Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring vs. Fall; spring probably is the winner and fall second

Flowering bushes like this one point to a new season.

Spring vs. Fall. It’s a tossup. Which one is the best season?
Spring brings with it a sense of new, a feeling of freshness. Spring flowers are spectacular. Hardy flowers like crocus and daffodils are like me. They can hardly wait till spring. They will poke their buds and blooms through late snows just to give us hope that a new season is arriving.
The birds also announce the arrival of a new season. You can hear it in their song. There is a noticeable, pleasant difference between the aviary spring chorus than the few chirps you hear on a cold, winter morning. In addition there are the new voices of birds making their way back from southern climates.
Grass begins to green (yes, I know that leads to the dreaded mowing). Buds on trees get larger and the turn a brighter red, and suddenly begin to explode into a canopy of green.
It’s time for crappie fishing, and with the coming of the dogwood blossom, catching suckers (fish) on the riffles. It’s also morel mushroom season There is nothing quite as spectacular about the wildflowers in a spring woods. As you begin hunting morels in late March and continue for the next several weeks, it is fun to observe the woods change from winter brown to the spectacular spring colors as different flowers bloom.
On the other hand, fall is a great time of the year. The crisp, cool days of autumn are a welcome relief from summer’s heat. It also is a great time for fishing and spending time in the woods. Catfish gorge themselves in late summer and early fall, and there is no better time to catch a big cat.
As clear, cool weather approaches, Nature’s paint brush goes to work painting a magnificent landscape. The beauty of autumn is unequaled in nature. Spending time on a wooded trail in October is hard to beat. 
Camping is a treat as most of the bugs of late spring and summer have departed. Campfires are not only a joy to watch, they can help repel the evening chill as youngsters toast marshmallows to make smores. (Most everyone is familiar with smores, but just in case you don’t. They are hot, toasted marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate made into a sandwich by two Graham crackers on the outside.)
Fall also means hunting season. As the leaves turn, it is a time for hunting doves, fall turkeys, and scouting for deer. And time should be reserved for gathering nuts and persimmons. It also is a time for wonderful fall festivals with plenty fun things to see and do, and good food.
Spring and fall seasons are a tossup for top billing in my book, but one thing slightly tips the scale to spring. It isn’t a problem with fall, it is what follows. I’m really not a fan of winter. It has some good qualities like the first pretty snow, and a cup of hot cider by the fireplace, however in my book, it just can’t compete with spring and fall.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reader questions impact of cold, wet weather of spring's bluegill fish

Lawrence Taylor with a dark colored bream.

Is this winter’s cold, and this spring’s cool and wet weather having an impact on bluegill fishing? The question was prompted by a note from a Bardstown reader.
The reader in particular questioned the rain and cold effect on bluegill in small ponds and lakes.
This old scribe is certainly not a biologist. My one class of high school biology didn’t even make me an expert at dissecting a frog. However based of years of talking with fisherman, plus a number of biologists, I have some assumptions on the subject.
First, a little background on bluegill. The scientific name is Lepomis macrochirus, according to information from the Wisconsin fish and wildlife folks. Leoimis means “scaled cheek”. and macrochirus means “large hand””, possibly in reference to the size of the size of the pectoral fin. However, a nice size bluegill is also about the size of a large hand.
Bluegill also are known as bream, brim, and coopernose as well as other local and regional names. They are found throughout Kentucky and Indiana, and in fact, these days are found throughout most of the United States. A variety of other types of sunfish such as redear, shellcrackers and stump knockers often are found in similar locations.
Spring is probably the best time to catch big bluegills. With the difficulty of winter weather ending, the bluegill's attention turns toward feasting to gather energy for the bluegill spawn. 
This feeding creates conditions which are good for a fisherman to take advantage of the increased feeding activity, since the bluegills will be less cautious and more voracious than any other time of the year. 
So when does spawning take place? Like many things in nature, it depends, but there are some general guidelines.
Spawning takes place fro May to early August (peaking in late May into June) at water temperatures between 67 - 80º F. 
Males select a sand or gravel bar that can be hollowed out to form a nest. Before and after spawning, the male bluegill defends the nest against all species, but most vigorously against other male sunfishes.
As to bait or lures to catch bluegill, again in depends. It depends and the gill’s preference, and what the angler thinks works best for him or her.
Plain garden worms seem to be the favorite bait for bluegills, but they can be caught on a number of different types of lures. The fly fisher can have fun with poppers, especially in spring and early summer, when nests are concentrated in shallow water.  
The males are scrappy fighters that will take on fish much bigger than themselves such as bass and catfish to keep their young safe. They are more likely to attack a jig just to move it out of their nest rather than to eat the bait. However, the result can be a fish on a hook.
Most of the bigger bluegills are taken in deep water during the summer months by drifting with the wind using worms. Wintertime jigging in the weed beds with grubs or mousies on ice jigs also produce excellent results, according to the Wisconsin fisheries folks.
Back to the original question. “What are the effects , if any,that the weather will have on bluegill fishing? I am  talking small ponds and lakes. So much rain and cool.”
I don't think the rain and the cool will have a significant impact on bluegill fishing in ponds and lakes. The cool could slow the spawn, which in turn might delay some of the best bluegill fishing action. 
Also, if water remains high, it might possibly cause bluegill to spawn in different locations, or make the water deeper and a bit more of a challenge if they spawn in their regular location. Bluegill often will use the same nests time after time.
The biggest long-term impact would be if the fish spawn in flood water area, and then the level drops quickly, it could leave beds and eggs high and dry.
For information from someone with more expertise, I would suggest you call the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources at 1-800-858-1549. They probably will put you in touch with a biologist.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring is best time to catch crappie

Paul Cooper of West Lafayette, IN, holds a nice crappie that hit a minnow.

Crappie fishing is fun year-round. Anytime you get the opportunity, crappie can provide fishing action and good eating at the table.
These fish, also known be many other names such as spects,  calico bass, speckled perch, and numerous other local and regional names, can be caught most anytime They even can be taken through the ice during winter months. However, spring and fall usually are the best times to catch these tasty fish.
Warming spring waters trigger heavy feeding among fish, and the crappie spawn when water temperatures reach 52-60 degrees. 
Under normal circumstances, crappie in different lakes and streams will spawn at slightly different times, primarily dependent on water temperature and other conditions. Crappie will spawn earlier at Kentucky Lake than they will at Hovey Lake, Patoka Reservoir, or the embayments off the Ohio River.
The spawn also will end earlier at Kentucky Lake and other southern Bluegrass state lakes. When the spawn is nearly over at Kentucky Lake and fish are moving back into deeper waters, the spawn in shallow water in lakes further north may continue for a short time . No one can guarantee what Mother Nature and fish will do.
Just ahead of the spawn, the females move into shallow water near shoreline cover and lay their eggs. Then they will move to deeper water, often close to the nearest dropoff. It is possible to find some females there feeding. The males stay in the shallow water to guard the eggs.
Once the spawn is over, the crappie will move into deeper water and scatter, but they still can be caught. It just isn't as easy as during the spawning period. Schools of big crappie (slabs) also can be caught during the fall feeding period, just ahead of the start of winter weather.
Crappie generally swim in schools. Where you find one, you'll usually find more. They are found throughout most of Kentucky and Indiana, and in fact throughout most of the U.S. They usually are found around some type of cover.
Specs average 6-11 inches in length. However in certain lakes with a good food supply, they may run up to 17 or even 18 inches long. A fish weighing a half pound to a pound is considered a good fish.
Catching crappie on light weight tackle is fun, and using light line (two to six-pounds) also is the most productive. The lighter the line and the smaller the lure, usually is key to good crappie fishing. I usually only go with six-pound test line when I'm fishing around brush.
What lure or bait is best is a matter of personal preference. So is the color. However, it probably is wise to experiment to see what is working. Some days it seems the crappie like jigs, and other days they prefer minnows, and sometimes I tip a jig with a minnow. Small Road-Runner lures work well as do small Mister Twisters. I have one friend who never uses anything but blue and white jigs, and he puts lots of crappie in the live well.
While most crappie anglers use spinning reels on long poles (seven to 10 feet), a cane pole can do the job. A bobber above the bait works well, but some people prefer to tight line and depend on the feel of the fish biting to know when to set the hook.
As with all fishing, what technique you are comfortable with and works best for you, is the one to use.
This time of spring, a plate of fried crappie and morel mushrooms is hard to beat.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sunday drive to Lake Placid, FL, and more than 40 beautiful murals

Part of a large Lake Placid, FL, mural depicting a cattle drive.


     Went for a drive Sunday afternoon for lunch and to view murals painted on the side of buildings.
The trip took us to Lake Placid, FL, a small town in south-central Florida. There are approximately 40 murals painted on buildings throughout the downtown area. The murals depict a large variety of subjects.
All paintings are large, and some are huge. One very large mural is of a cattle drive. It is truly impressive.
Lake Placid is surrounded by lakes and is quite scenic. It apparently is named for the famous Lake Placid in New York. There are numerous interesting shops, and plenty of places to eat, although a couple we sought are closed on Sunday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

There isn't much of anything better than a plate of fried morels

Photo by Phil Junker
Black morels, which usually appear before white and yellow mushrooms, are just as tasty fried as their counterparts, which follow.


Brother-in-law Paul Cooper stopped by and announced he brought a surprise. It was a good one. Morel mushrooms.
Paul, who is a great “shroomer”, hadn’t found any, but managed to buy a pound of wild yellow morels that had been shipped for sale at a market near Bainbridge, IN.
Upon his arrival, the valuable fungi cargo was placed in the refrigerator. My obligation was to obtain steak for the next night, and Paul would do the cooking.
“What else do you need for the cooking?”, I asked.
Paul indicated I probably had everything needed, but he needed a stick of butter. I use the make-believe butter stuff, but said I would obtain the real stuff for the mushroom cooking. I also obtained a pound of shrimp to enjoy during the cooking. What a feast.
Paul cooks morels slightly different than my routine.
He rolls them in a batter of egg and flour. He likes to fry them in a cast iron skillet. He melts a stick of butter in the pan, and then adds fresh cooking oil, frying them golden brown.
Many people cook them many different ways.
My cooking process varies a little, but if I have enough, I always fry them. Maybe not the healthiest, but the way I like them.
Morels fried are delicious, especially with steak or a platter of walleye, crappie or bluegill. 
When I return home from a hunt in the woods with mushrooms, I cut them in two pieces lengthwise. Rinse off any dirt and bugs, and place them in a bowl of salt water. I let them soak in the salty water overnight to kill any bugs missed in rinsing. There will be some.
When I’m ready to cook them, I rinse them again. Next I roll them in flour, salt and pepper, and place them in a skillet with about a half inch of hot canola oil. 
However, I cook up several cut up pieces of bacon in the skillet for flavor, before adding the oil. In my opinion, it enhances the taste.
I cook them until golden brown, then place them on paper towels to drain prior to serving with the rest of the meal. Unfortunately, I seem to sample so many, it’s tough to cook a serving plate full. Don’t put paper towels on top of the fried morels or place them in layers after cooking. It makes them soggy.
Ron Kruger, writer friend from Missouri. posted on Facebook on the internet, “I finally found a few mushrooms.”  He said his favorite way to cook them is to flour and sauté them in butter, then cook them in eggs.”
I like Ron’s method, if I only have a few morels early in the season. I cook them the same way and finish them in scrambled eggs.
However, If I have enough, frying is the best way for my taste.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ever seen an armadillo? They may be headed north your way

Photo courtesy IDNR
Armadillos appear to be expanding their range northwards and have been seen in Kentucky and Indiana. This one was hit be an auto in northwestern Indiana.

Recently, Conservation Officer Brenda Louthain, was called to a bridge to check out a road kill in the northwestern Indiana community of Monticello. 
What Brenda found was a bit of a surprise as well as a rarity. It was an armadillo. If you haven’t seen one, it looks a bit like a live armored tank on legs. And while you might expect it to be slow, an armadillo actually iis quick and can jump, sometimes jumping into the underside of a vehcile.
Armadillos are native to South America, but over the years made their way though Central America and then on to the Southwestern United States. Eventually, they made it to Florida and now have headed north.
Although several armadillos have been spotted in southwest Indiana and north central Kentucky in the past several years, the road kill in northwestern Indiana is the farthest north one has been spotted.
It is not known how the animal in Monticello made it that far north. It could have been natural migration, but someone also could have transported one or several north.
A southern Indiana truck driver friend used to joke at dinner about bringing a couple from Texas and releasing them in Indiana, but I always thought he was joking, and as far as I know, he never did. Their migration to the Ohio River valley appears to be natural.
A writer friend says he has spotted several in Kentucky.
According to a post on the Indiana DNR’s Facebook page, "We have no idea where it came from or how it got here," It also observed, "We have learned that armadillos smell terrible."
However, it is known that these strange looking animals that look like small armored vehicles with legs rather than wheels, have been expanding their range in recent years.
The first confirmed armadillo report north of the Ohio in the Hoosier state was back in 2003 on I-64 just east of the Illinois line in Gibson County, according to the Associated Press, but they've also been spotted in Daviess, Dubois, Parke, Perry, Pike and Vanderburgh counties. There likely have been other unreported encounters.
The armadillos seen in Kentucky and Indiana primarily have been what is called the nine-banded armadillos. They have been reported across Kentucky (at least 32).
Throughout the America’s there are a sizable number of species of armadillos, but what is found throughout the this area is the nine-banded armadillo.
They are prolific diggers. Many species use their sharp claws to dig for food, such as grubs, and to dig dens. The nine-banded armadillo prefers to build burrows in moist soil near the creeks, streams, and arroyos around which it lives and feeds. The diets of different armadillo species vary, but consist mainly of insects, grubs, and other invertebrates. 
Although the animals are interesting and an attraction when first sighted, as their numbers increase in an area, they often become unwanted as the dig up people’s yards, flower beds and gardens.
According to Wikipedia, “Armadillos have short legs, but can move quite quickly, and have the ability to remain under water for as long as six minutes. Because of the density of its armor, an armadillo will sink in water unless it swallows air, inflating its stomach to twice normal size and raising its buoyancy above that of water, allowing it to swim across narrow streams and ditches.”
So, if you see a strange looking, short-legged animal that looks like a small armored tank in your yard, most likely, it is an armadillo.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Turkey season rapidly approaching; still time for some planning

Find a hen turkey in the spring, and a tom probably is nearby.
(photo courtesy NWTF)

Turkey season opens in a couple of weeks, so time is running short to prepare to bag a tom.
Opening day is April 22 in Indiana ,and the spring season runs through May 10. Youth turkey hunt weekend is April 18-19. Across the Ohio, opening day is April 18 in Kentucky, and the spring season also runs through May 10. 
A hunter can get lucky and take a bird almost by accident, but planning is a key to success. 
One morning, years ago, when I headed to the woods with my friend Phil Kirby, he accidentally slammed the truck door when we arrived near our planned hunting spot. It caused a tom to gobble, and Phil shot it a couple minutes later. But, that’s a rare exception,
The National Wild Turkey Federation has several suggestions for increasing your chances on opening morning.
“The first step towards enjoying a successful spring hunt is to find a place to hunt,” according to NWTF. “Your state or provincial wildlife agency can help you identify public hunting land.
“If you plan to hunt private land, make sure you get the landowner's permission before hunting or scouting. Wherever you decide to hunt, make the most of your time afield by spending time before the season opens, learning the lay of the land and where the birds frequent.
“Once you pinpoint were the birds roost and where they head during the day to feed, plan a strategy that puts you along their travel routes
“Practice calling. Communicating with a wild turkey to work it to the gun is a thrilling experience. Today's market offers a variety of calls — everything from mouth calls to box calls to peg calls and more.”
Calling takes practice. If you aren’t experienced with mouth calls, a box call may be the easiest to learn in a short amount of time. Slate calls also can be learned rather quickly, but it takes time to perfect any of them. But, then a truck door slamming sometimes can excite a tom in mating season.
Prior to the start of hunting season, many hunters head to the range, set up a turkey target at 40 yards, pull the trigger and are satisfied that their pattern is more than adequate. So they put their shotgun back in its case until opening morning. That can be a mistake.
One long-time hunter said, “I can't tell you how many birds I've seen missed, not because a hunter was shooting at a bird at the limit of his range, but because it was too close. That's right, too close.”
With today's choke tube offerings and tight-patterning turkey loads, the shot that covers a pie plate at 30 or 40 yards can be smaller than your fist at just 10 or 15 yards. 
If you shoot a little to the right or the left of a gobbler's head and all you're going to see is flapping wings and tail feathers as that old' tom takes flight.
Be ready for any approach by a wary longbeard this spring. Know how your gun patterns at 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards by practicing on targets at those ranges before the season. Then, you'll be prepared to take the proper shot. Remember, you don't have to shoot. He'll be there again for another try.