Author Archives: ronniegarrison

Do Big Bass Spawn Early?

  On a more positive note, fishing is getting great.


As I left the campground at Lakepoint State Park a week ago last Monday, I stopped to talk to a fisherman loading his crappie trolling boat to go out. He was rigged with over a dozen rod holders for spider rigging.    He said he had caught a few crappie the week before and it got much better over the weekend as the water level stabilized and the temperature warmed from the sun. And it cleared up a good bit.  He expected to do even better that afternoon.   

It was interesting that every fisherman I talked with had caught a lot of catfish.  The high muddy water did not bother them. I caught an eight-pound blue cat on a shaky head worm on Thursday and several club members said they caught big cats fishing for bass.   

Bass fishing was getting better every day, too.  When I got home many of my “fazebook” friends were posting pictures of big bass they were catching.  Bass were moving into the spawning areas and feeding.  With schools out and many off work, a lot of folks are “Social Distancing” themselves by getting on the water and catching fish.   

Now through mid-May is a great time to get on the water, anywhere from ponds and rivers to lakes and creeks. All species are feeding, and bass will start hitting topwater baits any day now. Most agree that is the most exciting way to catch them.     

A few years ago I learned how early bass would hit topwater baits, earlier than I used to think.  In an early March tournament, my partner and I had fished for about an hour without a bite.  My front depthfinder did not show the water temperature.  I ask him what temperature the back one showed.    When he said “62” I said that was warm enough for topwater and picked up a popper. On my first cast to a dock with it, a five-pounder hit it.  It was big fish for the tournament.   

The most interesting thing about that fish was it looked like a female that had already spawned. That seems early, but I am slowly learning bass, especially the bigger ones, want to spawn as early as possible.   

That is a survival thing.  Many baitfish like shad spawn as soon as the water gets to 65 degrees, usually in early April.  If bass spawn a few weeks earlier, their fry are big enough to eat the shad fry when they hatch, giving them a growth edge over the bass fry hatched in April fish that are too small to eat them. It also helps that the first week or two of their life the bass fry are not competing with the baby shad for plankton, the food both species eat after hatching. If a bass is stunted the first year of its life, it never grows to its potential.Nature is amazing!

Fiddle Earthworms


Fiddle Your Way to Fresh Bait
Earthworms
Fishing for food to avoid going to the store? Try fiddling up some live worms, suggests Arkansas GFC.
from The Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK – Going fishing doesn’t have to mean expensive equipment. It simply takes a hook, some fishing line and some sort of bait. You could dig around in the refrigerator for food-type baits, or make the bait-gathering duty an adventure in itself by gathering worms from the wild.

Earthworms are excellent live bait for catfish, bream, bass and even an occasional crappie. And handling a nightcrawler or two will definitely prevent you from getting your hands near your face before washing them.

One technique to stock up on some nightcrawlers is to break out a fiddle. “Earthworm fiddling,” “worm charming,” and “worm grunting” all refer to an interesting practice some anglers have been using for centuries to get earthworms to come to the surface and show themselves.

Simply take a stick that has notches cut along its length and push it into the ground. Then rub another stick along its length to create vibrations.

Kids who got stuck with “sticks” in music class when all the cool instruments were already handed out will know exactly what sound this makes. The vibrations will bring the worms to the surface to dance, where you can be ready to pick them up and place them in your bait bucket. OK, the worms aren’t dancing. They’re actually moving out of the ground to avoid predators.

The famed geneticist Charles Darwin theorized, “If the ground is beaten or otherwise made to tremble, worms will believe that they are pursued by a mole and leave their burrows.”

A study conducted by Vanderbilt University biological sciences professor Ken Catania in 2008 confirmed Darwin’s theory. The study, held in northern Florida, where the practice of worm grunting was extremely popular, recorded the sounds of real moles digging versus worm grunters and compared their effects on the earthworms habit of springing from the ground when in danger.

Northern Florida has taken the grunting and fiddling practice to a new level. The town of Sopchoppy has even adopted the practice as its calling card, hosting the annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival where young earthworm harvesters compete to see who can coax the most earthworms from the ground with various techniques. It doesn’t have to be two sticks making the vibrations, either.

An old broom handle driven into the ground rubbed with a hand saw can produce the low vibrations needed. Two lengths of rebar also can be used to charm up some nightcrawlers for bait. Whatever you use, be sure to keep an eye on the ground for several feet around the fiddling tools and be ready to grab the worms before they can burrow back into the ground.

Naturally, you want to do this fiddling where worms are likely to be. Extremely hard ground or sandy soil is not likely to have worms. Try under trees or in areas where the ground is fertile with lots of deteriorating vegetation. Watering the lawn heavily ahead of time can help. Rake a spot so the ground is bare, then go to fiddling. It may take some effort to figure out your technique, but it will keep you stocked with bait throughout your fishing adventures. 

Pond Scum Not Grass In Yard

    I have pond scum growing in my yard where there should be grass. It looks nasty but at least I don’t have to cut it.  Part of my back and side yard has been underwater for months, killing the grass and allowing the scum to form on top.   

The water finally stopped flowing over my driveway coming from my back yard running out to the ditch at the road.  It stopped just in time for it to rain again. 

As with the virus crisis, this too will pass, and I would not be surprised if my yard dries out so much this summer the grass dies from lack of rain.   

That has happened three times since 1981 when  I moved into this house.  A very wet winter and spring followed by very dry summers.  Its not that unusual, regardless of the claims of the true believers in that “climate changie thingie.”

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 www.trcp.org.

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.

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Guntersville Keeper Bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 3/28/20

The hard and heavy rain really knocked the fish back for a least 2 of the days this past week as the struggle to get a bite with high water, muddy water and floating grass everywhere made for a couple of tough days. If you take away the 2 tough days fishing was great on 3 of the 5 weekdays, you had to fish slow and focus on light bites, but the results were good.

We tried to stick to slow moving plastics most of the week, a few exception on faster baits like SPRO Aruka shad rattle baits, and Picasso Shack Blade but for most of the week we stuck to Missile bait “48” D-Bombs and Destroyers.

So far so good as we approach the spawn, we have guides and days available to fish with you, no one will treat you better or work harder to see you have a great day on the water. This is the best social distancing I can think of. We fish with great sponsor products Tight-Line jigs, Ranger Boats, Mercury motors, Boat Logix mounts, Vicious Fishing, Navionics mapping, Power Pole, Dawson Boat Center and more.

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!