Category Archives: weather

Frog Tog Rainsuits Have Failed Me Three Times

  If rainy days and Mondays always get you down like they do “The Carpenters,” last weekend and the first of this week was definitely a low time.  Some folks let rain stop their outdoor activities, which means fewer people on the lakes while I am fishing!

    I am not crazy about camping in the rain, even though I have a nice slide-in pickup camper now.  But it is small and not really comfortable for sitting around inside. I carry a screen room with me to sit in outside and it is good until it really pours.

    Grilling is a challenge in the rain but it’s possible, especially if you are fast and have a covered grill. The key is keeping your charcoal dry in the bag and keep the rain off it until you light it.

    There are lots of little tricks to make camping in the rain better. From something as simple as keeping some rice in your saltshaker so it won’t clog to having a good rainsuit make a big difference.

    Rainsuits come in a wide variety of costs and quality, from those that keep you nice and dry to those that are about as effective as a screen door. 

Years ago, when they first came out, I got a set of “Frog Togs,” a new brand of rainsuit.   I loved it – for about a year. 

It was lightweight and kept me completely dry. Then on a trip to Clarks Hill I put it on, got in the boat in the rain and every bit of my clothing was soaked within minutes.

I figured the set was old so I got a new set, and got soaked the first time I wore it.  That’s when I went and bought an expensive set of Columbia light-weight rain gear. I have a set of heavy Cabellas Guide Wear that is great in the winter but too hot to wear unless it’s cold.

A couple months ago I was at Eufaula to do an article and realized I left my rainsuit at home. Since rain was predicted, I went to Walmart to get something. The only thing they had that seemed reasonable was a set of Frog Togs, so I bought them.

I didn’t need them until last Saturday at Wedowee. I put the pants on before we took off since the boat was wet. When it started raining an hour or so later, I put the jacket on.

Almost as soon as I sat down I felt rain leaking around the crotch seams on the Frog Togs. Within an hour or so of light rain, there was not a dry thread anywhere on my body.

I will get a used laundry bag for a rainsuit before I ever buy Frog Togs again.

Lake Lanier Will Never Fill Up and Atlanta Will Run Out Of Water

Lake Lanier is several feet above full pool. Seems like just yesterday it was 20 feet low and the true believers were insisting climate change would keep if from ever filling again and Atlanta would run out of water soon.   

An interesting post on “Fazebook” shows two Georgia maps.  One, from last October, shows the whole state in a “severe, debilitating and dangerous drought” according to representative Terry England.  The current map shows the whole state with a rain surplus and no dry areas at all.   

Many times I have heard the six Georgia Aquifers, underground water reserves that provide drinking and crop irrigation water as well as keeping our rivers flowing, would never recover from recent drought conditions. But they have, every time.    Other than a few lakes like West Point that is being pulled down to accept water coming down the Chattahoochee River from Lanier, our lakes are full to over full. 

My back yard has been underwater for several weeks, with anywhere from one to four inches of standing water.  I joked that I was checking the farmers Almanac to find the best rice planting dates for middle Georgia.   

I moved into this house in 1981.  The yard has flooded like this at least a half dozen times in the past 39 years.  My garage floor is about six inches above ground level.  This year water has gotten to the edge of it but not inside.  A few years ago it actually flowed through the garage.

And other years it has been dry and dusty, to the point of flowers dying that I planted around the edge of the yard and having problems with my well running dry.    No doubt many will say all this is a sign of the dreaded climate changie thingie.  I call it weather.

Hot Hands Hand Warmers Can Be Worth Their Weight In Gold

Hot Hands Hand Warmers

 When I first joined a bass club I had no idea bass would bite during the winter.  But a January, 1975 tournament at Jackson taught me they would.  Six bass weighing more than six pounds each were weighed in.   

I thought I would freeze that cloudy, windy day with sleet all day long.  I had worn my winter hunting clothes that were fine for deer hunting in the fall or walking winter fields and woods looking for squirrels, rabbits and quail, but they were not fine for sitting in a boat in 32-degree wind and sleet!   

A catalog at home from a new mail order company, Bass Pro Shops, offered snowmobile suits and boots.   I ordered both the next week.  The thick insulated jumpsuit was water resistant and repelled sleet and snow, but I had to get a good rainsuit to go over it.   

The boots were very heavy, with inch thick felt liners inside. I knew if I ever fell out of the boat they would take me to the bottom, so I never tightened up the string at the top, leaving them where they would easily slip off.  Of course, with everything else I wore, getting out of the boots probably would not make much difference.  This was way before the small auto inflatable life jackets I now wear at all times.   

I had some of the old hand warmers, the ones you filled with lighter fluid, lit and put in a case in your pocket.  When they came out I got the ones that used a charcoal stick and put it in a cloth lined case to put in a pocket to keep you warm.    Both kinds were messy and hard to use, and inconsistent staying lit, but they helped.

A few years later I saw a product called “Hot Hands” at Berry’s Sporting Goods that did not make sense.  It was a small cloth pouch with grit in it that, when taken out of a plastic bag, shook up and put in your pocket, it warmed up.  Since I taught science at the time I was able to figure out the iron dust inside rusted really fast when exposed to air, producing heat.

Hot Hands make a huge difference when fishing this time of year.  They are not messy or bulky and are easy to use.  I can put them in my boots before leaving home and they are still warming my toes up nine hours later. One in each jacket pocket lets me put hands in them one at a time when driving the boat or even fishing a slow-moving bait to warm them up.  A few scattered inside my heavy suit keep my body toasty.

I was a press observer at the 2015 Bassmasters Classic on Like Hartwell. On practice day I rode with David Kilgore, watching him figure out patterns for eight hours.  I could not fish, just sit and talk and watch.

The air temperature was eight degrees that morning, but it warmed all the way up to 20 degrees during the day. And the wind blew. I was comfortable all day though, since I had hot hands in the toes of each boot, in each outside coat pocket for my hands, and four in inside pockets against my body.  I even put one under my cap before putting on a stocking cap and pulling my hood over it. 

Two-packs of both hand or toe warmers are about $1.75 at Berrys and bulk packs are cheaper.  They really help and I don‘t leave home without them this time of year.

Loving Warm January Weather, And It Is NOT Unprecedented

I loved the warm January weather while fishing the Flint River club tournament last Sunday at Jackson. 

Many folks are claiming this weather is unusual for January. I even heard one talking head using the most over used word in our vocabulary right now – “unprecedented.” 

On Sunday. January 21, 1967, my senior year in high school, Harold and I talked at church about how warm it was and that we needed to go water skiing.  We wanted to be the first ones to go skiing that year.  As soon as church was over, we went home, changed clothes and grabbed some extra jeans and shirts.

On the way to the lake WBBQ radio station in Augusta said it was 71 degrees and it was sunny.  We got to Raysville Boat Club where my family’s ski boat was tied under a boat shed.  As we pulled up to the lake, we saw one of our friends that had skipped church that day out of the water skiing.

Harold and I both skied, but we were not the first that year. There have been many other very warm Januaries over the years, and many very cold ones. And there will be many more as the weather changes year to year.

Climate Change True Believers – You First

According to the web site and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, climate “models” show earth’s average temperature may be 2 to 9.7 degrees warmer in 100 years than it is now due to more carbon in the air. 

    According to climate alarmists, this means we must give up our way of life, including cars, warm houses, meat and many other staples of modern life to avoid this disaster that will wipe out life as we know it.

    A week ago last Thursday the temperature at my house was 75 degrees at 2:00 PM, 45 degrees at 7:00 PM and 35 degrees at 2:00 AM Friday. By 2:00 PM Friday it was 55 degrees.   

    The temperature dropped 30 degrees in five hours and 40 degrees in 12 hours, then warmed 20 degrees in the next 12 hours.  Yet noting died, all the trees, grass and wildlife survived.  Even my temperature sensitive tomatoes and peppers are fine.

    My house was warm and comfortable due to gas heat and a fire in my wood burning stove, two things climate true believers demand I give up.

    In his October 10 Griffin Daily News editorial, Walter Williams documents six times since 1969 that the climate change fanatics claimed life would end as we know it in 20 years or so if we didn’t give up our lifestyles.  Not a single one of those wild claims, nor the dozens other similar ones, ever happened.

    Just like gun control, climate change laws have nothing to do with guns or climate but are all about controlling us.  While normal folks have to give up comfort, happiness and personal protection, the ones that demand it continue to fly private jets to meetings where they come up with new schemes and go on trips on their private yachts, while being protected by armed security.

    When those flakes lead by example, giving up the things they demand I do without, I may pay a tiny bit of attention to then.

Stormy Weather

Thank goodness the guessed at stormy weather did not appear while we fished at Sinclair last Sunday. Just the thought of being on the lake in a lightning storm and memories of past experiences made me shiver. But I didn’t have to hide from them.

Two of my worst experiences were back in the 1970s. One June, Bobby Jean Pierce and I went to Bartletts Ferry several days before a tournament to practice. We camped at a marina near the dam but wanted to explore up the Chattahoochee River

Back then, the river channel was not marked, and dangerous big mud flats were unknown to most fishermen. We spent some time working our way up the river, learning how to run it. And we caught fish. They were unpressured since few bass fishermen went up there.

One muggy, cloudy afternoon we were fishing near the mouth of a small creek. It was very hot and still. Suddenly, without warning, lightning cracked nearby. We thought about running the 20 minutes back to camp, but we were afraid to try it in the wind and pouring rain that immediately started.

We eased into the creek that was about five feet deep and 30 feet wide and had overhanging trees. We thought the lightning would surely hit the trees, not us, back in there. I sat up front running the trolling motor, keeping the boat in one place since the wind tried to push us out of the creek.

After a half hour I noticed the boat was not moving. When I looked down, there was several inches of water in the bottom of the boat. The rain had filled it up so much the weight had pushed the big motor into the bottom, anchoring us.

Finally, about an hour later, the storm moved off.
We managed to pump the water out, crank up and get back to camp just before dark. That was a miserable 90 minutes, sitting in the boat hunched over and jumping every time the lighting cracked around us.

The second time I was at Jackson on an August Friday afternoon, getting ready for a tournament the next night. It was just me and my dog Merlin this time. After putting in at Kerseys in the middle of the afternoon, I had found some fish biting on a point up Tussahaw Creek, but I wanted more than one place to fish.

About an hour before dark I ran to the dam to fish a point right beside it. The afternoon had been hot and muggy with thick clouds, but no rain fell. I guess those conditions should have warned me.

A little before dark wind started howling over the dam and rain started coming down in the proverbial sheets, blowing over the dam like a waterfall in reverse. Within seconds lightning started. There was no flash then a pause before the thunder. There would be a flash – crack – boom all together, indicating the lighting was on top of me.

Back then there was no buoy line at the dam, so I eased the boat right against the concrete. It rose 20 feet over me and I thought the metal railing and walkway on top of the dam would protect me like a lightning rod.

I put the front of the boat on the rocks and got down in the driver’s seat, wanting to be as low as possible. Merlin had the same idea. She huddled under the console at my feet. I wanted to join her!

We sat like that over an hour, twitching every time the lightning popped. Finally, about an hour after dark, the storm moved off and we went back to the ramp and headed home. Another miserable night!

Weather I Hate in March

This time of year produces weather that I hate. For most of my life lightning and tornados have terrified me and both are way too common in March.

When I was 12 years old a couple of us boys “camped out” on our big screened in porch. During the night a big thunderstorm hit and produced constant, bright flashes. Although I was completely safe, it scared me badly. Since that night my heart beats faster and I want to find a safe place in storms.

Last Friday I drove to Anderson, South Carolina to meet a Clemson Bass Team fisherman on Saturday to do an article on Hartwell. Sunday, I left and drove I-85 to Montgomery to meet an Auburn Bass Team fisherman to do article on the Alabama River on Monday.

Passing through Atlanta around noon I hit rain. It was not bad and did not slow me down much. But it got worse the further I went. The rain was so bad in places it was hard to see, and many drivers stupidly drove less than 30 miles per hour with their emergency flashers on, even in the far-left lane. Others pulled to the side of the road trying to wait for better weather.

About 20 miles from Montgomery, just after passing Talledega, brake lights ahead warned me traffic was stopped. All lanes came to a complete stop. Suddenly, my cell phone screeched with a weather alert. When it looked it was a tornado warning.

The rain was pouring, and the wind started rocking the truck. My concentration went to the ditches on both sides of the highway. I was looking for the safest place to hide.

Traffic started crawling along, and I gradually got to the wreck blocking the left lane. Several law enforcement vehicles with blue lights flashing sat in that lane. As I went around it, I wondered if a faster moving car had come up on one barely moving in the left lane. More that two cars were involved.

Although the wind and rain continued, I made it to Montgomery without any other problems. The next morning, I saw the news about the tornado that killed so many people less than 20 miles from where I had been sitting on the interstate.

My heart still beats fast when I remember the wind and how close I was to the death and destruction.

The fishing trips were not very successful. It was a pretty day on Hartwell, but there was a big high school tournament with about 200 boats in it that Saturday. They were everywhere, fishing places we wanted to put on the map for the article. We saw a couple of them catch bass while we were near them.

We fished a couple of places and caught some small spotted bass, but that was it. I was impressed the college fisherman would not get close to them. He was polite and courteous, which is unfortunately rare for many younger fishermen.

I was warned the Alabama River was running high and muddy, and fishing would be tough. But it was worse than expected. The water was eight feet high and the current so strong the boat at idle speed pointing upstream would actually go backwards downstream.

We tried to fish a couple of places but if the largemouth were shallow they were so far back in the woods we could not get a bait to them. And on the main river the spotted bass were probably hunkered down deep behind a break in the current and our baits swept by over them. Even with a heavy jig, the current swept it away too fast.

The wind and cold made it miserable to be on the water, too. We did not stay out long.

The warm weather we had in February worried me. If it warms up fast, it seems we have violent weather in March. That has been the pattern during my life. This weekend is supposed to be very warm, but thunderstorms are predicted. The Flint River Bass Club is on Sinclair Sunday and I expect to spend at least part of my day hiding under bridges and docks.

This year reminds me of 1975. It was the first spring after I bought my first bass boat and the last two weeks of February that year were very warm. I had ordered two plugs, Deep Wee Rs, that had just been introduced. Linda and I went to Clarks Hill the last weekend in February.

In two days, we landed 78 bass, including one over six pounds and another just under five pounds, on those two plugs. We found them feeding on three points near our place at Raysville Boat Club. On one of them, a hard clay point, Linda caught most of the fish on her brown crawfish plug.

On another, my chartreuse plug caught most of the fish. It was covered in white gravel and I think shad were the main food the bass were eating. On the third, a combination of rocks and clay, we caught about the same numbers.

Catching all those fish was fun. It got to the point we could call our bites. If we cast across the point at the right angle, as soon as the plug bumped the bottom we would get a bite. We would say “There’s the bottom, and there’s the fish,” each time we made the right cast.

Fish were constantly reloading those points that weekend. We would go to one, catch four or five then go to the next one and catch four or five. We rotated through them constantly all day both days.

I have caught a few fish on those points over the years but never those kinds of numbers again. Maybe someday.

Hurricane Impact on Fishing

Hurricane Impact on Estuary Gamefish

Though hurricanes can be hell for human residents of coastal areas, a new Texas study seems to indicate that they are not harmful to inshore fish, and may even be helpful.

By Evan Pettis | Biologist, Aransas Bay Marine Lab, Texas Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wir

Figure 1. Catch rates of red drum and spotted seatrout in TPWD fall gill nets. Figure 2. Angler catch rates of red drum and spotted seatrout.

Catch rates of red drum and spotted seatrout

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category four storm in the small fishing community of Rockport. Winds as high as 150 mph and a storm surge in excess of seven feet battered the town before the storm moved inland and unleashed record-breaking quantities of rain along the Texas coast. The economically important commercial and recreational fisheries were certainly not spared from the devastation left in the wake of this historic storm. A preliminary assessment conducted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that damages to the state’s fishing operations and fishing-related businesses exceeds $58 million.

As a biologist working in “Hurricane Harvey ground-zero,” a common question I’ve fielded from concerned constituents is “What are the ecological impacts of the storm on the fisheries of the Coastal Bend?”

It’s well-documented that major storms like Harvey can have lasting effects on estuarine communities. The greatest threat to shallow-water species is the rapid disruption of normal salinity regimes via highly saline storm surges followed by excessive freshwater inflows. Paired with increased organic loading, these hydrological changes can result in low-oxygen conditions that trigger fish kills. Fortunately, for the Aransas Bay system, these changes were highly localized and relatively short-lasting.

Hurricanes also impact the habitats that marine species rely upon. In the Coastal Bend, many oyster reefs were broken up by intense wave action and, in some spots, buried under thick layers of silt and debris. Seagrass beds, mangroves, and salt marshes also suffered considerable losses due to high winds and powerful waves. It will be quite some time before we fully understand how the effects of this habitat degradation propagate up the food chain. Fortunately, data from TPWD monitoring programs indicate that the immediate impacts on popular bait species (i.e. blue crabs, shrimp, and Atlantic croaker) were minimal.

Currently, recreationally and commercially important finfish appear to have actually benefited from the storm. Relief for these species comes by means of reduced harvest pressure. Local anglers were preoccupied with recovery and repairs and faced numerous obstacles to wetting a line in the wake of the storm. Public access to the bays was limited as boat ramps and fishing piers were damaged, and losses to private and for-hire vessels was extensive. Significant damage to bait stands and commercial shrimp boats also made bait difficult to procure. Lastly, visiting anglers struggled to find hotel accommodations in the months following Harvey.

To monitor fishing pressure and total landings, TPWD routinely conducts angler surveys and trailer counts at boat ramps. In September 2017, we documented an 85% decline in boating activity in the Aransas Bay system compared to 2016.We intercepted an average of only two fishing trip interviews per survey, down from 16 the previous year. In fact, more than half of September’s angler surveys had no fishing trip interviews. Fishing activity bounced back over the next few months, but still remains below average.

So what impact did reduced angler pressure have on our local fish populations?

To answer that question, we looked at data collected during TPWD’s biannual gill net sampling program. For our two most popular game fish, spotted seatrout and red drum, the results were extremely promising (Figure 1).

In the months following the storm, red drum were caught in the nets at a rate of 0.81 fish/hr, up from 0.67 fish/hr in 2016 and close to the 10-year average. Spotted seatrout were caught at a rate of 0.41 fish/hr, a huge improvement over 2016 (0.22 fish/hr) and the 10-year average (0.29 fish/hr). This data implies that these species are actually more abundant in Aransas Bay following Hurricane Harvey.

Moreover, data collected at angler surveys indicates that the higher abundances track well with higher catch-rates for sports fishermen (Figure 2).

Anglers were landing red drum at higher rates in September 2017 compared to the previous year, and at much higher rates than the 10-year average in October and November. Spotted seatrout were being caught at roughly twice the rate as the previous year and the 10-year average from September through November. Though still too early to say conclusively, it appears as though these trends have continued into the spring.

To better understand the long-term effects of Hurricane Harvey, TPWD will continue to closely monitor our fisheries in the coming months and years. Though we usually perceive hurricanes as purely destructive, it’s important to note that they are a recurring natural force acting along the Gulf of Mexico. Our ecological communities, including our highly-prized finfish, have evolved and adapted in response to these large storm systems and, as our data shows, can actually benefit from the occasional disturbance.

Recovery efforts in Rockport and the surrounding areas are making daily progress, and the local fishing community is gradually returning to normalcy. Boat ramps, marinas, bait stands, and fishing guides are rapidly getting back to business, partly due to funding set aside for Federal Fisheries Disaster relief. So if you find yourself with that burning desire to bend a rod, grab your fishing license and head down to the Coastal Bend. Aransas Bay is open for business and the bite is on!

Four Fishing Trips In A Week – Different Weather for Each

Four trips in the past week were fun but the weather was very different on each. I’m glad I now have suitable clothes for all kinds of weather. At Lake Martin in Alabama last week, it was very cold and the wind howled all day. But Anthony Vintson, an Auburn Bass Team fisherman, showed me how to catch a lot of bass there for a January Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article.

On Friday Tucker Sweat, a Georgia College Bass Team fisherman, showed me how he catches bass on Sinclair in January for my Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article. It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny and calm. Very different from the Tuesday three days earlier.

On Saturday the Potato Creek Bass Masters fished our December tournament at Jackson, the last one this year. It poured rain all day and was cold. Then on Sunday the Flint River Bass Club and the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished a two-club tournament at Jackson for our last tournament this year in those clubs. It was warm all day and sunny after about 10:00 AM. That is four totally different weather conditions on the lake in just six days!

In the Potato Creek tournament, after eight wet hours of casting, 17 competitors brought in 43 keeper bass weighing 80 pounds. WE don’t keep up with numbers of spots but almost all I saw were spotted bass.

Niles Murray came back strong from his medical leave to win with five wedging 12.14 pounds, Doug Acree placed second with five at 9.96 and had big fish with a 4.69 pounder, Tom Tanner was third with five weighing 9.75 pounds and Buddy Laster came in fourth with four weighing 9.12 pounds.

Everything I did was apparently wrong. I caught a keeper spot on a crankbait 15 minutes after blast off and thought I was on something, but two hours later I had not had another bite. I went back to the truck to try to find some dry matches and went back to where I started.

I caught a keeper largemouth beside the same rock where the spot had hit over two hours earlier. It hit a shaky head worm. Although I didn’t ride around a lot in the rain, I fished a variety of places with different baits but never caught another fish.

On Saturday, 16 members of the combined clubs fished for eight hours to land 37 keepers weighing about 56 pounds. There were only 12 largemouth weighed in. Four people had five-fish limits and there were five zeros.

Raymond English won with five at 10.49 pounds and had one of the biggest spots I have seen from Jackson, a 4.23 pounder, for big fish. Billy Roberts placed second with five at 7.92 pounds and Jay Gerson placed third with five at 5.70 pounds. Thanks to a tip on Saturday to use a smaller crankbait, I had five weighing 5.28 for fourth. Of course, Billy said he beat me with a very big crankbait.

Both days the water was stained a little and in the low 50s. That is usually a good combination this time of year, but fishing was tougher than hoped, as always.

Thanksgiving, Weather and Climate Change?

Thanksgiving came really early this year. A results of climate change, no doubt.

On a more serious weather note, we had our first freezing weather this past Tuesday, November 25. That is a little later than the average, since the historical average is on November 11. But the first freeze here on record was October 14, 1988. The latest was December 26, 1918. We were well within that range.

Weather and climate change. Weather changes day to day to day and even hour to hour, but climate change is a long-term trend over many years. No doubt it is changing, but how much is man made is open to debate unless you have an agenda and insist the science is “settled.” Real science is open to adjustments based on new information, and almost all science has changed over the years.

The day after Thanksgiving the National Climate Assessment (NCA) was released. This gloom and doom report, based on their computer models, came from government agencies with agendas. Their recommendations were that everyone sacrifice our lifestyles to avoid perceived catastrophes.

Some problems with this report include:

1. The report claims climate change will cost the US economy 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2100. But that projection is based on our climate being 15 degrees warmer by then.

That is a guess way beyond even the UN’s guesses from the International Panel on Climate Change. That group guesses the change at that time will be less than one-fifth, or just under three degrees, of that.

2. The NCA predicts more hurricanes, floods and wildfires. But last year, in the annual report for that year, it shows no increase in any of those. This has been a bad year for all three, they claim, but one major hurricane does not make a trend, and a state mis-managing their forest to protect endanger species, leading to worse wildfire dangers, does not equal climate change.

The NCA also uses timelines for their projections with arbitrary starting and ending dates, cutting off their information to show trends longer term timelines do now support.

3. The NCA report would lead to the IPCC recommendation of a huge carbon tax by 2030. That would increase your electric bill so much you could not afford to run air conditioners, heaters or most electric appliances. And your gas would cost would go us so much you could not afford to drive.

I will pay attention to the doomsayers when they lead by example. As soon as they walk or ride horses everywhere they go and stop all use of electricity produced by fossil fuels, including that used to charge their electric cars, I may pay a little more attention to them.

Last Thursday it was 27 degrees at daylight but 60 by 3:00 PM, a change of 33 degrees. But I didn’t see dead animals everywhere from that drastic change. The lake water at Lake Martin dropped five degrees last Tuesday in the six hours I fished, but dead fish didn’t float to the surface.

Like wildlife, we adapt to daily changes much more drastic than the projections from government agencies wanting to spend our money and make us change our lifestyles while not changing their own.