Category Archives: fishing and weather

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.

November Camping At Don Carter State Park and Fishing Lake Lanier

  Camping in November is an iffy proposition, as last week proved to me. I went to Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier last Wednesday and came home Monday after fishing the Flint River Bass Club tournament on Sunday.

    Wednesday afternoon was nice enough driving to the north end of the lake and setting up my slide in pickup camper. I went back into town to meet a friend that lives on the lake, get some information from him, and eat some delicious fried scallops at the Atlanta Street Seafood Market.

    On the way back to the camper it started sprinkling rain a little. By the time I showered it was getting cold and the rain was steady but light. It lasted all night and all morning Thursday and I just could not make myself launch my boat and go fishing in the cold mess.

    When the rain stopped around 1:00 and my weather radar app showed no more heading toward me, I put in at the state park ramp and fished around that area way up the river. I never got my boat up on plane, just fished around the ramp since it was cold and windy.

The water had a stain to it and was a surprising 54 degrees, but the fish bit pretty good. In just under three hours I landed six largemouth and one spot and lost two more. All hit a crawfish colored Rapala DT6 on steep rocky banks back in small creeks. Two of the largemouth were about three pounds each.

It got colder Thursday night and I slept in Friday morning, getting to the ramp in Balus Creek about 30 minutes from the park around 11:00. The water was clear and 64 degrees, but warmer water did not help. By 4:00 I was disgusted, I had tried everything I could think to do and had hooked one small spotted bass on the crankbait. That was the only bite I got.

Saturday morning was similar and I started fishing down around Balus Creek just before noon.  When I quit at 4:00 I had not hooked a fish. I spent a lot of time riding and trying to fish baitfish and bass deep, but everything that looked good did not work.

Saturday night got cold. My camper has an electric rooftop heater but it is either wide open or off, there is no thermostat.  Even though it was 37 degrees I had to turn it off, it was stifling hot after 15 minutes. The small electric heater I carry kept the camper tolerable but not comfortable.

When I got up at the new too-early time to be at the ramp at 6:30 AM there was frost on my windshield. My truck thermometer read 32 at one point driving to the ramp in the dark. 

I ran to my favorite point when we took off at 7:00 AM but never got a bite. After fishing a couple more places I seriously considered making the 15-mile run back up the lake where I had caught the largemouth, but the cold made me want to stay where I was.

At 8:30 going to a deep point to try I noticed two big pine trees had fallen into the water down the bank from it. I thought the water was too shallow but decided to fish them anyway. My first cast with a shaky head worm produced a 15-inch keeper spot and I put I point the live well. I would not zero!

My very next cast to the same tree produced another keeper spot. As I put it in the livewell I got in too big a hurry to make another cast, stumbled and stepped on my net handle, breaking it. Just my luck, if I hooked a big fish I would be in trouble.

By the time I got back up front my boat had blown into the tree, messing it up. But I went to the next tree and on my second cast to it I caught another keeper! Three on four cast – my day was looking up.

As I eased around the deep point, trying to remember more trees nearby to fish, I saw four or five fish suspended 15 feet down over 45 feet of water on my Garmin Panoptix. When I cast my shaky head to them I watched them go to it as it sank. When they started swimming off was disappointed until I realized I couldn’t see my bait falling any more, set the hook and landed a 15-inch spot.

A few minutes later on the same point there were three fish cruising about five feet off bottom 25 feet deep. When I cast to them they went to my bait and followed it down. When it hit bottom I felt a tiny little tap and set the hook on another 15 inch spot. I had a surprising limit at 9:00!

 When I went to another bank with some blow down trees with a little wind on them, I caught my sixth keeper, then hooked a big fish. I thought it was a catfish but when I got it close to the boat I saw it was a big spot. Then I remembered my broke net!

It was a comedy for the next few minutes but somehow I landed the 4.07 pound spot.  Fishing that pattern the rest of the day produced only two more fish but I was thrilled with nine keeper spots.

At weigh-in my five weighed 11.88 pounds but got beat by Don Gober’s five at 11.96 pounds. Chuck Croft had two at 7.75 pounds for third and his 4.11 pound largemouth beat my 4.07 pound spot for big fish. Alex Gober had two weighing 3.35 pounds for fourth.

It hurt to be so close but I am thrilled to have what I had after my poor luck Friday and Saturday, and glad I did not make a long cold run.

Rain and Lakes

All the rain in December has really affected lakes. Most are usually several feet low this time of year, making them ready to fill up in the spring from rain to control flooding, but they filled early, with most above full pool right now.

Millers Ferry is south of Selma, Alabama on the Alabama River. Rain really changes river lakes like it, with flooding common. It is a beautiful lake with a main river run and miles of shallow sloughs and creeks off it that are full of grass and wood cover.

I went there the day after Christmas to get information for my February Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article with local fisherman Billy Black. He warned me the river was “blown out” from rain, bad conditions for catching fish. But we went anyway to meet my deadline.

The ramp we used had a dock about six inches above the water and water came to the top of the ramp. We had to idle over a mile through shallow water out to the river. Both were full of floating wood and the water was heavily stained. He caught one nice bass and a big catfish, and I got the information and pictures I needed for the article.

The next week he sent me a picture of the ramp, saying it was a good thing we went when we did. The water completely covered the dock and came half way up in the parking lot. Floating wood covered everything, and the water was very muddy. The land is so flat down there a couple feet of water rise really floods a lot of land.

The lakes like Millers Ferry are fun to fish and the scenery is beautiful, and you can catch big Alabama spots as well as largemouth, but you have to plan your trip more carefully than on the lakes around here!

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning

I admit it. I am scared to death of lightning.

I have fished when the air temperature was 15 degrees and I had to dip my rod in the water every cast to melt the ice in the guides. I have fished when the wind was so strong the front of my boat dipped under about every third wave and my trolling motor would not hold my boat in place. I have fished at night when it was so dark I could not see the rod in my hands.
But if I hear thunder fairly close by, I am off the water!

It all goes back to a night when I was about eight years old. The old wooden house I lived in had a huge screened in porch with a concrete floor, and two of my friends and I were “camping out” on it in our sleeping bags.

About midnight there was a ferocious thunderstorm. Lightning flashed every few seconds and thunder made the house shake. I was terrified for what seemed like hours, just knowing I would die. It is an irrational fear, but still it overwhelms me almost sixty years later.

Over those years I have had many bad experiences with thunderstorms while fishing. In the mid-1970s Bob Pierce and I were fishing at Bartletts Ferry during the summer. We had run way up the Chattahoochee River, picking our way around unmarked mud flats and stumps to get there after lunch.

It was cloudy but not raining. Suddenly, about 5:00 there was a crack of lightning and an immediate boom of thunder very close to us. The wind started howling and the rain pouring down.
We could not run the 30 minutes back down the river to the boat ramp so we pulled into a small creek, just a few feet wider than the boat. I hoped the overhanging trees would give us some protection from the wind and, in theory, lightning would hit one of the higher trees up on the bank and not get to us.

Even back in there the wind made me stay on the trolling motor to keep us under the protecting trees. After a few minutes I realized the boat was no longer moving with the wind. It had rained so hard water in the boat had pushed the boat down enough the motor was on the bottom.

We stayed there for about three hours before the storm stopped. We had to raise the motor and push with paddles to get the boat off the bottom and pull the plug as we tried to get on plane to drain the water. We barely made it back to the ramp before dark. After that I put a bilge pump in the boat!

Another late afternoon summer trip was to Jackson to practice for a weekend night tournament. My dog Merlin was with me and it was one of those cloudy, hot, sticky days of August. But there was no wind or rain, and no thunder.

Just as it got dark I was fishing right at the dam. Back then there was no drum line to keep boats away from it and it was a good place to fish. Suddenly wind started howling over the dam, rain fell in proverbial sheets, and lightning flashed and thunder boomed.

I was scared to try to run back to Kerseys Boat ramp so I eased over right beside the dam and tied the boat to it. I hoped the concrete dam extending up 20 feet and the metal rails on top would protect me. I sat down in the driver’s seat to get as low as possible and Merlin crawled under the console.

Even with my eyes tightly closed and my face resting on my arm on the steering wheel I could still see the bright flashes. And the thunder was immediate, with no time between the flash and the boom.

I sat there for two hours until the storm passed enough to me to run back to the ramp, load the boat and go home. No more practice that night.

Most folks are not worried about getting struck by lightning in a boat. I saw that at a Top Six tournament at Lanier in the early 1990s. I was boat 23 in the first flight of 92 boats. We were all sitting in a big group out from the ramp waiting to take off.

Without warning there was a flash – crack – boom with no time between them. I hate that, it means the lightning is very close. I looked around and the folks in the other 91 boats just sat there.

I couldn’t stand it so I cranked up, idled to a nearby dock and got under it. I told my partner if he insisted I would get out under the dock and he could take the boat out in the storm. He declined and waited with me.

None of the other boats moved until the tournament director let them go. They all took off. About 30 minutes later, after the storm passed, I took off too, a little late but much safer.
If you are brave enough, or dumb enough, fish in the lightning. I will be somewhere protected, waiting out the storm.

Global Warming and Fishing

Remember the Polar Vortex last winter that produced record cold weather around here and all over the US and the northern hemisphere? The extremely cold days and nights that lasted several days each time it hit? It was produced by a change in wind patterns that brought artic cold further south than normal. The terrible cold made hunting and fishing miserable.

A team of scientists from the US and Korea have come up with the reason, and I guess their conclusions should come as no surprise even if they don’t make sense. The reason? Global warming, of course.

You gotta wonder how scientists can “prove” or even theorize that warming produces record cold. That just shows you can “prove” anything you want to. Right now there is big money behind any efforts to prove global warming exists, and researchers know they won’t get funded unless they produce the desired results.

The whole theory of colder winters due to global warming is based on the Artic ice cap getting smaller. Strangely enough, the data does not show a shrinking ice cap for the past few years. Instead, according to the “National Snow and Ice Data Center,” the Artic ice melt this year has been lower than last year, and the extent of the ice cap size will set a record this winter and will continue to increase.

Some believe in global warming based on their past experiences. They might say this summer was the hottest they can remember, without looking at temperature records. Or for a while winters were claimed to be warmer, again not looking at temperature records.

My experiences make me think we have weather, not climate change. For years I spent Christmas holidays at Clarks Hill. One year, two days before Christmas, I had been fishing barefoot and shirtless for several days. But other years I had to wear a snowmobile suit during the same time period.

When I was working on my first Masters Degree in the mid 1970e at West Georgia College I had to write a report on the coming ice age. I used information from Time magazine the month the cover proclaimed scientists predicted a new ice age within 20 years or so, and articles explained how we would suffer from the extreme cold in coming years.

There is a lot at stake for us on how this debate turns out. One claimed way to lessen global warming is to reduce coal use. But even if we reduce it in the US, and we have been doing that for years with no new coal fired power plants approved for a long time, what other effects will it have?

Almost all of our electricity around here comes from coal even though we have a lot of hydroelectric power dams in Georgia. The coal fired plant in Forsyth is the biggest in the US, and uses an incredible amount of coal each day. If such plants are shut down expect your power rates to get much, much higher and less reliability of power supply.

I hate it when the power goes out, or even when it is reduced in a brown out due to storms. Electrical motors and appliances do not work right. Expect that to be the rule, rather than the exception, if we shut down coal fired power plants.

Georgia Power is already working on closing the coal fired power plant on Lake Sinclair. It has been reduced to one working boiler if my information is correct. Why are they shutting this plant? Because new EPA rules require them to make upgrades that cost so much it is not economically feasible to do them.

One effect of shutting that plant down will be no more warm water released into Beaverdam Creek. That warm water keeps most of the lake downstream a little warmer than other lakes around here. The warmer water makes bass bite better. Almost every bass club in middle Georgia schedule winter tournaments there for that reason.

The effect on fish and wildlife is another claim the true believers in global warming make is something else I find hard to take for true. Computer models predict about a four degree warming in the next one hundred years. Even though the computer models have been far off in their predictions for the past 20 years, assume they are right.

Game and fish undergo changes in water and air temperature of many degrees each day. For wildlife, last week is a good example. In the mornings we had temperatures in the low sixties that climbed into the eighties each afternoon. That is over 20 degree in a few hours. So how is a change of four degrees in one hundred years going to make a difference?

In August the surface water temperature on area lakes was in the upper eighties. By late October they will be in the seventies, and by February in the low forties. That is a fifty degree change in six months. So four degrees in one hundred years is going to kill off all our fish?

When global warming claims make more sense I will believe them.