Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's not all about catching fish

Why travel 2,500 miles to fish? We have good fishing right here in Indiana. So, why spend the money and time to travel so far?
Different people have different reasons, but for most it isn’t just to catch fish. Putting fish on the stringer is a goal, but not the only reason for the trip.
Among a number of trips I have made to the northland, was a trip to Woman River Camp in far Northwest Ontario for a week’s fishing with three other Hoosiers and a couple of friends from Tennessee. It’s a long drive--nearly 24 hours driving time each way., And with the price of gasoline, it’s costly.
Making the trip were my son--in-law, his father, his uncle, my brother-in-law, and a friend. We all caught fish, and they were great eating from the just  caught from clear, cool Canadian water. My brother-in-law Paul Cooper fried them golden brown along with potatoes and other fixin’s/ Ah, wonderful.
I caught my share of fish, but the numbers were not great nor were the size, although the Woman River and the associated chain of lakes can produce numbers and lunkers. So why travel so far?
  Some people make such trips in hopes of a 50-inch musky, a huge northern pike or a 10-pound walleye, but that’s not what beckons me to a far-away fish camp.
It’s the camaraderie and the wilderness experience.
Woman River  and similar camps have beautiful scenery, solitude, the chance to see eagles, listen to the haunting call of loons, and observe a cow moose and her calf. 
 splashing through the brush.
Of course, I love to catch fish (and eat them), but a trip with friends is the north woods is more than fishing.
It’s sitting by a crackling fireplace and listening to Mike Fields talk about all the crazy lures he makes with hooks, spinners and costume jewelry he buys at yard sales. He creates some of the stangest looking lures one could imagine. A respectable fish would never stike most of them, but they do. That makes Mike happy.
It’s Paul telling about catching big walleye on Indiana’s Tippecaone River, determining how to apply techniques and catch them on Woman River. He did. He’s a good fisherman and an excellent cook as well. We ate well, really well.
Son-in-law David recalls how pike struck his topwater buzz bait a few hours earlier, while he puts off reading a textbook. He’s enrolled in a master’s program at Indiana University and missed a class to make the trip. He was the youngster among the old codgers enjoying the fire.
His dad, Charlie tinkers with an old fishing reel that has been covered with salt water in Florida. He’s always fixing something. He’s one of those folks who have difficulty just sitting and relaxing. At the same time, he speculates to his brother Mike how Kentucky will beat Tennessee in football, and probably basketball.
Mike changes the subject to this fall’s deer hunt and invites us to come down for the hunt. “We really have a lot of deer and good places to hunt. I’m sure you could get one,” he adds. “There wouldn’t be a lot of walking,” he suggests, thinking of my less than cooperative right knee.
Sid, a die-hard bass fisherman making his first trip to the north woods, ponders how he is going to catch a big northern pike, using his his normal bass catching methods. He figures some of the same techniques will work on agressive pike, which at certain times will hit almost anything.
As the sun sets below the pines across the lake, I sip a bit of bottled Kentucky liquid corn, and doze off briefly in front of the warm fireplace. I wake up when Sid puts another log on the fire, eat one of Paul’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, and look forward to fishing another day with friends.
Catching a fish is a bonus.
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WOMAN RIVER CAMP -- The Woman River system is a multi-species fishery consisting of good populations of walleye and northern pike. There also are lake trout, whitefish, smallmouth bass, burbot and tasty, plentiful  yellow perch (cousin of the walleye).
The Woman River system is a well-sheltered easily traveled waterway stretching north for over 50 miles, and consisting of countless bays, islands and fishing structure. Woman River Camp also has seven portage lakes where there are boats available.
The accommodations are excellent as is the equipment and hospitality.
For addition information on Woman River Camp go to website:, or call toll-free 1-866-FISHWRC.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Old Catalpa Tree Hosted Tree House, Catfish Bait

Down at the corner of the property grew a large catalpa tree. It was a special tree. It was my favorite tree. It was a special place. 
The broad leaves made a huge canopy roof, keeping out the sun, and light rain. The tree was very climbable for a youngster like me. About eight feet off the ground were limbs that easily adapted to a tree house. Well, it wasn’t really a tree house. I  simply placed several boards on which I could sit and oversee my kingdom below. I could peer out and watch for advancing enemy armies.
The old catalpa tree (some call them catawba trees, and to others they are cigar trees) grew large pod-like seed capsules, which dangled from the tree and were a foot to a foot and a half long. They became swords or other fun “toys” for me and my young friends.
The catalpa has beautiful blossoms that look a bit like an orchid, and the wood of the tree makes very good fence posts. But nobody was going to cut or harm my tree. Actually, it was on my uncle’s property, but it was my tree--at least in my mind.
My dad took a strong interest in the tree for another reason. Later, we shared the interest.
The big green leaves attracted large black and green worms (caterpillar), which commonly are referred to as catalpa worms. They are ugly and messy, and love to munch on the leaves and can do damage to the trees, although they never seemed to hurt my old tree.
My dad learned as much as the worms love to munch on the catalpa leaves, catfish love to munch on catalpa worms.
Dad had a two part metal minnow bucket. The outside was simply a bucket with a handle. It would hold water. An inner bucket had holes in the sides. It also had a handle. You could lift up the inner bucket, some water would drain, and that made it much easier to catch the minnows.
The inner bucket also made a great container to keep catalpa worms for a catfish fishing trip. Dad would hand me the bucket and send me to the tree to collect worms. First, I was to place leaves inside the bucket. Next, I was to pick off all the worms I could reach and place in the bucket. It had a lid to keep the worms captive.
As I recall, the worms made their appearance during early summer. Sometimes there would be a second infestation.
References to their use for bait reportedly date back to the 1870s. When put on a hook, which according to some should be a circle hook with heavy sinkers to make sure the bait rests on the bottom, a bright fluorescent green fluid oozes from its body that smells sweet, which is its attractiveness. It is also reported to "wiggle forever on a hook." This sweet aroma and liveliness of this worm apparently make it appealing to catfish. 
Photographer writer John Maxwell said, “ think my dad used to cut them in half and turn them inside out, which was icky enough for me to try chicken livers instead.”
Friend Teresa Bragg Rice, former publisher of the Mt. Vernon Democrat, recalls, “We had a large catalpa tree in our back yard near Benton, KY. It sat pretty close to the back door of our house. 
“My dad, Bobby Bragg, was an avid fisherman. Every summer the big greenish worms with a black stripe down their backs would show up on the tree. Dad would pluck several of them off, place them in a jar and head off to various places on Kentucky Lake. 
“He used them exclusively for fishing for catfish. They worked pretty good, and he hauled in several fish over the years using them. Mom wasn't too fond of the tree because the worms can be pretty messy. She finally insisted on it being cut down. That was the end of some pretty good and free fishing bait.”
Catalpa worms are an old-time bait that bring back old time memories. 
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Contact Phil Junker by email at:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bluegrass, the real music

When it comes to music, I love bluegrass. That hasn’t always been the case. Growing up, I wanted know part of country music, and didn’t know about bluegrass.
My daughter, Michelle, and son-in-law, David Fields introduced me to it a number of years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the music, and I love the people around it. Musicians are friendly, accessible, and the fans are like a big family.
There’s always good music and food. Just bring your lawn chair and relax.
Among the festivals, I usually attend is one at Cedar Valley in Perry County, IN, near my home in Derby. This year’s festival will feature six bands and a tribute to the legendary Bill Monroe.
Scheduled July 7-9 at Cedar Valley, 12478 State Road 70, Derby, IN, the festival will highlight the Karl Shiflett & Big Country show on Friday evening. Tommy Brown and the County Line Grass is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Tommy Brown has become a special favorite of mine over the years.
The festival will start Thursday evening with an open stage at 5 p.m. where participants are asked to bring their own instruments. A bean dinner will be served. Diners are asked to bring a covered dish.
The host band again for this year is the popular King’s Highway band from Kentucky. It will play both Friday and Saturday nights. And the Kind’s Highway group has become the favorite of my grandson, Denver. The group took him “under wing” about three years ago, and really made him feel special. He even was taught to dance and called on stage.
Three additional bands will play two sessions on Saturday, making five bands performing during the day. The bands include: Cowan Creek Boys, Don Stanley & Middle Creek, plus Blue Lonesome.
Karl Shifflett & Big Country is best known for its “retro” stage show  with its irrepressible bounce and down-home, audience pleasing, good-natured presentation of classic country and bluegrass acts of the 1940’s and 40’s.
Karl Shifflett & Big Country officially started in 1993, but did not gain national recognition until when they signed a recording deal with Rebel Records.
Cedar Valley is located on Indiana State Road 70, east of Highway 37, 11 miles from Tell City. 
The festival is a family event with no alcoholic beverages permitted.
For additional information, call 812-836-2311 or 270-314-3399.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why turtle crossed the road!

So, why did the turtle cross the road? No, not the chick -- the turtle. What’s the reason for this dangerous trip, one that could leave it splattered in the middle of the highway?
Last Friday, while driving Highway 60 and a couple of blacktop back roads, I was happy to see flood waters have receded, and I also counted more than a dozen box turtles making their way across the hot, dangerous road. It is a spring ritual, but why?
One friend with an effort to be humorous, offered, “To get to a shell station.” Someone else suggested to get to a SHELLter.”
There is no question that the travel by a female turtle is related to the spring ritual of reproduction. But what drives them across roads at this time?
Throughout much of the years, turtles will move from one water source to another, but the females are the ones most likely seen during the May to June nesting season. And they are the ones usually seen crossing roads.
According to several herpetologists, the turtles probably are crossing roads to lay their eggs. They apparently cross roads to lay their eggs as they leave marshy, wet surroundings in search of dry, warm soil, and often where there is more sun striking the soil.
How the slow moving, low to the ground knows where higher, drier soil exists is another question. Guess nature just provides the instinct.
When drivers see turtles crossing the road, some stop and try to help them avoid being pancaked by a car.
I’ve done it myself. However, there are a couple things to keep in mind.
Be careful with your auto to make sure you don’t encounter an accident with another motorist, while trying to be a good Samaritan for a turtle. The other point is don’t take the turtle back to the side of the road from which it came. It likely will just turn around and try to cross the road again.
Occasionally, female turtles will lay their eggs in a yard or driveway. This happens most often in May and June. Don't be alarmed. There is no need to artificially incubate the eggs or move them. Try not to disturb the female turtle as she will leave when finished.
The last several winters when I was at our little camp in Florida, a female turtle has come from a nearby pond to lay eggs near our back fence. In less than two hours, she lays her eggs and is gone. The eggs were laid in the same place, and I assume by the same turtle. I leave the eggs alone, and have never seen the youngsters.
The turtles I normally see crossing the road in the springtime are box turtles. They live long lives, are slow to mature, and have few babies hatch each year.
In general, turtles  (there are many different ones) are among the oldest reptiles groups, dating back more than 200 million years. They predate lizards and snakes.
Nature is a wonderful thing, and watching turtles is just one of the neat experiences we are fortunate enough to observe.

Skunked on Father's Day

It was an unpleasant start to Father’s Day. It also was a surprise plus a bit or irony.
Earlier, I enjoyed an evening of dirt track auto racing. Rain had stayed away, and the racing was good. 
Arriving at home, I was greeted by my excited rat terrier, Tyler. It always makes me feel good to know he is so excited to see me. After the greeting, I let him out the back door into the fenced in yard.
It was just after midnight and Saturday Night Live was a rerun. I switched the TV to a previously recorded session of Dave Letterman. Guest Jim Carrey told a story about taking his dogs for a walk. The pair charged into bushes and made a rapid retreat after being spayed by an angry skunk. 
The way Carrey told the story was hilarious. It was a Carrey impression of Tom Hanks telling a story about his dogs and a skunk of the show a couple years ago. Anyway, it was really funny.
About that time, Tyler jumped on the sun room door, announcing he wanted back into the house.
As I opened the door, something smelled bad. Due to my allergies and sinus problems, anytime I smell anything, it is significant. This smell was significant. It was skunk.
What are the chances of watching a skit on TV about dogs getting “skunked”, and I open the door and my dog has been skunked?. He raced around the house trying to escape the smell.
Tyler was quickly caught directed to the bathtub. Two shampoos and one tomato bath later, nearly all the skunk smell was gone. At least, that is what wife, Phyllis reported.
Fortunately, I don’t think Tyler experienced a direct hit from the skunk. My hope now is that the skunk departed for good and isn’t taking up residence somewhere under the deck.
I’m a veteran of numerous skunk and dog encounters. I’ve had direct hits myself. Some people don’t think the tomato juice works, but I’ve had good luck with it and shampoo
It worked on me as well.
In the past, I looked up skunk smell on the internet, I found another skunk smell remover that many people claim works well. It calls for a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and two tablespoons of dish detergent (not the stuff for dishwashers). If you have a large dog, the amount can be doubled or tripled.
Mix the ingredients and use it while it is foaming. It is the oxygen that reacts with the thiols in the skunk stink to neutralize it. Don’t try to store any left over mix as it reportedly could explode.
The remedies seem to work well, but no matter how much effort you put into it, there still probably will be a bit or skunk aroma remaining for a week or two, especially if the dogs get wet.
Anyway, Father’s Day turned out well. My kids both had fun with greetings and gentle jabs about my skunk encounters.