Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Growing Up On A Farm

 Linda sometimes looks at me funny when I scrape every bit of food out of a can or gnaw every scrap of meat from a bone.  I grew up on a farm and my parents had lived through the Great Depression, so I was trained to never waste a morsel of food.   

There is an old saying that farmers used every bit of a pig except the squeal.  We may not have been that careful, but we were close.    When daddy and I shot doves or quail, we cleaned them and even kept the tiny gizzards, livers and hearts for giblet gravy.  We could not imagine popping the breast out and throwing away the legs and wings like is common now, they had meat on them! Squirrel hearts and livers were also kept for the same thing.   

We had 11,000 laying hens and sold eggs to local stores for resale.  But at the farm, we also sold directly to folks living near us.  They could buy cartons of eggs just like they got in the stores, but at a slightly reduced price.  Eggs were “candled,” running them over a light to look for cracks and blood spots.  Only perfect ones went into cartons.  

But for the frugal, we sold cracked eggs by the flat, two- and one-half dozen, 30 eggs, to each flat.  Flats were 35 cents each or three for a dollar, great for cooks making lots of cakes.  And we used the left-over cracked eggs, the ones not sold, at home. The only ones thrown away were the ones with blood spots.   

When hens “laid out,” reaching the end of their useful time, we sold them straight from the chicken house.  People would come from miles away to buy them, they were very cheap. 

And each time we cleaned out a house my family killed, cleaned and froze about 50 to last the few months until the next time a house ended its egg laying cycle.   

I will never forget the hens flopping around, bleeding out after I chopped off their heads with my hatchet.  After they quit flopping, they were picked up, doused in a big pot of boiling water to loosen the feathers, then plucked clean and gutted, saving the giblets too.   

We had hogs and when they were killed several hams were smoked, salted and hung in a tightly sealed room.  They would last for months although some mold would grow on them. Mama just scraped the mold off and we ate the salty meat.   

One thing we did not keep were the “chitlins.”  I never had them until I was grown, about the same time I realized the word was chitterlings. But most everything else was used. Daddy loved pickled pigs feet, a taste I did not acquire until I got out of college.   

Daddy also likes souse and tripe, two more things I never developed a taste for but were common for breakfast when I was growing up.    We had a huge garden every year and never bought vegetables.  String beans and tomatoes were canned,  and mama put up many jars of tomatoes mixed with okra for soups and stews.   

She also canned peaches, plumbs, pears and blackberries.  Butterbeans, corn, both on the cob and cut, black eyed and field peas were all frozen.    Potatoes and onions were spread on a sheltered concrete floor where they lasted all winter.  

  I guess growing up on a farm taught me to be a survivalist long before it was popular.

April Fishing Memories

I bought my first bass boat in March, 1974 and Jim Berry invited me to join the Spalding County SportsmanClub. He and I fished the April club tournament at Clarks Hill, camping in a tent at Mistletoe State Park.

I placed third in the “B” division with six bass weighing seven pounds.   

The lake and the club have gone through many changes over the past 46 years but going to Clarks Hill in April for a two-day tournament has remained consistent. I think I have fished it every one of those 46 years.   

Back then, the club had 78 members and we often had 30 to 40 fishermen in our tournaments and there were many father-son teams. We made a big production of it, with most of us camping together and having as big fish fry one night. We sat around campfires, often with adult beverages, and had a lot of fun.   

I still have the old scoreboard. I have no idea how I ended up with it, maybe because I was elected secretary/treasurer of the club in 1975, a position I still hold. Nobody else wants it.   

The old scoreboard is two 4×4 foot plyboard boards with plexiglass covering them. There was a stand made from metal conduit to hold them upright. I can still barely see the names and weights from that first Clarks Hill tournament on it, the last tournament where it was used.   

It took 20 keeper bass weighing 26 pounds to win that tournament. Now we have a five fish limit each day rather than the ten back then, after dropping to seven for a few years then to five.   

The lake has changed a lot, too. About 25 years ago blueback herring got in the lake and their population exploded, and bass took advantage of this high protein food source, growing big and fat. Then hydrilla got in the lake and covered much of the shallows, giving young bass places to hide and grow.   

Through spraying and introduction of 80,000 grass carp, the hydrilla has pretty much been eliminated.

Coots eating the hydrilla picked up a bacterium that killed bald eagles that ate the coots, and around 80 dead eagles were found over a ten year period, so the hydrilla was eliminated.   

A few years ago, spotted bass got in Clarks Hill and their population is growing.  We seem to weigh in more of them each year, and they are expanding from the Savannah River to Little River. I am afraid they will ruin the largemouth fishing like they have on Russell, West Point, Jackson and Bartletts Ferry.   

Last weekend the Sportsman Club fished our
April tournament at Clarks Hill. In 16.5 hours of casting, 15 members brought 109 bass weighing about 187 pounds. There were 15 five fish limits and no one zeroed.

Raymond English won with ten weighing 26.33 pounds and had a 6.0 pounder for big fish. Sam Smith had ten weighing 21.05 pounds for second, my ten at 18.2 pounds placed third, and Kwong Yu had nine weighing 16.41 pounds for fourth. Those weights are very similar to what won back in 1974, but back then it took 20 bass to weigh as much as ten in this tournament!

Fishing with Mother

 My mother loved to fish, as did her mother. Some of my earliest memories are following them to local farm ponds with our cane poles.  Theirs were much longer than mine, and they carried all our supplies, from hooks, sinkers and corks to meal and earth worms for bait.   

We fished for anything that would bite and ate our catch. Mama always said, “if its big enough to bite its big enough to eat.”  She was especially fond of the crunchy fins on little bream fried to perfection.   

We fished together a lot until I went off to college, then spent many happy hours in my bass boat when I came home for the weekend or holidays.  One day at the boat club I saw her love of fishing.  As we walked to my boat tied under the floating boat dock, we saw a snake slither into a hole where the control cables went in.   

Mama’s fear of snakes was well known, but she got into the boat and went out with me anyway. I did notice that she managed to keep her feet up off the boat floor most of the day though.   

One summer we threw out sinking catfish food under the dock, trying to attract them.  As I walked by the dock one afternoon, mama was sitting there fishing all by herself.  I saw her rod bent as she fought as big fish.   

I stopped and watched, afraid to distract her. I could hear her coaching herself, saying things like “keep the rod up, don’t get in a hurry, don’t reel while its pulling drag.”   

After a few minutes I went down and helped her net a six-pound carp. 

   That night I could not sleep thinking about that experience. I got out a can of kernel corn, baited up a hook on a spinning rod and caught two carp that size.  The next three days mama, daddy and I caught 37 carp weighing 175 pounds fishing with corn.  And true to form, mama found a way to can the filets, making the small bones dissolve like those in canned salmon, and we ate many carp patties.   

On one trip to a local pond mama and I were ready to leave when we noticed a lot of tiny bream in the pool below the spillway.  We took our rods and went down there and caught them, baiting out hooks with tiny bites of earthworm.   

We had a contest to see who could catch the smallest one, a challenge since the biggest was about two inches long.  We half filled a coffee can with them for the cats, it took about 30 to fill it that much.   

One summer I spent some time easing around the bank in my bass boat with a spotlight at night, seeing what was under water.  There were carp everywhere.  I rigged a big frog gig on a piece of metal conduit and started gigging them.

Mama went out with me one night and would sit on the back seat, opening the live well when I gigged one.  I would put the carp in, she would drop the lid and I would pull the gig out.   

My dog Merlin was with us and always got excited.  One time as mama opened the live well lid Merlin jumped at the carp as I put it in the opening and went in with it!  The look on Merlin’s face was priceless as she stood in there with all those carp.   

Mama and I laughed until we cried.   

If your mother is alive, cherish every minute with her. Some of us no longer have that joy.

Three Dog Night

Sunday was a “Three Dog Night” at my house due to the storms. 

That saying comes from olden times when it was so cold you needed three dogs in bed with you to keep you warm.  Warmth was not the problem at my house.   

I have three dogs.  Ginger is a brindle pit bull, Cinnamon a sooner that is mostly hound, and Mika is a registered border collie.  Mika at 60 pounds is tall and lean and the other two weigh about 80 pounds. They fit their species, with Ginger built like a tank and Cinnamon with long legs a little taller.   

All were rescue dogs.  Ginger showed up at a rental house, flea infested, skin and bones and with heart worms. She had a broken choke collar on her neck.

Cinnamon showed up at the gun club, full of puppy energy the Monday after I had to put Rip to sleep. 

And Mika was from a renter that had to get rid of him due to allergies.   

Ginger is terrified of lightning. I swear she can hear it thunder in Birmingham, Alabama.  Several years ago Ginger and my lab Rip were in the back yard during a thunderstorm.  They dug out under the gate and disappeared. A couple of days later we got a call that Rip had been hit by a car on Highway 19.   

Linda took him to the vet and they hoped he would recover, but went into convulsions and had to be put down. Ginger wandered back home a couple of days later.

Cinnamon was never bothered by storms until lightning struck the house, burning out two TVs and a computer. She was in her wire kennel and I guess she got a shock. Now she will not go near her kennel when it thunders. 

Mika is not bothered by anything.   

With all the thunder Sunday night, we moved their beds to our bedroom. All went well until the thunder got loud about 1:00 AM and Ginger started whining.  I finally got her into the bed where she buried under the sheet at our feet and went to sleep. The other two slept happily on their beds.   

All three are pretty useless.  Mika lives to chase a tennis ball and would kill himself chasing it if we kept throwing it.  Ginger just waddles around unless chasing Mika and the ball. She will not bring it back, though.   

With Cinnamon’s nose, I thought I might teach her to trail deer.  She can sniff out a lost tennis ball in the weeds and loves to trail squirrels in the back yard.   

A few years ago, I shot a deer that left a little blood trail but I could not find it. I got Cinnamon and put her on the trail. She would sniff the blood, follow it a few feet, then get distracted by a squirrel or sound in the woods. I don’t have a clue how to train a trail dog and never found that deer.

Dogs are wonderful companions, most of the time!

Naming Places On A Lake

I spent the week before Easter at my place at Clarks Hill “social distancing” myself and meeting DJ Hadden to get information for my May GON article.  When I called Linda on Wednesday and told her I caught a two-pounder in Broken Rod Cove and a four-pounder on Lost Hat bank, she knew exactly where I had fished.   

I think it’s a habit of fishermen and hunters to name places they frequent. Over the years Linda and I named most of the coves and points we fished. But some of the names went back a long way before that.   

When Clarks Hill was dammed it filled an old gulley that ran along a road going across the lake.  Alongside the old road, the gulley banks dropped off between five and ten feet to the water level.  We called that place The Cliffs and my church group camped there often.   

When my family first started camping we put up our tents between the old road and the gulley and spent many happy days and nights there. We swam during the day, trying to touch bottom in the “bottomless” gulley.  I found out later in life with my sonar it was about 15 feet deep but we never could go down that far.   

At night we built a fire on the edge of the cliff, put out our catfish baits and sat around the fire, often all night.  I can still smell the pine logs burning and the burn of the smoke blowing in my eyes, and hear the adults’ low voices as I tried to fight off sleep.    

The Corps of Engineers closed off the old road, denying access to the cliffs.  Then they dug out the banks of the cliffs for dirt for road construction.  The gulley is still there underwater but gone are the memory-making places on the bank.   

Lost Hat bank got its name from a windy March day Linda and I fished it.  She had bought a nice terry cloth hat with a bill and was wearing it for the first time. A gust of wind blew it off her head into the water. Unlike other caps that will float long enough to pick them up, hers sank before I could turn the boat to get it.   

A cove we fished often for crappie and bass got the name Broken Rod cove after I broke not one but two rods while fishing it one year.  We spent many happy hours dabbling minnows and jigs around button bushes when the crappie were up shallow and caught bass around its rockpiles and stumps year-round.   

Carp Cove was named after mom and I fished it one day and saw a huge carp dying on the surface.  Turtle Cove was full of willow trees in the back and there were always dozens of turtles sunning on the low limbs and trunks and keeping a wary eye on us as we fished in the spring. I could almost hear them say “please don’t get so close I have to get back in that cold water.”   

Duck Cove, Cathy’s Cove, Swallow Island and many more places were named over the years. Unfortunately, when I go to those places alone now the “ghosts” of the past haunt me.  I get too sad to really want to fish, remembering and realizing those times are gone and will never come again.

COVID-19 and Fishing Trips

The COVID-19 virus has disrupted our world in many ways.  Fortunately, fishing is on the “essential” list and being out on the water is a good way to social distance yourself.

Pictures on “Fazebook” show that many folks are taking advantage of time off and cheap gas to go fishing.

The week before the full moon in April – last week – is considered by many to be the best week of the year to fish.  Catches on all area lakes seemed to back that up.  This week may be the second best of the year.

Although fishing is allowed, I worried about going to Alabama since I had to stay two nights in a motel. It did not help when I got to the Motel 6 where I had reservations and the door was locked. They did check-in through the night window only. And the opening was closed off, I could barely hear the proprietor asking me questions.  He did not even take my driver’s license to copy as is usual, he just copied down the number through the window. 

Since I prepaid, he did not have to touch my credit card.

I usually eat out, but this time I took prepared meals I could heat up in the microwave in my room.  And as soon as I got in the room I wiped everything down with sanitary wipes.

The Flint River Bass club canceled our tournament last weekend at Oconee.  Although we could have gone, keeping six feet apart is difficult when collecting and paying out money as well as weighing fish. And as tournament director I would have been the one handling all the money!

Safe is better than sorry. We can have a tournament later!

Pond Scum Not Grass In Yard

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

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

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

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

Social Distancing Like a Sportsman

Seven Ways to Do Social Distancing Like a Sportsman
By Whit Fosburg, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
from The Fishing Wire

Families all over the world are experiencing serious life impacts due to COVID-19. Aside from health impacts, businesses are closing, travel is banned, schools are being moved to virtual classrooms, and many people are afraid.

So what can you do to make the most of this difficult time? First, you must follow all health advice and wash your hands, abide by social distancing rules, and take this seriously to protect you and your loved ones.

But here are seven other suggestions for making the most of this unexpected off-season from, well, everything.

Pick Up Your Laptop or LetterheadNow is the time to write your member of Congress on the key policy issues that will make a difference when you get back outside. Whether it’s passing the Great American Outdoors Actdigitizing public access routes, or preserving migration corridors, we’re here to help you get your message in the right hands.

Check out our one-stop advocacy shop here.

Get Out and ScoutMalls, bars, and restaurants may be closed. Concerts canceled and museums shuttered. But fear not: Now is the perfect chance to get outside and scout. Look for deer sign from last year and plot your next hunt. Listen for gobblers. Look for late season sheds. Explore that tributary you’ve always been curious about but have never fished. You’re away from the crowds, getting good exercise, and advancing your skills in the woods. (If you do encounter others, say, on our public lands, maintain six feet of distance, per CDC recommendations.)

Practice, Practice, Practice

Can’t get to the range? This is a great time to set up a target in the backyard and practice your archery skills (or, if you live in very rural areas, your rifle skills). Break out the fly rod and a hula hoop and practice your casting. You may be surprised how much you can improve.

Feed a FamilyThis is a good time to sort through your freezer and donate your harvest or catch to the local food bank. There are many families in need right now, so if you have extra, be generous and make sure we’re all doing our part to help our neighbors.

Try a New Wild Game RecipeThat bag of venison labeled “sausage”? Those snow goose breasts? Take a risk, and try a new dish. We recommend checking out MeatEater’s recipe log for something like venison fennel lasagna or rabbit schnitzel.

Reload, Repair, and Tie

For those of you who load your own ammunition, this is a great time to get ahead. Refinishing a stock that’s taken a beating over the years? Do it now. And with trout season around the corner, it’s time to replenish your fly box. Even if you’ve never tied a fly and always been curious, why not start now? YouTube is waiting.

Read Hunting and fishing have always inspired great writing. From Theodore Roosevelt’s many volumes on hunting to Norman Maclean’s classic prose on fishing and life in A River Runs through It, catch up on classics. Or try something new, like Mark Kenyon’s exploration of our public lands in That Wild Country

For more on TRCP’s conservation efforts, visit

Are You Prepared For A Crisis?

To each his or her own. While some panic and buy toilet paper, others with more rationality stock up on ammo and buy guns.  Those waiting until now to do so are kinda late. Many of us have many guns and thousands or rounds of ammo stored away.   

The Brady bunch, in their daily money begging emails, are all in a dither about so many people buying guns and ammo.  They hate that rational people know in times of panic and breakdown of society, the only thing that will protect you is a gun, just like in normal times.   

For those asking what we are afraid of, the answer is “nothing.”  Just like keeping a fire extinguisher or first aid kit handy, we are not scared of fire or minor injuries, we are just prepared for any possibility.   

This crisis will pass with things returning to normal for most of us. For some old at-risk folks like me, we may not survive, but for the great majority life will return to what passes for normal.   

But under worse case scenarios, city folks will not be prepared to survive without food and other necessities delivered regularly.  There are even memes, somewhat tongue in cheek, with those dependent on daily supplies saying they will go to the country and take what they want from those of us that are prepared and have food.   

One meme I like shows the response to that.  It says, “You do realize you are talking about stealing from those that have to decide each day which gun to take with them in their truck?”     

There are great stories of people and businesses helping others out in crisis.  But there are always those that are jealous of what others have and want to take it.    You do not have to be paranoid to be prepared, not just when a crisis hits but every day.

Covid-19 Hurts Us All

The Spring that Wasn’t – Covid-19 Hurts Us All

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

I just spent a couple hours listening to a collection of my Florida fishing guide buddies complain that all their spring charters are cancelling just at the time when the spring bite has gone off both inshore and offshore. It’s a time when many of them make a major portion of the income that carries them through the rest of the year.

Each year, beginning around St. Patrick’s Day and continuing through May, the coastal fish in Florida go bonkers as all the bait begins to move in and the fish gorge themselves, packing on weight prior to late spring and summer spawning times.

Inshore, it’s snook, reds and trout, while off the beach it’s king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia. Tarpon will be along soon, typically when water temperature hits about 75. Fish are practically jumping into the boats. Some guides run two trips a day during this period.

This year, they’re sitting at the docks. And they’re pissed. Many blame over-reaction by the government and the media. Even driving down to the Florida Keys as a non-resident is impossible. Hotels and marinas are shut down. Most of the big fishing piers are closed statewide.

Most of my pals are not math majors. Me either—that’s why I started adult life as a fishing guide instead of an astro-physicist. But it seems to me the part a lot of us are still not getting is that we are, unfortunately, very early in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the overall percentage of those who have tested positive in the U.S. is relatively low as this is written, about 20,000 on a population of 320 million, it’s the rate that the infection number is going up that is concerning the smart, dedicated people charged with controlling this outbreak.

In fact, I’m writing this Saturday—it’s safe to say that by Monday, the number is going to be closer to 30,000 than it is to 20,000. It’s doubling about every 6 days per the CDC. Multiply that out a few weeks (yes, I’ll have to use a calculator) and even us guide-types can begin to see a very serious potential problem. A problem, in fact, the likes of which we have not had to face in the modern era.

What’s happening in Italy, a fully modernized Western democracy where hospitals—and morgues—are completely overwhelmed, is a more likely projection of where we’re headed than what happened in China, where the Communist regime clamped down with vice-like restrictions that would stop cold the hearts of every member of the ACLU, but also stopped the virus spread among the populace, at least for the time being.

I was among those who early-on believed “it can’t happen here”, but clearly it can and it is. We can hope that the malaria drug with antibiotic turns out to be a miracle cure or at least a palliative, and that a vaccination arrives super fast—but super-fast in that world is at least 12 months. Until then, the only remedy is for us to pretty much stay away from each other, and to wash hands and/or disinfect pretty much anything that comes to our door.

To be sure, the people that are most hurt by a complete shutdown will be small businesses and single-operators like fishing guides. They aren’t going to get unemployment checks, but their boat payments will continue. So will their rent or mortgage payments, and the cost of groceries and shoes for their kids. While some go to other work when guiding slows, there won’t be as many of those jobs available this year as the economy grinds to a halt. (Amazon and Walmart are hiring fast to handle online ordering, but other jobs are disappearing faster than the last ice in Minnesota.)

One plus out of this, when we come out the other side, is that the fish—which don’t catch COVID-19—are getting a long vacation from fishing pressure. Fishing should be great when we can get back to it. And for the meantime, if you have a secret angling spot you like to sneak off to on your own, there’s very little risk—and the fresh air and the chance to get away from CNN and FOX will probably do you good.

We’ll come through this, and it won’t take long for the American economy to gear up and get back to business as usual. In the meantime, we’re all going to have to hunker down and play with what we’ve been dealt, in the Spring that wasn’t.