Category Archives: fishing and weather

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.