Author Archives: ronniegarrison

Christmas Gifts for Fishermen

Black Friday has lost much of its hype with so many on-line sales and Black Friday sales in stores seeming to start after Valentine’s Day.  But if you are looking for Christmas gifts for that special fisherman, I have some suggestions – all are things I use every trip.

    If you have a really special fisherman in your life and want to be extravagant, consider a new Skeeter bass boat. You can get a fully rigged 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 Yamaha motor and most of the bells and whistles.  They are on sale for only $69,500 including sales tax.

    Somewhat more reasonable but still expensive, a Garmin Livescope depthfinder will show you in live action everything going on underwater around your boat. It is much like radar, showing fish movements and all cover.  A head unit and transducer will set you back about $2600, on sale.  They are amazing. I love and hate mine, watching fish follow my baits and not hit them, but at least I know I am casting to bass. And I enjoy watching schools of crappie suspended in treetops and how they move.

    I really like St. Croix rods.  Their Avid series medium heavy seven-foot rod is great for light worms and jigs and the medium action handles spinnerbaits, soft swim baits, crankbaits and more.  They run about $180 and the Avid series is mid-range – they have more expensive and cheaper series, too.

    Last year I bought a Lews American Hero rod at Berry’s Sporting Goods for heavy jigs and worms rigs.  I liked it so much I bought a second one, then purchased a combo with rod and reel.  The rods are about $60 and for that price they are great. Although I was skeptical of the reel that came with the combo for only $90 – a $30 reel is usually worth what you pay – so far it has worked great.

    Warm, water proof boots are a necessity this time of year for hunting and fishing.  I could not find any locally so I ordered a pair of Aleader boots for $50 and so far they are warm and comfortable.  I wish they had a removable liner, but the fur lining is nice. 

    I usually wear 10½ EEE boots but I ordered size 12, and they are a little tight.  If you order them get a bigger size than normal or you will probably have to return them.

    I have my favorite lines for different methods. For spinnerbaits, some crankbaits and topwater I like Trilene Mean Green in 12 to 14-pound test, less than $10 for 700 yards. For slow moving baits like jigs, shaky heads and worms that bass get a chance to look at closely, Sunline fluorocarbon is my choice in 10 to 16-pound test.  It runs $25 to $30 for a 200-yard spool, but it is invisible, tough and holds up well for me.

    Crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are good smaller gifts and run less than $10. I really like Rapala DT series crankbaits in a variety of colors and sizes.  The number tells what depth they run, hence the name “Dives To.” A DT 6 runs six feet deep on ten-pound line, a DT 16 runs 16 feet deep.

iI caught my biggest bass on a Suddeth Boss Hog crankbait, a nine pound, seven-ounce largemouth at Jackson in 1991. Suddeth makes a good line of crankbaits in a variety of sizes and colors. They cost around $7 each.

    The Hawg Hunter spinnerbaits work well for me and come in a variety of sizes and colors. And Rapala Jerkbaits work well for the price. There are more expensive jerkbaits, for example the Megabass and Lucky Craft Pointer series are about $15, and they may be worth it.

Professional bass fisherman Aaron Martens listed 25 things he must have in his tacklebox in an article in Bassmaster magazine. JJs Magic was one of them. I never throw a plastic bait that is not first dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic. It is about $7.50 a jar and comes in three colors and clear. The clear is just to add scent without changing color of baits.

    For stocking stuffers, hooks, leads, swivels and other terminal tackle ranges from less than $2 to several dollars.  Sinkers are hard to find right now, Berry’s bins are almost empty of popular sizes, but more will be in soon. And I like VMC, Gamakatsu and Owner hooks in a variety of sizes.

    The best gift of all would be to take family and friends fishing and hunting to make memories for a lifetime. They are both “essential activities” not only during Covid but year-round, every year. And they are priceless.

Two Tournaments in November

Two weeks ago 20 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our November tournament at Lanier.  We landed 50 14-inch keeper bass weighing about 99 pounds in eight hours of casting. There were five five-fish limits and two people didn’t catch a keeper.

    Sam Smith won with five bass weighing 11.80 pounds, Drew Narramore came in second with five weighing 11.19 pounds, Raymond English placed third with five at 9.89 pounds and Niles Murray was fourth with five at 9.47 pounds.  Kwong Yu had big fish with a 3.51 pounder.

    Last Sunday 11 members of the Spalding County Sportsman club fished our November tournament at West Point.  We landed 37 keepers weighing about 49 pounds in eight hours of fishing.  All but four were spotted bass.  There were three five-bass limits and no one zeroed.

    Kwong Yu won with five weighing 9.27 pounds and his 2.52 pound bass was big fish. My five at 8.28 pounds was second, Niles Murray placed third with five weighing 6.17 pounds and Russell Prevatt had three at 4.46 pounds for fourth. 

Captain Mack’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

From Captain Mack Farr

Nice Lanier striper

Lanier Fishing Report 11/28/20

Wow, November is over, and there are only 27 shopping days until Christmas! We end the
month with the lake level at 1070.19, .84 feet below full pool. That is down .03 feet from the
previous week. The surface temp was 62, slightly cooler than at this point last week. We will end
the month with some very mild weather, the beginning of December may be a different story?
The Forecast indicates rain early in the week, followed by cooler temps and windy conditions
thru most of the week before stabilizing the following weekend. With the full moon occurring on
the 30th, and an approaching weather change, this weekend should offer some excellent fishing

Striper Fishing

Fishing was very good this past week, with live bait again being the big producer. A mix of
techniques, live baits fished on down lines, feee lines and planer boards, were all productive,
and the Stripers are responding to Herring and Gizzard Shad. Most of the bait shops are now
keeping Trout in stock, so it will probably be a good idea to keep a couple of those in the spread
as well.

Fish are being caught all over the lake, but I think the best bite seems to be in the
middle and upper parts of the lake. Look for the bait concentrations over a 35 to 50 foot bottom,
in the creeks and coves in the middle parts of the lake. The same applies to the river channels
once you move far enough up the lake. The same pattern will also be effective on the lower end
creeks, you just have to move further between creeks increasing your run time, but the same
guidelines can be applied, If you are in an area where the bait is present but you are not
marking fish, it may be worth setting up a spread and letting the fish come to you. Allow 15 to 20
minutes and if no fish show up relocate to another area.

The topwater/schooling activity is still a viable pattern, perhaps more of a secondary pattern as
opposed to earlier in November, but the schoolers are still showing up with some degree of
regularity. This pattern may be strongest in the afternoons, and in general best in low light
conditions. Downsizing your baits are a plus for this technique as the fish are keying in on small
Shad. Spoons, Jig N Shads, Sliced Spoons, Flies under a bubble, blade baits, or small buck
tails are good choices for the schoolers. Light line, 8 lb test or lighter, will allow for much longer
casts with these lighter baits, and you’ll need to match your rod action accordingly. Watch the
birds to help locate surface activity, they are starting to show up in pretty good numbers now,
and the arrival of next week’s cold front should open up the flood gates for their arrival.

The trolling bite is very good, full size rigs and Mini Mack’s are producing well. Pulling the Mini’s
on lead core has been producing well, and as a general guideline the Mini Mack will fish roughly
4 to 5 feet deep for each color of lead core you have out. On the full size rigs, the Capt. Mack’s
3 oz nine bait rigs pulled 90 to 120 feet behind the bait should get the bite, adjust accordingly
based on where the fish are showing up on the sonar. Pull the rigs around the bait schools,
around bends in the creeks channels, or over points adjacent to the channels. Both the buck
tail and the shad body rigs are effective.

Bass Fishing

Bass fishing is very good, and there are many baits and patterns that are producing very well.
Rock and docks are strong, both will produce on all areas of the lake. The Spro Rock Crawlers
have been a staple on the rocks, rock banks, points and bluffs are all holding fish. Worms and
the this pattern as a change up or if the fish are resistant to chase down the moving baits.
Worms and jigs on the docks are also consistently productive, depth varies with the conditions,
but 15 to 25 feet remains a good starting point.

The ditch bite is really cranking up, with ditches and drains in the creeks or on the main lake
producing well. Jigs, worms and spoons are all good baits for this pattern. It is important to
remember that you may or may not see fish on the drains when you initially approach them,
They are often very tight to the bottom, or they may up against or under an undercut ledge or
bank. Often, the fish will not start moving around until you drop them a bait and pull them off the
bottom or off of the ledges. This technique will also be very effective on the old creek channels,
start searching in 30 feet and work you way out to 50 feet. Fish anywhere you see bait, where
the old channel created a ledge, or any other anomaly. The worms on the Weedless Wonder
have been very effective on this pattern, some colors to try are Prizm Perch, Prizm Kraw and
my #1 pick as of late Green Shiner.

Good Fishing!
Capt. Mack

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Big Guntersville Bass caught with Captain Mike Gerry

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 11/28/20

With the water levels on Guntersville drawn way down the lake has a different look to it and
the fish have moved offshore to avoid the cold night temperatures. Even though they don’t
move Guntersville more than a couple of feet there is a change of structure on the lake, the
edges are low and the boat docks show some serious depth changes; moving the bass to the
off shore locations in 10 to 12 ft. of water.

Crank baits took front and center for the week with SPRO square bills and SPRO Little John
crank baits being the best choice; fishing off humps and deeper banks most of the week. We
also fished Tight-Line swim jigs, Picasso chatter baits and buzz baits with mixed results.

Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you; 2021 fishing is right
around the corner call today to book your preferred days. We fish with great sponsor
products, Lowrance Electronics, Ranger Boats, Boat Logix mounts, Navionics mapping, Mercury Motors, Duckett Fishing, Vicious Fishing, Missile Baits and more.

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service
Call: 256 759 2270
Capt. Mike Gerry

I Am Thankful for the Outdoors

Although 2020 has been a crazy year, I have much to be thankful for, even this year.  Thanksgiving brings back many great memories and makes me realize what a good life I have had for 70 years.

    Most of all I am thankful for a wonderful wife that has put up with me for 49 years.  Only one time in all those years has she complained about my hundreds of fishing and hunting trips as well as other things.

    One year at Thanksgiving my mama planned Thanksgiving dinner at our place at the lake.   Every year I headed to Clarks Hill Wednesday afternoon with my boat as soon as school was out for the holidays.  Most years I got up and fished a couple of hours
Thursday morning, then went into town for a big meal at lunch with my family.

    That year mama had dinner at the lake so I could fish more hours.  I went out early that morning with the warning “be in early enough for dinner” from mama. I told her I would come in early enough to get cleaned up for the extended family that was joining us.

    I will never forget weighing the 7.1-pound bass that hit a Shadrapap on my DeLiar scales, then looking at my watch and noting it was 12:01 PM.  I thought it was wonderful mama had planned dinner, not lunch, or I would have not caught it.

    When I went in at 5:00 to get cleaned up for dinner, mama and Linda were not happy.  Maybe it was a Freudian slip that made me forget mama always said dinner for noon day meals and supper for nighttime meals.   Everyone that had come for dinner had already left and I missed seeing my brother and his family, several uncles and aunts and some cousins.

    The only thing colder than the cold stares I got that afternoon from mama and Linda was the cold turkey sandwich I had for Thanksgiving “dinner.”

    I am thankful for growing up in a family with parents that were tough on me but loving.  Discipline was strict, but I was given a lot of freedom when all my chores were done.  I could go out early in the morning hunting or fishing with my friends and the only rules were get my farm work done first and to be in to eat supper with my family.

    I am thankful I leaned to love the outdoors, respecting nature and its awesome power and beauty.  I am thankful I never learned to love killing, but understood it is part of nature.  Every animal I have shot, from squirrels to deer, made me respect death and the fact those animals died so I could eat them.

    I am thankful that I grew up in a free country that did not restrict my right to own guns, hunt and fish.  Unfortunately, that is changing, and I do not know how much longer it will last. 

    I am thankful I grew up on a farm and learned the value of hard work and the rewards from it.  I have had a comfortable life, mainly due to Linda and me working hard, often at two jobs each, and enjoying the rewards of being frugal, saving and planning for the future.  That allowed me to do what I wanted, have a bass boat all my life and go fishing when I wanted to go, without spending on frivolous things just to impress others.

    I am thankful for learning to be good leader from my daddy and Laymon Hattaway.  Daddy was my principal in elementary school, and I taught school with Mr. Hattaway as my principal for seven years.  My career as a teacher, central office administrator and principal was strongly influenced by those two men, and I would not have been as successful without their influence.

    I am thankful Jim Berry gave me the opportunity to fill a lifetime dream of being a writer.  Berry’s Sporting Goods sponsoring my first articles in the Griffin Daily News in 1987 gave me a start on a fun, fulfilling second career.

    I am thankful Linda got a second job as a cruise travel writer, allowing me to see things this country boy never imagined seeing. From squatting on the ice in Antarctica with penguins waddling by close enough to touch to catching salmon on a fly rod in Alaska on my 60th birthday, her love of travel has made me go places I will never forget.

    I am very thankful for the advances in medicine that seems to have cured my cancer.  Daddy died from chemotherapy treatments from his cancer in 2000.  It destroyed his kidneys, causing him to need dialysis which he hated. 

    Although the seven months of chemotherapy and radiation I took two years ago had some rough times, I never missed a fishing trip, going at least five times a month the whole time.  I think my drive to go fishing helped me through it, giving me something to look forward to during the rough times.

    Most of all I am glad to still be alive after all these years, with the hope of more to come.  I hope to make even mor memories in the time I have left.  

Tactics and Techniques to Target Smallmouth Through the Changing Seasons

The author with a trophy smallmouth bass from the James River in downtown Richmond. Fall is one of the best times of the year to target big smallmouth bass across the state.

By Alex McCrickard, Virginia DGIF Aquatic Education Coordinator
from The Fishing Wire

There might not be a finer season to explore our freshwater fisheries across Virginia than in fall.  Maples, tulip poplars, oaks, and sycamores turn red, orange, yellow, and brown as air temperatures cool to a comfortable range in the 60s and 70s.  The cool crisp air during this time of the year is a welcome change to anglers who have fished throughout the hot humid Virginia summer.  The changing of the seasons creates excellent conditions for anglers targeting smallmouth bass across the state.Smallmouth Bass in Virginia

Smallmouth bass, frequently referred to as smallies or bronzebacks, are a freshwater member of the sunfish family: Centrarchidae.  Their green and brown sides are often marked with vertical black bars.  Some of these fish have war paint like markings extending horizontally and diagonally behind their eyes and across their gill plates.  Smallmouth bass are native to the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River Basin including the Tennessee and Big Sandy River Drainages of Southwest Virginia. 

However, these game fish have been introduced all across the Piedmont of Virginia and are truly a worthy opponent on rod and reel.  Because of the smallmouth’s widespread range in Virginia, they are readily available to anglers fishing west of the coastal plains above the fall lines of our major river systems.  This allows anglers who reside in cities and large metropolitan areas to fish local as smallmouth opportunities are plentiful. 

The James River in Lynchburg and RichmondRappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Rivanna River in Charlottesville, Maury River near Lexington, and the New River in Blacksburg are fine examples of local opportunities.

The mainstem and larger tributaries of these rivers are full of smallmouth. Anglers in Northern Virginia can focus efforts on the Upper Potomac River as well as the Shenandoah mainstemNorth Fork, and South Fork.  The North Fork of the Holston River and the Clinch River provide excellent smallmouth opportunities in Southwest Virginia.  Floating these larger rivers in a canoe or raft can be a great way to cover water, just remember to wear your life jacket. 

You can also wade fish these rivers and their tributaries in lower water conditions.Changing River ConditionsRivers and streams across Virginia are typically in low flow conditions on average years as summer moves to early fall.  As the days get shorter and air temperatures drop, water temperatures are soon to follow.  As water temperatures cool from the upper 80s down to the mid 70s and eventually upper 60s, smallmouth will become very active. 

While the smallmouth’s metabolism might be highest in warmer water temperatures, these conditions can sometimes make the fish a bit sluggish, especially on bright sunny days in the heat of the summer.  Therefore, the cooling trends that occur in early to mid-fall can oftentimes put smallmouth on the feed.  Also, as water temperatures drop, dissolved oxygen will increase. 

During the hottest summer months, smallmouth often congregate at the heads of riffles in broken water where dissolved oxygen levels are highest.  It’s the fall cooling of water temperatures that in turn can spread more smallmouth out evenly throughout various habitats from riffles and pocket water to long runs, pools, and flats.  Smallmouth can also disperse when large rain events occur throughout fall and river levels rise from typical low late summer and early fall flows.

As mid-fall progresses into late fall, water temperatures will drop even further.  As water temperatures drop into the mid to low 50s, smallmouth will stage in transitionary water between their summer habitat and deep overwintering holes.  In Virginia, this oftentimes happens from late October through the middle of November.  Look for smallmouth to be on the edges of drop-offs as well as congregating around river points and bends. 

During this transitionary time smallmouth can also be found in the middle sections and tailouts of deep riffles holding around structure like log jams and big boulders.Early Fall – Techniques and ApproachTopwater lures and flies will continue to produce good numbers of smallmouth bass throughout the entire month of September and well into the month of October. 

Anglers should take advantage of this last opportunity to fish on the surface before winter kicks in.  Popular topwater lures that anglers enjoy to fish in the summer will also prove to be productive in early to mid-Autumn.  Make sure to keep buzzbaits, Whopper Ploppers, Zara Spooks, Heddon Tiny Torpedos, and the Rebel Pop-R in your box of topwater lures.September and October are great months to fish topwater lures and flies for Virginia smallmouth bass. Photo by Meghan Marchetti/DGIF.

For fly fishing, make sure to keep your flybox stocked with your favorite poppers.  I always carry Boogle Bugs, Double Barrel poppers, and Walt’s Bass Popper in a variety of sizes and colors in early fall.  It’s best to experiment with your retrieve to figure out if the fish are looking for fast or slow action.  Your retrieve and approach can also depend on the type of water you are fishing and the action of your fly or lure.  Sometimes in choppy riffles a faster retrieve can allow the lure or fly to move more water where as a slower pop and pause retrieve can be very productive in flat water stretches.

Late Fall – Techniques and Approach
As water temperatures continue to drop in late October through November, a subsurface approach is best.  It’s still possible to catch bass on topwater lures and flies but you will find more fish feeding subsurface with water temperatures in the 50s.  Smallmouth will actively ambush smaller forage fish during this time of the year as they attempt to put on weight for the upcoming winter season.  This makes mid to late fall one of the best times of the year to target large smallmouth in our rivers and streams across Virginia. 

Use baitfish imitations and target the transitionary water that smallmouth occupy during this time frame. A variety of subsurface crankbaits, soft plastic swimbaits and flukes, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits will prove productive.  The Rebel Crawfish, a crayfish crankbait, should also be in your selection of subsurface lures as smallmouth will prowl pools and flats for crayfish in the fall.

When fishing some of these subsurface lures, especially soft plastic swimbaits and flukes, its important to apply action to the lure on occasion by quickly jerking your rod to the side and then pausing briefly during your retrieve.  This will give your lure an erratic motion and imitate a stressed and injured baitfish which is exactly what the smallmouth are looking for.  When fishing soft plastics with a jig head, you can adjust the size of your jig head based upon the depth and current that you are focusing on.  Anglers can also fish a variety of different colored jig and pigs for targeting late fall smallmouth that are holding lower in the water column closer to the bottom of the river.Subsurface lures work well when targeting fall smallmouth. Photo by Meghan Marchetti/DGIF.

Late October through November is an excellent time to fish large streamers for big smallmouth bass.  When fly fishing in mid to late fall, consider fishing with a sinktip or a 250 grain full sinking line in the deeper riffles and pools on our larger rivers.  Sometimes it pays off huge when you can get your fly down to the fish during this time of the year, especially in the latter part of the season as winter approaches.

I have had great success in the fall fishing Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow, Lefty Kreh’s Deceiver, as well as the combination of the two patterns: the Half & Half. Large articulated streamers that were originally developed for trout fishing in western states likes Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming will also be productive on fall smallmouth.

Kelly Galloup’s articulated streamer patterns from Montana work well and most of these flies have large profiles as some of them are tied with wool or spun deer hair heads.  Charlie Craven’s patterns from Colorado are also quite productive on our Virginia smallmouth.  The profile of these large articulated streamers attracts fall smallmouth and these patterns swim really well through the water as they are articulated.  The multi-sectioned Gamechanger tied by Blane Chocklett also works quite well this time of the year. 

You should also carry large beadhead or conehead Woolly Buggers.  I like fishing this classic pattern in sizes 2-4 in black, dark brown, and olive. Chuck Kraft’s Clawdad and Harry Murray’s Hellgrammite are also productive patterns to fish lower in the water column this time of year.Fishing large streamers is a great technique for targeting big smallmouth bass. Consider fishing a sinktip or full sinking line in mid to late fall on our larger Virginia rivers, especially in higher flows. Photo by Meghan Marchetti/DGIF.

Autumn can truly be one of the most pleasant times of the year to target smallmouth across the Commonwealth.  Anglers will enjoy cooler temperatures and wearing waders when fishing these rivers during this time of the year.  As the season progresses from October into November, it’s important to bring a dry bag with a towel and an extra change of clothes for safety precautions due to cooler water and air temperatures.  Make time to get out this fall and take advantage of the prime fishing conditions for smallmouth across the state.

Costa Helps Vets with their Freedom Series

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing WireLong known for high-quality, on-water eyewear, Costa® Sunglasses recently released the Freedom Series, highlighting the brand’s partnership with Freedom Fighter Outdoors (FFO). If you’ve been needing an excuse to splurge on some admittedly fairly pricey Costa’s, their assistance to FFO might be just what’s necessary.
The Freedom Series glasses feature many of the most popular Costa frame styles in patriotic-inspired colors, and support Freedom Fighters Outdoors’ initiative to help get veterans out on the water and participating in recreational outdoor activities.

Costa offers the series in both glass lenses—which are more scratch-resistant and also somewhat clearer than polycarbonate–and the poly lenses, which are lighter and also more shatter-resistant. I personally have always liked glass lenses for the clarity, plus glasses used in a center console tend to get the heck scratched out of them bouncing around on the dash if they have plastic lenses. Costa says their glass lenses are 20% thinner and 22% lighter than average polarized lenses, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  The models with glass lenses are somewhat heavier than some other brands just because Costa builds their stuff to last, but they’re not so heavy that you notice the weight on your nose or ears. The hinges, for example, are not only stout stainless steel, but they’re inset inside the durable composite frame. This not only protects them from salt spray and the resulting corrosion but adds reinforcement at the point where most glasses eventually fail. 

The blue mirror lenses are among the best choice for bright sunlight and flats or offshore fishing—minimal color distortion, good fish spotting and the polarization and mirroring greatly cuts glare. If you’re strictly a flats angler, you might like the amber lenses better because they tend to make vegetation and fish “pop” in the shallows, but the blue mirror gives things a light gray cast that seems natural after you wear it a few minutes.

A very useful feature on all Costa glasses is that they provide exact measurements of all their glasses on their website, so you know in advance how they’re going to fit if you buy them via the internet. For example, the Reefton version we checked out has an overall width of 129.2 mm and a bridge width, that is across the nose, of 15 mm.

The lenses are 63.5 mm wide, 42.3 mm tall, the ear pieces 112 mm long. They’re designed for those with large heads. They also make other models that are smaller, better fits for young anglers or for most women.  I like that the ear pieces are curved to grip the contours of the head, but have relatively little drop behind the ears. To me, this design stays on well and is easier to take on and off than those with a pronounced drop in the ear pieces. (I always put CablZ eye glass retainers on my sunglasses before wearing them the first time—saves losing them overboard, plus I always know where they are when they’re not on my head.)

The ear pieces, like the nose piece, are made of a “sticky” composite that helps the glasses stay in place, even when you’re sweaty.

The Freedom Series includes 16 frame styles across the brand’s lifestyle categories. The line ranges in price from $179 to $279, depending on frame and lens combination—pricey, but the company is known for standing behind their stuff.  (I also like that Costa does their bit for fish and fisheries habitat through programs that include producing a collection of frames made from recycled fishing nets as part of its Kick Plastic initiative, as well as partnerships with conservation groups and the shark research organization OCEARCH.) 

For more information on the new frames and the full line of Costa sunglasses, visit

Fishing and Hunting In the Rain

 “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”  Although I like the song, I have to disagree with the Carpenters on rainy days.  I love hunting and fishing on rainy days.

    Hunting squirrels during a hard rain was tough, they tended to stay in hollows and nests. But during a light rain or after a hard one, with wet leaves on the ground, I could slip quietly through the woods and get close enough for a shot without spooking them.

    Deer hunting was similar.  Although I usually stayed in my tree stand, I could still hunt, slowly moving parallel to deer trails and along ridge lines, watching for any movement.  Although the deer usually spotted my movement before I spotted theirs, I did slip up on a few.

    One day while hunting near Griffin I was easing along during a hard rain.  I spotted something that looked out of place down the hill.  I studied it and it did not move.  I though it might be another hunter sitting on a stump in a rain suit, so I did not raise my rifle to get a close look thought my scope.

    I decided to slip back the way I came, hoping the other hunter did not see me.  But, of course, as soon as I took a step, the “hunter” flipped up its white tail and ran off.  Although I did not get to shoot that deer, I still think I made the right decision for safety.

    Since I usually stayed in my tree stand, I made a frame over my head with limbs and carried a big black garbage bag with me.  If it rained, I could put the garbage bag over the frame in a few seconds and have a nice cover to keep the rain off.

    Now several companies make camouflage umbrellas with ways to attach them to the tree to do the same thing.

    Fishing in the rain seems to be better than sunny days too. Since bass do not have eyelids and their pupils cannot contract to limit light, they do not like bright sunlight. They tend to feed in shallower water on rainy days and they cannot see my lure and tell it is fake as easily, so they are easier to catch.

    I have been fishing on some miserable days in heavy rain. Often I pour a cup of coffee and am never able to finish it, the rain keeps my cup full.  All too often rain is so hard it makes my automatic bilge pumps run constantly.

    In a November tournament a few years ago at Lake Lanier it rained like that.  I found out my waterproof boots were not, and even my best heavy rain suit, Cabela’s GuideWear, let some water in, mostly down my sleeves. 

That is one of the few tournaments I have come back to the ramp early.  I caught my fifth fish with about an hour left to fish and decided I would go with what I had. That sounded better than staying out in the rain and being miserable for another hour trying to catch a bass that would cull one I had in the livewell like I usually would.

Luckily, I won so it was a good decision.

Although I have caught some of my biggest bass on rainy, cold days I do have my limits.  One Christmas at Clarks Hill the wind was howling and sleet was falling.  I found some shelter behind an island and caught an eight-pound largemouth. After landing it I decided I had enough and went in to show it off.

Another day there I put my boat in on an extremely cold, windy day. It was not raining and I was dressed for the cold, but as I idled out of the cove with the ramp and hit the wind and waves, drops splashing from the front of the boat froze in the air before hitting my jacket and fell off as ice. I turned around and went in!

Some days are just too bad for even me to fish.

Habitat Connectivity Helps Trout Take Care of Themselves

Trout Unlimited’s Poose Creek Project in Colorado served as an opportunity to test, validate and perhaps even contribute toward a framework of knowledge around fish passage and habitat connectivity.Colorado River cutthroat trout like this one didn’t take long to use a fishway on Poose Creek in Colorado.

Brian Hodge/Trout Unlimited
By Brian Hodge, Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

In our work at Trout Unlimited, we often rely on scientific theory to plan and implement conservation projects. In some instances, we also test hypotheses by monitoring projects and comparing predictions with outcomes, and in doing so contribute towards the broader body of scientific theory.

For TU and our local agency partners, the Poose Creek Project in Colorado served as an opportunity to test, validate and perhaps even contribute toward a framework of knowledge around fish passage and habitat connectivity.

When TU and its partners sampled the headwaters of Poose Creek in 2012-2013, native Colorado River cutthroat trout were almost completely absent from the reach above the one road-stream crossing but relatively abundant in the reach below the crossing.
A 108-foot long, concrete culvert and apron were installed at Poose Creek in the 1960s. Brian Hodge photo.

Moreover, at long-term monitoring stations upstream and downstream of the culvert, cutthroat densities were 0 and approximately 437 fish per mile, respectively. This contrast confirmed a standing assumption that the box culvert under the road was, and had for decades been, a complete fish passage obstacle.

In 2014, TU and the U.S. Forest Service retrofitted the box culvert with a vertical slot fishway, also known as a fish ladder. Although we only designed the fishway to pass adult trout (which are better swimmers and jumpers than their juvenile counterparts), our ultimate goal was to facilitate repatriation by the native cutthroat above the culvert.The exiting culvert was retrofitted with a vertical slot fishway in 2014. Brian Hodge photo.

The fishway project was thus rooted in at least two testable hypotheses: one, that removal or mitigation of the passage obstacle would actually result in fish passage; and two, that the incursion of adult spawners into vacant habitats would result in recolonization by the species (in other words, a few fish would ultimately lead to a lot of fish). Meanwhile, we had much to learn about the effectiveness of fishways for restoring passage to inland (nonanadromous) fish.Slotted baffles in the 150-foot long fishway allow fish to swim up the ladder. Brian Hodge photo.

In 2015 and 2016, we teamed up with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to evaluate the first hypothesis — that the fishway would effectively restore fish passage. We captured cutthroat in the mile of stream below the culvert and injected them with passive integrated transponders, or PIT tags. We then used a series of antennas within and around the fishway to monitor the number of approaches to, attempts at, and successful trips through, the fishway.

The result?

Cutthroat trout began using the Poose Creek fishway within a year of its construction. In fact, the fishway was completed in fall of 2014 and the inaugural trips through the structure coincided with the spring spawning season of 2015. Approximately 4 percent of all PIT-tagged trout approached the fishway, and 100 percent of the fish that approached it succeeded in entering and passing the new structure.

These findings, available here, satisfied our first goal of restoring passage. Nevertheless, questions still remained about the ultimate effect of restoring connectivity.One of four stationary antennas installed in and around the fishway. Brian Hodge/Trout Unlimited

In fall of 2020, approximately one and a half to two cutthroat trout generations after the fishway was installed, we tested the second hypothesis— that restoring fish passage would lead to recolonization of upstream habitats. Specifically, we used backpack electrofishing units to survey a half-mile segment of stream immediately above the culvert, and to repeat a multiple-pass population estimate at the long-term monitoring site (located approximately 0.6 miles upstream of the culvert).

In 2012, the segment of the stream was vacant of cutthroat trout. In 2020, the same segment hosted at least 589 cutthroats. Similarly, the same long-term monitoring station that contained cutthroat at a density of 0 fish per mile in 2012 contained cutthroat at a density of approximately 2,752 fish per mile in 2020 (817 fish per mile excluding the 2020 year-class).

Just as importantly, the presence of multiple age classes, and of young-of-year fish in particular, confirmed that Colorado River cutthroat trout were spawning in and recruiting to the headwaters of Poose Creek.

Of course, we can’t rigorously measure the percentage increase in cutthroat abundance above the fishway because the native salmonid was absent from the long-term monitoring site in 2012. Yet, even without the numbers, we might all recognize the indicator of success.Colorado River cutthroat trout make their way to spawning grounds. Brian Hodge/Trout Unlimited

In the end, our findings at Poose Creek offered support of theory:If we do our part to remove migration obstacles from rivers and streams, the fish will take care of the rest. The benefits could be immeasurable.

Brian Hodge is the Northwest Colorado Director for Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat program.

Flint River Bass Club November Lanier Tournament

Last Sunday the Flint River Bass Club fished our November tournament at Lake Lanier.  Eight of us cast for eight hours to land 13 14-inch keeper spots weighing about 20 pounds.  There were no limits and three people zeroed.

Chuck Croft won with four weighing 7.57 pounds and had big fish with a 3.38-pound spot.  Don Gober placed second with two at 4.61 pounds, my two weighing 2.90 pounds was third and Dan Phillips had one weighing 2.71 pounds for fourth.

The wind made it tough to fish like I wanted, but I tried a variety of types of places, lures and methods.  The two I caught hit a jig and pig in about 15 feet of water, one on rocks and one in a brush pile.  I was frustrated all day watching fish follow my bait on my Garmin Panoptix but not hit it.

Tournaments like this make me feel like I do not know what I am doing. There was a high school tournament the same time we fished, and
I was told it took 17 pounds to win it and 16 pounds to place second.  It seems high school kids are much better fishermen than I am!