Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fall turkey hunting requires different tactics for success

Fall turkey hunting requires different tactics than  spring hunts.

Fall presents many choices and opportunities for people who like to hunt and fish--almost too many.
Hunters in both Indiana and Kentucky now have fall turkey hunting seasons. Indiana just opened fall turkey season a couple years ago.
Whether there too many options for hunters or whether fall turkey hunting is tough or for whatever reason far fewer hunters bag the birds during fall seasons.
Indiana’s fall turkey archery hunt season starts Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 30, and reopens Dec. 3 and runs thorough Jan. 1. Shotgun season is Oct. 19-30. Separate licenses are required for spring and fall seasons, and one bird of either sex may be harvested.
While most Indiana counties are open to fall turkey hunting, some are not. Among those counties where they may be hunted are: Perry, Spencer and Posey.
Most people who hunt fall turkeys find it considerably different than spring gobbler hunting. They also find it more challenging, and that says a lot. Spring turkey hunting itself is a test of outdoor skills.
Fall turkey season is different from the spring hunt when toms are attracted to calls due to the mating season. 
And while fall gun hunting can be challenging, it is hard to imagine shooting one with a bow and arrow. But some people love it because of the challenge and also because it is one of the earliest hunting seasons.
Fall turkey hunting in simple terms involves less calling and more scouting to find the birds--at least that is the experience of most hunters. Some hunters say the secret to fall birds is breaking up a flock and then waiting for the birds to come back into shooting range whether with a bow or shotgun.
Matt Lindler, a friend who worked for the National Wild Turkey Federation suggests several tactics can be used successfully during fall hunts, depending on the locality and state laws.
“Historically, one of the most common tactics is to sneak up on a feeding flock, run through the middle of it to break it up. The goal is to get the birds to fly in different directions,” said Matt.
He then suggests using a “ki, ki” type distress call or a “lost hen” type call to encourage the birds to reassemble. “A long series of yelps (10 or 12) works, progressively getting louder and longer.”
According to Matt, a group of gobblers also will regroup, but it usually takes them longer.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Summer months race by, but good fall fishing remains

Fall fishing is some of he best of the year.

As youngsters, it seemed time crawled. It seemed like the clock was in slow motion as kids awaited Christmas, or for school to be out, or a scheduled birthday party.
Now, after the years have pilled up, one on top of another, decade on top of decade, it seems the clock is spinning to set a new land speed record. Time races by. It seems like we should just be planting flowers and tomato plants, not digging them up with the arrival of fall.
These days it seems once Labor Day arrives, summer is gone. It really isn’t, but it seems that way. In fact, shortly after the Fourth of July, talk of youngsters returning to school is well underway.
Now, Labor Day has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean it is time to put away the fishing gear for the year. There probably is even time to use bathing suits a few more times.
For many, Labor Day marks the end of summer. It’s the time when guys who wear long pants, put away white pants for the year (does anyone wear white pants anymore?). It’s the time for high school, college and pro football, as well as the kickoff of hunting seasons. Squirrel and dove season already are underway.
According to the TV weather folks, we still can expect a number of hot days in September.
However, leaves are beginning to swirl to the ground. Their color is changing. The change is subtle, but noticeable. Seasons are changing.
Fall probably is my favorite season. However, I have very little enthusiasm for what follows. Winter. 
It is true, Winter has some virtues, although the old brain in my head struggles to enumerate many. It seems the number shrinks as my age increases.
Summer really isn’t over. There will be more warm days and the water temperature is still warm. It is a time when big catfish are feeding prior to winter months. There isn’t a better time to land a big catfish. Their feeding frenzy, especially in rivers and big lakes, usually lasts through the middle of September when the water begins to cool.
And when the water begins to cool, it marks a time for crappie fishing action to pick up.
Crappie fishing can be as good in the fall as it is during the spring spawn. In fact, it can be just as much fun and productive as there are fewer people and boats on lakes and streams making noise and spooking the fish.
Fall crappie fishing can be a bit more challenging than spring action because often the fish are more scattered. They are harder to find. They also may be more unpredictable.
During fall, the water temperature eventually becomes about the same at all levels and crappie can be found at most any depth. However, once you find them, they can be caught.
During fall, a day in the outdoors can combine squirrel hunting and crappie fishing. My old friend Bayou Bill Scoffers used to call it “squirrelshing”.
A cookout with fried squirrel and fried crappie, and homemade slaw...It doesn’t get much better.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Early September good time for catching big river catfish

Late summer and early fall
are when big catfish feed for winter.

Summer 2016 has been a bit unusual. That’s an unscientific observation. The Weather Bureau might not agree.
While some Kentuckiana areas have seen lots of rain, othesr have relatively dry. Some have been hot and humid, and other less so.
Anyway, mid-to late summer is usually the hottest part of the summer, and that is a time when fishing for most species is slow. However, catfish are a different story. Especially, for catfish in the Ohio River and its tributaries.
It’s the time of year when really big catfish start feeding to bulk up for the winter months ahead.
Over the years, some of the biggest catfish are caught from July through early September, a period known as the "dog days" of summer. 
According to some historians, Greek poets Hesiod (ca. 750-650 BCE) and Aratus (ca. 310–240 BCE) refer in their writings to "the heat of late summer that the Greeks believed was actually brought on by the appearance of Sirius," a star in the constellation that the later Romans and we today refer to as Canis Major, literally the "greater dog" constellation.
Kentucky and Indiana share the blue catfish record (104.5 pounds) It was caught in August of 1999 from the Ohio River. Several other cats over 70 pounds were landed within a few days of the record catch.
Hot, steamy late summer weather usually means slow fishing for many species. Most fish seem to slow down just like anglers during hot weather. However, for cat fishermen, the dog days offer some of the best fishing activity of the year whether fishing in a rivers or lakes.
. Catfish can be caught anytime of the year and anytime of the day, but the most likely time to catch big cats would be in warm weather and at night. Catfish seem to prefer to feed late evening and early night. Some studies show there also is another significant feeding period in early morning, just before daylight.
Most cats go into deep, cooler, darker water in hot weather, especially during the day. But like everything else, there are exceptions. They often will come up to feed in early evening,
Not all catfish are alike. There are a number of different species of cats and they have different habits, including what they prefer to eat. Blue cats and channel catfish will bite on night crawlers, chicken livers, cheese and stink baits, and minnows. 
Channel cats at times can be aggressive. I’ve had a number of channels strike bass lures. What I anticipated was a big largemouth turned out to a feisty channel
Flathead catfish, who earn their name from the shape of their head, prefer a diet of live fish, and among their favorites are shad, skipjack herring and bluegill.  
Of the big cats, most anglers agree that the flathead is the best eating.
Small channels are tasty, but a big one caught this time of year is best returned to the water. The same goes for blue cats, however where they are caught and how they are prepared can make a difference.
It seems there are almost as many ways to fish for catfish as there are cat fishermen. Some use rod and reel, others use trot lines, while others may use limb lines. Another fun way is with bottles or jugs, which work like big bobbers.
No matter what fishing method you prefer, these “dog days” and the early days of fall are good days for big cats -- catfish that is.

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's still hot, but squirrel season arrives


Most of the small terrier breeds have a natural instinct for hunting, many breeds and mixed breeds can learn to tree squirrels.
Here it is again--the hottest part of summer. And, the first hunting season of late summer and fall has already arrived.
Most people still are thinking about swimming, boating, catfishing, and hope their air conditioner makes it to cooler weather. However, some squirrel hunters are getting their gear and themselves ready to take to the woods.
In Indiana, squirrel season always opens on my birthday, Aug. 15, and the season continues through Jan. 31, 2017. 
Although my preference for squirrel hunting is later in the season when the temperature cools and the leaves fall, I traditionally hit the woods on my birthday--if only for a half hour--to celebrate another year for the old man and the start of another hunting season. It more of a ceremonial thing, rather than a hunt with expectation of heading home with game for the table.
From most observations, it appears there will be  plenty of squires to hunt this fall. As always, some areas will be better than others.
Squirrel populations are dependent on a number of factors, but two key things include weather and mast (nut) availability. The nut crop one year impacts the population the following year. Based on these factors, this should be another good season.
Avid squirrel hunters take to the woods opening day, but ticks and heat keep many southern hunters out of the field the first few weeks, while their counterparts further north get an earlier start. Some hunters prefer to wait until leaves begin to fall from the trees, while other enjoy sitting under an umbrella of leaves. It’s a matter of choice.
One of the advantages of early season squirrel hunting, is chances are better for shooting young squirrels. That equates to tender squirrels, which are better for frying, the cooking method I prefer.
During the early  hot days of the season, squirrels seem to be most active the first hour or so of daylight, and late evening. They also seem to prefer days when the wind is calm.
Squirrels are active in the fall as they scurry to store nuts for the winter. Often they are found on the forest floor looking for nuts, but at the first sign of danger they head for the nearest den tree.
Nut rich woods are good hunting sites in late summer and fall. Squirrels seem to particularly like shagbark and other hickories, white and black oaks, beeches and black walnut trees.
Some hunters follow the predominately southern tradition of using squirrel dogs. However, most hunters who use dogs prefer to have leaves off the trees for their hunting. A good dog scents squirrels a hunter would never see. 
Dog hunters also enjoy watching their dogs work for squirrels as well as the companionship of their animals. Working with a dog is as gratifying for many people as actually harvesting the squirrels.
 A good dog will tree the squirrel and bark to announce his success. 
With most squirrel dog breeds, hunting and treeing squirrels seems to come naturally. However one of the best ways to train a young dog is to work it with an older experienced dog.
Not only is squirrel hunting fun and good exercise, the end result is mighty good eating. 
Squirrel, fried crispy brown is mighty tasty, and there is nothing better than squirrel gravy made with the skillet leavings. Fried squirrel, and the gravy over mashed potatoes makes a great meal, unless you are on a serious diet. Hot biscuits and homemade jam really top it off.




Friday, August 5, 2016

Once hated alligator gar may have increased popularity, usefulness


Alligator gar swam the streams of the Midwest for thousands of years, probably millions of years. Now they are gone.
Also, for years when alligator gar were found, they were considered “trash” or nuisance fish. However, today some people, especially fisheries biologists and managers, would like to have them back in Midwestern rivers. Today, you have to travel to southern states to find them.
Alligator gar, which also are called garpike, would never win a beauty contest. They are ugly, get huge, and they earn their name because the head looks much like the head of an alligator. The shape,, snout, and two rows of large, long sharp teeth are very similar in appearance to the actual alligator.
As I recall, I once saw an alligator gar in an aquarium, and hadn’t thought or heard about them for years, until my friend Gil Hubbard, a retired Methodist minister, sent me an internet link to a story about the big fish and the renewed interest in them.
Gil, myself, and several friends made a ritual of fishing for trout on the opening day of the fall season following stocking. But these trout were nothing like the monster gar.
Gil’s note started me thinking (always dangerous), and that led me to the computer for a bit of research.
Disdained by fishermen and with spawning grounds that had been destroyed over the years, the alligator gar today primarily only survives in the southeastern United States in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. They had been declared extinct in several states further north.
Many anglers thought the fish threatened sport fish and something that should be exterminated when any opportunity arose.
Alligator gar, which is related to the bowfin, are considered by many to be a prehistoric fish, a look into the past. They can be traced back into history over 100 million years, and are called by some, “a living fossil.
One unusual aspect of the gar and a reason it has survived for some many millions of years is that it can breath both in and out of the water. 
These gar have the ability to thrive in even the most inhospitable waters. They have a swim bladder that they can fill by gulping air, which they use to supplement their gill breathing in low-oxygen environments. However, they can’t survive outside of water for a long period of time.
Alligator gar can become quite large. They can reach a length of 10 feet (most don’t), and they also can top a scales up to 300 pounds. And while they will eat other fish, research shows game or sport fish aren’t their favorite. They also are known make lunch on a duck or other mammals.
However, the reason of the renewed interest in the prehistoric old fish is that they seem to love a diet of Asian carp, which have become a real problem in streams throughout the South and MIdwest. Much research and millions of dollars are being spent on trying to stop the progression of the exotic carp.
Biologists are beginning to raise the gar and restock them into some Midwestern streams in hopes they will reproduce and begin to feed on and slow the growth of the unwanted carp. In particular reintroduction efforts have started in Illinois and Tennessee.
“What else is going to be able to eat those monster carp?” said Allyse Ferrara, an alligator gar expert at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where the species is relatively common. “We haven’t found any other way to control them.
Researchers also are trying to find some use for the carp as a food source, fertilizer or other product, but that effort also is in its infancy.
Biologists say reintroducing the gar certainly won’t be a quick fix, but it is hoped that over time the alligator gar will begin to made a dent in the asian carp population.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Girls catch fish on first cast

Granddaughters Molly (left) and Kennedy caught
 a bluegill on the first cast.

About the only thing more fun for an angler than catching fish is helping a youngster catch fish. Last weekend, again I had that fun.
Granddaughters Molly and Kennedy were visiting for several days. They had announced in advance they wanted to fish. I was prepared with red worms and nightcrawlers.
Two rods and reels were at ready. I knew I wouldn’t need one. My attention was directed at assisting the girls catch bluegill or whatever decided to bite. Three chairs also were ready on the lake bank, under the shade of the big poplar tree.
The very first cast by Molly was successful. She hooked a feisty bluegill, and Kennedy was happy to pose with her sister and the fish in a photo.
Fortunately, the fish were cooperative and kept the girls and grandpa busy until supper time.
There’s nothing like it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

If there is water nearby in Florida, there also likely is a gator


Recently, a tragic event took place when a young boy was grabbed by an alligator, and the next day was found dead. I can’t imagine much of anything worse.
I don’t know the specific circumstances, of the alligator attack. Should the parents or Disney have done anything differently. I have no idea. But, I do know it was tragic, and I do know anyone traveling to the southeastern part of the United State should be aware of alligators.
When one lives in Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, Wisconsin or anywhere else in the northern or central U.S, you probably don’t know much about or think much about alligators. But if you head south, a bit of awareness is in order.
Alligators aren't just found in Florida. They can be found from southeastern Oklahoma and Texas on the west to North Carolina and Georgia, and Florida in the east.
While I’m primarily a midwesterner, I ‘m a Florida native and spend a lot of the cold weather time in the central portion of the Sunshine state. I’ve learned a bit about gators and written a number of stories about them. I’m no expert, but I respect them.
The thing I hear most often from locals and outdoors people is that gators are everywhere there is water be it lake, stream, retention pond or swampy area. 
“If there is water, there are gators,” is what you will hear. It’s true even if it is a pond at a shopping mall. A nearly 10-foot gator was captured a year ago from one of the ponds at the mall where we shop north of Lake Wales.
According to an alligator bulletin provided by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, “In Florida, the growing number of people living and recreating near water has led to a steady rise in the number of alligator-related complaints. 
“The majority of these complaints relate to alligators being where they simply aren’t wanted. Because of these complaints, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program permits the killing of approximately 7,000 nuisance alligators each year. 
“Using this approach, and through increased public awareness, the rate of alligator bites on people has remained constant despite the increased potential for alligator-human interactions as Florida’s human 
population has grown. 
‘Alligators are an important part of Florida’s landscape and play a valuable role in the ecology  of our state’s wetlands. Alligators are predators and help keep other aquatic animal populations in balance.” 
According to the FWC, “Although most Floridians understand that we have alligators living in our state, the potential for conflict exists. Because of their predatory nature, alligators may target pets and livestock as prey. Unfortunately, people also are occasionally bitten. 
“Since 1948, Florida has averaged about five unprovoked bites per year. During that period, a little more than 300 unprovoked bites to people have been documented in Florida, with 22 resulting in deaths. 
“In the past 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received an average of nearly 16,000 alligator-related complaints per year. 
“Most of these complaints deal with alligators occurring in places such as backyard ponds, canals, ditches and streams, but other conflicts occur when alligators wander into garages, swimming pools and golf course ponds. 
“Sometimes, alligators come out of the water to bask in the sun or move between wetlands. In many cases, if left alone, these alligators will eventually move on to areas away from people. 
“Generally, alligators less than four feet in length are not large enough to be dangerous unless handled. 
“Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits  killing, harassing or possessing alligators. Handling even small alligators can result in injury.
# # # # 
GATORS HERE -- Gators can not survive the cold winter weather of the Midwest, however from time-to-time they are spotted here. These usually are small gators kept as pets that escape or are released when they get bigger.
A four-foot gator was found a half dozen years ago at Pine Lake near LaPorte, IN, and several have been spotted in the White River in Indianapolis in recent years.