Monthly Archives: December 2021

Frog Tog Rainsuits Have Failed Me Three Times

  If rainy days and Mondays always get you down like they do “The Carpenters,” last weekend and the first of this week was definitely a low time.  Some folks let rain stop their outdoor activities, which means fewer people on the lakes while I am fishing!

    I am not crazy about camping in the rain, even though I have a nice slide-in pickup camper now.  But it is small and not really comfortable for sitting around inside. I carry a screen room with me to sit in outside and it is good until it really pours.

    Grilling is a challenge in the rain but it’s possible, especially if you are fast and have a covered grill. The key is keeping your charcoal dry in the bag and keep the rain off it until you light it.

    There are lots of little tricks to make camping in the rain better. From something as simple as keeping some rice in your saltshaker so it won’t clog to having a good rainsuit make a big difference.

    Rainsuits come in a wide variety of costs and quality, from those that keep you nice and dry to those that are about as effective as a screen door. 

Years ago, when they first came out, I got a set of “Frog Togs,” a new brand of rainsuit.   I loved it – for about a year. 

It was lightweight and kept me completely dry. Then on a trip to Clarks Hill I put it on, got in the boat in the rain and every bit of my clothing was soaked within minutes.

I figured the set was old so I got a new set, and got soaked the first time I wore it.  That’s when I went and bought an expensive set of Columbia light-weight rain gear. I have a set of heavy Cabellas Guide Wear that is great in the winter but too hot to wear unless it’s cold.

A couple months ago I was at Eufaula to do an article and realized I left my rainsuit at home. Since rain was predicted, I went to Walmart to get something. The only thing they had that seemed reasonable was a set of Frog Togs, so I bought them.

I didn’t need them until last Saturday at Wedowee. I put the pants on before we took off since the boat was wet. When it started raining an hour or so later, I put the jacket on.

Almost as soon as I sat down I felt rain leaking around the crotch seams on the Frog Togs. Within an hour or so of light rain, there was not a dry thread anywhere on my body.

I will get a used laundry bag for a rainsuit before I ever buy Frog Togs again.

What Is Fishing for the Future through Sport Fish Restoration?

By Melissa Crouch, Florida FWC

The Sport Fish Restoration program helps preserve fishing opportunities for the future.

I grew up fishing in Florida’s coastal waters. My dad would often take me on his pre-fishing shopping trips to stock up on tackle and fishing equipment. There was such a huge variety to choose from, I always wondered how he knew just what to purchase. The day before our fishing adventure we would gas up the boat and make final preparations. I was too excited to fall asleep on those nights, and in the morning I readied myself before the sun came up for what was sure to be a memorable day. I became hooked on the sport.

Today, I engage my children in the same perpetual cycle of strolling through tackle shops, fueling-up the boat, fishing, cleaning, rinsing and repeating. While this cycle helps re-energize my soul and introduces my children to the water, it is also part of an even bigger cycle known as the Sport Fish Restoration Program. By purchasing fishing gear, motorboat fuel and a fishing license, I’m participating in a cycle of success that not only leaves me feeling good, but provides fishing opportunities to all who enjoy and appreciate the sport.

Each time you purchase fishing gear, motorboat fuel or a fishing license, you help support SFR.

A quick history lesson on this important program – back in 1950, Congress enacted the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act) to collect a 10-percent fee on the purchase of fishing rods, reels, creels, lures, flies and artificial baits for projects to improve recreational fishing opportunities. In 1984, funds from the sale of motorboat fuels and additional fishing equipment, as well as import duties on boats and fishing tackle, were included as part of the Wallop-Breaux amendment. These revenues are transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which then distributes funds to the states for recreational sport fishing enhancement projects.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) receives about $13 million annually from SFR, of which $3 to $4 million supports saltwater sport fish projects and 15 percent funds the creation and maintenance of boating-access points. Over the years, SFR has provided nearly $500 million to the states for thousands of individual projects. All because you bought tackle, fueled-up your boat and purchased a fishing license.

Projects supported by SFR in Florida include:

Each state’s share of SFR funding is based 60 percent on its number of paid licensed anglers and 40 percent on its land and water area.
To fund SFR projects, 75 percent of the total cost is provided by SFR and the remaining 25 percent comes from state funds, which are derived through recreational fishing license fees.
  • Marine and freshwater fisheries research.
  • Stock enhancement.
  • Angler and boater outreach.
  • Aquatic resource education.
  • Artificial reefs.
  • Boating-access improvements.

Using SFR funding, the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management, Outreach and Education subsection travels throughout Florida to offer a variety of engaging programs for recreational anglers and participates in numerous public events. Through their efforts, the public has opportunities to learn more about some of Florida’s most important marine fisheries resources. Just a few of these activities include Women’s Fishing Clinics, Kids’ Fishing Clinics, displays at fishing expos and boat shows, presentations to fishing clubs, and Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs. Staff also disseminates a variety of SFR-funded publications including a “Boating and Angling Guide” series for coastal areas, saltwater fish identification posters, “Fishing Lines: An Angler’s Guide to Florida’s Marine Resources,” “Fishing Florida” youth activity books, saltwater habitat brochures, catch-and-release brochures, “Sea Stats” for saltwater species, and brochures explaining the importance of SFR.

So next time you go fishing, buy tackle, fuel-up your boat, or purchase your fishing license, remember that you contributed to this important program with far-reaching impacts. When you see the SFR logo at a boat launch, know that you made it happen. Fishing for the future – that’s something to be excited about! To learn more about Florida’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, visit and click on “Sport Fish Restoration” or visit the USFWS page.

Hitting Deer with Vehicles

I got a deer this year on the second day of archery season!

Unfortunately, it was with my Chevy Express van on the way to fish Lake Oconee. It was the second one I have hit with my 2008 van, but just the third one I have ever hit.

    In 1971, the first fall Linda and I were married, we left Clarks Hill Sunday night headed back to Athens after spending the weekend with my parents at the lake. For some reason I was driving daddy’s truck, I seem to remember we needed to haul something back to our mobile home.

    On a back road near Washington, Ga, with nothing, not even a farm house within a few miles, a deer was standing on the left side of the road. I slowed to look at it, seeing deer was still not an everyday, or every night, thing. Suddenly the doe ran right in front of the truck. I hit it and it went under the bumper and I felt the tires bump over her.

I stopped and turned the headlights on the deer flopping about 20 feet from the road. I went over to her; the truck had broken her back and she was trying to crawl off using her front legs.

Since I had no gun but did not want her to suffer, I got the tire iron out of the truck and hit her in the head to kill her.

Wanting to do the right thing, I stopped in Washington, Georgia when I saw a police car sitting by the road to report what happened. The cop did not seem friendly and started questioning me about leaving the scene of an accident!

At the time I had shoulder length hair and if I remember correctly, was wearing “hippy” clothes, a tie died tee shirt and paisley pants.  After some discussion the cop told me to go on my way.

The next time I drove that road during daylight I saw there was a fence running along the left side where she was standing, but nothing on the right. I guess she chose to run across the road rather than jump the fence. Not a good choice.

The second deer was just four or five years ago, with my van while pulling my boat to West Point.  A deer standing on the right shoulder suddenly jumped right in front of me. I had slowed a lot and when it hit the right corner of the bumper, it knocked her back off the road.

I stopped in Woodbury where there was enough light to see and found no damage, just some hair on the bumper. Guess the glancing blow was not too bad.

Sunday I left home at 3:45 AM and saw several deer between here and Monticello.  About halfway between Monticello and Eatonton two yearlings were standing on the right side of the road. I slowed as soon as I saw them, knowing little ones will often run to mama on the other side of the road.

Before I slowed enough, I was still going about 45, a deer came out of nowhere on my left.  I never got a good look at it, it was just something suddenly there and a big wham and bump.  I slowed and kept a watch on my temperature and oil gauges, fearing damage.

When I got to Eatonton where I had some light, I got out and pulled off both running light assemblies that were just hanging by the light wires. The had been bumping in the wind a lot. Since there seemed to be no bad damage and nothing was leaking, I drove on to the ramp.

Linda has not been so lucky. A couple of years ago a deer ran out on Sixth Street Extension and hit her Avalon on the right side. She was going very slowly, but it still did $4000.00 in damage!  The next year in the same place a deer ran out and she hit it with her left front bumper corner. It came up, hitting the corner of the windshield and shattering it, damaged the roof and then part of the trunk.  

The insurance company totaled out her car there was so much damage!

Be careful out there, get a deer with a bow not a vehicle!



from The Fishing Wire

BEMIDJI, Minn.  – Doubt if any hardwater enthusiasts are sympathetic that Nick Lindner “has to” ice fish for 30 days straight. Torture? Not so much. Fortunately, Nick is documenting the month-long pursuit on video. And now at the halfway point, Nick offers a highlight reel of several of his top tips to improve your fishing this winter. (I once fished 424 days in a row!)

In this video, Nick talks about how a simple glow-stick color change on his Glo-Shot Fired-Belly Spoon triggered the walleyes. He also demonstrates key custom rigging for catching more low-light crappies. You’ll appreciate how Nick breaks down deadsticking to the deep details. And lastly, Nick gives up his number one combination for jumbo perch.

Enjoy the video.

The Glo-Shot® Fire-Belly Spoon relies on its proven exposed light-stick that beams impressively for up to 8 hours. Available in red, green and chartreuse, the replaceable and interchangeable light-sticks give you the flexibility of color choice depending on light levels and water clarity. From a scientific position, florescent green light travels the furthest underwater, making it a great choice for summoning fish from distances. In exceptionally clear water, however, it might be too bright, making chartreuse, and even more so red, better choices. Overall, red is a universal producer, and proves to be the most intense at short range. Red has a storied history of producing beneath the ice.

The body of the Glo-Shot Fire-Belly Spoon is forged from lead-free Z-alloy (Zinc), which cuts through the water column at break wind speed, quickly getting to hot marks on your flasher. Z-alloy yields weight without bulk, too, producing speed minus the intimidating sizes of most heavy spoons.

The Glo-Shot Fire-Belly Spoon is offered in 14 fish-catching colors inside and outside of the UV color spectrum. Speaking of UV, the specialty pigment refracts more natural light than traditional paint. The result is a lure that maintains its color deeper, in lower light, and in stained water.

The spectrum of 14 color patterns include the same colors tested year-in and year-out in the most popular waters throughout the U.S. and Canada, making the Glo-Shot Fire-Belly Spoon an instant classic. Add the fact that anglers can purchase individual glo-sticks to mix and match colors, and you have an endlessly customizable bait to address any situation on the water.

With an MSRP of $7.99, the Glo-Shot Fire-Belly Spoon comes ready to fish with one bait, three glow-sticks and changing tool per card. Select from 14 colors and 4 sizes 1/8 (#10 hook), 3/16 (#8 hook), ¼ (#8 hook), 3/8 (#6 hook) to accommodate multiple depths and species including walleyes, pike, crappies, bass and trout.

Christmas Memories of Times Forever Gone

 Christmas is a bittersweet time for me.  All the good and not so good memories come flooding back and I know those days and times are gone from my life forever.  Memories are all that are left.

    Good ones involve getting up Christmas morning to the joy of toys and unexpected gifts.  I guess my brother and I were a bit greedy, we hung one of mama’s old stockings on the mantle rather than a big sock.

But they were always filled with everything from oranges, bananas and pecans to rolls of caps, boxes of sparklers, bags of candy, boxes of .22 bullets and many other necessities of life.  I think Santa picked up the pecans from our yard and the oranges from the big bag we always brought back from our week before Christmas visit to grandma in Ocala.

    There were the gifts Santa left, which included one big gift and many smaller ones each year.  Big things I remember best are the high-power BB/pellet gun I got when I was 10, the strongest on the market at the time.  It would fire a pellet with the same velocity as a .22 short. And the Remington semiautomatic .22 I got when I was 12, the real thing. 

One year I got a set of Duckback briar britches and coat, a great need when quail and rabbit hunting.  Another is the stand that had metal ducks that revolved, and a gun that shot rubber suction darts at it.

    Smaller gifts included the usual underwear and socks, but even more appreciated were the insulated hunting versions of them.  Boxes of .410 shells, hunting knives, mess kits, hunting caps, hand warmers, fishing lures and other outdoor stuff topped the list.

    One memory brings back sad regret.  When I was about 12 I wanted a new bicycle, as did my brother.  But those were very lean years.  Daddy was the principal and shop teacher at Dearing Elementary School and one afternoon I walked into the shop while waiting on him to go home.

    Hanging from wires were two old bicycles that had been carefully disassembled, sanded and painted.  Daddy had got some junked bikes and repaired them to almost new status.  I got a sinking feeling when I saw them, I knew that would be my present, not a new one.

    I am afraid daddy saw the disappointment in my eyes Christmas morning, and it no doubt broke his heart.  He did the best he could, sacrificing things he wanted to do more for us, and working to make us something he could not afford, even thought he worked all day at school then went home to run our farm.

    I loved that bike and rode it for years.  I would give anything to be able to go back and thank him for it and tell him how much that memory means to me.

    A happier memory is when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  I knew about Santa but my younger brother still believed, although he was starting to question it.

    Our old house had a bathroom in the back off my grandmother’s apartment that we seldom used after she moved out.  For some reason I went to the bathroom a couple days before Christmas and heard birds chirping. When I pulled back the shower curtain a bird cage with two parakeets was hidden back there.

    Christmas Eve Billy and I went to bed but could not sleep. He kept asking me about Santa. It told him let’s make a wish for something no one but Santa would know and see if it comes true.  Let’s wish for parakeets! 

    The next morning he was excited and amazed to see the birds in our gifts.  My parents almost messed it up, saying the birds were from them, not Santa.  I convinced my brother since Santa knew they were giving us birds he didn’t need to. He believed another year!

    I do not ever remember getting daddy anything, but when I got old enough, I always had to find a bag of chocolate crème drops for mama. She loved them and chocolate covered cherries so I tried to make sure she had some.  That is really the only kind of bought sweets she ever ate, all the rest were homemade.

    One very sad gift memory involves a neighbor. Lynn was about two years younger than me and a tomboy so she liked the same kinds of things I liked. My family went to visit for dinner a few days after Christmas.

    Lynn had gotten a stand-up punching toy, about five feet tall shaped like snowman with a heavy weight bottom so hit bobbed back up when you hit it.  I must have been nine or ten, and we were warned to keep the toy away from the floor furnace vent, it was very hot.

    Stupid me drug the punching toy across the vent and the heat melted the plastic with a loud pop. Of course Lynn started crying. That pretty much ended the visit. I felt terrible but could do nothing.  I wonder if daddy bought her another one, if he did I never knew.

    As an adult presents really don’t mean much anymore.  I tend to buy whatever I want when I want it, so it is hard to buy something for me.  Gone is the joy and wonderment of Christmas morning.

    If you have kids, make this as truly a wonderous time of the year as long as possible.

St Croix Rods Official Sponsors of Bassmasters Opens

St. Croix Announced as Title Sponsor of 2022 Bassmaster Opens Series
PARK FALLS, WISC. – B.A.S.S. officials announced in October the slate for the 2022 Bassmaster Opens Series, with nine tournaments in three divisions covering nine states as the pathway to some of the most-coveted invitations in all of professional bass fishing. Today, B.A.S.S. and St. Croix Rods, handcrafters of the Best Rods on Earth® for nearly 75 years, are pleased to announce St. Croix’s title sponsorship of the 2022 Bassmaster Opens Series. In addition to St. Croix’s title sponsorship, the St. Croix Rods Rewards Program will award an extra $1,000 to an angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Opens tournament fishing St. Croix rods, or $500 to the highest-finishing top-10 angler fishing St. Croix rods.

Review of St Croix Rods.

The 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series will return to a regular schedule this season with the first tournament, a Southern Division event, set for February 3-5 on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Kissimmee, Florida. From there, the Opens will wind through Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, New York, and Maryland.“The Opens have always been a critical proving ground for tournament anglers,” says Hank Weldon, tournament director for the Bassmaster Opens. “Current Bassmaster Elite anglers and St. Croix pro-staffers like Caleb Kuphall, Bob Downey, and Pat Schlapper have all leveraged their success in the Opens to ascend to bass-fishing’s biggest stages, the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic. This year, the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens combine Elite invitations, Classic spots and a ton of coverage for new anglers on FOX Sports and the B.A.S.S. platforms. All of that has led to record-breaking registration numbers as anglers try to get one of the 225 boater spots for each 2022 event. We’re thrilled to welcome St. Croix – America’s premier, family-owned rod company – onboard this year as our title sponsor to help us spotlight the future stars of our sport. The competition is going to be fierce.”
Bob Downey of Hudson, Wisconsin began fishing Junior B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments as a teenager. “I remember watching KVD win the 2001 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta when I was 14,” he recalls. “That sparked my interest in wanting to try and do the same thing someday.” After experiencing success at the junior level, Bob attended the University of Iowa, where he continued his tournament angling. Downey signed on to fish the Bassmaster Central Opens in 2019, claiming a check in all four events and qualifying for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic by winning the final event of the season at Grand Lake, Oklahoma. He also qualified for the Elite Series by finishing fifth in the 2019 AOY standings. Downey has fished the Bassmaster Elite Series for the past two seasons. “Bassmaster – and specifically the Bassmaster Opens – provided the platform for me to get to where I’m at today,” he says.
The same is true for St. Croix pro, Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wisconsin. Schlapper left a stable career to fish full time in 2019, signing up to fish the 2020 Bassmaster Eastern Opens, and also qualified for the 2021 Classic by virtue of his 2020 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship win. Schlapper’s performances on both tournament trails double qualified him for the 2021 Bassmaster Elites.
Caleb Kuphall, a recent addition to the St. Croix pro staff, is another angler who’s made a lot of waves in Bassmaster events the past three years. Of the 23 Bassmaster events the Mukwonago, Wisconsin angler has entered, he’s had four top 10s and finished in the money 22 times. He spent just one season fishing the Opens in 2019, when he won the 2019 Central Open at Lewis Smith Lake to qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic and finished second in the Central division points race, earning a spot on the Elite Series. Earlier this year, in just his second year fishing the Elites, he won the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Lake Guntersville.

St. Croix exists to give every angler the upper hand, and that philosophy extends well beyond simply providing them with the Best Rods on Earth®,” says St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins. “We couldn’t be more pleased to extend our support to the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series, which provides hope and opportunity for so many talented and aspiring tournament anglers. It’s a chance to prove to themselves that they can compete with the very best and a realistic pathway they can follow – applying their skills along the way – that can quickly ascend them to the ultimate levels of bass-fishing competition. Caleb, Bob, Pat and others on our own staff here at St. Croix have proven that, as have dozens of other talented and driven anglers.”The winners of all nine 2022 Opens will earn a berth into the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, provided they have fished all three events in the division where their win occurred.

Follow all of the action of the 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series at

More Country Christmas Decorations

 By this time every December growing up my hunts got more specific. All fall I had kept my eyes open for pretty cedar trees that were the right size and shape, marking their location in my mental GPS. Back then it actually worked and would hold many locations.

    But around the first of December I got serious, searching for the perfect tree. It had to be as perfect shape as a wild tree could be, and as tall as possible without being more than seven feet tall, about as high as I could reach.

    I hunted a lot on an old farm about a mile from my house. The fields were mostly overgrown with broom straw and weeds but the field edges of briar, brush and small trees gave rabbits and quail perfect places to hide. The old fields still provided a variety of food for them.

    Cedar trees grew in the field edges and in the old fields, too. Since they could get sun from all angles out in the field, they were conical shaped and full all the way around.  Trees near the woods usually had a gap on the side that did not get full sun so the ones in the open were the best.

    About a week before Christmas Day I would direct daddy to the best tree I had found.  He drove our old Chevy pickup pretty much anywhere although it did not have four-wheel drive. Since the best tree was usually in the open, it was not hard to drive to it.

    Daddy “let” me lay on the ground and saw the tree down, using a lumber saw. It’s fine teeth made the cutting slow and took a while but for a preteen or teenager, it was not too bad. I tried to get a nice smooth even cut for the tree stand we would make with 2x4s.

    We would also cut some limbs from other cedar trees that were not candidates for “The” tree, even for the future. Those limbs were used by mama to decorate the mantel where our stocking were hung, and a center piece for the table.

    Getting the tree in to the house and set up was not hard with several folks to help. Within minutes the house would smell of cedar, a wonderful smell that would be reinforced by mantel and table decorations that would last until the day after Christmas.

    We didn’t have a lot of money back then and most of our tree decorations, as well as house decorations, were homemade. I brought in sweetgum tree balls and small pinecones from the few trees that produced them. I still do not know what kind of pine tree produced those two-inch-long cones but they were rare.

    We would spray the pinecones and sweetgum balls with silver or gold paint and sprinkle glitter on them.   They were hung from the tree with short pieces of colorful yarn. We would also cut strips of colorful construction paper and make chains out of loops of it for the tree.

We did have bought lights, big bulb strings that were very colorful. The strangest “lights” for the tree were ancient small pans that clipped to the tree and had a spike for  a small candle.  We were not allowed to light the candles except for a few minutes each night while mama and daddy watched carefully.

There were some very old ball decorations that had been in the family for years and we were very careful handling them. They were beautiful, some shaped like angels, some like Santa and some like bells and balls, and all very colorful.

Store bought tinsel was made from metal, I think it was strands of tinfoil, and mama would not let us kids touch it. She hung each stand carefully, placing it just right. After Christmas she would remove it just as carefully and put it back on the cardboard backing and into a pack for next year. I felt like we were rich the year mama said throw the tree out with the tinsel on it, we would buy more next year!

Undecorating the tree was a sad time and I did not help much, I wanted to get out in the woods with my new boxes of .22 bullets and .410 shells!!



By Joel Nelson for Northland Tackle

from The Fishing Wire

First Break Walleyes Under the Ice

It’s been a few years, but I’ve always been a big fan of full-moon fall trolling on the big lakes. What thermocline may have kept bait and ‘eyes out deeper all summer, gave way to incredible shallow water fishing come late October and November. What surprised me however, was just how many anglers had that full-moon fever bite going, and never re-connected with it come first ice. Those same fish didn’t make vast moves or change their feeding patterns too much. They were just under a few inches of ice now.

It’s that same mentality you need to take with you to the lake come first ice walleyes, especially from a location perspective. You’ll have plenty of time to pound off-shore reefs, deep mud, gravel bars, and rock piles. Early ice is the time for fishing right off of shore, just below or on the “first break.” By that, I mean simply that you should look for the first appreciable steep drop from shore, which could bottom out anywhere from 5 to 15 FOW. First ice walleyes love to cruise the bottom of these edges in search of food, and when you’ve got some weed cover, substrate change, or other features to target, the spot is all that much better.

Large, main-lake points are favorites no matter where you go, to focus feeding attention of hungry ‘eyes. They’re also angler magnets, so if you’re fishing pressured bodies of water, understand that you don’t always need to be on a prominent piece of structure to get it done. More and more, I’m looking for small areas of interest. A living-room sized patch of rock that doesn’t show up on the contour map, a quality weed-bed that’s more dense than the surrounding area, or even some hard-pan sand vs. nearby mud or muck. Often, that’s all it takes to gather some near-shore walleyes once the lakes freeze over.

Where most anglers miss out on the shallow water walleye bite, is that they fish it the way they would mid-winter walleyes in deeper parts of the lake. They ice troll across the shallow flats, scaring the very fish they seek. With fall trolling, we learned that there were nights where hundreds of feet of line behind the boat was what it took to get bit. The same walleyes that don’t love hanging tight in your main-motor wash, don’t appreciate lots of hole drilling and overhead traffic.

First Break Walleyes

For that reason, it’s best to have a few dead-set approaches. While there are a few ways to skin that walleye, the two I employ are tip-ups and deadstick rods. Tip-ups for early ice eyes are a mainstay and have been around for forever, so there’s not much new under the sun here. Select some quality fluorocarbon line in or around 10lb test, select a good light wire live-bait hook, and rig up a small sucker or preferably shiner pegged with a sinker above the hook a few inches. Put that sinker closer to the bait if a lively sucker, or further for less lively minnow species. Set your tip-up on a very “light-trip” setting, preferably not under the notch unless needed for wind’s-sake. Then you wait.

Tip-ups are great, but do have their problems. Namely, fighting a fish hand-over-hand, especially if it’s a trophy. Dead-stick rods on simple rod-holders have been a great solution to that problem and more, while offering several advantages over the standard tip-up scenario. Why a specialized rod for this type of fishing? Mostly because a dead-stick is unlike any other ice rod. The action is extremely slow for half or better of the length of the rod, offering bite-detection and minnow-monitoring convenience. Then, a hard-wall on the blank that goes straight to very stiff backbone – perfect for setting the hook.

While dead-stick rods may tangle, any issues are usually seen quickly and above ice, rather than the below-water snarls that can happen on a tip-up without you knowing about it. More importantly, a quality dead-stick will telegraph every movement of the minnow, all while offering you immediate clues both during and after the bite. Set the rod in the holder, and watch your bait or several baits go to work.

Sometimes the fish will grab the bait and sit right below the hole, which is easily seen on a deadstick as it very slowly loads. That’s far less visible and harder to manage a hookset when that happens on a tip-up. I highly recommend bait-feeder reel designs for these rods, as with the flip of a switch, free-spool is offered to running walleyes. These quick runs are easy to detect for either tip-ups or dead-sticks, but the hookset and fight are usually superior on a dead-stick-setup.

First Break Walleyes

Usually, I’ll either jig on the deeper side of the break and watch a deadstick rod right on it, or many times, simply put out the max number of lines I’m allowed in dead-sticks and wait. As with most things walleye, the bite is best early and late, but cloudy days can make for spurts of great fishing throughout. It’s a really fun way to fish if you’ve got a group of friends, as you can cover a long section of break, all while enjoying each other’s company until a rod goes off.

Just make sure to tend the set, just as you would a tip-up. Extreme cold weather doesn’t bode well for this type of fishing, but the good news is that first ice is typically pretty mild after that first blast of cold that locks everything up. Check your baits, make sure the hole isn’t icing up too badly, and more than anything, resist the urge to drill too many holes and stomp around throughout the day. These fish are sensitive to noise, as you may only be targeting them in 5-8FOW.

Especially when your panfish lakes aren’t locked up well, or you’ve got good walkable ice near-shore but not the whole way out, this is the way to go. Setup a few hours before dark, stake out your spot, and wait until some rods start bending or flags start flying.

Natural Christmas Decorations In the Country

We didn’t deck the halls with boughs of holly, but we did use holly in many decorations. In the drab December outdoor colors of browns and grays, bright green holly, and duller but green cedar, green briar and even mistletoe stands out, and we collected all four for festive decorations.  

    In pictures holly always has clusters of pretty red berries everywhere. Not so much in wild holly.  If there were a few scattered red berries on a limb it was carefully cut and taken home.  Mama used the holly for mantle and table decorations, along with cedar limbs.

    One decoration always took center place on the mantle. It was an old kerosene lamp with a bulbous lower chamber for the fuel, a wide flat wick and a tall glass chimney.  We filled the fuel chamber with small colorful balls and mama put a collar of green cedar or holly around its base, arranging it so it set off the lamp.

    We had several of those old lamps and the others were kept with kerosene in them for the times the electricity went out.  Along with a few candles, they gave enough light to get by.

When I was 12 we moved into mama’s dream house, a split level brick home that had three bedrooms upstairs and a den and egg room in the lower level.  The egg room had a big walk-in cooler and an area where we “candled” the eggs.  It got a lot of use since we had 11,000 laying hens.

The house was an orangish brick, not red.  The year we moved in mama bought plastic candle sticks for each front window, eight total, and put orange bulbs in each one. Those candle sticks had five bulbs each and set off the house just right at night.

    Getting mistletoe was always my job and I loved going into the woods, finding a big clump high up in an oak tree and shooting it down with my .22.  I tried to use as few bullets as possible, hoping to clip the main branch of the mistletoe with two to three shots.

    For as long as I can remember we had a big gold bell with a music box inside. The clapper for the bell was actually a pull cord and when pulled down it slowly retracted, playing a short clip of “Jingle Bells.”  Mistletoe was put in the bow above the bell and it hung over the door going to our downstairs level den.

    That doorway got a lot of traffic and my little brother loved to pull the string and make the bell play. So much so I usually hated to hear it within a few days. I think he liked to do it to bug me.

    I could stop the irritation for a few days by unclipping the music box from the bell and hiding it. He would whine to my parents, but I think they got sick of hearing it, too, so they would not really force me to get it back out for a few days.

    An old home place a few miles from our house provided “smilax” which I learned later in life is green briar.  We would go get several long vines of it and mama used it to outline our front door. The door was covered with shiny red and green paper and a wreath was placed in the center for a pretty entryway.

    Greenbriar stays green all winter, so it is an important food for deer in the lean months as well as being pretty.  I learned to hunt patches of it in late December for deer looking for something good to eat in the mostly barren woods.

    Food was amazing.  We never made gingerbread houses, but gingerbread cookies along with Martha Washington balls, snowballs, chocolate chip and many other kinds of cookies were set out on the table to nibble on as we decorated and all during the holidays.

    The holidays meant many big meals with family.  Mama and daddy had several brothers and sisters living near us, and we had to go to every one of their houses, and they all came to our house for meals, too.  There were often a dozen adults and twenty cousins running around on a day we had meals together.

    The table was loaded with turkey and dressing, ham, fried chicken, mac and cheese, string bean casserole, squash casserole, scalloped potatoes,  devil eggs, potato salad, string beans, turnip greens with roots, rutabaga, rice, corn bread, rolls and other staples.

    There were always several kinds of jello salad, from simple orange and shredded carrots to my favorite with cherries, pecans, pineapple and cherry jello.  The desserts ranged from ambrosia made with fresh oranges, coconut and marshmallows to every kind of cake and pie imaginable.

    Most days started and ended with hunting, either quail with several uncles and cousins if daddy or one of the uncles wanted to get the dogs out to me going alone after squirrels and rabbits.  Many mornings were quail hunting with the adults, then after a big meal, me hunting alone, since the adults were too full to move.

    Presents were exchanged with all cousins and family members.  One that I got every year from an aunt and uncle that lived in South Georgia was a window envelope with a dollar bill inside!  That may not seem like much now, but it was a lot of money to a kid that spent hours collecting empty coke bottles along the road for a penny each!

    I have great Christmas memories and I hope you are making new ones this year.

Should Muskie Fishermen Stop Fishing When the Water Is Warm?


from The Fishing Wire

Musky Warm-Water Mortality Study in James River

Warm water angling is a contentious topic among devout muskie anglers, with many anglers deciding to stop fishing when water temperatures exceed 80°F because catching fish in elevated temperatures is believed to lead to high mortality. Until this point, there has been no formal evaluation to validate this belief. Over the past two years, graduate students from Coastal Carolina University, in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR), and West Virginia University (WVU) conducted a two-year warm-water catch-and-release mortality study for muskellunge in the upper James River.

Researchers surgically implanted muskellunge between 26 and 46 inches in length with individually coded radio tags in February-March of 2020 (N = 45) and 2021 (N = 50) so we could track and monitor the fates of all tagged fish. We also attached external loop tags to the radio tagged fish so anyone who caught a radio tagged fish could report it and receive a $50 reward.

With the help of local anglers, researchers attempted to catch half of the radio tagged fish during the warm-water period, which we defined as July through August because that is when water temperatures tended to exceed 80°F. After a tagged fish was caught and released, researchers tracked the fish for several days to verify whether it survived or died.

We were able to locate 39 of 45 fish in 2020 and 46 of 50 fish in 2021 prior to the beginning of July each year. The missing fish may have moved into areas we could not track, had their tags fail, or were unreported harvests. Five of the located fish in 2020 had died prior to the warm-water period and six died prior to the warm-water period in 2021, one of which was harvested.

Of the surviving fish we were able to locate, seven fish were caught in 2020 and five were caught in 2021. Three of the seven fish caught in 2020 died and one of the five fish caught in 2021 died, leading to a mortality estimate of 33.3% for fish released in warm water. Additionally, we had one natural mortality in 2020 and three natural mortalities in 2021, resulting in a natural mortality estimate of 6.9% for the warm-water period.

Fishing action (i.e., follows, strikes, and catches) during the warm-water period was extremely low, even with known locations of tagged fish and experienced anglers using a variety of tactics (e.g., live bait, night fishing). Fish also visually exhibited signs of stress (e.g., no movement or interest in baits presented to them) and would aggregate near thermal refugia (e.g., creek mouths).

We used our mortality estimates, as well as James River muskellunge growth data and angler catch data from previous summers, to simulate how a season closure during the warm-water season would affect the size distribution of the James River muskellunge population. Based on our simulations, the changes in the estimated probability of muskellunge achieving >40” and >45” did not significantly increase in the upriver (+2.0% and +0.5% respectively) or the downriver (+2.5% and +0.1% respectively) based on expected exploitation rates.

Take home points:

  • Mortality is higher for muskellunge caught in warm water.
  • Catchability of muskellunge during the warm water period is low.
  • Because few muskellunge are angled in the summer, the effects of summer angling mortality on size structure of muskellunge in the James River is minimal despite the high probability of mortality for fish that are angled during this period.