Eating Out At Restaurants While Fishing

One of the perks of traveling around Georgia and Alabama doing research for my Map of the Month articles is exploring places to eat.  Many of the places I eat are memorable, most for the good food, some not so much. And a couple literally gave me a stomachache.  

  I love to cook and most food I cook at home is better than what I can get in restaurants.  I never look for a steak, pork chops, Italian, or any kind of country cooking since that is what I cook at home.  And my fried bass filets are good enough I won’t eat fried fish in a restaurant. But I don’t do fried seafood very well and I love fried scallops, so I seek them out. 

My second choice, usually easier to find, is fried shrimp.    I am seldom in a big city, so I eat in small towns and around the lake.  And after driving several hours to get there, I don’t want to go too far for food the first day. After spending the next day on the water getting information, I really do not want to drive far that night.

Often, small hole-in the-wall type places turn out surprisingly good. And some of them have interesting histories and backgrounds.  A few years ago, when at Logan Martin Lake near Pell City Alabama, I found “The Ark,” a little nothing looking place with a very rustic interior just off the Riverside exit on I-20.

When I walked in I was greeted by my kind of people, with accents like mine. The wood paneling was dark from years of food frying in the kitchen, and the walls were decorated with racing memorabilia. Riverside is not many miles for Talladega and many famous stock car drivers have eaten at The Ark, most loving the catfish if their autographs are any indication.

The back of the menu tells the story of “The Ark.”  Back in the early 1900s most of the counties in that area were “dry” meaning you could not buy alcohol legally. This was long before the lakes were built and the Coosa River itself was the county line of the two counties there, but they considered the edge of the rive the county line.  So, the river itself was not under the jurisdiction of either counties’ law enforcement.

E. O “Red” Thompson, being an enterprising young man, bought an old barge and anchored it in the river about 30 feet from the bank.  He made a four-foot wide walkway to it and provided tie-ups for locals with boats to access the bar onboard.

A salvaged sign from that old bar said “Beer 15 cents” and “All the catfish and hushpuppies you can eat, 60 cents.”  Apparently, many folks had “fun” there, eating catfish and drinking their favorite beverages that were illegal on the nearby bank, all during prohibition and the roaring 20s. The original Ark burned and by then laws were more liberal, so Red build a restaurant on the bank near the road.  It too burned a long time ago, but the current restaurant was built across the highway.  No dates were given, but I would guess sometime in the 1950s.

Catfish is the staple on the menu, but you can get everything from chicken livers to frog legs. The jumbo shrimp I got that first night were exceptional, very lightly battered and fried to perfection.  The cup of gumbo started the meal just right and I loved the hushpuppies served with it.

Every time I am at Logan Martin for an article, I stay at a motel about five minutes from The Ark and have eaten there several times. Last summer the Potato Creek Bass Masters fished our July tournament there and I camped about 15 minutes away for a week, driving up two nights to splurge at The Ark.

Monday I drove over to Childersburg on Lay Lake, the next lake downstream on the Coosa River.  I checked and my GPS said I was 30 miles and 45 minutes from The Ark. After the miserable three hours drive in the rain, I just could not make myself do that, so I went to “La Parrilla,” a Mexican restaurant across the street from my motel.

It was a nice surprise, with bright fresh paint, excellent service and even better food.  I thought it must be new but one of my waiters said they had been there 14 years. I had my favorite, chili rellenos, and they were as good as I have eaten.After a rainy day of fishing Tuesday, I just had to drive up to The Ark Tuesday night for dinner. As expected, it was well worth the drive and the cup of gumbo and dozen big butterflied shrimp stuffed me just right.

Sinclair March Tournament Did Not Meet Expectations!

After Ricky Layton’s great catch on Friday, I could not wait to get on the water Sunday morning in the Flint River Bass Club March tournament at Sinclair. 

I should have known better.   

After fishing from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, 13 members landed 20 bass weighing about 36 pounds.  There was one five bass limit and five people didn’t catch a 12-inch keeper.   

Travis Weatherly won with five weighing 9.02 pounds and his 4.99 pound largemouth was big fish.  My three weighing 7.47 placed second and I had a 4.57 pounder for my biggest fish. Niles Murray placed third with three weighing 5.75 pounds and Brent Drake came in fourth with three weighing 4.20 pounds.   

The cold air made me shiver on my run to my first stop. Luckily there was enough wind to keep the fog down, it was wispy and hanging just off the water. But there was enough to make it scary trying to watch for all the floating wood.   

I stopped off a grass bed that was perfect for the pattern Ricky caught his big fish on Friday, but my heart sank when my temperature gauge hit 49 degrees.  A nine or ten degree drop just had to affect the bass. It surely did affect my optimism!    I fished three places in three hours without a bite. 

Around 11:00 the weak sun was warming the water a little, raising the temperature to about 51 degrees in the cove where Ricky caught a six pounder.  I cast a Chatterbait across in front of a grass bed, something thumped it and I set the hook.    My rod bowed up and the fish headed for deep water. I just knew I had a six pounder on, but suddenly my line went slack. The fish just pulled off without me ever seeing it.   

At noon I was in the area where Ricky caught two fish, hole #2. I was very down, fishing half the day without a keeper. The water had warmed to 52 so I had some hope. I cast my Chatterbait into some grass and hooked the four pounder I weighed in. That improved my attitude a lot.   

After another hour of fishing without a bite, I caught a two pounder in front of some grass, then at 2:00 PM landed my third keeper, a one pounder, from another grass bed.  That was it. I fished hard for the rest of the day without another bite.   

On Monday, the weather guessers said it would be in the 70s all week as I got ready to go to Eufaula for a week. I hope they were right, the Potato Creek Bassmasters are fishing our March tournament this weekend at Eufaula.I think I kinda wish we were at Sinclair!

Coronavirus and Fishing


Fishing in the Time of Coronavirus
No, this is not the Death Star, but some say it could be a very large problem for many of us considering its tiny size.

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

As this is written, the world is undergoing a level of mobilization unseen since World War II. Some of it may be over-reaction, but there’s no doubt that this is a real, no-kidding worldwide crisis that’s going to affect us all for months to come.

The enemy this time is not a mad dictator, but rather an invisible microbe—but one that apparently has the potential to be deadly to many of us. The human race seems to have almost no resistance to contracting it. In the U.S. alone, health authorities are estimating that over half of us might get it. While doubters are noting that not nearly as many have died from coronavirus as from other strains of flu, we are only in the first weeks of a curve that’s rapidly going upward.

And while the vast majority will recover quickly, just as with other strains of flu, some will not. The World Health Organization currently estimates a death rate of around 3 percent, while some other agencies have put the number as low as 1 percent. That does not sound like much until you look at the likelihood that, in the U.S., some 160 million of us are allegedly likely to get it according to federal health officials. One percent of 160,000,000 is 1.6 million. Three percent is 4.8 million.

Among those over 60, the death rate has been around 10 percent, approaching 15 percent for those over 80. The average age of the U.S. Senate is 61.8, and of the House, 57.8. Donald Trump is 73, Nancy Pelosi 79. It’s safe to say we can expect Washington to go all in to stop this disease.

But at this point there seems to be no stopping it, only alleviating the impacts. There are many folks out there who have it and don’t know it according to the CDC—the symptoms can be very minor for many, but they are still contagious.I’m not a doctor, and don’t play one on TV. But what the doctors—including my own son–are telling us is that the goal is to lower the rate of spread, which will mean that those who do get a serious infection will have a bed in the intensive care unit and a ventilator available if needed. A rapid spread, on the other hand, could make things difficult for all. Hospitals could be overwhelmed, as they apparently have been this week in Italy.

The fishing industry is doing the right thing. Over the past week I’ve had literally dozens of event cancellations come in to the Fishing Wire for posting, including some from nearly every state, and ranging in size from small regional game and fish meetings to massive boat shows that would normally generate millions of dollars for the industry. My friends in the guide business say business has fallen off a cliff.

While we’re all hoping this will subside in a couple of months and business will return to normal, if it does not, jobs at all levels will be affected, as well as the businesses that provide those jobs. Supply issues from China may also become huge if the current reduction in cases there proves short-lived—most tackle, lures and accessories used worldwide are made in China. To say nothing of our 401-K’s—don’t remind me.

In the meantime—one of the best things we can probably do is go fishing. Angling is a sport of low human density, lots of fresh air and plenty of sunshine, all of which give us the best shot at staying healthy. The same might be true for spring turkey hunting, hiking or camping. Getting outdoors also helps us reduce stress, something most of us can use right now.

Of course, for those at highest risk, the best advice is simply to stay home, period.It’s going to be a rocky few months, any way we slice it. Many of the conveniences and daily routines all of us expect as Americans may temporarily go by the wayside. (Like toilet paper on the Walmart shelf . . . .!)

But we’ll get through it. And we’ll come out the other side much better prepared to deal with the next of these bugs, highly likely somewhere on the horizon in this age of global travel and commerce, but hopefully many years in the future.

If you’re not already up to here with info on the virus, here’s a link to an article my M.D. son sent me, outlining the position of a lot of physicians at present: https://medium.com/@hjluks/covid-19-update-3-14-2020-a-message-from-concerned-physicians-33d00b88eefd

Ricky Layton’s Great Sinclair Catch

Call it a tale of two Sinclairs.  Or a tale of three lakes in only three days. Last weekend showed how fast bass fishing can change this time of year.  

   Last Friday I met Ricky Layton to get information for my GON April Map of the Month article.  The weather guessers were right for a change when they predicted high winds, bluebird skies and cold weather. That combination is usually the kiss of death for fishing in the spring.   

Ricky said we would meet at Bass’s Boat House, an old marina where the clubs used to put in back in the 1970s. It was near the dam and the water might be slightly clearer in that area, and we would be more protected from the wind. All this spring the flooding rains have made our lakes fill up with very muddy water.   

We waited until 9:00 AM to go out since it was cold.  The first two hours seemed to show the weather and muddy water was working against us. Ricky took me to some places he had caught good fish the weekend before, but the water was even muddier than it had been and we got no bites.   

At 11:00 Ricky was starting to look at the article pattern and caught an eight-pound largemouth on a bladed jig. The fish was up shallow near a grass bed, the pattern for April.  That is a big fish for Sinclair, it has been a long time since I have seen one that big there, although there have been several that were close the past few years.   

About noon we started fishing and marking places for the article, working bass bedding and shad spawning areas.  Ricky caught a five-pound largemouth out of a grass bed on what will be hole #2.  A few minutes later he caught one weighing about six pounds there.  

  The next place we fished Ricky caught another fish right at six pounds, on the same pattern, halfway back in a creek with grass beds up shallow on the bank.  One of the last places we fished he landed his smallest fish of the day, one that weighted about 3.5 pounds.  In all that time I landed one weighing about 2.5 pounds, but my excuse is I was too busy netting his fish and taking pictures and notes to fish.   

Ricky ended up with five bass weighing a conservative 28 pounds.  That is the kind of catch you dream about and expect on Guntersville, not Sinclair, especially under bad weather conditions.  The water temperature was 58 to 59 degrees where we fished, making those big largemouth were looking for bedding areas.     

On Saturday Ricky took his son fishing at Sinclair.  Although colder, the weather was better, but the fishing was not.  He said they did land a seven-pound fish out of hole #10 but their best five weighed “only” about 14 pounds, not great compared to the day before.

West Point Club Tournament in February

Sunday, February 23, 13 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our February tournament at West Point.  After fishing from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, we brought 31 keeper bass to the scales.  Ten of them were 14 inch largemouth and 21 were spots over the 12-inch size limit.  Three people had five fish limits and no one zeroed.   

Russell Prevatt won with five weighing 11.04 pounds and Zane Fleck placed second with five at 10.17 pounds.  Robert Proctor, fishing with Zane, had five weighing 8.30 pounds for third and Jay Gerson placed fourth with four at 8.10 pounds and had big fish with a 3.46 pounder. My four weighing 6.22 pounds was fifth.   

Robert told me he and Zane caught at least 20 keepers during the day. That always amazes me, I struggle to get four fish and others catch a bunch of them, doing exactly what I was doing!

After the Potato Creek tournament the Saturday before, I felt hopeful, but when I ran to the creek where I caught fish the week before, the water had come up 18 inches and the temperature had dropped five degrees! It was still very muddy, and there was already another bass boat back in it fishing.

I caught a keeper on a worm before 9:00 but then it got slow.  I probably should have left the creek and tried other places, but I was convinced bass were somewhere in that creek and stayed there all day.  It almost worked, I landed my biggest fish of the day at 2:00 PM and just knew they were moving up as the water warmed.

I had my chances, too.  About a dozen times I got bites and brought in half or no worm after setting the hook. They could have been small spots that are notorious about grabbing a worm but they are so small the tail of the worm is in their throat but the hook still outside their mouth.

But on one hookset, the fish was swimming to my left. When I set the hook, my rod bowed up and drag on my reel slipped, then the line went slack. I reeled in my jig and worm.  It could have been a gar that my hook could not stick, or it could have been a big bass that was clamped down on my jig head so tight the hook could not move and stick it. I will never know!  Thats fishing!

Tips on Catching River Run Walleyes

Big Walleye

Tips on Catching River Run Walleyes in Spring With Northland Pro Chip Leer
How to catch river-run spring walleyes

Winter’s waning moments signal the start of an annual rite of spring, as schools of spawn-minded walleyes surge upstream in rivers across the continent. Don’t let the cool water temperatures fool you, the spring run can produce some of the year’s best fishing for walleyes and sag-bellied saugers.

Team Northland Pro Chip Leer of Fishing The WildSide knows the drill.“My favorite fisheries are good-sized rivers flowing into larger bodies of water, like the Detroit River on the western end of Lake Erie, or the Rainy River at Lake of the Woods along the Minnesota-Ontario border,” he says. “Walleyes from the main lake congregate around the river mouth in late winter, then swim upstream to spawning areas—thereby boosting the walleye population into the stratosphere.”

To find fish fast, Leer often begins his walleye quest at the river mouth and works up from there, prospecting prime lies like channel edges, eddies and all sorts of likely-looking seams and current breaks.“Virtually anything that breaks the current or otherwise offers walleyes an opportunity to rest or feed is worth a try,” he says. “Main-channel holes rank high on my hit list. Holes are magnets for fish moving up and down the river, and often ‘recharge’ throughout the day as fresh waves of walleyes roll in.”

A variety of tactics take spring walleyes, from three-way rigging to trolling crankbaits along the bottom. For Leer’s money, vertical jigging is hard to beat. “You can jig from an anchored position or while slipping down-current, using your trolling motor to keep the line vertical,” he says.

Leer’s go-to leadheads include Northland Fishing Tackle’s Slurp! JigUV Whistler Jig and round-head RZ Jig. “These jigs hold live bait and plastics in place, and allow me to get a solid hookset,” he explains. “That being said, the relatively new Swivel-Head Jig is an up-and-coming choice. I like the way the jig’s rotating hook gives live bait and plastics more action than traditional fixed hooks.”

Leer recommends tipping your jigs with a flavorful artificial trailer like Northland Fishing Tackle’s IMPULSE Paddle MinnowSmelt Minnow or Ringworm. “Three- to 5-inch baits give walleyes a target in the low-visibility conditions common in spring rivers,” says Leer. “For added scent and taste, skull-hook a fathead or shiner minnow on top of the plastic bait.”

For best results, Leer advises keeping your jig strokes on the down low, especially early in the spring run. “Slow and methodical lift-drop moves tight to bottom trump crazy ripping maneuvers,” he says. “Some days, holding the jig still, within an inch or two of bottom, gets the most bites. As the water warms up and walleyes gravitate to shallow water near the bank, pitch your jig toward shore and experiment with different dragging, swimming and pendulum presentations,” he says.

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.

Rapala Pro’s Make Predictions for Bassmasters Classic

Rapala DT 6

Rapala Pro’s Make Predictions for Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville
Here’s a look at what some of the competitors think might be the winning combination at the Bassmaster Classic, kicking off today at Guntersville, Alabama.

Whether the fish move shallow or remain around offshore cover and structure this week, Bassmaster Classic competitors will catch many big bass on crankbaits, Rapala pros agree. Other go-to baits will likely include lipless crankbaits.

“A lot of those baits that will be key this week are your standard, classic springtime baits,” said Rapala Pro Seth Feider, a three-time Classic qualifier from Minnesota. “I don’t know if that will change, even with changing conditions. The colors you tie on might change if the water gets real dirty.

But I can guarantee some fish are going to get caught on a Rapala DT-6, no matter what.

”First-time Classic qualifier Patrick Walters agreed.“DT-6, of course,” said Walters, a second-year Elite Series Rapala pro from South Carolina. “Some DT-10 too. I think your key baits are going to be shallow- to mid-diving crankbaits and lipless crankbaits. I think we’ll be getting reaction strikes on something moving fast with trebles on it.”

DT stands for “dives to.” A DT-6 dives to a max depth of six feet; a DT-10 to 10 feet. Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, DT-series cranks wobble while swimming and deflect off cover to trigger bites from bass around both grass and rock.

If stable or falling water positions Guntersville’s bass this week in offshore, submerged vegetation, Classic competitors will swim DT’s over the top of it, making occasional contact and ripping free. If rising water draws bass to the bank, the pros will cast them around hard-bottom shorelines, making constant bottom contact on the retrieve and caroming off wood and rock cover.

The lipless crankbaits you’ll see Rapala pros slinging in the Classic are Rapala Rippin’ Raps and Storm Arashi Vibes. Those baits, along with DT-6’s, are “pretty traditional, Guntersville-type baits,” said Cody Huff, a collegiate Rapala pro-staffer competing in his first Bassmaster Classic. “You’re going to catch ‘em on those.”

A Storm Arashi Vibe helped Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe win last year’s Bassmaster Classic on Fort Loudon Lake, another Tennessee River reservoir. On the 2019 Classic’s first day, four bass in DeFoe’s 20-pound limit came on a Vibe, including a 6-pounder that was the biggest bass caught that day by any competitor. A 4-pound, 7 ounce bass he caught in the championship round on a Vibe allowed him to cull a smaller fish, solidifying his win.

Lipless crankbaits like the Vibe excel in the spring, when bass are first pulling up from deeper water and moving close to shallow spawning areas. Vibes start swimming at slower speeds than do other lipless crankbaits. They fall slower too, allowing you to fish them in shallower water at a slower speed. Featuring a soft-knock rattle, Vibes emit a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish. Storm is a Rapala Respected Brand.

First-time Classic competitor Bob Downey said he will be among the pros slinging DT-6’s and Arashi Vibes this week. “The DT-6 I don’t think will be a surprise to many people,” said the first-year Elite Series pro, a Minnesota native. “I’ve been catching some pretty good fish on it – good quality keepers and some that are above average.”

Offshore grass or shallow banks? Especially in the spring, when weather and water conditions can change quickly, bass tend to move a lot.“The more the water level drops, the more fish are going to be caught around deep water, with deeper-running crankbaits, towards the main river,” Walters predicted. “The more it comes up, the more they’ll be caught in pockets and up on the bank.”

Rapala pros interviewed on Monday said they were expecting higher water by Friday, because a lot of rain had been forecast. And higher water, they said, would likely pull bass away from offshore grass in which many were found last weekend in practice. Although not all the Rapala pros want that to happen.Feider, for one, said he hoped water levels wouldn’t rise, because that would keep offshore grass in play.

“I’d rather fish in the grass versus around the bridges or the riprap,” he said.

Huff expressed similar wishes.“What I’m really hoping for is that we don’t have too much rain,” he said. “I hope the river continues to drop, and not rise. If the river continues to drop, they’ll start to group up really good on some of those good offshore places in the grass, where you don’t have to just catch one here, one there. It’s a lot more fun when you can pull up, make one cast to get the school fired up, and then catch ‘em one after another.”

Walters, on the other hand, will be happy if water levels rise and pull bass to the bank.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said Monday. “I’m a bank-beater by heart.”

If the bass move shallow, Walters said, those fish could be relatively unpressured – a rarity on a popular tournament and recreational-fishing reservoir like Guntersville. “They’ll be up there and we’ll kind of get the first stab at them,” he said.

Interviewed Wednesday evening after his final practice round, Downey said water levels and conditions had not changed dramatically in his areas.“I caught most of my fish [Wednesday] similar to how I caught them last weekend,” he said. “So it didn’t really change a lot for me yet.”

Late Wednesday evening, more rain rolled through the area and continued through mid-afternoon Thursday. Clear, sunny skies were forecast for Friday and Saturday with clouds returning on Sunday.

No matter how the weather ends up positioning the fish, Rapala pros agreed they will need to tailor their gameplans to prevailing conditions.

“All I can do is start where they were and then just kind of let the day unfold,” Feider explained. “I’m just going to have to keep an open mind and adjust.”

“I enjoy fishing pretty shallow,” Downey said. “If they pushed shallow – more towards the banks – I wouldn’t mind that at all. But I would have to make some adjustments.”

2020 Bassmasters Classic Fans Are Different

The 2020 Bass Masters Classic is being held on Lake Guntersville March 6 – 8 with weigh-ins held in Birmingham.  This is the biggest tournament of the year on the pro circuit.

 I was quoted in Sports Illustrated a few years ago saying, “The Super Bowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football,” a twist on the usual comment.  I had no idea a writer for that magazine was sitting near me on the bus going to practice day on the lake for the pros.   

One thing some don’t understand about the fan support of pro fishermen. We are different from other pro sports.  We may watch our favorite pro catch bass on TV today then go out and try to catch them ourselves tomorrow, using the same baits and equipment the pro used.   

Other pro sports fans are viewers only.  They may have played the sport years ago in high school or even college, but almost none will be competing on the field tomorrow.  Bass fishermen keep competing all their lives.  

I have been lucky enough to spend time in the boat with many of the pros, including five of the 53 competing in this year’s Classic.  After hours of watching how they fish and questioning them on what they are doing and why they chose to do that, it always amazes me that they fish just like the rest of us. They just catch more and bigger fish.   

The Bassmasters Classic is a big event. I will not be able to attend this year but a trip to Birmingham next weekend to attend the huge outdoor show, meet the pros and watch weigh-ins would be a great way to spend some winter days.  Then you can come home and go fishing with the baits and equipment you bought at a discount at the show, fishing just like them.

Grande Ronde Public Access Provided By The Public!

Grande Ronde

New Angler Access to Open on Washington’s Grande Ronde
Editor’s Note: Here’s an amazing story about a dedicated group of Washington state anglers and cooperative land owners who might have created a model for fishing clubs across the nation, pooling resources with other clubs to buy access to prime private water that will become public as the group donates it to the state Department of Wildlife next year.
from The Fishing Wire

The Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) is excited to announce that we have secured a major victory for angler access and steelhead conservation by completing the purchase of an eight-acre parcel of land with 2,000 feet of riverfront on the lower Grande Ronde River in Eastern Washington. In the coming months, the WSC will donate this land to the Washington Department of Wildlife (WDFW), which will permanently protect this riverfront property from development and continue to provide public access to this famed summer steelhead river in perpetuity.

This project, which would not have been possible without the support of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane, the Washington Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International, is a testament to what the angling community can accomplish when we work collaboratively on behalf of anglers and wild steelhead. Together, these groups and hundreds of donors across the region raised more than $35,000 for the purchase of this unique property.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the previous landowners Radar and Kay Miller, who for years allowed the public to access their land and fish this prime stretch of steelhead water. When Radar and Kay decided to sell this parcel of land, they were committed to maintaining public access and worked proactively to figure out the best way to permanently conserve this land.“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Radar and Kay Miller for putting the public good ahead of profit and choosing to sell this land to us, and in turn, the general public,” said WSC board member Josh Mills.

“As they had hoped, this land will now be permanently protected for future generations. The Grande Ronde is my home river, and someday soon I plan to take my boys to this piece of water to show them this special place and teach them the value of public lands.”

The Wild Steelhead Coalition was invited to help secure this land by the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane after the club had been approached by the Millers. The WSC immediately recognized the amazing opportunity, and we committed important initial funding, launched a larger fundraising campaign, created and implemented the property acquisition plan, and negotiated the land donation timeline with WDFW. We thank the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club for their leadership, financial commitments, and the opportunity to work on this project.

This project was a true collaboration by the fishing community. In addition to Inland Empire’s leadership and support, the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International, numerous regional fishing clubs, and Sage Fly Fishing played a pivotal role in the fundraising efforts. The dedicated members of the Wild Steelhead Coalition also continued their long history of supporting wild steelhead and the fishing community by generously stepping up to support this project.

Completing the land transfer from WSC to WDFW is scheduled to take a number of months, and during this transition angler access to the river will be maintained through a land use agreement with WDFW. When this transfer is finalized, WSC will place signage on the property that thanks the Millers for their commitment to public access and that tells the story of the Grande Ronde’s summer steelhead and the challenges facing wild steelhead throughout the Snake River basin.

A successful collaboration like the purchase and donation of this land on the lower Grande Ronde River speaks to the vast number of people who value wild steelhead rivers and public access to Washington’s irreplaceable wild places. Thanks to this broad coalition of advocates, eight acres of land and nearly 2,000 foot of riverfront on one of the country’s best summer steelhead rivers will now be permanently protected and forever owned by the public.

###To learn more about the campaign and location of the parcel on the lower Grande Ronde River, please refer to our October post announcing WSC’s fundraising effort.