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Archive for June, 2009

Bass fishing is the most popular activity among almost 40 million anglers nationwide. (AC-Photo)

Bass fishing is the most popular activity among almost 40 million anglers nationwide. (AC-Photo)

The American Sportfishing Association recently released its “Sportfishing in America” report for freshwater and saltwater angling, which shows some incredible numbers.

Forty million anglers generate $45 billion in retail sales. That’s billion, with a “b” … a strong number that shows the impact of fishing on our nation’s and state’s economy. People can shrug off fishing or hunting as yee-haw “Bubba” activities, but I’ll take Bubba and his boat any day over yoga or some frappe-swilling jogger.

If you’d like to check out the full report and print a copy, go here: http://www.asafishing.org/asa/images/statistics/resources/Sportfishing%20in%20America%20Rev.%207%2008.pdf

More people fish – about 40 million – than play golf (24.4 million) and tennis (10.4 million) combined. About 30 million of the anglers are age 16 and older. Here are some other cool numbers:

— The three states with the most anglers are Florida (2.77 million), Texas (2.52 million) and California (1.73 million).

— The top three states in terms of jobs supported by sportfishing are Florida (75,100), Texas (59,000) and Minnesota (43,100).

— The number of U.S. anglers is greater than California’s population.

— One out of every three anglers fishes for largemouth bass, America’s most popular game fish. Flounder is the most-targeted saltwater fish.

— Forty-five percent of anglers come from cities of 1 million or more people.

— Fifty-one percent of anglers have a household income greater than $50,000 per year and 17 percent have incomes in excess of $100,000 per year.

— Over half of all anglers have attended college.

— Twenty-five percent of anglers are women.

— Nearly half of all anglers are between 35-54 years of age.

ASA’s data was compiled by Southwick Associates of Fernandina Beach, Fla.

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When I was in high school back in the Hair Band Era, I had some boots made from python skin that I absolutely loved and wore until the soles were shot.

I believe they got tossed. Why? Lord only knows. Probably stupidity on my part, instead of getting them re-soled. Maybe my feet got bigger as I packed on the pounds in college during nights of playing spades, drinking Gallo chianti from a jug and eating Tiger Pies pizza.

If I had all the money I spent on bad wine and good pizza I could buy some comfy Ariat or cool ostrich boots today. Maybe two pairs. The delivery guy durn sure knew the route to our apartment.

Pythons are found today in South Florida, primarily the Everglades, where they are thriving as an introduced exotic species. People who had them as pets discarded them. Probably a few arrived via other means and found their way to the vast Glades. They’re not supposed to be there and are yet another problem wildlife officials and the public must handle, along with iguanas.

Snakes up here?

One of my favorite sites, OutdoorPressroom.com, is an aggregate for newsy outdoors stories. It’s not pretty or sexy or flashy, but you should bookmark it because it has a ton of items. Founder and pal J.R. Absher also writes a blog, Slugs and Plugs, and has links to it and other bloggers.

Amid the mix the other day was this writhing dilly about pythons and research efforts to see if they’ll survive in South Carolina or states along similar latitudes. That would include Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Wildlife biologists recently released some tagged pythons in a specially-designed pit on the Savannah River Ecology Lab in South Carolina.

I damn sure hope the pythons can’t survive the winter up this way. If they do, I hope you can eat them with turnip greens because some wild-ass redneck will figure out if No. 2 shot works best and how to put one in a Big Green Egg.

But alligators have thrived in the Tennessee River, primarily in Wheeler Lake and most of them between Flint Creek and Redstone Arsenal. If you don’t believe me, and some of you won’t, just do a Google search for “Tennessee River alligators” or make a call to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur.

For a history lesson, I was told years ago by then-refuge manager Tuck Stone that in the early 1970s, former refuge manager Tom Atkeson wanted to see if gators would survive here. The river is supposedly their northernmost habitat range and he engaged the assistance of former U.S. Rep. Ronnie Flippo, some gators were transferred and released, and they’re still around.

I don’t believe this is their northernmost range. Gators have been found in east Tennessee near Knoxville and west Tennessee near Memphis. Wildlife officials said they probably were released pets, although I don’t believe that. In any case, the gators survived in both locations until they were killed.

If a cold-blooded gator can make it through the winter here, why couldn’t a python? If it could find a cave of some sort on the riverbank where it had a constant temperature … to me, it would seem that survival might be a possibility.

Ugh. I hope not. Maybe those research pythons in South Carolina will become snakesicles this winter.

TOC Kickin’ Bass update

The annual Coaches Kickin’ Bass fishing tournament, hosted by The Orthopaedic Center and Huntsville Hospital, went off last week without a hitch at Guntersville Lake in one of the biggest events in its 10-year history.

TOC and HH folks began the shindig as a “thank you” to the athletic coaches and trainers, and it’s blossomed into quite the affair. This year, 113 boats with 226 anglers competed in the Saturday tournament for a chance at a little sparkling hardware. Half as many, maybe a few more, were there Friday afternoon for the big bass event … seven bass weighing more than 6 pounds were tops, with former Auburn trainer and Marine Ian Hogg of Auburn taking home the top prize.

Austin Elrod of Auburn claimed top honors in the tournament Saturday afternoon in a rather touching moment, for the weigh-in was heavy with a bittersweet pall. Elrod’s father, Wayne, died suddenly last year and had served as a jack of all trades at the tournament. He was memorialized with “Boat No. 1” this year, and a special award in his name was presented to his brother-in-law, the hard-working Jeff Bergstresser of TOC.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of Elrod’s fishing partner in the tournament but will update this when I do. Sorry about that!)

WAFF-48 sports director Scott Theisen claimed the media award for the most team weight with more than 12 pounds. Yours truly fished with Donny McElvoy and we couldn’t get the big bite, the story of my life. Nibbles and dinks, and Donny’s nice 5-pounder leading our catch. Congrats to Theisen. I’ll be gunning for you next year.

Kudos to the TOC and HH folks for all their hard work, and the generous sponsors for contributing to the tournament to make it a great event.

Many thanks to you

Just wanted to say “thanks” to those of you who have dropped an email, called or offered a kind word about this little blog and thoughts about other recent events.

They all are appreciated. Change isn’t always easy, especially when you know something shouldn’t have changed much to begin with, but it’s nice to know there are one or two readers out yonder in Whoville. Voices have been heard, too, or so I’m told.

Y’all get a MoonPie and a SunDrop, kick back and watch out for snakes in the grass …

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Friday roundup …

One of the most popular boat ramps on Guntersville Lake will reopen this weekend for public use after renovation by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The renovation of the Mud Creek ramp in northeast Jackson County has been completed. It will be open Saturday.

Kudos to the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division for prompt attention in getting the ramp back to working order. It has been closed for a couple of weeks. It’s on the upper end of the lake and is well-used throughout the year by anglers, hunters and recreational users.

Hey you … pick up your trash!

Speaking of boat ramps and public areas, if you’re cleaning out the boat after a day on the lake please use the garbage cans found at most ramps to discard your refuse.

Old worms, aluminum cans, fishing line and other debris thrown around the docks, ramps or parking lots is just abominable. It looks bad and there’s no reason you can’t walk to the trash can, lift the lid and deposit it there.

If the can is full, which the one at the state ramp at Waterfront on Guntersville Lake was last week, then take home your garbage and throw it away there. Leaving it in the boat to blow out on the road or just tossing it in the grass isn’t cool. Be a good steward and discard your trash appropriately.

And if you’re bowfishing, don’t dump carp or gar in the water by the ramp figuring it will just float away. Most likely, it will wash up, rot and stink. It also leaves a bad impression on other users of bowfishermen and paints everyone in a bad light. Toss any dead fish in the main channel or find a dumpster somewhere.

Rare lake bacteria strikes N.C. teen

A teenager enjoying a day at the lake apparently contracted some kind of rare virus in what must be incredibly horrible for him and his family.

Here’s the link to the story.

I’m not a Nervous Nelly but with summer here and youngsters out and about, it’s a good idea to remember to wash up well after playing outside.

Sunburned? Try this stuff!

Chances are this summer you’ll probably get a sunburn at least once or twice, which isn’t a good idea but is one of the things we good ol’ boys and girls encounter when we’re fishing or mowing the yard.

A few weeks ago Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Short of Arkansas turned me on to some really cool stuff called Redneck Remedy. It’s a cooling gel that has a mix of Vitamin E, aloe vera, lidocaine and hydrocortisone … the latter two are to relieve the pain of the burn and the first two are to help prevent peeling.

Check it out at http://www.redneckremedy.com/

Tight races in pro fishing

With the seasons winding down on the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series pro bass circuits, the prestigious Angler of the Year titles are up for grabs in tight races.

Only five points separate Brent Ehrler, Clark Wendlandt and Luke Clausen in the FLW standings. Andy Morgan trails by 24 points and no doubt would like to erase last year’s collapse in the season finale when he had a shot to win his first title.

On the Bassmaster circuit, Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese are battling it out with Alton Jones in third. VanDam and Reese are separated by 17 points, with Jones a distant 70 points behind. He’ll need some help to win his first title, while KVD and Reese are looking to add another AoY trophy to their cases.

Icons depart with memories

When the radio newscast blurted out that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett had died Thursday, my first thought was the weird “celebrities die in threes” situation had cropped up again since “The Tonight Show” sidekick Ed McMahon died a few days ago.

All were icons of my generation, spanning the last four decades in some sort of superstar status of varying degrees.

McMahon was Johnny Carson’s sidekick on the late night talk show, adding wry humor to the host’s comedy before becoming a pitchman. Any male who grew up in the late 1970s knew who Farrah was, thanks to her stunning looks. Women loved the hairdo that screamed beauty and ushered in the “big hair” era.

Jackson’s superstar status around the globe is inarguable. He, like Elvis and the Beatles, changed the music industry but in my opinion was a bigger star thanks to MTV and the advent of the Internet age. Although Jackson’s star shone brightest before the Internet arrived, it was on the cusp and was part of a then-growing information age — helped by the growth of 24/7 cable news — that exploded at the latter part of his popularity.

McMahon was the perfect sidekick. Farrah’s iconic 1976 swimsuit poster sold 12 million copies. Jackson never matched the success of “Thriller” with its seven Top 10 hits and the most copies of any album ever sold, at more than 100 million.

But they all were linked via celebrity and are part of our history. RIP to the legends.

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My old joint closed a few months ago and after looking around for the right spot, it appears this little nook will do just fine to re-open the Humpday Diner.

Each Wednesday we’ll chat about vittles ‘n such. Could be about greens, could be about imported beer. Maybe a nice wine or restaurant. Possibly something unusual, like gar chili or grilled freshwater drum. We’ll be diverse.

One thing I love to learn about is food. Food is the great connection among all of us. We love its traditions and history, the variety, the care put into something as simple as mac ‘n cheese or the Thanksgiving guacamole. I enjoy discussing food, reading about it and occasionally checking out the New York Times videos done by Mark Bittman or “Good Eats” with Alton Brown. If Brown or Anthony Bourdain ever needed a sidekick I might volunteer for a trip to the Azores or Austria.

If you have a suggestion for something, drop me a line. There’s a little comment section below. Scrawl a few words and hit the button. Techno-goobers get the message to me and wait for me to send a reply through all these etherworldly transport modes.

Today’s feature is about pickles, which should be on the agenda for gardeners in the next few months as garden cukes begin coming in. I suspect you could modify this recipe to use fresh cukes, but the store-bought version is easier to make. All you’re doing is making things more lively.

I had these pickles a few weeks ago at the Vicious fishing line writer’s event in Pell City. Chris Armstrong with AES Optics passed along the recipe. The gallon jug did not last long. Neither did the garlic cloves and peppers. Everything was flavorful. After I got the recipe and realized how easy it is, I’ll be making these pretty soon.

You can kick up however much “fire” you want, but the recipe is just enough for a nice bite. I may make a Clembone Special with extra peppers to see how they turn out.

Fire and Ice Pickles

1 gallon whole sour pickles (drained)

8 cups sugar (4 lb. bag), or 6 cups depending on how sweet you want

4 Tbs. hot sauce (or more, to taste; Louisiana hot sauce is best, not Tabasco)

1 to 2 Tbs. dried red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

18 garlic cloves (or enough for 3 or 4 to go in each jar)

Cut pickles in quarter-inch inch thick slices. Layer pickles slices, sugar, hot sauce, red pepper flakes and garlic in a large bowl or dutch oven. Cover and let stand 2 or 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Spoon mixture into 6 pint jars or put back in the gallon jar. Cover and refrigerate up to one month.

“For the best flavor, wait one week before eating,” Armstrong wrote. “Also, one other thing is I found some sweet sliced nacho jalapenos in a jar at Kroger and added the whole jar.”

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A northern pintail drake painted in acrylic by Clarence Stewart of Brewton was selected as the winner of the 2009 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest and will appear on the 2010-11 state duck stamp.

Sixteen artists competed in the annual contest, which is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. It is open to resident Alabama artists only. Stewart also won the 2005 contest with a painting of a canvasback.

“Representing my home state on its waterfowl stamp is the highest honor I can ask for as an artist,” Mr. Stewart said. “I feel very fortunate to win based on how great the other artists are.”

First runner-up was a pair of buffleheads by Beverly Basham of ­­­­Vinemont­­. Second runner-up was of a pair of redheads by Steve Burney of ­­­­­­­­­­­­Town Creek. Third runner-up was by Ainsley McNeely of Mobile, who also painted a pair of redheads. Fourth runner-up was a pair of northern shovelers painted by Everett Hatcher of Birmingham.

Entries were judged on suitability for reproduction as a stamp, originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and general rendering. The designs were limited to living species of North American migratory ducks or geese, and winning species from the past three years – blue-winged teal, hooded merganser and wood duck – were not eligible subjects for the 2009 contest.

The artwork was publicly displayed and judged by a panel of experts in the fields of art, ornithology, and conservation. Representing the field of art was Donnave Lindsey, a Society of Arts and Crafts member since 1940. Representing the field of ornithology was Dr. Allen Tubbs, associate professor of Biology at Huntington College. Representing the field of conservation was Ducks Unlimited regional director for Alabama, Shawn Battison.

Money from stamp sales are used to procure and manage wetland habitats for waterfowl. All licensed waterfowl hunters are required to be in possession of state and federal migratory waterfowl stamps signed in ink across the face. Like the federal stamps, state issued stamps are popular with collectors. The artwork competition for the Alabama Migratory Waterfowl Stamp design is held each year in February and is open to Alabama residents only.

— From the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

— For a look at the photo, check out http://outdooralabama.com/news/release.cfm?ID=676

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It’s difficult to think about climbing in a duck blind right now with the oppressive heat that has engulfed the Southeast, but the camo contingent isn’t far from turning their thoughts to mallards in the morning.

Information from state biologists, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and Canadian officials still is being crunched. That includes historical trends, numbers from last season, fly-over survey info from this spring’s habitat counts and other factors. Federal and flyway officials will take everything into account to establish the dates and bag limits for the upcoming season.

David Hayden, the migratory bird specialist for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will be in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with fellow biologists to discuss the early season.

“We’ll be looking at the dove, snipe, woodcock, early goose and teal,” Hayden said. “Theoretically, I may have an idea (about the regular season) this week. But the dates and limits for the regular season and goose seasons … it will be the end of July before those are announced.”

Hayden said the pothole prairie and spring breeding grounds have received much rain this year. Flooding can wreak havoc on nesting birds that lose the clutch and have to relocate. But he said it’s hoped that any of the flooding occurred before the main breeding period began.

“I haven’t been getting much information yet, but I have seen a little about the habitat and it looks like it may be improved,” Hayden said. “Parts of the northern U.S. had some flooding but I haven’t seen where anyone thought it might hurt the ducks badly. Ducks move on to other areas and the flooding occurred before they started nesting.”

Dove season looks good

Dove season is slated to open Sept. 5 in Alabama and Hayden said the population looks good.

“Preliminary information makes it look like the call count for the eastern population is stable again this year and has been stable or slightly increased for the past six years,” he said. “Dove numbers look pretty good and from what I’m hearing, the young birds (biologists) have seen or are on the on nest seem to be about usual. I guess it will be another pretty good year.”

Subscribe to this blog! Click on the orange “Posts” RSS button at the top right of the page and you can get updates whenever I have a new entry. It’s free, easy and if you don’t then I’ll put a stinky catfish in your flower bed where the possums will find it.

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Fishing is fun for all ages and a great way for family members to spend time together. (AC-Photo)

Fishing is fun for all ages and a great way for family members to spend time together. (AC-Photo)

Friday roundup of news and notes …

From the American Sportfishing Association: Despite the sluggish economy and cutbacks in consumer spending, there are strong indications that recreational angling remains one of the largest outdoor recreational activities in the nation as well as one of the most solid industries in the United States.

Annually, nearly 40 million anglers generate more than $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy, creating employment for more than 1 million people.

“People want a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, and from what we’re being told; anglers are heading outdoors and putting a line in the water,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “Although anglers, just as the general public, seem to be deferring higher end purchases, it’s clear that people are going fishing and purchasing tackle.”

According to Tom Mackin, president of RapalaUSA, an international tackle manufacturing company with U.S. operations located in Minnesota, business continues to be good.

“I’m pleased to say that Rapala reports a double digit sales increase in North America for the first quarter of 2009,” he said. “Business is looking very strong for us.”

Gary Remensnyder, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing for Pure Fishing, Inc., a global company with multiple tackle brands headquartered in Columbia, S.C., said family outings appear to be on the rise.

“What we’re seeing in the outdoor marketplace points to an increase in family fishing,” he said. “Fishing is an inexpensive way for families to enjoy quality time together outdoors. We’re seeing an increase in sales, particularly in products for children and women, as well as for the avid recreational angler. Our brands, especially Shakespeare and Berkley, benefit from this trend because of a wide product assortment ranging from beginners to the most dedicated angler.”

License sales up 11 percent

Going hand in hand with strong tackle sales are increases in fishing license sales. A sample survey of state fish and wildlife agencies indicates that 2009 fishing license sales are up 11 percent in the first quarter (January – March) compared with the first quarter of 2008. Additionally, there are strong indications sales in the second quarter will be stronger this year than in 2008, with some state agencies reporting increases which continued through the Memorial Day weekend.

“An 11 percent overall increase in state fishing license sales is significant,” Nussman said, “particularly during the first quarter of the year when license sales tend to hold steady. In fact, these are the best numbers we’ve seen in several years.”

According to Dennis Schenborn, of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the economy does affect license sales.

“We’ve been collecting license sales data for 35 years and we know that during tough economic times, Wisconsin’s fishing license sales increase,” he said. “We’ve experienced an 8 percent increase in fishing license sales up through Memorial Day weekend compared with 2008. This year, we expect to sell more than 1.5 million fishing licenses.”

“In times of economic stress, many people turn to simple, outdoor pursuits that are easy to do, are close to home, are not expensive and can be enjoyed by everyone in the family,” said Jeff Pontius, president of ZEBCO Brands and ASA’s Board of Directors chairman.

Bats in the belfrey

Y’know, when the bats flying around eating skeeters start buzzing your melon and flying into the line attached to the frog you’re twitching, it’s probably time to go home for the night.

Much as I enjoy hearing the slurp of a bass whacking a frog, I don’t care to have some winged and fanged critter trying to pull a Mike Tyson on my earlobe. The fish still will be there tomorrow.

Fifty states in 50 days?

Jeff Turner and his 17-year old son, Taylor, are in Alabama today to fish for a few hours on Guntersville Lake with guide Mike Gerry.

Big deal? Well, considering this is part of their ambitious “50 States in 50 Days” fishing trip for the summer, I’d say it is.

That’s right. They are on a monstrous, intense trek to fish in all 50 states in 50 days. I presume Taylor is about to have quite a story for his senior year in high school.

They’re traveling in an RV and stayed near Ossa-Win-Tha campground last night, and today will fish before departing.

You can follow their travels at www.fish5050.com and also track them by GPS.

We’ll have more about them later, so check back.

Big TOC tourney this weekend

The 10th annual “Coaches Kickin’ Bass” tournament hosted by The Orthopaedic Center and Huntsville Hospital gets underway today at Goose Pond Colony on Guntersville Lake.

The event started out as a “thank you” of sorts for the athletic coaches and trainers TOC helps with their orthopaedic specialists. At the first event, about a dozen anglers enjoyed a day on the lake and then ate a picnic under the pines by the lake.

Today, the event has almost 200 anglers including area coaches and trainers, college coaches and trainers, guides, special guests and some of the TOC and Huntsville Hospital physicians. It takes year-round planning to pull it off, and it’s a quite enjoyable event.

Today the big bass contest will be held in the afternoon followed by a rib supper, and then the sweat-yer-butt-off tournament will be held Saturday. Strike King contributes thousands of dollars in lures and goodies for the field, along with other generous sponsors and donors, and everyone has a good time.

One cool thing they’re doing this year is using a 3-fish limit to help reduce mortality. That’s fantastic and I wish more tournament circuits would do that in the heat of summer. Every little bit helps.

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