Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Growing Up On A Farm In Rural Georgia

  I loved growing up on a farm in rural Georgia in the 1950s and 60s.  Most of my memories are of fun times exploring my world, the close-knit life of loving family and friends, and a happy life.  Others are of hard work and strict discipline that taught me to be a productive member of society.   

Hot weather always reminds me of our house without air conditioning. We had fans and open windows, and at night I often moved my fan to the foot of the bed, hung the sheet so the wind would blow under it and cool me off.    Rain showers at night bring back memories of the sound of rain hitting our tin roof, lulling me to sleep. And the cooler air was welcome, even though it was muggy. 

Daytime showers meant mud puddles to play in, from splashing through them on foot or bicycle, to floating any piece of wood that instantly became a sailboat.  

There was nothing quite as refreshing as a cold watermelon, deliciously red, sweet and juicy.  And we kept the rinds for watermelon rind preserves, placed on hot buttered toast or biscuits and gobbled down for breakfast or a snack during the day.   

We had a big butcher knife we used to cut open the watermelon and slice it into half moon pieces just right for holding and eating, with juice running down my chin.  The adults were more careful, cutting off bite size pieces with the same butcher knife or another kitchen knife.   

I was finally allowed to use the butcher knife to cut and slice the watermelon, with careful instructions, when I was about eight.  The knife was very sharp, and the wooden handle had no hand guard.   

One day, after eating my slice of watermelon down to the white rind, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to stab it. It sat on the wooden platform in the front yard under the shade of a huge pecan tree, our usual place to enjoy them.    

When I held the knife in my right hand and stabbed straight down, the blade stopped but my hand did not.  My palm slid all the way down it. I will never forget the pain, then looking at my open palm and seeing the cut meat standing open before the flood of blood.   

Mama wrapped my hand in a towel and daddy rushed us to the emergency room.  Lying on the table, with my right hand extended and mama on my left side, I felt the sting of the needle as the doctor numbed it. Then I felt nothing.   

I kept trying to turn my head to watch as the doctor put eight stitches in, closing the cut, but mama kept my head turned toward hear, softly talking to me.  Then she stopped talking and asked why I was staring into her eyes.  It suddenly dawned on her I was watching the doctor work in the reflection in her glasses!  

 I can still see the light scar line across my palm and the tiny cross lines where the stitches closed it up over 60 years later.   

Most summer experiences were a lot more fun.  Damming Dearing Branch, building tree houses and huts in the woods, making rock forts, fishing in every bit of water from the branch on our property to nearby farm ponds to Clarks Hill on wonderful camping trips.    

All those override the memories of gathering eggs from our 11,000 laying hens and the smell of the droppings on a hot summer day, standing for hours candling and grading them and then loading cases of them into the cooler or onto the truck for delivery.

My most hated job, washing down the pen where we fattened pigs for slaughter or sale, was one of my daily chores for years. The pen was a 40 by 80 foot shed, dived into two sides by a wood fence, with a sloping concrete floor.  There were about 40 pigs on either side.

Each day I had to hook up the hose and wash all the raw pig manure down to the trough at the end of the floor where it drained into an open pond.  The stench was almost unbearable, and I felt like I stunk all night from doing it, no matter how much I scrubbed in the shower.

I would not give up those memories, good and bad, for anything!

Cooking Game and Fish

Following the Recipe!

     I love to cook, especially things I have caught, killed or grown. Mama was a fantastic cook, making big meals every day on the farm for daddy, my brother and me and three or four farm workers.  She taught me to cook like her, country farm cooking, and used to laughingly say I needed to learn to cook since I would never find a woman to cook for me.   

She was wrong in that, Linda is a great cook, but she really does not like to, so I do most of the cooking at home.  We set that routine when, in our first year of marriage, Linda taught school while I finished my last year at UGA.  She got home late and I was home early every day, much less tired than her, so I did the cooking.   

I have cooked most anything I could catch or kill over the years.  While in college I shot a raccoon and cooked it for dinner.  I thought BBQed coon was good but Linda not so much.  The same for a beaver I cooked a few years ago. I will never do that again, not because it did not taste good to me, but because it was the most difficult animal I have ever tried to skin.   

Gar taste good but are hard to clean, you start with tin snips.  Carp and shiners are ok if you like a mouth full of bones in every bite. I have at least ten ways to cook bass filets, from fried to nuked with picante sauce to baked with wine and cheese sauce, and like them all.   

I cook a lot of venison.  Each day I get recipes in email from Taste of Home magazine and try many of them.  Some are great and I cook them often, others are ok but either a lot of trouble or not a favorite. They are usually one hit wonders.   

In the past few weeks I have cooked Bobotie, a South African dish that has ground meat.  It falls into the second category in two ways, it is difficult to cook and has a flavor that is just ok. It is the sweet spices in it, tamarind and raisins, that remind me of the pigeon pie with cinnamon and raisins I had in Marrakech, Morocco.  Sweet meat is not that good to me.  

  Others in the first category include cabbage roll casserole, a simple way to make cabbage rolls if you do not like rolling the leaves.  It is a one dish meal, just add a little cornbread.  That is a great meal when camping – just heat a bowl of leftovers in the microwave.   

Asian noodle casserole is very simple, with ground meat, ramen noodles and a bag of broccoli stir fry veggies.  Another one dish meal.  Roast in the crockpot with ranch and au jus dressing is delicious and very simple.    

I use the crock pot a lot for everything from venison steak with peppers and onions or mushroom soup to venison stew meat with BBQ sauce.  It is a simple way to cook and keeps venison moist.

On fishing trips, most guys stay in motels and eat in restaurants, but I much prefer camping and grilling.  Venison is too dry to grill, so I always do chicken, steak and pork chops on the grill, and am usually done eating before the guys in the restaurant can get their order.

I never order steak when I do go out – I have not found one that taste as good as what I grill. I try to find fried scallops, my favorite, and I have never been able to cook them just right at home.

I’m hungry, I am going to cook something.

Some Bass You Catch, Some You Lose

 If you fish for bass very much, you will have many experiences landing some bass you should not and losing some you should land.  Some seem stupid, some funny and some just weird.  I had four such experiences this past weekend in two tournaments.   

Saturday at West Point in the Potato Creek tournament, I pulled up on a hump where I have caught a few bass in the past.  My first cast produced a hit and I landed a 2.52 pound spot, a good size one for West Point.   

A few casts later with the shaky head I got another bite, set the hook and fought another 2.5-pound spot half way to the boat. It jumped and threw the hook. Why did it come off when the first one did not? 

Then a few cast later, this time with a jig and pig, I hooked another 2.5-pound spot, fought it to the boat and could see it down about four feet deep. Then it just came off.  Why? I will never know.   

Sunday in the Spalding County tournament at Sinclair I was fishing down the bank with my boat about six feet out from a grass bed.  I saw a nice bass swimming along in two feet of water, headed the same way as the boat but a little faster.   

I have seen cruising bass like that many times and have never caught one of them. But I cast ahead of the bass anyway with my shaky head. The line started moving away from the bank and I set the hook and landed a 3.4 pound largemouth.   

A few minutes later I cast to a boat dock post and as my shaky head sank the line started moving under the dock. I set the hook hard enough to make the drag slip a little. I have it set that way to keep from breaking my line.  The fish felt strong as it ran under the dock but it just came off the hook.   

I kept fishing and landed my fifth fish at about 1:00 and decided to head back toward the ramp. But I stopped at the dock where I had lost the fish, cast the same bait to the same post, and as it sank it started under the dock.  This time I landed a 3.52 pounder!  I am sure it was the same fish. 

I can not remember ever going back and catching the same fish after losing it.

Docks make for some interesting experiences.  A couple of years ago I cast a Chatterbait behind a dock and my line went over the corner post. As soon as the bait hit the water a bass grabbed it.

I automatically set the hook and reeled a two pounder up out of the water. Somehow it hung there until I could get the boat close enough to get the net under it.

The same thing happened at Weiss. I cast a shaky head behind a dock and the wind blew my line over a post. When I got a bite I set the hook and reeled a three pound bass up in the air.

As I tried to get close to it, the line suddenly came off the post and the bass took off, pulling hard. I knew my line was frayed from the post but somehow the line held and I landed the fish.

One of the oddest things happened at West Point years ago. I cast a jig to a small brush top right on the bank. I felt a tap and set the hook.  The line did not move, I thought I had just hooked the brush. I pulled trying to get it free but could not.

I got close enough to the brush in the muddy water to push my jig off the limb it was hung on with my rod tip, and as I did and raised my rod tip, a two pounder was still hooked. I think I stunned it yanking it against the limb and it never fought!Sometimes you land those weird fish, sometimes you lose them.

What Are Cicadas?

You may hear a humming sound when near woods this spring and early summer.  What is often called locusts locally are actually cicadas and there are a variety of them.  Some come out of the ground and transform into adults every year, other groups emerge every five, seven, 13 and 17 years. 

   The most talked about are the “17-year locusts,” a big group that comes out every 17 years in huge numbers and are named “Brood IX.” This year as many as 1.5 million adults may emerge per acre in some areas.   

Female Cicadas lay their eggs on woody parts of trees and bushes. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs go into the ground and grow, eating plant roots. They grow for the years for their species, emerge from the ground, then climb up a tree or bush a few feet and come out of their shell, developing wings.

Males “sing” by rubbing membranes on their body making the sound we hear that attracts females.  After they mate, the cycle starts over.   

My grandfather died when I was six years old, but I vaguely remember his small farm.  A tiny field was surrounded by pine trees, and whenever I visited, I would go out there and find Cicada husks clinging to the bark and collect them.  Sometimes I found a one or two, other times dozens.   

I have found the husks around Griffin, too.  At the hunting club and on my land, if I look carefully, I can find them.  The light brown husks are hard to see on the bark but they do stick out a little to help spot them.   

A few years ago I was fishing Lake Sinclair and we could hear the Cicadas singing in the woods. The surface of the water was covered with dead bugs. Their bodies were reddish brown and were everywhere.   

After fishing about three hours without a bite, I finally decided to “match the hatch” and tied on a red worm.  I immediately started catching bass. The bass were feeding on the dead Cicadas that had died in the water and fell to the bottom and were so focused on that food source any other color did not attract them.   

Carp are usually hard to catch on artificial bait, but during the Cicada hatch they come to the top and eat floating bugs.  You can tie a fly that looks like the dead Cicada and catch them on a fly rod, about the only time you can do that.   

This year the reason there are so many Cicadas is the 13 and 17 Cicadas cycles are matching, so both groups are coming out at the same time.   

Listen for the humming sound and know that is just one of amazing parts of nature’s life cycle.

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!