Black morels can be hard to see, but they are fun to hunt and great to eat.
It’s getting close to that time, morel mushroom hunting time. Reports from “shroomers” (mushroom hunters) of big finds in Georgia are being posted on morel websites.
One hunter in Indiana posted he found six morels March 23 near Mitchell, IN. He wrote he found them on a south facing slope, a place that usually catches warmer sun rays first.
A fellow in Kentucky near Big South Fork said he found a dozen or so small morels after he did a controlled burn of some land. He indicated had he not burned leaves, he probably never would have seen the mushrooms.
Once or twice, I have found morels at the end of March, but that is rare in Indiana, the earliest I usually find them is in the later part of the first week of April, and I really don’t find any significant numbers until the second week of the month.
Morels are not only dependent upon temperature, they also are significantly impacted by moisture. When there has been a good rain or two followed by warm sunny days, the combination will bring on the mushrooms. They will be found in the south first and move northward. Good picking lasts about three weeks.
READER EMAIL -- Phil, I was wondering when to start going to the woods to start looking for mushrooms?The terrain I usually hunt is hilly some creek bottoms. IIs there a certain type of tree they grow around?
As indicated previously, now is the time to start looking for morels. It may be a bit early, but not too early to start hunting.
What kind of tree should one look around? Different hunters have their favorites. I’m not convinced there is a best tree. It’s where you have confidence in finding them. I never thought one would find them amongst pine trees until I found them there. Then, I started looking under pines more often.
Many hunters have long said, morels can be found around dead elms. That was my dad’s favorite tree location, but finding dead elms can be tough these days.
Any fallen dead tree seems to be a good place to look. Fungi seem to pop up around trees that have been down for a few years.
In general, I have learned that black morels and the long-stem variety are found in deep woods, and white or yellow morels are more likely to be in damper creek bottoms, along the edge of the woods, in apple or other fruit orchards, and in fence rows.
Word of caution -- Don’t eat any mushroom you aren’t sure is safe. The morels are wonderful eating; however, some other types of fungi are poisonous. There are numerous books and internet websites which identify the edible mushrooms.
There are many types of mushrooms; however, I concentrate on the morels. They are the ones I know best, and I feel confident picking and eating them.
The mushroom books are good, but I highly recommend first time hunters try to get out with an experienced “shroomer” as the hard-core hunters call themselves. An experienced hunter not only can teach you to identify the morels, he or she also can provide tips on how and where to find them. Just don’t ask them for their secret spots.
There are “shroomers” who start picking morels in the south in March and work their way to the deep woods of northern Michigan by late May and into June. Some pay their travel expenses by selling the morels, which in some areas can bring up to $50 per pound.
Asian carp are not only a problem in Kentucky rivers, they also are becoming a major concern in lakes, including Kentucky and Barkley..
Kentucky decided to take a shot at the problem recently with an innovative commercial fishing tournament in an effort to rid Barkley and Kentucky lakes of some of the nonnative fish which apparently are beginning to have a significant negative impact on sport fishing, including bass and crappie.
According to Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, “Two species of Asian carp – bighead carp and silver carp - are plankton feeders and do not take bait off a hook like a sport fish.
Brooks noted that these carp over harvest plankton, which are the base of the aquatic food chain. Carp threaten the well-being of native fish and mussels by removing this source of nutrition. They also can be dangerous. They tend to jump, prompted by the vibration of a motor. At least one boater has been killed and numerous injured in the past several years.
The carp traditionally found in Kentucky waters can be caught on hook and line. And while they are ot considered top of the line tablefare, they can be prepared for the table and in fact are highly sought after by some people. These carp will bite worms, dough balls, and other baits.
In the tourney held mid-week, March 12-13, commercial angling teams netted more than 41 tons of the Asian carp for Kentucky and Barkley lakes. That was a good amount, but not as much as had been hoped, and not enough to make a significant dent in the population.
Barry Mann of nearby Benton, KY, claimed the top prize of $10,000 after hauling 28,670 pounds of fish from Kentucky and Barkley lakes during the two-day tournament.
"We were in them all day long," said Mann. "They were still jumping around the boat when we had to leave. What we went for was 20,000 pounds. We were pleased with our weight."
Twenty-one commercial fishing teams originally signed up for the tournament. The number dropped to 15 on opening day, then to 11 teams as some fishermen dropped far behind Mann's team and the team of Heath Frailley, the runner-up.
Frailley, a resident of Calhoun, Ky., brought back 22,000 pounds of carp. His team earned the $4,000 second-place prize. Owen Trainer of Sturgis, Ky., secured third place and a $3,000 prize with 7,790 pounds of fish. Ben Duncan, who only fished one day, won $2,000 for fourth place for 7,160 pounds of fish. Joe Bommarito took fifth place and a $1,000 prize with 4,340 pounds of fish.
Brooks said. "The 40 tons carp removed during this tournament is not insignificant, but this is only a drop in the proverbial bucket. The results were as clear as is the message: We must employ the commercial industry to remove Asian carp."
He hopes support and funding for more commercial tournaments can be found.
Besides being difficult to catch, the Asian carp currently don’t have much commercial value, although fisheries specialists in several states are seeking new uses and markets for the fish.
Many people think the carp are decent or maybe even good eating fish, but they are bony are don’t produce a lot of fillet meat. However, chefs are developing ways to better utilize the fish.
Gary Garth, who lives near Kentucky Lake, and writes for the Louisville Courier-Journal and other publications, wrote about ways to better utilize the fish for eating. He writes, “Asian carp,at least if you can't defeat it, you can eat it.” More information can be found at the Courier Journal website, and at Gary’s blog: garygarth.wordpress.com
People hunt for almost as many reasons as there are hunters. For most the reasons are personal, and reflect many aspects of their personalities.
Many years ago, hunting was a mean of providing food for the hunter and family. Back then, hunting for food probably was a primary motivation, although undoubtedly there were other reasons.
Today, there are a some folks who primarily hunt for food, but most folks take to the field in pursuit of game for a wide variety of reasons.
According to HunterSurvey.com, “American sportsmen hail from every walk of life imaginable, and just as they are a diverse crowd, so too are their reasons for participating in hunting.
“While many portray hunting as an intense effort to get game, the reality is the overall outdoor experience holds much more sway in attracting people to the sport.
To monitor long term trends, each year HunterSurvey.com inquires about hunters’ motivations. The January 2013 poll found that rather than one key or leading reason that motivated sportsmen to hunt, there are actually many.
And no single motivator stands completely head and shoulders above the rest. When asked “Why do you like to hunt?, respondents provided the following answers (participants could check all that apply):
* Like to spend time outdoors, 92%
* Enjoy seeing wildlife, 87%
* Enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors, 87%
* Enjoy the challenge, 80%
* Like to spend time with friends/family who hunt, 74%
• Like providing food for my family/friends, 70%
• Other, 9%
“This matches recent in-depth National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) research that showed hunters go afield for fun, social and outdoor reasons. From spending time with family and friends outdoors to the peace and solitude of being alone in nature, hunting is much more than taking game,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “
Future efforts to increase hunting, or to successfully promote hunting-related products and services, must emphasize fun, social interactions and the total outdoor experience hunting provides.”
To help continually improve, protect and advance angling and other outdoor recreation, all sportsmen and sportswomen are encouraged to participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and/or AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.
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BUILD A KITE -- Kid’s are invited to bring your parents to the Patoka Lake Visitor Center on Saturday, March 23 at 1 p.m. to build their own one-of-a-kind kite!
Participants will create their own individual kite using patterns and materials provided. Once all kites have been constructed, the youngsters and their parents can join a car caravan to the beach for some high flying fun! The cost for this program is $5 per kite.
There is an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle ($7 out of state).For more information regarding this program or other interpretive events, call the Visitor Center at812.685.2447.
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KING KAT TOURNEY -- The Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail will hit the waters of the Ohio River at Henderson, Kentucky April 13.
Tourney officials say this is an opportunity for local catfish anglers from Kentucky and Indiana to compete for cash, prizes and a chance to advance to the Cabela’s King Kat Classic. This year's Cabela's King Kat Classic will be Sept. 26-28 on Kentucky Lake at Camden, TN.
For more information on fishing the Henderson tourney or other events on the trail, check out the organization’s new website at: www.kingkatusa.com.
Henderson has always been a hotspot for the Cabela's King Kat anglers and this could be one of the best events of the year. The last time Cabela's King Kat Tournaments were in Henderson records were set with Dale and Matthew Kerns setting a new Cabela's King Kat Tournament Trail record weighing in 210.9 pounds with only five catfish.
Since that time the record has been broken again, but with the quality of fish in the Ohio River in the Henderson area, this could very well be the highlight of the year, said King Kat officials.
The tournament weigh-in will be held at the Riverfront Park in Henderson. Tournament hours are 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. All anglers must be in weigh-in line by 4 p.m. with a five fish limit per team. To help preserve the sport only live fish will be weighed in and all fish will be released after the tournament.
Although turkey season is a month away, there is plenty to do prior to opening morning. The better the planning, the better the chances of taking a tom.
Sure, someone can get lucky and take a bird almost by accident, but planning is a key to success.
One morning when I headed to the woods with my friend Phil Kirby a number of years ago, 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.
Indiana’s turkey season opens April 24 and runs through May 12. The opening youth weekend is April 20-21.
“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 your season opens learning the lay of the land and where the birds like to be.
“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”
Prior to the opener, the Turkey Federation recommends heading to the range to test your shotgun to make sure you're shooting a tight, dense pattern. “Learning how to accurately judge number of yards, and making sure your turkey load performs well at different distances can mean the difference in bagging a bird and watching one sail off into the woods.
“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 pot and 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.
Turkey hunting can be quite physical. It’s important for the hunter to be ready. Often turkey hunting in this part of the country requires considerable walking up and down hills, if a turkey isn’t spotted early morning.
“Hunters spend months and sometimes years planning their dream trips, all the while never thinking about the physical excursions the hunt might require. Poor fitness and undiagnosed health problems can combine into a disaster.
The NWTF goes so far as to recommend visiting your doctor to ensure you're healthy enough for the trip, and then start training.
“Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and is often required when pursuing wild turkeys.”
When I used to hunt in Missouri with my friend Carl Hunter, we not only walked into the woods well before daylight, must hunts would involve considerable walking up and down the Lake of the Ozarks terrain, if we didn’t attract a bird early. Carl had retired as a track coach, and it felt as though my tongue was dragging the ground by midmorning.
Exercise, planning and proper equipment preparation can help make it your best ever.
There’s still time to try your fishing luck for sauger and walleye. But, if you decide to try your luck, don’t wait too long or it will be a wait until next year.
Sauger and walleye gather below river dams during winter before they spawn, but once the water begins to warm in April, they disperse. They still are in the river, but catching them is another issue. You may catch one of two if you work at it, and the walleye are more likely to hit later than the sauger.
Sauger are cousins to the walleye, and generally run a bit smaller. Both are members of the Percidae (perch) family. Walleye sometime are called walleye pike, but they are not pike, they are perch.
Sauger and walleye are difficult to tell apart. Walleye have a black splotch on their first dorsal fins. Their coloration is dark green on the back and their yellowish sides have faint markings. Sauger usually are darker and have brown saddlelike markings across their back and sides. Even with info, it can be tough to tell them apart.
The Ohio River has become well-known for its winter sauger fishing below its dams. In Kentucky, sauger also gather below dams on the Mississippi, Kentucky, lower Green, and lower Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.
Walleye can be found in six central and eastern Kentucky Lakes, including Green River, Cumberland, Laurel, Carr Fork Lake, Nolin River Lake, and Paintsville.
These lake walleye populations have been developed by stockings and management over the years. Some of the fish escape through dam spillways into the streams below and during winter, many of these walleye gather below the dams, creating a good fishery.
The walleye fishing below the Green River dam south of Campbellsville and the Cumberland dam are two of the fish spots to try your luck.
Sauger will be found near the bottom. They will look up and dart for a jig or minnow. They often are found along walls below dams. A jig or minnow worked just a foot or so off the bottom often works. The bite usually is a tap-tap-tap bite rather than a hard strike.
The limit is six sauger or walleye, and both are equally good eating. There is a limit of six combined sauger, walleye and hybrids, and also a 15 inch size minimum on Kentucky walleye, but none on sauger, which can make identification important. In Indiana, the walleye size limit is 14. However, the main stem of the Ohio River has a 10 fish limit and no size limit. The state regs apply anytime an angler is out of the main steam into tributaries.
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RARE TOURNEY -- Kentucky is hosting a rare--if not unique--commercial fishing tournament March 12-13 at Kentucky and Barkley lakes in an effort to attract commercial anglers to catch Asian carp.
These Asian carp have made their way into streams throughout Kentucky and Indiana and are depriving game fish of food. The Asian carp species of concern include bighead carp, silver carp and black carp. These fish were brought to the U. S. by fish farmers, escaped into the Mississippi and are spreading throughout the Midwest.
Not only are these fish impacting the habitat of game fish, they have injured boaters and anglers as the jump into the air and hit people in passing boats.
The carp have very little commercial value and are not susceptible to being caught with bait on a hook. Netting is the most effective way to harvest large number of the fish.
The tournament is being held midweek to avoid conflict with recreational anglers and in mid-March so that fish can be removed before they have a chance to spawn.
Five teams that bring in the highest poundage of Asian carp will split $20,000 with the top prize being $10,000.
Hopefully, some process can be used to remove more of the troublesome fish.