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.

California Catch of Swordfish Takes Off as Anglers Embrace New Technique

Catch Swordfish

From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

Researchers have tagged swordfish off Southern California for studies evaluating new ways of fishing for the species. Credit: Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER)Recreational fishing for swordfish off southern California has surged over the last year. Fishermen have started borrowing a strategy from East Coast anglers and the commercial fishing world: going deep during the daytime.

Tagging and tracking research by NOAA Fisheries and the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER)revealed that swordfish spend most of the day at depths greater than 700 feet. Commercial fishermen on the West Coast originally began fishing in deeper waters for swordfish. They used buoy gear in part to avoid protected species such as sea turtles and marine mammals.

Now recreational anglers on the West Coast have caught on to the technique and have seen their catches increase dramatically. Chugey Sepulveda, PIER Director and Senior Scientist, said anecdotal numbers suggest that recreational swordfish catches off southern California have jumped. They’ve gone from fewer than 30 in a typical year to hundreds in a matter of a few months.

“It’s been a real boost for the recreational fleet because it now offers anglers a new and exciting quarry that was previously considered extremely difficult to target,” he said.

Research shows that swordfish spend most daytime hours at depths of 700 to 1,400 feet, coming only occasionally to the surface. Recreational fishermen had once primarily pursued them only when swordfish were spotted basking on the surface. Days of excitedly dragging a bait in front of a sunning swordfish have turned into long days of staring at rod tips.

“Swordfish have always been considered the pinnacle of fishing success since the days of Zane Grey,” said Bill DePriest, publisher and editor of Pacific Coast Sportfishing Magazine. “Now it’s something more people are experiencing.”

Catch and Release Ethic Emerges
As catches have increased, many fishermen are now discussing bag limits and potential catch-and-release measures to prevent exploiting the swordfish stock, Sepulveda said. Swordfish populations in the North Pacific include two stocks: an eastern Pacific Ocean stock and a Western and Central North Pacific Ocean stock. There continues to be discussion as to which stock southern California fish belong. This is one reason why Sepulveda and his team have headed up NOAA Fisheries-sponsored research on stock structure.

The 2018 stock assessment for the Western and Central North Pacific Ocean swordfish stock found off the West Coast shows that the stock is not overfished. It is also not experiencing overfishing. The assessment also found that the stock can support more fishing while remaining sustainable. It found that the biomass shows “a relatively stable population, with a slight decline until the mid-1990s followed by a slight increase since 2000.”Figure.

Recreational fishermen have employed similar methods on the U.S. East Coast and other areas. Recreational anglers on the West Coast have caught on to the strategies and techniques more recently as the new deep set commercial fishery has taken off. The main season for swordfish off southern California is roughly from late summer into winter, DePriest said.“It’s a healthy hobby. And with swordfish, it’s definitely always exciting,” DePriest said. “It’s great to see so many people interested.”

Pacific swordfish are highly migratory and often travel thousands of miles across international boundaries. Since many nations target the species, effective conservation and management requires international cooperation as well as domestic attention.

Scientists are now seeking funding for a study to collect more data on the growing recreational fishery. Data is needed to evaluate the survival of swordfish that are caught and then released. While there are best practices for choosing the right gear and handling with care when catch-and-release fishing, survival rates vary by species.

Recreational anglers can also contribute to swordfish research by participating in our Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Cooperative Billfish Tagging Program. The program, started in 1963, provides tagging supplies to anglers. It helps us better understand movement and migration patterns, species distribution, and age and growth. Anglers tag the fish before releasing them.

One Weekend, Two Tournaments

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters June tournament at West Point on June 13, 28 fishermen landed 65 bass weighing about 108 pounds in nine hours of casting. There were six five bass limits and ten people did not have a fish.

Niles Murray won with five weighing 11.44 pounds. Kwong Yu placed second with five at 10.05 and had big fish with a 4.02 pounds. Caleb Delay came in third with five weighing 8.58 pounds. Tom Tanner came in fourth with five at 8.18 pounds.My five weighed 6.42 pounds. 

The two I lost would have added at least three pounds to my weight but it was not to be.

In the Spalding County Sportsman Club June tournament at Sinclair the next day, 16 members and guest fished 9.5 hours to land 50 bass weighing about 88 pounds.  There were eight five bass limits and two people zeroed.

I won with five at 11.45 pounds, those two lucky fish really helped.  Gary Hattaway placed second with five at 10.88 pounds, Jay Gerson came in third with five at 10.88 pounds and Wayne Teal placed fourth with five at 9.21 pounds.  George Roberts had big fish with a 4.01 pound largemouth.

Boating Tips

Don’t block boat ramps!!
By Darcy Mount, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Important tips to avoid lonely nights on the sofa, or being the star of a viral video, as boating season begins.

Never use a busy boat ramp to “teach” others to back a trailer.

There are two things you should not learn from a spouse or significant other . . . canoeing and trailer backing. I know there are many other examples but these are my observations from my career as a park ranger and manager.Want to see couples fight? Hang around at the boat ramp. It won’t be long until an argument erupts as someone is trying to get a boat on or off a trailer. Or as couples are paddling in or out from shore.

With boating season upon us, it’s a good time for me to share some things I have seen in hopes you might avoid similar public displays of disaffection and perhaps ruin your day at the lake.

Trailer Backing
Busy boat ramp. This is where you see the most fights, domestic violence, tears, anxiety, damage to boats, trailers, docks, trucks, etc. Of course, these incidents always seem to occur on a busy boat ramp with lots of witnesses.It seems that in many cases the person most comfortable backing the trailer is also the person most comfortable driving the boat. I’ve observed this play out in many ways.

Scenario One
A couple in a boat motors up to the dock and ties up. The boat captain gets out and heads to the parking lot to retrieve the truck and trailer, backs it into the water, gets out of the truck, gets on the boat and loads it onto the trailer, hops back in the truck and drives away. This is normally easy to do, unless the ramp is crowded and people are waiting to load. Then stress levels can rise causing tension as traffic on the ramp backs up. Squabbles can occur.

Scenario Two
The person most comfortable driving both the boat and the truck decides it’s time to teach the passenger to back up the truck and trailer. This is generally done by yelling or eventually screaming from the boat, which is still afloat behind the ramp. As tension builds, the novice trying to back the trailer down the ramp gets frustrated as the trailer jackknifes and you may hear the words “I told you I couldn’t do it” being yelled or eventually screamed at the teacher on the boat. (I use the word “teacher” loosely.)

This situation can escalate and the boat driver/teacher may get yelled at by others bobbing in the water, waiting to load. This can happen because the “teacher” is distracted by the fish-taililng trailer on the ramp and lets the boat drift toward the other boats in the queue. The truck driver may experience a flight response and get out of the truck, walking away and telling the teacher to do it himself. Or the driver may even beg other people to back the trailer in for them. These people may be total strangers, which then causes more yelling from the teacher on the boat. It should be obvious, but you should never use a busy boat ramp to “teach” another to back a trailer into the water. The results are not pretty. 

Scenario Three
This is the reverse of scenario 2 with the novice trying to guide a bobbing boat onto a trailer as impatient strangers stare and even offer unsolicited advice as the “teacher” shouts instructions from behind the wheel of the truck. Either way, all the yelling is a surefire buzzkill guaranteed to ensure you boat alone in the future. (And probably sleep alone on the couch for a few nights.).

Soaking Your Partner
This occurs a couple ways and both can result in frayed tempers.The partner backing the trailer down the ramp can get soaked, and the truck stuck and in need of a tow, if the driver ends up too far onto the ramp and the truck sinks in deep water. This happens if the ramp is long and the water level is low and the ramp suddenly drops off and the truck ends up in deep water. If they back in far enough, they will find out trucks do not float as they watch it slowly sink under water. That is a guaranteed fight. 

Most common is the disaster that can occur when one partner forgets to put the plug in the boat and it fills with water as the boat floats off the trailer. 

A temper fit by the other partner can be avoided if you are lucky enough to quickly steer it back on the trailer and insert the plug.But often couples find themselves too far out from shore before they realize the boat is taking on water. This requires a boat tow and quite a bit of stress and in some extreme cases having to abandon your sinking boat. 

Boat and Ramp Repairs
This occurs often in the spring when we are so excited to get back in the water we forget to make sure the engine runs. You may see people parked in the parking lot trying to make repairs while their partner and friends in the truck wait not-so-patiently. Worse case is you float off your trailer to realize it will not start and need to be pulled back onto your trailer. 

Enjoyable Boating Adventures

If you follow these tips, you will have much more enjoyable boating adventures. And you won’t be the star of a viral video. I would like to say what happened at the boat ramp stays at the boat ramp. But if you search YouTube, you’ll discover that is far from the case.Written by Darcy Mount. Darcy is the Eleven Mile State Park Manager.

If you have general questions about Colorado Parks and Wildlife, email Darcy at AskARanger@state.co.us. Darcy may answer it in a future column.

Kayak Panfish

Kayak Panfish Fishing Photo courtesy of Hobie

Kayaks, ultralight tackle and panfish make a successful combinationBy Noel VickPhoto courtesy of Hobie
from The Fishing Wire

“Panfish” is perhaps the biggest catchall category in fishing. Essentially, if it’s round and measures somewhere between the size of an adult hand and the fateful frying pan, it’s a panfish. We’re talking about the zillion species of sunfish, a couple styles of crappies, as well as – in the opinion of many including myself – white bass.

Drumroll please… And now you’re being urged to pursue the commonest freshwater fish in North America with the uncommonest of approaches: pedal kayak trolling. Take a breath and a moment to get over the weirdness. It’s an extraordinarily effective technique.For this discourse, it’s best talking lure selection first, as it’ll dovetail into techniques. My panfish trolling portfolio consists of two primary categories: hardbaits and spinners.

Hardbait Pedal Trolling
Not too many years ago, the marketplace was inundated with downsized bodybaits, including lipped crankbaits, jerkbaits and lipless rattle baits. Manufacturers miniaturized existing models and developed entirely new micro hardbaits. I’ve trolled and tested them all from my Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14.

Panfish of all stripes – especially larger specimens – either make a living off bait and fish fry or will opportunistically eat forage with fins and tails. Hardbaits also ferret-out the most aggressive fish and can be trolled faster than spinners, letting you cover more water in less time. Hardbaits are unquestionably the best search tool.

Trolling by pedal kayak simply means casting the bait back, letting out additional line – minimum of 100 feet – and you’re fishing. Whatever species you pursue, the odds of success are improved by getting the lure as far away from the boat as possible, especially in depths of 10-feet and less where fish more easily scatter. Experience has proven, however, that the darker the water the closer you can run baits.

As with other forms of pedal trolling, longer rods are recommended. Think about the common practice of spider-rigging for crappies; it’s about spreading the field of coverage. In a kayak, where legal, two long rods can be easily managed. 

The best all-around panfish trolling rods hail from St. Croix’s Panfish Spinning Series. The blanks are constructed of a dynamic blend of SCVI and SCII graphite providing responsive touch, balance and finesse. I employ either the 8-foot (PFS80LMF2) or 9-foot (PFS90LMF2), light, moderate-fast, 2-piece models. They curve concentrically on the move, and natively sweep-set upon strike. For added machismo with larger baits, or bigger-billed ones with greater resistance, I carry the 7-foot, light, extra-fast-action model (PF70LXF).

Rods are paired with 2500 size spinning reels. Smaller 1000 and 2000 sized reels don’t take up line nearly as fast. And personally, I like the feel of a larger reel. And when you opt to stop and cast, they yield greater distance. Daiwa’s affordable Regal LT is a solid and widely available choice.

Like all my pedal kayak pursuits, braid is the word. Braid has better sensitivity and buffers the softness of long panfish rods with stoutness to produce ideal, hands-free hooksets. Braid also lets the rod communicate to me that lures are running true. Consider either 6- or 8-pound test of Daiwa’s super narrow diameter J-Braid x8.

Leaders are mandatory, too, long ones (24-inch minimum), which combat panfish species’ exceptional vision. Fluorocarbon makes are best. I tie in sections of Daiwa’s J-Fluoro in 4- or 6-pound test, finishing with a tiny snap for speedy lure changes.

LIVETARGET’s 2 ¾-inch Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait does it all, never discriminating against species, including bass. Although designed to replicate a rainbow smelt, fish in waters dominated by shad and other shiner species don’t seem to care. I theorize that the Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait’s precision anatomy, pure trolling path, and seductive action make it universally effective.Rapala has a major stake in the panfish market, too, and their baits are always onboard.

Fish fawn over the petite, 2 ½-inch Rapala Husky Jerk, a downsized rendition of the popular, slow-sinking series. To that, Rapala also tenders the Ultra Light series, catering specifically to panfish anglers. The 1 ½-inch Ultra Light Crank is not only cute as hell, but has the surprising capacity to run deep on the troll, nearing the 10-foot mark.

Daiwa also comes to the plate with a couple diminutive heavy hitters. The 2-inch Dr. Minnow Jerkbait turns fish heads. And when you’re in the midst of larger, meat-eaters, consider Daiwa’s 3.75-inch TD Minnow.

Color selection is an exercise in experimentation. For the most part, I stick to natural, baitfish tones – the silvers, whites and blues – but often opt for more color in stained water. And for whatever reason, panfish respond exceptionally well to greens, especially ones with lighter bellies. 

Spinner Pedal Trolling
Let’s first clarify, I’m talking about hairpin spinners, not inline spinners. Years of pedal trolling have proven that bags are basically doubled with hairpins. I believe it’s the flash combined with a juicy, baitfish profiled target – the jig and soft plastic.DIY is the only way to go with hairpin spinners. Certainly, there are hordes of pre-rigged variations available, but none matching my surefire assortment. To this, entirely, my hairpins are founded on Betts Spinners. The series affords Colorado blade sizes 0, 1, and 3, the heartier 3-size providing the best loft, especially with smaller jigs. Both silver and gold options are available, too. I employ silver in most scenarios, but swap to gold in dark water.Z-Man Slim SwimZ and Finesse ShroomZ jighead with hairpin spinner.

Next in line is the actual jig. Betts offers several workable styles, too, but I prefer a couple others. Z-Man’s capsule-headed Finesse ShroomZ are the defacto heads for Ned Rigs, and I find them equally amazing with hairpin spinners. Featherweight sizes of 1/15- and 1/10-ounce are the magic bullets. Keep a pool of red, black, green and white heads onboard to color match bodies.Northland Tackle’s RZ Jig is another winner, and easily found above the Mason Dixon Line.For my druthers, there are three failsafe brands of bodies: Z-Man, Bobby Garland and Bass Assassin. The throbbing paddletail of Z-Man’s 2.5-inch Slim SwimZ is a crappie menace. Its narrow girth prompts the hairpin to run single-file. And, constructed of ElaZtech, a single Slim SwimZ can easily burn through a limit of crappies. 

Nationwide, Bobby Garland Crappie Baits own the most shelf space. This is warranted. The popular bodies – specifically the Original 2” Baby Shad – are to panfish what peanuts are to elephants. Ideally shaped like fish fry, they are squishy in the fingers, causing fish to hang on, and come in a staggering 75 colors. The flamboyant Cajun Cricket is a sunfish favorite. Baitfish-toned Blueback Shad Diamond Mist tempt everything in clear to lightly stained water. Glacier Blue, a white body peppered with blue, is a frequent flyer as well.Grab a few packs of Bass Assassin’s 3-inch Baby Shad to mix things up. They, too, come in a wide pallet of colors.

Northland Tackle’s legendary Rigged Mimic Minnow Shad come pre-rigged with physically accurate bodies and fish-fry-shaped heads. The color matching is already done. 1/32- and 1/16-ouncers are the chosen ones.  Pedal trolling hairpin spinners is elementary. Locomoting slower than you would with hardbaits, even as slow as 1 MPH, is enough to keep the blades turning while riding high in the water column. Hairpins are at their best lazily humping along above targeted fish. In 10-feet of water, I want the hairpin mobilized 3 or 4 feet down, and no deeper than 5. Sometimes, I’ll run a hairpin rig in both rod holders, crack a cold one and light a cigar, and make sequentially spaced passes over suspect water.

Even though many missions are in less than 10-feet of water, my eyes are glued to the electronics, a 9-inch Raymarine Axiom. Even in shallow water you can mark fish. But more importantly, the Raymarine reveals weeds and other fish holding elements, not to mention signaling depth breaks. And if you find panfish pasted to the bottom, it’s time to hit the brakes and go to a vertical presentation; just the jig and plastic or a weensy jigging spoon. The Raymarine will reveal these tiny baits beneath the kayak in real time. Turn on the A-scope feature and experience the same, live drama you enjoy when fishing vertically through the ice.

Assuming you’re the results-oriented type of angler who has gotten over the stigma of trolling in general (you likely wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t), expand the technique into your panfishing – preferably by pedal-driven kayak – and see what happens. A cooler of crappies and sunfish does not lie.

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.

Manta Ray Conservation and Best Cobia Fishing Practices

Photo: Cobia swimming with a manta ray. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Manta Rays and Cobia
from The Fishing Wire

Cobia frequently follow giant manta rays in their migrations, and fishermen targeting the cobia sometimes accidentally hook the rays. Here’s a Q&A from NOAA Fisheries with two well-known Florida skippers on the process and on protecting the relatively rare rays.

As cobia season gets underway in the Southeast U.S., NOAA Fisheries reached out to one of our best resources: our fishermen. We wanted to find out what they do or recommend to fish for cobia while protecting threatened giant manta rays. Understanding the challenges fishermen face helps NOAA biologists and fishery managers find a way to protect threatened and endangered species and still offer fishing opportunities.

 Captain Butch Constable and Captain Ira Laks both helped us answer the following questions. Capt. Constable has been fishing offshore in Jupiter, Florida for more than 45 years. Capt. Laks has been a charter captain and commercial fisherman out of Palm Beach, Jupiter, and the Treasure Coast for more than 30 years.  Both fishermen observe individual giant manta rays along the beaches of southeast FloridaWe appreciate the input these captains provided when we asked questions about cobia fishing. What time of year do you typically see manta rays arrive along Florida’s east coast? 

Capt. Constable: The manta rays used to show up in March, sometimes as early as February in cold weather years, and stay through May. Manta rays would move up the coast as water warmed. However, now there are no manta rays any more off of Jupiter in the early springtime. Warmer water temps have caused a shift in species and now the giant manta rays seem to stay further north. These days no mantas seem to be found in the spring south of Hobe Sound. I discovered another large ray, the Roughtail stingray, often has cobia swimming alongside so I look for them when sight casting.

Capt. Laks: Most of the sight casting for cobia from Jupiter south is done around big sharks. The challenge with that kind of fishing is keeping a hooked cobia away from the shark so that it does not get eaten.

What are some of the best fishing techniques you use when fishing for cobia around manta rays? 

Capt. Constable: The best advice is to practice and really have good casting skills from behind and to the side of manta ray. Do not cast in front of the manta ray. That way you can make a bad cast or two and reel in and recast without spooking the fish or hooking the ray.

Capt. Laks: I like to come up slowly and from behind on either side of the manta and keep as much distance as possible to make a good cast. My best approach is with the winds behind me and the angler. That allows for a longer cast and it’s less likely to spook the manta with the boat. It also allows for several attempts in order to make that perfect cast to catch the cobia and not hook the ray. Are there any specific tackle or lures you would recommend to reduce foul hooking manta rays but still are effective at catching cobia? 

Capt. Constable: Single hooks! No reason to fish any sort of treble hook. Safer for angler when unhooking, safer for reducing snagging the ray. It would be good if a single hook series of baits and lures came out promoting cobia fishing in a responsible way. Also, anglers should use an oversize landing net and not a gaff for most cobia. Safer for fishermen and for cobia if kept or released.

Capt. Laks: I specialize in live bait fishing and use only single hooks. Treble hooks are not necessary when live bait fishing for cobia. A single hook reduces the chance of snagging a manta ray if a bad cast is made in front of the ray.

If a manta ray becomes foul hooked or snagged, what can fishermen do to reduce injury and trailing line?

 Capt. Constable: I recommend moving the boat in front of the ray, reeling up the line and trying to pull the lure gently from that direction. The hook will often pull out of the fish and not leave the lure or trailing line. If not cut the line as close to the ray as possible.

Capt. Laks: I like to position the boat and move carefully as close as possible to the manta. Then I cut the line so as to leave the minimum amount of trailing line as possible.

Have you ever seen a hooked manta ray or a manta ray showing evidence of vessel interactions (e.g., prop scars or cuts)? 

Capt. Constable: I have seen a few lures and jigs in rays but cannot recall prop scars or major injuries.

Capt. Laks: I have seen a few with larger scars but not sure the cause of those injuries.

What are some best practices for safe maneuvering your vessel around manta rays? 

Capt. Constable: I believe approaching slowly and carefully from behind so that it allows the captain to position the boat in a safe way and not spook the ray or the fish. This gives anglers the time to set up their cast and when the fish is hooked, it will usually swim away from the ray at first. Cobia will sometimes try to return to the ray but if the boat is behind, you can often hold the fish away from the ray and land the fish safely and determine its size.

Capt. Laks: Do not set up in front of the ray. I recommend staying a distance away to allow the manta to stay calm and act normally. I can then set up to fish for cobia from behind and to the side of the animal. 

Capt. Laks: I also wanted to remind anglers that just seeing one of these large and amazing creatures is a thrill all by itself. It is a fortunate part of an amazing day of fishing and the overall fishing experience.

Why Is Eufaula Fishing So Tough For My Club?

Two weekends ago, May 30 and 31, 2020. 15 members and guests of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our May tournament at Lake Eufaula.  In 17 hours of casting, we landed 81 bass weighing about 161 pounds. There were eight five bass limits and one fisherman didn’t catch a keeper.   

Kwong Yu won with ten keepers weighing 23.60 pounds and had big fish with a 5.54 pound largemouth. He also had a 5.09 pound largemouth in his catch.  RaymondEnglish placed second with ten bass weighing 19.73 pounds, Jay Gerson had nine bass weighing 17.54 pounds for third and guest Dan Dupree fishing with Raymond had seven bass weighing 13.60 pounds for fourth.  Glenn Anderson, fishing with Kwong, had nine bass weighing 11.20 for fifth place.   

Eufaula is known for its big bass but we had a hard time finding them. 

Parker Guy, the high school fisherman I did a Map of the Month article with that is in this month’s issue of Georgia Outdoor News, has been fishing the lake every day.   

He fished a tournament Sunday and won with five bass weighing 18.5 pounds and had big fish in it with a six pounder! it helps to know the lake.