Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Monday, February 1, 2016

Winter storms create problems, but can be fun for youngsters

Granddaughters Allison and Meredith Fields took
advantage of snow to create snow angels.

Winter storm Jonas, who gained the name Snowzilla, caused much hardship for many as it swept across the Midwest to the east coast. 
No storm is a good thing, but for some it has it’s good, especially if it drops just a few inches of fresh, white stuff in your area.
Youngsters in particular enjoy snow. It is a time for sleds, building snowmen, playing fox and geese, and making snow ice cream. Snow ice cream is a winter delight forgotten by many, and probably not thought of by many others.
As a youngster, the early clean snow was an event long anticipated. It was fun, but the treat was snow ice cream.
When that first measurable snow came, Mom usually would make a bowl of snow cream. It tasted great, and as I grew older I was able to make the tasty stuff. However, my duties usually related to gathering the white stuff. Someone often chuckled and added, “Don’t get any of the yellow snow.” I may not have been very old, but knew they were telling me to get clean snow and avoid any area the dogs had used as an outdoor restroom.
Most of the recipes for snow ice cream are quite simple, but there are a few variations.
The simplest, and the way I recall making it, requires only four ingredients. That is one cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar and four or five cups of clean snow.
Mix together the milk, vanilla, and the sugar. Stir this mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the snow to your mixture, stirring constantly, until it is as thick as the ice cream. Enjoy.
Some recipes add one beaten egg. That makes it a bit richer. Some call for separating the white and yellow of the egg, beating, and then adding together. Others even call for cooking the egg mixture a bit. And then some add a dash of salt.
My cousin, Janet wasn’t big on white milk, so she would add other flavorings to the ice cream.
Keeping it simple seemed fine to me. 
One of the good things about freezers these days is you can even save some of your snow ice cream and eat it later.
The EPA or some organization probably today says the snow is full of all sorts of toxins, but go for it. Enjoy it. You won’t be eating that much anyway.
Snow and those old memories also brought back the thought on snow angels. I know some kids still make them.
When Snowzilla dropped measurable snow on Nashville, TN, last week, granddaughters Meredith and Allison, took to the snow and created angels. They also made good use of a hill for sledding,and making snow forts.
Unfortunately, some people were stuck in their autos or elsewhere due to the snow, but for kids like Meredith and Allison, the snow was a good thing. And, their black lab, Buddy was white with snow as well.
If you have youngsters around, encourage them to make some snow angels and gather snow for ice cream the next time we have a fresh snow. Take out the camera or these days grab the cell phone, and record some fun memories.
Guess, I’m still a kid at heart. I like snow, and would love a bowl of snow ice cream. And, it still is fun to see youngsters on their sleds, and enjoying making snow angels.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pro angler Todd Faircloth doesn't always select a heavy-duty bass rod

Yamaha bass pro doesn't always go for a heavy-duty rod.

Most anglers think it takes a heavy-duty rod to land a big bass, especially if you are a tournament fisherperson. Todd Faircloth has a different take.
Faircloth, a Yamaha sponsored pro angler and six-time Bassmaster Elite tournament winner, isn’t always looking for a sturdy rod to quickly host his catch into the boat.
Yamaha’s media relations folks recently shared interview thoughts with Faircloth, who hails from Texas, and his thoughts may be useful to the everyday bass angler as well as those who fish the tournament trail.
Among his contemporaries in professional bass fishing, Todd rates as one of the most consistent anglers in the sport, regularly finishing well. He has a simple answer for his consistency: he doesn’t lose very many fish.
“It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and believe me, I’ve lost my share of fish that ended up costing me some high finishes and definitely a lot of money,” smiles Faircloth, who will be fishing his 14th Bassmaster Classic® in March, “but I have also spent a lot of time studying why I lost those fish, and have made some serious adjustments in my fishing style to keep fish losses at a minimum.”
The first adjustment Faircloth made was to change to softer action rods when he fishes treble hook lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits. One of the main reasons anglers lose bass is because their rods are too stiff and hooks simply pull free. Instead of using a heavy action rod, Faircloth has changed to slightly more limber medium action rods that flex evenly and with less pressure. 
In winning a Bassmaster® Elite tournament at Lake Amistad several years ago, for example, Faircloth used a medium-action, 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick while fishing a heavy swimbait lure. Most want the heaviest action rod they can find with these types of lures, but Faircloth boated bass over eight pounds with the more limber rod and won with a total of 76 pounds, 15 ounces. Just as importantly, he never lost a fish.
“On swimbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits especially, you’re not really setting the hooks on the fish itself,” explains the Yamaha Pro. “Instead, the bass is grabbing the lure and you’re just pulling the hooks into it. A stiffer, heavy action rod simply does not flex to absorb the shock when you do this, and the hooks never grab the fish. 
“This doesn’t happen nearly as often with a single-hook lure like a jig or plastic worm because you’re just driving the one hook into the fish’s mouth, and a stiffer rod can do this.
“At the same time,” adds Faircloth, “treble hook lures often tend to be larger lures, and bass use the weight of the lure itself as leverage to help them ‘throw’ the lure free.” That led to Faircloth’s second major fishing adjustment, which is to change all the treble hooks on his lures to short-shank models.
“The majority of factory-made lures today are fitted with long-shank treble hooks that swing more freely when a bass jumps and shakes its head,” he adds. “Every time a fish does that, chances increase the lure will come loose.”
Faircloth’s third fishing adjustment was to change how he played bass as he was bringing them to the boat. He stopped depending on the drag systems in his baitcasting reels to control the fish and began relying entirely on spool pressure he applied himself.
“I don’t use the drag system on baitcasters at all,” the Yamaha Pro emphasizes. “Instead, I disengage the reel and thumb my spool. I feel like this gives me quicker and more complete control, especially on a larger bass.
“These are just three changes I’ve made in my fishing over the years, and now I hardly think twice about them,” concludes Faircloth. “I still lose a bass occasionally, as does every fisherman, but certainly not as many as I did a few years ago.” 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is it a black bass? Well, probably

Is it a black bass? Well, yes, probably.

When friend Charlie Fields sent me a fish picture, it was accompanied by a question. “Is this a black bass?”
My response to Charlie, who lives near Rushville, IN, and spends winters at Anna Marie Island, FL, was, “I really don't know. It appears to be a black bass which often is the same as a largemouth. People use terminology and descriptions sometimes interchangeably. For example, there are more than 40 names for crappie, depending on local terminology.”
For whatever reason, the photo and question did make me first think about what I call crappie, however that is just what I call them.
Crappie also are known by many other names such as specs,  calico bass, speckled perch, strawberry bass, papermouths, sac-a-lait, Oswego bass, and numerous other local and regional names., 
It was my outdoor writer friend Thayne Smith, who a number of years ago, wrote a column about crappie and came up with more than half a hundred names by which these tasty fish are called.
But, back to the question about black bass. There is about as much lack of name and species agreement related to black bass as crappie.
The terms black bass or largemouth often are used interchangeably. And, they aren’t of the same bass strain as those saltwater related bass like stripers and white bass. In fact, largemouth and what most of us call black bass actually are part of the perch family.
The one thing certain is it is uncertain just how many kinds of black bass there are. Many anglers and fishery biologists call the largemouth bass a kind of black bass.
According to information found on a Florida Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website, “The largemouth bass is the best known and most popular game fish in North America. It is distinguished from other black bass because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye, and the first and second dorsal (back) fins are separated by an obvious deep dip.”
“The Florida largemouth bass is the state freshwater fish. Found statewide in lakes and rivers, they are commonly found along vegetation, or underwater structure, but schooling bass are also found in the middle of lakes.” The habits are not unique to Florida, they are much the same in Kentucky, Indiana or wherever they are found.
There are numerous kinds of black bass. Some are well known and others few anglers know the fish or names. One on-line encyclopedia lists 14 kinds of black bass.
While most black bass anglers are familiar with largemouth and smallmouth bass, and southern bassers know about spotted bass, there are other kinds of black bass few anglers know about.
Some of these types are restricted to a few streams but others are more widespread. Not all are recognized by the International Game Fish Association but biologists say they are distinct species. All are of the genus "Micropterus" and can interbreed, producing hybrids of the two species.
I’ve shared enjoyable time fishing in Alabama for Cousa bass named for a type of bass found in the Cousa River.
Both the largemouth and smallmouth bass records have been around for a longtime.
George Perry caught the U.S. record largemouth in 1932 from Montgomery Lake, Georgia. The huge fish weighed in at 22-pounds, four-ounces. 
David Hayes of Leitchfield, KY, caught the world record smallmouth at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee in 1955. It weighed 11-pounds, 15 ounces, and is recognized by the International Game Fish Association.
The second and third place smallmouth also came from Dale Hollow.
So was Charlie’s fish a black bass. Well, yes, I think so.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking forward to another new year


We already are heading off into 2016, and are contemplating an uncertain future, especially as the threat of terrorism looms like a low hanging cloud.
However as I sit at the old keyboard, I try to focus thoughts related to the out-of-doors. I can’t control nature either, but I tend to find it more understandable.
As one year ends and another starts, it is a time of reflection and looking forward to the future. Most everyone does it, even if only for a brief moment.
For those who love the outdoors, when we look back we can see some of the harmful things man has done to the outdoors, the environment. For example, habitat for rabbits, quail and grouse has been eliminated in much of the Midwest.
But, we also can see many positives. When I was a kid growing up in West-Central Illinois, there were no deer and turkey. Now, they are abundant throughout most Midwestern states. Elk once again flourish in eastern Kentucky, and bears also are being spotted in Kentucky and Ohio, and a few sighting have been reported in Indiana. Kentucky now has a bear hunt season.
Like hunting, fishing opportunities have changed. Those days when people caught a hundred or more fish up a creek or in a lake are gone, but overall, we have good fishing. We have more stream and lake access than ever. Most streams are much cleaner and have more game fish than 30 years ago.
We have more hiking trails, boat ramps, and campgrounds than ever.
So as we look ahead, we can think about what we can do to make a positive contribution to the future of the outdoors, so our kids and grandkids will have places to fish, hunt, boat, hike or just picnic on a warm summer day.
This New Year thinking reminds me about what several friends do to jump start the year.
“Pickled herring for health,” said Lorraine Webster, who grew up in Maine, as she talked about her family’s New Year’s tradition. “You always eat pickled herring on New Year’s Day.”
She also always places some coins in a window sill. That way, she always knows she has a little money. “it seemed to work. I never had a lot, but I always had some,” she recalled.
At the Junker house, Phyllis always cooks corned beef and cabbage, and inserts a coin in the pot during the cooking. (Probably not healthy, but a tradition.)
Several years back, I researched New Year’s and found while it is the first day of our calendar year, it hasn’t always been the case. Many ancient people started the year with harvest. They performed rituals to blot out the past and purify themselves for the new year. It originally was celebrated March 15 on the old Roman calendar. Today, people in most countries celebrate the start of a new year.
To commemorate the event, some people would put out their fires, which were a crucial part of their lives, and start new ones. In the early days, many people exchanged gifts.
Many American colonists celebrated the new year by firing guns into the air and shouting. They also visited taverns and houses to ask for drinks. Other colonists reportedly attended church services. Some people held open houses, welcoming and feeding friends and relatives. That doesn’t sound too different from today.
Many new year traditions related to food, or maybe those are the ones I relate to best.
Whether  you celebrate with cabbage, black-eyed-peas, or put some change on your window sill, have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas' past bring back memories


In recalling Christmas pasts, there are many fond memories. Most aren’t about gifts, but there are a couple of presents that helped spark this old writers interest in the outdoors.
One Christmas there was a shinny red bike, and another year Santa left a Red Ryder BB gun. There were many other thoughtful gifts over the years, but these two top the list and expedited outdoor exploration.
Money was scarce when I was growing up. We always had plenty to eat and a warm house, but not a lot more. I didn’t know we were poor.
Somewhere, my dad found a used Western Flyer bike. He cleaned, painted and polished the old bike, It also had new tires, It looked brand new, beautiful. And to me, it was my ticket to the world. It was my transportation to frog ponds, fishin'’ holes, woods, and other neighborhood kid’s homes  and outdoor games.
I was blessed, electronic games had not been invented. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or other computer stuff I don’t understand. What we had was capture the flag, kick the can, hide and seek, and when we could find a new kid, we let him participate in a snipe hunt.
Besides the bike, another year’s special gift was a Red Ryder BB gun. It came with a package of BB’s.
I spent many hours shooting targets and cans down by the old railroad tracks. It was where I learned some of the early fundamentals of target shooting and hunting. It also helped teach me the value of saving money so I could make trips to Goodwin’s store to purchase more BB’s.
For many old-timers like me, Christmas is a special time -- a time for nostalgia about bikes, BB guns, Christmas Eve church services and trips to Grandma’s house.
Growing up, Christmas Eve started with a trip to a little German country church in rural Clark County, Illinois. The kids of the church practiced  for weeks in advice on a special Christmas program.
The programs were short, probably no more than an hour. But, they seemed an eternity as we had fun things to do afterwards at grandma’s house.
There was a big valley and hill near the church, and it always seemed like it was slick with snow and ice. One farmer kept his tractor at ready to help pull stranded cars up the hill after leaving the church
After the service, our family all gathered at Grandma and Grandpa Junker’s house. It was small, but we all managed to pack inside.
There was oyster soup and chili, plus sandwiches and homemade Christmas cookies. As a youngster, I disliked (mild words) the oyster stew, but would love to have a bowl today.
Kids were later told to be quiet and listen for Santa’s sleigh bells. Hearing the bells, we were told that Santa had made an early visit to the closed off living room. There we found gifts under the tree One for each youngster. There also were gifts for adults, who following Thanksgiving dinner had drawn names. Later, we kids received the remainder of our Christmas gifts at our homes.
My Christmas memories still fill my head at this time of year, and I have a special recollection of that red bike. It was my access to the wonderful outdoors.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florida's Polk County sets aside land for rehab, future generations



Guide Steve King explains about swamp land and the important role it plays in the ecosystem.
Historically, in the early part of the last century, people choose to drain swamps and marshes. It made better land for growing crops and raising livestock.
While the drained land was better for some crops and livestock, it also had a negative impact on water quality and much wildlife. It happened in many places like the Kankakee Marsh innorth-central Indiana, other places in the Midwest, and significant parts of Florida.
While all of the original marsh and swamp land will never be returned to its undisturbed status, there are places where people of have seen the benefits of returning the land to its original status. There are some good examples in the area of central Florida where I spend cold weather months.
Polk County is a large county in central Florida. It roughly is the size of Rhode Island, and currently has 544 lakes. Many were sink holes that filled with water, and about one-third are natural lakes, including those in the Kissimmee chain of lakes which lead to Lake Okeechobee and eventually through marsh and swamp land to the Gulf of Mexico.
Polk County Environmental Lands Program oversees the management of Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and 16 natural areas in the county. The program exists to protect the water, wildlife and wilderness, and when appropriate, provide nature-based recreation.
A number of years ago, voters in Polk County approved a property tax levy that created the Lands Program. Since that time, many environmentally sensitive areas are being protected.
One of the areas being protected and rehabilitated is the Circle B Bar Reserve, The 1,267-acre wilderness area between Winter Haven and Lakeland, boasts large numbers of wildlife, and attracts visitors from throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries.
One of the earliest property maps showing the Circle B dates back to 1927 and shows it as a wet area., connected to Lake Hancock. Over the next 70 years, actions were taken to drain the area and make the land more suitable for cattle ranching.
In 2000, the land was purchased by the Polk County Commissioners and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to restore the main wetland now known as Banana Creek Marsh.
Since the purchase, the restoration of the marsh and upland has been ongoing. The changes are creating habitat and providing new food source for thousands of resident and migrating birds and other wildlife, including wild turkey, eagles, bobcat, grey fox, otter, coyotes, and gopher tortoises. 
And, there are plenty of alligators. Lake Hammond and the surrounding are are estimated to house abut 4,000 gators.
Circle B has a dozen well maintained trails for hiking and biking. It seems to be a paradise for photographers, and despite the sizable alligator population, there doesn’t seem to be any significant disagreeable encounters between visitors and gators.
Circle B also offers guided leisurely tram tours through the Banana Creek Marsh with narrative provided by volunteer guides. However, the tram tours are popular and reservations are required. There is no charge. Reservations may be made at the Discovery Center reception desk or by calling 1-863-668-4673, ext 205. Reservations usually need to be made several days in advance.
The Circle B is well worth a visit on any trip to Florida. It is located about 50 miles southwest of Orlando. The facilities are open daily, and there is no charge, although there is a donation jar at the registration/information desk.
One word of caution, pets are not allowed on the property.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on gun carry law, safety


Recent terrorism attacks in this country and abroad have ramped up emotions, questions, and interest in guns.
Not all of the attacks have been with guns, but those are the ones that seem to garner most of the attention. There are those who hope, want, believe or wish passing legislation would end the violence. Don’t we all, but that isn’t the reality.
Yes, there may be laws and regulations that can be tweaked and make a bit tougher for bad guys to get guns, but for the most part such legislation just make some folks feel better, feel like they are doing something positive.
Up front, I am a supporter of the “right to bear arms”. I have been a hunter all my life and am retired military. But when I sat down at my old laptop, the purpose wasn’t to start a debate of guns vs. no guns. My goal was to offer some information about carrying a gun.
There is no question that recent events have prompted much interest from people who are or think they are interested in carrying a weapon. The interest has been particularly strong among females.
I myself have had thoughts about carrying a weapon. I own guns, but have chosen not to carry one. My personal choice.
A number of people have raised the question about whether or not to obtain a weapon and carry it.
Some words written by fellow outdoor writer Glenn Wheeler provide a much better response than my old mind has produced.
Glenn is an EMT, and owner of Wheeler Photography and Media Group, Harrison, Arkansas. He has been putting words about the outdoors, including hunting and shooting, for many years.
Glenn graciously consented for me to pass along his words of the subject of handgun carry.
“Lately. I have been getting quite a few texts, calls and Facebook messages asking about what handgun a person should get, what ammo is best, how to best carry a firearm, etc.
“I appreciate the questions and try to answer each as best I can. But, I'll put this out here, too.
“Carrying a firearm is a right as long as you qualify. It is also a responsibility. Don't just get a gun and start carrying it. Have a knowledgeable person (or more than one, independent of one another) help you choose the right gun and learn how to safely handle it.
“Get good training. I don't mean Uncle Joe in the back yard with a box of ammo, I mean a good, qualified instructor. 
“Go beyond getting a Concealed Carry permit, get additional training. Set aside some money for that purpose in addition to what you spend on your gun, ammo, holster, etc.
“Also, if you make the decision to carry...Carry. Don't think "well, I'm just running to town, I won't need it." If you are going to carry, carry any time you can.
“It is our responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones. If you feel you want to live up to that responsibility, then do so. But, do so in the right way so you don't put yourselves and others in additional jeopardy and give the anti gunners more "ammo" to use against us. Carry responsibly, carry safely and carry always.”
To own a gun or not own a gun is your right. To carry a gun or not carry a gun also is your right. But if you choose to carry, do it right.