop. Luckily there was enough wind to keep the fog down, it was wispy and hanging just off the water. But there was enough to make it scary trying to watch for all the floating wood.   

I stopped off a grass bed that was perfect for the pattern Ricky caught his big fish on Friday, but my heart sank when my temperature gauge hit 49 degrees.  A nine or ten degree drop just had to affect the bass. It surely did affect my optimism!    I fished three places in three hours without a bite. 

Around 11:00 the weak sun was warming the water a little, raising the temperature to about 51 degrees in the cove where Ricky caught a six pounder.  I cast a Chatterbait across in front of a grass bed, something thumped it and I set the hook.    My rod bowed up and the fish headed for deep water. I just knew I had a six pounder on, but suddenly my line went slack. The fish just pulled off without me ever seeing it.   

At noon I was in the area where Ricky caught two fish, hole #2. I was very down, fishing half the day without a keeper. The water had warmed to 52 so I had some hope. I cast my Chatterbait into some grass and hooked the four pounder I weighed in. That improved my attitude a lot.   

After another hour of fishing without a bite, I caught a two pounder in front of some grass, then at 2:00 PM landed my third keeper, a one pounder, from another grass bed.  That was it. I fished hard for the rest of the day without another bite.   

On Monday, the weather guessers said it would be in the 70s all week as I got ready to go to Eufaula for a week. I hope they were right, the Potato Creek Bassmasters are fishing our March tournament this weekend at Eufaula.I think I kinda wish we were at Sinclair!

Coronavirus and Fishing

Fishing in the Time of Coronavirus
No, this is not the Death Star, but some say it could be a very large problem for many of us considering its tiny size.

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

As this is written, the world is undergoing a level of mobilization unseen since World War II. Some of it may be over-reaction, but there’s no doubt that this is a real, no-kidding worldwide crisis that’s going to affect us all for months to come.

The enemy this time is not a mad dictator, but rather an invisible microbe—but one that apparently has the potential to be deadly to many of us. The human race seems to have almost no resistance to contracting it. In the U.S. alone, health authorities are estimating that over half of us might get it. While doubters are noting that not nearly as many have died from coronavirus as from other strains of flu, we are only in the first weeks of a curve that’s rapidly going upward.

And while the vast majority will recover quickly, just as with other strains of flu, some will not. The World Health Organization currently estimates a death rate of around 3 percent, while some other agencies have put the number as low as 1 percent. That does not sound like much until you look at the likelihood that, in the U.S., some 160 million of us are allegedly likely to get it according to federal health officials. One percent of 160,000,000 is 1.6 million. Three percent is 4.8 million.

Among those over 60, the death rate has been around 10 percent, approaching 15 percent for those over 80. The average age of the U.S. Senate is 61.8, and of the House, 57.8. Donald Trump is 73, Nancy Pelosi 79. It’s safe to say we can expect Washington to go all in to stop this disease.

But at this point there seems to be no stopping it, only alleviating the impacts. There are many folks out there who have it and don’t know it according to the CDC—the symptoms can be very minor for many, but they are still contagious.I’m not a doctor, and don’t play one on TV. But what the doctors—including my own son–are telling us is that the goal is to lower the rate of spread, which will mean that those who do get a serious infection will have a bed in the intensive care unit and a ventilator available if needed. A rapid spread, on the other hand, could make things difficult for all. Hospitals could be overwhelmed, as they apparently have been this week in Italy.

The fishing industry is doing the right thing. Over the past week I’ve had literally dozens of event cancellations come in to the Fishing Wire for posting, including some from nearly every state, and ranging in size from small regional game and fish meetings to massive boat shows that would normally generate millions of dollars for the industry. My friends in the guide business say business has fallen off a cliff.

While we’re all hoping this will subside in a couple of months and business will return to normal, if it does not, jobs at all levels will be affected, as well as the businesses that provide those jobs. Supply issues from China may also become huge if the current reduction in cases there proves short-lived—most tackle, lures and accessories used worldwide are made in China. To say nothing of our 401-K’s—don’t remind me.

In the meantime—one of the best things we can probably do is go fishing. Angling is a sport of low human density, lots of fresh air and plenty of sunshine, all of which give us the best shot at staying healthy. The same might be true for spring turkey hunting, hiking or camping. Getting outdoors also helps us reduce stress, something most of us can use right now.

Of course, for those at highest risk, the best advice is simply to stay home, period.It’s going to be a rocky few months, any way we slice it. Many of the conveniences and daily routines all of us expect as Americans may temporarily go by the wayside. (Like toilet paper on the Walmart shelf . . . .!)

But we’ll get through it. And we’ll come out the other side much better prepared to deal with the next of these bugs, highly likely somewhere on the horizon in this age of global travel and commerce, but hopefully many years in the future.

If you’re not already up to here with info on the virus, here’s a link to an article my M.D. son sent me, outlining the position of a lot of physicians at present: