Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mystery fish was walking catfish

Robert Hayman of West Lafayette, IN, holds a walking catfish he caught from Lake Rosalie in Florida.
At first, he didn’t know what he had caught. But from all indications, it was a walking catfish.

Paul Keeler, a fisherman friend from MIchigan rode up on his bike and said I should go down to the dock and look at a fish another friend, Robert Hayman had just caught.
“It looks like some kind of catfish. Maybe you can figure out what it is,” said Paul. “Robert is down there with it right now.”
I quickly retrieved my camera and headed for the boat ramp where Hayman, a retired postal worker from West Lafayette, IN, had been fishing.
When I arrived at the dock of the Harbor Resort and Marina on Lake Rosalie there was no Robert to be found, but I quickly located him. We walked to the dock where he pulled up a basket of fish. 
In the basket, there were several catfish, plus a half dozen crappie, and a dark unusual looking fish. It seemed to have a catfish head, but the body was different, The body seemed more like that of an eel. The dorsal fins were different than the usual Indiana catfish. It certainly wasn’t a channel, flathead or a blue.
Several other Harbor winter residents and anglers had already viewed the less than handsome fish, and offered their opinions as to what it might be. One thought bowfin, then there was a guess of snakehead, another said it looked a bit like a mudfish, but wasn’t, and yet another suggested walking catfish.
Robert caught two other smaller versions of the fish, and all had been hooked on nightcrawlers.
I took a quick picture of Robert with his mystery fish. He had plans to head out for a round of golf.
I headed back to my little winter abode and downloaded the picture to the computer. Then I placed the picture on my blog as well as Facebook. I guessed it might well be a walking catfish, although I had never seen one. I figured some of my fishing or outdoor writer friends could help identify the fish. I also used Google to find photos of Florida catfish.
Quickly, it became apparent that I had just photographed my first walking catfish.
Walking catfish are native to Southeast Asia and apparently were illegally brought to south Florida in the early 1960’s for the purpose of aquaculture. It didn’t take long for the rascals to make their way to other ponds and eventually to lakes and streams in at least 20 southern counties of the sunshine state.
A major problem  with the walking catfish is that it competes with more desirable fish such as redear (shellcrackers), bluegill and bass, and it loves to feed on the eggs of the game fish. 
Walking catfish are found in lakes and rivers, but seem to thrive in muddy ponds and ditches where other fish can not, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The catfish are gray or gray-brown in color and have small eyes, which can appear to be red. The head looks much like other catfish, but the tail section is different. It appears to be a bit more flexible and the dorsal fins are different.
Walking catfish can breathe out of the water as long as they remain wet, and they can take short jaunts using their pectoral fins to keep them upright as they wiggle their way to another location.
They have been known to reach 24 inches in length, but few exceed 14 inches in south Florida, according to the Natural History Museum.
One bit of good news is they don’t thrive well in cold water, so apparently we don’t have to worry about them in Indiana.
In Southeast Asia, the fish are often sold by street food vendors. Robert was adventurous and gave his fish a taste test, but said a taste was enough. “It was very strong,” was his evaluation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter when birds need food help

        Winter is a time birds can use your help. 
The long period from after the holidays through the NCAA tournament and possibly seeing Kentucky’s Wildcats in the finals, is one of the toughest to weather for birds, says Kate Heyden, avian biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.
“Winter is the best time to feed birds as they need the food now more than at any other time of year and you will typically see a greater number and variety of birds at bird feeders,” according Heyden in a KDFWR release.
She said Kentucky receives many interesting birds from the north in winter and again in spring when many species return home from lands south of us, providing a great variety of species to see.
Bird watching is a good way to introduce kids into the outdoors and spark awareness of our natural world. It is also productive practice for bird hunters, who must make quick identifications of birds in the field.  
“You don’t need to spend money on food or feeders to attract birds to your yard,” Heyden said. “If you can leave a small area of your yard un-mowed, you can attract a lot of birds. They eat the seeds from the grasses and weeds and use the area for cover as well.”
Using a feeder grants the ability for close study of birds. Heyden explained all feeders draw birds, but those that keep the bird feed dry and free of mold are best. Moldy seeds are bad for bird health. 
Place feeders either near a window or fairly far away to help prevent birds from colliding with windows when startled.
The most common feeder is a hopper or house feeder, usually made of windows of clear plastic with that feed seed to a perching surface. These feeders attract cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, buntings and titmice.
“One without a lot of perching surface minimizes use by house sparrows or starlings,” Heyden explained. “The most important thing is to keep feeders clean by washing with bleach water every few weeks.” Washing with bleach water prevents the spread of disease.
Although slightly more expensive, Heyden feeds birds black oil sunflower seeds. “They attract a wide variety of desirable birds without attracting as many pest species,” she said. “The cheap bird feed is full of filler and often contains corn which attracts squirrels, house sparrows starlings and crows.”
A suet feeder attracts woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and bluejays. Some birders push suet or peanut butter into crevices in bark or in the cracks of old stumps to attract these birds.

Various reasons shooters reload shells

It’s not unusual for hunters and target shooters to load their own ammunition. So why do they take the time and effort to load their shells?
Historically, many people had to load their own shells, and at times there have been shortages of ammo, but even where shells were plentiful and reasonably prices, many shooters prepared their own.
Today’s gun store shelves are filled with all manner of ammunition for every caliber and every type of shooting, many shooters are not content to go with over-the-counter production ammo. Many, in fact, prefer to hand load their own cartridges. 
However. there are many reasons for reloading and recently polled recreational shooters and hunters to find out exactly what the top reasons are.
  Reason No. 1 was not a surprise. By far, the top response was to save on the expense of buying production ammunition, which can sometimes cost several dollars a round. In fact, 85 percent of those surveyed cited “to save money” as the main reason they hand loaded.
  Sixty-seven percent of those polled cited improving accuracy as a top reason, while 44 percent do it to obtain calibers or loads that are hard to find in stores. Lastly, 30 percent reload to reduce waste, and 15 percent cited other, unspecified reasons for hand loading, according to information provided by the survey.
Respondents could chose more than one answer as many have multiple motivations for loading their own ammunition.
  While reloading has its numerous advantages, anyone trying their hand at the activity needs adequate equipment and good training to be safe and successful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Robert Hayman and a mystery catfish

Robert Hayman with mystery fish.
     My friend Robert Hayman, a retired postal employee, from near Layfayette, IN, caught an interesting fish this morning at Lake Rosalie in central Florida.
     The fish appears to be from the catfish family, but looks different. It appears to have a catfish head with whiskers, however it has red eyes. It's backbone seems to be a bit more limber and the fins are different.
     This picture of Robert and the fish isn't great, but may show the fish reasonably well that some of my angler friends may help identify it. This fish probably weighs a couple pounds.
      The fish looks a bit like a dog fish or bowfin, and some guys on the dock think it is a walking catfish.
      Any ideas????

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hurry spring; most folks have had enough winter and need sunshine

Groundhog’s Day has come and gone, Phil and most other groundhogs predicted six more weeks of winter. Sun or none, six more weeks of winter usually can be anticipated on Ground Hog’s Day.
Not all groundhogs are named Phil and not all are in Pennsylvania.
Some Europeans apparently gave the forecasting job to the bear, but the groundhog seemed more friendly when aroused from a deep winter sleep. Anyway, the job was assigned to a creature that hibernated, and its emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.
This year, a grumpy groundhog named Jimmy (apparently not happy about being brought from a sleep to forecasting duties), bit the mayor of Sun Prairie, Wis., on the ear.
The Germans had considered the badger as their weather prognosticator, but due to a shortage of badgers in the area they settled, they assigned the task to the groundhog. 
       The groundhog also is known as a woodchuck, and in some areas is called a land beaver. It is a member of the rodent family, belonging to a group of large ground squirrels, known as marmots. They are found from Canada to Alabama.
Groundhog day comes at a dismal time of the year when most of us need a reminder that spring will come. However, Phil or any other groundhogs don’t have good records of predicting the arrival of spring.
After the groundhogs do their thing Feb. 2, and early March rolls around, I always anticipate spring. I get too anxious.
In March, there usually are a few relatively nice days, but they often can be counted on one hand. Usually, it is early April before the weather really starts to significantly improve with crappie action and turkey and mushroom seasons highlighting the month.
However in the meantime, one can take advantage of the few good days if they coincide with personal time available. 
Even cold blustery days can be time for scouting for spring hunts, looking for shed antlers, and readying the fishing gear.
# # # #
NEAR RECORD -- After two seasons of record harvests, Kentucky’s deer hunters kept the pace up this past season. according to a release from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.
The 2014-15 season closed on Jan. 19 with 138,892 deer checked; the second highest total on record and third consecutive season with a harvest exceeding 130,000 deer.
“I’m happy,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “There are a lot of deer on the landscape, and we’re seeing an uptick in license sales. We’re providing hunting opportunity and our hunters are able to be successful. As an agency, that’s what we want to do.”
A record 144,409 deer were taken during the 2013-14 season when a spotty acorn crop put deer on the move.
Acorns were plentiful across much of the state this time around. Recognizing this, many hunters likely shifted their focus from field edges to the timber and travel corridors instead.
A strong opening month and an unprecedented start to the modern gun deer season emerged as key drivers.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More about today's fish hooks and bass

Maybe at one time, years ago, fish hooks rusted rather quickly. Anglers were advised to leave a hook in the fish, if could not be easily removed and the fish was to be returned to the water.
Leaving the hook in the fish my not have ever been good advice. There is some question. But certainly most of today’s hooks don’t rust or dissolve easily.
I recently wrote a column about the subject and just recently received additional information from Eric Johnson, Florida Fish & Wildlife biologist, after he returned from a well-deserved hunting trip.
Wrote Eric, “You can spend hours and hours researching this topic on the internet, trust me!  I could not find any authoritative studies that looked at hook dissolving rates in freshwater fish stomachs but did see some studies in other countries that looked at hook oxidation/toxicity generally in fish.  
“One study I saw stated that stainless steel hooks didn’t rust as quick as carbon steel hooks and metals such as cadmium/nickel in hooks can accumulate in fish organs and potentially be toxic to them. 
“I did find some studies that looked at fish mortality based on where fish were hooked and/or if hooks were removed or not; however most studies only held fish for up to 10 days to look at effects. It’s my belief that these types of studies need to be conducted for a longer time period.  
“Results of studies on hooking mortality were often contradictory (as one might expect).  Authors of some studies said leaving a hook embedded deeply in a fish gives it the best chance of survival while other authors said it is best to remove the hook.  I agree with the latter and recommend removing the hook if at all possible because you just can’t guarantee it will dissolve enough for the fish to get rid of it and some of the metals in hooks may accumulate in fish organs.  
“Deeply embedded hooks can also affect the fish’s ability to eat or digest food, potentially leading to starvation too. 
  ‘Since fish hook construction has come a long way in the past decade or two, with manufacturers using less corrosive materials and better coatings during their construction, it is my personal belief that most hooks do not ever completely rust away in freshwater fish stomachs.  
‘I don’t believe that a fish hook will dissolve much after five days in a bass stomach.  Some hooks may corrode enough that the barb or point dislodges from throat/stomach wall so fish are able to regurgitate them or pass them through the rest of the digestive track and out the anus but I wouldn’t expect this to always happen.  It all depends on the size/species of fish, type/size of hook, hooking location, materials in hook, etc.  
‘I don’t think anyone will ever be able to fully quantify this occurrence though.  I saw a few publications and personal observations where fish hooks were observed in fish throats or stomachs for up to six months after being placed there. 
“Bottom line is that some fish will die after being hooked regardless of whether the hook is removed or not.  It’s tough to quantify the percentage exactly given variables such as hook size, hooking location, fish species, water quality/salinity, etc.  
‘If the law allows it, I think it’s best to harvest a fish that you can’t remove the hook from and take it home to eat or give it away.  Mother nature has a great strategy for replenishing fish in aquatic systems by allowing females to produce thousands of eggs each year. 
   “Largemouth bass are a prime example and given the ‘catch-and-release’ mentality of bass anglers nowadays. It sure wouldn’t hurt for bass anglers to keep a few fish here and there, especially here in Florida!”