Saltwater Fishing Fun – Placida Harbor, Florida

Paddletail jigs with a wiggle and wobble catch fish in Placida Harbor.

  • Fishing Islands and Embayments in Southwest Florida
  • Speckled Trout, Snook and Snapper…Catching Fish
  • Topwater Plugs, Paddletail jigs and Lightweight Fishing Rods
Marty Poli with a healthy Placida Harbor Speckled Trout that was taken on a surface Mirrolure.

By Forrest Fisher

The morning radar was threatening possible rainstorms when my phone beeped. It was my friend Marty Poli, a retired master tradesman from New Jersey. “Hey Forrest, it’s a go! Just bring a rain jacket, we might get wet, but I’m in for at least a half-day if you’re good with the chance of getting a little wet.” It was still dark outside as I pulled back the curtains. It was a bit before sunrise. I answered, “Of course I’m in, let’s go!” My heart rate went up a bit. It’s always exciting to know you’re going fishing to a place where you might catch a 10-inch fish on one cast and a 30-pound fish on the next cast. Saltwater fishing is exciting!

I hurried through the shower and thought about what to put in the backpack, then grabbed two inshore fishing rods, a small cooler with bottled water, and I was out the door. As I reached the truck, I glanced up to see stars everywhere. The sunrise glow from the east had just started. Wondered who was running that weather radar station. It was a beautiful morning.

The Placida Harbor boat launch at Gasparilla Sound was deserted. Other fisher folks must have been watching that same radar. The sun was clearly above the horizon now, and the orange cast across the water was simply incredible.  I parked my truck and walked to the ramp to wait for Marty. A few minutes later, he was there. A 15-year old youngster hopped out of the truck too, “Good morning, sir!” Marty jumped in to share in the greeting. “This is Phillip Sokolov, a great young fisherman neighbor from the Chicago area. He is visiting his family folks down here. This kid is someone that might just show us up today, my friend.” We grinned and laughed.  Everyone was beaming with the morning sunshine glow. In about 2-minutes, we were off.

Marty knows Placida Harbor and Bull Bay islands area very well. He headed for a fishing area that catches a cross-current with the tide flow while watching the wind direction. The wave action and current mix create undulating bumps between the sandgrass and oyster beds in the sand bottom. Devilfish Key was just a short rock throw away. As the wind came up from the south, large bait schools of pilchards swimming near the surface became noticeable. Their surface riffles highlighted their location. You know what they say, find the bait, and you find the Fish.  The cormorants and feeding predator fish helped us to find the exact area to fish.

Johnson Sprite spoons in gold color are another good option for hooking up with many saltwater species at this time of year.
When we found the trout, they were hitting as they had never eaten before! Fun time.

Marty started out by tossing a Zara Spook saltwater version near one side of the bait riffles. It didn’t go 5-feet when something attacked from beneath. “Fish on!” Marty yelped. “Feels like a good one.” A moment later, Phillip hollered, “Fish on! I think it’s a trout.” Marty answered, “I don’t know what mine is, but it’s huge.” Phillip landed his Fish, a nice 16-inch speckled trout. Just then, Marty grimaced a bit, “Ugh, he’s gone. He tossed my hook. Darn!” Things got even better in the next 45 minutes as we caught 12-15 fish on assorted lures. Surface lures, spoons and plastic-tailed jigs. Color didn’t seem to matter.

We moved to Bull Bay next, inside Cayo Pelau, in 3 to 8 feet of water. We could see emerging seagrass and mudflats too. An excellent area of the bay structure that everyone looked for to find Fish. There were bait schools hereto. Marty used his electric bow motor to keep in position, then dropped his Talon pole anchor to hold on a good spot. Before we were set, Phillip had hooked and landed two trout. The kid was hot. Using a turquois-colored St. Croix Avid Inshore model fishing rod, a Daiwa Saltist Back Bay 30-series fishing reel with 15-pound Power-Pro braid and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, Phillip was catching 3-fish to each one that Marty or I had hooked up. “OK, so what’s the secret Phil? Is it a special bait your tossing?” Phil grinned, “Nope, it’s just a light line and leader with a 1/8 oz chartreuse-colored lead head.” I looked at it and mentioned that I couldn’t tell what color the head was. “Well, it had a color when I started!” He grinned. “I just thread a Z-man flapper tail with gold flecks in it – but it needs to be perfectly centered, and then cast it out and jiggle it once in a while as I reel it in. You know. I give it some action. They just seem to be wrecking it! I’ve used this lure before, and it has always worked. My uncle told me about it.”

Phil Sokolov fooled dozens of fish using his soft-touch fishing style and a plastic paddle tail lure attached to a lead head jig. cast out, jiggle, yank, reel, jiggle…the kid might be known as the “fish-whisperer” in future stories. 

Phil’s excitement and energy level were contagious. He is a meticulous angler for a youngster, tied good knots and didn’t mind sharing his fishing prowess with others. That makes him humble and unique in my book, especially during this day and age. Together, we might have brought about 75 fish to the boat in this morning of fishing fun. Phile probably hooked up with about 50 of those. With Speckled trout back on the keeper list again, Phil took home a meal for his family.

As we headed back into the boat harbor at Placida, our conversations covered everything from the weather to fishing gear to lunchtime just ahead. We had caught snook, trout, grouper, ladyfish, redfish, blowfish, lizard fish and other species.  In the middle of our angler talk, Phillip stood up and asked Marty if it was OK to cast a line as we approached the bay with the boat ramps. The kid had eyes on the Mangrove overgrowth on the shoreline. “There are no boats around, so sure, Phil, looks OK,” Marty said. Phil hooked and landed a nice snook on the first cast, then another and even one more before Marty returned with the trailer. He returned all the snook unharmed.

Some fishing days are just exceptional! This was one of those that reminds us that good fishing is always about friends and fun. Catching Fish adds to the fun, and we had lots of THAT fun on this short fishing day. Tight lines, everyone.

Shipwreck Fishing in Southwest Florida – Red Grouper and Snapper Fun

Red Grouper fun in Southwest Florida. Rod, reels, rigs and how.

  • Fish: Red Grouper, Lane Snapper, Vermillion Snapper….30+ miles out
  • Rig: 200# test braid, 80# fluoro leader, 10-oz slip-sinker, 9/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hook
  • Bait: live shrimp, live sand perch, frozen squid, frozen ballyhoo
Nick Weaver with one of the healthy red grouper we landed while fishing not far from a sunken offshore shipwreck.

By Forrest Fisher

The hi-energy growl of the 400 Hp Mercury Verado coming out of the hole is a beautiful sound. As we departed the Placida boat launch, Nick Weaver brought the flared high-bow of his 26-ft Caymas (boat) up to plane quickly. We were soon skipping along at a humble 25 miles per hour in Lemon Bay and then made the turn west as we slid past Little Gasparilla Island into the Gulf of Mexico.

Controlled boat positioning is among primary keys to offshore bottom-fishing success.

It was a relatively calm day. The open seas forecast of one to three feet looked good as Nick moved the throttle forward and kicked the boat into high speed. I looked over to fishing partner, Marty Poli; he had a broad smile on his face as we both reversed our hats, rims to the rear. The boat came to cruising speed as Nick set the Raymarine electronics to autopilot for the destination 36 miles out: the Bayronto shipwreck. After surviving a U-boat torpedo attack in 1917, the 400-foot-long Bayronto ship went down during a hurricane while traveling to Tampa in 1918. In our modern times, more than 100 years later, the fuselage has become a fish-attracting magnet for anglers (and divers) that make the offshore trip. Forage and predators abound! Nick still had to consider the gently rolling swells that were about 200-feet apart on this calm day, so he slowed the boat down to 35 mph. Even at that, it didn’t take long to get there.

We all talked on the way out. Nick shared rig details, gear options and what we had for bait selections. Then he offered the fish plan to identify our goals.  We were going to first focus on the wreck for yellowtail snapper, after that, the bottom-feeding, reef-dwelling, red grouper. If time allowed, we would then target amberjack after that. We all grinned a bit as he said,” Why not? We have the whole day!”

The plan was to stop short of the wreck to catch live sand perch, known locally as squirrel fish, for bait. In 88 feet of water, Nick deployed the MinnKota Ulterra, and we zeroed in on the bottom for a bait school. Hitting anchor lock, the boat stopped and stabilized, maintaining our location. We delved into the bait well, where there was 18-dozen beautiful live shrimp (TNT Bait & Tackle, El Jobean, FL). Cutting the shrimp in half, we used lighter Penn rods equipped with open-face Penn Fiarce II 5000 series reels, 65# braid, 35# fluoro leader, 3 oz hot-pink hog ball (Captain Chappy).

After we caught some bait, along with some vermillion snapper, lane snapper, and other species like blowfish and remora, we moved onto the wreck. It was time to the Penn Battle II 6000 series rod and reel, 80# braid, 40# fluoro, 6 oz slip-sinker, 3/0 Gamakatsu circle hook (Fish’n Frank’s Bait and Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL).

On a sunny day without shore in sight, we enjoyed many fun moments of “Fish On!”

On the first drop, I had removed the shell from half-a-tail of shrimp – an old friend told me that the fish will eat that no-shell shrimp bait faster – from pure scent attraction. It hit bottom in short order. Not 5-seconds later, I held the rod in my hand when the rod tip dipped swiftly into the water from a vicious strike. I yelled, “Fish on!” The reel drag was pretty tight but was screaming. The fish was swimming so fast, going away in the opposite direction. It was a throbbing, bobbing action on the rod tip. My hands were wet from the shrimp and I was worried about the rod slipping away. I gripped the rod tighter as this fish was massive in strength. Nick hollered, “You got a big mangrove snapper! There might be amberjack here, you might have one of those.” A few moments later, the line snapped, my fish was gone. My heart was beating so fast! “Ugh,” I groaned. “I lost it.” Nick said, “Reel in Forrest, let’s see what she did.” The brand new Spectra braided line was sheared and was ragged at the breakpoint where the fish had apparently headed for the safety of the wreck on the bottom. “Whatever you had, it was huge,” Nick added.” We’ve got lots more hooks and sinkers, tie one on.” This was going to be a fun fishing day!

We moved from that spot to stop at three different places before finding what Nick called “live bottom.:

Here we discovered a rock-hard bottom (w/coral-like caves) surrounded by bottom growth all around the spot, and, of course, this was home for a large school of red grouper and various multiple snapper species.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching. Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory.

We switched fishing rigs to level-wind Penn Fathom II line-counter reels (FTHII30LWLC) with matching Penn Carnage II rods (Fish’n Frank’s Bait & Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL). Our connection to the fish was not fragile. The reels were filled with 200# test braid, with a 10-ounce slip-sinker to a 200# swivel, then a 5-foot long 80# Yozuri fluorocarbon leader, all terminating to a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Nice rig. So powerful. We would discover that this rod-reel rig was such a powerful workhorse set up as we hooked and landed more than 50 fish in the next 3 hours.

A 10-ounce slip-sinker, 200# swivel, and a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook…that was the hot rig.

The target fish (red grouper) were big, were plentiful, and the best part, they were hungry. It didn’t take long before we ran out of our live bait perch, but Nick’s emergency backup planning paid off with his last-second find of frozen ballyhoo (10-12 inches) at the bait shop. These worked as good as our diminished supply of live sand perch.

We each kept our fish limits, and thanks to Nick’s knowledge and investment in an air bladder venting tool (www.oherofishing.com) and a descending device called a SeaQualizer (https://seaqualizer.com/product/seaqualizer-descending-device/), we also safely released everything else to live another day. With the fish we kept, Nick provided colored plastic tie-wraps to identify whose fish was theirs and make it easy to remove the harvested fish from the fish well – it saves the fingertips. Saltwater fish have big sharp teeth.

The venting tool allows the angler to simply expel the fish’s air bladder so it can swim back to the bottom. The SeaQualizer is equipped with a jaw clamp that connects to the fish and allows the fish to be securely descended and safely released at a predetermined depth of 50, 100 or 150 feet using a secondary fishing line rig with a heavyweight. All that without venting the air bladder. Conservation at its finest!

The venting tool was used to exhaust the bloated air bladders to allow the fish to swim back to bottom in the deep water.

As the sea winds began to change direction and kick up a bit, we decided to stow the Ulterra and head home for a fun time of fish-cleaning. We had a healthy supply of fish to fillet. Nothing can replace the fun (and sweat) of reeling in these hard-fighting red grouper. Our legal grouper limits of fish ran from 23 to 27 inches in size and were quite heavy.

Vermillion snapper, lane snapper and other species were among the catch.

The grouper fillet slabs were about two-inches thick, and my wife suggested we slice them in half to make grouper sandwiches. We vacuum-packed the slab harvest of grouper and snapper to keep them unspoiled for future delicacy meals.

The moral of this story is simple: Use adequate gear (rods/reels/line/MinnKota Ulterra) without disturbing the bottom.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching! Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory. Tried and true deep holes are usually repeatable all year long. Some of the best spots are rocky, snag-filled and rough in structure content. Use new leaders and replace them often. Remember that fluorocarbon leaders are much more durable than braided line. Don’t believe that? Ask Josh Olive, charter captain and publisher of the weekly Sun-News Waterline Newspaper Magazine (https://www.yoursun.com/coastal/boatingandfishing/), to demonstrate. I was surprised too. We never stop learning.

Visit the brand new Fish’n Franks location (4425-D Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL, 33980, 941-625-3888, https://fishinfranks.com/) for advice and gear. Don’t forget to carry a sharp knife, pair of needle-nose pliers, hook-remover, sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brim hat and lots of bottled water. Dehydration is common on offshore trips.

One last note, Marty and I never stop learning from Nick Weaver. The deep waters we fished were probably never fished by anyone else ever before. Imagine that?! Nick has a passion for healthy water, healthy people, working hard, sharing knowledge and natural resource conservation. Let’s all never stop fighting for clean water. Might be good to start that all of us learn about and understand more about the outflow of Lake Okeechobee, maybe put it back to the way nature wanted it. The Everglades depend on it.  There’s so much more to know.  Visit Captains for Clean Water, please: https://captainsforcleanwater.org/.  We gotta save and restore our ecosystems.

Tight lines, everyone!

Marty Poli enjoys the red grouper fishing fun in Southwest Florida. 

Extraordinary Fun Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Fishing sunrise to noon, we caught 8 species of saltwater fish, and well over 150 fish total, as a 3-man group.
  • Captain Terry Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, was savvy, funny, and deadly serious about having fun – we laughed a lot out there! So good for our pandemic souls!
  • We experimented with Circle-hooks vs. J-hooks. The circle-hooks hooked and landed fish 80% more effectively…a lesson for all.
Vietnam Veteran, Randy Baugus, retired minister from Burlington, KY, with a hard-fighting Gag Grouper that was released to swim another day.

By Forrest Fisher

It was dark when I left the house in Port Charlotte, Florida. The stars were spectacular, gleaming brightly above, but there was a warm orange glow on the eastern horizon, the sun was about to rise, suggesting a nice, warm February day – a sunscreen day. A great winter day.

About 30 minutes later – it was 6:25 a.m., I joined the right-hand turn signal line to enter the Placida Boat Launch area, a state park-like zone with a boat launch, ice-filling station, and restroom facilities that can accommodate about 100 cars and boat trailers. There is a frozen bait and live bait tackle shop (Eldred’s Marina) right next door, wonderfully convenient for boaters and anglers heading for Gasparilla Island shore fishing spots.

Affable Captain Randy Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, with another  nice porgy we caught, a tasty fish for the table.

Not long later, I met my fishing guide for the day, Captain Terry Heller of Fish-On Charter Sport Fishing, an ever-friendly source of fishing knowledge. He made catching fish easy and fun and seemingly transparent – like you’ve had the necessary skills all along, even with newbies and veteran anglers alike – young and old, no matter. Onboard, I met 70-years-young Randy Baugus from Burlington, Kentucky, a minister and Vietnam veteran, and his brother-in-law, 78-year-old Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, Ohio, but now a happy southwest Florida native who is enjoying his retirement years in the Sunshine State.

Captain Terry started up his nearly silent 225Hp Yamaha as the wide, spacious and sturdy 24-ft Polar (fiberglass boat) gently idled away from the dock. As we moved into Lemon Bay toward the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge, a bald eagle showed her head on one of the nearby island treetop nests. The tide was at a complete low as we came up to plane in the channel in Gasparilla Pass.

With Captain Terry using the navigational GPS map technology onboard, he marked safe passage for us. It wasn’t long before we were at 35 mph cruising speed on the way to secret offshore spots that Heller has identified over his years of local fishing here. About 20 minutes later, we slowed, shore was no longer visible, and after making a few circles into an area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Heller dropped a marker buoy for boat position reference. Settling his electric motor into the water (with a 7-foot long shaft), he used blue-tooth technology to move away from the buoy toward one of three spots that we would eventually fish. All of them were within 200 yards of the brightly colored marker. “The marker is for letting others know that this is our fishing area for the moment. Other guys usually honor the courtesy of staying away from your fishing zone,” he said that with a half-smile.

Heller opened up two of his three live bait wells to show us that if we wanted to keep any fish, they could go in there and that he would let us know what fish was legal and what was not. “Now for the fun, guys!” He passed out a fully-rigged rod for each of us with a small bucket of cut-bait ready to rig. The rods were 7-ft long and were equipped with open-face Penn fishing reels. The 30-pound test braid mainline was attached to a 2-ounce egg sinker, then an 18-inch long leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a size 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook.

Randy Baugus with the second Remora that we caught that day, a nice 25 inch specimen. Remora usually are attached to the skin a shark. We released the fish to find a new shark buddy down below.

Heller is a happy sort of guy as he quipped, “Now guys, listen, you’re gonna catch a lot of fish out here, so if you get tired of reeling ’em in, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of beverages onboard, and you can rest up.” We all looked at each other and sort of rolled our eyes a bit. Randy said, “Sounds like your pretty confident Captain!” Gary said, “I wanna drop my line.” A moment later, Heller showed us how to slide the cut baits onto the hook. He rigged all the lines for us.

“The water is 48-feet deep here, guys, so it won’t take too long for your baits to reach the bottom. When they do, reel up two turns or so and watch closely for a bite. When you get one, start reeling to set the hook. One more thing, there is one rule on board here, for good luck, you gotta yell, FISH-ON! You all know that’s the name of my charter. It’s for a good reason.  Our adrenalin flow talks to the fish!”

About 10 seconds later, Randy hollered,” FISH-ON!” His rod enjoyed a healthy bend toward the water. A few moments later, Gary shouted, “FISH-ON!” Before both lines were not yet in the boat when I, too, shouted out the same. A 3-Fer! Half-giggling and laughing a bit, Captain Terry said, “Are we having fun yet?!” We all agreed.

We moved around to a few other fishing zones on the bottom. They were configured sort of like the moon surface with craters and high points, next to cavernous hollows a few feet deeper around the crater edges. “The fish come out of those little holes down there to test your baits. They’re always hungry out here in this secret place.”

Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, OH, is now a Florida resident and enjoys fishing in his retirement years. He released this small grouper.

We moved to other spots a few times, and in each location, we caught at least 50 fish among the three of us.

The live wells were getting crowded with good-eating reef fish. These included Porgy, Squirrel Perch, and some Key West Grunts., some were nearly 2-pounds each. We also caught Blowfish, Remora, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, and Spottail Snapper. My shoulders and arms were getting sore as Heller said, “C’mon guys, let’s reel up and go try one more spot where there might be some bigger snapper and grouper.

About 10-minutes later, we motored northward, we arrived about 1/2 mile from the 9-mile reef. The electric motor came down, and we were fishing. Wham! “FISH-ON! Randy hollered. A few seconds later, Gary screamed out too, then me. Four hours into our trip, it had been a fantastic day on the water. The sea was smooth, the water so clear, and the fish were definitely biting.

Our cut baits consisted of octopus, shrimp, squid, and sardines. All of these worked.  One of the cool things about fishing with Heller, his charter – Fish-On Sport Fishing, provides all the licenses, all the gear, and all the bait you need. Plus, you are welcome to keep your catch, and Heller will clean and fillet it for you. Maybe the most significant part not mentioned with “things provided” is Heller’s precision savvy about where to drop your line. That part is priceless!

Happiness is! Fishing dreams are made for days like this. I met new friends, caught lots of fish, laughed for about 5-hours! So fun. We released this small, hard-fighting grouper. Terry Heller Photo.

As we motored back to the Placida boat launch, it was 1:30 p.m., and the air temp was 87 degrees. A slight sunburn on all of our faces, I joked to Gary, “Pinch me, I think I miss shoveling my driveway back home in East Aurora, NY.” He groused back, “Yea, me too, NOT! I love it down here.”

Captain Heller asked us to follow him back to his nearby home, and he cleaned 81 keepers. It was probably about 1/3 of the number of fish we actually landed, as we had to release all the short gag grouper and red grouper. We had caught dozens of them—an excellent sign for the future of Florida fishing. We split ’em up, and there is only one or two choice words for the meal that followed later at my home. Scrumptious! Delicious!

There is nothing quite like a fresh caught fish fry! My better half does these up with four, egg and crushed crackers coked in olive oil…healthy!

I fell asleep that night with my ears ringing a bit. It was that tune from earlier in the day…”Fish On!” Can’t wait for the next time out. To fish with Captain Heller yourself, you can check schedules and open dates at: Fishing Booker.com 

USA Veterans CATCH FUN and FISH at Lake Erie WALLEYE EVENT

  • Chautauqua County, NY – Veterans enjoyed this free event sponsored by WNY Heroes, Inc. – they caught fish and line-stretching fun departing from Chadwick Bay Marina/Clarion Hotel.
  • Chartreuse stickbaits (Yaleye Lure) and spinner/worm rigs (Eye-Fish Rigs) were the hot lures
  • Wind and waves did not deter volunteer charter captains from finding the walleye
As wind and waves whipped up the water surface, the walleye went on a big feed. I’m holding this 9-pounder up for a picture with Barb Erdt. Jim Klein Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As military veterans parked their cars and trucks in the limited spaces available near Chadwick Bay Marina, located in downtown Dunkirk, NY, Program Director Lynn Magistrale from WNY Heroes Inc. (www.wnyheroes.org) led the charge at sunrise registration activities on Friday, June 26, 2020. Magistrale was joined by event master-mind planners, Captain Jim Steel and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with their volunteer promotion of this event at Innovative Outdoors Tackle Shop HQ (https://innovative-outdoors.com/), along with other volunteer groups and professional resources to make this event unforgettable for military veterans that had registered with WNY Heroes, Inc.

Some 24 volunteer expert boat captains joined forces with WNY Heroes, Inc., to share walleye fun for military veterans that had served our country during any era. Forrest Fisher photo

Military veterans filled the boats of 24 volunteer fishing crews that shared their on-the-water fish-catching skills and expert watercraft leadership. The crews donated their time, gear and special services for this impressive extravaganza fishing event during this time of worldwide pandemic. All, just to say thanks to our military veterans. Hats off to all the volunteers.

With 18 walleye in the live well, we headed back to the dock and the fish-cleaning station. We had brought 22 fish to our lines during the morning trip, releasing the smaller fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a privilege to meet retired US Navy Petty Officer 1st class, Barbara Erdt, and many other veterans. The fishing was absolutely great as we shared rod-exchanging maneuvers in fire-drill mode with exciting line-stretching moments for the next 3 hours, catching 22 walleye, keeping 18 for the freezer, while fishing aboard Eye-Fish Charters with Captain Jim Klein. I shared my experiences as a US Navy veteran with Barb, but I left after 4 years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, serving during the Vietnam era on the flight deck aboard the USS Independence/CVA62, maintaining A6-Intruder fighter-bomber jets. Erdt had served during the era of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom from 1989-2004, then with the US Navy active reserve. We compared locker room stories and laughed about morning reveille at boot camp.

The new Eye-Fish THUMPER BLADE was among the hottest lures on board. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

 

 

 

One of the hot lures, the Yaleye commemorative lure designed for the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day tournament.

With a strong west wind of 12-14 mph at the morning take-off, we headed west about 15 miles and focused on 45 to 65 feet of water. While trolling an assortment of crankbaits and spinner/worm rigs, we enjoyed moments of 3-fish on at the same time on several occasions. The sizzling hot lure was a 2-hook Eye-Fish Firetiger (color) spinner/worm rig (https://www.eye-fish.com) and the commemorative Yaleye Mooneye fish lure (chartreuse w/faded blue rib color, www.yaleyefish.ca) from the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day fishing contest. Barb caught the biggest fish at 9.04 pounds, adding to the total number of really large and healthy walleye already swimming in the live well.

Wind and Waves – We fished from 8AM-11AM and headed back to port as the wind srated to peaked with 22 mph gusts. Forrest Fisher Photo

The presentation method was not complicated, but the boat location and speed was fine-tuned as the wind picked up pushing 24 mph gusts from the southwest. Klein said, ”We caught fish from both sides of the boat using four lines on the big boards and two riggers.

Running the downriggers near the bottom produced fish, but then popping them with the Eye-Fish spinner rigs caught fish too. Forrest Fisher photo

The boards were trailing the lures on 5-color leadcore with a 40-foot fluorocarbon leader and riggers with spinner/worm rigs set back 50 feet while deployed 35 to 55 feet down. The boat speed was 1.4 to 2.6 mph, walking the boat in and out from shore, northeast to southeast, then northwest to north east, as the boat was pushed laterally due east with the strong wind. We never even had time to put the diving planes in! Was a fun time!”

Captain Jim Klein (L) and retired USN 1st Class Petty Officer, Barb Erdt, enjoy the picture taking moment on the trip back to the dock. Forrest Fisher Photo

Barb Erdt said, “I can’t wait to tell my brother about this Lake Erie trip. He fishing quite a lot, but for some reason says walleye fishing is tough this year. Captain Jim made it look pretty easy, thank you Captain!” Erdt added, “I can’t wait to share these fish with my two kids and my two grandkids.”

Event master-mind and organizer, Captain Jim Steel said, “While we scaled down this event to about ¼ of what it usually is, due to the pandemic social distancing rules, we still had 24 boats out there today, including two out-of-state charter captains that volunteered their time for our relatively local Western NY event.

They stayed at the Clarion Hotel, paid for their own fuel and food, never asked for any expenses.” Captain Jim followed, “These two long-distance volunteers, like all of our other master-angler volunteers on the water, just said they wanted to be here to say thanks to those who served to provide the USA freedoms we enjoy each and every day.” Diane Steel added, “The NYSDEC provided free fish-cleaning services for the veterans today too, preparing more than 100 walleye to take home for their kitchen dinner meal. From the conservation side, the DEC biologists and technicians collected age and health data for their study and record books too.”

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation staff volunteered efforts to clean fish for the veterans. Forrest Fisher photo.

Besides a big resealable bag of fresh walleye fillets (they sell for $19.95/pound in Florida!), every veteran left with a red/white/blue fishing rod/reel outfit and a tasty box lunch for the trip back home.

The mission of WNY Heroes is to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, including financial assistance and resources that help support their lives and sustain their dignity. To help support their life-saving services, WNY Heroes does rely on volunteers for many functions. To learn more about them check out www.wnyheroes.org.

For area accommodations, vacation lodging, charter fishing contacts and services and hotel information/discounts, visit www.tourchautauqua.com. 

 

Duck & Goose Callers head to Marsh Fest 2020 for Fun and Competition

  • Sure-Shot Game Calls, proud to be “Presenting Sponsor” for Marsh Fest 2020
  • Cash prizes with state and world fame qualifier recognition for winners
  • Contest and family event details for Marsh Fest 2020, visit www.marshfest.com.

By Forrest Fisher

When wanna-be world-class duck and goose callers gather March 6-8 at Winnie-Stowell Community Park in Winnie, TX for competition at Marsh Fest 2020, Sure-Shot Game Calls is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor. This annual caller recognition competition event will be a fun-filled family weekend that will include eight duck and goose-calling contests. Among other contests, the Southern Central Flyaway Regional and James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship are part of the calling competition.

The Southern Central Flyaway Regional contest is open to all ages with a $50 entry fee. Main Street Routine, 90 seconds, 3 rounds. The first-place winner takes home $1,000, second place $500 and third place $250.

The James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship contest is open to all ages. The contestant must be a Texas resident and pay a $50 entry fee. Main Street Routine, 90 seconds, 3 rounds. The first-place winner takes home $500, second place $250, third place $100 and fourth place $50.

These two contests are qualifiers for competing in the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, AR set for November 2020. The legendary World’s Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart is the longest-running duck calling contest, starting in 1936, and requires winning a preliminary sanctioned calling contest.

The James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship contest is named after Sure Shot’s founder, James “Cowboy” Fernandez. Co-founder, inventor and world champion caller, who passed away in August 2018 at age 86. Cowboy worked with George Yentzen to design and patent the first double-reed duck call in 1950 and the triple-reed in 1968.

Cowboy was the first Texan and first contestant to win the Worlds Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, Arkansas in 1959 using the double-reed Yentzen Caller. It was the first time anyone had won with a double-reed, others followed, winning world championships with the Yantzen Caller.  Cowboy was well known for his calling skills, capturing many regional and international competitions, he was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Charlie Holder, the current owner of Texas-based Sure-Shot Game Calls shared, “Sure-Shot is proud to support our callers and our home state competitors. We’re happy to welcome some of the best callers in the country to our area for this competition.”

For Marsh Fest calling contest details and other Marsh Fest information, visit marshfest.com. Other Marsh Fest 2020 contest sponsors include Mossy Oak, Ducks Unlimited, Remington, Filson, Delta Waterfowl, Koplin, MOJO, and local businesses in the Southeast Texas area.

About Sure-Shot Game Calls: The 60+year old company was founded by James “Cowboy” Fernandez and George Yentzen in Nederland, Texas in the early 1940s. After many prototypes, their first product, the 1950 Yentzen Caller, became the very first patented double-reed duck call introduced to the marketplace. In 1959, Cowboy Fernandez entered several duck calling competitions and both he and the Yentzen Caller became world-class champions. Charlie Holder purchased the company in 2011. Today, Sure-Shot offers over two dozen game calls for waterfowl, predator, deer, and turkey. For more information about Sure-Shot’s complete line of game calls, visit sureshotgamecalls.com.

Image courtesy of Marsh Fest

South Dakota auction offers Live Bison, YOU CAN BUY ONE!

Bison For Sale!

  • Live Bison are typically transported to expand herds in other parts of the country – the auction is a 54-year-old tradition at Custer State Park
  • Wild live Bison range in size from 400 to 1500 pounds, depending on sex and age
  • The Bison auction program is exemplary in the world of Conservation
Mature Bison bulls in South Dakota can grow to 1,500 pounds and more at Custer State Park. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Wildlife management is a scientific process and biologists from across the world usually admit that their job is never easy, there are so many variables. Wild game needs to eat to stay healthy and for Bison, their ability to stay healthy is based on the vegetation production on the range, the prairies. For every day of my life, it seems I learn new things that are a common tradition in other parts of our great country.  I learn that conservation can take on many forms.

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, Resource Program Manager, Mark Hendrix says, “Our range prairies – where the Bison roam, are comprised of mixed grasses. In our 71,000 acres of the park, about 30,000 acres are used by the Bison. To assure there is enough food for healthy Bison and to help promote the continued expansion of native animals like the Bison, we cull our herd to maintain a wintering herd of about 950 animals.”

Hendrix adds, “In September each year, we assure all our Bison are tagged. The calves receive a Bangs ear tag, the bulls receive a small steel ear tag. All have been vaccinated as calves to assure they are disease-free and we follow up by conducting a blood test on each Bison.  Then, based on the number of calves born each year, we offer animals for auction. This helps keep the animals of the park and the range grasses healthy for survival, and the species has the benefit of expanding, as well.”

Winter herds of up to 950 Bison are among management goals for healthy herds at Custer State Park, South Dakota; Numbers vary each year based on range vegetation production. Forrest Fisher photo

Perhaps the management of animals is absolutely best when designated species can be removed in this way. In some states, wildlife management permits for hunting wild game are offered for sale to help regulate the population numbers of a particular species and concurrently, there is hunter adventure. Typically, there is also a highly beneficial economic impact. With hunter permits, however, it is not always possible to achieve the designated management goals and for many species with permit quotas, there is NO NEED to expand those species elsewhere.  In Custer State Park, the practice of healthy Bison herd management is an assured process with a proven track record.

Custer State Park provides the opportunity to expand the Bison herd to regions of the country where Bison were once plentiful and need help for herd restoration.

After talking with Mark Hendrix, I believe the Custer State Park Bison management program is exemplary. The program is above-board, procedurally consistent and fully operational.

Each November, Custer State Park provides between 200 and 500 head of live Buffalo for public auction. Buyers and spectators from around the United States come to watch and participate in the annual auction. The live Buffalo are typically purchased to supplement an existing herd, to start a herd, or for consumption.

These are healthy two-year-old breeding bulls, tagged for identification, age and for auction at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Custer State Park Photo

The auction at the park’s Visitor Center will provide live and online bidding as the 2019 Fall Classic Bison Auction opens on Saturday, Nov. 2, where approximately 432 head will be available for sale. The on-site and online auction will begin at 10 a.m. (Mountain Daylight Time). The Custer State Park visitor center is located 15 miles east of Custer on Highway 16A, near the junction of the Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 16A. 

This year’s offerings include 25 mature bred cows, 32 mature open cows, 20 two-year-old bred heifers, 20 open two-year-old heifers, 83 yearling heifers, 70 heifer calves, 104 bull calves, 52 yearling bulls, 11 two-year-old breeding bulls, and 15 two-year-old grade bulls.

“Due to excellent range conditions and high calving rates, the park has a larger quantity of animals to offer this year,” said Chad Kremer, Bison herd manager. “The change to a video auction rather than a live auction has also been positive. It reduces the stress on the buffalo and expedites the entire process.”

A review of recent Bison auction records shows that the Bison calves weigh 300-400 pounds and cost an average of $1600-$2000; the mature cows weigh 800-1100 pounds with a cost of $3200-$4000 each while mature bulls weigh as much as 1500 pounds and cost an average of $3500-$4700.

For the past 54 years, the park has made surplus Bison available for sale to the private sector. A significant amount of park revenue results from the Bison sale and goes toward continued operations of the state park system. The live internet auction is now going on its eighth year and has helped reach buyers who wouldn’t have been aware of the auction in the past.

Bison For Sale!  The annual Custer State Park auction provides an opportunity for Bison herd expansion to many areas of the country. Forrest Fisher Photo

“The average cost of the Bison is about $2000 or so,” said Mark Hendrix. Simple math shows financial benefit for the park. When it is possible to help keep wildlife healthy, expand a dwindling wildlife resource for use elsewhere, and help support the programs and budget of the park staff, everyone wins.  

In the past, the Bison have been used to start or expand herds in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and elsewhere. The purchased Bison must be removed by Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.  Hendrix added, “Folks that are aware of the auction arrive prepared to transport the animals at their own expense. Some states require special permits, certifications, and tests before transport, we can help with that.”

For additional information about the upcoming Bison auction, contact Custer State Park at 605-255-4515 or email questions to CusterStatePark@state.sd.us.  For the auction brochure and live videos of available live Bison stock in the auction, please click here.

 

Fall Fishing for Bass, TIPs from the PROs

  • Fishing in the fall for bass provides primal competition to meet with nature and the biggest fish
  • Baits that trigger a strike are hard to find, but there is one key thing to know, read on
  • Lure balance, hook point quality, color, rate of wobble and wiggle, all are key

LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw

By Forrest Fisher

Like it or not, winter weather is coming and for bass anglers in the know, that’s a good thing. The fish, all species really, stock up on protein and feed heavily right before the coldest weather arrives. One of my best friends, Russ Johnson, now a 90-year old student of precision speed trolling, offers key advice to catch the biggest fall bass. When the water temp hit the low 50s, he would dust off the frost on his boat and head for the lake with crankbaits that were perfectly tuned. His method? Speed troll them over sharp dropoffs to intimidate bass into striking, and it wasn’t just a strike, it was a SLAM-BAM-GOTCHA. A mega-strike. Big fish hit like that. It seems they wanna stop the boat and head the other way.

Running four lines, two on each side of the boat, one trailing 120 feet back, the other 145 feet back, and using lures that were designed to be crankbait hardware, he would achieve diving depths of 2.5X their rated profile. Lures that were advertised as “dives to 12 feet” would hit bottom in 30 feet or so. The new braided lines with their thin diameter make his method even more effective. The precision manufacture of LIVETARGET lures seem to gain even more than 2.5X when perfectly balanced and trolled. This makes the LIVETARGET lure even more effective for fall bass like no other method I know, but also makes them a “best lure choice” for daytime fall walleye that are also on the binge feed.

Johnson knew that fall weather can spread the bass out in many waterways, but in the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Erie, he would focus on structure dominant points to find schools of bass segregated by size. Some schools were comprised of 2-pounders, then 4-pounders, and so on. One day we caught limits of bass whoppers that all exceeded 5 pounds. These were smallmouth bass. While doing a video with In-Fisherman TV, Ron Lindner had shared with us that bass are domiciled to their home range on shoals and underwater structure, so we always released these big fish to live and spawn another day. Some of our whoppers some went over 6-pounds.  His favorite fall-time lure color? Tennessee Craw red or orange.

Johnson can get lures like the LIVETARGET Magnum Shad Baitball Crankbait, the 3-1/2 inch model, to hit bottom in 42 feet! He is a master lure tuner. I did not mention his trolling speed, but he is trolling quite fast, in fact beyond your imagination if you are a troller. That detail will remain his secret, but it one other reason why the lure tuning has to be perfect.  Most folks fishing the Seneca Shoal area near Hamburg, NY in eastern basin Lake Erie think he is leaving the area. It’s that fast. 

Other expert anglers know other methods that work well in fall too. Noted professional angler Stephen Browning, a seasoned veteran of the FLW Tour, MLF, and the Bassmaster Elite Series, has amassed similar knowledge of late-season bass behavior that can up any angler’s game right now. Aside from decades of experience on tournament trails, Browning’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management hasn’t hurt his ability to pick apart various waters and he has advice to share.

LIVETARGET bass pro, Stephen Browning

The first tip? Cover lots of water. And for Browning, that means crankbaits.

“For me, fall is all about chunk and winding and covering water, whether that’s main lake stuff or hitting the back of pockets, coves, and creeks. Crankbaits are definitely key in fall and into early winter,” says Browning.

For Browning, the biggest factor for finding fall bass to crank is water temperature. “I’m trying to search out water temperatures that are 70 degrees or less, because experience proves that’s the point at which fish get fired up for a super fall bite.”

Winning in the Wind

Secondly, he’s monitoring the wind. “Besides cooler water, I’m looking for spots where the wind is blowing a little bit. There’s still a lot of fish out on the main lake and not necessarily deep into the pockets. So, I’m going to look at the wind—see where it’s hitting the banks the best. Bass will utilize the wind to kind of break things up. You can burn down a pea gravel bank or a chunk rock bank and still have the ability to catch fish. And they aren’t always target oriented. In my opinion, they don’t like to hold tight to cover when the wind’s blowing, because it’s going to beat them around. So, I think they do more roaming in the wind—if it’s windy I’m going to chunk and wind,” says Browning.

LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt

For such windy scenarios and main lake fishing, Browning turns to the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt suspending jerkbait—specifically the RS91S, which is 3-5/8 inches long and dives three to four feet, typically in the (201) Silver/Blue pattern, although Browning has been experimenting with the host of new colors LIVETARGET now offers in this highly effective bait.

“It’s kind of a shallower-diving jerkbait, which I utilize for cranking points, rock outcrops, rip-rap, etc. when the wind is blowing. When fishing it, I’m looking for a little bit of visibility… not a lot of stain. I fish it a lot in main lake and main creek areas using the wind and water clarity as kind of a one-two punch. It’s definitely a go-to bait for these situations,” offers Browning.

Browning throws the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt on a 6’8” medium-heavy St. Croix Legend X casting rod, Lew’s 7.5:1 Pro TI baitcasting reel, and 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

Another bait Browning utilizes for windy main lake and main creek scenarios is the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw. “It has a very aggressive action and deflects off of cover, so I can utilize it on steeper rocky banks and really cover a lot of water. In terms of color, it depends on the water clarity and temperature. If the water is stained, a lot of times I’ll use LIVETARGET’s Red (362) or Copper Root Beer (361). The latter has a really nice copper hue to it and kind of a whitish-style belly.

When the water temperature plummets into the 50s, Browning also reaches for the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, especially in the Red (362) and Copper Root Beer (361) colors. “The HFC has an aggressive action but is not overpowering. It was designed to randomly dart left and right, mimicking a fleeing craw. In late fall when the water gets really cold it can be a fantastic bait for target fishing for the resident fish that live in the very back ends of creeks and pockets.”

LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-for-Center) Craw

Water Clarity and Target Cranking

Browning’s advice for those days when there isn’t much wind is to monitor water clarity. “On calmer days water clarity is a big factor. I’m going to go and try to find some stained water someplace within the fishery. The biggest thing about stained water is fish don’t tend to roam as much on you, and they’re going to be more target related—an outcrop of rocks, a laydown, a series of stumps, etc. that will give those fish a place to ambush their prey.”

On those calmer days, Browning will vacate the main lake and main creek areas he fishes when windy and concentrate on the back third of pockets where they have a tendency to flatten out. There, he looks for isolated cover.

 

“I’m looking for that isolated stump, maybe a log, lay-downs, isolated grass patches, or a lot of times people will put out crappie stakes. Especially when the water’s low, bass will utilize crappie stakes. One of the baits I like for target fishing in the back of pockets is the LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw. I’ll crank it on 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon and only get it down to six feet so I can bang it around, which is key to getting good target bites. I’ll make multiple casts to the isolated cover from various angles giving the fish the most opportunities to ambush my presentation. That’s really key—working cover from multiple angles and making sure you spend ample time on each spot,” offers Browning.

LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait

When target fishing, Browning is also a fan of the shallow-diving LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait—specifically the BG57M (bluegill pattern) and PS57M (pumpkinseed pattern). “The Sunfish Crankbait has a rounded bill, so it has a nice, tight wiggle to it. For me, especially when the water temperature gets cooler, it becomes another go-to bait for target fishing. I think it kind of gets overlooked by anglers who tend to concentrate on shad patterns, but bluegills are a major forage source in fall and year ‘round that bass will really home in on.”

Water clarity dictates whether Browning will choose the Pumpkinseed or Bluegill pattern, as well as the choice between LIVETARGET’s available matte and gloss finishes. “I use the Bluegill if the water is a bit clearer and the brighter Pumpkinseed in stained water. I like using the gloss finish if the sky is cloudy and the matte finish if it’s sunny. So, you’ve got two different colors and two different finishes for a variety of fishing situations.”

In terms of equipment for cranking the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, David Walker Tennessee Craw, or Sunfish Crankbait, he sticks to the same set-up of a St. Croix 7’4” medium-heavy, moderate action Legend Glass rod, a Lew’s Custom Pro baitcasting reel with 8:1 gear ratio and either 12- or 14-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon line. “If I’m concentrating on shallow areas, I’m going to use the heavier line – but if I need the bait to get down six feet or more, I’m going to use the 12-pound line,” Browning adds.

Topwaters Too

When targeting the backs of pockets and creeks with grass, Browning urges anglers not to overlook the efficacy of employing a chunk-and-wind topwater routine.

“The LIVETARGET Commotion Shad is a hollow-body shad style topwater bait that has a Colorado blade on the back end. It’s a real player in the kind of broken-up grass you find way back in pocket flats. During the fall, adding this bait to the chunk-and-wind crankbait program can really pay off. It comes in a couple of sizes, but I like the 3-½ inch in Pearl Ghost (154) and Pearl Blue Shad (158). The spinner makes a gurgling sound when you retrieve it like you would a hollow body frog, and it’s great for working over grassy areas,” offers Browning.

LIVETARGET Commotion Shad

For gear, Browning throws the Commotion Shad on a 7’6” medium-heavy, moderate action St. Croix Legend X with a Lew’s Tournament reel geared 8.3:1, and 50-pound Gamma Torque braided line.

Parting Advice

While monitoring water temperature, wind conditions, water clarity, and the amount of visible sunlight are all huge factors for finding fall bass in main lakes and creeks as well as pockets and coves, Browning suggests anglers stay tuned to another of nature’s cues: bird behavior.

“Watch for the migration of shad, which have the tendency to move to the very back ends of the pockets in fall, but also know, as mentioned, that bass are feeding on bluegills and craws in lots of other locations. You can really eliminate a lot of water and fish more productively by keying in on bird behavior. They’re going to tell you where the baitfish are. Could be a Blue Heron sitting on the bank eating bluegills or picking around on crawfish, gulls, or all sorts of other birds either on the main lake or back farther in coves. Really pay attention to where the birds are. It’s definitely one of the small details that gets overlooked by a lot of anglers.”

Musky, Steelhead, Bear & CWD-FREE Deer – the SEASON IS RIGHT in Chautauqua County, NY

  • Big Game Early Archery Season Started Oct. 1, ends Nov. 15, 2019
  • Crossbow Season Opens Nov. 2, runs through Nov. 15
  • Firearm Season (Shotgun, Handgun, Rifle, Crossbow, Bow) Opens Nov. 16, ends Dec. 8
  • Muzzleloader & Late Archery Season Opens Dec. 9, ends Dec. 17
Sweet white oak acorns and beech nuts help to grow big healthy deer in Chautauqua County, NY. Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Chautauqua County is the land of big game hunting opportunities for CWD-free whitetail deer and abundant black bear. There were 9,944 whitetail deer harvested in Chautauqua County last year, including 4,334 adult bucks greater than 1.5 years old – about 4.1 to 5.0 bucks per square mile. Approximately 20 percent of the deer were harvested with a bow. A review of bowhunter logbooks shows that hunters viewed 10 deer for every 10 hours of hunting. There was 28 black bear harvested, 11 during bow season and 17 with firearms. Out of State license cost for big game hunting is a mere $100! 

Nature’s organic health food mix for big strong deer in Chautauqua County includes apple orchards, cornfields, and vineyards. The rolling hills support forests of sweet white oak, beech, and hickory to provide sweet acorns and high protein nut stock for deer. Plentiful wild berry bushes and grape fields provide sweet mealtime for increasing numbers of black bears. High, straight, hardwood trees offer safe support for your ground level tree-mount chair, a fixed ladder stand or a climbing tree stand. Please wear a full-body harness if you are going vertical. The Hunter Safety Lifeline System works great and is inexpensive (under $40). Stay safe.

Chautauqua County is prime with public and private hunting land across more than 1,000 square miles of mostly undisturbed country land. Public access is free to hunt in our 14 State Forests that are specifically managed by the New York State Fish and Wildlife to provide free access to hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing and photography. Handicapped hunters have privileged access to 13,000 acres in eight of those 14 state forests here.

Add the aroma of fresh organic pancakes and hot maple syrup from local trees for breakfast before the hunt, you can understand the welcome feeling that hunters have who travel here from near and far. Big game hunting is very good in Chautauqua County. The deer and bear population is increasing, we need help from hunters in Chautauqua.

Hunters that repeatedly bag a deer with a bow, crossbow, firearm or muzzleloader are usually in the woods and in their stand about one hour before sunrise. The hunting day ends at sunset, by law. The deer and bear are abundant here. With archery or firearms, be sure of your target and beyond. Be safe.

There are SO MANY deer here. Wildlife Mangement Unit 9J.  Motorists here say they need hunter help.  Join in the adventure and excitement of big game hunting in Chautauqua County, NY.

Link to New York State hunting regulations: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28182.html. Link to Chautauqua County Forest Maps: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22556.html.

Visitors Bureau Travel/Accommodations Contact: R. Andrew Nixon, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1441, Chautauqua, NY, 14722; Office: 716-357-4569; email: nixon@tourchautauqua.com; web: http://www.tourchautauqua.com; Facebook.com/Tour.Chautauqua

 

Lake Erie Fishing Adventure includes Thunder of Niagara Falls USA

As an outdoor travel writer, I sure enjoy catching these tasty Lake Erie walleye.

  • The history and vista view of Niagara Falls itself is inspiring, but the thunder and vibration from the falls is simply awesome  
  • Lake Erie offers walleye, perch, smallmouth bass and musky
  • Lake Ontario offers King salmon, Atlantic salmon, Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and Steelhead
  • Niagara River offers some of all those species in the Upper and Lower River sectors

By Bob Holzhei

The American Falls with the Power Vista viewing platform in the background, and a sacred rainbow offer the ultimate adventure view, complete with Niagara Falls “thunder,” for Jeff and Tiffany Liebler, visitors from Tampa, Florida. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a few years ago that I fished Lake Erie from the New York shoreline. It was time for a return trip to not only fish but to revisit the rich history of nearby Niagara Falls, U.S.A.

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world. Even though I’ve visited the falls before, each return trip is an experience of a lifetime. In addition, I love history, and Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in America. Fort Niagara was established in 1726! It makes me feel young.  Costumed reenactments portray men and women dressed in primitive attire of the time during special item events held many times a year. Living history programs and artillery demonstrations take visitors to the park back in time.

Boat tours take visitors near the falls aboard the safety of a boat vessel named, the “Maid of the Mist.”

The “Maid of the Mist” offers a safe, powerboat trip to the river portion directly below the Canadian Falls, an ultimate adventure experience while you visit here. Forrest Fisher Photo

The “Festival of Lights” draws visitors from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany, on January 6th, each year.

“The Niagara Gorge spans 800 feet across and up to 200 feet deep, where the lower Niagara River flows below. Blend in the opportunity to fish the area rivers, streams, and legendary Lake Erie, it’s an amazing time. The world-renowned Niagara River connects two Great Lakes, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, and also offers access to the infamous Erie Canal – the man-made waterway of the 1800s from Buffalo to Albany and New York City that was a big part of the industrial revolution.

What’s new at Niagara Falls, U.S.A.?

“A zip line over the Erie Canal in Lockport and a new improved Marina in Wilson, named Bootlegger’s Cove Marina,” stated Bill Hilts Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director for Niagara Falls Tourism Bureau.

Blend in several new breweries, downtown hotels, and a revamped Niagara Falls State Park, including a renovated “Cave of the Woods.” Outdoor activities have also expanded including hiking, biking, birding, and boating, so Niagara Falls has something for everyone.

The Niagara Falls Region provides opportunities to fish for perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, and Northern Pike.

A monster Lake Erie walleye near Dunkirk, NY was caught by my friend, Ed Cheeney, of Cheeney Media Concepts. Bob Holzhei Photo 

In the Lake Ontario sector, where the Niagara River makes entry, it offers Chinook, Coho, Atlantic salmon, Lake Trout, and Rainbow Trout.

The Erie Canal Region is noted for slow-moving water making it great for family fishing. Species found there include walleye, northern pike, catfish, and carp weighing up to 20 pounds.

The “River Region” is open for year-round fishing. In the fall, salmon and brown trout lure anglers to the area. In winter, steelhead fishing is popular and spring is the prime season for trout and steelhead in the river. In summer, the muskie, walleye and smallmouth bass provide excellent action for anglers. Professional charter captains are available and take the guesswork out of fishing.

With a smorgasbord of outdoor adventure and fishing opportunities throughout the year, it is no wonder why Niagara Falls and the surrounding area is one of the natural wonders of the world!

FAST FACTS: Looking back over the years

  • 1817-Erie Canal Construction Begins
  • 1859-Hydraulic Tunnel Construction begins
  • Mid-1800’s: Freedom seekers escape slavery through the Niagara Falls railroad.
  • 1885-Niagara Reservation created-Niagara Falls State Park consists of 400 acres.
  • 1896-Inventor Nikola Telsa transmits electricity 22 miles from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, New York.
  • 1901-Ajjie Edison is the first person to go over the falls in a barrel and survives.
  • 1915-Herschell Carrousel Factory/Museum; the founder of the American Amusement rides & vintage carousel rides.

To request a visitor’s guide: www.niagarafallsusa.com.

Lifetime Fishing Lessons 101: Lures…How to Pick ‘Em

When anglers fish with new lures, they try them for a reason. This angler used this lure for the first time, a Mister Twister Tri-Alive Plastic Nightcrawler, to catch several post-spawn bass like this one.

  • What lure should I buy?
  • What color, what size, what brand?

By Forrest Fisher

Catching many fish lately?

LiveTarget Lures has won many awards because their lures catch fish. The lures we use need to appeal to us anglers too, so we will choose to use them. Would you buy this one? Click for more.

No? Do you wonder why not?

Ask yourself this question, “Am I happy with my lures, baits, sizes, colors?”

If you’re not catching fish, then you know the answer to that question. As an outdoor writer that has fished with many of our country’s most successful pro anglers, I can share with you that these guys know the basics like not many others.

The bass pro’s know how to cast, which rods, reels too, line options and the last maybe the most important thing, which lures to use. Questions is, which lures are those and why?

I asked Rick Clunn this question during a big tournament on a reservoir near the University of Alabama many years back.

Rick said, “You gotta use the lures that you have the most confidence in.” Of course, I was not going to stop there, so I asked, “What is your favorite lure, Rick?”

Some say the RC Freak is Rick Clunn’s hottest lure, it dives when retrieved and comes in three models and many colors. Look good for you to try it out? Click for more.

He said, “Well, it changes from time to time, but the lures I use are the lures I like and the lures I like, I catch fish with. Sometimes you catch a fish on a lure you never thought would work, but you have it, so on a slow day, you try it. Surprised, you find it works. You keep a mental note. A “positive vib” for that lure. Your knowledge grows of when to use that lure, where, why, how to retrieve it. In the end, I only fish with the lures I believe work for me. The lures I like are the lures that catch fish because I honestly believe they will catch fish. My confidence grows.”

I replied, “So Rick, how do I tell a listener on my radio show which lures to buy, which lures to use, what colors and all that?” Rick looked up, smiled, then answered, “You might tell them to go to the tackle store and walk around. Talk the proprietor. Talk to the other guys in the store. Listen to them. Then go walk around by yourself keeping in mind what you learned. Then pick a lure or two that you like. It might be the color, size, whatever it is, that lure will probably catch you lots of fish. You had a start and rationale to believe in it. You will use that lure. Time in the water is a big thing. That’s how you tell them the straight story, hope that helps.”

To learn more about what lures Rick Clunn likes these days, visit: https://luck-e-strike.us/rcseries. It’ll help you develop a background for the passion Clunn shares with us by his own lure designs.

Three color worms, the 6 1/2″ Tri-Alive® Nightcrawler from Mister Twister is a straight tail worm that comes in 15, three-layer color combinations. Do you like the color? Remember, it needs to appeal to you too, for you to use it. Click for more.

Like many of you, I have a tackle box full of lures of all sorts. Probably, there are hundreds that I carry with me to fishing trips, but in truth, I only use about 5 or 6 of this myriad of lures in my carry-around collection. Why the others that probably tilt the scales at about 25 pounds? I tell myself I need to exercise too!

Lure form, lure function, and lure attraction – all make up that special tackle box we all carry around in our mind.

Some anglers say, “My tackle box talks to me.” If you have that kind of tackle box, you are already catching fish.

If not, listen to what Rick Clunn says. It was nearly 30 years ago that Rick Clunn shared that lure advice with me.

Guess what, for some reason, my tackle box talks to me these days.

The contents, at least some of the contents – the lures,  smile with whisper tracks of memories formed from hungry fish smacking my lures.

The trail of teeth mark impressions always seems to be in the form of a smile.

I release most of the fish I catch. Sometimes I think the fish might somehow know that.

Maybe in the cosmos of fish, they are talking back with me.

Hey, whatever works.

You know where to start.

Summertime King Salmon Fishing is ON in Lake Ontario

  • High water is not a factor
  • Smart Troll with diving planes is highly effective
  • Warrior Spoon lures proved they are hot

By Forrest Fisher

Chris Kenyon (L) and Captain Jerry Snyder aboard Dandy Eye’s Fishing Charter are pretty happy about this nice King Salmon catch.  We all kidded Chris that he needed oxygen after a 38-minute battle with this fish.

High Great Lakes water levels have raised concerns for shoreline issues, but it sure has not affected the fishing. In Lake Ontario where the water level is the highest above average when compared to the other Great Lakes, we fished Lake Ontario to find heavy fun with no issues.

Working out of Hughes Marina in Williamson (NY) with part of our fun group aboard Dandy Eyes Charters and the other half aboard Miss Demeanor Charters, we readied for action. Our troop of anglers was a team of outdoor communicators from the New York State Outdoor Writers Association that were challenged by the team from Rush Outdoors TV (Pursuit Network). Led by Realtree camo superstar, Tim Andrus, the battle of Lake Ontario for heaviest weight at the scale after just three hours of fishing, was on.

Rush Outdoors TV Star, Tim Andrus, is ready for salmon action.
The New York State Outdoor Writers team fished from Dandy Eyes and enjoyed a great day on the water with lots of fish.

There is always more than just playing the game with outdoor media – there are jokes, tales from impractical history, shoelace tying fun (tying laces together when the other guy is sleeping, then yelling fish on!), and other such shenanigans. It’s all in real fun, and it is, and it was, real fun for everyone.

We left the marina at about 9:00 a.m. and headed northwest into the mild 8 mph wind that had created a perfect “chop” for keeping the mayflies off the boat. Aboard the comfy 31-foot Baha with Captain Jerry Snyder and Captain Sandy Miller from Dandy Eyes, we discovered so much about high-tech fishing.

Using 8-1/2 foot Okuma fishing rods with Daiwa Salt 30 or Shimano Tekota 600LC reels, each filled with 9-strand/45 pound test Torpedo Diver wireline, we trolled a King John flasher with a trailing Warrior silver-plated spoon in “Spoiler” color to fool some nice King Salmon.

A Chinook diving plane used with a 9-strand wire line and Smart-Troll device allows perfect depth and temperature lure placement. It’s a fish-catcher combination!

In all, we hooked up with 8 of these incredible fighting fish. Some of them took as long as 38 minutes to bring in! Fun? WOW! Sore arms and shoulders? Yes! Need for oxygen? Yes!

Smart Troll electronics allows temperature and depth data to remove all mystery.

Captain Snyder uses Smart-Troll electronics to measure the water temp, lure depth and lure speed – yes I think a fishy degree is required to figure all this hi-techy stuff out, as the fish were hoodwinked into thinking some of the flashy/UV-coated spoons presented at just the right depth for the day, 70-80 feet down in 130-140 feet of water, was their late breakfast. WHAM! Fish On! Love that sound from the captain.

Captain Jerry Snyder proved to all of us writer folks that he might just understand a little about the very tricky Lake Ontario salmon and trout fishery. Among all of us jousting him with jokes, laughable tales and more, he maintained his reliable and proven fishing method self to put the boat on fish that could be caught. We watched many fish we could not catch on the sonar screen, but then he changed his fishing tactics to win the FooltheFishzitzer prize. Masterful. Really was.

Captain Jerry Snyder at work…eyes, ears and full attention to the fishery.

Fishing aboard Dandy Eyes, we zeroed in on bringing fish to the boat even when the fish were not biting for many other charters. It might be embarrassing for other charters, as you might guess, but it’s quite a lot of fun at the dock when you return to share stories of your catch. Biggest fish, smallest fish, most fish – you know, the big fish tale spins abound. So that’s how it was last weekend when we fished with my outdoor media buddies Chris Kenyon, Leo Maloney and Bill Hilts in this fish-off match vs the TV stars and the camera crew from Rush Outdoors TV. Once more time – Fun? WOW! Yes it was. I’m trying to wipe the grin off my face, so please don’t mention it.

Famed outdoor writer, Leo Maloney (L), and Rush TV Show co-star, John Lenox, discuss the outdoor world and fishing secrets.

In a fun day of fishing, sharing jokes, bantering about all things, like where you might find a deer tick – no, not going there – and all that followed by the biggest question from Captain Jerry time after time: “Who’s Up?!! Fish On!”

Outdoor TV Show host and star, Bill Hilts, does the transfer work, live well to fish cooler, end of a very successful day!

We caught fish, King Salmon to 16 pounds – our smallest at 5 pounds, to win the jesting tussle at the scales. Hardy thank you to Wayne County superman outdoor educator Christopher Kenyon and TV stars, Tim Andrus and John Lenox, for wholehearted vying in this funfest battle. Both groups, a total of 12 people, are dedicated professionals committed to furthering the message of the great outdoors with everyone everywhere.

Love the battle hymn aboard our boat last weekend: “FISH-ON!” What a great tune.

Cockroach Bay: Daytime Saltwater Fishing Thrills near Tampa

  • Speckled Trout, Tarpon, Redfish, Snook, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, others
  • Lures or Live Bait, both work well
  • Lagoon or flats, there are fish in all places here
Trevor Brate with a nice, 19-inch Speckled Trout that fit the 16-20 inch slot limit, taken on a gold Johnson Sprite spoon.

By Forrest Fisher

New to Southwest Florida and only in the wintertime, there is so much to learn about where to fish and what to do. Rod strength, line test, reel size, lure and bait choices, where to fish, a mystery for anyone new to anywhere, but I had one advantage, my nephew, Jeff Liebler, who lives in Florida, had a close friend with a boat and a “best place” to go fishing for a half day: “Cockroach Bay is one of the best places to cast a line in southwest Florida,” said Trevor Brate. ”You could catch a tarpon, snook, redfish, speckled trout, flounder or any of dozens of other fish here too.”

At 25 years young, Brate is the youngest licensed construction contractor in Southwest Florida (A+ Yardscapes / (813) 642-7358), having passed all the exams and certifications, a smart kid, and it shows in his fishing prowess.  “I keep it simple, lures and simple live baits is all I do,” says Brate. “Keeping it simple allows you to become really skilled at simple efficiency and it catches fish, my grandpa taught me that.”

Launching the boat is a 2-man effort to keep the launch moving. The ramp is concrete and solid, though no dock is present.

We launched his 17-foot Grady White right at Cockroach Bay boat launch (near Ruskin, FL), a single ramp in a lagoon-like bay area with no dock – so it takes two to be efficient, one driving the truck to the water and the other in the boat, starting up and beaching the boat on the large sand beach next to the ramp. The parking line with boats and trailers begins at the ramp and goes for as long a way down the single lane road as you care to walk. Once in the water, the tide is a factor for water depth, see the charts, and fishing can begin right in the lagoon or outside the canal that leads to Cockroach Bay and Tampa Bay. In either area, be prepared to hook a fish.

Launched boats are beached after launching to load up and head out, there is no dock at the ramp.

Jeff and Trevor opted to leave the crowd at the ramp and head to the flats. The water was nearly crystal clear with a sight brownish tint and we arrived with an outgoing tide, soon to be a negative tide – it is wintertime, not a good thing by local fishing optimism. It didn’t matter, we were all there to enjoy a few hours of fishing. The cooler was filled with sandwiches and dehydration prevention liquids that had a low ABV rating, if you know the lingo. Electrolyte replacement is important!

Fish can be caught in the lagoon right near the ramp.

Not more than 5 minutes into fishing, the electric MinnKota bow motor moving us around between sand flats and emerging weedbed edges, Trevor yelped out, “There’s one!” His drag was singing a gentle scream tune, testing the 30 pound test braid with flourocarbon leader a bit. About a minute later, Trevor hoisted a silvery, thin-bodied fish with a deeply forked tail fin out of the water, a nice Jack Crevalle, grinning that grin of success, you know “the grin look,” as we looked on and reached for a camera. “Nice fish!” I quipped, “Spoon? I asked.” Trevor was casting a 2/5 oz. gold-plated Johnson Sprite with a red flicker tab on the tail treble hook. “You need that red flicker thing he said, it seems to make ‘em hit it.”

OK, reaching for my backpack with a limited supply of tackle goodies – hey, I’m new at this, I searched for anything gold with a red flicker thing. Nope, none in there. I stuck on a red/white Mirrolure, one of my favorites from way back when at home in New York.  Jeff too, searched out his tackle, nuthin similar. “Got any more of them ‘thar spoons Trevor buddy?” Jeff asked. Without looking, Trevor says, “Nope, just had one.” He was grinning. I saw that. Hey, what are friends for?

The kids let me catch one or two fish too, this one took almost two minutes to bring aboard. Fun times.

Jeff added a plastic tail to a jig and soon after, he was hooked up with a bonnet head shark! WOW! The 3-foot long shark fought so hard, testing Jeff’s 20-pound braid with several runs, but eventually coming to the boat. We released the shark too, though there are some good recipes for bonnet head steaks.

We were now about 15 minutes into the trip and it was already so exciting. I had casted about twice per minute, so 30 tries or so. I reached over to the live bait bucket where we had 5 dozen shrimp that I brought “just in case” the lures didn’t work. Some charters fish with nothing else, some charters fish with all lures, I just wanted to be prepared for the guys, as a guest of this friendship.

So I tied on a size 1 circle hook and weighted bobber, was just about done when Trevor shouted, “Fish on!” Again, his drag screamed and I stood up to get the net, this fish looked like a double rod bend species when I got wacked by the rod and fish coming aboard. “Schllaaaap!” The sound of a loaded fishing rod hitting me square in the shoulder with a fish on makes that sound. Trust me.  I was knocked on my butt, but stayed in the boat. We all laughed. Me too.

Jeff Liebler with a feisty Bonnethead Shark that tested his light tackle to the tune of a screaming drag.

The fish was a beautiful speckled trout, 19 inches of pure energy with soon to be white fillets. It met the 16 – 20 inch slot limit allowed to keep four per day.  Again, on the gold spoon. “Sure you don’t have any more of those spoons Trevor?” Jeff asked again. “Nope,” answered Trevor without looking. Again, the grin. Made me wonder twice now.

That was it, I hurried to hook up a live shrimp to the bobber rig. Slipping the hook right behind the stud above the shrimp’s nose for a secure locking point, I cast out to the edge of a weedbed I could see about 50 feet away. The bobber never had a chance to settle, the line just took off. “Fish On!” I could not believe the power of this fish. My 20-pound braid was wailing a James Taylor tune…Fire and Ice, I think. Indeed, I was dreaming. About a minute later, a 22-inch Pompano came aboard. These saltwater fish really fight well.

Over the next two hours we landed another 12 fish, puffer fish too, several speckled trout, others. These two kids opted to let the “old guy” take the fish home for a guest fish dinner. I didn’t argue.

Trevor Brate and Jeff Liebler, fishing buddies, share the half day of fishing fun before getting back to work.

In just three more weeks, all three of us would be part of a formal ceremony day in a formal uniform suit of the day, Jeff’s wedding! This was sort of a pre-bachelor party fish trip. Jeff and his bride are both outdoor-minded conservationists. I’m so happy for them both to be getting formal about being together for their future.

Fun? Oh my gosh, this was such a great adventure day!

A Girl’s First Deer

  • Learning about Nature, Patience, Heritage and Traditions
  • Hoping for Sweet Venison of my own
  • Using my Savage Axis 6.5 Creedmoor Deer Rifle

By Hanna Lucey w/Forrest Fisher (Hanna’s words are in italics)

One happy Hanna Lucey with her first deer, a beautiful doe taken near Ellicottville, NY. Terry Lucey Photo

Hunting is about sharing the heritage of our forefathers and conservation, and understanding it, about leaving the protection of home and finding new solace and a new undefined protection in the hunting woods.

For Hanna Lucey, a senior high school teenager from Amherst, NY, it was the time to discover deer hunting, something that she said, “I have always wanted to do.”

“This was my first year deer hunting, I was certified to hunt from a course in Rochester, New York, and I was so excited to be at hunting camp with my dad (Terry), mom (Joie), Uncle Danny, cousin Brendan, my sister Serena and Serena’s boyfriend, Fred.  We were hunting on 85 acres of private land near Ellicottville, New York, about 60 miles south of where we live. There are lots of deer where we live in Amherst, but we are not allowed to hunt there.”  

Hanna discovered that hunting teaches us about nature and each other, and about developing respect for wildlife. Hunting is about forming a new understanding with nature and with our outdoor hunting family, and it’s about tradition, mentoring, listening closely, and the unforgettable experience of new encounters in the wild. It is also about the discovery that deer hunting is a big challenge, but that hunting is also about fun too.

Deer hunting for younger hunters provides them with hands-on, life-long, learning experience, and it is about much more than big bucks. It is about learning patience.

Hanna was hunting for her first deer on the second weekend of the New York State southern zone big game hunting season. It was Nov. 25, 2017. She had spent much time prior to this learning from her hunter family and mentors.

 “I was excited, a little scared, but I wanted to be brave, cautious and accurate in case I did see a deer and could take a shot, so I was trying to stay calm. Nothing happened in the morning, but my afternoon hunt started just before 2:00 p.m. Uncle Danny and Brendan went behind the hill, I was going to hunt alone and was heading to our chairs in the ravine.   

Finding deer sign, a new buck rub, all part of the learning experience for new hunters. Joe Forma Photo

 

The weather was perfect and almost too warm, it was sunny and 45 degrees. As I walked above the ravine to get there, I stopped and looked around every few steps, like I was taught.

My plan was to sit and wait for a deer. Just then I heard a noise and watched three deer running away. They stopped and were around 20 yards away from our chairs.  I stayed quiet, just watching, and then I saw them. There they were, two deer through the trees.  The one right behind the other staring right at me. I was trembling a bit. I slowly lowered myself to a squat so I could aim steady, then I shot the deer that wasn’t looking at me.

It was 2:05 p.m., my sister texted me when she heard the shot asking if it was me. I was holding my Savage Axis 6.5 Creedmoor bolt-action rifle and I was trembling.

After I took that shot, I’ve felt feelings that I’ve never felt before, such as the biggest adrenaline rush of my life, especially when I walked up to the deer laying on the ground. 

I called my sister to tell her to come to me because I was so shaken up and clueless on what to do next. Then she called my uncle and all of them came down to me. We field dressed it and took it back to the cabin to hang. I felt so proud and so lucky!

 

Hanna is looking forward to the moment that she has a big buck in her sights, the things that dreams and lifelong hunters are made of. Joe Forma Photo

 

I’ve always loved venison and thought it would be great to be able to eat a deer of my own.  

I had plans to hunt the rest of the season to see if I could get myself a big buck.”   

Hunting encourages quality family time and can result in great table fare that can be shared together. When starting kids out in the world of hunting, the parents know when the time is right.  In this case, it took this young lady a few more years than when most kids start. Right now, it looks like she may become a lifelong hunter.

At the end of the day, after shooting her first deer, when you hear this young lady hunter say, “I can’t wait for next week,” you know that Hanna’s dad and uncle, all her mentors, have done their job of teaching responsible hunting very well.

 

 

Big Cash for Eastern Lake Erie Walleye Anglers – Southtowns Walleye Association Tournament

  • Hot Walleye Bites, is it YOUR TURN?
  • CHANGE Lures, Speed, Turn Radius, Time of Day You Fish
  • CHECK Colors, Leaders, Hooks – Control Hand Odor Scent
Catching big walleye during tournament time is about making changes to adapt your style to the fishery of the day. Learn from what the lake offers each day.

By Forrest Fisher

Many anglers in the Northeast USA and especially in Western New York, have a preference for Lake Erie walleye fishing.  Many of them are ready for Southtowns Walleye Association (SWA) Tournament action that will begin very soon. 

Walleye fishing is center-stage over the first few weeks of June, especially June 10-18, when many anglers will be entered in the 33rd annual Southtowns Walleye Association Walleye Tournament.  This is a 9-day/1-fish tournament where the single biggest fish wins. That means any lucky angler can win.

BIG CASH PRIZES: SWA offers cash awards for the top 200 places, with the top 10 places winning big money.  The top prize can be as much as $8,000 in cash plus prizes.  Last year, Jim Horbett took 1st place with his 11.63 pound walleye.  See Bob Fessler or Don Mullen for info, or call 716-462-9576, or visit www.southtownswalleye.org to enter, but do it soon, as registration is closed after the tournament begins.    

The Lake Erie eastern basin walleye resource is healthy and getting bigger with local spawning stocks that can also include migratory western basin fish, which may begin to arrive when summertime is imminent.  We’ll have to wait and see if the area will receive some hot weather to make that west to east migration happen before the tournament ends.

Moving around, making changes, searching the shallow water, the mid-depths and deep water – out there, look for suspended fish in the top 25 feet, these changes can be the key to finding an isolated school of walleye whoppers.

POST-SPAWN WALLEYE:  Local walleye anglers already know that the fish are around and are here in good numbers after the last few weeks of spring fishing. The males that have been caught at night are beautiful fish in the 3 to 7 pound range, not prize winners, but freezer fillers, or are perfect for pictures and catch and release fishing fun.  As the season evolves after the area experienced a very rainy May, the larger females will be recovering from their post-spawn doldrum period and will be hungry. 

The fish will be deeper during the day, but at night, will be feeding in the shallow upper water layer offshore, and also, some fish will be very near to shore during the early part of the tournament (at night).  This fishing can be hit or miss, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

EARLY START:  If you have been fishing like many do, early riser at 330AM, trailer hook-up, travel and launch before sunrise, lights on, lines in, great bite and then suddenly, NO BITE.  What happened?  Simple to figure out if you think about it.  Most of the fish have been on the feed all night, especially during full moon or bright moon periods.  They’re done eating! 

Notice I said, “most of the fish.”  So don’t give up, there will be isolated schools that have yet to feed, but think about night fishing once or twice during the tourney.

Spinner-Worm Rigs are often a top choice for local area anglers, but color, blade shape, bead size and boat speed can make a sound (noise) difference that matters. Willow leaf? Colorado? Indiana blade? Copper? Nickel? Brass? Pick on and vary from there.

LURE OFFERINGS:  What about your lure offerings?  Well you never know what will work until you try, but most anglers use shallow running sticks or spinner-worm rigs and weight the lines to reach the fish at whatever their level, usually 15 to 25 feet from the top.

COLOR & LIGHT PENETRATION: Colors matter for some of us, though not sure the fish care much of the time, but the variable with color is light penetration. If the fish are on the feed, wham!  There will be fish on your line no matter what you are using.  If not, check your lure for action, assure your leaders are healthy, hooks too, then get out there.

The rest of the time when the goggle eyes are not on the feed, you may have to provoke them.  By nature, walleye are night predators, but most anglers in SWA fish daytime. Maybe some anglers are getting old?  Nahhhh!  We just like to see the hooks and jawbones we need to avoid burying in our hand with natural light.

Matching bait offerings to forage options can produce instant fish on the line. Color matters in shallow line sets.  Don’t be afraid to change to something nobody else is using! Old lures can work today too.

BIG FISH CONSISTENCY:  Anglers that win the prize for most fish and biggest fish are often the same anglers year after year.  Reasons why may be widely varied, but not for them. Winning anglers are adaptive.  They change lure style, lure size, color, shape, and they consider all their tackle box options.  Get creative, know what you have in your tackle box.  Know to change your boat travel orientation with wind direction.  Turn more, turn less, swing wide and slow, or wide and fast, but change.

AVOID NO-CHANGE: Be careful not to get into that same “catch-no-fish” pigeon hole that happened once or twice last year or that last time that you never told anyone about.  If you are fishing with the same lure and using the same technique at the same speed and wondering what’s going on, you know it’s time to consider CHANGE.  Explore a bit. Get creative. In your heart of hearts, you know when something needs to change, so do it.   

THINK ABOUT CHANGE: Should you change WHEN you go fishing?  Start at 3PM instead of 3AM?  That’s your call, but what you change is up to you when you’re not catching fish.  Fish move, water temperatures swing with wind shifts, eddy currents push forage to new locations, creek outflows can attract or repel forage and predators, take advantage of these things. Talk with others.  After all that, there is one more thing, keep it simple so you can do it again.  Write it down if you have to, add it to your logbook.  Keep a logbook. Update after every trip.  You will not believe what you learn from your own notes a week from today.

The Rainbow Smelt Banana Bait from LiveTarget Lures offers another option for lure selection.  It made some novice anglers feel like old pro’s last year. It has wiggle, wobble and a sound-making shake.  When it’s time to CHANGE, you will know.

MAKE YOUR OWN CHANGE: Look at a lake map, study your sonar map, evolve to get smarter with each trip on the water and rationalize what is going on, or you can call a best friend that seems to be catching fish!  It’s really up to you to discover the new methods that will work for you. 

After each tourney, I’ve always shared what was working for me and my friends in the boat with others.  It’s what every fishing club is all about.  It’s why some friends share their secrets during the tournament.  It’s how many anglers invent their next new change, by combining what they do with others that have shared to create a new approach.

WALLEYE TRACKING STUDY: Lastly, a new research initiative on Lake Erie – east to west and USA to Canada, that started in 2015 uses acoustic telemetry to track walleye movement. Researchers are studying the west-to-east and east-west fish migration that affects the New York walleye fishery.  A $100 reward can be yours if you catch one of the walleye that have a tracking device, just call DEC (716-366-0228) and report each tagged fish along with returning the internal acoustic tag.

Good luck on the water!

 

Fishing, Sightseeing & Fun Boat Cruise Adventure for a Windy Florida Day

Speckled Trout Fun near Captiva and Sanibel Islands in Lee County, Florida.

  • Big Boat Comfort and Capability Allows for an Unforgettable Cruise Adventure
  • Enjoy Watching Loggerhead Turtles, Dolphins, Pelicans, Eagles, Osprey and Nature at Work
  • Fishing Fun – Sea Trout, Barracuda, Hammerhead Shark and Stingray
Dolphins followed us out and the ladies enjoyed every second of this personal adventure at sea. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Vacation time in Florida can be such fun! My better half discovered that we were not far from Sanibel and Captiva, the shell treasure chest of the world. So Rose started to search out the adventure trail and found there were charter boats for fishing that would conduct shelling and eco-tour trips too. We had a match! Love that woman.

One phone call later, the date was set and the plan was solid with friends from Michigan to join us aboard Southern Instinct Charters with Captain Ryan Kane (http://www.southerninstinct.com/).  The plan, according to my better half, was to compromise fishing and touring, weather permitting, but there is not much weather that can hold back the capability and comfort aboard Captain Kane’s 36-foot long Contender.  With triple engines, getting to wherever you want to go is not an issue and it doesn’t take long to get there at about a mile a minute.

The long boat gave the four of us plenty of room to move around and we enjoyed comfy seating while listening to the stereo tunes of golden oldies and country western music. While the boat doesn’t appear to have a rest room, it does! The ladies were thrilled. I thought to myself, “We can do this again and stay longer!”

Remote islands near Sanibel and Captiva offer secret shelling treasure adventures for those that approach by boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Bob and Shirley Holzhei, from Michigan, met Rose and I at 7:00 a.m. at Port Sanibel Marina. Captain Kane had the ice chest coolers filled with chilled beverages, snacks and plenty of water.  Live bait was in the rear well and we had an access ladder just in case we needed to search the offshore beaches for pirate treasure. This charter boat was perfect in every way, I knew we were in for the time of our life on this day.

One sad thing was that while the sky was clear of storm clouds, the weather report offered that the invisible wind was sending waves five to seven feet on the outdoor gulf waters. It looked like we might be looking at a rescheduled trip. Not for Captain Kane, he said, “OK, let’s go kids! No planning calendar today! We’ll just go out and have some fun. We’ll see how it really looks and if it’s too rough, we’ll tour North Captiva and Cayo Costa islands to be safe. We’ll fish for speckled trout with popping bobbers and live shrimp. We’ll have a great day! We’ll do the deep sea fishing to waters less travelled on another day. Sound ok?” Who could say no?!

Captain Kane was so reassuring, we were thrilled to be heading out of the marina with a cast of pelicans and dolphins that had found their way in there.  But we were not in Disney, this was real. The ladies loved every second. They never stop talking about it, even months later

The three giant outboard engines hummed up from idle speed to flyaway throttle and we were getting somewhere fast. Yikes! This was fun. About 5 miles out (4 minute drive time, we were airborne), Captain Kane said, “Looks like we made a good call, it’s so rough out there.”

I thought, for sure, there was no better way to spend the day with friends and it turned out to be a trip we will never forget.

We toured deserted outer islands and watched dolphins chase the boat, Rose said they were talking to us, but I thought they were playing. We watched loggerhead sea turtles – some were nesting on the isolated beaches, we saw a mother and father eagle feeding their young with fresh fish, watched ospreys capture fish after a 300 foot nose-dive, and we enjoyed a slow ride along areas protected from heavy surf. This was an adventure like none other.

Bobbers and live bait fishing is productive when the Captain knows where to anchor the boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Not long later, Captain Kane asked about fishing and we were all in. The fishing license is included with Captain Kane’s charter license, so everyone wanted a rod. We anchored in a protected inshore area near a sandy point and deserted natural island where the tide current was holding shrimp and baitfish not far from the boat. Good captains know these gentle weed lines, clam beds and secret spots from years of trial and error.

Using a slip bobber that created a popping sound when pulled with a circle hook just below, offered a live shrimp to a hungry trout attracted by the sound. It did not take long for Captain Kane to have all of our lines in the right place.

A few minutes later, Shirley hollered, “Hey, I think I have one, it’s pulling so hard. Bob, please come help me.” Bob said, “I can’t, I got one too!” Forrest, “I don’t want to lose the rod, can you come back here please, Bob has a fish on too.” I hollered back, “I do too!” Rose was the only one that had just reeled her line in to check the bait and shared, “I’m coming back there to help you Shirley, hang on.” Captain Kane was helping everyone at the same time. Fun?! Are you kidding?! This was incredible. Unforgettable! Not your ordinary fire drill. Memories are made of this. Shirley landed a small hammerhead shark and was ecstatic, and scared too. “I caught a shark! Can you believe it?” Captain Kane was careful, but sure-handed with the small shark and Shirley had a chance to touch the skin. “It feels like sandpaper!” She screamed a bit. I think they were happy tones.

Shirley Holzhei landed a small hammerhead shark and enjoyed the thrill of touching the sandpaper-like skin for the first time. Forrest Fisher Photo

We landed 25 trout in only an hour or so, a shark, caught some wonderful warm sunshine. We also hooked a giant barracuda and lost it, then hooked and landed a giant stingray that took us 45 minutes to bring in. What a battle that was! Bob and I had to switch places a few times and do the anchor dance, under the line, over the line, under the line…stretch, oooohhhh, aaaahhhhh, ouch, roll, turn, don’t lose the rod. Man, what a time! More than 50 pounds in size, we landed the nearly 4-1/2 foot long winged sea creature that resembled a spaceship shape from a TV space show.

Rose Barus caught trout after trout, I think she might have been the hot fishing line in the boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Captain Kane removed the stinger to make the large critter safe while aboard while we prepared to release back to nature, then gave me the 5-inch long stinger with directions to placed it in a bottle for safe travel home and soak it for 2 days in bleach to sterilize the poison normally found on the stingray barbs. “The stingray will grow it back,” said Captain Kane, “And the stingray is not harmed in any way.”

Captain Kane uses Dan James Fishing Rods in his boat because they are durable, lifetime guaranteed and made locally in Fort Myers (http://danjamesrodcompany.com/). They are guaranteed for life.

The 7’ lightweight fishing rods we used were so light, so strong and so just right.  I had to ask, what pound test was on that rod? “10 pound braid,” said Captain Kane. “Some of these rods, like the one that you caught that big stingray with, are new fishing rods in the development stage. I use only Dan James Custom Fishing Rods made right here locally in Fort Myers (http://danjamesrodcompany.com/). They cost more, but they are guaranteed for life, and Dan is a disabled military veteran and close friend, we fish often. You would never know he is disabled, he is an example for all of us who might think we have troubles. We share ideas about how to make fishing better for clients, how to make better boat adventure tours, better fishing rods and how to enjoy every single day we live life with our family and friends. We both share that kind of passion for our families and the outdoors.”

The stingray we landed took 45 minutes to bring aboard. Forest Fisher Photo

Captain Kane added, “Dan tests his rods with me and other charter captains, but in the shop too, you wouldn’t believe some of the abuse he wreaks on these blanks while testing them. He puts his rods together to be light and sensitive, yet uses a strong, high modulus blank so folks don’t get tired using the rods and can fish with confidence even when they hook a big fish like you did with that lightweight rod. You can push the limits with his rods.”

We headed back to the marina and all of us were happy to be on the water with such a knowledgeable captain. We explored and enjoyed some of the best that Southwest Florida has to offer. Captain said, “When you come back during summer, the winds are always lower in the warm months and we can run far without much trouble. We have natural and artificial reefs out here that hold giant gamefish like Tuna, Snapper, Grouper, Wahoo, Cobia, and more. We’ll do an offshore trip to have some fun with these, I’ll call you when it gets good! How’s that sound?”

Like music to my ears Captain Ryan. C’mon summer!

About Fort Myers: Our accommodations were nearby, but there are numerous choices. Visit this link for more info on charter fishing, lodging, beaches, hotels and Islandology (https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/islandology). 

Islandology, a new word for most of us. Very interesting video. Check it out. Click the picture.

Kids Today – Not Wired for Nature, FIND HELP HERE

  • Are Your Kids Part of the Keypad Generation?
  • If So, Find Suggestions for a Remedy Here
Click on the book to order one!

By Forrest Fisher

Worried about your kids or grandkids and their continuous attention to some sort of keypad?  You know you are, so am I.  They are growing up with something missing, but none of us know what to do.

While in Alaska recently, I had the pleasure to meet Richard Louv, a journalist, book author, radio, TV interview guest and fun-related speaker with a focus on bringing more kids and adults into the wonderful world of the outdoors.

Widely accepted as an authority on the outdoors, Louv created the expression “Nature Deficit Disorder,” as data provides evidence that both kids and adults spend less time in the outdoors than at any other me in our American history.  Louv cited that this translates an increasing fear of the unknown in nature.  Louv is the author of the book, Last Child in the Woods.

In this influential work, Louv cites barriers that impede people from identifying a path into nature.  He told me one thing that I think all of us must not forget, “the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need in nature.”

Louv explain details about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors.  He directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.

The latest edition reflects the enormous changes that have taken place since the book was originally published. It includes:

  • 100 actions you can take to create change in your community, school, and family.
  • 35 discussion points to inspire people of all ages to talk about the importance of nature in their lives.
  • A new progress report by the author about the growing Leave No Child Inside movement.
  • New and updated research confirming that direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder has spurred a national dialogue among educators, health professionals, parents, developers and conservationists. This is a book that will change the way you think about your future and the future of your children.

Learn more here: http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/.

 

New Year 2018, Venue for Outdoor Review, Much Change and Much To Learn

  • Moms Take to the Woods and Streams with Their Kids
  • More Industry is heading to Preserves and Protected Areas
  • Global Warming, Invasive Species…More

By Forrest Fisher

A grandmother of six from New York State, Rose Barus says, “Alaska is beautiful, but if we talk with folks that have lived there for generations, they acknowledge that change is taking place. Let’s all work to understand much more.”  Forrest Fisher Photo

In the lives of sportsmen and sportswomen, the outdoors is about fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, boating, safe shooting, all that and more. Today we know that many things are subject to change and are scientifically measurable. One of the largest trends (change) is that there are many more ladies than ever before taking hunter safety training, learning to fish and becoming certified all across the country to carry a handgun. Modern moms want their kids to eat organic, untainted food, like venison from deer and to be safe. More moms in the woods will take their kids with them.  More kids in the outdoors, a very good change.

If we talk to folks in Alaska, they acknowledge things are changing. There are fewer halibut to catch, Chinook (king) salmon are part of a variable up and down population swing more often and there are plans for new copper mines (at Bristol Bay) that may contaminate a myriad of pure water rivers with their process discharge effluents.

Is our increasing population to blame for many of the changes we read and hear about? Is world industry to blame? Is our world receding? Global warming, is it for real?

Many college-oriented experts say so, despite certain science that appears to still be quite uncertain to measure long term trends. Some experts say we do have measurable evidence of shrinking ice caps.  We all might agree that our weather is certainly changing, that’s for sure, but is it a natural cycle or man-caused?

Birds are a serious part of the storyteller tale of evidence about our planet ecosystem. There are more than 10,000 bird species in the world, but in the last 100 years, about 200 of those species have gone extinct. Should we be concerned? Yes, of course, but we should work to understand why these birds have disappeared. Those reasons might include poaching, polluted waterways, contaminated air currents, inadequate garbage disposal and a long list of manageable people issues that until now, were not considered important.

Birds, fish, seals, beluga whales, walruses, polar bears, many other animals, arctic ice and people like you and me, all seem affected.  So, believe it, we are certainly in the process of change. To the untrained among us (like me), we accept that most people are not climate scientists, biologists or environmental science engineers, but we do need to rely on the science and studies, and understanding, of these experts who do know.

With communication e-networks on the increase, it you live your life at work and at home from your smartphone and laptop, like a majority of working people today, where do we draw the line on false facts and untruths that can seem to affect lives? We can only combat the fold between falsity and truth by asking questions and trying to get involved so we can all understand more about our changing environment and actual reality.

The fact about all that is, for the bulk of us, the outdoors is something we do for recreation. It’s not our life. Maybe we need to make the outdoors and understanding it a larger part of our lives. Ecosystems worldwide are changing. Ships, planes and global industry are a big part of the management issue for world eco-health. Invasive species have come to us from these sources and more.

We have killer bees in much of America, Burmese pythons in the two million acres of the Everglades, snakehead fish that can breathe air or water in the Potomac River, and many more invasive critters that most of us sportsmen have little or no concern about. We should. These invasives are changing things, many have NO predators. Get involved.

Overall, we read there are something like 50,000 invasive plants and animal species in America alone. In Lake Erie, there are 186 invasive species at last count. There are non-native fish and mussels in that mix, too. These things affect you and me, and us all.  America offers many great places to enjoy the outdoors in all its splendor, but yes, it is changing.

As sportsmen, let’s help our neighbors all around America by keeping an eye on things that can change our ecosystem. Let’s keep our national parks and monument trails intact. Let’s prevent industry from moving to capture minerals, oil and precious ore from areas that are now protected. They have been protected for a reason: to prevent change.

Many industries want to mine copper in the border waters of Minnesota, or drill for oil and mine in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the name of new energy development. I think these and many other areas should consider continued protection from industrial exploitation well into the future.

It’s important to let your legislators know how you feel about such change. Please join me in one resolution for the new year, to get more involved in these issues that affect our future.

It’s a Happy New Year for learning and sharing.

 

 

 

Outdoor Adventure is No Coincidence – Get the Kids, Pack Up the Car

  • Define a New Resolution Milepost for this New Year! 
  • Outdoor Adventure for your Family ONLY BEGINS WITH YOU
  • Teach your Kids to Find Clear Skies and Share Real Outdoor Tales
  • Cast a Line, Pitch a Tent, Pan-Fry Dinner, Hunt, Shoot or Watch for Shooting Stars…Here’s How

By Forrest Fisher

The littlest fish can provide the greatest thrill when you’re 3-years old! She screamed and said, “Help! I have a giant fish! Help!” Unforgettable moments that will last a lifetime – for both of us.  

If you are a wanna-be outdoorsman, no matter where you live, you might or might not already know that there is no end to the fun to be found outdoors through all 12 months of the year.  You sense the need for new outdoor discovery, but what to do, where to go, who to call?

You can fish from shore or boat or ice – and score on fun and food for the family.  You can hunt for small game, big game or many game birds and enjoy in the sacred traditions of our forefathers.  You can camp in any of hundreds, maybe thousands, of wildlife management areas.  You can hike to your heart’s content for miles along your favorite trails, a lake shore, around your favorite pond, along a mountain stream or in any of many state and national parks.  There many places to find the roads less travelled.

You can keep up with seasonal changes and best places to do all these “outdoor things” by joining a local outdoor club where you live.  Find a phonebook to look them up to find them, but these outdoor club groups abound all across the country.  Nationally, look for Trout Unlimited, the Safari Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,  the National Wildlife Federation, the National Rifle Association or the National Shooting Sports Foundation.  Experts share their innermost outdoor secrets in many of these groups.

If you would rather “see” to learn, visually, you can take a side-seat to recorded adventure and excitement outdoors.  You can absorb and learn from that one moment of  truth that only occurs in the wilds – setting the hook, taking the shot – there is outdoor television.  We have today, a choice of outdoor channels that cater to the wonderful specialized outdoor interests of fishing, hunting, camping and capturing to share that special spirit to be discovered in the wild outdoors.

Bowhunting with my grandson started when he was 6-years old, we hiked, scouted the woods and made sure we had enough face camo to blend in – the most fun part at that age.

For myself, I was so fortunate to have had parents that understood just how important starting kids off in the outdoors was, teaching us three kids to fish from when we were very young – I was four years old.  My mom and dad have both passed on now, I so miss them, but their lessons of living an honest life and their lessons for functional simplicity live on with me each day. They kept things easy for us kids to understand. Starting a fire, baiting a hook, stopping to listen to the water run through the rocks of a stream or over a waterfall.  They would stop and say, “Isn’t that beautiful? We would watch deer from a distance all summer, then hunt in fall. We learned to love every season.

In January, my oldest granddaughter and I would tap the maple trees in our nearby woods to make a few gallons of delicious maple syrup. Today, this young lady is in her last year of college studying to be an environmental scientist. 

Now, especially during the holiday season and with the joy of Christmas, I think of the delicious family recipes they passed on that always included the bounty of the outdoors.  Our Christmas dinner included the whole family sitting around the table.  At first, there was just my mom and dad, my brother, sister and me.  We quickly grew to more than 20 people bonded by our love of family, the outdoors and an understanding of our supreme Creator, who we thanked before the grand meal at every Christmas dinner.  There were specialty dishes mom would make and these included old-fashioned, handmade delicacies.  Potato soup, fish dinner, homemade sweet bread and honey, a side salad of garden vegetables that included lettuce, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and ground salt and pepper.  As we slurped the soup, my dad would pass out four walnuts to each of us. We passed the nutcracker around and broke these open to eat with the salad, each nut reflected the forecast for your health through each quarter of the following year.  A good nut meant good health, a crumbly nut meant you better be careful in that quarter. Mystical? Maybe, but you know, it was just something they passed on from their parents and, as kids, we believed every word.  If we received a bad nut, mom would hold us to eat more fruits and vegetables in that quarter to “make sure” we did not get sick. It worked too. There were no magical pills, of course, we were all “good nuts.”

Fishing for Lake Erie smallmouth bass is fun when you’re 7-years old and grandpa says, “Set the hook!” When the drag starts screaming and your grandkids are screaming louder…special moments for all time.

We lived in Western New York, the fish dinner included walleye from Lake Erie, perch and crappie came from Silver Lake and Chautauqua Lake, and bass from Buffalo Creek near Blossom, New York.  I rode my bike to that creek about three or four days each week in summer, met my cousin there who came from the other direction, and we would fish all day to catch our limit of smallmouth bass.  On most days, we used small crayfish (freshwater crabs) we caught by hand, they lived under the rocks in the creek. Fun? It was unforgettable! The big crabs would often be faster than we were, they would pinch our fingers. Yep, we yelped like little babies that needed a diaper change. Learned some new words too.

Dessert followed the Christmas meal, warm homemade apple pie topped with French vanilla ice cream. Ten minutes later, most of us were dozing off as we watched TV in legendary satisfaction, right before we started to sing our famous off-tune Christmas carols. No one slept through that.

Our tradition of sharing the bounty of the outdoors with family started nearly 70 years ago for me and is a keepsake that my wife and I try to maintain each year with our kids and grandkids.  In hindsight, there is not much I would ever change.

If there is one thing to share it is this: Get your kids started in the outdoors early.

They’ll find peace, joy, confidence in themselves and fun, and love of life and nature, and when you’re old and gray, if you are lucky enough, they will never stop thanking you. My better half and I smile to each other quite a lot these days.

Start the new year off this way and next year at Christmas time, you may find that the best wishes for the happiest holiday and adventure season of sharing love in the outdoors started last year…right after New Years Day.

 

 

Fish-Catching Fun in Comfort on Lake Ontario

  • Lower Niagara River, Wilson Harbor and Olcott Harbor ALL Provide Easy Access to Big Ocean-sized Fish
  • Boat Trollers and Pier Casters both SCORE on Fall King Salmon
  • Charter Fishing from a Boat is FUN, Affordable and Comfortable

By Forrest Fisher

Whopper steelhead are among usual late summer catches when your lure and feeding time for the fish are in-sync, as they were for Rick Updegrove the last week of August. Forrest Fisher Photo

With water levels slowly returning to normal, late summer on Lake Ontario means fishing fun at nearly every port of angler access, from shore and boat. 

The end of August is the start of peak fishing for King Salmon, but steelhead, lake trout and other cold water species also add to the reel-sizzling, fish-catching fun.

Fishing out of Wilson Harbor with Charter Captain Bob Cinelli aboard his aptly named “White Mule,” a 36-foot Tiara – ask him how that name came to be, was a simple day of fishing pleasure.  The boat is big, bold and beautiful.  Rest room below decks, sleeping compartments…nice.

The fishing rigs aboard “White Mule” are brand new models of time-tested rods, reels, lines and lures.  Cinelli only uses the best and he should know after more than 30 years of fishing experience on the “Big-O.”  Daiwa 4011 hi-speed reels, Heartland rods, Big Jon downriggers, 20-pound test Ande monofilament lines on the downriggers – tipped with Seaguar fluorocarbon leaders, copper line for use with the giant “Otter” planer boards, and the sharpest hooks on his select set of favored spoons. 

Fishing with friends Mike Norris, Rick Updegrove and John Syracuse, we all took turns landing King salmon and steelhead.  Our trip started early at sunrise and we were back to port at noon or so, with plenty of fillets for the smoker. 

The big question for many anglers is how to fish and with what. What color? What spoon? How Deep? Charter captains often have ALL THOSE ANSWERS.  Forrest Fisher Photo

North winds over the previous few days had started a small turnover offshore, but that did not hold up the fishing action with Captain Bob, as he revised the fishing program to find the winning combination to find King Salmon and steelhead.

We started out running lines at 30, 40 and 50 feet down using downriggers with 8-foot sliders, diving planes off copper out 100 feet, all with some variation of green-colored spoons in 125 feet of water.  To find the hot fish, we slowly trolled out to 300 feet and then back shallower, looking for active fish on the feed.  Back and forth Captain Bob moved us around, then we found active steelhead off the planer boards and riggers.

Just like fishing for marlin in the ocean, steelhead in Lake Ontario fly out of the water.  Up, up and away. The fish not only soar above the water, they swim fast to the left, to the right, and then right at you.  When that happens, you need to test your shoulder and arms for durability, and turn the reel handle very fast.

I had a nice steelhead on, it was my turn when the port side Otter board with the copper line jerked free with a jolting, rod-throbbing pulse as it exited the line release.  We all thought it was a King as John hollered, “Forrest, you’re up!”  I vaulted from my seat to take the rod from first mate, Nick, and moved to the padded rear railing on the boat.  A very safe and adequate spot to lean on as the fish was battled back to the boat.

“How much line is out Nick?” I asked. “About 400 feet, just keep reeling, you’re doing just fine.”  Rick joined in the verbal fun, “Feel that burn Forrest?!”  How did he know?  Indeed, my shoulders were on fire.  How could this be? I was being worn out by a less-than-monster fish.  Mike shared, “Hang on to him, it looks like the biggest one so far.”  Easy for him to say.  Then John added, “If you’re tired, I can take the rod.”  I didn’t say anything, but was thinking, “No way John,”…I’m not sure I even heard that. 

Maybe I was just hearing voices in my subconscious state of fish-fighting mindset? 

Nope, on the other hand, these are what fishing friends are for.  Heckling.  Bantering.  Funning.  A few minutes later, my arms really were actually getting numb – 400 feet of copper is a LONG WAY, but we landed the fish just fine.  I turned to grin at “my friends” not saying a word about my frozen arm joints.  It was 65 degrees out and I was forming sweat on my brow.  

Love this fishing!

John added, “Imagine how that guy felt yesterday that caught that 51-inch King, 39 pounds – 3 ounces, to take the lead in the LOC Derby?” He was not making me feel any better.  “Honestly,” I returned, “I cannot imagine that.  I think you might need to share the rod with your friends in that case.”  John grinned and said, “Hey, that’s what fishing friends are for.”  

We were having a great day.

O

Success is a double header with some high-flying steelhead.  L-R: Mike Norris, John Syracuse, Rick Updegrove.  Forrest Fisher Photo

Over the course of the morning trip, we had 12 releases and this was a “SLOW DAY” according to Captain Bob.  My sore shoulders did not agree.  I gotta start working out harder.   We caught lots of “shakers,” the term for young-of-the-year King Salmon that weigh 2-3 pounds.  The future fishery. All were released unharmed.

This fishing trip was fun.  Maybe the best part of such a trip is that when four guys head out to fish this way in total comfort with the latest gear, hottest lures, a captain that can navigate and a first mate that coaches you along the way, and it’s affordable.  

“Leave the dock at sunrise and back by about 12-12:30 with four guys,” Captain Bob said, “Our usual pricing is not expensive at $150 apiece.  $25 more each and you can fish the whole day.”  Unreal.  Affordable fun.  We all chipped in to tip the first mate.

A lot of us spend that much on just one good fishing reel (I do). 

My new view, I’m getting older – save time, save money, fish with a charter.  Not only do you get to fish with the best gear and fish with friends, you go the hottest fishing places at the best times and someone else cleans your catch! Then you  just head home for the freezer with all of your healthy dinner meals for the next few months.  

Need the right sensor gear to catch fish? Sonar, radar, surface water temp, water temp at the ball, boat speed, and a radiotelephone to phone home are all part of the half-day fish trip.  Forrest Fisher Photo

If you’re looking to do this, you can contact Captain Bob Cinelli Sportfishing directly by calling 716-860-5774.  You might also learn a lot about the lake, the fishery, the forage, the predator fish, invasive species, why the fish are able to be caught on certain lures and bait, the Lake Ontario water level, issues and more. 

Captain Cinelli is the chairman of the Niagara County Fishery Advisory Board.  He has the inside line on what’s happening on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River.  And with the hottest fishing.

Fish on! Who’s up?!

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.

 

Smiley Sakakawea Walleye – Fishing a Canyon Reservoir

Captain Jeremy Olsen shares secrets for fast walleye fun on Lake Sakakawea in early July.

  • SLOW-TROLL Tricks are Deadly on Walleye Waters
  • Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, offers Hands-On Learning
  • Bring a Camera: Canyon Colors and Walleye Go Good Together
Delicious, tasty walleye are a top goal for anglers fishing everywhere, but on Lake Sakakawea, the pristine clean water is chilly all year long and the walleye taste better than most anywhere. Forrest Fisher Photo.

By Forrest Fisher

Wanna catch walleye?  Know the two rules that apply everywhere.  Rule #1: Catching fish is fun.  Rule #2: Fishing with a professional guide that understands fish movement helps to make Rule #1 possible.  You can do it on your own later.

No matter where you go, catching quality walleye as a target species fish is the primary objective for many anglers.  This story is proof that Rule #2 is a good money-saving idea.

Coincidentally, my wife and I were vacationing in North Dakota near Teddy Roosevelt National Park and my better half whispered in my ear, “You should go fishing at least one day while we are here – Lake Sakakawea is just up the road, I’ll go souvenir shopping.” Such a deal.  I could not say no.

So I asked Kelly Sorge what people fish for.  The “always cheerful” proprietor at Indian Hills Resort (http://www.fishindianhills.com/) said, “Crappie, northern pike, bass, trout and walleye – we have all those species here, but most folks fish for walleye.  They like to eat them cooked over a campfire here.  The walleye are so pure and so tasty from Sakakawea.”  That settled it.

I rushed for my cellphone to make the call to Liebel’s Guide Service.  Capt. Jeremy Olsen called me back a short while later to set up time and departure to fish this beautiful Little Missouri River reservoir – it is pristine, with millions of years of erosion providing colorful rocky backdrops on the canyon walls.

Capt. Jeremy Olsen is a top fishing guide that will teach you how to have fun catching fish. Imagine catching 17 walleye in less than 90 minutes! Forrest Fisher Photo

Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota was created for flood control on the Missouri River by the Garrison Dam.  The average width of the lake is 2-3 miles, but it is about 14 miles wide at the widest point, heavy with clean, deep water, shallow water, many undulating bay backwaters, drop-offs, flats, and a beautiful view of colorful mountain walls – hundreds of millions of years old, that form the gorge that creates this waterway.  In short, it is breathtaking!

We met at 7 a.m. and when I saw his new boat, I was thrilled, motivated and EAGER to set foot on the 21-foot Lund, 219-Pro-V, with a 350 horsepower Mercury Verado.  Cost: $81,000, I asked.  Cost of my Charter: $350.  A win-win for any angler.  The new Lund Pro-V fishing boats are special: quiet, safe, powerful, live well, many other features.  It’s all there on this boat.

We left the dock at 7:15 a.m., took 15 minutes to motor 10 miles to a chosen fishing spot (it didn’t take long at 62 mph), set up our lines on lightweight Phenix casting rods (http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Phenix_Rods/catpage-PHENIX.html).  At 7:40 a.m., Capt. Jeremy had the fish figured out and we landed our first walleye.   By 9:15 a.m., we had landed 17 walleye!  Could we call this a great day?  No way, it was an insurmountable day!

It will be a day that I would never forget as a walleye angler.  Indeed, vacations and special fishing moments are about making special memories.   I have no doubt that Capt. Jeremy could do this again.

While I’ll admit, my standards are higher than the average – I expect to catch lots of walleye and often, to beat the usual catch rate, but who would have ever guessed this catch rate of walleye could even occur in wild waters in the middle of summer?  Not me.

Capt. Jeremy is an expert.  He knows the secrets to understanding how fish move, when they move, forage location, wind and eddy current effects, and how to attract fish to invoke a strike.  For this day, he choose Smiley Blade attractors and worms.  The Smiley Blades offer slow rotating action when tied in front of a 3-foot fluorocarbon leader that has two to four beads in front of a single 1/0 hook.  In actual use, this action is death to walleye on Lake Sakakawea.  I discovered after getting home to Lake Erie, it is deadly anywhere else that walleye swim too.  The blades turn with as little as 0.4 mph forward speed because they are made from lightweight Mylar.  Capt. Jeremy buys the blades separate and custom-makes the Smiley Blade rigs with his kids, adding a dash of special magic, I’m sure.

We attached the Smiley Rig leaders to a 1-1/4 ounce wire/bottom-bouncer and set the MinnKota Ulterra bow motor to troll at about 0.6 mph.  Three or four minutes later, presto!  Fish on!  Walleye after walleye came into the boat.  We released all the smaller fish as they were caught.

If you’re out that way, you can contact Capt. Jeremy through Lieber’s Guide Service at http://www.liebelsguideservice.com/.  He will travel to many other waters too, including Montana.

Of course, understanding where to drop lines (location), why to drop where we did (bait movement and water clarity), and how fast to go, are among reasons why we ask a charter captain to take us fishing when we go to a new lake.  A charter captain fishes many more times than we do and it is always a learning experience.

This was new water for me, I’m a Lake Erie walleye fisherman, fishing Lake Sakakawea was quite different.  To do it again, I think I’d contact Capt. Jeremy again and leave my boat home.  The trip was safe, fast, affordable and fun.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

To learn more about Smiley Blades, a video with details about rigging, design, styles and colors is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoO7MxmD-rA.

Accommodations: You can camp at Indian Hills for just $20/night.  There is a boat launch, convenience store, fish-cleaning station and running potable water at several spots.  If regular tenting is too primitive for you, there is one cabin there called “Peacepipe” that accommodates 6 people with bunks, A/C, sink and kitchen for $90/night.  At Peacepipe, you and your family can camp in comfort, and while this style camping cabin has no shower or toilet inside of it, the conveniences are an easy 200’ walk to the shower house.  There is a built-in, sit-down table that seats four, the kitchen counter includes a 2-burner hot plate, small refrigerator and wash basin (potable water is just outside) with drain.  You only need to provide your own sleeping bag or bedding.  Outside you’ll find a picnic table and fire ring, and exterior electrical outlets.  We stayed here and it was great.  Above that, they offer condo’s and lodge rooms too.  Choices are what life in the outdoor lane is all about.  The degree of “outdoorism” that you choose is available here.  My kind of place (http://www.fishindianhills.com/).

For additional general information on Lake Sakakawea and other North Dakota sites to see, visit http://www.ndtourism.com/blog/lesson-about-lake-sakakawea.

This may have been one of the most fun, most learning trips I have ever had the pleasure to experience. One last word, I love North Dakota!  My sweetheart of 48 years and I will be back soon.

Walk the Dog with a Frog!

  • Built-in “Walk-the-Dog” Action
  • 2-1/2 inches, 9/16 oz, 16 colors
  • Extra-wide Premium VMC® double hook
The Terminator Popping Frog is one topwater frog lure finally made to cast well, endure vicious strikes with strong design in the hook tie and extra-wide VMC hook, to bring the big bass to your live well. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

YOUR TOPWATER FROG CHECKLIST:

  1. Like to fish for bass in the summertime?  Topwater action can be the most exciting! CHECK
  2. The Terminator Popping Frog is designed for flawless, big, fish-catching fun.  Many crankbaits have their action built in by design of the lip and weight placement, why not the same on a frog.  Now, YES, we have built-in action on a topwater frog too.  The Terminator Popping Frog provides a cupped face to create a loud, strong pop, it will drive fish crazy, even from deep below. CHECK

                                                                               Bass-catching happiness! Forrest Fisher Photo
  3. The weight is positioned to allow long, perfect casts and the extra-wide hook gap converts strikes into hook sets.  The extra-soft body compresses easily to expose those hooks.  CHECK
  4. The round rubber lug tentacles articulate life-like action.  Even the line tie is extra-duty and is welded for no line-wiggle escapes during the hook set.  The Terminator Popping Frog is a unique bass-catching tool for all serious Bass anglers.  CHECK
  5. The Model 25 is the only model made at this time, but it is a perfect size at 2-1/2” in length and 9/16 oz. Perfect.  CHECK
  6. The color on the right is my favorite “Lime Leopard” color, but there are 16 colors.  The lure is a topwater fish killer that allows every angler to fish effectively with the effortless walking and/or popping action built into this topwater frog lure. CHECK
  7. The premium VMC® double hook allows you to hook up with new bass friends as you “Walk the dog with a frog!” FISH-ON!

Get one. CHECK!

Cost?  Under $10. Check colors and supply: http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Terminator_Walking_Frog/descpage-TWFG.html?gclid=CIzzjd6egdUCFcKKswodEigFdw.

 

 

Mount Rushmore – Independence Day Glory!

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!”

When you get up close to the bark itself, Ponderosa Pines smell like vanilla extract – something I learned from my granddaughter who is majoring in environmental science.  We never stop learning! Forrest Fisher Photo

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!

 

Fishing, Family, Fun and Country Music! All in Branson, Missouri

Lake Tanneycomo in Branson, Missouri, is full of trout surprises!

  • Country Music, Nature Trails, Fishing, Great Food, Museums, and the Aquarium on the Boardwalk.
  • Klondike-like gold rush music boom started in the 1980s – it’s even better now.
  • The Osage Indians were first here in Branson. Perhaps they were drawn here by the fantastic fishing. 
The History of Fishing Museum in Branson offfers more than 40,000 historical fishing items on display. These early Rapala lures are a collector item of great interest. David Gray photo

By David Gray

My old friend Larry Whiteley asked me if I could describe Branson, Missouri, in just three words. I said, “Sure! Fishing, Family, Fun.”  Grinning his usual warm-hearted smile, Larry said, “So true. I especially like that Branson is neatly nestled in these Ozark Hills. The four seasons add color twice a year, too. Even better, I like the many Grade-A fishing lakes and streams we have nearby – bass, crappie, trout. But you know, honestly, there is so much more to Branson that many folks never see.”

At a recent outdoor media conference event, Larry handed me a Branson Visitors Guide, and I took a day to explore more.  I found Country Music, Nature Trails, Live Entertainment, Attractions, All-Day Adventures at Silver Dollar City, Camping, Golfing, Friendly people, Great food, and Museums. Don’t overlook that last one.   

Family fun deserves a visit to the Branson Centennial Museum. The Museum guidebooks share that kids who learn history in school have many questions when touring historical displays.   

Some things I learned at the Museum: The Branson Hills were blessed with music long before the music theaters sprang up.  Before modern settlement, the Branson area was home to the Osage Indians, the original local music stars.

The Osage were well-known and admired for their extraordinary music and style of dancing.

Today, area tackle shops offer trout flies, guide services, advice, and tackle rental if needed. Understanding the history of this area, you might wonder how the Osage Indians fished here. Forrest Fisher photo

In 1839, the first couple to settle in Branson was Calvin and Cassandra Galyer. Calvin was 15, and Cassandra was 14. Cassandra raised 11 children. Calvin was a gunsmith, and during the Civil War, he was sought by both sides as a gunsmith. When their home burned, the family hid and lived in a cave so Calvin would not be taken away by the North or South for his gunsmithing skills.   

Cassandra stared at the Branson cemetery as a final resting place for fallen soldiers of both sides. None of the graves were marked Union or CSA, as Cassandra did not want the graves desecrated by the other side.  

When European settlers arrived, they brought their fiddles, and the hills and hollers enjoyed the evening front porch music sessions.   Each evening, the picking and playing echoed among the hills.

After the war, more settlers arrived in the Branson area. It took long days of hard labor to make a living by raising cotton, tomatoes and tobacco. Doing the wash was physical, and the phrase “Wash Day” was literal, as it took all day to do the family wash. The Museum displays include the earliest washing machines. 

More recently, Branson was labeled a Country Music Phenomenon when a Klondike-like gold rush music boom started in the 1980s. Country Music stars visiting the Branson area fell in love with the Hills and Hollows, the residents, and the natural beauty here. They decided to build theaters and move to Branson to perform. 

The first music performer in the area was Box Car Willie. Box Car loved being in the Ozarks and invited Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn to perform with him.   

The Ozark Hills of Branson quickly became a must-do destination for country music lovers. 

Today, the Branson country music passion has grown to 24 live music theaters, and also offering music of every genre.  

Fishing in the Ozarks has always been an attraction.  First, the Osage Indians, then the early settlers, and later, anglers from many places have been drawn to the exceptional fishing for many species, including Bass, Crappie, Walleye, Trout and White Bass. 

Hi-tech bass fishing has a welcome home in Branson, Missouri. Professional angler, Jimmy Zaleski, prepares for a day on the water at Chateau on the Lake Resort and Hotel.  Forrest Fisher photo.

Today, the area’s lakes, rivers and streams offer unlimited fishing opportunities. Some of the best fishing guides provide a variety of trips on Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake, and the trout waters of Lake Taneycomo flow right through downtown Branson. Easy fishing is fun fishing.  

The most famous Branson area angler is Jim Owens, who is credited with creating the first commercial float fishing service, the Jim Owen Boat Line. Jim offered tailored floats up to 10 days long. Celebrities from all over the world came to float with the Owens Boat Line. Today, you can easily find many artifacts and photos of the Owen Boat Line around Branson, including some of the old fishing tackle in the downtown Branson Bass Pro Shops.   

Then there is the History of Fishing Museum. If you love fishing, take advantage of a side trip to the History of Fishing Museum. It is a beautiful attraction with 40,000 historical fishing equipment and items on display.   

Fishing tackle from the Stone Age to the modern era is displayed in an easy-to-follow walk-through tour. Even more astonishing to learn is the value of some of the rare collectible items. 

Want to see the first-ever modern bass boat? Here is a hint: it is a 1949 Skeeter on display at the Museum. Have you ever heard of the Spike Reel, a Haskell Fish Hook, the Snyder Reel, a Buel Trolling Spoon or the Comstock Fly Hellgramite? These rare pieces are all on display. Every old tackle box probably has a Rapala minnow in it. The Museum has one of the first Rapala lures. It was made with silver foil salvaged from chocolate wrappers.  

This complete set of original James Heddon lures was very popular many years ago. David Gray photo.

In your garage, there may be something worth a lot of money. Ever heard of a Kentucky Tackle Box? It is a rare metal tackle box that collectors today will pay a lot of money to acquire.  One of these is displayed at the Museum, and you can learn to identify one there.

Ever heard of Phillipp? It was a company that made popular trout flies. The company also made a few, very few, trout fly rods. Only three are known to exist. If you see an old bamboo-looking fly rod at a garage sale and the label is Phillip, buy it. Some say it would bring $100,000 to a collector!

I can’t wait to return to Branson with my family for the fishing, the fun, and now that I know – the museums!  Below, don’t miss one of the latest attractions on the Boardwalk: The Aquarium. This facility offers a virtual 3D submarine adventure ride as you are guided through the maze of displays by Aquarius the Octopus and Finn the Pufferfish. 

The Aquarium at the Boardwalk is one of the newest things to do in Branson, Missouri, and is unlike any other aquarium in the country. Forrest Fisher photo

 

A New Chapter in Saltwater Fishing: Catching Fish and Sharks in Charlotte Harbor, Florida

  • Advice #1: Seek expert help. The well-stocked Port Charlotte tackle shop called Fish’n Frank’s offers charter captain advice from local fishing specialists.
  • Advice #2: Keep an optimistic focus. Share a grin and good questions to identify the best fishing methods.
  • Advice #3: Tackle care. The legendary fish-filled backwaters of Charlotte Harbor demand that every angler check lines, leaders and hooks often.
Simon Cremin with one of 25 sea trout caught while fishing lures and jerk baits over an oyster bed in Charlotte Harbor.

By Forrest Fisher

In the sun-kissed kingdom of Southwest Florida, shimmering waters meet pristine beaches, and tales of fun, exploration, and daring adventure unfold with each fishing trip.

More than once a week, Simon Cremin embarks on a journey to share his unmatchable passion for fishing and the sea. Originally from the United Kingdom, Simon resides with his family in the United States. He is transitioning from fishing in Europe, where the goal was to catch toothy northern pike and musky.

Today, Simon sets out to find and conquer the mighty Apex predators that roam the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Facing the challenge of choosing the right fishing gear and learning where to fish with success, Simon works with optimistic focus, a grin, and a curious expression to develop answers that satisfy his call for challenging the deep. His fully equipped 19-foot fiberglass Sailfish Boat, powered by a 90 horsepower Yamaha 4-stroke outboard, transports him and his fishing friends to their destination quickly and affordably.

Every summertime saltwater fish trip starts at sunrise. It’s dark when the boat goes into the water.

His home base of operations for learning more about the nationally famous tarpon waterway of Charlotte Harbor, Bull Bay, and Boca Grande is a well-stocked tackle shop called Fish’n Frank’s (941-625-3888). Recently rebuilt after a fiery vehicle accident burned the homey, 5-decades-old tackle store to the ground, the new location in a plaza is located at 4200 Tamiami Trail (US Route 41) in Port Charlotte, FL. Store manager, Robert Lugiewicz, offers a complete and friendly service with live bait, frozen bait, lures, rods, reels, and line, all at affordable prices. Maybe the best part is that the store is filled with nautical wall maps, silent conversations, and finger-pointing to hotspots with fishy details, explanations, and a grin to cheer you on your way. The Lugiewicz staff provides the most considerable degree of encouragement to newbies and retirees that enter this legendary tackle store domain. The visitors find a boost of honest help on what, when, where and how to catch fish. Simon will agree because, with their help, Simon has succeeded.

Launching in Charlotte County from Placida Park (6499 Boca Grande Causeway) or Charlotte Beach public boat ramp (4500 Harbor Blvd.), Simon usually meets up with one or two local friends. They check lines and leaders, then head out to explore the legendary, island-filled coastline and mangrove-filled backwaters of Charlotte Harbor. Simon says, “Each fishing trip is new to me, as I am still sort of new to the area. It’s fun to learn where to find fish, and we have found fish in some of the most remote areas imaginable.” Laughing a bit, Simon says, “Good thing most of my friends have little fear and a brave heart.”

The morning scenery can be amazing as daylight and warming occur to form cloud formations that are absolutely beautiful.

Simon continues, “We fish simple. We use my electric bow motor to access secluded backwaters where we have found some of the largest fish, including Tarpon, Snook, Redfish and Speckled Trout. Of course, wherever we go, I focus on also catching a Shark, they are so powerful, and there are so many types here. I have learned with each fishing trip and have evolved to establish a simple system that offers an opportunity to catch multiple species, and sharks too.”

Simon prefers the back of the boat to the front, so his fishing partner is offered control of the boat, running the bow motor for the day. Simon says in his British accent, “All of my fishing buddies seem to enjoy that part of our 6 to 8-hour fish trips. We each cast lines with plastic-tailed jerk baits on weighted weedless hooks or throw hard baits. Both lure types are designed to mimic the local forage groups. Doing that, I like to trail one or two lines for Shark. I have learned that it is better to trail one line simply. You can get into a real mess with two trailing lines when a handsome Gafftopsail Catfish hits and runs laterally. In the back of the boat, I can still cast out the side of the boat for multiple species, but now I trail just one line with a huge bobber, a wire leader and a huge hook with a half ladyfish or other cut bait. Some days, we catch five sharks and more than 50 other gamefish. It’s exciting! I’ve even caught sharks while casting lures. They can be that aggressive. “

Simon says, “Snook, redfish, trout, catfish, and others, like this bluefish, are all out there chomping on our lures.”

Simon explained that on one trip while discovering a new oyster bed with nearby emerging sea grass, he and his partner caught 11 different species while hooking up with 3 Tarpon, some more than 6 feet long. They also caught Blacktip Sharks and watched dolphins, stingrays, nurse sharks and bull sharks swim near their newfound fishing zone. In total silence, the intriguing sounds of a circling osprey or a nearby eagle crack the meticulous silence of the fishing mission.

Simon admits that studying the weather, the tides, and moon phases is necessary, but he enjoys the academic side of fishing the saltwater. He also admits he may be pushing the boundaries of his fishing gear at times since he hooked and landed a 7-foot Lemon Shark estimated at 125 pounds in weight, a personal best shark catch on one recent trip. That Shark and all the others were each carefully released to live another day. That giant Shark was caught on a 40-pound braid main line, a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader to the bobber, and a length of 0.040-inch diameter wire leader to an 8/0 circle hook.     

Using a 40-pound test braid and a 60-pound test fluorocarbon leader to wireline worked for this shark. Released alive and hook-free.

Before each fish trip, Simon studies the local areas, reports on marine life, and talks with his newfound friends at Fish’n Frank’s. He studies the successful strategies of others, takes notes, watches videos and readies himself and his boat to face the ultimate challenge and adventure of fishing the saltwater.

Some of the sharks are so huge, and their teeth are readily apparent as they tire and swim alongside the boat. It’s pretty exciting.

Each trip begins with setting sail before dawn, and enormous anticipation fills the air each time. Minutes turn into hours, and there have been times when he admits they have persevered in unpredictable weather and high heat index days, knowing that the ultimate prize may await on the next cast or next drift. Persistence pays off when a gargantuan shadow glides beneath the surface on the end of your line. The true leviathans of the deep live in each of the natural bays here. Simon says, “Each trip is so exciting that when we power the boat onto the trailer at day’s end, I cannot wait for the next time.” Talking with Simon in person, he admits, “Hooking up with one the Sharks, there is adrenaline pumping through my veins, and the fun of it all is indescribable.”

Just when you think the good fishing is over for the day, a drag-screeching Gafftopsail catfish can brighten your day.

Amidst the fish battle struggles, Simon admires the magnificent creature fighting for freedom. He recognizes the importance of conservation and respect for these majestic Apex creatures—reasons why he makes the ultimate sacrifice and releases the Shark. Simon is an advocate for conservation in his community.

In the heart of Southwest Florida, tales of adventure are etched along the coastline and every inlet of the intra-coastal waterway. The Simon Cremin “learn-to-fish” story is a testament to the attraction of the sea and the capacity for personal growth. Through his journey of learning more about saltwater fishing, particularly shark fishing, he has reinforced the importance of responsible fishing practices, the value of conservation, and the irreplaceable wonder to be discovered in the natural world here. As the sun sets on the Gulf waters, the tides of destiny await the next trip. His future focus? As a Charter Captain, his new goal, Simon Cremin plans to share more of his fishing time with others. He’s going to be a good one!  

 

A Fillet Knife to Love…from Knives of Alaska

  • Flexibility, sharpness, perfect balance, and made in the U.S.A.
  • Sure-fire handle grip, orange in color: It’s easy to find!
  • A lifetime guarantee promotes how good it is before purchase.  

By Forrest Fisher

A newbie in my gear room would definitely notice that I like to collect knives. Each is handsome, and they can all cut bread, but they each have a purpose. Some of them are fixed-blade, some are folding knives, and there are specialty knives.

That’s where my new fillet knife set from the Knives of Alaska came in last week. While there are knives all over the room, the Knives of Alaska set stands out for good reason: these knives have a hunter-orange handle. You can’t use what you can’t find, and it seems like when I have tasty fish to clean, lots of them, I can never find my fillet knife. Problem solved! And the color thing also keeps it out of my sock drawer (my better half places things with destination unknown in my sock drawer).

The Coho Fillet Knife at 13 inches overall with an 8-1/2 inch blade. It’s 3 inches longer than its smaller fillet knife cousin, the Steelheader, which offers a 5-3/4 inch blade. Both knives are 440C steel, with 18-20 degree blade bevel.

Above that, these knives are not ordinary. A good fillet knife needs to be flexible and sharp, it needs to maintain sharpness, and it needs to fit right in your hand. While we are all different, we can’t be very good at the job without all these virtues. All that considered, lastly, my best fillet knives exhibit a balance between the blade and the handle to link and sync my brain to program how my wrist and hand work together. Of course, the best fillet knife for the job at hand also depends on the size of the fish, and that’s why having fillet knives of different sizes matters for good reason. Precise cutting is no accident.

The Coho Fillet Knife at 13 inches overall with an 8-1/2 inch blade. It’s 3 inches longer than its smaller fillet knife cousin, the Steelheader, which offers a 5-3/4 inch blade. Both knives are ground with an 18-20 degree blade bevel. Having the two-knife set allows for medium and larger-sized fish filleting with little effort. A nylon sheath is included. Both knives have a comfortable sure-grip and a layered polymer handle to assure a positive hand-hold. I especially like that. Click the picture below to visit the store.

On the technical side, these fillet knives are made from high-hardness steel (440C). That means they hold an edge because this blade material retains its hardness quality for a long time. I fish in freshwater and saltwater, so I need the sharpness retention quality to assure perfect fillets for the table. The high chromium content means high corrosion resistance. While this steel is hard and corrosion resistant, the manner in which Knives of Alaska manufactures these, provides the best of all worlds. In short, the balance of blade material properties makes it relatively easy to sharpen. How can you beat that? You can’t.

The Coho Knife is sold retail for under $100, while the Steelheader sells for under $90; the sheaths are extra. The two-knife set includes a sheath that will hold both knives, and it sells for $189.99.

Knives of Alaska has become well known for their durable construction, sharp blades, and ergonomic designs. They cater to the specific needs of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. If you value performance, durability, functionality, and affordability, do yourself a favor, and check them out.  Click on the picture below.

 

Spring is Ticking into Summer

  • Deer Ticks (Blacklegged Ticks  – Ixodes Scapularis) can carry Lyme Disease and are VERY TINY in physical size. 
  • Protect yourself by becoming aware of their size and available repellents (Picaridin & Permethrin) that can work to keep ticks off of you and your loved ones.
  • Learn what to do if you find an embedded tick on your body.

Deer Ticks (Blacklegged Ticks – Ixodes Scapularis) can carry Lyme Disease and are VERY TINY. CDC photo. 

 

By Forrest Fisher

It’s time to fish, hike, camp, and bird-watch, and it’s time to sit on a quiet park bench anyplace you like. Right now is also an excellent time to take 5 minutes to learn more about deer ticks and Lyme disease. Read this article. Remember it. Please share it. It could save you or your loved ones from a life of medical care and unwanted jeopardy.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.  Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.

Several years back, but not that long ago, three of my seven grandkids were bitten by a tiny little critter that many of us would have passed off as a speck of dirt and not thought twice about it. But, the little sliver of dirt was hard to brush off. It was embedded into the skin and looked like a tiny, little beauty spot. At first notice, the thought is that it’ll go away. It’s just a beauty post or a piece of dirt. Get some soap. That was just the beginning. After a shower and a few days of baths, good old Mom noticed that the little brand-new beauty spot had grown in size. She did not know there was a little critter in there, and it had filled its holding tanks with her child’s blood. It was a juvenile deer tick—less than the size of a dark sesame seed on your morning bagel.

Picaridin is an insect repellent for BARE SKIN USE, suggested for Deer Tick bite prevention. Cost: about $12.

In the old days, most of us would say, so what? You got bit by a tick, grow up, be a big boy and take a shower more often. Today, science has educated us. The concern today is that deer ticks carry Lyme disease and many other pathogens that cause diseases that are hard to diagnose and harder to treat. In many cases, if initially left untreated, the best prognosis for the more than 400 other Lyme-related diseases is front and center.

Back to the grandchild. Two days later, that little beauty spot was suddenly about 25 times larger. It was easy to see now. Trying to brush off that little spot directly caused a gush of blood from the embedded deer tick. The blood ran and stained the skin. So much so that the blood was running like when you have a small cut on your skin surface. Deer ticks are hungry little, suction-prone, disease-exchanging little critters. Not a disaster, but you might need a few tissues and a small band-aid. That’s not the end. The actual deer tick was still embedded. You or a medical person with skilled tweezers must remove the tick and wait a few weeks to see if you develop Lyme symptoms or get it tested to identify if it carries Lyme disease. Visit Ticknology at https://www.ticknology.org/tick-testing. Lyme and tick-borne disease is often misdiagnosed. As a result, the opportunity for early treatment is missed. Ticknology is one of several lab services that offer tick testing to identify early detection of Lyme or related disease exposure. Many folks prefer to order a Universal Tick Test from Ticknology and receive a comprehensive evaluation of Lyme-related infection risk.

The truth of the deer tick world is that many of these little critters are so small right now – in their nymph stage (just born) – they are hungry and looking for a host. Like their deer tick parents who used up all their energy delivering hundreds of young deer ticks. The deer ticks get Lyme disease from the mice, not vice versa. The ticks cuddle close to the mouse as they are trying to stay warm in the coldest of winter. Then the deer ticks find warm weather, and they leave the mouse. The mommy deer ticks are looking to bear their young on a flower, a weed, a horse, a dog, a backyard plant, a rose, you, me, or somewhere on a bristle of green weeds in your garden and many other places. The point is, beware of these little disease carriers and killers of human health. Why the sudden increase in deer tick numbers and Lyme cases? That’s a mystery.

About 15 years ago, many doctors misdiagnosed Lyme disease for about 400 other conditions. Many folks today still suffer from that lack of early medical awareness. Times have changed, the blood testing process is better, and the medical world has recognized this mysterious disease’s seriousness. About 40 percent of deer ticks tested today are carrying Lyme. Be aware.

Permethrin is an insect repellent for GEAR, SHOES and CLOTHING, suggested for Deer Tick bite prevention. Cost: about $12.

What to do if you like to enjoy the outdoors:  Stay aware. Understand that tick season is year-round, and spring and summer are their peak activity periods. Be careful if you hike in wooded areas or venture forth in places with high grass. Walk in the center of the trails. Wear long sleeves and, while it may look stupid, tuck your pants into your socks or shoes top. Use tick-repellent products registered by the US EPA. According to reports, DEET is effective, but the go-to for most folks is to use Picaridin on your exposed skin outside your clothing and treat your exterior clothing, shoes, socks, and other gear with Permethrin. The Permethrin (0.5 percent strength) can last several washings (about four to six weeks). Once your hike, bike, camp or outdoor adventure trip is over and you are back inside at home, toss all your clothes into the dryer on high heat for 10-15 minutes. Heat kills deer ticks. Then do a full body check. Use a mirror. Be extra sure in difficult-to-see areas such as under your arms, around your hair, ears, back of knees, between your legs and especially here: inside your belly button. This is serious; no laughing. To further reduce risk, shower immediately after coming in and after your initial inspection. Why shower immediately? There may still be ticks on you that went unnoticed and are not yet attached. A shower will wash them away.

Uh-oh. During your look-see, you find a deer tick on you. It’s embedded. Not to worry, but remove it. The CDC says to use tweezers to remove the tick. Grip the tick and apply a steady outward pressure across the entire diameter of the embedded tick. It may take a few seconds or a minute, but it will eventually come out. Do not twist the tick with the tweezers. We don’t want to break off the mouth. Then save the tick. Wrap it in a tissue and place it into an old prescription container. Then clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap/water, and wash your hands thoroughly. You can watch for symptoms for the next few weeks or visit your doctor. Show him your tick. Depending on his diagnosis, he may send it for testing or provide antibiotics. About eight out of 10 people immediately treated are cured when bitten by a Lyme-carrying tick. The numbers show that about 10 to 20 percent develop Lyme disease syndrome with lingering symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, mental confusion, and much more. Deer ticks carry Lyme and many other diseases. It can be nasty.

If you were bit and developed a “bulls-eye” rash near the bite location, about one-third of folks display this condition – the typical treatment is Doxycycline or a similar antibiotic for as long as the first 30 days. That is up to the doctor. If you have no bulls-eye rash but are developing a fever, rash or headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or other unusual symptoms, or any uncommon illness, see a doctor ASAP.

Stay aware of Lyme disease and deer ticks. AND get rid of your mice! They infect the ticks.

Plenty of Walleye, Bass, and Turkey – but No Ring-necked Pheasants in New York

  • NYS Pheasant-rearing farms reduced from 7 to 1, then Avian disease hit this year. All the breeder birds had to be euthanized.
  • Walleye fishing in Eastern Lake Erie is HOT and crowded after dark right now. Respect the other fellow in a nearby boat.
  • Turkey hunting in Western NY is GOOD – The season runs May 1 – 31. 2 birds/season bag limit. 
Ringneck Pheasants in the wild are scarce in many states, but well-managed conservation programs raise them and return them to country farm fields.  Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As a kid growing up in farm country, my family raised more than 50 chickens each year. This effort supported our family and most of our neighbors with all the eggs everyone needed, and I made about 5 cents on each dozen for delivery. That was a nice piece of change in 1955. My dad had built a multiflora rose fence borderline around the chicken pen to help keep the birds inside and to help with free feed for the chickens. Chickens love to munch on the flower and hip fruit of the hardy rose plant. Little did we know, though we learned, that wild ring-necked pheasants also love the fall fruit of the multiflora rose bush. At times, we had 20 to 30 pheasants in with the chickens! They were everywhere. They stole and enjoyed the rose fruit designed to save my dad some cost on chicken feed. In the 1950s, an overabundance of live and roadkill pheasants was a common sighting. You could see ring-necked pheasants along roadsides everywhere. Then DDT and other pesticides contributed to their egg-softening demise, and state hatcheries were implemented to help replenish the birds to their native stock numbers. Pheasant hunting was and is a favorite NYS hunter sport. At one time, New York supported seven pheasant-rearing facilities, but not anymore.

New York State (NYS) reduced its fleet of ringed-neck pheasant farms from seven to one over the last several years. They put all their eggs in one basket to coin an age-old phrase. In NYS, I often ask, “What happened to common sense?” In a state where the annual economic impact from hunters and anglers is just under $5 billion per year, it is hard to figure out why NYS lawmakers and management folks decided to save a few dollars in the state budget this way. According to the NY Outdoor News, of the 550,000 hunters in New York, a survey showed that about 40 percent had hunted ring-necked pheasants over their lifetime.

Lake Erie nighttime walleye action near Buffalo, NY, is hot for trollers using shallow-diving stickbaits. Matt Nardolillo photo.

A recent outbreak of Avian Flu resulted in the total population demise of more than 6,000 NYS pheasant breeder birds at the lone, remaining Reynolds Game Farm in Tompkins County near Ithaca. This one and only farm with a mission to raise and release pheasants into the NYS wilds is now in quarantine for four months per USDA regulations. Ugh. This eliminates the chance for a rapid recovery before pheasant hunting season. Pheasant hunting is a fall season activity, with season dates of Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 in northern portions of WNY, Oct. 15 – Feb. 28 for southern WNY portions, and Nov. 1 – Dec. 31 in the Adirondack and Long Island zones. The exact specific zones are defined in the game syllabus. The demise of the 6,000+ breeders also means eliminating the approximately 40,000 birds raised from their eggs that will be lost. So sad! The loss of these birds also eliminates the DEC “day-old-chick” program where conservation groups, especially 4H kids from across the state, pick up the young chicks and raise them to adulthood in private facilities, then release them on property open to public hunting. Such areas include wildlife management areas, state parks, multiple-use areas, and other areas. The NYS Conservation Council, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, and many other conservation groups across the state are asking for a more responsible approach to pheasant rearing in New York State. According to a note I received from pheasant advocate Linda Suchocki, our Pennsylvania neighbors raise and release more than 200,000 pheasants each year. She says, “The Reynolds facility employs nine workers, and only four are full-time. NYS needs to do better in a state where fishing and hunting supports 56,000 jobs and contributes more than $600 million in state and local taxes.” It’s hard to disagree with Suchocki.

Nighttime Dunkirk walleye action is hot west of Dunkirk Harbor. Captain T. J. Yetzer photo

The fun-adventure news for the start of this month has more to do with walleye fishing and turkey hunting, as both NYS fish and wildlife seasons opened last Monday, May 1. The weather has not helped! Just when we think the weather gods are on our side, a cold blast from the north swirls in to shut down the crocuses, the budding apple blossoms, the fishing and the turkey hunting. It did help muddy up the front foyer, though. We can grow some veggies there right now. Friends of Toto, we’re not in the Land of Oz yet. Yea, thank goodness. The down days of nature help make the up days much bigger and brighter. The good stuff is right around the corner. We all know that. Despite the nasty weather, anglers did get out, and hunters too. It pays to be tough, and thank goodness for waterproof outerwear!

If you’re fishing, respect the other guy if dozens of other boats are trolling the same fish-packed zone in the Athol Springs section of Lake Erie – where all the female walleye come to spawn and all the male walleye remain to eat their own hatchings – after nightfall. Who said nature was kind?! Most walleyes caught there early in the season are smaller males from 18 to 22 inches, but they are tasty critters for the frying pan. The same is true for the Shorewood Shoal portion of Lake Erie between Van Buren Point and Point Gratiot to the west of Chadwick bay marina in Dunkirk.

Hunting turkey is done in full-body camo and gun, too, so PLEASE be sure of your target and beyond. Everyone is sitting on the ground in full camouflage, sounding like a hot bird looking for a girlfriend. Be careful and be sure before you squeeze the trigger. This year is starting as an excellent turkey year. The spring turkey harvest in NY averages about 18,000 birds, but yield varies based on the number of participants and the success of turkey hatchlings in previous years. Remember this: it’s spring, and the deer ticks are here and everywhere in abundance. DO NOT GO IN THE WOODS OR PARKS WITHOUT PROTECTION. Apply Permethrin (Sawyer Products) on all your boots, shoes, and exterior camo clothing. Use Picaridin (Sawyer Products) on any exposed skin. Each of these cost only $12-$13 at Walmart. If you find a deer tick embedded in your body, use tweezers to very carefully get it out. Send it to Ticknology, 1612 LaPorte Ave., Fort Collins, CO, 80521. For more info, Google them or call 970-305-5587. The cost is $35, but you’ll know if you need to follow up with medical treatment for Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a killer!

This spring, the DEC expects a better turkey harvest than last year. Good luck in the woods. Related, the DEC is looking for help from turkey hunters in a study of NYS ruffed grouse. DEC is asking turkey hunters to record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while hunting turkeys afield. This will help the DEC track the distribution and abundance of this native bird. For a free survey form, go to the DEC website) or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in the DEC Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey (or other wildlife surveys), visit the DEC “Citizen Science” page (https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/1155.html).

On the Outdoor Honor Roll: the NYS Outdoorsman’s Hall of Fame (NYSOHOF) will induct 12 new members at their annual banquet set for Theodore’s Restaurant in Canastota, NY. The list of sponsored, well-deserving applicants is always long. These guys typically volunteer hundreds of hours each year. Locally, three members made the honorable selection criteria. Tom Fischer and Larry Jones are among the local erie County recipients. For more than 20 years, Tom Fischer has volunteered to be the fishing tackle and gear guy for the Erie County Federation of Sportsman Teach-Me-To-Fish clinics catering to hundreds of kids yearly. Fischer also organizes other youth events and fuels optimism and leadership at such youth events for kids of all ages. Larry Jones pioneered Niagara River musky restoration when this species was in trouble in the 1990s. Among many other volunteer efforts, Jones started the Niagara Musky Association in 1993. The club became an integral part of the Strawberry Island restoration effort, now declared a National Park. And also, a longtime friend of mine and many others, Gene Pauszek from Chautauqua County, was awarded induction posthumously. Pauszek was the gruff-speaking but colorful and friendly outdoor columnist for the Dunkirk Observer. He was a life member of the Chautauqua Conservation Club, a leadership generator type of person, and an officer with many southern-tier conservation groups that supported youth activities. He founded the Take-A-Kid fishing program in Dunkirk, and his enthusiasm for fishing and Lake Erie conservation were no match. To attend the dinner, email sfcf@tds.net or call 315-829-3588.

Speaking of youth programs: the National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their website “Kids and Nature” (https://www.nwf.org/Kids-and-Family/Connecting-Kids-and-Nature) provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature.

Share in the peace and fun of the outdoors soon.

God bless America.

When Old Guys go Fishing – Tricks We Never Share Start with a Question

  • Where to fish – an easy choice when you fish with old guys (the fish are in the water).
  • Rigging and weighting plastic worms and alternatives.
  • Lure selections, knot varieties, water depth: fishing factors that matter.
Lure inventor Bill Alexander (L) and Bass Pro field tester Gary Day (R) plan their fishing morning on a west-central Florida lake.

By Forrest Fisher

When young-minded friends meet on the water in Florida for a post-retirement gathering, life is good. Good for at least two reasons: You’ve survived long enough to collect social security and are going fishing. And, if you were smart enough to give your wife permission to go shopping, you know the entire day will have a happy ending when the boat returns to the trailer. Funny how things work with an excellent plan to wet your line!

We met at Gary’s winter home in Auburndale, Fl., moved the ice-filled cooler with water and sandwiches to the boat, and the day was on. Bill said, “Geez Gary, don’t you ever wash your boat. There’s dust on the motor!?” Not 1-second passed when Gary answered, “Well, go get a dust rag over there in the corner. You can be the new pixie dustman.” Gary and Bill have been friends for a long time and fished many bass tournaments together, also as competitors. I was the new guy in this senior collection of age-old, line-casting, bass-fishing quibblers. Gary added, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain there, Forrest. He thinks he knows how to fish.” We all chuckled, and the laugh-fest, fish-fest was in gear.

We piled into Gary’s GMC Terrain with his 19-foot Ranger bass boat and trailer in tow. The boat was filled with strapped-down, ageless fishing rods and reels and many memories about to be relighted for a fun day afloat. Our destination this day was a canal-interconnected lake system near Lakeview, FL. We arrived at the no-charge boat launch on Lake Rochelle, and the fishing fun began. The lake system includes Lake Haines, Lake Rochelle, Lake Conine and Lake Smart. I swear that each time I fish with these guys, we all get a little more clever and imaginative, no thanks to the last lake name there. Old guys know so much about so many things to do with life and fishing! I’m not bragging, as I’m on the side of what we (I) never stop learning.

Bill Alexander says, “One option for fishing the popular wacky rig is to place a slip weight above the hook, not pegged.” Gary Day adds, “Pumping the rig back to the boat, slowly, will cause the sliding line with the hook and worm to create a delay in the worm sink rate. A sure-thing fish-catcher on some days.” This durable and supple new plastic worm is one of the new Xstended Life Apex worms that Alexander and his partner, Paul Williams, have recently invented.

“What should we fish with, Gary? You’re the guide today because you know this water,” Bill asked. “Well, the bass are done spawning as of a few weeks back, so they might be hanging back from the shoreline reeds and in deeper water or not. They might be feeding on their own fry, in shallow. Who knows?” Gary replied. Bill quipped back quickly. “You mean you don’t know.”

“Every day of fishing is different, Big Bill, you know that. It could be the new moon phase, the sunrise clouds, the early overcast fog, or it could be that you just got up too early, Bill. Or maybe…you got me up too early!” Never let your guard down on senior fun fishing days.

I looked toward Gary to say, “I liked where we fished here in Lake Rochelle last time, over there where that big gator hangs out.” I was pointing across the lake to an underwater point with sky-seeking reeds that was also near a quick drop-off. “That’s what I was thinking, too,” Gary replied. The big motor roared to life, we popped out of the hole and were skimming along the smooth lake surface at cheek-waffle speed.

MTO Lure inventor Bill Alexander says, “Not all the fish we catch are giants, but these little guys make the fishing day fun and test the durability of our new Xstended Life Apex plastic worms. You can catch multiple fish without changing this worm.”

About 5 minutes later, Gary plopped the MinnKota Terrova electric bow motor into the water, and we were rigging up lines. The remote control Bluetooth link made it easy for Gary to position the boat to shallow or deep.

Bill tied on an Xstended Life soft bait, a 5-1/4 inch Apex worm in green/red fleck color, using a 4/0 circle hook. I did the same with a blue-black Apex worm, and Gary tied a similar soft plastic tail bait onto a wobble jig. With about 10 casts each, there were no strikes and no fish yet. A few minutes later, I checked my watch to share that it was 8:55 a.m., breakfast time for big old bass looking for big old fishing buddies ready to take their picture. Not a minute later, Bill said, “Fish on! This one is not big guys, but it’s a nice healthy Florida largemouth about a foot long.” Grinning, I said, “They must have heard me, brother Big Bill.” Bill said, “First fish in, guys, pay up.” Bill is a master talker, a great storyteller, and a great friend. Another 45 minutes passed, and Bill yelped, “Well, guys, looks like I got the first fish, the biggest fish, and the moist fish. Bingo, bango, bongo. It’s gonna cost ya’ll.” It’s easy to start speaking Florida English when you’re in Florida, even for just a few months. Bill was developing an accent.

“It’s time to switch, guys.” Gary picked up his first-generation Bass-Pro casting reel bought way back in the 80s – a fishing reel he loves, and tied on a short Berkley Lightning Shad in white-silver color. I switched to a small floating-diving crankbait from Al’s Goldfish Lures called the “Diving Demon.” One of my favorite lures, it dives no deeper than 3-4 feet, no matter how hard or fast you crank. Bill said, “I’m sticking with my worm.”

About two casts later, I had a fish on and pulled a nice 2-pounder into the boat. About 30 seconds later, Gary caught three fish on successive casts. Gary said, “What’s the matter, Bill? Did you spit on the knot and scare the fish away? The fish don’t like you, buddy.” Not exactly sandpaper on sandpaper, but hearty laughs and grins. Then over the next hour, we caught four more fish, Bill too, and the fish bite just plainly turned off. It was 10:30 a.m., and we all knew it was time for man-to-man jaw talk when the fish stopped biting.

Well-maintained “elder” fishing gear works as well or is better than some modern hi-tech fishing tackle.

We always share good talk, usually about things we’ve discovered in life and fishing. Gary is from Oswego, NY; Bill is from near Sylvan Beach, NY; and I was born and raised in western New York near East Aurora. We all accept that Southwest Florida is a great place to escape snow shoveling. We talked about life and cost of living, the differences between New York and Florida, taxes and gas prices. And how census numbers the day before where New York lost 299,500 residents in 2022 while Florida gained 315,000 new Florida residents the same year. “It must be the great fishing guys!” I added. “It could have more to do with taxes,” Gary said. “Let’s not talk about politics, you guys. C’mon.” Bill garbled. Then added, “The water temp is nearly 80 degrees, guys, it’s siesta time for the fish.”

The surface water temperature was approaching 80 early in the day.

We switched our no-fish-biting talk over to lure choices to try now. We covered surface lures, plastic baits, swimbaits, crankbaits, jigs, hair bodies, soft bodies, and plastic worms and their pliability and durability. That led us to talk about lure size and plastic worms. I threw in that I fished with Rick Clunn in the Red River a few years back, and Rick says, “Fish with a 12-inch plastic worm to win the tournament or not, and just one more fisherman in the crowd.” Gary said, “It’s true that bigger lures catch bigger fish or no fish. I won a NY Bass tournament that way once a few years back.” I asked how long ago, and Gary said, “Not that long. It was in the late 90s.” We all laughed. How time flies as we get a bit older.

Our conversation between casts was better than Abbott and Costello telling their story about WHO was on first and WHAT was on second and who and what has changed since then. That took us to cellphones…flip-tops and smartphones, laptops, the internet, grocery delivery to the door, online banking and what it all means. No face-to-face conservation and no touch or emotion between people. That’s when Bill said, “Hey Gary, where are you hiding the fish? Let’s get the sandwiches out and head to another lake in the system.”

As we near the end of the trip, Gary Days says, “I normally save these little ones for Bill.”

Five seconds later, Gary hollered, “Lines up, guys. Get the bread out. Time to move.” He lifted the bow motor, turned the ignition key and the Merc outboard growled to life. Off we went. I love that Merc sound as you begin to feel airborne. Ten minutes later, sandwiches and ice-cold water in hand, we idled into a narrow canal to enter Lake Haines, and watched for ospreys and eagles. Lake Haines is another pothole-style Florida lake. The deepest water is about 18 feet. Gary said, “I don’t fish this lake too often, but sometimes you gotta stick your nose where the wild roses grow. Maybe they’re biting here.”  A broken 5-acre field of water hyacinth patches was floating in front of the canal entry. Heavy wind the previous day had broken them off from their shallow roots near shore.

Bill stood up to cast the first line where the edge of weeds and reeds was about 4 feet deep in clear water. A 30-foot cast, his line immediately moved left, then right, as Bill lifted the rod to hook up with a nice bass – his biggest bass for the day. Smiling ear to ear, “That’s how you do it, guys. Were you watching? Gary? Forrest? Of course, you know I just jinxed us. First cast, first fish in the new lake, we’ll be lucky to catch one more.” Bill’s prediction turned out to be right on. About an hour went by with no hits.

We turned our talk to fishing lures from long ago that we still have and still use and still work, and we laughed a lot. We talked about new lifestyles in winter: fishing and golf and watching spring training baseball games. We also talked about the new pains and aches we all are developing and that, at least for me, I hide with a patented arthritis grin that can fool anyone. We talked about fishing and hunting and how most outdoor sportsmen enjoy everything in between. Our discourse about lures, line brands, rods, reels and fishing gear changes went into great detail.

We agreed that the increasing multitude of American tournament bass fishing contests today might not be good for the fish but was good for the local economies and the tournament owners. We yakked more and laughed a lot. Non-stop. We deliberated taking affordable Canadian fishing trips with friends – in the summer.

The fish needed to be biting better on this day, yet we brought seven non-whopper bass and a giant bluegill to the boat. The lack of non-stop fishing action was great for talking time. The yapping talk and laughing helped us forget everything else on our calendars as we roughed it out from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We spoke about notable quips and quotes we have heard through the years, like this one: “Remember that without bread, there can be no toast. Without friends, there can be no fun.” So true.

Keep your bread and your friends close.

We headed home.

Fishing with friends on a warm and sunny day in Florida is healthy for the mind and soul.

 

Wacky Worms that LAST: Flip ‘em, Skip ‘em, but You Can’t Rip ‘em OFF

  • Ever catch 10 bass on the same plastic worm? Nobody has! Be honest. BUT I JUST DID!
  • Patent-pending plastic baits with TANTALIZING soft action, multiple color choices, scent-impregnated, chewy and DURABLE.
  • Xstended Life Bait APEX STICK WORM from MTO Lure Company
Using 4/0 circle hooks and the Apex Stick Worm from Xstended Life Baits, every hookup was perfect. This was bass #4 on the same worm. One key to catching quick multiple fish was tossing right back to the same spot with no loss in time. Reason? We did not lose any of the wacky-rigged Apex Stick Worms…for the whole day! Astonishing!  

By Forrest Fisher

When former Elite Series bass Pro, Darrin Schwenckbeck, shared that he was winning local lake tournaments in New York State because of a new plastic worm, I had to ask more. Does it have a unique smell? Special shape? Is color the difference? New color? Where did you get it? “No to all of that.” He said, “I gotta get you in touch with my buddy, Bill Alexander. I think he has something here that will be a big hit in the fishing world. Tell him I asked you to contact him, and maybe he can send you some of these to try. He calls them Apex Stick Worms – they don’t break off the hook when you hook a fish. Above that, they are supple, and they cast like a bullet. Easy to skip off rocks or docks and rip through weeds with no torn-off worms. You’re going to love these things. I’ll text you his contact info.”  

I trust Darrin’s judgment, but I was still a little skeptical about a plastic worm that does not break off. What about the action? So a few minutes later, I talked to jovial and knowledgeable Bill Alexander, an amateur angler who has fished the pro circuits, won a few, and recently retired from the aerospace manufacturing world. Not a lazy guy, Alexander promised to invent a better plastic bait product that would last. Alexander said, “I love to fish plastic worms wacky style…you know, hooked in the middle without using an o-ring, so the hook is in the right position for every cast – it’s hooked through the worm itself. Much better hook-up ratio. This method is so deadly, but the one problem is that fish bite the worm off, and you go through bags of worm baits to keep fishing. It’s expensive, and I hate to waste time re-rigging, not to mention we are leaving plastic worms all over the lake. It’s another form of contamination. Our baits are made from recyclable plastic and it does not melt in your tackle box.” Alexander added, “After several years of prototype manufacturing with my partner, Paul Williams, we worked to develop a new plastic worm bait that can help everyone: parents fishing with kids or pro anglers fishing for big cash. Both groups can have more fishing fun.” Adding a wide, ear-to-ear grin, Alexander said, “One last thing, you know our packaging is not fancy, but I never caught a bass on the package before.” 

Alexander is a confident, soft-spoken, humble sort of guy. Not sure he realizes that his invention might change the plastic bait fishing world. Especially with on-the-water trials from Elite Series bass-pro anglers like Schwenckbeck and others. They gave their new, patent-pending product line the name of Xstended Life Baits, manufactured by the MTO Lure Company. The process can be used with plastic worms, drop-shot baits, creature baits, chatter-bait trailers, and more. See a listing of Xstended Life baits farther into the story. 

The APEX STICK WORM requires about 5 seconds of a scissors clip to separate from the as-shipped packaging shown above. Easy to cast, thick and hefty in appearance, 5-1/4 inches long, and available in four or five color combinations. Fished wacky style, they require NO USE of an ORING; the result is more hook-ups with each strike.

Ask yourself how hard it would be to introduce something new in the plastic bait fishing market. Why would that be hard? Because they all have the same flaw. They all break off quickly. That’s what Bill Alexander wanted to fix. That’s what he and Paul Williams have fixed! Plus, there are endless plastic bait styles, sizes, colors, and shapes. You get the picture. To make something new would be difficult.

Not long after, Alexander invited me to test their new Apex Stick Worm in a challenge with one of his long-time tournament boating partners, Gary Day. Of course, I accepted in a micro-blink! A few weeks later, we were bass fishing on a freshwater lake near Lakeland, Florida. Both of these guys are fun-minded fishermen but with a heavy focus on fish-catching. The challenge was to see how many fish (bass) I could catch using just ONE of the new plastic Apex Stickbait worms that Alexander and Williams had invented and perfected. 

Dubbed the APEX STICK WORM,” I was immediately impressed with the perfect size, feel, and weight of the worm. Easy to cast, thick and hefty in appearance – the look and size of the worm (5-1/4 inches) that big bass see and suck in without hesitation. And, in my sweetheart color choice, my favorite for Florida stained-lakes: Blue-black with embedded microscopic blue/gold/red flakes. “Ooooh, I whispered out loud after looking over four or five color combinations that Bill offered to try. Can I hook one of these up?” 

“The way we sell them right now,” Bill said, “A pair of Fisker scissors (Walmart) is used to separate them from each other. You do that the night before the tournament. Try it.” I cut the mesh to separate one worm from the 5-pack cluster of worms held together by the screen-like mesh material.

We may sell them a different way in the future, pre-separated, but for now, the patented material and manufacturing process provides the product in this manner.” I had no problem with the 5-second scissors effort.   

With a 4/0 circle hook in my left hand, I lifted the worm straight overhead with my right hand and peered along its length to select the approximate middle of the worm for hook placement. As I moved to thread the hook into the worm, Bill said, “Now watch the tiny seamline and thread the hook across that to get the best action and durability.” So I did. Bill used a different color, and Gary used a different color yet.

A moment later, rods ready, the 200 horsepower Merc lifted Gary’s 19-foot Ranger out of the hole in a moment and away we went. Joking and quipping as we skipped across the lake at about 55 mph, the warm Florida sunshine made the start of this day perfect.

Inventor, Bill Alexander, checks his Apex Stick Worm after landing 7 bass to this point. “Ready for more,” he grins.

About 5 minutes later, Gary slowed up and said, “Let’s start here, there is a sand bar and weed line edge along these reeds, and there may be some good bass on this structure.” He switched the motor off, hopped up front and dropped the electric bow motor. We silently scooted closer to the start point of our fishing. “I brought some neighbor kids out here the other day, and we caught some nice fish. That’s why I’d like to start here.”

A few seconds later, the Talon silently slid into the sand to steady the boat about 50 feet from the reeds. Gary advised that we cast into the reeds, along the reeds or out into the open lake side until we find where the fish are. 

All of us started with open-face spinning reels and braided line. Gary was upfront casting that way, Bill in the middle casting into the beckoning reeds, and I was in the back casting toward the transitional weed edge in the deeper open water. Not more than 10 minutes later, Gary yelped, “There’s one! Here’s a good one, guys. I’m hooked up with a nice one.” Not long after, Bill slipped the net under a bass that checked in at 5-11 on the Rapala scale. What a nice fish to start the day. We took a picture and carefully released this nice whopper. About 5 minutes later, I was slowly reeling and stopping, reeling and stopping, to let the wacky-rigged worm undulate downward as it settled into the deep weed edge. I felt the slightest tap-tap tap on my St. Croix Avid rod. The circle hook did an excellent job, and by lifting the rod gently and reeling, the fish was on. A few minutes later, we checked in that beautiful bass at 4-13.

Only 30 minutes on the water, I was hoping that Bill wasn’t getting tired from his net-man job. We joked about that. Gary moved the boat down along the reed a few minutes later, and on the first cast in the new spot, Bill hollered, “Hey, there’s one, guys! Got ‘em.” I ran over to pick up the net as the fish was acrobatic, dancing all over the surface as Bill battled another whopper. That one checked in at 4-14. Wow. 

“We’re all still using the same worm we started with,” Bill said, smiling. Over the next 4 hours, the three of us caught 26 bass – all of us using the same worm we started with.

All of us were fishing wacky style. Gary had caught 10 on his one worm.

Some fish were caught along the deep weedline transition, some in the reeds, and others under the boat docks as we skip-cast into the shadow line at high noon.

As we watched an alligator snoozing on shore, we gave the rods a rest to share a sandwich lunch from Bill, some turkey sticks and ice water that my better half had packed up in the shoulder-carry Grizzly cooler. We talked about the incredible fishing and these amazing, durable plastic worms. Just then, an Osprey soared overhead a hundred feet away, hovering high above some schooling baitfish.

Gary said, “I think that bird is telling us it’s time to pack up and head for home, guys.” 

Learn more about the Xstended Life Bait products by watching the online YouTube videos from Northeast Bass Fishing with Mark Filipini at https://youtu.be/zCXFiLl-43c. You can order this new product directly from MTO Lures at PO Box 286, Sylvan Beach, NY, 13157. For prices and info, simply email Paul Williams at Pwilliams9@twcny.rr.com or Bill Alexander at walexander2@twcny.rr.com

CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE to visit Northeast Bass Fishing (https://youtu.be/zCXFiLl-43c) with Mark Filippini on YouTube for more details on these new durable plastic baits. A sample pack that includes 5 Apex Stick Worms, 4 Predator Drop-Shot baits, 4 Icicle Drop-Shot baits and 4 NED Rig-style baits is available. To learn more about low-cost pricing, simply Email Paul Williams at Pwilliams9@twcny.rr.com or Bill Alexander at Walexander2@twcny.rr.com for details. 

Tasty Chicken Wings…It’s Football Playoff Finger-Food Time!

  • Crispy chicken wings or meaty chicken drumsticks – perfect for football games!
  • You can fry, grill, smoke, or bake the wings at the tailgate or the house.
  • Dust your wings with Trail Dust, Cajun Cowboy, or Pineapple Siracha seasoning for more kick.
  • The Hi Mountain Seasonings Chicken Wing Bundle (www.himtnjerky.com) has everything needed for the perfect taste.

By Forrest Fisher

The 2023 football playoffs are finally here! As you gather with family and friends, folks are chomping at the bit to celebrate a team they love. Whether you’re planning a tailgate party or a house party, be prepared to serve drop-in guests the best in delicious quick-finger foods. 

My better half and I usually prepare a supply of wild game meats to be cooked in a potpourri-style venue with our favorite dips and sauces for post-pot dunking on the side. Then we back that up with pre-cooked chicken wings or meaty chicken drumsticks from our air fryer at home. If we tailgate, we put them in a pot and warm them up at the tailgate on a portable cooker, but they are good cold too! Everyone loves mouth-watering chicken wings. Of course, you can fry, grill, smoke, or bake the wings at the tailgate or the house. Delicious, however you cook them.

Whatever cooking method you choose, they’re ready to eat when they hit 165F internal temperature. We use the Hi Mountain Seasonings Chicken Wing Bundle (www.himtnjerky.com) to make scrumptious wings. You brush on some olive oil and dust your wings with Trail Dust, Cajun Cowboy, or Pineapple Siracha seasoning for a little more kick. It’s all included in the bundle package, including classic Blue Cheese Dressing and Dip. It’s everything you need for a pre-game football party or a halftime household gala event. 

Need chicken wing recipe options? Download the award-winning collection of their mouth-watering wing recipes. It’s free: https://store-4fsmn3bxeo.mybigcommerce.com/content/pdfs/HMJ_Wings%20Recipies_Final_O.pdf. Or, you can call 1-800-829-2285 to get your chicken wing, dipping sauce and jerky supplies quickly. My better have and I love this stuff!

Touch, See and Feel Undersea Life in Branson

  • It starts with a short, virtual, 3D submarine adventure ride to the bottom of the sea…where you buckle up.
  • Gain up-close and personal physical contact with a variety of friendly sea creatures in the touch pool. 
  • Visit the Lionfish! They get their name from their long, colorful fin rays that resemble a lion’s mane.
Lionfish get their name from their long, colorful fin rays that resemble a lion’s mane.

By Forrest Fisher

The mountain darkness was so very welcoming during an early rise and shine morning to go fishing in Branson, Mo.  As I sipped a hot cup of coffee, the daybreak air was fresh with a sweet smell of morning dew. It was revitalizing. We drove toward Branson in the nightfall, and as we turned the corner to Main Street, we discovered the highway strip was alive with lights and displays. It was dazzling. One lighting array that caught my eye was a giant octopus. It was large enough to surround the building below it. The octopus appeared alive and moving with glimmering blue, green, purple and silver flickering reflections of backlit lights. It is a spectacular light display.

My friend and driver, Jim Zaleski, was familiar with Branson and mentioned that it has modernized and grown in the last five years. “This giant octopus marks the entryway to the new Aquarium-at-the-Boardwalk. If you have not visited that place, you should go there before you head home. It’s all saltwater ocean life oriented and cool, especially for big kids like you.” Our trips are filled with a bit of bantering.

Later that day, I mentioned the Aquarium to my bride of 53 years – she wanted to visit immediately, as Rose is a renowned venue explorer. I hurried through the shower, and away we went! After entry, the mesmerizing venue provides a walking journey of the undersea ocean world. It all starts with a short, virtual, 3D submarine adventure ride to the bottom of the sea. We sat in a large armchair with a safety belt. All hooked up; we met Aquarius the octopus and Finn the puffer fish as the sub took us to a remote and notably secret ocean location observatory. As we stepped off the submarine, Finn mentioned, “We are about to learn more about the oceans, fish, sea creatures, and the importance of weeds and kelp. Watch your step.”

One thing about the incredible walk-through exhibits, you can see the tops and bottoms of the many finny critters of the sea. My better half discovered that fish and sharks have peering eye expressions and fishy smiles. 

Our walking journey in the Aquarium continued, and we discovered that fish and sharks have peering eye expressions and fishy smiles…we never knew about those before. It provided more than one ah-hah moment for me. The nose-to-nose views of many colorful fish species and amazing sea creatures, including seahorses, jellyfish, octopus and eels, provided captivating and thought-stimulating flashes for a new voyage and realization of sea life. We both felt lifted to a new level of respect for sea life and conservation.

The Aquarium building is large and comfortable at just under 50,000 square feet. The displays deliver a measure of viewable magic that you are free to capture if you bring a camera, which is allowed, to relive these moments.

One thing about the incredible walk-through exhibits, you can see the tops and bottoms of the many finny critters of the sea. You stand above them as they swim below you in places, and they swim above you in areas. You look straight up to see them in other places. The 360-degree walk-around displays in the jellyfish infinity room, the fantastic sting rays tank, and the coral reef display provide new views of undersea life.

The Aquarium offers more than 7,200 critters – many forms of sea life, fish, animals, and creatures to view. Impressive….and astonishing.

Kids and adults alike can enjoy bonus moments of discovery with interactive fun at the touch pool. We were able to gain up-close and personal physical contact with a variety of friendly sea creatures. The touchy-feely sensation is a discovery moment for everyone.

With each display, the Aquarium focuses on fun with a wide variety of interactive and entertaining activities – there are more than 7,200 critters, forms of sea life, fish, animals, and creatures in the building. Kids may help make discoveries to help the fishes of the sea and people of the world learn much more about life and science. Together.

This is one stop we had o make, and I can still sense the power of learning more about the oceans as we drive home.

#bransonaglow2022

Life Lessons from the Natural World

  • Early lessons in life help shape the future of our young people. Teachers can help. 
  • My students taught me that nature and conservation are important in today’s world.
  • The students brought in venison, rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant – suddenly, the world was a better place.
I learned that when we allow students to have a voice in the classroom about nature, the whole world learns to be a better place. My students learned to help each other. Forrest Fisher photo

By Bob Holzhei

I was fortunate to grow up on a family farm in the 1950s, in the outdoors.  I learned many lessons early in life that shaped my future.

Daily chores included sweeping the grain elevator and shoveling oats, wheat, or navy beans into the “pit” where the grain was transferred upstairs into grain bins for storage.

The first lesson I learned was to work up to my dad’s expectations.  If I fell short, there was no supper provided that evening.  True fact.

Books by the author provide a trail to discovering new, life-changing energy and a path to coaching others in a new role. Forrest Fisher photo

It only took one lesson to teach me.

My father was neither mean nor cruel, simply clear of his expectations.  That lesson would shape my future and lead to my graduation from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  I became a teacher.

I student taught at St. Johns High School and was eventually offered a teaching position, retiring following 37 years of service there.

Over those years, I learned there are two kinds of smart: book smart and hands-on smart.

The book smart folks went to college while the hands-on smart folks excelled in various skilled trades.  Both types of “smart” are essential, more now than ever!

I taught two classes of hands-on smart students.  I discovered early as a teacher that one needed to meet each student where they were in life to move them ahead.

Each year after meeting a new class, the students would learn to call me “Uncle Bob.” A student asked me, “Hey, Uncle Bob, can we have a wild game after-school dinner feast if we all get our school work in?”

“You bet,” was my reply.

One message I learned was that overcoming adversity leads to realizing new inspiration and linking to new goals. It’s not about fiction – but it is as fragile as a glass in the wind. We must work to keep our goals in front. Forrest Fisher photo

Over those years, the entourage of students taught me a vital teacher lesson.  Instead of prodding the class to get work in, I had the students that finished their work early help those who lagged behind.

The classroom became a dynamic hands-on experience.

The day of the wild game meal arrived, and I had reserved the home economics room to hold the celebration.  The students brought in venison, rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant.  Suddenly, my principal arrived and asked, “How in the hell can you justify this?  I want to see you in my office after school!”

I humbly whispered to him, “Real easy, look over there at that table.  See the boy eating off the other students’ plate?  He didn’t have breakfast this morning and can’t afford to buy a school lunch.”

Still, the principal left the home economics room very angry.

The principal learned that the sweet-smelling aroma from perfectly cooked rabbits, squirrels, and deer can bring folks together to appreciate each other and nature. Forrest Fisher photo

After school, I went to the principal’s office.

“You wanted to see me,” I stated.

“Not anymore.  I don’t know what you do to motivate those losers; just keep doing it.”

I followed with a response.  “Shame on you!  Every student deserves to have an equal opportunity for a good education.  To only focus on the book smart kids whose parents own businesses in town is wrong!”

Another lesson learned from my students!

Wild game food provided a pathway to celebrate accomplishment among my students, leading the way to a much-improved classroom life for everyone.  The principal learned that the sweet-smelling aroma from perfectly cooked rabbits, squirrels, and deer can bring folks together to appreciate each other and nature.

Life lessons have extended to a well-deserved destination when the classroom and conservation come together.

Editor Note – About the Author: Robert E. Holzhei is an inspirational factual and fictional author, he has published more than 425 outdoor travel stories and several motivsational books, including The Mountains Shall Depart (2017), The Hills Shall Be Removed (2018), Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure (1993), and Alaskan Spirit Journey (1999). He is the recipient of five national writing awards from the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), including 1st Place in the Best of Best Newspaper Story, and multiple additional awards for writing (including three presidential awards). He has also been recognized by the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association and the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. His books can be found for purchase on Amazon.

 

 

Learn about Saltwater Fishing…for Kids, Adults (online/interactive fun game)

  • Get hooked on marine conservation with an interactive online game
  • Easy to use, fun to watch, educational, instructive 
  • For kids and adults

By Forrest Fisher (in support of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for Educational Youth Outreach).

As students return to the classroom for the new 2022 school year, educators and parents can encourage continued learning about conservation and the outdoors through the fun of fishing. Check out the “Gone Fishin” game below! 

Click on “Let’s Go Fishing,” and the game takes you to another screen where you can choose fishing By Boat or By Shore. Very cool.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in partnership with “Pubbly,” a digital education company, created five interactive games that engage and educate students on marine fisheries conservation. Jump in and make a splash this school year with interactive games today at FloridaFishing.Pubbly.com. 

Take a virtual fishing trip, match habitats with Florida fish species, remove trash and invasive lionfish from a reef, learn proper fish handling techniques and complete a virtual fish dissection.

From above, I choose “By Shore,” and the game takes us to a checklist of things to bring along (see below, on the left). As you click on each item, an illustration pops up and provides a useful and friendly audio message with details to know. Very cool.

Games are geared for fourth grade and up but can be enjoyed by students and adults of all ages. Once you finish the checklist and click “Ready,” the screen changes to a beach scene where the viewer can cast a line, catch a fish, learn about catch and release or keep and clean. Very cool.

One other very useful item is fish identification. There are many species of saltwater fish that swim in saltwater. Many of them are similar, but the program provides pictures and explanations about the fish.

Click on the picture to lean more about Lane Snapper. Many other species are provided in the Fish ID portion of the saltwater outreach and education programs. See the link at the left.

These activities bring marine science to your fingertips, providing accessible education to your home or classroom and tips to use when you head out on your saltwater fishing trips. Very cool.

Learn more about FWC’s saltwater outreach and education programs at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Outreach & Education Programs.” There are multiple programs to help everyone learn more about fishing in saltwater (freshwater too).  For questions, contact Marine@MyFWC.com or 850-487-0554. 

Click on the picture above to reach this FWC education outreach page.

 

Your purchase of fishing equipment, motorboat fuel and a fishing license supports aquatic education and outreach efforts. Learn more at MyFWC.com/SFR. See more about the details of where your money goes when you buy a license and fishing gear.  Click the picture below.  Note: All illustrations and photographs have been furnished by Florida FWC and FloridaFishing.Pubbly.com

Casting the Caloosahatchee – Saltwater Fishing Fun

  • Forage fish, predatory fish, wildlife, nature critters…and people in boats – all share in the bounty provided near Sanibel Island and nearby Estuaries. 
  • Fishing friends gather, stories form and grow, grins occur, and life is good with fishing. 

By Forrest Fisher

Sunshine and grins are a big part of fishing with friends, especially on the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers. Fishes and nature abound here.

As my grandson and I turned the corner to head toward the boat landing, a spectacular sunrise moment in full bloom appeared before us. The morning cloud formations in brilliant “glow orange” were above description. The white puffs were soaring up to 40,000 feet or more and reflecting with the glimmering orange radiance of the sunrise yet below our visible horizon. It was spooky, it was cool, and it was fantastic – all at the same time.

The white puffs of clouds were soaring with the glimmering orange radiance of the sunrise yet below our visible horizon. It was spooky, it was excellent, and it was fantastic – all at the same time. 

“Good morning, guys! There’s hot coffee over here,” hollered Rich Perez and his dad, Rich Perez, Sr. It was 6:28 a.m., and they were both loading up the 2-wheeled gear-carry tram to move our fishing rods, tackle, coolers and foodstuffs from the parking area to dock and the boat. Grinning with his usual positive anticipation for the day ahead and looking at the tram, Rich Sr. said, “This thing is such a blessing!” A seagull hollered approval as he flew over our group and may have scented a whiff of Italian sub sandwiches below as if to ask, “Got anything down there for me?” Somehow the seagulls always know where to look for their next food morsel, especially near the beach.

My grandson Collin, myself, a neighbor friend Dustin, Rich Sr. and Rich – the five of us loaded the boat and headed down the Caloosahatchee River with grins for the day ahead and anticipation for tight lines to be shared. The 300HP Yamaha on the stern quickly poked the 24-foot Key West center console bay boat up to 40 mph. As we approached the Cape Coral Bridge, Rich hollered and pointed to see all the fish rising just off the main channel. In the approximately 1-mile-wide river section, we watched seagulls dive for baitfish pushed toward the surface by predator fish below. We saw an occasional fin or two as the fish would sweep and roll over to grab their breakfast.

Collin Voss with the first fish of the day, a young-of-the-year Jack Crevalle. His first “Catch and Release” of the day.

“Guys, let’s get some spoons tied on and see what those fish are,” Rich added. Collin tossed a ½-ounce Johnson Silver Sprite spoon near the mixing boils about 50 feet from the boat. His first cast yielded a nice 20-inch ladyfish, then another and another – the kid was on ladyfish fire. ”There’s another one!” he said. Rich suggested we keep a few of these for cut bait if we couldn’t find any pilchards with the cast net later. We all traded the casting rods to share in the brief fun. Collin caught his first-ever Jack Crevalle during the baitfish melee. A little one, but we had to take a pic.

The sun had just popped up behind us as we headed under the 90-foot-high span of the Cape Coral Bridge. The boat traffic was minimal, a good thing, but it was early. We slowed for the two no-wake zones along the way to protect shallow water migrating Manatee from boat damage. We waved to other recreational boaters and anglers alike, and everyone was happy to be sharing the day. Then we headed west under the Sanibel Causeway bridge and to Matanzas Pass near Fort Myers beach. We searched for full blooms of baitfish clouds on the sonar, hoping to find pilchards or threadfin herring. We checked all the usual bridge abutment spots, anchored pilings and permanent buoys, and Rich threw the 12-foot net, but the counts were nil. Just as we were set to depart the area, a young-of-the-year snowy egret landed on the bow. Apparently looking for a few minnows that he anticipated he could steal, but there were none. The white feathers of the bird and the black beak allow this bird to be startlingly beautiful to watch. It has been said by others that the white color signifies attributes of purity, dignity and tranquility, while black provides a symbol of mystery, elegance and sophistication. On we went to share in mystery and tranquility!

The Sabiki rig allowed us to catch about 30 threadfin shad for bait, plus the cut bait that we had from the ladyfish caught earlier.

Rich explained that although it takes a little more effort to catch and fish with bait fish, he added, “It is the hunt for the bait that tells what is going on with the fishery on the day we fish, and that this is all part of the challenge for a fishing day, at time. He added, “Live bait fish are still among the most effective ways to catch fish, wherever you fish.”  My grandson and I have fished with many friends that catch their baitfish in various ways. Everyone has their most effective personal style of capturing bait. No doubt, the cast net is the most effective where it is legal, but there are minnow traps, seine nets, pinfish traps and, of course, those trusty multi-hook Sabiki rigs. The Sabiki rig is for when the bait is too deep or is quicker than the descending cast net. Only moments later, “What do you guys think? Should we try the Sabiki rigs?” We all signaled a hearty yeah. Tying these on with a 3-ounce bottom weight makes it easy to drop and lift in 10 to 20 feet of water. The rigs featured 7-hooks tied in dropper-loop style, and the sharp, tiny hooks were colored with chartreuse yellow imitation feathers. With an outgoing tide, we caught about 30 threadfins in just a few minutes after moving to deeper water near the bridge abutments. Rich drove around slowly to find the clouds of fish near the bottom. Hey, this bait fish fishing was fun!

Rich moved us to the isolated mangrove shoreline between Punta Creek and Jewfish Creek. The mangrove side was shallow, and in this location, the opposite side of the boat was near a sector of deep drop-offs linked up with the Okeechobee Waterway. A transitory fish channel. A fish hawk flew by just moments later and decided to hover over the boat. He might have spotted the cut bait Rich had prepared on the stern. We waved at him, and he moved on. A sight to see, but all the sea birds seemed hungry.

Dustin working the shadows with his skip-casting artform was looking for Snook hiding in the shade that might need a tasty tidbit of threadfin. 

Our day went on, moving from time to time, casting the live bait to the shadows on the mangrove side (Size 3/0 hooks with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader off 30-pound braid) and throwing DOA shrimp-style jigs on the deep water side. We enjoyed an excellent time fishing, some tasty sandwiches, cold beverages on ice in the Yeti, and jokes and laughter. We hooked up with many different fish species but lost many of them on this day. Rich Sr. had hooked up with three Snook that simply outsmarted his total control of rod, reel and drag. He had words that were shared with the intelligent fish, but then all that changed in just one quick instant.

Rich Sr. said, “Hey, I got one! Look at this” He lifted his rod and touted a giant blue crab on board. The crab immediately went into toe pinching mode, adding one more saga of yelping to the fish trip. Just then, a dolphin emerged a few feet from the boat. He, too, was fishing for a meal. Beautiful to see all these critters of nature in one day on the water.

Overall, Collin may have hooked and lost more fish than Rich Sr., but he simply shared a grin with each release that he called “good conservation practice.” Collin was dubbed with a new nickname before the trip ended. Nice going, “CR!” After a few quips from the fishing crew and hearty laughs, Collin said, “OK, what does the CR stand for?” Someone shared, “It means Catch and Release. You earned a new title, CR!” We all laughed out loud. Honestly, that was very unlike Collin; he was a sure hook and catch guy, but not today. He shouted out an answer to everybody on the boat, “Captain Rich, I need more practice. When can we fish again?!” Hearty laughs followed again.

Just then Rich hooked into something that was taking his 30-pound braid out on the drag setting. Whatever it was, the tug of war went on for about 10-minutes before Collin reached for the net. There is was, a nice Jack Crevalle. An adult this time.  Rich said, “Man these guys fight so hard!”

The trip was full of chuckling moments, the kind that lasts a lifetime in our minds of these extraordinary times to be remembered. We had caught Snook, Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish, and many forms of baitfish – those on rod and reel including Threadfin and Pilchards, and a blue crab, and we enjoyed the peace of observing many sea birds and a dolphin. All close-up.

As we watched the usual afternoon storm clouds forming on the eastern horizon, it was after 12 noon, and we had agreed with Captain Rich that it was time to head back. Just a mile from the boat dock, the clouds decided to open up with a sturdy fresh water rinse. All of us and our gear received a wash down. With the earlier temperature nearing 95 degrees, it felt good. I prayed with a silent Our Father, too, as we all heard the thunder claps and watched lightning strikes in the distance on each side of the river. A moment later, we were safe at the dock.

Thank you, Lord, for this day. Amen. I can’t wait until we fish again!

Boat Captain Rich Perez knows how to share the fun of fishing, even when you have to hunt for live bait. One awesome day on the water! Rich Perez photo.

 

Smoker Drumsticks…Simply Delicious! Easy-to-do

  • Easy-to-do
  • Simple ingredients

By Forrest Fisher

My grandson and I tried something new in the smoker getting ready for a Sunday family dinner celebration. Chicken drumsticks! A few weeks back, we found some huge chicken drumsticks at a local market in Arcadia, Florida. When we bought them, we vacuum-packed 13 of them for later use – that day was last weekend. It took about 3 hours to bring them up from freezer temp to room temp, then we seasoned them up in two groups. This was a first-time family taste experiment with chicken drumsticks, HUGE drumsticks. For reference on size, these 13 drumsticks weighed nearly 4.5 pounds!

The first group of 6 was prepared with a spice mix blended together in a small bowl:

  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs black pepper
  • 2 Tbs dried Cuban oregano (homegrown)
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • Then rub coat each drumstick with olive oil
  • Then sprinkle coat with the spice mix.

The second group of 7 used a blended spice mix quite different from the first group:

  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs smoky dry rub
  • 2 Tbs paprika
  • 2 Tbs ground sage
  • 2 Tbs onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • Then coat each drumstick with yellow mustard
  • Then sprinkle coat with this spice mix.

It didn’t take long to fire up the smoker with mesquite wood chips, 275F.  It took 2 hours to reach 170F internal on the whopper chicken legs.

In between, after 90 minutes, we flipped them over and brush-coated all of them with ½ cup of liquid chili sauce mix from Aldi’s that was thinned with ¼ cup of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar.

Then we smoked the coated drumsticks at the same temperature for another 30 minutes to harden and crisp up the skin.

In the future, we plan to try the same recipe in the oven and then again in the instant pot with the same formula.

We’ll be looking for taste vs time to do, but honestly, it will be tough to beat the real smoker cooking taste.

These smoker drumsticks were absolutely delicious! Just plain delicious! Worth the time (total = 3 hrs).

 

Lock Horns with the Sun and Win 

  • Hot Beach Day, 107 heat index…YOU NEED to chill with a cold beverage.
  • Avoid sunstroke and heat exhaustion by staying hydrated.
  • We found a lightweight carry-along friend to help ensure fun in the sun.

By Forrest Fisher

At 2 PM on July 2nd on a busy holiday weekend on a beach in Southwest Florida, the air temperature was 97 degrees, and the heat index was 107. That’s a hot day anywhere in the USA. The water in the Gulf of Mexico was crystal clear with a slightly bluish hue and a gentle surf, perfect for a treasure hunt walk. The goal is to find some unblemished sea shells and prehistoric shark teeth for which this beach is noted.

There were four of us, so two stayed back to sit on a blanket, hoping their twice-applied sunscreen would protect them but still allow a sun tan. Using a UV thermometer, the surface temperature of the sand measured 116 degrees. Ouch! Sandals were among the required beach gear. Finding a cold drink on a public beach at Stump Pass State Park (Florida) is impossible. No vendors are allowed, so you need to bring your own. A week before, we searched the web and found a hand-carry bag that allowed cellphones, wallets, and ice in one product gizmo. It is called the “Grizzly Carryall.” 

This soft-sided product is 32 liters big in volume and is very light when empty: 1 pound-14 ounces! Some of our other hard-sided coolers in that size weigh as much as 20 pounds when empty. They work well, but they weigh so much when adding ice and beverages, even with wheels that do not work well on sand. We loaded up the Grizzly Carryall with 8 cans of pre-chilled 12-ounce Coca-Cola’s, 6 pre-chilled 16-ounce plastic bottles of water, 4 pre-chilled 12-ounce bottles of V8 vegetable juice, and one 24-ounce jar of Margarita’s. We also tossed in two 6” x 6” x 2” frozen blue ice packs and a 4-pack of unbreakable cups. The Carryall has side pockets for phones, wallets, and car keys, and a spare inside pocket for an extra set of socks, sunscreen, sunglasses, underwear – or whatever. All the compartments are sealable with durable zippers to open/close.

The chilled beverages stayed ice-cold for the three hours we enjoyed the sweltering beach – on the hot sand, with no umbrella and no shade. True test. Honestly, we were all amazed. The ice-cold drinks tasted so good when we needed them. 

Also, the walk from the car to the beach with the Carryall is comfortable with a dual-locking handle strap above the main bag YKK zipper that brings tight closure to tote on your shoulder. It was still light, even with all those goodies on board. The Grizzly Carryall is leakproof, insulated, water-resistant, and handsome. The reflective, attractive, glacier blue outer cover helps maintain the chill inside, and the Carryall is guaranteed for life. Imagine that. It has a small retail price tag of $125 (we found it for $100) and a significant 32-liter volume with 4 YKK zipper pockets. One more time, it all weighs in at only 1 lb. – 14 oz. UNREAL. For physical size, it measures 14H x 18L x 8W in inches. 

This is one useful (fantastic) keep-me-cold, quality product with convenient minor storage for families that enjoy short trips anywhere when it’s hot or cold. I like this product. Visit https://www.grizzlycoolers.com/insulated-drifter-carry-all-totes/. 

Shark Tooth Hunting – Peace River near Arcadia

  • Look for gravel on the bottom, shovel in, dig, lift, drop into a floating sifter, shake out the sand. Place your hand underneath the sifter and lift up slightly, look for the teeth. There they are!
  • Place the teeth into a collection jar, get on to the next shovel-full. 
  • It’s not unusual to find several hundred shark teeth treasures in a single outing of just a few hours n the right spot. The right spot can be anywhere there is gravel on the bottom. Dig there. No teeth? Move on a few feet away, try again. 

By Forrest Fisher

Buck called me in the afternoon. It was a Tuesday. He said, “Hey dude, I was thinking about taking my rig out of Arcadia and heading upriver for a shark tooth dig. Wanna go?” Of course, I said, “SURE! What time?!” He said, “Can you be at my house around 830ish? Then we’ll head out.” He added, “Just bring your big sifter and a shovel.” I said, “I’ll pack us some water and a sandwich for when we take a break; sound OK?” Buck replied, “Yea, that’s great.”

Buck was waiting at the door when I arrived, but I asked, “Can I see your teeth collection one more time?” He said, “Sure, come on in.” Inside his living room, there are two giant glass cases, each standing about 6-feet tall. Each has several glass shelves, and each shelf has several mounted picture-style frames of Megalodon shark teeth. Some are shiny, others are dull in color, some are black, others gray, others brownish. I could only simply say, “Wow, these are fantastic.” Buck said, “OK, let’s go.”    

Buck has a handrail built onto the boat to provide balance for standing. Note the campground in the back of the picture. Shark teeth abound here, and usually get renewed with every large rainfall.

Buck is an 80-year-old man who thinks and acts like a 40-year old. Buck is a cancer survivor, doesn’t smoke or drink. Still, he occasionally shares colorful word expressions, especially when he is driving. He says, “Florida drivers just don’t follow the rules. No turn signals. No stopping at stop signs. No common sense, for the most part, they pass on the right! Speeding too, and the sheriffs must be blind or lazy. They let it all happen right in front of them. I’ve watched it. I make up new words when these things happen, so please forgive those moments.” He smiled. “Really bugs me when folks here don’t follow the traffic safety laws. I’m from New York near Albany, but I’ve been here more than 10 years now, and it is worse than ever.” I changed the subject and asked how far it was. He smiled again and said, “OK, I get it. Time for me to stop walloping new words. Sip your coffee.” No kidding, I was laughing so hard. This was honest fun.  

Buck is a tough old guy that doesn’t shirk his responsibilities to get the job done, whatever it is. He welded up a trailer to hold his 14-foot shark tooth hunting boat, then equipped it with a homemade 4-stroke air-cooled engine from Harbor Freight and attached a custom-made 10-foot shaft and propeller. Buck added a steel guard for the propeller after the first time out a few years back, so the prop could move the boat over very shallow water at high speed. He said, “I prefer to stay in the boat until I get to where I’m going. Hey, I’m getting a little older and getting into the water in the shallow rapids. You know, there could be potholes in the phosphorous bottom around the river. I could twist an ankle – that would hamper my digging style.” Yea, he was grinning all the way. He likes the power of that homemade boat engine sounding loud enough to scare the gators on both banks into submission. 

The boat is in the water at the Arcadia boat launch site, above, but note there are no dock or handrail facilities here. Just you, your boat, a rope, and your launch skills.

We launched on the steep bank at Arcadia Park near the American Legion Post. The Peace River was really low. The gauge at the bridge said 1.3 feet. Check the gage online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/02296750/#parameterCode=00065&period=P7D.

As we headed upriver, we waved to campers set up along the river on the west bank at Peace River Campground (https://peacerivercampground.com/). Just before that, we noticed one long gator that liked to sit in the sun on the eastern bank. He was there on the glistening, hot white sand, about 25 feet up the bank from the river. A beautiful critter. That gator just continued his sleeping lesson as we headed on by. Never even opened his eyes. “He’s tired,” said Buck. “Hope he stays up there, but no matter, we are going upriver another mile or so.” Then we came to an ancient railroad bridge, a trestle, with logs, all jammed along the structure’s base in several places. At relatively high speed, we skimmed over the tree branches with Buck throttling the motor down as we crossed the spot where the prop had to be lifted out of the water. It was a manual effort to do so, but Buck had no issue with it. He was grinning and talking to me at the same time. “Darn branches! No snakes to ward off, though. That’s good.” No fear in this guy.

In about 10 minutes, we slowed up and pulled over near the base of a large swamp oak that had fallen into the river. The bark was mostly worn off from the current, but the tree was more than 100 feet long. “You’ll like this spot. It has been a treasure finder place for me and my girlfriend.” Buck smiles and grins a lot for good reasons. He is an example of an age-old, golden-era American that is hard to find these days. He will address any issue just for a friendly talk based on what he understands about it. A fun guy. Someone who never stops learning from common sense and he builds on it with every hour of the day.

Using a shovel, sifter and his heavy-duty drag-style sea-flea rake, Buck probes the gravel bottom for shark tooth fossil treasures.

We moored the boat to shore and stepped into the river. It was about waist deep at the start but shallowed up as we moved back toward the middle of the river. I was using a square-ended shovel, he was using a sharp-nose shovel and a large, heavy sea flea rake that he bought at Bass Pro. He said, “I dig a few spots in the gravel bottom areas and sift each dig. Then, I rake that same area and hope to drag in anything that fell off or couldn’t fit onto the shovel blade. You know, that’s my method. I have found many, many Meg’s in this area here. I’m hoping you find one today.” I was still looking for my first Meg after 3-years of digging the Peace River and scouring the Gulf Coast beaches. I did not have a drag device, though. Next time.   

Over the next 3-hours, we talked to about 10 kayakers paddling upstream and downstream. We were about two miles from the campsites mentioned earlier. We found new gravel areas in the spot where we had stopped and probed with our dig and sift gear. We watched one water snake cross the river, and off he went, wanted nothing to do with us people. Buck said, “That’s the way it is most of the time, with gators too, unless it is mating season. The critters leave us alone. We like it that way.”

There were no Megalodon teeth this time, but we brought back several hundred beautiful, sharp-edge shark teeth. Primarily Bull/Dusky shark teeth, though several Mako, Tiger and Snaggle-Tooth (Hemipristis) shark teeth fossils were in the treasure pile too. A good friend and shark tooth expert and his wife, Tim and Jeanie (https://www.ebay.com/usr/sharkartguy?_trksid=p2047675.m3561.l2559), have shared that most of the shark teeth in the Peace River originate from the Miocene era (5-25 million years ago). They are genuinely ancient fossils. One reason why going on these river adventures is so exciting. We are looking at history from so long ago. Tim says, “We retired in SWFL to golf and fish, which we did for the first six weeks. Then we discovered shark teeth on the beach. The first thing we did was sell the golf clubs and spend less time fishing so we could collect shark teeth. WE LOVE SHARK TEETH! There are a lot of us out there like Tim and Jeanie and Buck. Me too. Buck is not a guide, Tim neither, but they love to share the fun of shark tooth hunting with folks they meet wherever they are. I was lucky to meet both of these folks through casual circumstances. Tim will give away shark tooth necklaces to the kids looking for teeth in the surf on the beach. Quite a “hello traveler” gesture.  

With his dig, sift, and drag method, Buck has done well.

The railroad trestle is quite old and is a navigational deterrent for power boaters, but kayakers make their way through with little trouble.

A boat journey in any float craft will provide a beautiful experience, as giant cypress trees, colorful birds, and butterflies abound. The moments afloat are unforgettable.

That handsome 10-foot alligator was still in the same elevated sand spot as we neared the boat launch on our way back. Not more than 300 yards upstream, several dozen camper folks were sitting in the river, on the bottom of 1-foot deep water. They were sifting gravel in the river near the spot locals call the “cliffs” with tiny shovels. It is a shallow area where the water in the river drops about 2-feet from the upstream to the downstream side of the rapids. They said, “We’re doing great!” Happy shark tooth hunters are a good sign to try that spot next time.

Of course, anyone can hunt for shark teeth in the Peace River. Access is mostly near the boat launch areas (https://myfwc.com/boating/boat-ramps-access/). Besides Arcadia, there are several other boat launch access areas including Brownsville, Zolfo Springs, Wauchula and others.

For our efforts, I weighed our shark tooth finds to realize we had nearly 14 ounces of shark tooth treasure in the jar. Not bad for a 3-hour effort.

Good luck to all.   

Birds on the Fly…Bang…Puff – Making Powderful Memories

Family Fun at a well-managed Florida Sporting Clay Course.

  • It’s a good idea before heading out – Discuss the obvious. At all times, treat the gun as if loaded.
  • Go over the common rules – Embed them even if you know them. Assure to use the proper gauge and ammo type, check it twice.
  • The shooter sequence  – The shotgun shell goes into the gun ONLY when on a shooting station and you are to fire.
  • A Problem? – If the gun does not fire, point the muzzle downrange and wait for a full 2-minutes. 
Shotgun Fun starts with safety as brothers, Jeffrey and Jonathan Liebler, pack up the golf cart for a day at FishHawk Sporting Clays in the swamp oak countryside near Lithia, FL.

By Forrest Fisher

When my 34-year old nephew, Jonathan Liebler, asked what I was doing the day of the baby shower party set for his beautiful wife, I had a solid answer. “I’m driving your Aunt to your moms’ house for the party, of course.” He replied, “Good, you know I found out that guys are not welcome at those events. I wanna invite you to check out the sporting clay club just down the road from there, are you in? Jeff (Jon’s brother) and I go there often. It’s such fun!” There was so much enthusiasm in his voice! I was blown away by his sheer energy and anticipation. How could I say anything else except, “OK, man, that sounds great!” I was pretty excited.

Registration is required and in just a few minutes, the formality is complete, and shooters are ready to go.
My grandson, Collin, places his SoundGear hearing protection into each ear canal. The cost of these innovative devices has come down in recent years.

Jon went on to explain, “Most folks shoot the usual over-under style shotguns, but any shotgun that holds two rounds can be used. I can’t wait to try out my new Berretta 12 gauge I recently bought, I got it used at a local gun show. I patterned it, and I’m pretty pleased that it seems to shoot well. Jeff is bringing his Mossberg over-under 12, what do you have Unc?” I replied, “Well, I have my favorite Berretta 20, the black onyx model, and my old Ithaca over/under 12 from the 1960s that I gave to your cousin, my grandson, Collin. He likes that gun,  he used it to shoot trap at his old high school trap team league. He got pretty good with that gun, they won the league 1st place trophy that year. You know Collin is with us down here in Florida now.” With excitement, Jon answered, “That’s great, let’s all go together then! And so we did.

When we arrived at FishHawk Sporting Clays in Lithia, Florida, it was about 11 a.m.  Jon and Jeff met us in the parking lot and there was that special, unmistakable, magic of new adventure and excitement in the air. The facility was modern, computerized for initial registration, and fully equipped with golf carts and rental gear, including shotguns, hearing protection, and ammo. In 10 minutes, we were set to go and provided with a trail map of the shooting station layout.  Impressive.

Back to the vehicles to get our firearms and ammo, we all talked about safety first. As we moved from truck to golf cart, we opened the breach of each gun and peaked down the barrel to check for a clear, shiny reflection to daylight at the other end. I picked up Jonathan’s gun and said, “Hey, who cleaned this gun?” My sly grin gave my joking a giveaway. They all laughed. We went over the safety stuff just like when the guys were kids, treating each gun as if it was loaded. We went over the process of shooting, never to load the gun until we were at the shooting station, then finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  After shooting, eject the spent ammo and move off the station, action open. Of course, eye and ear protection for the full time on the course.

Jonathan prepares to start the round and explains to the rest of us what he expected from each of the clay bird launchers.

When the family boys get together for a day at the shooting range, especially a sporting clay shooting range, it’s going to be a fun time. Especially when it’s a first-time sporting clay experience for one of the guys.  Jon explained the many course options as we headed down the cart trail to the range area. First-time sporting clay shooter, Collin Voss, motions toward the field and speaks to his cousin, “Can we go A then B, real quick?” Bang! Bang! Jon Liebler answers, “Nice shooting bro! You are really picking up the targets so quickly. The hardest thing about having not done this before is finding the targets as they go flying left to right, right to left, straight up and away, straight across and at you, or bouncing along the ground.” Voss answers, “It’s simple. Watch me.” Everybody laughed. Collin continued, “This is awesome fun. I love this sport.” Jon’s brother, 32-year-old Jeffrey answers, “Not bad for a bonehead kid bro.” Collin is just turning 21 this year. Everybody laughs again and the banter game is on.

Each registrant is issued an ID card and this card must be inserted at each shooting station. to turn it on. A central computer counts the number of birds you have used. Then at checkout, course fees apply.

Jon hollers above all the other group shooting sounds in the area, “Let’s go over to one of my favorite stations down the trail here, I think you’re gonna love it.  Jeff and I like this one to see if we are still on time with our hockey reflexes – it’s quick and it’s a challenge for us. See what you think.” Collin grins and gabbles back, “Uh-oh, are you guys setting me up again?”

In all, at FishHawk Sporting Clays in Lithia, Florida, there are two 8-station courses, one 11-station course and one super sporting clay course of 16 shooting stations.  Each station is denoted in a sequence via separately labeled trail marker colors (red, blue, white and green). Easy to follow on foot or in the golf cart. Each station offers from two to four clay bird release platforms. Some stations throw small clay discs (birds), and some toss regular-size clay discs. The type of target bird is noted on a clipboard hanging to the left of the shooter in the shooting platform. Type of small game or bird species. Each target as noted on the clipboard ID is a bit of a surprise. All of them are fun, especially when competition fun grows between family siblings.

Jon hollers, “How many in a row is that Jeff?” Articulate and deadly accurate, humble Jeff mumbles softly, “16, I think.” With a slight grin.

Jon hollers, “How many in a row is that Jeff?” Articulate and deadly accurate, humble Jeff mumbles softly, “16, I think.” He looks over my way with an unassuming grin, whispering, “Thanks for opening the door to all this stuff when we were kids. I remember it like yesterday, we were with my dad way back when at your East Aurora Fish and Game Club in New York. Those days were unforgettable.” I whisper back, “I know I’m getting old when I have to think about when that was.” Jon answers, “You brought me, my dad, and Jeff to the club, opened up the trap range and showed us how to hold the shotgun, aim with both eyes open, then lead the target and squeeze the trigger. You let me hold the release controller and with you holding a single-shot .410 gauge shotgun, told us to stand about shoulder-wide but to stand as comfortable as we could – as if we wanted to jump high and far. Then you said, hold the gun lightly and squeeze the trigger real soft.” I grinned from my heart that time.  Collin jumped in, “I wasn’t there for that, I wasn’t born yet!” We all laughed. “Move over little guy, who’s turn is it?” hollered Jon. Slowing things down a bit, Collin added, “But when you took me there, you placed a foam pad under my right shirt shoulder and said, pull the gun in sort of snug to my shoulder.  When the bird goes up, aim right at it, then squeeze the trigger.” You said, “You’ll get it after a few tries. Don’t worry if you miss it. It takes time. There’s no pressure, it’s just fun. You get to try again and again.” The kids didn’t know that on those first experience moments for them, I had set the machine to throw the birds straight away, making it a bit less complicated to powder a bird. By the time we left, it was a powdery day.

Jeff and I like this one to see if we are still on time with our hockey reflexes – it’s quick and it’s a challenge for us. See what you think.” Collin grins and gabbles back, “Uh-oh, are you guys setting me up…again?”  

As we navigated the well-managed course, there were no two shooting stations alike. The surrounding trees, swamps, ponds, hardwoods, pines, ground cover, and general terrain, were new and different at each stop. The differences changed the target presentation and provided a brand new shooter-view and illusion, a new challenge at each station. I thought the changes were very much like actual dove hunting, rabbit hunting, chukar, or pheasant hunting. Quick reflexes, distance judgment, target speed, and angle of flight adjustments are all required from the shooter.

The best news is that there is no closed season at a sporting clays range. When wildlife hunting seasons do open, the shooting skills of folks that practice on courses like this are better and far more accurate. During hunting season, it’s more fun in the open-season fields and woods. The shooter is trained and confident, and success feels good on the field and, later, on the dinner plate.

Thank you Fish Hawk, and thank you, Jonathan, Jeff and Collin. Was a pleasure and honor to watch each of you guys shoot safely…and so well. Each one of them is a powder-poker. Safe, efficient, accurate and full of fun. At the end of that day, I looked up and said, thank you, Lord.

To learn more about the official rules of sporting clays, be sure to check out this link: https://nsca.nssa-nsca.org/what-is-sporting-clays-2/.

Shark Tooth Hunting in the Peace River – Florida

Shark Teeth Anyone?! Ancient fossils that share a story of evolution.

  • Take a good cooler for food and beverages – protect yourself and friends from dehydration.
  • Gear includes a 15” x 24” gravel sifter, shovel and shark tooth collection jar.
  • Wear sneakers or beach shoes, pack a cell phone, emergency toilet paper, venom-extraction kit – and tell someone where you will be for the day. 

 

When carrying a sifting screen, shovel, sunscreen and food supplies, it was a VERY nice surprise to learn that our Grizzly cooler would float and was waterproof to internal storage!

By Forrest Fisher

Ever take a river-bound shark tooth hunting trip? It’s a treasure hunt adventure, but unlike any other hike you might ever take. Why? Because it’s a challenging hike – over logs, through cattails and swamp grass, through slimy mud, it’s a swim, and it’s a dig. It’s a sweaty workout, but it’s authentic deep south fun!  

A shovel used to spank the water surface to notify alligators and critters along the river that an apex predator is now on the scene, please go home. It works. We are rarely bothered.

There is something to be said for trusting one day of your life in sweltering Florida sunshine with a heat index of 109F, crossing a river with too much gear in hand, only to discover one special, sweet surprise. The beverages and food are ice cream cold in the cooler, and you learn that your GRIZZLY cooler is so durable and dry that you can drag it in the water – or use it as a float to take you safely downstream! It has an elastomeric seal to seal the exterior from the interior in a groove around the cover. Nothing outside gets in (including river water), and the cool ice stays inside, mostly un-melted, as we discovered. 

When I ordered the Grizzly 15, I looked for something not too big, but large enough to hold supplies stable and chilled for a one or two-day trip for two people, and light enough when fully loaded to be an easy carry. The Grizzly 15 is the perfect answer. At 12-pounds unloaded, it is lightweight and yet has a rugged, padded, adjustable shoulder strap that is actually comfortable. The rubber-like latches assure compartment integrity, and I found that the cover will not unsnap if you drop the cooler along the way on rocks or anything else. I liked that since I dropped the cooler about three times on our slippery hike through swamps and down the Peace River in Southwest Florida. We went in search of ancient fossilized shark teeth treasure. 

The worst part of the trip was discovering my wide-rimmed shovel weighed more than the cooler. The best part of the trip was finding out that the cooler would float high and dry when fully loaded for a day-long adventure. It made walking down the river easy! In bright orange color, it was also a potential life-saving color beacon. So on our short trip to this never-never land of Florida jungle with critters among us (a few snakes and gators), we found lunchtime security with our Grizzly. 

As we made our way in and out, we carried two gravel sifters, two shovels, a dry bag with our wallets, cell phones, a sidearm, a backpack, our cooler, shark teeth collection jars, a venom extraction kit, sunscreen, emergency toilet paper, a knife/plier tool, and we each had a Florida fossil collection permit from the Florida Program of Vertebrate Paleontology. Visit www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/home or call 353-273-1821 to obtain such a permit ($5 fee). 

Shoveling bottom material of sand/gravel into the sifting screen (1/4 inch mesh) allows identification of shark teeth…and lots of rocks too!

We collected over 1,500 shark teeth during our one-day trip. The teeth gods looked were favorable upon us! Finding where to dig for teeth involves walking the river and searching out the bottom with your feet for an area that offers a sand-gravel mix. A few shovel scoops and a quick sift will reveal if we should spend more or less time at that spot. It’s fun, it’s a workout, and it’s always an adventure. Tim Snyder is an expert at shark tooth hunting; he runs a business entitled Shark Art by Clark. You can find him on eBay or Etsy with prices so low that it amazes me (about $5 for 30 teeth, which can include a shark tooth necklace!). Snyder says, “All of my teeth for sale are real fossilized shark teeth. They mostly come from the Miocene Epoch (5 million to about 25 million years ago), and orders can include teeth from Hammerhead, Lemon, Tiger, Whaler sharks. Whaler sharks include Bull, Reef, Dusky, Black Tip and Whitetip sharks. Whaler shark teeth are difficult to identify as their teeth are very similar, but most people just call them Bull shark teeth. They’re all pretty cool looking.”

Placing your hand beneath the sifter will allow for easier finding of the shark teeth. Can you find the 2 in this picture?

Besides the pride we took in finding so many shark teeth, the other best part of the trip was using the Grizzly 15 cooler product.

Better yet, the cooler is made in the USA, and if it ever does break, it carries a lifetime warranty.

We thought that was pretty cool, too. Find them online at www.grizzlycoolers.com. We had filled it with six water bottles, four beers, two sandwiches, and two bags of chips—no dehydration or starvation in the day plan. 

We also carry a Sawyer Extractor Kit in the event we need it for a bee sting, wasp encounter, snake bite, spider bite, or the rest.

The kits are small in size, affordable (around $15), and can be used with one hand; no razor blade is needed.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors! 

 

 

 

 

These were about half of the shark teeth we discovered on this one trip to the Peace river near Zolfo Springs, Florida. Fun times!

Shark Teeth, Beach Treasure for Fun in the Sun…from Ancient times

  • HOW and WHERE to find them ON THE BEACH – 5 Methods
  • Shark Teeth found on the beach are fossilized – 10,000 to 15 million years old!
  • Back to the Future…fun on the beaches at Manatee Key in Southwest Florida
Southwest Florida beach shark teeth are found in all colors and sizes, drawing the attention of beachgoers from near and far. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher
There are shark teeth to be found all over the world.  If you are looking for a great place to spend the day frolicking in the Gulf of Mexico, lying in the sun, taking a long walk at water’s edge and looking for the treasure of fossilized shark teeth, here are a few tips on what, where, and how.

Shark Teeth are a precious authentic prize for vacationing visitors to Southwest Florida.  You can find them on your own, it’s fun, and it’s the best excuse to RE-VISIT the beaches…”TREASURE!”  If you are new to shark tooth treasure hunting, here is some advice on gear, methods to use, and places to go.

Gear: For first-timers that want to stay very affordable, visit a local store to buy a (noodle strainer) colander ($1-$3).  If you want to spend a bit more, visit a local beach store to purchase a “sand flea scooper” with ¼ inch mesh ($10-$20). Folks use the colander or sand flea scoopers to scoop the surf for shark teeth. Of course, you can also just pick up shark teeth when you see them at the top of the surf on the beach with your bare hands. Lastly, carry an empty prescription jar or plastic bag to store your shark teeth as you continue the hunt.  Now you’re set.

Finding Shark Teeth – 5 Methods:

  • Method 1: The Surf Line. Keep it simple, put your sunscreen on, keep your head down, and just saunter along the surf line, where the waves hit the beach, being careful not to bump into any beachgoers doing the same thing going in the other direction. Remember, keep your head down!
    Shark teeth, seashells, sunshine, and gentle surf offer appeal and fun for all age groups.

    The usually black-color shark teeth are easily and clearly visible as they sort of pop-up in the firm sand. Each wave can bring more than one, at times. Just pick them up and add them to your collection bag, usually a small sealable plastic bag or an old plastic medicine bottle.

  • Method 2: The Storm Line. If you look along the beach between the tall marsh grass to the water’s edge, you will note that there is a distinct line of demarcation where the sand sort of changes texture and composition. You will usually see a collection of millions of small shells here too, yes, right in the middle of the beach, parallel to the waterline. There are tons of shark teeth here. You might not be the first to search, so look around for a 10 by 10-foot area that appears to be untouched. Drop your picnic blanket down, open up your lawn chairs, put up your portable beach umbrella, and set your cooler down.
    Amidst the thousands of feet of the shell lines to be found on nearly every Manasota Key beach, look closely at this photo, there are treasured shark teeth!

    The sound of the surf will put you to sleep as you sift the sand “down the line” of your intended search area. My family and usually do this and find about 100 teeth per beach visit. As we talk about life, listen to the sea birds in constant chatter too, we enjoy a cool beverage and thank the good Lord for this blessing of a sunny day at the beach…with shark teeth.

  • Method 3: The Chair Line. My shark tooth collection expert friends, Tim and Jeanie Snyder, internationally infamous and brazenly simple in their shark tooth-finding process, they are extremely efficient and prefer this method to find beach teeth by the hundred. Bring your own or rent a shallow height beach chair. Walk to the water’s edge, now look left and look right. Find a little feature point of sand that sort of sticks out along the usually long and straight beach line. Go there. Set your chair in the surf line on either side of this point and about 3-feet or so into the water. You’re about to get wet (feels so good). Use your hands, a small screen scooper, a colander, or a little minnow net with an extension handle. Put your sunglasses on, keep your eyes open and watch for the shark teeth with each wave. You might find many dozens per hour this way, fresh from the sea!
  • Method 4: The Snorkel/Mask Line. Don your snorkel and mask, walk out 20 to 40 feet from the beach sand and you’ll note a sort of “deep spot” before it starts to get shallower as you continue to walk out. Go back to the trench, this is the “shark tooth trench!” If the water is clear and not too wavy, walk-swim-float, and search the bottom. You’ll often see multiple sets of teeth laying right there for the picking. Shells too. This method can be very productive when the waves are soft and small.
  • Method 5: the EASY WAY – Shark Art Online. Even if you are happy with what you collected, or maybe your trip was cancelled, if you want a perfect collection of shark teeth for vacation talking-moments at your next family gathering, consider this: You can buy assorted shark teeth collections or buy shark tooth art, fully supplied in a small kit for very little money. Prices for simple shark teeth package assortments vary from $3 (for 30 teeth and a free shark tooth necklace) to about $15, based on size and number of shark teeth. The shark art kits vary from $10 to $20 plus shipping – these are 5 x 7 and 8 x 10-inch art, respectively, and are awesome. Each of the art kits is all-inclusive with the shark teeth, artboard (complete with the profile where you glue the teeth), and directions. These kits are inexpensive and make an awesome gift.
    Tim Snyder, the Shark Art Guy, in his favorite shark-tooth treasure hunting place, the Peace River, 25 to 50 miles from where it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

    Visit this link to order direct: https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark or email sharkartbyclark@gmail.com. If you become a repeat customer with three orders of $50 or more, Snyder will offer an invitation to you for a day of collecting teeth and fossils (get your Florida fossil permit, the cost is $5) on the Peace River (Tim reminds each guest that there are no guarantees on weather, water conditions, water level, how many teeth or fossils are collected and, of course, he is not responsible for any accidents or injuries. You are invited as a friend taking a friend to the river.) I did this trip! Under Tim’s direction of the process, Tim’s shovel and Tim’s sifter in hand, I collected 386 teeth in 5 hours! These are perfect teeth, no rounded edges from the surf. Unreal! It was such fun!

Where to find Shark Teeth – 1 Florida Key, 4 Beaches:

Shark tooth hunters of all sizes, young and old, head for the beach to find prehistoric treasure. Not everyone is successful but study the methods outlined here to learn shark tooth hunting options for your success.

Manasota Key is an long island-like land mass near Port Charlotte, Florida, that offers four popular shark tooth hunting beach spots. All of them are among favorites for locals and visitors alike, and include (north to south): Manasota Beach Park, Blind Pass Beach Park, Englewood Beach, and Stump Pass State Park.

Large and small shark teeth are a common find on the beach. The lightly worn edges of the shark teeth found on the beach is common, this wear is from the rolling wave action. All shark teeth are a treasure.

There is no fee or toll to enter Manasota Key on the north bridge or the south bridge that crosses Lemon Bay.

  • Manasota Key Beach, located at the north end of Manasota Key, offers easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay (bay side), has free parking (6 a.m. – midnight), is not usually over-crowded and like so many Florida Gulf beaches, offers that perfect orange-sky sunset. The facility building offers changing rooms and restrooms, multiple beach access points to the ocean, squeaky-clean sand, there are often lots of sharks teeth and even more tranquility here.
  • Blind Pass Beach, also known as Middle Beach, offers access to the Gulf and to Lemon Bay, more than ½ mile of beach frontage, a hiking trail through the mangrove forest on the bayside, and a fishing dock.
    A good day on the shark tooth treasure hunt! 

    We have never found less than 50 shark teeth here during a day at this beach. Great spot, relaxing, quiet, wonderful. Changing and restroom facility here too, free parking (6 a.m. – midnight).

  • Englewood Beach, with Chadwick Park, is a favorite for residents and visitors, clear water and frequent blue skies bring kids of all ages here to go shelling and shark tooth hunting for hours on end. Life is all about “beach therapy” when visiting Florida. If you are thirsty, there is a little Volkswagen Bus business stand near the changing facility that offers tasty smoothies – they’re delicious! If you need food, walk across the street and choose from several walk-in restaurants. Eat, drink, and go back to the beach. Parking at Englewood is by parking pay stations (very reasonable/hr), open 6 a.m. – 9 p.m., they accept credit cards. There is a large changing and restroom facility here.
  • Stump Pass Beach State Park, our personal favorite shark tooth place. Open 8 a.m. – sundown, it’s located at the southernmost end of Manasota Key where visitors will find one mile of Gulf beach where seashells and shark teeth are wash ashore.
    If you had trouble finding shark teeth, there is one easy cure.  Try one of these Shark art kits, they include the shark teeth, artboard, and directions, are inexpensive, and make an awesome gift. Visit https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark.

    Anglers can fish the surf too and there are lots of shark teeth here for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to arrive early and get one of the 60 or so parking spots. Cost is $3 for the day, bring the exact change, the park rangers are not allowed to make change. At least there is a fair system in place to wait for a spot to open. They have two lines, one to exit and one to wait for a spot to open up. We have never waited more than 20 minutes. The really good part about this beach is that the water is very close to the parking lot. Visitors come to this secluded beach to enjoy the year-round swimming and sun-soaking. Shelling and finding shark teeth in the wave wash is excellent during the winter months. A hiking trail with Lemon bay on one side and the Gulf on the other passes through five distinct natural eco-communities that provide a home for many species of wildlife; covered picnic tables are located along the trail. Visitors can launch a kayak and paddle around the two islands just east of the park land base. While at the park, watch dolphins, manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, terns, and many species of sea birds. Ranger-led nature hikes are on the calendar during winter months. There are stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals, lessons, and guided boat tours here too.

At all of these beaches, the intra-coastal waterway side of the parks offers a diverse network of mangroves, marsh grass, many species of birds (more than 150), many species of fish (more than 200). It’s perfect for fishing, kayaking, birding, and wading. The Gulf-side of the parks offers sand, surf, sunshine, seashells, and lots of shark teeth.