Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Summer Injuries

While growing up, summers were a glorious time of sunburn, scrapes, scratches, poison ivy, stepping on nails barefooted and other similar joys. Wearing nothing but shorts most days meant lots of skin exposed to various dangers, and the farm, woods and ponds were full of them.

Calamine lotion was worn what seemed as many days as not. It helped with sunburn, mosquito bites and poison ivy rash. Its “skin” colored liquid dried to a crust if it stayed on long enough.

As often as not, mama would put it on in the morning and it would be gone within a few minutes, worn off on bushes or washed off in branch water. We didn’t actually wash in the branch but fell in or got in the water to cool off.

Mosquitoes were common back then but either their bite bothers me a lot more now than back then or they were not as big or strong. Little red bumps that itched a few minutes but were then gone have changed over the years to red whelps that itch for a couple of days now.

I learned young to identify poison oak and ivy but knowing how to identify it and avoiding it were two very different things in my life. After all, when you are gathering wood to build a trap for non-existent wildlife, who has time to watch for “leaves of three?”

It never failed, during the first week of summer vacation I would get sunburned on my back, stomach shoulders and upper arms where school shirts covered up until then. And my legs, newly exploring sunlight after nine months of hiding under desks in long pants, got blistered, too.

The sunburn hurt a little for a couple of days but by the end of the first of week of vacation the rest of my body caught up with my face, arms and hands from being exposed to the sun every day. And if I went to Shields Pond to the swimming hole that first week, I would get good and blistered, peel but be brown under it. We never heard of sunscreen back then, we just roasted to a golden brown naturally.

Every summer I stepped on somewhere between two and five nails. Around the farm there were always pieces of old wood lying around. No matter how hard we tried to rescue and reuse all old nails, some escaped out attention.

It probably didn’t help that we went barefoot everywhere and really didn’t pay attention where we stepped. It didn’t take long after shedding our shoes for our feet to get tough and most things we stepped on didn’t bother us.

On test each summer was to walk on the tar and gravel road in front of the house. At first the gravel rocks hurt when we stepped on them. But within a couple of weeks, we ran on the gravel without pain. But nails are a bit sharper and longer than gravel.

When we got a nail in our foot we would either pull it out and hobble home hopping on one foot, or, usually it would just go in and back out as we took our doomed step. When we got to the house mama would use an old cure. We would put a penny on the hole, put a chunk of fatback over the penny and an inch or so around it, wrap it up and cover it with a sock.

The actions of the copper and meat were supposed to pull the poison out. Fortunately, we also kept our tetanus shots current. And I will never forget the smell of that fatback as it “worked” on hot summer days.

Ticks were not a problem back then. Every once in a while, we would pull a big fat gray tick off our dogs and squish it between two rocks to kill it and see the tar like stuff come out. But I can not remember ever getting a tick on me until I grew up. I am pretty sure whitetail deer spread them as they increased their range and as they became more common so did ticks. Now I get one or two on me every time I go in my back yard!

Fishing trips inevitably meant hooks in skin somewhere. Since we mostly bream fished, most of the hooks were small and easy to remove. Bigger hooks, like catfish or bass hooks, often meant a trip back to the house for help removing them and some kind of band aid over the hole they left.

Encounters with wasps, bees and yellow jackets were a common problem every summer. Wasps seemed to like to build nest in the kinds of places I liked to explore. Any tree house or hut left from the past year had to be checked carefully before using them. And new construction had to be inspected every week.

Part of the danger was the use of wasps nests larvae for fishing bait. When I could find a big wasp nest either by looking or getting stung, I would make a torch and burn the adults off the nest, usually at night. Luckily I never set the house on fire. Then the nest would be put in a paper bag ion the refrigerator to slow down the growth of larvae.

Sometimes getting the nest would result in a sting since some adults might survive the fire torch. And more than once I got stung when taking a nest out of the bag if I opened it to get a larva for bait without checking for any wasps that had transformed to adults even in the cool refrigerator.

My body was always a road map of scratches with scrapes marking metropolitan areas. Walking or running through briars and branches in the woods always left scratches and bumping against trees or rocks left scrapes. And my knees were always raw from crawling around looking for stuff.

Although summer memories often involve pain, the pain is tiny compared to the joy of those memories.

Should Forward Facing Electronics Be Banned?

All this bias trying to make others act and believe like you do bleeds over into fishing too often. I was in a “discussion” on social media last week with a person that said the new forward-facing electronics like my Garmin Panoptix should be banned. They said it was unfair making it too easy to catch fish.

That statement alone shows they have never been fishing in a boat with forward-facing electronics. More often than not you can see the fish but not make them bite. It is often very frustrating, but you can learn a lot about fish and their actions watching it.

I asked this person where would he end his ban of new technology? Just the forward-facing electronics he doesn’t have? Or extend it to side and down scan electronics that have been around over 20 years? He said yes, but admitted he did not have them, either.

Next I asked about other sonar back to the old flasher units like the one that came on my first bass boat in 1974. He said they were ok, since he used them. Apparently, it is ok and not too easy when you watch a sonar image move around directly under the boat on one of those old units, but not ok if you can do the same in front of the boat on new-fangled technology.

But why stop there. How about banning electric trolling motors? They definitely give the angler an edge, making it easier to catch fish than paddling around.

But there is more in this deal!! He really started going off the deep end when I asked if he would be willing to go back to fishing with no modern inventions. That would mean wading around catching fish with your hands – not even allowing spears.

He said that was ridiculous and I agreed. But he said he wanted to ban new technology that made it easier to catch fish. Everything we use now does that but he was not willing to admit he was just prejudice against those having things he did not have, or did not want to have.

As far as modern fishing inventions, I think the electric trolling motor is the best modern invention for fishing from a boat. And foot-controlled units are a huge step up.

I well remember growing up sculling old wooden boats around for my uncles so they could fish. And the joy when they let me make a few casts. But if alone, I had to paddle the boat to where I wanted to fish then try to position it, then pick up my rod and reel to make a cast.

Now I ease down the shoreline keeping the boat in perfect position without even thinking about it. My foot on the trolling motor pedal is well trained enough to keep the boat moving just right without thought.

I’m not sure any of it helps me catch fish, but it sure does make it easier and more fun!

I like fishing big lakes, there is a challenge to finding and catching fish that I enjoy, and I will use everything at my disposal to help. Big lakes are much tougher. To me there is a big difference between going to a private farm pond and landing a five-pound bass and catching one on a big lake, especially on a weekend day.

I have always wanted to catch a 12-pound largemouth but know I never will. It was almost possible back in the 1960s and 70 when I managed to catch several nine-pound bass from big lakes, but much less so now.

The only realistic way I could land one would be to go where they live, probably Florida, and fish big live shiners with a guide. But that would be the guide’s skill and knowledge, not mine, and I just have no desire to do that.

To each his own – just don’t try to force your “own” on others and I will do the same.

Woke Journalists Pushing An Agenda Means the End of the US

We celebrate freedom this weekend, and better enjoy it while we can. When the media pushes an agenda, lying to make their prejudices happen, and are believed by many voters, the US and freedoms we enjoy can not survive.

If you read the opinion piece by Dick Polman on the June 24 Griffin Daily News editorial page, you saw the path we are on. I’m not sure who wrote the headline “In the war on American democracy, journalists can’t be neutral,” but that is the problem in a concise sentence.

Poleman writing an editorial is no more “journalism” than is this column. It is his biased opinion, as this is mine. A “journalist” can not write with bias – but that is where we are now. Since Poleman is liberal, making voters show an ID is a “war on democracy.” The “shall not be infringed” statement in the 2nd Amendment means it is ok for government to infringe on rights, as long as they meet his prejudices.

I get tickled, and a little mad, when I hear idiots babble about the new law in Georgia that stops political groups from giving stuff, including water, to voters in line to vote to buy their vote. In the little town I grew up in back in the 1950s and 60s, Mr. Bill handed out half pints of liquor at poling places to buy votes. But he was a democrat so it was ok, I guess.

The media has special protections in the US Constitution since a free and unbiased media is critical for freedom. But when the media overwhelmingly takes one side, covers up for wrong doing on their side but constantly harangues the other for made up transgressions, and is never unbiased, we are doomed.

With bias and prejudice on both sides being accepted as truth, and voters electing folks that will give them “free stuff” no matter what else they do, we better celebrate this July 4 Independence Day like it is the last one we will ever have, since it may be close.

Clarks Hill Memories

In April 1974 Jim Berry invited me to join the
Spading County Sportsman Club and fish the April club tournament at Clarks Hill out of Mistletoe State
Park.  I joined and fished the tournament and fell in love with fishing club tournaments.

I have not missed many tournaments over the years since then, and the club has not missed many Aprils fishing Clarks Hill, including this past one.

I grew up in McDuffie County and went to Thomson High School only 12 miles from the lake.  My church group, the RAs, camped there every summer and I got to go fishing there a couple times a year.  My family started camping at the lake in the early 1960s, first in a tent then a pop-up camper.

When I was about ten years old I was wading and fishing around our favorite camping place, “The Cliffs” and caught a small bass on a Heddon Sonic lure. That was my first bass of many from the lake.

In 1966 daddy bought a 17-foot ski boat and we joined the Raysville Boat Club, keeping the boat under the boat docks and parking our pop-up camper right on the water nearby.  We moved up to a bigger camping trailer a few years later.  

Although I fished a good bit, I skied constantly.  We often left Thomson High after classes in the spring and skied until dark.  And I was on the lake almost every weekend.

College slowed that down some but I was only 90 miles from the lake in Athens at UGA. I took Linda skiing – and fishing – on our second date, in 1969! I think her enjoying fishing convinced me she was the right one for me, and 52 years later that is still true!!

In 1974 I got tied of trying to fish out of the old ski boat although I had made a seat up front and put a trolling motor on it. That boat had some good memories, like Linda catching an 8-pound, 10 ounce bass from it while trolling and the memories of thousands of crappie daddy, mama Linda and I brought over its sides in the spring.

Linda and I bought a bass boat in 1974 and I went to Clarks Hill every weekend I didn’t have a club tournament somewhere else.  Since I was a teacher then school administrator, I had two weeks at Christmas and two months during the summer to spend there.

I spent many hundreds of days and nights in the camper sleeping and eating when tired and hungry and fishing the rest of the time. I loved those days. My parents visited often, usually bringing food. 

Those days lasted until they died, and I inherited the mobile home at the lake.  That was a couple years before I retired and I planned on endless retirement days there, but the first time I went over by myself there were just too many ghosts at the boat club. I got depressed and came home after two days.  It was just not the same.

Twenty years later the memories have mellowed enough I enjoy staying there again, but it is just not the same, and never will be. I guess that’s life.

Clarks Hill dam construction was started in 1950, the year I was born. I often say they built the lake for me, but it will be there long after I am gone.  I want my ashes dumped into the lake so I will forever be part of it.

Good Fishermen Are Consistent

Good fishermen are consistent.  This year in the
Flint River Bass Club’s five tournaments, I won the January tournament, zeroed the next three, then won last Sunday in the May tournament.  That is about as inconsistent as you can get!

At West Point last Sunday six members of the Flint River Bass Club fished for eight hours to land 13 keepers weighing about 24 pounds. There was one limit and one zero.  About half the bass were spots that can be weighed in at 12 inches. Largemouth have to be 14 inches long to be legal.

I won with five weighing 9.40 pounds and Chuck Croft placed second with three at 6.87 pounds. His 5.39 pound largemouth was big fish.  Don Gober came in third with three weighing 4.44 pounds and his grandson Alex Gober was fourth with one keeper weighing 1.52 pounds.

When I got to the parking lot over an hour ahead of our 7:00 blast off time and it was already crowded, I knew it would be a mess.  The West Georgia Bass Club had 60 boats in their tournament. Fortunately, they blasted off at safe light, about 6:40, so we waited and had the six ramps to ourselves to launch our four boats.

Fortunately for me, Alex Gober backed me in and parked my truck so I did not have to climb in and out on the trailer tongue or walk far.  I have had a lot of help at tournaments the past two years, I could not have fished them without it.

It looked like most of the boats in the big tournament went up the river, my original plan.  But I decided to go down near the dam since I knew the river pockets would be crowded. It turned out to be a good decision.

My first stop on a shallow gravel point where shad usually spawn was also a good decision. Although there were no active shad, I caught two keeper spots on a topwater plug the first 20 minutes.

With all the boats on the lake, there was only one fishing near me, back in one arm of the creek I was in. I fished around the arm I was in and they left. That arm is full of stumps and a good bedding place, so I went over there and started dragging a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog around, and caught my best fish, a 2.75 pound largemouth.

Then I went back to the starting point and dragged the Carolina rig and caught two keeper spots, filling  my limit. Two of the five in the livewell were two pound spots so I had three good fish.

After fishing around the area, I landed my second largemouth on a shaky head near some brush, culling my smallest fish. Then I ran to another creek closer to weigh-in at 11:00 and landed two keepers, one big enough to cull my smallest spot.

My motor didn’t want to crank at 1:00, my battery was dead from running electronics and live well pumps, so I jumped it off with trolling motor batteries and went back to the launch site. 

Just wasting time there I landed two more keepers, one a largemouth that culled another spot. I was surprised there were not more limits since I caught 11 keepers.

The West Georgia tournament was won with over 15 pounds and they had a six-pound kicker.  It took over 15 pounds to place second, and over 12 for 11th place and a check. 

Sometimes comparisons reinforce my feeling I am not a very good fisherman!

Mothers’ Day

Mothers’ Day is always a bitter sweet time for me.

My mother died 19 years ago. She was my mentor for fishing and always encouraged me to go with her to farm ponds near our house, and she often did my chores so I could go even more often.

I have many memories of our trips. I caught my first bass on a trip with her to Usury’s Pond. That jumping 10-inch bass hooked me for life by the way it jumped and fought on my cane pole.

We spent many happy hours sitting on the bank fishing for anything that would bite. Side by side we filled our stringer with bream and catfish and enjoyed our time together. Later we fished from a small jon boat in those ponds, then from our big ski boat for crappie around bushes at Clarks Hill.

We fished many times from my bass boat when I got one in 1974. I would cast artificial baits for bass while she fished for bream and anything else that would hit her minnows or worms.

I miss fishing and talking with her.

Fishing Alabama Lakes

I love fishing Alabama Lakes.  I am constantly amazed how different they are from our lakes in middle Georgia.  Coosa River lakes are full of big, hard fighting spotted bass and the water is often full of grassbeds, something we just do not see here. And the current makes a big difference in the bite, and it runs most of the time.

Tennessee River lakes are big and full of grass, too.  And they have smallmouth, some of them excellent smallmouth fishing.  The tailraces below the dams provide fishing that is just not available here.

Lakes in south Alabama are similar to our Eufaula and Seminole.  Their tannic water is covered in the shallows by grass and cypress trees and largemouth are king. 

Last week on Tuesday I fished Logan Martin on the Coosa River near Pell City. I-20 crosses its upper end and it is usually a great lake. Unfortunately, I was staying in a motel near I-20 about 40 miles from Birmingham where a tornado killed someone in a motel there. Strong storms came through the area with thunder keeping me awake most of the night, then the morning dawned bright and cold, something not good for fishing.

We had about five hours on the lake and caught some small bass, but nothing like what I had hoped.

I was on Lake Weiss last Saturday, a cold, cloudy day. Fishing was tough and disappointing.  We did not catch a fish in the 43-degree water.  After noon, we were fishing an area with several other bass boats nearby.  They were in a local tournament.  We heard two of the teams talking and both said they had not caught a fish that day. Another team we talked to said they had one little keeper.  So it was not just us.

Fishing should get better soon, with longer days affecting the bass and making them want to spawn. They will start their annual movement toward spawning areas but will stay deep and not feed much until the water starts to warm.  With lows most nights in the 20s and highs only in the 40s “forecast” most days for the next ten days, it will take a while.

I put forecast in quotations since it seems it is at best a guess.  I call meteorologists “Weather Guessers” since that seems to describe their forecast.  Last week I kept watching the guess as what the weather would be at Lake Lanier this Sunday for the Flint River Tournament and my four-night camping trip to Don Carter State Park on the lake.

It started last Monday saying lows Saturday night would be in the low 20s with snow Sunday morning, and a high Sunday of 43 and clouds all day.   By Tuesday night the forecast was low of 34 Saturday night and a high of 56 Sunday with mostly sunny skies.

    A few years ago we postponed a club tournament at Sinclair the following Sunday due to the forecast at meeting Tuesday night.  By Sunday it was a beautiful, warm day and I went to the lake and caught several bass, including a five pounder.  The next Sunday, the day we postponed the tournament to, was windy, cold and miserable.  And the whole club caught fewer fish than I had caught the Sunday before!

    I never make my plans based on weather guesses a few days in advance and encourage my clubs to wait to the last minute to cancel a tournament if we have to do so, and only for dangerous conditions.

Making Up State Mottos On Fishing Trips

Crossing the Georgia state line driving home from Lake Weiss last Sunday, I was reminded of crossing many state lines on my annual trip to northern Wisconsin.  For ten years I left Griffin on Labor Day and drug my boat 1100 miles north, taking about 18 hours to get to Rhinelander.

    I listened to audio books on those trips, they made the long drive better. But I also paid attention to scenery and the road.  When I crossed a state line each state displayed their “Welcome to __” sign and some had mottos or sayings with them. I started making up my own for each state based on my experiences in them.

    Crossing into Tennessee at Chattanooga and knowing the climb then downhill run of the mountains ahead, I looked for a “Welcome to Tennessee – Use Low Gear” sign.  My experiences on the interstates in Kentucky made me think there should be a sign “Welcome to Kentucky – Watch Out for Potholes!”  One I was unable to avoid on the interstate due to traffic I hit so hard it knocked my GPS off the dash.

    I usually got to Illinois and drove through much of it in the dark. It seemed there should be a sign “Welcome to Illinois – Stop, Smell Skunk.”  It may have been because it was nighttime, but it seemed there was a dead skunk every few miles. They replaced our dead possums.  At least hit possums don’t stink up the air for several miles after they are hit.

When I finally crossed into Wisconsin there should have been a sign Welcome to Wisconsin – Watch Out for Construction Barrels.”  Since it was the end of summer and it was still warm enough to work, it seemed every mile of road was lined with orange construction barrels.

My host, a lifelong Wisconsin resident, said they had four seasons there – Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter and Construction Season.  More than one year I was fishing the week after Labor Day in my snowmobile suit in the snow and sleet!  Another fisherman in our group said he wanted to invest in the construction barrel industry in Wisconsin.

Coming home, I was always very happy to see “Welcome to Georgia” but always wanted to add “Warp Speed, Scotty!” No matter how fast traffic was flying coming out of Chattanooga, everyone always sped up when they crossed the state line.

Now, on my trips to Alabama, I can only expect to see a sign “Welcome to Alabama – Stop, Become A Football Fanatic.”

Winter Woods Walks – with A Gun

  “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.” Although I went for many a walk on a winter’s day, unlike the Mamas and Papas in California Dreaming, I would have to say the leaves are gone, not brown.  The woods and fields in winter are stark but beautiful.

    My winter day walks always included a gun.  Most days, from the time I got it for Christmas when I was 12 years old, it was my semiautomatic Remington rifle with the 17-round magazine.  It had a variable three to nine power scope on it.

    Sometimes I carried my single shot .410.  Those days I planned on kicking brush piles on field edges hoping to jump a rabbit. My usual luck was to jump a rabbit when carrying my .22.  I shot at a few with my .22 but never hit one.  I shot many squirrels with my .410 but preferred the .22.

    I was a little jealous of my friend Hal with his over and under .22 and 410.  He could switch from rifle to shotgun with the push of a button. But both were single shot, and I liked having multiple rounds in my .22 rather than having to take my eyes off a squirrel I missed to breach the gun and load another round.

    I loved my scope, too.  Even with good eyes back then, it was amazing how a gray squirrel could run up a big oak tree and disappear.  Sometimes there was a hollow for them to hide in, but often they just hunkered down tight to a limb and didn’t move. 

    About the only way to find them was to scan every limb with the scope, mostly looking for tell-tale ears sticking up.  I often gave up before finding them.  But sometimes a nest was the logical place for them to hide.  The balls of twigs and leaves were very obvious in the leafless tree.

    With my .22, I sometimes shot into the nest.   I could tell by the sound of the bullet if I hit a squirrel.  Since I was shooting blindly into the nest, it was usually a wounding shot and they would crawl out and fall.  But I climbed more than one tree to get to a squirrel I heard my bullet hit but did not come out.  Finding a wounded one while hanging from a high limb was always a thrill.

    I got very frustrated one day when I shot a squirrel and it fell a few feet then got tangled in vines.  I could not climb that tree, its trunk was too big to hug and there were no lower limbs.  I shot that squirrel and the vines around it many times trying to knock it loose but never did.

    All winter when hunting that area, I would go by the tree and look at the carcass of the squirrel that frustrated me so much. I hated to waste meat.

    Cold winter days often meant building a small fire to warm my hands while in the woods.  On dry days it was easy, with dead leaves and twigs littering the ground.  Wet days were a challenge, but finding a cedar tree with somewhat dry lower dead limbs and peeling dead bark near the trunk usually meant success.  And I always carried strike anywhere matches with their heads dipped in wax to keep them dry.

    Take a winter walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty.  Deer season is over and the woods are mostly empty, so you can relax and enjoy yourself.

….

Cutting Firewood

  I miss cutting firewood.  A “memory” popped up on my Facebook page from just three years ago. A picture showed my pickup loaded with wood.  The comment from that day said, “not a bad hour’s work, especially since I had to gas up and change chains.”

    I had cut down a dead red oak, cut its trunk into sections about 26 inches long to fit into my wood burning insert, and loaded them in the truck. They were big enough that three filled the bed across, and there were about 21 pieces total.

    In 1981 when I moved into my current house it had a wood burning insert.  I bought a Sears chainsaw and learned to use it; I had never used one.  I also learned a lot about different kinds of wood, how much effort it took to split wood with a maul and the best way to load my insert and get a good fire that would last all night.

    The first five years here I did not even light the pilot light on my furnace.  We put a sheet over the stairwell to the unused upstairs and used a fan in the doorway to move warm air into the bedroom. Then one March while I was gone for six days to fish a Top Six tournament, Linda got pneumonia and could not get wood or build a fire.

    I lit the pilot light as soon as I got home.

    Splitting wood was always my least favorite part of the process.  After I turned 60, using a hand maul hurt!  A gas splitter solved that problem and made it go much faster.

    I liked red oak wood since it cut cleanly, split evenly and burned down to good coals that lasted a long time.  White oak was similar but the grain was not quite as clean. Hickory was great but I did not have many hickory trees I could cut, and I saved them for grilling.  I mostly cut trees that had died in the past year, the wood was still good and I did not remove live trees from my land.

    I liked burning pine and popular during the day since I didn’t need to produce good coals.  Both split easily, were light weight to carry and easy to light and get burning fast.  The smell of burning pine is my second favorite burning wood smell.  And the “pop“ of burning popular was not a problem in my enclosed fireplace insert.

    I never cut down a cedar tree on my land, but after having some timber clearcut there were a dozen big cedars that were damaged.  I cut them and used some trunks for posts, but cut most of it up into two-foot-long sections.  I would add one to the fire during the day and make the yard and house smell wonderful!

    Sweetgum was just about impossible to split by hand but my gas splitter handled it fine.  Sweetgum really doesn’t split, its twisting grains just tear apart with enough pressure.  It burned without producing coals, but it was the most plentiful type of tree on my land and was pretty useless for wildlife.  So I cut and burned a lot of it during the day to produce fast, hot first that warmed the house quickly..

    I haven’t been able to cut wood for two years now and have not had a fire for the past two winters.  Maybe again someday.