Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Cut Grass Or Go Fishing

 The sound of lawnmowers, weed eaters and blowers often disrupt the peace while I am fishing.  Those are both sounds I did not hear in my early years.  We had rakes and hoes, not leaf blowers and weed eaters, and many of the folks I knew had brush brooms, not lawnmowers. Their yards were dirt, not grass.

    If anyone wasted time and effort on a lawn, they did it with an old push reel grass cutter.  I had the “pleasure” of using one of those a few times in my preteen years but could never really push them hard or fast enough to make it work very well.

    By the time I was 13 we did have a nice lawn.  The year before my parents had torn down the old farm house we had lived in for 12 years, building a nice split level brick house on the same lot.  Termites in the old house sped up the need for my mom’s dream house and my parents went way out on a mortgage limb to build it, something they did not believe in.  Borrowing money was not something they wanted to do and going into debt was much less common 55 years ago than it is now.

    The old farm house had a huge living room and kitchen in front and two bedrooms and a bathroom in the back.  All the way in the back was a bedroom, a small kitchen and bathroom that my grandmother lived in for several years.  I think those are now called mother-in-law suites.

    We tore down the front half of the old house and lived in the back rooms while the new house was being built within feet of those rooms. When we tore down the old house we found the floor beams were hand hewn pine logs. The ax marks were plainly visible on them.

    The old section had a big fireplace and chimney.  My dad, being frugal, had us tear it down and chip off the old mortar and he sold the bricks. I was weird to me that folks would pay so much for old bricks that we could buy about ten times as many new ones with the money.

    Daddy decided to plant carpet grass since he had seen some pretty lawns of it in Florida.  It was delivered to our house in sod pieces about two feet wide and three feet long.  Rather than place those pieces for an instant lawn, my frugal dad made us pull it apart and plant sprigs in shallow furrows. That was a hot, tiring job but within a couple of years we had our thick carpet of grass.

    That grass required a good lawn mower and dad got a gas-powered push mower. I spent many hours struggling to crank it then slowly pushing it along. We had a big yard and it took several hours to cut it all.

    One of my friend’s dad was a sergeant in the Army and was very strict.  As punishment, he made my friend cut grass – with scissors!  He would be told to take the scissors out and cut for an hour to punish him for misbehavior. That would probably be called child abuse now but it taught him discipline.  I never had to do that, at least.

    Its funny now that I hate cutting grass in my yard although it is small and takes less than an hour. But I like going to the farm and cutting with the rotary mower for several hours at a time.  I guess it is knowing I am getting ready to hunt the field after getting it plowed and planting winter wheat.

Sandwiches and Other Food Eaten Growing Up and While Fishing

I loved the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches served at Dearing Elementary School, probably because they always went with the vegetable soup.  We had that meal about once a month and it was one of my favorite.  And there was always plenty for us to have seconds and even thirds.

    At home during the summers we ate tomato sandwiches almost daily, with delicious tomatoes from the garden. But I never heard of a BLT until I went off to college.  My tomato sandwiches were simply two slices of loaf bread, salad dressing and thick slices of tomato.  And yes, it was always salad dressing, never mayonnaise, although we used that term.

    During the winter we had the sandwiches just without the tomatoes. A mayonnaise sandwich, two slices of bread slathered with so much salad dressing it was hard to keep them from sliding on each other, was both a lunch and after school snack.  Another simple one was a catsup sandwich. Slices of bread soaked with catsup an eaten mostly as a after school snack.

    Pineapple sandwiches had the same bread and salad dressing and we always had canned, sweetened crushed pineapple.  By putting the salad dressing on one slice of bread, piling it with pineapple and putting another slice of bread on top the top slice got delightfully soaked in pineapple juice.  

    On fishing or hunting trips a can of potted meat and Ritz crackers was all I needed, unless I carried a can of Vienna Sausage.  With them I wanted saltine crackers, not Ritz.  The meat had to be paired with the right crackers.

    Those same canned delights made good sandwiches at home.  A thick layer of potted meat and so much catsup on it globs of the mixture fell into the plate from the bottom of the sandwich, to be licked up as a dessert, made a great meal.  I learned at an early age to line of the Vienna Sausage on the bread from side to side with two on top of the row, then the last on in the can on top of those two, filled up the bread. Again, lots of catsup completed my sandwich.

    We always said loaf bread at my house but some of my friends called it “white bread.”  Mom was a great baker, making cakes and pies to sell, as well as fantastic biscuits and corn bread, but she never baked loaf bread. 

    Corn bread was in sticks, muffins or pone that was baked in a black frying pan in the oven. Left over cornbread of all kinds was eaten as an afternoon snack, with a bowl of catsup to dip it in. Yes, I liked and still like catsup!

    My favorite cornbread was something we called “splatter bread.”  Sometimes mom would heat lard in the black skillet until there was a pool a half inch deep and pour a thin mixture of corn meal and water into it.  The edges were amazing, crisp and crunchy, and the center cooked just right.   I still make it to go with steamed cabbage, peas and creamed corn, and soup.

    Writing this has made me hungry, I think I will go make a batch of splatter bread and get a bowl of catsup.

Digging Bait and Other Ways To Get Fishing Bait Growing Up

Digging bait was always fun, mainly because it was preparation for a fishing trip.  We used all kind of bait in local ponds to catch bream, catfish, a few bass and a good many turtles, and red wigglers were one of our favorite baits.

    On our farm we had seven chicken houses with a total of 11,000 laying hens.  The four old houses were long wooden sheds with chicken wire walls. The birds ran free inside on the wood shaving floor.  Their roosts were wooden frames set down the length of the house on either side of the center. 

    The support posts inside divided the width into thirds. On the downhill side, a galvanized trough three inches wide and five inches deep ran the length of the houses at a slight slant.  At one end was a faucet that dripped constantly. At the other end a nipple in the drain stuck up about four inches and acted as an overflow pipe much like the one in a pond, keeping water up to four inches deep the length of the trough. Water slowly ran over the top and out a pipe to the outside.

    The water was very fertile since chickens are not real careful where they leave their droppings, and every morning one of my jobs was to remove the nipple, turn the water on at the other end and walk the length of the trough with an old broom, cleaning out the mess.  It flowed out the drain pipe.

    The ground behind the house near the drain was always wet from the constant flow of water and extremely rich from all the droppings washed out every day.  Red wigglers found it an ideal habitat and we could dig a can full in a few minutes with just one or two scoops of dirt with a shovel.  There would be dozens of worms in every shovel full and picking them up from the ooze was easy.

    Every critter that lives in water loves red wigglers. We even caught crawfish on them when fishing for catfish on the bottom.  They were our staple bait when fishing but we did have many others.

    The chickens themselves provided great catfish bait.  With that many birds on the farm, a few died every day and I would cut them open and take out the heart, liver and gizzard.  Those innards put in a jar and set in the sun to ripen made an irresistible bait for catfish of kinds.  The livers were soft and hard to keep on the hook but gizzards and hearts were tough enough to last through several fish, if we could get past the smell when putting them on the hook.

    One of mom’s favorite baits were meal worms. We didn’t buy them, we grew our own.  Mom would fill a coffee can half full of corn meal and flour siftings and let it sit open for a few days, then put a cover of cheese cloth or old curtain sheer over it. 

    The eggs the flies laid in the corn meal while the top was open soon hatched into grubs, also called maggots, and grew from tiny white worms barely visible to light brown bait about an inch long. If left too long they turned black and tough and fish did not like them much.  After that stage they soon emerged as young flies.

    Although maggots stunk when taken from dead critters, taking on the smell of rotten meat, they were clean and odorless when grown in corn meal.

    Anything we could catch was tried as bait. Grasshoppers, wild crickets, caterpillars, crawfish, big white grub worms and wasp eggs were all good and most harmless. But wasp eggs were a special problem.

    First, just getting the nest with the larvae growing in it was dangerous. We did not want to spray the nest with poison to kill the adults guarding the nest since it tainted or killed the larvae.  What I would usually do after locating a good nest during the day was go back in the dark, knock it to the ground with a long pole and run off. 

    Wasps do not fly in the dark so after a few minutes I could go back and pick up the nest, being careful to step on any adult wasps that had stayed with the nest.  You could not wait too long to go back for it since ants would quickly find the source of food and be all over the nest.

    The nest was then put in the refrigerator in a paper sack to slow down the growth of the larvae.    You had to be very careful when taking the sack out for a fishing trip since some larvae would come out as an adult even in the cold.  Since they were cold they were sluggish but you had to open the sack carefully and kill any adults that were barely able to move around and sting you.

    I found out the hard way that a sack with a nest in it, left in the sun while fishing, would make any larvae close to changing make the transition to adult quickly. More than once, in the excitement of catching fish, I would reach into the bag to get a new bait and get stung by a newly changed adult wasp.

    A friend once told me how he would take tiny pieces of meat and stick a little strip of cigarette paper on it.  Left outside, a yellowjacket would often pick up the piece of meat to take to their underground nest. He could follow them to the nest by tracking the tiny white dot of paper.

    Yellowjackets build big underground nest with paper cells that look like wasps nest.  My friend said he could sell a big nest to fishermen too timid to try to get them on their own for several dollars.

    I did not know about yellowjacket nests as a kid or I am sure I would have tried his trick to get my own bait!  

Have Your Fish and Eat it Too with Gyotaku

Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications Arkansas GFC
from The Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK — Trophy or table-fare? Catch a notable fish and you’re stuck with the choice. Besides the high cost, taxidermy requires handing over your prize instead of enjoying it as a meal. A quick photo of the fish at the time of the catch is nice to share with friends via social media, but rarely are worthy of hanging on a wall.

Anglers from overseas faced the food-or-fame dilemma centuries ago, and their solution was so popular, it became folk art. Japanese fishermen would bring paper and ink along on their trips to make impressions of fish they caught. They would paint one side of the fish with ink, and press it to paper. The ink would transfer to the paper, showcasing the fish’s size. Once satisfied with their record, they would wash the fish and still be able to bring it back for a meal or market.

A Little History

No one really knows the name of the first angler to capture his catch in artwork, but the oldest existing fish print is of a large red sea bream, caught by Lord Sakai of the Yamagata prefecture in 1862. Soon after his artwork was displayed, the practice became a recognized art form called gyotaku (gyo – meaning “fish” and taku – meaning “stone rubbing”)

.Many modern artists have added their own touch to the process, transforming basic shapes into multicolor masterpieces, some of which sell for hundreds of dollars. But you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the hobby, and there’s no better way to add even more excitement to a child’s first catch.

Taku Tools

Gyotaku requires only a few items found in practically any art supply store – paper, paint and brush.

While any paper will make a decent “fish print,” the best option usually is rice paper; another good choice is parchment paper used for baking. Crumple the paper into a ball and smooth it back out a few times to offer a crackled texture and make it more flexible.

Use non-toxic paint, especially if you plan on eating the catch. Non-toxic acrylic paint is thin enough to show fine details and comes in a variety of colors. Dark paints help make small details stand out, but some people like to match the color of the fish in their print.

There’s no need to splurge on an expensive paintbrush; the fish is doing the real painting. An inexpensive sponge brush works well to coat the fish with the pigment. A fine-tipped paintbrush also comes in handy to touch up the work and add detail to the fish’s eye.

Find a Fish

The best part of making a fish print is finding the fish. Arkansans are blessed with so many streams, lakes and rivers that finding a fishing location is as easy as a quick search on When it comes to finding a youth’s first fish, the Family and Community Fishing Program offers ponds in major cities around the state to get young anglers hooked. Visit to discover one of these locations near you.Crappie, bass, bream and other fish with large scales tend to make the best prints; catfish can be printed, but it requires a delicate hand.

Fishy Flair

Clean the fish with water and a bit of dishwashing detergent to remove its protective slime coat. This slimy layer offers an excellent barrier to bacteria and fungus, but can cause the paint to smear into a featureless blob. Press paper towels against the fish to dry it. Be sure to wipe the insides of the gills and undersides of the fins as well; any water left in these areas will be squeezed onto the paper when pressed. Give the fish a firm squeeze at the belly to ensure all liquids are purged.

Lay the fish on a flat surface and use newspaper or magazines to prop up the dorsal and anal fins.Use the sponge brush to apply a light coat of paint to one side of the fish; coat everything but the eye. Be sure to apply paint to the mouth and fins.

Place the paper over the fish and press firmly across the entire painted surface. Do not let the paper move once it is placed over the fish. Pull the paper straight up off the fish’s body and look over your artwork.

Don’t be discouraged if the first print doesn’t have much detail. This usually means there’s too much paint on the fish. Just press more clean sheets against the fish until you get the look you like. If you run out of pigment, you can repaint and try again.

Paint in the fish’s eye using the fine-tipped paintbrush. You can also add a few details to add color or contrast. Trout wouldn’t look the same without their spots, and crappie come to life when you darken a few random scales and add a few specks to their fins.

Once you’re satisfied with your print, wash the fish, filet it and cook up your catch knowing you’ll always have a record of the one that didn’t get away.

Combat Fishing At Clarks Hill In April

Club bass fishing can be a humbling experience.  And in my limited experience, at higher levels it is worse.  It is easy to go from hero to zero in a few days.

    I grew up fishing Clarks Hill, catching my first bass from the lake in 1962 while my family was camping at “The Cliffs,” an unimproved access point on an old dirt road.  My church group as well as my family camped there several times every summer.  Then in 1966 our family joined the Raysville Boat Club, where I am still a member.

    For years in the 1970s through the 1990s I spent most holidays fishing there, including Christmas, Thanksgiving and spring break. And, since I was a teacher and school administrator during those years, I had summers off and would spend several weeks there each summer, fishing every day.

    I learned the little keys to the lake, small rock piles, drops and stump fields most people never saw.  When the lake was low during the winter I looked for hidden gems that held bass, places like those as well as hidden points, ditches and humps. And I built brush piles to attract and hold the bass.

    Now many of those kinds of places are easily found with modern GPS mapping, but some are still somewhat secret.  But the lake has changed a lot over the years, first getting blueback herring in it that changed the feeding habits of bass.  Then hydrilla spread all over the lake for a few years but it has now been killed off completely.

     The biggest change is fishing pressure. For years it was unusual to see another fishing boat during the week, now even on a weekday I often have to get in line to fish a place that holds bass.

Jim Berry invited me to join the Spalding County sportsman Club in March, 1974 and we fished the club tournament in April at Clarks Hill. I got hooked on tournament fishing and I joined the Flint River Bass Club in 1978 and the Potato Creek Bassmasters in 2016.

 I think the Sportsman Club has fished our April tournament at Clarks Hill every year since 1974.  I often do well, a memory on Facebook showed me winning the tournament there in 2016 with ten bass weighing 24 pounds.

    Way back in 1983 I came in fourth in the State Top Six Championship competing with 550 other club fishermen at West Point. Then I came in second in the Regional at Kentucky Lake, missing qualifying to fish the Bassmasters Classic by two pounds in a three-day tournament.

    That made me think I was a pretty competitive fisherman, so I signed up for the six Georgia Redman “semiprofessional” tournaments the next year. After not placing in any of them, I figured it was just first year “jitters” so I signed up for all six the next year.

    At the end of that second year I again had not placed in any of the tournaments.  It made me feel completely incompetent. I decided maybe I was a decent club fisherman, not good enough to compete at a higher level, so I have stuck with club fishing since then.

    I did make the state team four more times over the years and have done well in the clubs, winning the point standings in them multiple times. Some tournaments do not go as planned, and sometimes after one I wonder if I really know what I am doing.  But that usually passes after a few days.

    I am writing this at Clarks Hill on Tuesday. I have been here a week, fishing every day and fishing the Sportsman Club tournament over the weekend.  Right now I feel totally incompetent and am lost about how to catch fish. None of my old places or methods have not worked.

    In the Sportsman Club tournament 14 members fished nine hours on Saturday and seven on Sunday to land 106 bass weighing about 153 pounds. There were 18 five fish limits and no one zeroed.   

    Sam Smith won with ten bass weighing 20.53 pounds. Kwong Yu was second with ten at 18.24 pounds and had big fish with a 3.80 pound largemouth.  Niles Murray placed third with ten weighing 17.18 pounds and Wayne Teal came in fourth with ten at 15.51 pounds.

    I came in 11th with three bass weighing a whopping 5.23 pounds!

    I was very disappointed to see almost half the bass weighed in were spotted bass.  They are expanding in Clarks Hill and I am afraid this change is really going to hurt the largemouth fishing over time.

    After two days of practice and catching only five bass, I felt like I needed to do something different. There is a pattern and place that has been good for about the past seven years, it is how I won in 2016 and a couple more times since then.

    But so many folks know about that now I just did not want to do it. I call it combat fishing, joining many other boats in a small area and fighting to out fish and out cast them.  It is just not much fun but now I wish I had tried it.

    After not catching a single fish Monday and only one today from my old places, I guess combat fishing is on the schedule for this weekend in the Potato Creek tournament here!

Who Should Control Hunting and Fishing Limits and Seasons

 Hunters and fishermen always know better than game and fish biologists what needs to be done to keep our game and fish populations healthy.  Any time they don’t catch or kill enough, they want things changed, and they know just how to do it.

    This year the folks that earned college degrees and spend their careers working with game and fish recommended delaying the opening of turkey season for two weeks. Based on some turkey hunters complaints, you would think the world is ending. Oddly enough, many of those complaints come from the same folks whining that they aren’t seeing as many turkeys as in the past.

    Many if not all the biologists at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game and Fish Division are hunters and fishermen themselves. They can make mistakes but they do not go out of their way to inconvenience hunters and fishermen.  That would be a self-inflicted injury.  

    Unfortunately, many of the administrators of the different Departments are politicians more than biologists and they do make political rather than scientific decisions.

    In an article in Georgia Outdoor News a professor at the University of Georgia who is also a hunter was quoted: “Agencies want to open seasons so hunters like me can go and enjoy the gobbling activity, but what that results in is birds often being harvested early in the breeding season, which researchers have known for decades may be problematic if harvest rates (percent of males harvested) are high,” said Mike Chamberlain, the Terrell Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

    In that same article this statement raises questions: “There may still be a host of other factors affecting the decline of wild turkey populations —habitat loss, fragmentation of the landscape and poor management practices are chief among them,” said Chamberlain. “But being more mindful of when the birds are breeding is one way to help the population while also securing better hunting trips in the future.”

    Some of those other factors may also include increased numbers of predators like coyotes, raccoons, hogs, possums and foxes. Not only can some of them  kill adult turkey, they easily kill poults and also eat the eggs. And even fire ants can kill young birds in the nest.

Growing up we shot every hawk we saw; it was not illegal back then and we knew they killed quail, rabbits, squirrels and doves, game we wanted to kill and eat. It was rare to see a bird of prey back then.  Now I see them pretty much every day, and they kill and eat turkey polts.

    Chris Plott is a turkey hunter and owns Plott
Hide and Fur Company here in Griffin.  He has seen the decline in numbers of turkey everywhere he hunts, from Lamar County to South Georgia to Mexico.  He is not sure why turkey populations are in decline, but he thinks numbers of predators may be a big part of it.

    “We have not bought any predator furs locally since the 1990’s Chris said.  Before then predators were trapped regularly, and their populations were kept down.  That does not happen now.

    Chris said he knows land management and the proliferation of big pine plantations has hurt. There is a reason huge forest of nothing but pine trees are called “pine barrens,” there is little for wildlife to eat in them.

    Diseases may play a part, but I found no mention of evidence of diseases found by biologists.  I know we had to guard against many kinds of fowl diseases when we had our chicken layer farm and there may be some out there that kill turkey in the wild.

Weather definitely plays a part short term.  An extremely rainy or dry spring can hurt nesting success, but that usually lasts only one or two years before having a normal year, so long term it balances out.

    I never saw coyotes or heard them “sing” when growing up in the 60s and 70s. Now I seldom go 24 hours without seeing one on my trail cameras and often hear them calling at dusk when I am camping.  No doubt they eat eggs, poults and adult turkey.

    Biologists admit they do not have all the answers. When they identify a possible cause they do what they can to adjust and stop it, things like delaying season opening.

    We need to support them in their efforts while watching to make sure those decisions are based on biology, not politics.

Mississippi Kites and Swallow Tail Kites

At the Sportsman Club meeting last Tuesday Raymond English said he thought I was talking about a Mississippi Kite when I wrote about seeing a Swallow-tailed Kite.  He told me he saw the Mississippi Kite one time and he had to get more information about it.  So I did too!

    I am not sure I have ever seen one, but maybe. Griffin is right on the edge of their territory and they are rare here. They look similar to sparrowhawks that are common here and I may have confused them. Sparrowhawks are actually American Kestrels, a type of falcon rather than a hawk.

The Mississippi Kite is a little bigger, with body length about 14 inches and wingspan of about 30 compared to a sparrowhawk with body 12 inches and wingspan about 24 inches. Sparrowhawks have more brown while Mississippi Kites are more gray, but young kites have more brown with bars so they look very much like sparrowhawks.

    Mississippi kites do not have a forked tail that makes the Swallow-tailed kite stand out. But one interesting fact – Mississippi Kites often build their nests near wasps nest – maybe wasps help protect the young birds!

Right now males of all species are in full mating colors so they really stand out. Male bluebirds in my back yard are very colorful but will fade some in the coming weeks as they mate and nest.

I will be on the lookout for them and other interesting birds this spring, while fishing and other times. It is much easier to look up new bird sightings now we have the internet.  It is fast and easy compared to the old book field guides I used for years.

Growing Up On A Farm and Growing A Garden

 I have vague memories of a big barn and animal pens beside the house where I lived from 1950 to 1962.  I have no idea how old the farmhouse was when daddy bought it and the fifteen acres it was on after graduation from college in 1948 for his new family.

When we tore it down in 1962 to build a modern split level brick house on the same site we found hand-hewn timbers supporting it. The ax marks were plainly visible.

The barn was torn down when I was three or four, I think. Most of my memories of it are piles of rubble and finding boards with nails in them with my bare feet.  Then we got it all cleaned up and used the 100×300 foot area for a garden. The soil was extremely rich from years of animal waste and rotting hay debris.

Mama And daddy grew up during the depression and did everything they could to be self-sufficient.  Although daddy taught school and later became principal of Dearing Elementary, he worked long hours on the farm, developing a thriving egg business, eventually including 11,000 laying hens.

Mama worked the farm but also made cakes to sell, using milk from our cows and eggs from our chickens. She also canned, pickled and froze everything possible to have delicious food year-round.

Our summer garden included tomatoes, potatoes, corn, string beans, field peas, butter beans, okra, cucumbers, squash, peppers (bell and hot) and onions.  Our early spring garden had radishes, lettuce, cabbage, turnips and broccoli. Some of them were replanted in the fall.  Daddy also had a small asparagus bed he kept active.  

Even as a young kid I “got” to help.  I didn’t have the patience to drop two or three butterbean or pea seeds per hill in the trench daddy dug with an old push plow, so I followed mama as she dropped them spaced just right.  My job was to cover them, using my bare feet like plows to push the dirt on top of the seeds then step on top to compress the soil. Mama would look back regularly and and also check the first row as we worked back up the next one, checking to make sure I had not gotten distracted.

We planted tomato plants after raising them from seeds inside.  I hated that process. Mama or daddy would put the small plant into the ground and I had to haul water in small bucket from the house and pour a little beside each plant, being careful to not wash dirt from the roots.  The biggest bucket I could carry was still small so it meant dozens of trip!

We always planted on Good Friday since that was usually a safe timing to avoid a late frost. Is your garden plot ready?  If not you have less than two weeks!

I have many more gardening and canning memories. I wish I could still do things like that. Now I limit myself to about eight tomato and six bell pepper plants each year.

Four Fishing Etiquette Tips Desperately Needed By High School Fishermen and Captains and Too Many Other Fishermen


One of the biggest pet peeves for many freshwater anglers is when they are having a good day fishing from a boat in a quiet spot on the lake or river and another angler comes along, pulls up right beside them and starts casting in the same area without asking first.

“It happens pretty much on a daily basis,” said Mercury Pro Team member Michael Neal.

If it’s a public body water, everyone is welcome to use the resource, of course. In most places, there are no written rules about how far you need to stay away from other boats and anglers. It’s within your rights to fish next to someone, as long as you aren’t harassing them (intentional angler harassment is against the law in many states). It’s up to each individual angler to decide what’s responsible behavior in terms of how much distance to put between your boat and theirs. Practicing good fishing etiquette means treating other anglers and boaters on the water with respect and giving them their space.

Neal, who fishes the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour and Pro Circuit, said it all comes down to following the Golden Rule. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” he said.

“Communication is key. It’s the number one thing that makes your day on the water go smoothly,” added Mercury Pro Team member and Bassmaster Elite Series angler John Crews.

Here are four fishing etiquette tips from these two pros to help keep it friendly and fun for everyone on the water. What’s outlined here are unwritten rules that guide tournament anglers and serious recreational anglers.

  1. A “bent pole pattern,” indicating that an angler has a fish on the line, is not an invitation to take your boat to that angler’s position and start fishing right next to them. It’s probably better to go somewhere else, but if it’s a spot you had already hoped to fish, just wait it out. “My advice is to wait until they leave to go over to that spot,” said Neal.
  2. When another angler is fishing in a spot near where you would like to fish, stop your boat within hailing distance and let the person know your wishes. For example, if an angler is fishing partway back in a creek, and you want to fish all the way in the back, ask first if he or she intends to head deeper into the creek before you go there yourself. “If I go into an area where someone else is fishing, I ask them if they are going to continue, and if it’s OK for me to fish there. If they are having a bad day and they want to be rude about it, you don’t want to be fishing around them anyway,” Crews said. On crowded lakes, you’re likely to wind up fishing near someone. In that case, keep a respectful distance. “We usually have a mutual understanding: ‘Don’t get any closer to me, and I won’t get any closer to you,’” Neal said, referring to his fellow tournament anglers.
  3. Don’t pass too close to another angler’s boat. “Stay away from the side where their rods are; pass on the other side if you can,” Crews said, adding that it’s important to give other boats with active anglers a wide berth when you pass, if there’s room. “Two hundred to 300 feet is ideal; 100 feet at a minimum. Pass at speed and make a minimal wake rather than slowing down and pulling a big wake. However, if there isn’t room to pass far enough away, come off plane well before you get near the other boat and idle past.”
  4. Never, ever cross lines with another angler. “The number one no-no is to cast across somebody else’s line. I’ve had it happen to me personally. I decided to leave the spot to him. I figured, if it’s important enough for him to do that, he can have it,” Neal said.

Use common courtesy, and there should be enough space for everyone to fish in harmony. When in doubt, err on the side of being as respectful as possible.

“Most anglers are super cool, and as long as you can communicate with them, you can make it work,” Crews concluded.

Cutting Firewood For Fun and Warmth

    When I moved to Pike County in 1981 the house I bought had a functional wood burning insert in the fireplace.  I was young and dumb enough to decide to heat the house exclusively by wood that first winter.

    The house was two stories but the master bedroom and all the other rooms we used were on the ground floor.  I tacked sheets over the stairwell to keep the warm air from going up them, helping keep the lower level warm.

    Although I had never cut wood with a chain saw, I felt like I could do it.  I went to Sears and bought a mid-size saw and learned how it worked, always fearing it a little, especially after reading and hearing about accidents folks had with them.

    There was and old tree house in the edge of the woods and I tore it down and built a wood shed with the tin and plywood.  Then I started cutting down some of the trees behind the house.

    The four-acre lot my house was on was covered with trees with just a small front and back yard. I wanted a garden, so I started by cutting an area behind the house, trying to open it up enough. 

I cut about 16 big oak and hickory trees and a few sweetgum and popular, cutting each piece about 18 inches long to fit my insert, and splitting the trunks by hand with a maul and stacking the wood.

    I was much younger then!

    But I really enjoyed using the saw and splitting the wood. Those trees more than filled up my small woodshed so I expanded it some and had enough wood for the whole winter, keeping a fire going all the time.

    I learned a lot about wood that year.  The few sweetgum and popular trees I cut taught me popular splits very easily and has pretty colors inside, but burns fast and does “pop” while burning.  I had to keep the insert doors closed!  Sweetgum burned fast, too, and its twisted grains made it almost impossible to split. 

But I never wasted any wood, I burned the sweetgum and popular as well as any fast-burning pine I got during the day. At night I wanted slow burning oak and hickory.

    My favorite wood to split was red oak, its straight grains made it easy to split up into chunks just right for my fireplace.  Hickory was next since it split easily and burned very slowly. Whiteoak was fairly easy to split and also lasted a long time.  With any of them I could fill my insert at bedtime, shut the air vents and still have heat the next morning.

    For five years I heated exclusively with wood, even turning the pilot light off on my furnace.  Linda learned to bring in the wood and start a good fire with the kindling I kept in a big box, and she did a good job when I was gone on fishing trips.

    Then one spring I went to a Top Six tournament for five days. It was April and the weather should have been stable but a cold front dropped the nighttime lows below freezing and highs were only in the 40s.

The day I left there was a good supply of wood in the house and plenty in the woodshed.  But the day after I left Linda got sick and developed pneumonia, making it impossible for her to bring in wood and keep a fire going.

We lit the pilot light when I got home.

I continued to burn wood but never shut off the furnace again.  It was great supplemental heat and saved propane. But cancer three years ago weakened me to the point I have not tried to cut wood since then. I miss it and am going to get out my saw and try to use it.  I desperately need the exercise, and maybe I will do something I enjoy!