Planning to Visit Alaska? FREE Fairbanks Visitors Guide

  • Learn WHEN TO SEE the Aurora Borealis and the Midnight Sun
  • Learn About WHERE TO STAY 
  • Learn WHEN TO VISIT Denali National Park
Click on the picture to obtain your free visitors guide.

Fairbanks, Alaska (AK) – The Explore Fairbanks 2018 Official Visitors Guide, a 78-page, full-color booklet that describes Fairbanks’ year-round opportunities, is now available for free. The annual publication is designed to capture the features and attractions specific to life in the region. Fairbanks is defined by the midnight sun, the Aurora Borealis, the centrally located Chena and Yukon Rivers and many miles of wilderness.

Fairbanks delineates the Aurora Season as August 21 through April 21, when visitors have the opportunity of seeing the Aurora Borealis. Fairbanks’ location is ideal for northern lights viewing because it is under the “Auroral Oval,” a ring-shaped zone where aurora activity is concentrated. Additionally, Fairbanks’ low precipitation and distance from coastal areas contributes to consistently clear nights. All combined, these conditions make the Fairbanks Region an outstanding destination for Aurora viewing. Conversely, the Midnight Sun Season runs from April 22 through August 20. The midnight sun shines brightly for the whole summer with the most sunlight occurring between May 17 and July 27, when Fairbanks experiences 70 straight days of light.

Known as the “Golden Heart of Alaska,” Fairbanks is located in the center of Alaska and serves as the basecamp for Alaska’s vast Interior and Arctic. Places situated nearby are Denali National Park and Preserve, the Arctic Circle, Chena Hot Springs, North Pole and a myriad of villages, refuges and parks. The Arctic is featured prominently as Fairbanks is the hub for travel, research, supplies and transportation to the area. The guide highlights year-round activities available in the frontier community that include fishing, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking, visiting museums and floating the Chena River. Additional activities take place during the winter months, such as dog mushing, ice sculpting, snowmobiling and skiing. The guide also features exhibitions, attractions and performances focused on Alaska Native heritage, contemporary arts and gold rush history.

The calendar section details significant events including the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Midnight Sun Festival. The guide also lists a wide variety of seasonal and year-round accommodations, services, restaurants, shopping and attractions.

For a free copy of the 2018 Fairbanks Visitors Guide and the companion piece, the 2017-2018 Fairbanks Winter Guide, contact Explore Fairbanks at 1-800-327-5774 or (907) 456-5774 or write to Explore Fairbanks, 101 Dunkel St, Suite 111, Fairbanks, AK 99701-4806. View both guides online at explorefairbanks.com.

About Explore Fairbanks: Explore Fairbanks is a non-profit marketing and management organization whose mission is to be an economic driver in the Fairbanks region by marketing to potential visitors and optimizing the visitor experience. Explore Fairbanks markets Fairbanks as a year-round destination by promoting local events, attractions and activities to independent travelers, group tour operators, travel agents, meeting planners and the media as well as by developing public policy and infrastructure to achieve marketing objectives. Find out more at explorefairbanks.com.

 

 

 

 

TREASURE on the Beach! Metal Detecting is FUN

  • Too Windy to Fish? Fish another Way!
  • On a Small Beach central Florida, a retirement community…4 gold rings, 1 silver ring, over 100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and some trash.  All in one day.
  • How? “Cold wet hands loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty hands, then throw a ball or Frisbee, the ring flies off.  Not lost forever if you are looking.”

By Rich Creason

The author provides hands-on instruction for a newcomer to the art and fun science of metal detecting…treasure hunting, on the beach.

Most folks who enjoy metal detecting start by looking for lost coins in backyards, but once given a choice to try beach hunting, it often becomes their favorite spot to search.

This is the case with my wife and me. We have detected for over 40 years, from Montana to the east coast, and from Florida to northern Canada. We have searched yards, fields, school grounds, Civil War camp sites, seeded hunts, and beaches. Sifting through the sand is the best.

Unfortunately, we live in central Indiana, about as far from a saltwater beach as you can get, but we are fairly close to all of the Great Lakes, plus some fresh water lakes and reservoirs with large beach areas. Another unfortunate fact is many State Parks have water with swimming beaches, but they don’t allow metal detecting. I’ve never understood why, because kids can take their buckets and shovels and dig in the sand all they want with no problem. Also, when we are detecting, we take a lot of pull tabs, bottle caps, hooks, scrap metal, and other trash off the beach which are dangerous for those enjoying the sand without shoes.

Another very productive area is a campground with a swimming beach. These are often busy and sometimes no one has ever detecting these areas. As any other private property, we always ask for permission to search. Since we are causing no damage and usually show the owners all the trash we cleaned up for them, permission is seldom a problem. So, regardless of where you live, some type of sand beach is probably close to where you live.

It doesn’t matter whether you detect around fresh or saltwater beaches, close to water is the best place to find lost jewelry. Not the only place, but the best. Cold wet hands will loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty ones. Throw a ball or Frisbee and the ring flies off. In the water, or even in the sand, it will be hard to find without a machine. Teenagers horseplay and a delicate gold chain is broken and both the chain and the pendant, locket, medallion, or whatever is on the chain is lost in the water until someone with a detector finds them. My best water find so far is a gold ring with three large garnets which appraised at $500.

Another way valuables get lost at the beach is by placing a nice watch or other item on a blanket or towel. It gets accidentally knocked off by kids playing or when the towel is picked up to shake sand off and the item is forgotten. And this happens many times a day on a popular beach.

Of course, the east coast of Florida is famous for giving up gold and silver coins and relics from sunken Spanish ships, especially after strong storms. These items are washed in from offshore and brought close where someone with a detector can find them. This brings up the question, how do you get your share of these lost treasures?

Naturally, the first step is getting a metal detector. New ones range from around $200 up to ten times that much. The basic difference is like a Chevrolet and a Mercedes. Both will get you around. One just has more bells and whistles. Most detectors are waterproof from the coil at the bottom, up to the control box. The electronics inside the box tend to freak out when they get wet. Some brands offer water proof machines up to, and including, the earphones. These are more costly, probably starting around $500. But, one good ring (see above) can pay for this machine. Add a sand scoop for retrieving your finds from the beach ($20) and you are ready to find some treasures.

As soon as you find a sandy beach (gain permission to hunt if needed), you need to decide where to start. If it’s a small fresh water pond or lake, it’s fairly obvious where people hang out. On a huge saltwater area, you need to decide where the most activity is located. If possible, check it out on a hot, summer day. Blankets are usually placed above the high tide line. If young people are having a volleyball game, move into that spot as soon as they are finished. While the girls often are in tiny bikinis with no pockets, we have found several nice rings there. They tend to fly off when hitting the ball. Of course, spend some time hunting in the water. I usually search in water up to my knees. It’s easier to stand in the waves and more people use the shallow water.

If you are walking the beach and notice an area which looks like rain has washed a trough out from the high sand line down to the water, hunt that carefully. Anyplace the sand has been disturbed can bring treasures from deep up to near the surface.

If you are lucky enough to live near big water, search the shoreline (or in the water) after a large storm. The high winds will turn the sand over, bringing treasures to the top. You will often see people with detectors out looking almost before the hurricane winds are gone. Remember where the large crowds were active when the days were nice. Hunt there!

Metal detecting in the water can be fun, provide exercise and a can provide a nice, small payoff in treasure too.

Think outside the box. If you can hunt an out-of-the-way spot, which is not frequented a lot, you may be the first one there. I hunted a small beach on a neighborhood lake in central Florida. It was a retirement community and not a lot of folks spent time there. But apparently enough. I found four gold rings, a silver ring, over100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and a lot of trash in one day. My wife hunted the dry part of the sand and found coins, toys, and a large silver belt buckle. We have hunted several small campground swimming holes and had the same kind of results. If we find any valuable jewelry, we try to find the owner, but usually, there are no markings on the item to identify the owner. The only exception to the rule is class rings. Usually, they have the school, year, and a name or initials on them. We Goggle the school, and call the office. We tell them what we found, and ask if they can look in their yearbooks and help us find the owner.

When we leave home on a fishing trip, or any other kind of vacation, we always pack our machines. Many times when planning a trip on large waters, weather changes our mind. Fishing is out when the wind is too high. Rather than having our visit turn into a bust, we find the nearest beach and start hunting. I have never been west of Montana, but I imagine finding treasures on the west coast is the same as on our side of the continent.  

I always consider metal detecting as the best hobby. Like other activities, (fishing, bowling, golfing, etc.), you must purchase your original equipment to start, but any of those other hobbies will cost you more money each time you participate in it.  Then realize that every time you use your detector, you make money. Sometimes only a few clad coins, but occasionally a nice ring or a valuable coin or relic. My only additional cost is batteries once or twice a year. 

See you on the beach!

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

        

SEARCHING for the BIGGEST GAME EVER

  • Join Up To Be Part of a DINO-DIG
  • You Might Meet a T-Rex….FACE-to-FACE
  • Learn that We Live Among Much History

By Rich Creason
The rain began. Slowly at first, then turning into a torrential downpour. The water started running over the top edge of the high bluff along the river. As it ran downward, it washed dirt away forming small grooves in the bluff wall which became larger as the erosion continued, eventually forming several large gullies leading to the river below. The water level in the river rose and quickened, carving away the base of the hillside and allowing more earth to be washed away.

The storm eventually ended and the sky cleared. The local rancher rode his horse across his land surveying the damage. As he rode along the bluff, he noticed a large, dark object protruding from the hillside. Closer examination revealed it to be a bone of some type. The rancher took his find to a nearby museum and was informed he had found a dinosaur bone!

He did not know that before his cattle fed on this pasture, a small herd of 30 or 40 duck-bill dinosaurs grazed along his riverbank. The huge creatures were unaware in the not so distant future, they would all be extinct. The Edmontosaurus annectens were around 30 foot long, weighed four metric tons, and walked on either two or four legs depending on their current activity.

65 million years ago they were plentiful, eating grasses and other plants with their huge mouths, containing hundreds of teeth which were constantly being replaced. Now, the fossilized bones, teeth, and other parts of these giants can sometimes be found in the western part of the U.S. and Canada, usually beginning as a chance find such as the rancher riding by. Some of these bones can also be found on display in the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Each year, the Children’s Museum takes a trip to the far northwest corner of South Dakota to the tiny town of Faith, population 500. Near this town, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named Sue was found. This is one of the most complete T.rex skeletons ever found. Another T.rex skeleton called Bucky, found near this town, is now on exhibit in the Children’s Museum. Then, another one was found here, but we were going to this area to search for the remains of the duck-bill dinosaur.

Early last year, my wife, Susie, and I heard about the “dino dig” on one of our frequent visits to the Museum. Members (and also non-members) are invited to join staff at the dig site in South Dakota. For a reasonable fee, we signed up for one day of dinosaur fossil hunting. We were taught how to dig the bones properly, do all the paperwork involved with documenting where each piece was found, and how to actually get each item out of the ground carefully and protect it for its long trip back to Indianapolis.

We enjoyed last year so much we signed up for a five day dig this year. We arrived in Faith on July 10th and checked into the Prairie Vista Inn, the same place we stayed last year. The rooms are large, inexpensive, and extremely clean. Owners Roxanne and Terry Ensz greeted us and even remembered us from the year before. Shortly after we checked in, the Museum van loaded with our fellow dinosaur hunters pulled in, they had flown into the Rapid City airport. Most were from the central Indiana area, but there was one lady from Boston and a couple from New Hampshire. We had about eight total. Dallas, William, and Michelle, Museum staff members, and Jayne, a volunteer, would be supervising our digging. Nicole, another Museum staff was on site the week before we arrived, but had to return to Indy. Cindy, a local EMT from the Faith Ambulance Service, also joined us to look after our health, treat bug bites, bandage blisters, and take care of other, hopefully, minor problems.

Everyone present had been on numerous digs in previous years. My wife and I were the “rookies,” having been here only once before. Later in the week, a few more diggers showed up including Shelley, an administrator at the Museum, and Will, her son. Victor, another dinosaur expert, unfortunately had to stay back at the Museum so the visitors there had someone to answer questions.

Monday morning, we loaded our gear and coolers full of ice water, and headed for the dig site. Due to the extreme heat possible and the exertion required to dig all day, staying hydrated was a necessity. About a block out of town, we left paved road. We then traveled a gravel road to the ranch cutoff which was mostly dirt, maneuvered around a washed out bridge, through several barbed wire gates, crossed cattle guards, followed two wheel tracks across pastures, jumped gullies and finally arrived at our destination.

It looked the same as last year. There was a long structure covered with tarp to give us some shade. Underneath was a dirt ledge with flagged off sections so the finds could be accurately mapped. Since all of us had been here before and knew what to do, we each grabbed a good looking spot and started digging. Our tools consisted of clam shuckers, a small, wide, dull blade used to open clams and dig dinosaur bones, Exacto knives for fine digging, paint brushes for dusting off bones, and bottles of very liquid super glue (like water) called Paleobond. This was used to patch the numerous small cracks in the bones. The bones are very brittle and have to be glued often during the digging process.
We dug carefully with our clam shuckers until we heard a “crunch”. This is the sound when the blade hits a bone.

Then we had to clear all the dirt surrounding the find with the Exacto knife. We left a dirt pedestal intact under the bone to support it until the find could be mapped and removed. When we reached this point, the scientific part began.
My first find was a four inch piece of rib. These are common finds and are often short because they break easily.

Before removing any bone from the ground, the fossil is given a number, pictures are taken, the grid number where it was found is recorded, and the date, name of collector, body part (if known) and other pertinent information, is written down. Then a one meter square frame, divided into 10 square centimeter squares, is placed over the find and its location is drawn on graph paper. When this is finished, the bone is carefully lifted from its multi-million year old home, still on its dirt pedestal, and wrapped in several layers of paper towel to cushion and protect it, then wrapped again in aluminum foil, and taped shut. The tape is then labeled with name, numbers, etc. to correspond with the paperwork. The package is then placed in a large plastic container for its journey back to the Children’s Museum.

In our five days of digging, Susie and I found, dug, and documented 22 bones including five rib pieces about four to eight inches long, several pieces of vertebra from the neck to the tail, a couple chevrons (the underside of the tail), three skull elements (pieces), two jugals (cheek bone), a toe bone, and a couple of yet unidentified pieces. My best find of the week was a 28 inch rib. It is very unusual to find a piece of rib this long.

Numerous other bones were found including two femurs (the large leg bone). These were both around three feet long and took many hours to dig out. A large humerus (upper arm bone) and a large jaw bone were also found. The larger bones (including my rib piece) were wrapped in foil and then had a plaster cast applied to them before moving to help prevent breakage. These bones all went back to Indiana to be cleaned, repaired, and put on display or be used for research.

While duckbill bones are the most common finds at this site, other finds also include bones and teeth from other animals. Some of these include Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Dromaeosaurs, Oviraptors, Troodons, and Pachycephalosaurs. Bones from other non-dinosaur critters are turtles, crocodiles, champosaurs (a croc-like creature) and gar fish.

The site we dig at is called a secondary deposit. This means the animal died somewhere else, but a river or stream washed their remains into this area. All the bones are “disarticulated”. This means the skeleton is not whole. The bones found side by side are almost never from the same animal. It is estimated around 2,000 different duckbills are buried at this site.

If you think this sounds like something you would be interested in doing next year, contact the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis at 317-334-3322, or visit www.childrensmuseum.org. You can get information on “Dino Digs”, memberships, events, exhibits, or anything else you need to know about the Museum. Visit the Dinosphere to see the dinosaur fossils, displays, and touch actual bones millions of years old. You can also meet many of the staff who supervise our dino digs and try to stump them with questions you’ve always wanted to ask about dinosaurs.

From author Creason: “If you live anywhere near central Indiana, I would highly recommend getting a membership of some type to the Museum. We purchased a Premier Membership. This allows two grandparents (us), one grandchild and two guests to enjoy the attractions as often as we want, plus it includes many other privileges and discounts. Many other types of memberships are also available. With the large variety of exhibits at the Museum, you don’t even have to be a kid to enjoy visiting.”   The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

Where is the Guide?

  • Lake of the Woods: Walleye Capital of the World
  • Anchor, Relax, Catch Fish All Day…Seriously
  • Simple Jig-Minnow Fishing

By David Gray

Captain Cassy Geurkink makes happy anglers when they come to fish Lake of the Woods near Baudette, Mn.  Dave Gray Photo

“Where is the guide?” was my second question.  My first question was, “Which boat is mine?” 

The boat was one of many 27-foot long Sportcraft walleye charter boats neatly tied-up to the Border View Lodge docks on Lake of the Woods, Baudette, Minnesota.

This was my first experience going out on a walleye charter.   I really was not excited, a walleye charter never did sound like my kind of fun fishing.   

I was attending a conference at Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and fishing buddy, Dave Barus, a skilled Lake Erie angler, had arranged this Walleye Charter.  Going out in a big boat on big water with six anglers and a guide did not appeal to me.  By the end of the day, I found out it was not only productive, it was great fun!  It was a very enjoyable way to spend a day on water…in the rain!  

I enjoyed every minute of our fishing trip on Lake of the Woods, catching walleye and sauger at an unbelievable rate. Forrest Fisher Photo

Tom at Border View Lodge answered my first question, “Your boat is the one in that slip.”  “The one with the girl in it?” I asked.  “Yes, that is your boat.”

The girl, Cassy, answered my other question.  “Good morning, I am your guide.  Get in and we’ll get going.”  My first thought was this local trip has been engineered as a tourism publicity moment with a lady guide.  Preconceived notions are not good things, but one crept into my brain that Cassy did not look like an experienced or hardened north woods woman.  Of course, I really can’t describe what an experienced north woods woman should look like.

Cassy had a very serious look on her face as she readied six anglers and their gear, nosed the boat out into the river current and headed for the open water on Lake of the Woods.  I would come to understand this serious look latter in the day, it was pure focus.

The new Kamooki Lure is spreading like wildfire across the fishing world. They’re a unique vertical jerkbait that will invoke a strike even when fish are not hungry.  Forrest Fisher Photo

My thoughts turned back to Border View Lodge.   Part of the charm of fishing in the North Country is visiting a new lodge.   All have a charm of their own.   Border View Lodge had a special charm that makes any angler feel at home the minute you walk in the door.   Wood paneling, fish mounts on the wall, dining area overlooking the docks and river and friendly people saying welcome.   

Border View Lodge is a family owned and run business.  The original lodge was a commercial fish operation when burbot was harvested to make cod liver oil.  Around 1962, Border View became a fishing lodge serving anglers.  In 1981 the current family purchased the resort.  Today, Mike and Lisa Kinsella run the resort, oversee nine guides and 10 launch boats.  In the winter they have 60 Ice Houses on the lake.  Border View is a full service resort for people that like to fish and the resort has amenities all anglers like.  Mike has a variety of packages to fit the needs of any group.   Call Mike at 1-800-ProFish, tell him what you want and he will take care of you.

Another glance at our guide, Cassy, and the same serious look was locked on her face as she stopped, put out the anchor and baited up six rods with a jig and minnow. 

Charter Captain Cassy Geurkink at the helm, showed us a fun time on a rainy day when nearly no other boats dared to leave the dock due to the weather.  With the best country and western music playing from Sirius, we knocked the socks off the fish!  David Gray Photo

It wasn’t long before the first walleye hooked up.  A nice walleye and as Cassy skillfully netted it I noticed the serious look was replaced by a huge smile.  That was it, serious look when getting clients loaded and handling the boat, but all smiles when the bite starts.  That is my kind of guide!  

The rest of the day made me smile.  I went from never wanting to do a walleye charter to, “Can’t wait to do this again.”   We hooked more than 75 walleye and sauger, some to 28 inches long, and we put six fish apiece in the cooler.  Cassy kept minnows on the jigs – baiting every one with her secret hook-up method, netted every single fish, and kept everyone fishing and in conversation. Quite a feat. 

So much for pre-conceived ideas! 

Share the Outdoors editor Dave Barus says, “We learned that walleye and sauger, big and small, live and thrive here thanks to a good fisheries management program and plentiful baitfish supply.  David Gray Photo

Cassy Geurkink is currently the only lady guide in the area, we found this out when we returned to shore, AND, she is considered one of the best guides on this part of the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods.  Cassy grew up fishing and hunting with her dad Tom who is also a guide.  Before becoming a guide, Cassy worked at a Chevy Dealer in the Minneapolis, St Paul area. Cassy eventually worked her way up to the Sales Manager position.  She would visit Dad on the weekends and started not wanting to go home.  Cassy left the car dealership and for a season worked in the lodge office.  But, as she says, “I am an outdoor girl and wanted to be outdoors.”  To be a guide on a waterway that borders another country, you have to have a Charter Captain’s license which involves study and a lengthy Coast Guard test.   So I started studying and passed the tests.

Cassy now guides four to seven days a week.  On days off, she takes her 7-year old son Finley out jig fishing.  Cassy said the best part of guiding is meeting different people.  She says, “Guiding teaches you even more about fishing.”  She learned how to be patient and how to help people catch fish.   When Cassy first started guiding, a lot of guys looked and said, “Oh boy a girl guide.”   Now many of those have become regular repeat customers and ask for Cassy.  I can understand why.  Pure dedication, highly skilled, not afraid to try new things and focus with a smile.

Cassy puts you on the fish and makes a happy boat.  If you can book her, say, “Oh Boy,” because you are going to have a great fishing day.   

Catching fish with Cassy explaining the details, the options, the reasoning behind using chosen jig colors, that was pure fun.  It was an education in fishing.  We pay for the fishing, the fun and instruction is free.  Can’t wait to do it again. 

For more info, here is the link: http://www.borderviewlodge.com/.

A Special CASE for “Border Water Walleye and PERFECT Boneless Fillets”

  • Expert Guides DO Simplify Catching Fish – with simple JIGS
  • Rainy Day BLESSINGS on the Rainy River  
  • One BEST Fillet Tool CAN SIMPLIFY Cleaning Walleye by the Dozen

By Forrest Fisher

Nature and the peaceful wilderness to be found near Sportsman’s Lodge in Baudette, Minnesota, will create NEVER-FORGET memories for all that visit. Forrest Fisher Photo

We arrived in the front lobby of Sportsman’s Lodge on the Rainy River in Baudette, MN,   The weather was cold and nasty, and VERY rainy.  We were in a momentary downpour.  I looked disappointed, my better half smiled at me and joked, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be good luck, it’s raining and we’re on the Rainy River!  I couldn’t help, but smile back.

Hungry Lake-of-the-Woods walleye are asking anglers, “What’s for Dinner?”  Forrest Fisher Photo

We were one step closer to the fishing the Walleye Capital of the World that we had read about so often, not to mention a few decades of dreams.

What I didn’t know was that the number of fish to catch in the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods was beyond the normal angler’s day of fantasy fishing.  We discovered a brand new REALITY here, an iconic, never-forget celebration of most-ever-walleye-caught memories.

Not long after we arrived, we were fishing with Captain Ralph Christofferson (218-634-1342) aboard his 27-foot Sportcraft, a beautiful, fully-equipped, big water vessel.  Lake of the Woods offers about 1,700 square miles of fishing with more than 14,500 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline.  Impressive fishery numbers and with plenty of forage in the form of emerald shiners, tulibees and various crustaceans.

We boated out to the lake and anchored, only a 10-minute ride with that giant 454 Chrysler engine humming us into competition with throngs of honking Canada Geese that were nearby.

Captain Ralph provided everyone his hand-made, 6-foot 2-inch, personally customized, St. Croix fishing rods to use.  The rods were light .and beautiful, a pleasure to hold.  Perfect balance.

Captain Ralph Christofferson provided the expertise that enabled us to catch walleye and sauger at the unbelievable rate of more than 20 fish per hour.  Forrest Fisher Photo

The rods were geared up with an open-face spinning reel, 6-pound test monofilament (P-line) and gold-plated 3/8 ounce jigs tipped with a salted emerald shiner minnow.  The minnows were “slid” onto the hook with Captain Ralph’s “secret twist.”

It didn’t take long to discover active fish at our anchored spot.  In less than 3 hours, we landed more than 50 walleye and sauger. Captain Ralph said, “It’s sort of a slow day.”  In the words of our young friends and millennials, OMG!  Except, he wasn’t kidding!

We kept our daily limit of 4 walleye and 2 sauger each, and there was five of us.  Yes, we had a cooler filled with 30 fish and ice, ready for the pan or the freezer.  We arrived at the dock, it was a short walk to the Sportsman’s Lodge state-of-the-art fish-cleaning house.  There were plastic bags, foam trays for holding the clean fillets, saran wrap, ice and lots of bright lighting.  I could see the light.  Indeed, in more ways than one.

While some anglers use an electric knife to clean fish, most old-timers know there is about 15 percent waste with that method.  I’m an old timer and I had a brand new fillet knife that I received on my birthday.

A manual fillet knife job will yield the most meat for the plate.  If you consider some of the catches for the week – and we ate most of the fish right on site the day we caught them – you might think that manual filleting the fish was a tough task, but not so.

My 6-inch W.R.Case fillet knife is unequalled as an angler tool and doubles as my favorite kitchen tool.

It’s not work if you a knife like mine, a new 6-inch Case, fixed-blade, fillet knife (Model BR12-6 SS).  My Case fillet knife is so sharp and rigid, but also provides some bend in the blade if you press a bit, to be flexible, making it so simple to use.  It seems to never lose its really sharp edge and we cleaned so many fish with it.

Every now and then, I touch up the edge with a very gentle stroke on a carbide diamond wedge, then a final stroke or two using a very smooth Arkansas super-fine stone and water.

One other thing about this knife, it is ergonomically perfect to fit my hand. It feels just right, you know, comfortable and solid.  The steel blade and formed poly-handle are melded as one, permitting full control, and it works like a hot poker through butter.  Even with potatoes, onions, carrots and sausage, you get the idea.  It’s my favorite all-around cutting tool.

Many things we buy in the USA are now manufactured elsewhere, but W.R.Case knives are made in the USA (http://www.wrcase.com/knives/), one more of many reasons why I like them.

The bottom line for a good knife: can it hold an edge?  Indeed.  This thing holds an edge like no other fillet knife I have ever used, and I have used most of them.  I’m not sure what kind of steel alloy this Case knife uses, but whatever it is, please tell them to never change it.

My grandkids will want one of these 20 years from now and, of course, my Case will be here ready and waiting.

Last, this knife is an easily affordable investment at about $25-$30 cost.  Check google for the best price or go direct to W.R.Case.

Love this knife, the expert guides and this deluxe accommodation where we caught all these fish just a short boat ride and simple drop-jig cast away.  Dreams are made of this.

We’ll be back soon (http://sportsmanslodges.com/).

 

 

Autumn Color, Nature, Wilderness Air and Fresh Coffee at Lake George

  • Business Takes a NEW Direction
  • Lure of Autumn Bass Fishing, Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon
  • Sights of Colorful Foliage
  • Plans for Waterfowl Hunting, Stream Fishing for Brook Trout

By Forrest Fisher

Rising fog from mountain valleys appear like slices of horizontal white pie resting between high, dark mountain peaks of the Adirondacks in the Lake George area. Forrest Fisher Photo

My workday plan was busy with a business trip from New York City to Montreal.  The airport traffic was heavy, the security lines long, longer than ever, the sky was clear and it was a beautiful day.  I was not happy with bumper to bumper traffic conversation between the interstate roadway vehicles and the morning disc jockeys were in a rant about their bummed weekend.  They made the congestion worse.  Then I suddenly realized, “I can drive!”

About two hours or so up the northbound highway, the traffic was gone and I discovered a wonderful sense of peace and quiet.  I left the long lines of airport security, the chaos of baggage, laptop checks and body scans behind.  All gone.  All replaced by a road trip drive that would change my persona for the day, maybe forever.

There was a faint sliver of fog rising from the valleys that appeared like slices of horizontal white pie resting among the high and very dark mountain peaks of the Adirondacks in the background.  Driving down Highway 87, the road signs announced Lake George and despite the near-darkness, I noticed that the autumn scenery was stunning in this particular area.  Signs advertised fly fishing, Hudson River rafting, rail trail bikes, historical sites, boating, biking, hiking and more.  These diverted my mind and were tempting me to consider a new daytime destination, maybe as just a momentary, side-of-the-highway, homesteader.  Yes, I thought, pull over, if only just to watch the enchanting sunrise.

Highway 87 runs north-south and Exit 21 and 22 provide easy access to Lake George Village and Dunham’s Bay Resort, where I found morning coffee. Photo: www.visitadirondacks.com

Rocky bluffs jutted upward and outward along the freeway, as I tried to focus on driving and not the scenic beauty.  That was just not possible.  The scenic views were an immediate visual award, an instant lottery prize win, just for making this drive.  I sensed myself grinning to the view, perhaps that was one honest measure of my sheer contentment.

A few minutes later, in the distance, the brilliant orange ball of morning sun began to tiptoe upward.  It was only a dull orange color sky at first, and then the first sliver of the sun crest rose just above the lowest horizon in the east.  I pulled off the roadway at Exit 21 and decided I needed a cup of java just to watch the morning light.  Driving down Beach Road in Lake George Village, sort of exploring too, my business trip had become an adventure.

I continued along Highway 9L just for a few minutes, it was October and many business places were already closed for the season, but it was so quiet, so enjoyable.  Then I came to Dunham’s Bay Resort (www.dunhamsbay.com).  I went in and asked about coffee. Yes!  They had fresh java and all the mixings, it smelled so good.  I toasted a cup to my decision to drive and thought about those poor folks that were probably still waiting in the airport line, grinning again.

A cup of fresh morning java from Dunham’s Bay Resort catered to my view of the morning sunrise at Lake George. Rose Barus Photo

I moved to the front of the resort and sat in one of the outdoor lawn chairs.  The warm Lake George water and chilly mountain air caused a fog to form on Dunham’s Bay right in front of the resort.  It became thick and started to settle before it started to rise.  I went back in for more coffee.  With cup number two, I realized I was looking at the highest mountain tops to the west, visible above the fog.  They suddenly emerged into a sea of brilliant color as the sun lit them up.  A flock of ducks went squawking by in flight, high overhead, that I heard, but could not see.  My brief adventure continued.  The natural intense lighting of the sun was doing everyday work.  I was inspired by the dazzling beauty and the coffee tasted so good.

An immediate urge for home ownership in the area seemed an almost immediate necessity.  How did I ever miss this Lake George area before?  Perhaps, if only for now, I might try for a short stay.  No.  Maybe on the way back, I thought, that way I could stay a day or maybe two.  Today, back to reality, there were meetings planned and work to do.

Vibrant autumn foliage was evident along Highway 87 and the pristine upper Hudson River. Rose Barus Photo

I realized that with the flight reservation and airport plan from the start, my fly rod was not with me.  On the next drive north, there might have to be a stopover.  Imaginary fog would be the cause, I’d need to pull over to stay safe.  Again, I’m grinning.  What a plan.  I realize that this drive to a brief coffee stop has me totally energized.

A new essence for realizing the seasons of the year was added to my list of “important things,” the autumn colors of October on Lake George are unforgettable.  Perhaps I must remember to do this again, maybe when NOT ON BUSINESS next year, I thought to myself.  It is a family type of destination, I could bring everyone, the grandkids too.

Historic sites abound near Lake George Village, adding the need for a second or third trip to “see it all.” Forrest Fisher Photo

My cellphone is activated and the calendar is reserved one year ahead around the seasons and the scenery just recorded only to memory.  Of course, I’ll never forget this day.

The backcountry is a new priority.  I return to the ribbons of roadway heading north with a new vision of the stunning foliage and clean, spring-fed, waterways that are abundant here.  These waters are filled with trout and untainted crustaceans.  Pleasantly now, I’m in a new comfort zone for effective business and again, I’m grinning.  Driving was such a good idea.

Time spent in the Adirondack Mountains of New York during autumn are positively special.  October is the month of color transition in the Lake George area of the Adirondack Mountains and lush green leaves turn to brilliant colors of bright yellow, orange and red.  They are unforgettable.

Color and visions from morning light to sunset are remarkable all around Lake George.  Accommodations are at low rates and fishing charters are still running.  The crisp air is right for a fall getaway.

Not sure I can wait for next time!

For Lake George information, visit www.visitlakegeorge.com or call the Warren County Tourism Department at 518-761-7653.   

Fort Myers & Sanibel Island Beaches ARE OPEN

  • We HAVE SURVIVED Hurricane Irma VERY WELL
  • Come Enjoy, Explore, Swim, Fish, Cruise
  • It is a Shell Collectors Bonanza Adventure Time

By Forrest Fisher

If you know Lee County, Florida, you know that homeowners and snowbird visitors alike had safety and property concerns after Hurricane Irma sent a measure of fear throughout Florida in September.  It’s over.  The area is back in the swing of Florida fun.

The great warm weather and sunshine is back, though for adventure visitors, it might be good to know that the waves from Irma’s passing along our shell-drenched beaches on the Gulf of Mexico have brought in more shells than ever.

On a recent trip to Sanibel with my family, we met local treasure hunters that explained how post-storm periods are the one great time to bring out your best metal detector to find ancient treasure.  The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Island in southwest Florida continue to provide new experiences for visitors to Florida’s unspoiled island destination.

If you love wildlife, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge plans to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week with “Ding” Darling Days, Oct. 15-22.  The refuge will offer free admission access days on several occasions during that week.  For a full “Ding” Darling Days schedule, call 239-472-1100 or visit www.dingdarlingdays.com.

For more information with the latest vacation information, please visit www.FortMyersSanibel.com.

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer Islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres.

4 Days to IRMA: How Much Time Boaters Have to Prepare

  • Essential info for boaters, clubs, marinas at BoatUS.com/hurricanes
Recreational boat owners need to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma (credit: NOAA)

ALEXANDRIA, Va., September 5, 2017 – According to the National Hurricane Center, Florida may have up to four days to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma, a “potentially catastrophic Category 5” storm now approaching the Leeward Islands.

While it’s difficult to determine landfall, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urges boaters, marinas and boat clubs to use the valuable time to prepare, and offers free help online at BoatUS.com/hurricanes.

The boating group says that it doesn’t take a direct hit to damage or sink recreational vessels, or cause havoc at boat storage facilities.
The storm-planning available from BoatUS help includes:
1. “BoatUS Tips for Protecting Boats in Hurricanes,” a basic two-page primer that contains advice on hurricane preparation for all recreational boaters.
2. “Boater’s Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes” has more details on how to protect your boat as well as marinas.
3. “What Works: A Guide to Preparing Marinas, Yacht Clubs and Boats for Hurricanes,” a helpful resource for marina and boat-club staff, community resiliency managers and local government organizations that focuses on protecting boating facilities.
When a storm approaches, BoatUS.com/hurricanes also has up-to-the-minute storm-tracking tools with live satellite images and checklists for what to do before and after a hurricane strikes.
Much of the hurricane guide information comes from BoatUS and its Marine Insurance Catastrophe (CAT) Team, a recognized leader in hurricane preparedness with more than 30 years of post-storm boat salvage experience. Go to BoatUS.com/hurricanes for more.

About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS): Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We are The Boat Owners Auto Club and help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatUS brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit BoatUS.com.

FireDisc® Cookers Score High Marks with Sportsmen, Tailgaters, Party Folks and in Customer Satisfaction Ratings

Need a durable camp cooker that folds up to a VERY SMALL SIZE and can do it all for hunters, fishermen, campers or tailgate fun?   Check out FireDisc® Cookers: https://www.firedisccookers.com/products/ to see the manner of set-up, take-down and storage. So simple.
Yet, FireDisc is massively overbuilt, is still light in weight, incredibly easy to use and designed to last for a long time.

It’s perfect for anyone who likes to fish, hunt, camp, RV, tailgate or just recreate outdoors all year around.FireDisc is revolutionizing how hunters cook their camp chow and how fishermen cook shore lunch.  FireDisc is a robust cooking device that was made to travel with you in your truck or boat.  FireDisc seasons like a cast iron skillet producing excellent fish, game and eating anyway you like it. The FireDisc advantage offers compact take-down to a size that will fit in any boat, large or small, sets up easily to work dockside, at a shore lunch or at campside. The unit is powder-coated and is overbuilt. It is heavy duty and built to last. FireDisc will cook virtually everything.
The unit operates on one 16.4 oz. propane canister, fires up fast (no waiting for charcoal or fire), cooks for plenty of people, seasons like a cast iron skillet and cleans up quickly with just water.
Why people love cooking with FireDisc Cookers:
• Portable and easy to haul
• Heats quickly with propane
• Easy to clean with just water
• Great for cooking for large groups
• Perfect for cooking delicate items like fish and vegetables – no grates
• Year-round cooking
• Available in height options: 24” or 36”, shallow or deep
Check out this video: https://youtu.be/omJWFthICuQ.   FireDiscs come in deep or shallow, short or tall, black or red and are available starting at $279.99 at firedisccookers.com and at select outdoor retailers and hardware stores across the country.
How good is a FireDisc® Cooker? The recently released NPS (Net Promoter Score) numbers for FireDisc® Cookers show a high level of customer satisfaction, with a good probability that consumers who bought their products would recommend them to their friends and colleagues. FireDisc Cookers received an NPS score of 88 with a 4.9 out of 5-star rating for 2016.
The Net Promoter Score is an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research and claims to be correlated with revenue growth. NPS has been widely adopted with more than two thirds of Fortune 1000 companies using the metric.
The Net Promoter Score is calculated based on responses to a single question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?
NPS can be as low as −100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter). An NPS that is positive (i.e., higher than zero) is felt to be good and an NPS of +50 or over is excellent. The FireDisc Cooker NPS score of 88 is among the highest rankings given to any company. Scores for other companies during the same time period included USAA – 80, Costco – 78, Nordstrom – 75, Apple/iPhone – 70, Amazon – 69 and Southwest Airlines – 66. It is a great testimony to the design and quality of FireDisc products and their customer satisfaction.
For more information about “Built to Haul, Cooks it All” FireDisc Cookers, visit their web site at www.firedisccookers.com

VIDEOS: BoatUS – FIX, LEARN & DO Summer Boating How-to ‘Film Festival’ Kicks-off

  • 15 new VIDEO SHORTS by BoatUS Editors on How-To FIX, LEARN & DO Practical Boating Projects
BoatUS’ How-to videos are easy to watch.

NOT HOLLYWOOD, Calif., August 7, 2017 – What are the most common boating tasks when boat owners need to ask for help? Editors at BoatUS Magazine, the trusted voice of American boating, compiled a list of the top topics and announced the kickoff of a “BoatUS Summer How-to Film Festival” today with the release of 15 short, easily-watchable videos.

“We’re calling the video release a summer ‘film festival’ because all are themed with a “how-to” focus, are organized in one simple place to view, and are easy to watch outdoors,” added BoatUS Magazine associate editor Charles Fort.

Mark Corke, BoatUS Magazine associate editor, shared thoughts about the videos:  “The topics chosen come from decades of BoatUS member requests.  These are the practical things that most trailer-boat owners want to know.”

Titles range from launching your boat solo and changing a prop to backing a boat trailer down the ramp, changing a bilge-pump switch, and troubleshooting trailer lights.  Most are just two or three minutes long.  Breakout the popcorn and check out the videos at YouTube.com/BoatUS.

About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS):  Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We are The Boat Owners Auto Club and help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatUS brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit BoatUS.com.

Lake Erie-Lake Ontario-Niagara River “On-Line” Fishing & Vacation Map is FREE

  • Integrated Map Provides Fish Locations, Shore Fishing Access, Boat Access
  • Depth Contours ZERO-IN on Hotspot Fishing Locations
  • Bait Shops, Marina Locations, Shipwrecks, ALL HERE…ALL FREE
Depth Contours as well as on-shore landmarks for boater access, shore fishing, restaurants and marina locations are included for Niagara County, Erie County and Chautauqua County waterway areas.  The website map link and info is free. 

By Forrest Fisher

There is a NEW interactive, online, Western New York Hotspot Fishing Map application that is yours FREE at this link:  https://wnyfishing.mrf.com.

The regional website map has been designed for everyone, including for cellphone and laptop use.  It is the perfect “get-it-now” reference tool for many user groups.  Boaters, anglers, scuba divers, vacationers and many other groups, family fishing groups, now have good waterway reference map.  Need to research waterway areas of the Greater Niagara Region of New York State BEFORE the trip?  Here is your resource.

The map spotlights lake depth contours, boating access points, marinas, shore fishing sites, sunken wrecks, fish species locations, bait shops, information sources, dining establishments and give all that to the user with GPS coordinates.  Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties offer some of the best freshwater sportfishing the world has ever seen!

World class walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, musky, trout, salmon, all here, and many species of panfish.  Nearly everything an avid fisherman would ever want.  Carp and Channel Catfish too.

The Greater Niagara Region has established a reputation that boasts excellence in sportfishing, boating, kayaking, and outdoor on-the-water recreation.  Hire a charter, bring your own boat or fish from shore, the new regional map website will be useful for everyone who looks to quench a hungry angling appetite.

The website map is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast and for families looking to get back to finding the family fun of the outdoors through fishing and boating.  There are many other outdoor attractions, state and county parks, hiking paths, bird-watching opportunities (the Niagara River Corridor is internationally recognized as an important bird area), hunting options and more.  There are cultural, historical and recreational highlights from Lewiston in Niagara County, to Buffalo in Erie County and to Jamestown in Chautauqua County.  The new website and map app offers access to outdoor information and adds value for visitors and residents alike.

The area below Dunkirk, NY, and Barcelona Harbor, in Westfield, NY, is the “HOT WALLEYE ZONE”. Here is the 1st look-see from a free fishing map link that all anglers can enjoy for the very first time at no charge.

The website (https://wnyfishing.mrf.com) offers information to get you started and headed in the right direction, from charter listings to marina information; from shore fishing spots to license information. Unfortunately, it can’t help you set the hook and reel the fish in!

Greater Niagara – You’ll “fall for us” all over again reel soon!

Lake Erie Fishing Hotline, (716) 855-FISH, www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/, fishhotlines.html

Niagara Co. Fishing Hotline, (877) FALLS-US, www.niagarafallsusa.com

This map was made possible through the funding of Erie and Niagara Counties. It was prepared cooperatively between Erie and Niagara County’s respective Sportfishing Promotion Programs, with assistance from the Erie and Niagara County Fisheries Advisory Boards. Additional maps may be obtained by calling: Buffalo-Niagara CVB at 800-BUFFALO or Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. at 877-FALLS US.

I Met a Polar Bear, Face-to-Face! Thanks to Johnny Morris, YOU CAN TOO

  • Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium OPENS Sep, 21, 2017
  • Will be Largest, most interactive, dynamic Fish and Wildlife “Experience” in the World.
  • Located next to Bass Pro Shops National Headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Will also be the New Home for BASS FISHING HALL OF FAME

By Forrest Fisher

The hair on my arm shot up as if I had just walked into a static field of electricity. My heart rate quickened.  The face of the bear was powerful and profound. The moment was unforgettable. It was extraordinary.  It was sacred and it was full of Polar Bear ambition.  It was striking.

Image is courtesy of Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

The largest, most immersive fish and wildlife attraction in the world offers a video that did that to me! Visit: https://youtu.be/QnG5tf_Pp3I.

 

The Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium will celebrate its grand opening on Sep. 21, 2017.  Located in Springfield, Missouri, the 320,000 square foot structure will feature exhibits that manage to create new moments of introduction to conservation, with a focus on providing education and knowledge of wildlife, fish and sea creatures for all that visit.

Wonders of Wildlife will feature a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium adventure and will showcase 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, as well as more than 70,000 square feet of immersive wildlife galleries and dioramas.  Plus, more than a mile of immersive trails and exhibits.

Wonders of Wildlife will also offer another giant reason to visit.  Officials from the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and noted conservationist, Johnny Morris, recently announced that Wonders of Wildlife will also provide a new, permanent home for the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.

The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame will honor bass fishing legends and was developed in partnership with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), the exhibit includes a fascinating collection of artifacts and memorabilia, including authentic rods and reels, antique lures and historical photos.  More than 60 Hall of Fame members will be featured including Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Roland Martin, Johnny Morris, Ray Scott, President George H.W. Bush and many others. Several artifacts date back to the early days of B.A.S.S. tournaments in the 1960s, including the scale used to weigh record catches and the first BASSMASTER Classic victory trophy.

Image is courtesy of Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

“To be part of a transformational project like Wonders of Wildlife and share the story of bass fishing with generations of future visitors is a dream come true,” said Donald Howell, president of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame board of directors. “There is no better location to honor the individuals that have played a crucial role in bass fishing. Visitors will be blown away by all that Wonders of Wildlife encompasses, and we’re grateful to Johnny Morris for his partnership and bringing this vision to life in such compelling fashion.”

The site will offer extraordinary experience for visitors with a collection of exhibits and galleries that showcase national conservation organizations within a single “must-see” destination experience, sharing the story of hunters and anglers conserving wildlife and the outdoors.

Other partner galleries include The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Fishing Hall of Fame, the Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads and Horns, the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum, the National Archery Hall of Fame and many others.

“Our mission is to establish a world-class destination that celebrates people who hunt, fish, and act as stewards of the land and water,” said Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, a conservationist and the visionary behind the Wonders of Wildlife. “There are so many notable hunters and anglers that have played an important role in the conservation of our precious natural resources and habitats.  We are honored to welcome the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame to help further enrich that story for our visitors.”

Founded in 2000, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to all anglers, manufacturers and members of the media who further the sport of bass fishing.  Honorees include notable contributors to the sport who elevate it to the professional level and lesser-known supporters that have and continue to sustain bass fishing, both honoring the past and looking to the future.

While previous plans called for a stand-alone location in Alabama, organizers recognized the opportunity to reach a far larger audience by partnering with Wonders of Wildlife.

For more information, visit www.wondersofwildlife.org.  For information about the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, visit www.bassfishinghof.com.

 

Mount Rushmore – Full of Glory on Independence Day

The entrance to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial offers clear signage and directions during an initial view of the grandeur of this sacred place.  Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher
Mount Rushmore is no ordinary mountain.  Visiting this sacred place in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been on our “bucket list” for a long time.  As we approached from the north driving down Highway 85, the illusion of darkness rising on the horizon – the Black Hills in the distance, was clear and beautiful. “There they are,” said my excited best friend and wife of 48 years. “They’re so awesome, aren’t they?” Added my granddaughter, Kiley Rose, a college student of environmental science and forestry, and our mentor for all things nature, especially trees and birds.

“They say the Black Hills look dark because of all the tall pine trees that grow here in this part of South Dakota,” Kiley shared. “And this area is rich in birds and animals too.” As we travelled through Rapid City and up Highway 16 (Mount Rushmore Road) on the mountain toward Mount Rushmore, there were large signs on the roadway directing where to turn, park and enjoy the view.

The views from just about anywhere on this National Monument Memorial property are spectacular. The scenes are permanently imprinted to memory, though I also took hundreds of pictures to share with family and friends back home in western New York.

The “Avenue of Flags” offers a lofted flag of every state in the United States, a symbol for freedom and citizenship as a democratic government representing the freedom of all people in this country. Forrest Fisher Photo

The sculptured faces of four of our former great presidents are carved high above in the granite stone of this majestic mountain.  Chosen by sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, visitors have a clear, spectacular image of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as viewed left to right. For several of the people I spoke with, many simply gazing with a prolonged stare at the figures – the predominant feature of these four American leaders seems to be their eyes.

One man from Texas said, “You know something, I think their eyes offer us understanding and humility.” Another visitor overheard the onset of our discussion and shared, “I agree, their eyes draw my attention almost immediately, as if to invite discussion among each of them.” Another nearby person, a foreign lady visitor from Japan, smiled and leaned our way to say, “I think their eyes create a sense of trust, so I agree with you both, but I also think their noses are predominant.” Instantly, we all smiled at that and I brought up a short story about “smell and scent” to share with this amicable threesome.

I added, “When my family initially came up to visit the monument, we drove past the official entrance and down the hill toward the presidential “side view” of George Washington. My granddaughter and I decided to hike around the parking area access paths and with her knowledge of trees, she went directly to one of the pine trees, put her nose to the tree, smiled, and called me over.” She said, “Can you smell this and tell me what you think this bark smells like, Dziadz?” So I did and said, “It smells like vanilla.” “Yes!” She exclaimed. “This is a Ponderosa Pine tree, this odor is their distinguishing element!”

So I returned to the group conversation and said, “Have you visited the Grand View Terrace eating area? Some people we met had been raving about Thomas Jefferson’s homemade ice cream recipe – which they serve here.  About the nose, maybe you are right – the ice cream is vanilla flavor.  You can smell it just by standing next to someone with a cone or dish of the tasty dessert.  It was crowded.”  Smiling a bit, I added, “So maybe you are right, the nose is the champion feature of these carved presidential figures!”  Everyone returned a happy face grin and we all moved on, satisfied to share a moment of observation with each other.

Though the Ponderosa pines offer the scent of vanilla and the Thomas Jefferson homemade ice cream recipe is vanilla flavor – and it is delicious, our visit to this incredible place was not ordinary vanilla.

Every visitor, there were 1000’s, appeared to be in reverent awe of the monument.  There was a soft-spoken drone of conversation in the air that hovered above the sound of the breeze, with these flags proudly waffling a soft message of freedom in the wind.  Every single state in the country has their flag displayed here.  It felt so very good to walk among the cascade of flags aptly named, the “Avenue of Flags.”

Mount Rushmore associate, Jane Zwetzig, had provided us with early advice about making sure we test the delicious ice cream.  The vanilla flavor and sweet taste is like the monument, unforgettable.

The information center is a “must-see stop” to insure you understand what to see during your day visit. Forrest Fisher Photo

A stop to the Information Center provided details about current day activities, with informational brochures and details of exhibits, they helped to plan hiking trail and exhibit visits for the day.  There are guided walks down the Presidential Trail and tours, Ranger programs, amphitheater programs, the Sculptor’s Studio, the bookstore, the gift shop and also, an audio tour.  There is also an audio tour device, a handheld wand, that can be rented for $5 and is available in four languages.

The food court is a great food stop, complete with bison burgers, bison hotdogs and a long list of other, non-meat, healthy foods and beverages.

Toward evening, the sculpture is illuminated for one hour, starting 30 minutes after sunset, and that marks the onset of the “Evening Lighting Ceremony.” The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year-round, except on Christmas Day (Dec. 25), from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer, and through 5 p.m. in the winter. The cost is FREE, except there is an $11 parking fee for cars.

At the end of the “Avenue of Flags,” there is a balcony where families gather for pictures to be cherished long into the future.

Hotel accommodations are plentiful in Rapid City, Hill City, Keystone and several other small towns nearby, including infamous Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickok – Saloon No. 10), about 45 minutes to the north.  We spent the overnight at the Gold Dust hotel in Deadwood (http://golddustdeadwood.com/), recently renovated in this former western outlaw town – such a great place to visit.

For more information about the Black Hills, Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument and other local sites, visit: http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/business/black-hills-visitor-information-center.

The busiest day of the year for Mount Rushmore? You might have guessed, is July 4th. According to manager, Lloyd Shelton, Independence Day will usually see a little more than 10,000 visitors per hour. The good news is that the park services can handle that volume and there is plenty of room.

You will find inspiration from the presidential presence with a wonderful sense of opportunity to share and absorb the energy and leadership provided from these mountain-top carvings at the memorial monument.  These elements of Mount Rushmore are unchanged, regardless of the number of visitors.  We enjoyed every moment of our visit – the people, the property, the outdoor elements of unique grandeur.  This is a great summer stop.  Upon arrival, the mystique of this special place is clearly apparent.

We drove all the way from New York State (two fun days), a long trip, and we are already planning a return visit!

 

Travel Destination: NIAGARA USA

  • Water Temp Rising Now, Salmon Hitting with Fish to 22 Pounds
  • Smallmouth Bass Fishing is Good on Upper and Lower Niagara River
  • Southtowns Lake Erie Walleye Contest runs June 10-18

Niagara County, NY; June 9, 2017.   Despite record high water levels in Lake Ontario, salmon and trout fishing continues to be good in the lake, although it did slow down a bit with the recent east winds.  Some good fishing was being reported over the weekend from Tanner Niezgoda, of Newfane, while fishing out of Olcott

Jason Krebs with a pretty Lake Trout taken in the Lower Niagara River on a drift.

Best depths were 60 to 80 feet down over 150 to 300 feet of water with spoons and flasher-fly combos. Salmon up to 22 pounds were caught by Tanner and his sister.

Many of the captains have been tight-lipped on information with the Orleans County Open happening this weekend.  Be forewarned about the Niagara Bar with a report that moss is starting to come down through the river system.

In the Lower Niagara River, the fishing has been good to very good the past week.  Steelhead and lake trout are still holding on, but they probably won’t be around for long as the water nears the 60 degree mark. Minnows, Kwikfish and MagLips were all working on trout from boats up in Devil’s Hole; shore casters in the gorge have been using tubes, swim baits and marabou jigs.

That same hardware will also work on smallmouth bass downriver, but Chuck Booker of Amherst proved that his signature in-line spinners can also catch bass by going 17 for 20 on his last outing this week north of the sand docks in Lewiston.  

Yes, some moss is starting to show up, but you can still catch fish just fine. It will continue to get worse, though, as the month progresses.  Outdoor Writer Mike Brown of Ohio came into town over the weekend and his crew of family and friends managed to catch about 40 fish while fishing with Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston.  Tip of the week: Don’t set your rod down to take a picture for your story in the Niagara River without reeling in a little line first.  Anyone who hooks into a nice spinning outfit in the river with a brand new reel on it could be returned to Capt. Joe.

Tanner Niezgoda, of Newfane, New York, Caught a beautiful lake Trout fishing Lake Ontario out of Olcott Harbor.

Upper Niagara River bass fishing also continues to be good.  Remember that the regular season doesn’t open until the third Saturday in June (June 17 this year) and if you are targeting bass, you must use artificial baits.  Speaking of bass, the Annual Opening Day Bass Contest sponsored each year by Kelly’s Korners will NOT be held this year.  Organizers for the tournament didn’t want to see the big bass end up in a fish fry and they decided to retire the event to help protect the resource.  Some walleye are being caught at the head of the river and at the head of Strawberry Island on worm harnesses and jigs.  This could be a sleeper area for the Southtowns Walleye Association’s tournament that kicks off on Saturday, June 10. www.southtownswalleye.org

To help Celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, there will be a Free Fishing Clinic at Ellicott Creek Park on Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Call Mike Todd at 851-7010 to pre-register – although it’s not required.  

Just a quick reminder on water levels: There is still a state of emergency along the Lake Ontario shoreline for high water levels. This isn’t really going to affect the fishing that much, but the Niagara County Sheriff is asking that boats creating a wake stay at least 600 feet from shore. This doesn’t include trolling.  Caution is advised for floating debris when you are out in the lake moving around.  The problem seems to be launching.  The best spot to be right now is the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott.  Fort Niagara has an open launch, but you need boots up to your knees or above.  Golden Hill State Park launch is closed and Wilson-Tuscarora Park is day to day (but you need hip boots there, too).  It’s worth the effort for the good fishing!!

ZIP-LINE FUN, THRILLS for YOUNG & OLD!

  • Extraordinary Speed in Safe Flight from Tower-to-Tower
  • Adventure, Fun and Assured Safety
  • Full Body Harness & Head Helmet Protection is Required
  • My Favorite Place: Peek ‘N Peak, near Findley Lake, New York

By Forrest Fisher

The harness and safety helmet assure your personal safety, the rest is SHEER FUN!  My granddaughter Kelsey went first. “Yeaaahhhhh!”  Unforgettable!

Those zip-lines with strange looking towers on the hills in the distance of places we travel definitely beckon for adventure seekers.  Many have never tried them out.

At Peek ‘N Peak Resort and Conference Center (http://www.pknpk.com/) near the quaint country village of Findley Lake, located in the southwest corner of New York, my grandkids would not allow me to just watch them try out the zip-line.

They said, “C’mon Dziadz (Polish word for grandfather), your time to fly from the towers has come!” I smiled and said, “OK, sounds good.”  Not really sure of what I was getting myself into.

We rode the ski-lift to the top of the hill to start out on the high zip-line.  My granddaughter Kelsey went first.  “Yeaaahhhhh!” Screaming away at 120 decibels or more, as she headed for the next tower station more than one-thousand feet away.

My turn was next.  What a minute.  Was there a giant 12-point buck walking to within 10 yards of my tree stand?  Why was my heart pounding?!   I was a bit nervous and even was trembling a bit.  Here I am, an ex-military Vietnam-era veteran and I was shaky.  After all, we were only about 100 feet off the ground and there was a 20 mph wind blowing.  Not to make light of things, but there was rain in the forecast too, and it was dark and cloudy right about now.  I was not going to wimp out.  Couldn’t do that.

I harnessed in, told myself to “think brave”, got the “all clear” after being checked by the operators and, again, I could sense my wide-open eyeballs.

Excitement is a very cool thing in life!  It can be hard to find when you’re looking at 70 birthday candles just ahead.

Zeeooooow.  I zoomed off and in what seemed like 5-minutes, I landed on the next tower about 30 seconds later.  Standing right next to my granddaughter, she asked, “What’d ya think Dziadz, fun right?!”

I answered, “Yup!” And smiled ear to ear in convincing fashion, double-checking to see if my tongue had been frozen to the roof of my mouth and did a double take to see if I didn’t wet my pants.

Kelsey then said, “OK, this tower is really going to be even more fun.  It’s a dual zip-line and we take off together.  I’ll race you to the bottom of the hill!  Are you ready Dziadz?”

We harnessed up.

Yikes, this was exciting!

My sensory expectations seemed in better control after that first long ride.  Clip, Clack, Clip, we were in.  Standing next to each other, we were ready.  Just then, Gazzzooongg!  Thunder in the distance.  Then suddenly, the dark skies opened up.  It was a near-torrential downpour.  They said, “We are closing the towers, your harnessed in, go down if you like, you’re the last riders.”

I felt like Matt Dillon and was up against the fastest draw in the west.  He always keeps his cool.  That was my mindset.

We smiled to each other and screamed our, “Let’s go!”  We were either brave or not so smart (I was thinking that other word that starts on “s” and ends with a “d”….stupid).

In the middle of our descent as we exceeded 70 mph, flashes of light jumped out left and right in the distance.   There was lightning all around us as we zoomed through some nearby treetops.

Flashbulb Fodder?  I asked the Almighty for some help.  He was with us because I can share this fun tale.

We were wet to the bone.  Mighty thankful too, that we did not complete an electrical storm circuit during the flighty speedy trip down the dual zip-line.  It was an incredible experience.  We were both happy for this extraordinary hair-raising survival encounter with adventure.

We climbed down from the tower.  Both of us kissed the muddy ground.  What a run!

I was ready to leave the zip-line and head over to the bar in the sip-line!  You know, a cold water on the rocks is what I needed.

Everybody met in the facility lobby and hugged. Kelsey said, “Wow!  That was incredible, wasn’t it!?” Literally wet to the bone, we all looked up and in just 5-minutes, the clouds had vanished and the sun popped out.  Life is.

“Wanna do it again Dziadz?” I resorted to that canned ear-to-ear smile that we grandfather’s all carry for emergencies and said, “Maybe tomorrow, ok?”

The Giant Dual Zip-Line adventure at Peek ‘N Peak soars over the trees side-by-side on independent lines next to your partner, allowing both riders to enjoy an exhilarating and majestic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  It’s a 2,000 foot long glide path!  Photo courtesy of Peek ‘N Peak

The Giant Dual Zip-Line adventure at Peak ‘n Peek allows you to feel sort of like a bird, a hawk or an eagle on a dive.  Imagine, those types of birds do this all the time to survive via their very nature.

There is also an Aerial Adventure Course that features 69 obstacles and includes eight courses of varying difficulty. Participants climb up and down cargo nets and ladders while navigating course elements, including zip lines, in this tree top adventure.  Suited for all ability levels, this course is a 3-hour, self-guided experience that allows you to explore the course at your own pace.  You can try any (or all) of the eight different courses, working your way through the tree tops from platform to platform, encountering obstacles along the way.

I was humble and kindly declined to look for yet another new adventure experience.  Had to use that ear to ear grin trick again.

The zip line adventure was not really on my bucket list, but oh-my-gosh!  It was such unforgettable fun.  We will do that again, but maybe not, if rain and thunder are in the forecast. I’m going to check beforehand!

The lifestyle we have shared in my family includes being active in the outdoors, but is focused on fishing, hunting, hiking, boating and family campfires.

When my younger grandkids heard that there was a pool here that offered a “wave” and had a “long slide”, good old gramps thought it would be a great next stop too.

We have learned to love this special place in the quiet hills.

Check it out: http://www.pknpk.com/packages-deals/overnight/ski-ride-packages/.

Spring Fever, a Highly Contagious Disease in Missouri

  • Turkey Hunting
  • Crappie Fishing, Bass Fishing
  • Exploring, Camping, Hiking, Canoeing
  • Morel Hunting
This is the time of the year when wild turkeys cause a Missouri hunter’s heart to race.

By Brent Frazee

Once the weather warms, the fish and wild turkeys start stirring, morels starting popping up, the redbud and dogwoods trees bud out.

It’s time to head outdoors!

Where? Here are some places in Missouri where spring is in full display.

  1. TURKEY HUNTING AT TRUMAN LAKE: This massive reservoir in west-central Missouri also has a massive chunk of public land surrounding it. It attracts a lot of hunters, but then, there are a lot of turkeys hiding in the heavy timber.  Hunters who do best get away from the crowds.  A tip: Scout by boat and get back into areas often accessible only by water.  Once you locate birds, slip into the area the next morning, beach your boat and set up in a likely looking strut zone.  It’s work, but it can pay off.
  2. CRAPPIE FISHING AT SMITHVILLE LAKE: The crappies at this reservoir near Kansas City generally spawn a little later than they do at places such as Truman or Lake of the Ozarks.  But fishermen with patience can find outstanding fishing.  The peak of the spawn at Smithville generally takes place in early May.  And it can be outstanding.  Fishermen in coves fish from the bank and boat to catch stringers of big fish.

    As guide and lure manufacturer Jim Dill can attest, Lake of the Ozarks is a hot spot for spring bass fishing.
  3. BASS FISHING AT LAKE OF THE OZARKS: This big reservoir in central Missouri is an old-timer, but it continues to produce amazing bass fishing. A 10-pound bass was caught last spring and many fish exceeding the 5-pound mark have already been caught this year.  Head to the back of coves and pockets with gravel banks and look for spawning beds.  Use Senkos or Flukes and target the nests the bass have built.  Then hold on.
  4. WHITE-BASS RUN AT OZARK RESERVOIRS: Ozark reservoirs such as Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Stockton and Pomme de Terre are nationally known for their spring white-bass fishing. When the water warms and there is enough flow in rivers, the whites head up the tributaries to spawn.  Hit it right, and you can experience some fantastic fishing.  But you better hurry.  The run is in full force, and it generally only lasts several weeks.
  5. EXPLORING AT ECHO BLUFF STATE PARK: This state park captures the rugged beauty of the Missouri Ozarks at its finest. One of the newest additions to the Missouri State Park system, it is carved out of a wilderness-type setting with thick timber, rock formations and a scenic creek.  The state park features a luxury lodge at the edge of Sinking Creek and Echo Bluff, for which the parks was named.  But for the more adventurous, there are plenty of campsites, hiking trails and a chance to view unusual wildlife such as wild horses.  The landscape is alive in the spring with blooming redbud and dogwood trees.

    Echo Bluff State Park in the Missouri Ozarks offers breathtaking scenery and plenty of options for outdoor recreation in the spring.
  6. CAMPING AT BENNETT SPRING STATE PARK: One of Missouri’s oldest state parks, Bennett is also one of the most popular parks in the state.  The main attraction, of course, is the trout fishing.  The Department of Conservation stocks the stream with trout each day of the season, and the fishing is outstanding.  Many visitors like to stay in campgrounds, either pitching a tent or staying in an RV just a long cast away from the beautiful trout stream.  The park also has cabins for rent,
  7. PADDLEFISH SNAGGING AT TABLE ROCK LAKE: Want to catch the fish of a lifetime? Try Table Rock Lake during the paddlefish snagging season, which lasts through the end of April.  The James River arm is loaded with big fish.  In fact, the last two state records, both fish exceeding 100 pounds, came from Table Rock.
  8. HIKING AT JOHNSON’S SHUT-INS STATE PARK: This state park, set in the St. Francois Mountains of eastern Missouri south of St. Louis, is filled with geological wonders. The shut-ins got their name from a portion of the Black River where the rushing current flows through a maze of boulders and rocks, creating a series of mini waterfalls and pools.  That makes it one of the most popular swimming spots in Missouri.  All access points to the shut-ins are temporarily closed due to high water, but that should ease as spring progresses.  A trail system provides beautiful views for everyone from those seeking a short outing to backpackers who desire a long-distance trek.
  9. CANOEING ON THE CURRENT RIVER: This beautiful, clear-water Ozark’s river is often jammed with canoes and kayaks in the middle of summer. But it shows its peaceful side in spring, especially on weekdays.  The steep hillsides are splashed with the pink of redbuds, the white of dogwoods, and the green of other trees.  Bluffs glisten in the spring sun and the gurgle of riffles add to the solitude.  Canoe-rental businesses are available in Eminence, Van Buren and Akers Ferry as well as other locations along the river.
  10. MOREL HUNTING: Once the weather warms and a few timely rains add moisture to the woods, these tasty mushrooms start popping up and set off a giant treasure hunt.  Morel hunting has become a popular pastime unto itself, with thousands of Missourians taking to the woods each spring.  Most public and federal lands with timber have morels.  You just have to beat others to them once they pop up.

 

Jordan Lee Wins 2017 Bassmaster Classic

Jordan Lee started BASS Championship Sunday in 15th place and finished the day with the 2017 Bassmaster Classic Championship Trophy held high above his head. Seigo Saito Photo (BASS)

HOUSTON — BASS Championship Sunday.  In 2013, Jordan Lee was a member of the Auburn University fishing team.  Today, he’s on top of the professional bass fishing world.

The 25-year-old pro from Guntersville, Ala., stayed within striking distance all week at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Then during Sunday’s final round at Minute Maid Park, he caught five bass from Lake Conroe that weighed 27 pounds, 4 ounces, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-best 56-10.

Lee earned $300,000 and the most coveted trophy in the sport, while Steve Kennedy — a resident of Auburn, Ala. — finished second with 55-1.

“To all of the guys fishing the college tournaments right now, this just says you can do it,” Lee said. “It’s hard work — and you’re going to have a lot of days out here that aren’t good.

“On this lake, I wasn’t sure there was any way I could do it. But you’re never out of it here.”

Lee had every reason to fold after Friday’s first round when he caught only three fish that weighed 8-6. But Saturday provided a revelation that would ultimately lead to his first B.A.S.S. victory.

Top 15 Finishers, payouts went to all 51 anglers in the classic, with 51st place paying $10,000

He was fishing a point with a hard bottom that he found during practice and he believed would pay off during the tournament. After failing to catch a fish there in windy, cloudy conditions on Friday, he returned to the spot in calmer weather on the following day.

“With zero fish in the box at noon on the second day, I went back to that spot and caught a 7 1/2-pounder on the first cast,” Lee said. “When I was landing that fish, there was a whole school of 5- and 6-pounders that came with it.

“Right then, I knew something was about to happen — and I caught two more that were both big.”

Lee still didn’t manage a five-bass limit on Saturday, but the four fish he brought to the scales weighed 21-0.

That moved Lee into 15th place with 29-6 and guaranteed him a spot in Sunday’s Top 25. But he still didn’t feel good about his chances of catching California angler Brent Ehrler, who had led the first two rounds of the event and entered Championship Sunday with 43-4.

Sunday began with Lee planning to fish his magic point all day — even if the fishing had fizzled. As it turns out, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Engine troubles left him without the ability to run from spot to spot and forced him to milk every possible bite out of the point. He eventually had to hitch a ride back to the weigh-in with a spectator that he knew from Cullman, Ala. — a legal ploy in the Classic, as long as no fishing takes place in the spectator’s boat.

Lee’s main baits were a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the citrus shad color pattern, a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey for a trailer and a Bullworm on a magnum shaky head.

“I stuck with it all day and caught fish on a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey,” Lee said. “I threw the 5XD and the Bullworm and didn’t really get any bites on them. I caught all 27 pounds on that football jig.”

Of the hundreds of points on Conroe, Lee said it was one section of hard bottom that seemed to make his point special. Casting across the point — rather than parallel to it — was the better play all week.

“I never caught any shells or anything, so I think it was a gravel or a rock bottom,” he said. “It was really subtle. There was no brush. It was just kind of a flat point, and I was fishing probably 100 yards offshore.”

Lee had to sweat through the final few anglers, including Kennedy who weighed in 21-15 and fell just 1-9 short of the title. The final angler with a chance to unseat Lee from the top of the leaderboard was Ehrler, who weighed in just 11-10 and finished third with 54-14.

Ehrler was trying to become just the sixth angler in Classic history to lead the event from wire-to-wire and the first since Cliff Pace in 2013. Instead, he became the second angler in a row to lead the first two days, only to fall short in the end.

“I’m disappointed,” Ehrler said. “But what I really wanted to do coming in was be in position to win on the final day. I did that, but things just didn’t work out today.”

Ehrler earned the Berkley Big Bass Award of $2,500 for the largest fish of the event with a 9-12 largemouth he caught on Friday.

Ehrler also earned the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 and the $1,500 GEICO Everyday Leader Bonus for leading both Friday and Saturday.

Jordan Lee is walking proud as he displays one of the bass lunkers that he caught in Lake Conroe. Seigo Saito Photo (BASS)

The event itself drew thousands of people to morning takeoffs at Lake Conroe Park, the Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods and the daily weigh-ins at Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.

Official attendance estimates won’t be available for several days.

FISHING FANS Will Experience LIVE COVERAGE of 47th Annual Bassmaster Classic

  • Classic LIVE Will Be Broadcasting in Real Time
  • Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods
  • George R. Brown Convention Center – Houston, TX
Cameras will be streaming live coverage of the Classic leaders on Lake Conroe back to the expo production facility, where hosts will break down the action for fans tuning in through Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN with hosts, Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite along with Dave Mercer and on-the-water reporter Robbie Floyd, will provide analysis and live updates. Forrest Fisher Photo

HOUSTON — Fifty-two of the world’s best bass anglers will head to Houston next week to compete for more than $1 million in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, and fans will be able to follow the action as it happens.

Classic LIVE will be broadcasting in real time from the B.A.S.S. booth at the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in the George R. Brown Convention Center.

“What an incredible venue we have this year being set up in the heart of Houston, Texas, and watching the action unfold live on a lake that some anglers are saying might produce multiple 10-pound-plus bass,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2.

Cameras will be streaming live coverage of the Classic leaders on Lake Conroe back to the expo production facility, where hosts will break down the action for fans tuning in through Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN.  Hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite along with Dave Mercer and on-the-water reporter Robbie Floyd, will provide analysis and live updates.

This year, special guest Brian Robison of the Minnesota Vikings will also be onsite for the Classic LIVE show to provide some local insight. Robison played for the University of Texas and calls Lake Conroe his home lake.

Also, special guest RJ Mitte, who plays Walter White Jr. on the series “Breaking Bad,” will be joining the set at the expo.

The 2016 version of “Classic LIVE” reached nearly 12 million minutes viewed during the three-day event.

Each day of competition will have six hours of coverage, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Watch the tournament leaders catch bass in real time on the exclusive Classic LIVE program on Bassmaster.com and simulcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

Facebook Live broadcasts will be added to the coverage this year, on the B.A.S.S. Facebook page, including coverage of takeoff on Day 1, the Toyota Mid-Day Report all three days around noon, and the press conference with the Top 6 anglers after each competition day.

Also on Bassmaster.com, fans can keep up with every fish caught through BASSTrakk, a real-time leaderboard that shows each angler’s catch according to estimates of marshals assigned to each competitor’s boat. In addition, on-the-water reporters provide a running commentary on the action in the Live Blog.

“Through those features, along with videos and photo galleries, we’ll have the lake covered from top to bottom,” said Jim Sexton, B.A.S.S. VP/Digital. “And we’ll cover every inch of the Minute Maid Park weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, as well.”

Qualifying anglers for the classic this year:

Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C. (8)

Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla. (1)

Hank Cherry, Maiden, N.C. (3)

Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla. (5)

Keith Combs, Huntington, Texas (6)

Scott Clift, Dadeville, Mo. (1)

Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La. (4)

Ott DeFoe, Knoxville, Tenn. (6)

Boyd Duckett, Guntersville, Ala. (8)

Brent Ehrler, Newport Beach, Calif. (2)

James Elam, Tulsa, Okla. (2)

Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla. (16)

Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas (15)

John Garrett, Union City, Tenn. (1)

Shaw Grigsby, Gainesville, Fla. (16)

Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. (14)

Skylar Hamilton, Dandridge, Tenn. (1)

Wil Hardy, Harlem, Ga. (1)

Charlie Hartley, Grove City, Ohio (2)

Matt Herren, Ashville, Ala. (7)

Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz. (5)

Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala. (15)

Michael Iaconelli, Pittsgrove, N.J. (18)

Alton Jones Sr., Lorena, Texas (18)

Alton Jones Jr., Lorena, Texas (1)

Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala. (8)

Timothy Klinger, Boulder City, Nev. (1)

Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla. (10)

Ryan Lavigne, Gonzales, La. (1)

Jordan Lee, Vinemont, Ala. (3)

Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa. (2)

Jared Lintner, Arroyo Grande, Calif. (6)

Bill Lowen, Brookville, Ind. (9)

Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala. (3)

Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala. (18)

Ish Monroe, Hughson, Calif. (10)

Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C. (3)

Darrell Ocamica, Fruitland, Idaho (1)

Takahiro Omori, Emory, Texas (12)

Brandon Palaniuk, Hayden, Idaho (7)

Clifford Pirch, Payson, Ariz. (4)

Jacob Powroznik, Port Haywood, Va. (3)

Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif. (17)

Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz. (15)

Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky. (1)

Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn. (2)

Gerald Swindle, Guntersville, Ala. (16)

Randall Tharp, Port St. Joe, Fla. (4)

Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. (26)

Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala. (1)

Jason Williamson, Wagener, S.C. (2)

Chris Zaldain, San Jose, Calif. (3)

 *Number in parentheses represents the number of times each angler has qualified.

 

For more, please visit:  http://www.bassmastermedia.com/article/FishingFansWillExperienceLiveCoverageOf47thAnnualBassmasterClassic

 

 

Bucket List Trip: Rainy Lake

  • CAMPFIRE ISLAND: Big Fish, Lots of Fish
  • Delicious Food, Lots of Food
  • Great Fishing Spots, Great Guides, Hot Lures 

By Jamie Wilson

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 1of6As anglers we all have a list of lakes, rivers and streams that have the potential to satisfy our ultimate desire; to completely outdo ourselves. This past season (early June) I encountered one such body of water; beautiful Rainy Lake which borders Ontario and Minnesota.

A group of writers, tackle company owners and reps were invited to the Share The Outdoors Media Event to field test new products from companies such as Clam, St.Croix, Live Target Lures, Gamma Fishing Line and Frabill. The accommodation for this event was Campfire Island which is a hop, skip and a jump from Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada.

The first thing that jumped out at me, besides the beauty and splendor of the lake, was the emphasis for success on the water by owner and operator of Campfire Island, Wayne Howard.  Wayne left no stone unturned pertaining to potential hot spots around the lake along with various presentations, depths and key structure/cover to focus on. He made sure that when we left his dock, we had – at the very least, a crystal clear picture of where to start and how to tempt the Rainy Lake fish contingency.

Campfire Island is geared towards a fishing experience not to be forgotten, as is described on their website “pack the appropriate clothing for the time of year, pack a toothbrush, find your favorite rods and reels, and leave the rest to us”.

The Accommodations

Now, obviously, world class fishing is a high priority, but to most people, so is being well fed and comfortable.  When they say “leave the rest to us” they weren’t kidding. Aside from the amazing fishing related insights from Wayne (which we will get to in a minute), we really didn’t have to think about anything, but, well, fishing.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 2of6Picture this, you have a fantastic night sleep in a big comfy bed, then you wake up to hot coffee in your cabin.  Next, you are treated to a big delicious breakfast just in time for your guide to grab your gear and whisk you away to the promised land of smallmouth bass, pike and walleye.  Oh, and I should mention, they send you on your way with a packed lunch and maybe even a wise crack from Wayne (if you are lucky).

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 3of6Fast forward to your return from a day of fast, furious fishing, the kind that one can only daydream about, and you are greeted by Wayne, who wants to get the lowdown on your day.  The main lodge is the perfect meeting place after a day on the water to tell as many lies as you want about your exploits.  Here you will find a counter full of snacks, a fridge full of whatever you fancy (beer for our group) and a beautiful view as a backdrop to all the fish stories you can stand.  To me, this is paradise and exactly what the doctor ordered.  What’s next?  Well, a delicious three-course dinner in a beautiful wood cabin that’s what.  I tell you, I must have gained five pounds during our event and I was not complaining.  The cabins are spacious and comfortable, the food is plentiful and so are the fish.  Win, win, win and that’s that.

Fishing Rainy Lake

Campfire Island is located on the Ontario side of Rainy Lake in close proximity to the Ontario/Minnesota border.  A quick boat ride from Sorting Gap Marina in Fort Frances and you’ve arrived at fishing heaven.  Being situated just south of the Noden Causeway, Campfire Island is the only Ontario fishing camp with easy access to both the southern and northern arms of Rainy Lake.

Campfire Island spells it out like this, “Our mantra: world class smallmouth bass, trophy northern pike, extraordinary walleye.  Our goal: to have our guests experience the world class fishery on Rainy Lake to its fullest extent”.  I will attest to that.  Day one of my trip was nothing short of amazing.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 4of6After breakfast we got prepped and headed out only to be greeted with some of the most horrendous weather I have ever fished in by choice.  Severe cold front, high winds and rain had me in doubt and I tell you this, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My partner in crime on this trip, Gary Abernethy (Live Target and those great “Bait Cloud” lures) and I lost count of our catches.  It was simply unbelievable.  We boated an estimated 90+ fish that day which included smallmouth, pike and walleye.  I can’t describe how much fun it was to cast out a crankbait or tandem willow spinnerbait into shallow banks, points and reefs having no idea what would attack it next.  Our big fish producer for smallmouth that day was the Live Target Crawfish Square Bill in brown/chartreuse while various spinnerbaits with silver flashy blades accounted for large numbers of pike, smallmouth and the odd walleye.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 5of6My set-up for spinnerbaits/jerkbaits was a 7’ St.Croix (med/heavy) “Mojo Bass” rod which performed flawlessly the duration of the trip.  I matched it with an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reel spooled with 20-pound braid and paired with a 12-pound fluorocarbon leader (Gamma Edge).  For the crankbaits, I matched a 5.4:1 cranking reel (baitcaster) spooled with 10-pound fluorocarbon and paired up with a 6’6” medium-action (Jason Mitchell) rod which was buttery perfection for those square bills.  Day two was all about shallow diving jerkbaits, which by the way produced one of the biggest smallmouth of the entire trip.  Actually, it was a Live Target silver/blue Rainbow Smelt that triggered a post spawn smallmouth to attack.  Thanks again Gary.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 6of6This short but successful outing was done on the southern arm with ace guide, Jamie Bruce. Again, we had only a couple of hours on the water and Rainy Lake produced once again. Really, this lake is nothing short of amazing.

Comfortable lodging, great food, beautiful surroundings and off the charts fishing.  What more can you ask for?  Do yourself a favor, put Rainy Lake on your bucket list, give Campfire Island a call, and tell them the good folks at Share the Outdoors (www.sharetheoutdoors.com) sent you.

Here is the Campfire Island website link: http://www.campfireisland.com/.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission – 75 Years of Success

  • Wildlife Conservation Areas Established 
  • Fish, Wildlife and Public Access Expanded and Managed
  •   Recreational Opportunities for All, Hunters and Anglers too
Butler Island camping, fishing and kayaking fun.  Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Butler Island camping, fishing and kayaking fun. Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

By Forrest Fisher

If you have ever travelled to Florida, it seems everywhere you go there are birds, fish, flowers and wildlife of all sorts.  It’s no accident.  In 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the wildlife management area system, one of the state’s greatest natural treasures.

The FWC oversees the statewide network of remote and scenic lands, managing them for conservation and recreation.  To celebrate the milestone and help people discover the opportunities these public lands offer, the FWC is hosting free events throughout the year.

FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski said, “Florida has one of the largest systems of public lands in the country at nearly 6 million acres, and these lands are the best of the best of what wild Florida has to offer.  These natural communities span a variety of habitats from longleaf pine uplands and pine flatwoods, to the hardwood hammocks and sawgrass savannas of the Everglades.  Not only are these areas beautiful, they are managed to provide habitat for many species of wildlife and access for people to enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and more.”

Florida’s first WMA, Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area, was established in late 1941 in Charlotte and Lee counties.  By the 1960s, there were 28 WMAs.  Today, the FWC is the lead manager or landowner of over 1.4 million acres and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.5 million acres.  These healthy habitats are essential to Florida wildlife – both common and imperiled species.  The FWC uses its scientific expertise and a comprehensive ecological approach to manage a variety of wildlife while balancing public access to these wild lands.

Whitetail Deer abound in several areas of Florida with managed hunting seasons established for WMA areas.  Photo Courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Whitetail Deer abound in several areas of Florida with managed hunting seasons established for WMA areas. Photo Courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

WMAs provide many recreational opportunities including paddling, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and target shooting at areas with a public shooting range.  They also offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including special hunts for families and people with disabilities.

Throughout 2017, the FWC will host a variety of events to celebrate Florida’s WMAs.  Events include a statewide geocaching challenge, volunteer work days, a photo contest, guided hikes, fun opportunities to explore WMAs, and citizen science bio-blitzes, where members of the public help document wildlife species at WMAs.

If you are heading to Florida at any time this year, learn more about upcoming events (or to find a WMA near your destination), visit MyFWC.com/WMA75.  You’ll find access link to parks, beaches, fishing hotspots, advice for safety, fun and places to visit.

FWC says you can help them share the fun of what’s in Florida by sharing your visits to Florida WMAs on social media (#WMAzing).

Fishing from shore at Escribano Point WMA can offer fun and a palatable dinner feast for anglers.  Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Fishing from shore at Escribano Point WMA can offer fun and a palatable dinner feast for anglers. Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission – 75 Years of Success

  • Wildlife Conservation Areas Established 
  • Fish, Wildlife and Public Access Expanded and Managed
  •   Recreational Opportunities for All, Hunters and Anglers too
Butler Island camping, fishing and kayaking fun.  Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Butler Island camping, fishing and kayaking fun. Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

By Forrest Fisher

If you have ever travelled to Florida, it seems everywhere you go there are birds, fish, flowers and wildlife of all sorts.  It’s no accident.  In 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the wildlife management area system, one of the state’s greatest natural treasures.

The FWC oversees the statewide network of remote and scenic lands, managing them for conservation and recreation.  To celebrate the milestone and help people discover the opportunities these public lands offer, the FWC is hosting free events throughout the year.

FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski said, “Florida has one of the largest systems of public lands in the country at nearly 6 million acres, and these lands are the best of the best of what wild Florida has to offer.  These natural communities span a variety of habitats from longleaf pine uplands and pine flatwoods, to the hardwood hammocks and sawgrass savannas of the Everglades.  Not only are these areas beautiful, they are managed to provide habitat for many species of wildlife and access for people to enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and more.”

Florida’s first WMA, Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area, was established in late 1941 in Charlotte and Lee counties.  By the 1960s, there were 28 WMAs.  Today, the FWC is the lead manager or landowner of over 1.4 million acres and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.5 million acres.  These healthy habitats are essential to Florida wildlife – both common and imperiled species.  The FWC uses its scientific expertise and a comprehensive ecological approach to manage a variety of wildlife while balancing public access to these wild lands.

Whitetail Deer abound in several areas of Florida with managed hunting seasons established for WMA areas.  Photo Courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Whitetail Deer abound in several areas of Florida with managed hunting seasons established for WMA areas. Photo Courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

WMAs provide many recreational opportunities including paddling, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and target shooting at areas with a public shooting range.  They also offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including special hunts for families and people with disabilities.

Throughout 2017, the FWC will host a variety of events to celebrate Florida’s WMAs.  Events include a statewide geocaching challenge, volunteer work days, a photo contest, guided hikes, fun opportunities to explore WMAs, and citizen science bio-blitzes, where members of the public help document wildlife species at WMAs.

If you are heading to Florida at any time this year, learn more about upcoming events (or to find a WMA near your destination), visit MyFWC.com/WMA75.  You’ll find access link to parks, beaches, fishing hotspots, advice for safety, fun and places to visit.

FWC says you can help them share the fun of what’s in Florida by sharing your visits to Florida WMAs on social media (#WMAzing).

Fishing from shore at Escribano Point WMA can offer fun and a palatable dinner feast for anglers.  Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)
Fishing from shore at Escribano Point WMA can offer fun and a palatable dinner feast for anglers. Photo courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC)

Braving It: Journey into the Alaskan Wild

  • A Father and Daughter True Story of Adventure
  • Bone-Chilling Cold, Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Inner Strength
  • Guidebook for Conquering Fear as a Parent
  • Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Jim Campbell and 15-year old daughter, Aidan, rafting in Alaska on the Hulahula River, August 2014.
Jim Campbell and 15-year old daughter, Aidan, rafting in Alaska on the Hulahula River, August 2014.

By Forrest Fisher

Adventure above the view of our modern Western culture is not traditional.  When James Campbell and his teenage daughter, Aiden, set off to visit Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they discover untouched wilderness, bone-chilling cold, grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, ubiquitous clouds of mosquitoes, compelling them to define new elements for survival and forming a sacred connection with each other and native peoples there.

In the beauty of the natural world found in the Refuge, they form new levels of heartfelt trust and inner strength.

This true story provides extraordinary insight into the wild outdoors to be found hiking, crossing the Hulahula River, paddling the Arctic Ocean and finally, helping local natives build a cabin for winter survival.  They discover new wisdom and ingenuity in a land dominated by blue skies, howling and growling night animals, flowing rivers of ice-cold water, and harsh climate.  The also discover precious clean air, fertile forests, and a special kind of instinct for survival that all the plants and trees and animals have developed.

Jim Campbell and daughter, Aidan, on the Hulahula River, in front of the cook fire, 3 days south of the Arctic Ocean, August 2014.
Jim Campbell and daughter, Aidan, on the Hulahula River, in front of the cook fire, 3 days south of the Arctic Ocean, August 2014.

The book describes the manner of how they each embrace the wild land and each other to complete their journey, as they are tested with the rigors of unfettered Alaskan nature.  They hunt game animals for meat, largely caribou and moose, despite the chill factors that often exceed 50 degrees below zero.  They learn the tools of the survival trade from native Eskimo peoples that become close friends.

This book is a tribute to a land that offers breeding habitat to caribou, geese, ducks, loons, and many other migratory species from five continents.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lies about 125 miles east of the National Petroleum Reserve, an area rich in coal and oil that is largely controlled by the oil and gas industry.  We are still an oil-dependent nation and, for me, this book provides new insight for a better understanding of what we might lose if we do not insure to protect this fundamental and relatively unexplored Alaskan American resource.

Aidan and Jim proudly standing in front of the cabin they helped build.
Aidan and Jim proudly standing in front of the cabin they helped build.

If you can imagine to hear the ancient call of the yellow-billed loons that occupy this land, you may begin to understand the epoch of diversity of life and seasonal survival requirements that are forsto-01052017-travel-and-conservation-picture-4of4met by the birds, the animals and the peoples that interact in this sacred and undisturbed land.

The book will provide a trail for you to see how a father shares this colossal wilderness with his daughter while she is growing toward the Western community of modern adulthood.  To buy the book, click here: http://jamesmcampbell.com/books.

Understanding that, this is a timeless story for all of us who love the wilds of the outdoors.  It is about parenting.  It is about nature.  It is about preserving life, enhancing life, and celebration of life, and something that may be lost for all time without close oversight from educated peoples in the Western world.

Enjoy this story of life and survival.  I sure did.  Check out this video to listen first hand, from Jim Campbell himself:

Survive Big Fish at Campfire Island

  • Giant Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike
  • North Country Grandeur, Great Food
  • Peace, Nature, Sacred Moments 
  • The Perfect Christmas Gift – Affordable
Dale Black, Gamma Fishing Line inventor, used the giant Campfire Island smallmouth bass and walleye to come up smiling big and often.
Dale Black, Gamma Fishing Line inventor, used the giant Campfire Island smallmouth bass and walleye to come up smiling big and often.

By David Gray

If you were writing a Hemingway-like novel and wanted to pick a really eloquent name for a fishing destination, you couldn’t choose a better one than “Campfire Island, Rainy Lake.”   Even the name just sounds perfect and if you are in love with fishing, not just fishing, but fish, fish, fish – then you will find Campfire Island to be a sanctuary for unforgettable fish-catching moments.

Campfire Island Lodge is about just that.  Guests arrive by boat, tour the lodge and guest cabins, than get ready for a world class fishing experience.  At Campfire Island all you do is eat, sleep, fish and enjoy.

Although the island is close enough as the crow flies to Fort Francis, Ontario, and International Falls, Minnesota.  Folks that want to stay connected by cell phone realize that they might just turn it off, as Campfire Island is a true north country fishing lodge resort experience of distinctive quality.  Myself, I choose not to sacrifice my time here with distractions and like most folks today – I’m a busy guy, but I need some time to talk with my creator through the elements of where big fish live.  I figure I owe myself and my work crew this unforgettable destiny at least once a year.  This is that kind of sacred place for me.

Rainy Lake, which is divided by the US – Canada border, is a world class fishery, but at times I have set my rod down and just absorbed the natural beauty of the lake.  There is sanctifying silence occasionally interrupted by the shrill cry of an Osprey or Bald Eagle.  You will never find an angler who has fished Rainy Lake that will not rank it as one of the most stunningly beautiful lakes in North America.  The Campfire Island guides will target the species you want, but their specialty is trophy smallmouth and walleye, and you can see form the pictures that they deliver.

The lodge at Campfire Island is subtle and stunning with masterful amenities that earn respect and admiration from comfortable anglers and visitors.
The lodge at Campfire Island is subtle and stunning with masterful amenities that earn respect and admiration from comfortable anglers and visitors.

The main lodge was built in the mid-60’s and has been maintained just as it was many years ago, emanating that special charm of a premium Canadian fishing retreat.  I suspect that over the years the porch has seen far fewer fish tales than truthful “big fish” fishing stories every day.  The camp may be the perfect corporate or business fishing retreat experience.

The old saying goes that you get what you pay for.  Campfire Island is not a drive-to-do-your-own-thing resort.  At Campfire Island you eat, sleep, fish and fish and fish, while the cooks, guides and staff do everything else.  And the cooks, the guides and owners are some of the best folks I have ever been lucky enough to meet.  You cannot ask for a more justifiable fishing experience, even from a comparable wilderness fly-in fish trip.

The cost is affordable, the value of the services are worth twice the price.  The staff and guides, as well as Pat and Wayne – the owners of Campfire Island, Rainy Lake, all are connected to providing a boundless experience on the water as we meet the forces of big fish and nature in the grandeur of this place.

Campfire Island is a 5-star “Fishing Jewel.”  For more info, call 1-800/363-2018, e-mailfish@campfireisland.com  or check out the web at: www.campfireisland.com.

Gary Abernethy found great success and heavy-duty tooth mark souvenirs using action-style stickbaits in rainbow smelt or golden shiner colors with these effective LiveTarget Lures.
Gary Abernethy found great success and heavy-duty tooth mark souvenirs using action-style stickbaits in rainbow smelt or golden shiner colors with these effective LiveTarget Lures.

“Show Me”- Quest for Personal Best Bass

Ozarks – Part III

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“What goes around comes around.”

Many people believe in that statement and follow a path in life that subscribes to that way of thinking. To a certain extent, it worked for Scott Pauley and me during our recent visit to the “Show Me” State in and around Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Pauley, who is contracted out by the state’s Division of Tourism for promoting its fishing resources (hint, hint I Love NY people), visited Niagara USA a few years ago on his way back from attending the Outdoor Writers Association of America conference in Lake Placid. He enjoyed a couple of days of fishing, including some pretty darn good bass action on the Niagara Bar, during his September stop-over. He offered to take us out with the hopes of showing off his home state. More on that a little later.

We ended Part II by checking in to Holiday Shores Resort (www.holidayshoresresort.com), located between Osage Beach and Lake Ozark. We unpacked the Tahoe and headed over to the Tropic Island, a 75-foot luxury yacht that offers 90-minute narrated cruises around the lake at a nominal fee. Captain Omer Clark runs a tight ship and the trip was very informative (www.tropicislandcruises.com). Back to our temporary home at Holiday Shores. What was cool about this place was that we had our choice of three different floors for sleeping options.

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We were up bright and early to meet up with Marjorie Beenders and Kyle Stewart for breakfast (at Stewart’s, of course, for another cinnamon roll and a pork chop breakfast) for a recap of what we had experienced so far and plans for what was yet to come . Of course, they were happy the trip was going well, but it’s what they expected. They had much pride in the area, as well as the state. They couldn’t wait to “show me” more.

Off to Lake of the Ozarks State Park (www.mostateparks.com), the state’s flag ship park at nearly 18,000 acres. Not only is it the biggest, it is also the most popular as far as visitation is concerned. I’m still amazed that there is no fee to enter any of the state parks in Missouri. A total of 12 hiking trails are available. That’s not all though. The park offers up a self-guided aquatic trail, mountain biking options and equestrian trails for those that like to ride horses. The park also has boat rentals, public ramps and docks. Fishing is always just a cast away.

Inside the park was another attraction we needed to see: Ozark Caverns. This one was entirely different than the Bridal Cave. There was no internal lighting (we had to carry lanterns on the tour) and we couldn’t take anything extra into the caverns (like wallets or cameras) due to the threat of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) spores being carried out and transported to another area. WNS is decimating bat populations throughout the continent. Since it was first discovered in Howes Cave in New York in 2006, more than a million bats have already died. It’s important to become informed on the issues.

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The tour itself was very interesting, featuring an impressive “angel shower” – one of only 14 in the world and the only one in the United States open to the public. The “angel shower” pours a never-ending stream of water out of appears to be solid rock and into a bath tub made of calcite. The source of the water, despite some intensive research, has not been discovered. For more information on the caverns, call 573-346-2500.

After we left the caverns, we took a quick tour around the park and visited the Swinging Bridges of Brumley – a historical attraction off the beaten path. We actually caught some of the locals doing some “bridge jumping” (not recommended) as we drove across the 400 foot long antiquated structure. It has stood the test of time, an early adaptation to the construction of Lake of the Ozarks back in 1931.

Not knowing how far we were from any kind of a gas station (and with our gas gauge flashing an early warning) we used Onstar to locate the nearest petrol store to avert any kind of embarrassment. Technology can be wonderful. Onstar sent the Tahoe directions immediately to the navigation system and we were filling up within five minutes. We were closer to civilization than we thought. Tip: check the gas tank!

We hit a couple of wineries during our stay, finding many of the selections to our liking. Shawnee Bluff Winery (www.shawneebluffwinery.com) in Lake Ozark offered a great view overlooking the lake with an indoor tasting room and bistro that was pleasing to the palate. There were several other wineries in the area, too – a great way to break up the trip.

While golfing didn’t fit into our itinerary this time around, the area offered up some amazing courses. If you enjoy hitting the little white ball around, you’ll want to check out this region for sure. The only golfing we did was at Sugar Creek for a quick round of miniature golf. Even those courses are elaborate, giving us the option of two different 18-hole courses. (www.sugarcreekminigolf.com). As we’ve been saying all along, fun for the whole family!

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Another side trip was to Tour L’Osage Caviar facilities, a subsidiary to Osage Catfisheries, Inc. Founded by Jim Kahrs in 1953, the caviar side of things blossomed because of the declining wild sturgeon populations in the Caspian Sea. In 1981, the family began paddlefish production – a fish found abundantly in the lake – and started its “paddlefish ranching program” in 1984.

“Aquaculture is a huge part of our business right now,” said Steve Kahrs, part of the next generation of family running the show. “We have 32 different species of fish that we offer to aquariums and research facilities around the world. You can see some of our fish in Bass Pro and the aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona, to name but a few.”

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was the final fishing trip courtesy of Pauley. Big Ed Franko, Lake of the Ozarks fishing guide (www.bigedsguideservice.com) and co-owner of Bass & Baskets Bed and Breakfast in Lake Ozark (www.bassandbaskets.com) with his wife, Deb, also offered to help take our little group out in the morning before the sun chased us indoors. It was going to be a hot one!

bestbass5We met at Big Ed’s lakefront accommodation and boat dock. Pauley was already there. We hopped on board and within five minutes we were fishing. Laurie Calvert from Oregon City, Oregon, was the first to create excitement with hauling in a four and a half pound largemouth – her first fish ever! She was bouncing a rubber worm along the bottom. Her husband, Joe, will now have to include her on future fishing outings!!

Everyone caught fish for the few hours we were on the water. Crankbaits, swim baits and rubber worms were the three most popular enticements. It was near the end of our trip when my rod doubled over while drifting a rubber worm in 25 feet of water. Several times the fish stripped out line. Finally, after about a five minute battle, we pulled in a hefty six pound largemouth – a personal best. What a great way to end our trip, after exploring a new area and making new friends along the way. That’s what it’s all about. We can cross the Ozarks off of our bucket list, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be back for some more fun in the sun and on the water.

Be sure to check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com; 1-800-FUN-LAKE.

Lake of the Ozarks – Part 2

Ozarks Attractions Abound Above and Beneath the Water, and Below the Ground Too

The clean water and fun to be found at Lake of the Ozarks is for kids too.

Leaving Alhonna Resort on the shores of Lake of the Ozarks was bittersweet. We felt we had only scratched the surface and we begged for more as we pulled away in our Chevy Tahoe. The Tahoe was made for this terrain. Every driveway seemed perpendicular along the lake, dealing with the tops of the hills that now surrounded the lake after the valleys below were flooded back in 1931. We were driving the 2016 LTZ version, a perfect fit for two couples with lots of luggage. Of course, with a third seat in the back, it’s also a great vehicle for the family. The 5.3 Liter V-8 VVT with direct injection and cylinder deactivation gave us the power we needed. We could have trailered up to 8,600 pounds had we wanted to, and the next trip we just might have a pontoon boat, fully loaded!

Our first stop for the morning was a breakfast that legends are made of. Kyle Stewart (no relation) who had put together an itinerary for us, recommended a place in Lake Ozark called Stewart’s. We were told to order their famous cinnamon rolls, as big as a “catcher’s mitt.” Sandy and I ordered one to split; Joe and Laurie Calvert split one as well. No exaggeration, they were bigger than a catcher’s mitt! More like a soccer ball! And they were delicious. I also ordered their famous pork tenderloin smothered in gravy (if my doctor is reading this, I did have plenty of exercise to work it off as you will read about). It covered the plate. Not your standard dinner plates, one of the big oval ones! Hash browns and toast rounded out the monster platter. Yes, I’m a food guy and I appreciate quality.

Bridal Cave, with calcite deposits that make stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws provide magical photo moments.

As we stuffed ourselves back into the Tahoe, we realized we wouldn’t need lunch. The next part of the lake we would visit was the area in and around Camdenton. The first attraction we came to was Bridal Cave (www.bridalcave.com), one of the largest caves in the state. Missouri has a wealth of caves and caverns, hitting the 7,000 mark just recently. When it’s all said and done, the Show-Me State will be number one when it comes to overall numbers within Missouri boundaries. This cave was cool – literally and figuratively. Calcite deposits with stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws and so much more mesmerized the folks on the tour. There was a connection with Western New York where they announced the “Frozen Niagara” calcite formation. More than 2,500 couples have been married in Bridal Cave or renewed their vows – another connection with the Honeymoon Capital. This is a must see for the entire family.

Geologically speaking, Missouri is littered with “karst” topography, a landscape that is filled with sinkholes, caves, natural bridges, large springs and underground streams. Many of the caves in the state can be found on private land. However, there are many on public land, too. For example, nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park – recently named by USA Today readers as the fourth best state park in the country – has 19 caves recorded within its boundaries so far (www.mostateparks.com). It was a beautiful park and we even hiked up a castle trail that took us up to old ruins on a bluff overlooking the Niangua arm of Lake of the Ozarks, a spot we would be fishing the next morning.

There is no admission fee to enter any of the state parks in Missouri. Here we visit the Ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

When we stopped into the Visitors Center at Ha Ha Tonka, we immediately found out that there is no admission fee into any of the state parks in Missouri, thanks to a dedicated funding source (with the exception of camping sites). The public land was just that, for the public to use. What a novel idea! With 88 parks in the state, they will be celebrating a milestone next year (2017) – 100 years of the state’s natural and cultural attractions. Pick up a copy of the state’s Parks Centennial Passport. Earn a stamp by visiting each of those parks and the first 1,000 people receive a prize. Five grand prizes will be up for grabs, too. Last year, some 19 million people visited Missouri parks (www.mostateparks.com).

Next stop was our accommodations for the evening – Old Kinderhook (www.oldkinderhook.com). If you are looking for quality in the way of lodging, golf, fishing and dining options, this facility was top notch. The golf course is ranked second in the state and our fishing guide was none other than Casey Scanlon, a Bassmaster Elite Series Pro who lives on the lake. If you want to treat yourself to something special, this place was amazing – really! After checking in, we enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve had in a long, long time in the Trophy Room – fine dining at its best. Accolades came pouring out after that meal from all four of us.

Old Kinderhook offers quality lodging, golf, fishing and dining options, this facility was top notch, so was our 2016 Tahoe LTZ.

Bright and early the next morning, Scanlon picked Joe and me up at sunrise to fish the lake. This is his home waters and he won the Bassmaster Open on nearby Table Rock Lake a few years ago. Originally from Kansas City, he’s been fishing the Elite Series for five years now. In fact, he had just returned from the Elite Series event on Cayuga Lake in New York in June – just a couple hours from where I live.

BASS Elite Angler Casey Scanlon with a nice bass from Lake of the Ozarks.

“This is a great body of water to fish,” said Scanlon, as he reeled in his first fish, a largemouth, just five minutes into the trip. For this time of year, large rubber worms on a jig head was a favorite enticement. “The lake is over 90 miles long, great for largemouth and spotted bass. My favorite time is November and December when spinnerbaits and top waters work the best. April and May is also excellent when suspended jerk baits will dominate as a favorite technique. To give you an idea about how this lake fishes, it consistently takes 20 pounds or more per day to win a tournament here. There are lots of three and four pounders here and you can catch fish up to and over 10 pounds. In fact, two 10 pounders have been weighed in already this year. Fishing has really been great this season because of the added water flow coming through the system due to the heavy rains earlier.”

Almost on cue, Calvert’s rod doubled over and he fought a monster under Scanlon’s Nitro Bass Boat. When it finally came to net, it was over four pounds – Joe’s personal best. After a couple of quick pictures, we released the fish to fight another day.

Primary forage in the lake for these bass is gizzard shad and is the preferred food source. There are also threadfin shad. An underrated fish in these waters is walleye … and no one fishes for them. If someone came in here and targeted walleye, the potential is very good. Night fishing could be a way to approach old marble eye, but there may be some competition. Because the lake has turned into a recreational playground for watercraft during the middle part of the day, some bass tournaments are now being held at night to deal with the mid-day turbulence and to battle the summer heat. Heat index during the hottest part of the day would hit over 100 degrees and one day it hit 108. It didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves though.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and check-out. Again, we didn’t want to leave. Next stop on our Ozarks experience was Holiday Shores Resort (www.holidayshoresresort.com), another quality experience but entirely different from the other two accommodations we sampled. Owner Lori Piedt runs an excellent operation, featuring 26 cottages overlooking the lake at Osage Beach. Again, the facility was well equipped as a one stop shop for families to enjoy the waters of the lake or relax in the uniquely-shaped cottages. Every cottage has an outside deck with a grill and one night we cooked up burgers as the sun set. What a relaxing time.

Holiday Shores offers visitors the opportunity to rent one of its 20 covered and fully electric boat slip at a nominal price. There is a boat launch available for guests if you bring your own boat or jet ski. They also rent paddleboards, paddleboats and chill rafts. There is a swimming pool or you can take advantage of a swim dock in the lake. Our last part of the trip will wind down next week with a personal best largemouth bass! Check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com; 1-800-FUN-LAKE.

Lake of the Ozarks Region

Water Sports, Family Fun, Quiet Fishing, Orange Sunsets and More

“There’s a beauty in the river, There’s a beauty in the stream, There’s a beauty in the forest at night, When the lonely night bird screams, And there’s so much time for singin’, And so much time for words, There’s so much time to listen, And so much time to be heard”….Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Growing up in the “Land of the Ozarks” had to offer a certain amount of inspiration for the band, Ozark Mountain Daredevils. After a recent visit to Central Missouri, we could certainly relate to the lyrics of their song. We could even add a verse or two of our own as we spent a week in and around the Lake of the Ozarks – the largest man-made lake in North America. The state motto – “Show Me” – was fulfilled time and time again …

It started with a gentle prodding by Marjorie Beenders, a tourism maven in the state who kept asking when we were going to come and visit every time we saw her. After doing a little research on the lake and the region, we couldn’t take it any longer. We graciously accepted her invitation to check out “the best recreational lake in the nation.” That was after a national vote conducted by two separate groups – USA Today and 10 Best. It would live up to its name.

After a week that was jam-packed with activities, where do you even start? At the beginning of course! We left Lockport in a 2016 Chevy Tahoe LTZ packed to the gills. We picked up Joe and Laurie Calvert of Oregon City, Oregon, at the St. Louis airport along the way, adding a few more bags of luggage. The drive from New York was roughly 17 hours and it was a comfort ride all the way. We were impressed with the various alerts on the vehicle including the blind side zone that flashed warning in our mirrors and gave us gentle vibrations whenever some threat became available on the road or in parking lots. More on the vehicle later.

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We arrived at Lake Ozark and our first destination, the Alhonna Resort and Marina (www.TheAlhonnaResort.com) in the middle of a thunderstorm. It had been so long since we had seen rain, we didn’t mind the drops as we hurriedly unloaded the vehicle. Timing is everything as the rain stopped long enough to finish the job. After a great breakfast outside at the in-house “Bobbers” Restaurant, we headed out to Willmore Lodge (www.willmorelodge.com) at Bagnell Dam – where it all began for Lake of the Ozarks. Along the way, we continued to find New York connections, like the fact that this lodge was an Adirondack-style lodge that was now a museum documenting the formation of the lake back in 1931 (a lodge built in 1930).

The dam (that created the lake) was actually built from 1929 to 1931, employing some 40,000 people along the way – at a time when the country desperately needed it. Workers from every state, as well as from 9 countries, were employed, making it the largest and last major dam in America built entirely with private financing. To make this project happen, 22 different towns and villages had to be destroyed and relocated. Approximately 30,000 acres of timber land had to be cleared. Over 900 miles of fences and numerous buildings had to be removed. A total of 32 cemeteries were moved to higher ground along with other scattered graves.

lakeoftheozarks2

When the dam was finally completed, the Osage River provided most of the water. It took three months to fill up. The end result was a lake that was 94 miles long, providing 1,375 miles of shoreline. Average depth is 60 feet. It is almost entirely privately owned as far as the shoreline is concerned, allowing residents to build properties within a few feet of the water. Alhonna was a good example of that, allowing us to sit on a porch overlooking the water … and fish if we wanted to. In the neighboring cabin, we watched them fish off a similar porch and reel in bass and bluegill on a consistent basis.

After a little driving around to get our bearings, we headed back to Alhonna to take a paddleboat out for a couple of hours. Joe and I opted to not take fishing rods for this trip because of the funny looks we received from the ladies when we mentioned trolling.      We also made arrangements to take out a fishing pontoon boat the next morning to really get a feel for the lake from the water and do a little fishing along the way.

The next day started with another breakfast at Bobbers following by gathering up all the gear for the pontoon boat ride. Since it was early morning, the lake hadn’t really come alive with activity yet. It was peaceful as we motored 10 miles up the lake. As I rigged up a rod for Joe, I sent a crankbait toward a downed tree along the shoreline – explaining the use of the spinning rod along the way. It took about 15 seconds to catch my first fish, a nice largemouth that hit a new Berkley bait that mimicked a small shad, the top forage in the lake. It proved to be the winner for the daily scratch-off contests that filled our time in Missouri.

We motored to different areas around the lake, hoping to find some active fish along the way. Magnificent homes stood out as sentinels to the lake. We all agreed it was a beautiful area with lots of potential. It should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit. In fact, Sandy went so far as to say that if we won the lottery, we would be getting a home here.

lakeoftheozarks4Alhonna Resort has everything you need to spend some quality time with family and friends. The facility offers up a full service marina with over 25 rental boats – everything from bass boats and pontoon fishing boats to ski boats, pleasure pontoons and deck boats. Non-motorized water craft is also part of the mix including kayaks, paddleboards and the paddleboats we sampled. In addition, there’s a nice pool, both indoors and out, to cool off in – something we needed for the week we were there. And if you show up when the weather is a little cooler, they even have an enclosed fishing dock with wood stoves! It seems as though Mike and Sheryl Elia have thought of everything in the 37 years that they’ve been running the operation.

Our cabin made us feel right at home with a full kitchen and more. It was clean and comfortable, the hospitality was top notch.

Our final evening at Alhonna was a light show offered up by Mother Nature herself, as a spectacular lightning display lit the skies all around us. Three nights went much too quickly and we wanted to stay longer, but like we mentioned earlier, we were just scratching the surface. It was time to move on. We’ll continue with part two next week.

In the meantime, check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com; 1-800-FUN-LAKE. We were singing our way to the second phase of our journey …

3 Boating Tips for Pokémon Go

pokemon_BOATUSDirect from BoatUS headquarters in ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, is news that much of the country has recently learned is that the reality-game-meets-exercise app currently taking the nation by storm, “Pokémon Go,” now has 21 million users every day. It is reportedly the most successful mobile game ever in the United States.

The game features characters called Pokémon that players capture in the real world using a combination of GPS and augmented reality. That also means that Pokémon-mania has also come to the water and with it, BoatUS, the national boating advocacy, services and safety group has three tips for playing Pokémon Go while boating:

Be aware:

The US Coast Guard reports “Operator Inattention” as one of the five main primary contributing factors in accidents. When searching for a “water type” Pokémon such as “Magikarp” on a waterway, let the first mate or friend handle the cell phone while the captain keeps a safe lookout.

Watch cell phone battery use:

Users report the game eats up a smartphone’s battery charge. With many recreational boaters today relying on their cell phones for communication, it would be wise to bring along a spare charger, or use battery saving mode. BoatUS also reminds boaters that only a VHF radio can summon emergency help from the closest rescuers, ensuring the fastest response.

Have fun:

The BoatUS National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia offers a Pokémon “gym” located next to the iconic BoatUS Buoy at 880 S. Pickett Street. At lunch, some BoatUS employees can be seen playing the game. (Insider’s tip: The yellow Pokémon Go BoatUS Marine Insurance underwriting team often battles other BoatUS Departments, and for a limited time, free boat insurance quotes will be available to all players.)

Celebrate Trails Day at a State Park

National Trails Day – June 1, 2016
Nature Abounds in State Parks… Sharing Some of My Experiences

This timber rattlesnake was calmly sunning itself on the trail to the top of Taum Sauk Mountain. Rattlesnakes pretty much keep to themselves I you let them be, the good part is they usually give you a warning if they sense danger to themselves. Just walk around them.

Nothing could ever take the place of hunting and fishing for me, but they aren’t the only outdoor pursuits I enjoy.  Sometimes, especially in the summer when most hunting seasons are closed, nothing sounds better to me than a day hike with my camera.

Beautiful flowers abound, this spiderwort was one of hundreds growing alongside a trail at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in June.

The American Hiking Society designates the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day and encourages people to get out and sample some of America’s amazing landscapes.  That’s a suggestion I wholeheartedly endorse.  Missourians are incredibly fortunate to live in what is arguably the best state for public hiking trails.  If you don’t believe me, just ask American Trails, a national nonprofit that  works on behalf of hiking, biking and riding trails.  In 2013, American Trails named Missouri the Best Trail State in America.

No wonder, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s more than 1,000 conservation areas have hundreds of miles of designated trails.  Some of those trails are included in the 350-mile Ozark Trail, but for my money, the best trails with the widest range of experience are to be found in parks owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The diversity is stunning, from Civil War battlefields to swamps, prairies, waterfalls and strange volcanic rock formations.

A network of trails short enough for day hikes stitches together Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Taum Sauk Mountain and Elephant Rocks state parks and the 7,000-acre St. Francois Mountains Natural Area.

No other place in Missouri has more to offer day hikers than the relatively small patch of eastern Ozarks that contains Johnson Shut-Ins, Taum Sauk Mountain and Elephant Rocks State Parks.  Besides being able to climb to the highest point in the state, this piece of real-estate offers swimming in pristine water, viewing the  tallest waterfall in the state and clamoring over slick-rock barrens littered with pink granite boulders – some the size of houses!  Some of it is made to order for little kids.  Other parts are definitely for adults, assuming you are interested in serious hiking or rock climbing.  The landscape and the huge variety of plants and animals it supports make this one of the state’s best spots for photography, too.

Of course, not everyone wants to drive to the Ozarks on any given weekend.  Good thing, too.  You couldn’t find room to stand, let alone hike, if everyone showed up at the same time.  So I suggest you visit these extremely popular parks during the week if possible, or you can save yourself a drive by taking advantage of the trails at a state park nearer to home.  The Missouri DNR has a convenient search engine (https://www.visitmo.com/walking-trails.aspx) that enables hikers to get detailed information about parks statewide.

Here is a sampling of the kind of opportunities available at Missouri State Parks:

  • Watkins Woolen Mill State Park north of Kansas City
  • Roaring River, Bennett Spring and Montauk State (trout) Parks
  • Grand Gulf State Park south of West Plains
  • Big Oak Tree State Park in southeast Missouri
  • Meramec State Park southwest of St.  Louis
  • Wakonda State Park north of Hannibal
  • Thousand Hills State Park west of Kirksville
The rushing waters of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park create an idyllic summer escape.

The Missouri DNR also operates more than 30 historic sites, including Battle of Lexington, Mark Twain Birthplace, Mastodon, Scott Joplin House, Boone’s Lick, Deutschheim, Dillard Mills, Nathan Boone Homestead, Sandy Creek Covered Bridge and Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio, to name a few.  If you can’t find something to pique your interest in Missouri State Parks, you might ask a doctor to check for a pulse.

Thanks to the early wisdom of Missourians’ who provided for a dedicated sales tax to support state parks – along with soil and water conservation, you can access most park picnic areas and playgrounds for free.  But that could change.

State parks in Missouri’s western prairie counties have a grandeur unmatched elsewhere in the Show-Me State.

Missouri’s one-tenth of 1-percent sales tax for parks, soil and water is up for renewal by voters this year.  Since that tax provides about three-quarters of the operating budget for state parks, you can bet that most of the parks and trails will be closed should the tax fail to get a majority of voters’ approval.   This proposition titled “Constitutional Amendment 1,” will appear on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 8, 2016.  If you live in Missouri, urge everyone you know who values Missouri’s parks and historic sites, not to mention the state’s soil and water, to vote yes to extend the tax for another 10 years.

Treasure in Peril

Missouri State Parks REALLY NEED That 0.01% Tax

David Gray’s granddaughter Emory Gray and mom Melissa Gray enjoy Roaring River State Park’s crystalline water.

You might be aware that Missouri’s one-tenth of 1-percent sales tax for parks, soils and water is up for a vote again this year.  In an era when “tax” is a four-letter word, this particular tax is an exception.  It is exceptional because, for starters, Missourians voted to establish it in 1984.  You don’t see that every day.

Many of the lodges and other structures at Missouri State Parks were built by workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, providing tangible links to American history.

Even though state parks receive only half of proceeds from the tax, it constitutes more than 75 percent of the operating budget for Missouri’s 53 state parks and 35 historic sites.  Thanks to this stable funding, the Show-Me State has what is generally recognized as one of the best state park systems in the nation.  While it is stable as long as it remains in effect, it requires re-approval by voters every 10 years.  Voters may legitimately ask why they should continue paying for parks when they could reduce their tax burden by voting against it.  There are plenty of convincing economic reasons, such as the fact that for a cost of $6 per person per year the tax generates more than $1 billion in tourism-related sales and directly or indirectly supports more than 14,000 jobs.

But that’s just money and I personally think it’s the least compelling argument for providing funding for our parks.  To illustrate what I think is the most important reason for renewing the parks tax, I can’t think of a better example than that of David Gray’s extended family.  David is a friend of mine.  He is the founder of Ardent Reels, which manufactures high-quality spinning and casting reels in Macon, Missouri.  He recently told me with pride and more than a little fondness about one of his family’s traditions.

Two-year old Emory Gray admires cousin Alex Como’s catch.

Each spring, members of the Gray family come from scattered locations around the nation and converge on Roaring River State Park in Barry County.  Roaring River has been part of Missouri’s park system since 1928 and the focus of the Gray family reunion for 40 years.  The most recent Gray family gathering had attendees spanning four generations and ranging in age from 2 to 95.

That’s a wide age span to please, but Roaring River and Missouri’s other state parks do it with ease.  The park has hiking and handicap-accessible trails, buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, picnic grounds, a swimming pool, nature programs, sites for primitive camping or deluxe motor homes and – of course – world-class trout fishing.

While at Roaring River, Gray regularly runs into out-of-state visitors who express amazement at not having been asked to pay to get in.

“Not having to stop at a gate and pay a per-person or per-vehicle fee seems impossible to them,” he says.  “You pay a nominal fee if you want to camp camping, but in Missouri, you don’t need money to enjoy nature.  I think that’s how it should be.”

“Roaring River is close to my family’s heart,” says Gray.  “We go there to renew our family ties and our spirits.  Honestly, it would break our hearts if we lost the place where we have gathered as a family all these years.  It’s a treasure beyond price.”

Michael Como and his daughter Alex are happy with their nice catch with this Roaring River rainbow trout.

But, it’s a treasure that might very well be lost this year.  If those who value Missouri State Parks don’t go to the polls and show their support, most of the parks – which are owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources – would have to be shuttered.  With no money to run them, the DNR likely would be forced to sell most of these treasured places.  Johnson Shut-Ins, Elephant Rocks, Bennett Spring, Meramec, Montauk, Lake of the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka, Pomme de Terre, Truman Lake, Mark Twain Stockton, Katy Trail state parks and dozens of others that draw a total of 18 million visitors per year would suddenly be off-limits to Missourians who have built family traditions similar to the Gray family’s.

This is no exaggeration.

The Missouri legislature already has slashed parks funding to the bone.  State parks receive no money from the General Revenue Fund.  Without the sales tax, Missouri’s state parks will virtually disappear.  And don’t confuse this sales tax with the one-eighth of 1-percent sales tax for the Missouri Department of Conservation.  That’s separate fund that is constitutionally separate from other state money.  There’s no way to rob the conservation fund to pay for parks.

If you use any of Missouri’s fabulous parks, or if you see value in having a park system that makes our state a better, more prosperous place to live, vote to renew this tax.  But that’s not enough.  Tell your friends and family that the parks tax is up for renewal and beg them to join you at the polls.  As of this writing, it has not been determined whether the vote will take place in August or November.  Watch this page for more information.

Four generations of David Gray’s family – ranging from 95 to 2 gathered for a photo to commemorate their most recent gathering at Roaring River State Park. “You are always young when visiting Missouri State Parks,” says Gray, “and that is one of the things that make our state parks very special places.”

Outdoor Adventure in SW Florida is Memorable

The colorful Roseatte Spoonbill is plentiful in Southwest Florida

A little Florida sunshine is a perfect way to recharge your internal batteries.  One of our favorite spots continues to be Southwest Florida, home to the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel (www.fortmyers-sanibel.com).

Mystique

Ever since we were exposed to this outdoor playground through the adventure antics of Dr. Marion Ford and the writings of Randy Wayne White, the area has always presented itself with a certain mystique. While there are plenty of the normal tourist-focused areas that seem to dominate with the snowbirds from January to April, the region never ceases to amaze us as we make that extra effort to see where the back roads will take us and what hidden treasures are available to be revealed for the first time.

Wildlife

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is always at or near the top of our list, the largest mangrove wilderness in the country.  The bird life that inhabits the sanctuary is simply amazing.  This time around, it was the Reddish Egret that was in the spotlight, part of a new telemetry study to learn more about the habits of these rare birds.  As luck would have it, one of the special winged wonders took up residence in front of a group of camera clickers, also allowing birders to check off another feathered friend from a bird bucket list of sorts.  The Darling NWR is also part of a larger complex (also named after Darling) that encompasses the Caloosahatchee, Matlacha Pass, Pine Island, and Island Bay National Wildlife Refuges – a large complex of nearly 8,000 acres.  The majority of the lands (and waters) in these refuges are nesting and roosting islands for the plethora of bird life that either migrate through or call this important habitat home. Check out http://www.fws.gov/refuge/JN_Ding_Darling/About_the_Complex.html.

Adventure – Fishing

One morning we meet with local charter captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct (www.southerninstinct.com; 239-896-2341.  No one can appreciate what he does more than me as a fellow sportfishing promoter and ambassador of the area’s natural resources.  Kane really gets it and he’ll do whatever it takes to make each and every outing a memorable experience.

As we met at the Port Sanibel Marina, the outlook wasn’t the best.  Strong winds from the southwest from one direction; freshwater being funneled down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee creating unsettled conditions near the mouth of the river, an estuary of sorts.  This isn’t Kane’s first rodeo, though, he opted to stay in from the Gulf of Mexico waters because of the winds.  Other local charters braved the winds to try and hit the Causeway Reef, an artificial structure that came from the old causeway that connected the mainland to Sanibel, before the winds peaked.  It was holding some nice sheepshead in the four to five pound range – some excellent eaters for the frying pan.  There was a question whether the tradeoff was worth it.  While the captains might think so, the passengers might not.  We went back to the basics and to Kane’s roots.

“This is Shell Creek where my grandfather took me and my brother to fish when we were little kids,” reflected Kane, who’s been guiding full time for six years now.  This is his favorite sheepshead spot and he still fishes it regularly with customers when conditions limit the areas he can target.  “It’s all about figuring out what people want and what would make the best experience overall.  I specialize in families, especially families with children since I have three of my own.  I’ll do just about anything to make each and every experience a memorable one.”

Captain Ryan Kane with a saltwater Sheepshead, loves to take families with children fishing.

No sooner had we started fishing a cut when a large manatee floated alongside his 24-foot Pro-Line that he’s converted into a fishing machine.  My wife Sandy was mesmerized and before it was all over she was petting the soft snout of the marine mammal that some people refer to as a sea cow.  That was the experience that she will remember for the rest of her life … and will keep her coming back for more.  It didn’t hurt that she also reeled in the biggest redfish for the day, allowing her to state: “I could get used to doing this.”

Ryan looked at me with a big smile. “I think that’s what every guy wants to hear from his wife!”  After catching four or five species of fish, we headed out into San Carlos Bay where we found a shoreline island with mangroves and a weed bed. “This looks perfect for redfish – it has everything they would be looking for in this kind of a wind,” said Kane.

Tossing a red jig tipped with a shrimp for bait, he almost immediately hit a fish.  However, it wasn’t a redfish.  It turned out to be our biggest sheepshead for the day.  The next 10 fish were redfish and we had a blast reeling in the magnificent fighters.  We ended up with seven different species for the day including a pile of mangrove snappers, ladyfish, pufferfish, catfish and even a sting ray reeled in by the novice Sandy.  All around us was incredible bird life and the picturesque scenery of places like Sanibel and Captiva islands.  Life is good.

Kane is expanding his business to include a bigger 36 foot boat, a Contender that he will be able to use off-shore as well as inshore when the conditions allow for it.  Families will be more comfortable and the added advantage of having a head on the boat will be worth its weight in gold.

Side Trips

In keeping with the dolphin theme of Florida (even if you are a Buffalo Bills fan), the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery in Cape Coral is a new attraction that is really picking up a head of steam (www.wickeddolphinrum.com) not just in Southwest Florida and around the state but around the country.  Billed as Florida’s only true rum distillery made with all local products, this relatively new business that started up in 2012 from a Long Island family (yes, a New York connection) is already award-winning.  We received a private tour from head distiller Dan Termini and he gave us the complete low-down on the sourcing of all the ingredients, the cooking process, the fermentation and the distillation that takes place.  The end result is one great tasting product.  At the top of the list for us was a Coconut Rum that’s become a local favorite.  Don’t rule out the Florida Spiced Rum or the Rumshine.  They make a total of 11 different products currently.  They estimate that some 22,000 people will tour the facility in 2016.  And it’s all natural.

Dan Termini, head distiller of Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery, offers an educational tour for more than 20,000 visitors every year.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Fort Myers – If you’ve never been to a classy dinner theatre before (or even if you have), the Broadway Palm does it right night after night with top quality performances (we saw Show Boat), tasty buffet dinner and more.  Check out www.broadwaypalm.com for a list of what’s coming up and what options are available should you be in the area. You won’t be disappointed.

Accommodations

Tip Top Isles Resort and Marina – This is a nice place we stumbled across with some assistance from the tourism office. Resident manager Mark Sturgeon was extremely accommodating and there were quite a few positives that jumped out at us.  One was the fact that they offered pontoon boat rentals at a reasonable price. They had a fleet of seven when we were there.  Room rates were also very reasonable considering it was peak tourist season.  Sturgeon was really high on an off-season special that included a single room for three nights and two half-day boat rentals for two people for less than $300.  Check out www.tiptopisles.com.  It’s conveniently located to Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, as well as many other local attractions.

Outrigger Motel – Located on Estero Blvd. on Fort Myers Beach, this accommodation has a little bit of everything.  It’s also a great place to witness a sunset, Southwest Florida style! Sunsets are a tradition there, with the main gathering place at the Tiki Bar located just off the beach.  If you like shells or shell collecting, this is a prime destination and we haven’t found any place better in the continental U.S.  The shells at the Outrigger this year were the best we’ve ever seen there!  And if there’s a critter inside the shell, you must toss it back!  The rooms are spacious, comfortable and they even have a built-in kitchen if you want to cook up your catch after fishing.  Check out www.outriggerfmb.com for all of the details and seasonal rates.