Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Friday, June 28, 2013

Remember song, "Poke Salad Annie"?

Pokeweed roots and berries are poisonous, but young, tender leaves can make a tasty salad.

It’s a large. tall rapidly growing plant that appeared in the small flower garden plot on the west side of my deck. It grew with jack-in-the-bean stock rapidity.
Wife Phyllis and I stayed longer in Florida this spring due to a series of leg surgeries she had scheduled. When we returned home our wonderful neighbors, Scott and Sherry Wahl, plus daughter Shayna, had already cleaned out our flower beds.
(Nice to help out the old folks.)
Scott and Sherry encouraged me to leave this plant in flower bed and thought it was a flower.
I was convinced it is a big weed. Several similar plants appeared along the fence row, and I chopped them down. They did look vaguely familiar.
 Know there is little difference from flowers to weeds. It’s a matter of perception. The best and simplest explanation I’ve heard is that a weed is a plant that make a gardner unhappy.
The plant in the flower garden isn’t making me happy. It has reached in excess of six-foot tall. So, weed is on my mind, not flower. But before I whacked it, I thought I would take a picture and use modern media, e.g. Facebook, to see if any of my outdoor friends could identify this soon to become weed plant.
So, I grabbed the old Nikon, snapped a couple of photos, posted one on Facebook, and add that the plant, “... does have some kind of flower or berry type blossom. Anyone know what it is before I chop it down.”
Within minutes, outdoor writer friend Alan Clemmons, managing editor of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine from Huntsville, Alabama, posted the answer. It was pokeweed Alan says it also is known as polk, and when consumed as poke salad. A popular song years ago, (even sung by Elvis) was “Poke Salad Annie”.
Soon after Alan identified the weed (at least it is a weed from my perspective), a number of other folks sent me information about the plant.
“Smaller, younger leaves and stems are edible but only with knowledge of how and when to use/eat. Berries turn purple, ooze a juice that stains. Birds eat 'em and poop out the seeds, helping it spread. I think Native Americans and folks in the 1800s used the berry juice as a stain for clothing, arrow shafts, etc.
“It's not necessarily a bad plant but it can overtake. I'd hack it unless you just want to keep it,” added Alan
And a key factor is the roots. berries and older leaves like in my photo are poisonous, according to Alan and others.
Carol Smith Gamble wrote,  “It's "poke" Phil. The root system is huge. The berries & stems are "poisonous" - don't know how much so though. We eat the tender leaves cooked like turnip greens. Tastes good. I try to keep the berries cut off. Birds eat them like crazy and then plant them with their special brand of fertilizer. We have them everywhere here (Missouri).
Friend Patrick Gomer Roberson from Pikeville, TN, wrote, “Poke salad is said to be poisonous, however eating it ain't killed me yet! in the spring when you see it come up, pick the tender greens and boil. pour off the first batch of water and boil again, drain then fry up a batch of bacon, save the grease, chop an onion, add drained poke and onion in the grease and fry it up, crumble the bacon, add several scrambled eggs and enjoy some great eating. 
“The stalk, when it is about an inch thick, slice like okra, corn meal then fry in hot grease, will taste almost like okra. I have also heard of saving the berries to treat arthritis as an elderly indian lady said she never had any problem with joint pain as she ate one berry every day. She froze enough for the entire year...” (yes, they are considered posionous).
Poke gets its name from an Indian word "pokan" which means any plant used to produce a red or yellow dye. It even has a political connection. Leaves of pokeberry were worn on the lapels of supporters of the first dark-horse candidate for president, James Polk who served from 1845 to 1849 and for whom Polk County is named.
Try poke salad if you like, but stay away from roots and berries, using only young leaves properly prepared.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day brings back many fond memories of time spent outdoors

Father and son activities create memories.

Father’s Day always brings back memories of my Dad. 
Honestly, I don’t remember a gift or a card, but I do remember my dad.
Although my father passed away when I was in my early twenties,, thinking of Father’s Day still brings fond memories of the many good times we had in the outdoors, and the things I learned from dad.
He primarily was a fisherman. He hunted, but back in those days, the hunting was limited where I grew up in East Central Illinois. There were squirrels and rabbits, but no deer or turkey.
Like most people those days, my dad was a live bait fisherman. He had a few old plugs in a metal box he used for tackle, but I don’t remember him ever using them. He did have a casting rod with a reel containing linen fishing line. However, most of our fishing was limited to cane poles. We did morel mushroom hunt.
During my pre-teen years, we didn’t have a car or truck. Our transportation was our feet. I remember walking several blocks to the Big Four railroad track, and then proceeding a couple miles north to where a railroad bridge crossed Big Creek. There usually were deep pools in the creek around the bridge, and that’s where we fished.
It often was a hot walk to the creek, but trees lined the bank and it was refreshingly cool when we arrived. We rarely caught big fish; mostly, bluegill and sunfish. But after we carried them back home, they made a tasty meal, cooked by mother, who also usually walked to the creek with us.
Sometime around my 10th or 12th birthday, my folks gathered enough money for a down payment on a used Studebaker pickup (yes, Studebaker made one). . That red truck changed our fishing horizons, we could venture to the backwaters of Wabash River, the Embrass River, and several farm ponds. That also meant we could catch catfish.
A prized bait was catalpa worms. My job was to help pick the ugly worms off catalpa tree leaves during the brief period of the summer when they were available. My dad thought they among the best baits for catfish. He also used chicken livers, night crawlers and cheese stink baits. He raised the night crawlers himself. One of the key components in the earth mix where he raised the crawlers was coffee grounds.
Dad had a special recipe for dough balls he used to catch carp. We didn’t fish for carp a lot, but when we caught small ones during early spring in clear water, they were pretty good eating. The secret ingredient in dad’s dough balls was strawberry jello,
The old Studebaker also brought about our first fishing vacation. It was a week at Freeman Lake in north central Indiana. We stayed in a little cabin, complete with a boat and small motor. The boat was just what we needed to put out trot lines. The lines contained as many as 50 hooks and primarily were baited for catfish.
We had good luck and hooked plenty of channel cats. My dad let me run the lines with him several times a day. It was fun to hold the heavy line and feel the cats hooked somewhere ahead tug and pull. I would lean over and hold the big line, while dad netted the fish, and took them off the line.
Fortunately, I have a wealth of fond memories of fishing with dad.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Old catalpa tree provided my refuge; bait for catching catfish

Catalpa trees often host ugly green and black worms in early summer.
 Despite their appearance they are good 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. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kentucky experiences April record hunting, fishing license growth

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources sold more than seven million dollars worth of hunting and fishing licenses in April – an all-time record for the month. That bucks a recent national trend.
"People realize that hunting and fishing are great ways to spend a beautiful spring day with their families," said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett, Ph.D. "This record month shows our hard work to improve opportunities for the public is paying dividends."
KDFWR Budget Director Scott King said the April sales were encouraging news. "We broke the previous record for the month of April by $140,000," he said. "It's also $800,000 more than our average for April. This is much needed revenue for an agency that's driven by its license sales."
The department in recent years has aggressively pursued both convenience and opportunities for its customers.
A mobile app unveiled by the department last year allows anglers to use their GPS-enabled smart phones to find the nearest place to fish. Hunters can use their smart phones to buy a permit, check their deer or find season dates for all game.
The department's Internet site, which includes a wide range of information about outdoor opportunities in Kentucky, received 17 million hits last year. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's Facebook site, launched in 2009, now has more than 44,000 followers.
The department's Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) program now stocks fish in 39 community lakes across the state. FINs Coordinator Dane Balsman said the program has generated huge interest among anglers.
In the past few years, the department has established a marketing division to help spread the word about Kentucky's many opportunities: From its 10,000-strong elk herd to generous fish stocking programs to its top five status for trophy deer.

Taking hunter ed course is a good thing, but sometimes an additional boost is needed for encouragement

Many people assumed that if a person took a hunter education course, that a strong interest in hunting and a further pursuit of the hobby would follow. But that isn’t necessarily the case.
Filled classrooms at hunter safety courses are a good thing, but perhaps more important is the number of students that actually participate in hunting after they graduate.  
A recent survey, funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and conducted by Southwick Associates, focused on participation levels of students in the years immediately following their graduation from hunter education class.  The survey revealed that a significant percentage of hunter education students do not buy a license after graduating.
That’s not what people who love the sport and natural resources professionals had hoped.
         Twelve state wildlife agencies supplied data for the survey, which profiled the subsequent hunting license buying habits of hunter education graduates from 2006-2011. Just 67. percent of graduates over the six-year period purchased at least one license.
·         While some graduates took hunter education with no intention of hunting, others needed assistance to make the leap to become an avid hunter. That’s the conclusion of the folks at Southwick Associates.
         After six years, only 44percent of graduates still bought licenses.
         Graduates from highly urbanized areas showed the greatest dropout rates indicating a greater need for intervention efforts.
         People graduating in warmer months represented the greatest percentage of graduates who never purchased a license.
         In most states, graduates between the ages of 16 to 24 were less likely to buy a license six years after graduating, which showed the transient nature of young people.  This held true for college students and those in the military.
“This shows us that simply encouraging people to obtain their hunter safety certificate is not enough,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts surveys such as,, and  
“The hunting community needs ways to encourage new graduates to buy a license and go hunting. Whether that means more programs for state agencies to get people out hunting, private industry intervention, or simply more hunters taking their neighbor’s kid into the woods, remains to be seen. “
  It is the belief of the NSSF that the results from this study will help the hunting community determine where more involvement is needed to maintain hunting participation among newer hunters.