Archive for December, 2009

Red Beans and Rice always was a "Monday meal" in Louisiana as women handled laundry that day, because the beans and rice could cook all day. It still is a staple in the state and provides a hearty meal for hungry anglers, hunters and those wanting comfort food. (Photo by Alan Clemons)

Goodness, we’re at the end of a decade.

Ten years ago people were stocking up bunkers with canned goods, military “meals ready to eat” (known as MREs, or “that crap”), ammo and weapons for the ensuing battle against the universe, and fear of no more computers.

The latter might not be a bad thing. I mean, we lived how many centuries without computers? Telephone calls weren’t so bad. Sticky notes worked. Ink pens wrote letters delivered by horse, rail, air and vehicle. People actually knew how to read and write grammatically-correct copy, how to compose letters and the proper form for envelopes.

But I digress. I like computers. They’re helpful and can do great things. Like everything, they have pros and cons.

With the “00’s” winding down and the “10s” on the way, the Humpday Diner offers this morsel for the day from the New York Times “Dining & Wine” section. Eleven dishes are reviewed and while I’m not certain I would have enjoyed all of them, the author’s mention of “suckling-pig tacos” sounds outstanding.

Herewith, a few of my top choices as the Humpday Diner prepares for the New Year … which will include healthier eating, more exercise and occasional forays into the buttery, fatty and delicious dishes we love:

Cajun … yum!

Last May on a fishing trip to Louisiana, our host’s cabin in the marsh was replete with snoring, the cracking of cold beers after a day on the water and the incredible aroma of genuine Cajun cooking every evening.

I watched. I tried to learn. I see how simple it looks – celery, onion, peppers, a roux, some rice, fish or shrimp, maybe some chicken or duck, and red beans. Grilled redfish on the “half shell.” Blackened fish. A simple pot or black cast iron skillet. It’s not rocket science.

The resulting melange of incredible goodness only required attention instead of throwing it in a crock pot and ignoring it for 8 hours. Stand at the stove and stir the roux, then the gumbo or etouffee. Check the rice. Don’t let the beans stick. Serve when it’s hot.

God, was that food outstanding. It was worth the trip just to eat.

New York barbecue?

Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Charters suggested barbecue on our first night in Lewiston, a gorgeous little town on the Niagara River. Two of us Southern guys looked at each other and thought, “Barbecue? In New York?”

That would be akin to me offering lox and bagels here in Alabama, I suggested. But we agreed to give it a try and the Brickyard Pub & BBQ wasn’t too bad. The brisket was dry and tough, but otherwise it was nice to get a bit of the ‘que on the road.

If you’re visiting Lewiston, and you should to fish with Campbell and toodle around the town, I’d strongly recommend dining at Macri’s Italian Grill. It has awesome ambiance, a good bar with a super selection and outstanding food. Owner Gary Macri looked at me as if I’d asked for his soul when I wanted a recipe for his “Beans and Greens” soup, which was super. I didn’t get the recipe.

Macri’s is located in the Clarkson House, which was built in 1818 and was one of the first to be erected in the city after the British burned the city in the War of 1812.


Yes, rutabegas, those wax-coated softball-sized root vegetables that have the terrible reputation and wonderful flavor.

My mother-in-law cooks rutabegas for me because my wife hates them. She won’t even cook them out of love because they’re hard to cut up and she thinks they stink up the house.

Mother-in-law does a wonderful job. The rutabegas are tender, flavorful and go well with other veggies, pot roast or a juicy ribeye like we had last week. Yum.

A hunting we will go

Last February, after Alabama’s deer season ended, my then 11-year old son and I went squirrel hunting on some public land about 45 miles from our house.

We stopped at the convenience store to get sodas, crackers, Vienna sausages, mustard, sardines and Pop-Tarts. Guess what he ate? Right … the soda and Pop-Tarts. I think he had a Vienna sausage with mustard, too.

I love the little tins of sardines in Louisiana hot sauce with crackers. Lots of healthy fishy stuff. I’m sure they’re not as flavorful as sardines from the Mediterranean but they’re tasty in the hunting woods on a chilly day.

(Wife hates sardines, too. Imagine that.)

New joint in O-Town

At last summer’s fishing trade show in Orlando, the fine folks at Strike King invited me to dine with the group at a restaurant called Moon Fish.

Wowza. Whatta joint. Walk in and it immediately felt comfortable, like you were going to just hang out with friends instead of eat a meal. Fortunately, we were able to do both.

Appetizers included sashimi, which was fantastic. The steaks were huge. The seafood was fresh and ample in portion size. The wait staff was attentive and friendly. While not overwhelmed, our servers did seem to get crossed up a time or two. But with more than 25 in the party that was to be expected. The house was rockin’ that night.

The night before, we dined at sister restaurant Fish Bones with the crew from Vicious Fishing. Ironic, eh? I’d say we were pretty vicious on the menu as well. A few had steaks (heathens!) but the seafood was tremendous.

Better yet was the companionship of good friends at both meals, with lots of laughter and story-telling, sharing some of our dishes with each other and enjoying the nights. That’s what good meals are all about.

Blue Bank Resort, Reelfoot

I should be lashed if I fail to mention my favorite getaway, Blue Bank Resort at Reelfoot Lake, which is tucked away in the northwest corner of Tennessee.

It’s quiet. It’s beautiful. It has history and a very strong sense of self-preservation despite the obvious need for tourism to help the local economy. That sounds like it runs counter, but the folks there would make do if they had to get by without all the anglers, hunters and tourists. But the latter helps.

Mike Hayes has owned Blue Bank Resort for more than a decade, turning it into a super retreat for anglers, hunters and others wanting to just chill out. The restaurant and rooms at the original motel have beautiful tongue-in-groove walls and reek of history. It’s like stepping back in time and then you get hit with the food that knocks your socks off.

Fried catfish and crappie, giant ribeye steaks, super sweet tea and the “Strawberry Butter” that everyone remembers. Imagine a bowl of soft butter that has been whipped with fresh strawberries. The berries still are chunky. The butter spreads easily on the hot yeast rolls brought to the table. The smiles are wide.

Then the meal arrives. Woohoo! If you have a big group get the Country Dinner — fried chicken and crappie, pork chops, country ham, french fries, slaw, white beans, baked apples … you won’t leave hungry.

See y’all in 2010.


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Mark Burgess of Massachusetts is getting ready for the boat show season before beginning his second year on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit.

Note: This is a portion of my story I wrote on Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Burgess of Massachusetts. He recently had to do a little work for his brother and I don’t envy him one bit.

When a monstrous winter storm assaulted the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast a week ago, Mark Burgess figured he might get a call from his brother.

He did, and 40 hours later after manning a snow plow on the streets of Holbrook in the “south shore” area of Boston, he was ready for a break.

“It’s almost like being abducted by aliens,” Burgess said. “You almost give up part of your soul.”

Burgess is getting set to begin his sophomore season on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Before beginning his quest at a professional fishing career nine years ago, he owned a successful property management company in Massachusetts.

His older brother, Scott, owns ATL Construction and Toll Road Truck Equipment and has contracts with numerous companies for snow plowing in winter. He also works with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and several cities providing the critical service to keep roads open. Burgess’ younger brother, Eric, “is a phenomenal mechanic” and works with the companies, too.

When the storm swept over Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia before moving north, forecasts proved correct. Two feet of snow blanketed the area quickly, shutting down cities and grinding some areas to a halt. That’s when Burgess’ brother called.

For the rest of the story, visit Wired2Fish.com‘s “Unplugged” section or make a cast here.

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MINNEAPOLIS – FLW Outdoors has announced an optional payout for the 2010 FLW Series offering anglers the chance to dramatically increase their tournament payback.

The optional payout is in addition to the regular FLW Series prizes and is awarded only to anglers who choose to participate. The optional payout would offer an additional $21,000 to the winning pro and an additional $4,500 to the winning co-angler, based on 150 pros and 150 co-anglers participating and would pay through 50th place, with 100 percent payback.

The fee for participation in the optional payout is $1,000 for pros and $150 for co-anglers and payment must be made the Friday prior to each respective tournament.

“FLW Outdoors continues to look for ways to offer tournament anglers the largest payouts in the sport even with the current economic conditions,” said Charlie Evans, President and CEO of FLW Outdoors. “The optional payout will provide competitors the opportunity to significantly increase their winnings and reward them for their efforts while competing at the highest level.”

Pro entry fees will be $2,000 per tournament and co-angler entry-fees will be $350. Deposits for each event will be $500 for pros and $100 for co-anglers.

Anglers will compete for top awards of $50,000 in the pro division and a Ranger Boat in the co-angler division, with awards of $5,000 and $400, respectively, extending through 50th place. The top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers at the end of the season will qualify for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup. For complete payback tables, visit FLWOutdoors.com.

Registrations are currently being accepted online at FLWOutdoors.com or by calling (270) 252-1000. Phones are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time. For additional information, visit FLWOutdoors.com.

The 2010 FLW Series schedule is below.

FLW Series Eastern Division

Date                                Fishery                                        Location

Jan. 27-30                        Lake Okeechobee                        Okeechobee, Fla.

March 10-13                     Lake Eufaula                                Eufaula, Ala.

Aug. 25-28                       Lake Champlain                            Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Sept. 15-18                      Lake Chickamauga                       Chattanooga, Tenn.

National Guard FLW Series Western Division

Date                                Fishery                                        Location

Jan. 13-16                        Lake Shasta                                 Shasta Lake, Calif.

May 5-8                           Lake Mead                                   Las Vegas, Nev.

June 9-12                         California Delta                            Stockton, Calif.

Sept. 22-25                      Lake Roosevelt                            Payson, Ariz.

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December aerial surveys show drop in duck numbers

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission waterfowl biologists took to the skies last week for the December aerial waterfowl survey, and the population index reveals a drop in the estimated number of ducks in the state since the November survey.

The survey shows an estimate of just less than 580,000 ducks in Arkansas’s Delta region, which includes most of the eastern one-third of the state. Population estimates for northwest Arkansas include 31,304 ducks (18,580 mallards), and estimates for southwest Arkansas are 31,820 ducks (19,230 mallards).

The Delta total includes an estimated 191,299 mallards, 439,733 other dabblers and 188,307 divers.

Totals for the November aerial survey have been revised as a result of a calculation error during the compilation of last month’s survey results. The revised November total was an estimated 1.5 million ducks.

AGFC is using a new method for its aerial waterfowl surveys this year, a transition that possibly led to the calculation error for the November surveys.

Hunters should also be aware that, because of the new survey method, numbers from this year’s aerial surveys cannot be compared to previous years’ survey results.

According to Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator, the drop in Arkansas’s estimated duck numbers from November to December was likely the result of early migrant species, such as shovelers, pintails, gadwalls and teal, departing the state for more southern latitudes along the Gulf Coast.

“The vast majority of ducks we saw in the November survey were species such as pintails and gadwalls that traditionally winter along the Gulf Coast,” Naylor said. “It appears that many of those ducks may have left the state since the last aerial surveys.”

Another explanation for the drop in numbers may be the new survey methodology. Because the east-west transect lines are chosen randomly for each month’s survey, it’s possible survey flights took observers over higher concentrations of waterfowl during the November survey.

While the discrepancy seems substantial, transect surveys are the standardized method used by most waterfowl managers, allowing wildlife management agencies like AGFC to have more scientific information and a “big-picture” look at waterfowl populations over long periods of time.

While mallard populations declined by about 58,000 ducks since the November survey, Naylor pointed out that mallard numbers didn’t drop as drastically as other dabbler species. One explanation for the decline in mallard numbers is that many mallards appear to be using habitat in flooded bottomland forests, including the Cache and lower White River basins.

“It’s very difficult to count ducks in flooded forests like the Cache and White river bottoms, so if the mallards are using that habitat – and anecdotal evidence suggests they are using it – they can’t be counted during the survey flights,” Naylor said.

New maps showing mallard and overall duck densities have been created to show relative densities around the state. The maps are included among several Web links AGFC has created to assist hunters in tracking waterfowl movements throughout the flyway and within the state.

For a list of links, visit http://www.agfc.com/hunting/huntingseasons/waterfowl-migratory-birds/waterfowl-locations.aspx.

This waterfowl report provides capsule information from agency staff in all corners of Arkansas and is updated each Wednesday throughout waterfowl season.

Information on river levels can be found at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lmrfc/ or http://water.usgs.gov/realtime.html. Sunrise/sunset tables are available at: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html and in the Arkansas Waterfowl Regulations Guide.

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FLW Outdoors announced a rebranding of its popular Stren Series circuit and a schedule adjustment, the former coming due to the loss of Stren due to cuts in Pure Fishing’s budget.

Here’s the release from FLW Outdoors:

MINNEAPOLIS – FLW Outdoors announced Wednesday that FLW American Fishing Series will be the formal name of what has been the Stren Series.

The American Fishing Series, which will host its first tournament in Zapata, Texas, beginning Jan. 7, is still accepting registrations.

“This circuit will continue to offer anglers some of the best competition in our sport with an opportunity to improve and better oneself, all while having the opportunity to move up and compete on the FLW Tour and ultimately in the Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing,” said Charlie Evans, President and CEO of FLW Outdoors.

The American Fishing Series will consist of four divisions in 2010 – Central, Northern, Southeast and Texas. The Southeast Division schedule was modified with the updated event being held on Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Ga., April 29 – May 1. Each division will consist of three tournaments and the full schedule is below.


Date                 Fishery                      Location

March 18-20      Lake of the Ozarks     Osage Beach, Mo.

April 15-17        Lake Ouachita            Mount Ida, Ark.

May 13-15         Kentucky Lake           Gilbertsville, Ky.


Date                 Fishery                      Location

June 3-5            Potomac River           Marbury, Md.

July 15-17         Lake Champlain          Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Sept. 9-11         Lake Erie                   Erie, Pa.


Date                 Fishery                      Location

Feb. 25-27        Lake Okeechobee      Clewiston, Fla.

April 29-May 1   Lake Seminole           Bainbridge, Ga.

Sept. 30-Oct. 2  Pickwick Lake            Florence, Ala.


Date                 Fishery                      Location

Jan. 7-9            Lake Falcon               Zapata, Texas

Feb. 4-6            Sam Rayburn             Jasper, Texas

June 17-19        Toledo Bend              Manning, La.


Date                 Fishery                      Location

Nov. 4-6            Wheeler Lake             Decatur, Ala.

Format: Fields will consist of 150 boats fishing Thursday and Friday and the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers advancing to Saturday. Winners will be determined by total weight from all three days. The points champion from each division will qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup and a fifth Forrest Wood Cup qualifier will advance from an Invitational event that is open to the top 50 anglers from each division.

Entry Fees: Pro entry fees are $825 per tournament and co-angler entry fees are $325 per tournament.

Payout: Anglers will compete for top awards of $25,000 in the pro division and $10,000 in the co-angler division, with awards of $800 and $350 extending through 50th place, respectively. If the winner is Ranger Cup qualified, the pro will win a 198VX Ranger Boat with a 200-horsepower outboard and the co-angler would win an additional $5,000. The entry fee in the Invitational is the same as a tournament entry fee.

Enter: Registrations are currently being accepted. Entries are accepted online at FLWOutdoors.com or by calling (270) 252-1000. Phones are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time. For additional information, visit FLWOutdoors.com.

FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. FLW Outdoors has also taken fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing offering the largest awards possible in the history of fantasy sports.

For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.

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Thursday afternoon the wind was whipping pretty well here in NorBama, bringing temperatures in the 40s all day and one of those feelings that something was on its way.

Snow? Rain? Both?

Eh, forget that. Ducks are on the way! Or, at least we hope they are. Last weekend’s opener wasn’t much to write home about from the reports in the Southeast. Sure, guys killed some ducks. But there were a lot of mixed bags (which are cool at times) and a few greenieheds in there, too.

A report yesterday indicated there are a bazillion ducks in the Dakotas still enjoying food and open water. But they’re poised to head our way and other reports indicate things are heating up.

Mike Hayes at Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake said last weekend about 30,000 ducks arrived at the lake. I’m not sure how he got that figure but Hayes grew up there, has hunted there for decades and if he said the ducks arrived then they did. Reelfoot is about 15,000 acres and there’s a huge refuge to the northeast of it, so they have water, food and shelter. Hearing that they’ve started arriving is good.

Even better was a Facebook post yesterday by Crispin Powley, a friend via Strike King.  He said pro angler Andy Morgan, a diehard duck hunter, called him to say Southern Illinois was jammed up with birds. Yet another good sign.

Swan Creek WMA range to close

The Swan Creek WMA public shooting range will close Saturday (Dec. 5) as usual during waterfowl season and reopen Feb. 1.

The range, located northeast of the sprawling WMA north of Decatur and south of Athens, closes each year during waterfowl season. I’ve been told in the past that it’s part of the agreement with Tennessee Valley Authority along with providing some measure of quiet during the day so incoming birds aren’t bothered.

The only other public WMA range in North Alabama is at Martin-Skyline WMA in Hytop, which is northwest of Scottsboro. It has two bermed ranges, covered benches, wheelchair access and is a good public alternative during winter if you need to sight in a rifle or want to shoot.

To get to the Skyline range, take U.S. 72 to Alabama 79 and head north. You’ll go up the mountain, pass through Skyline and then turn on Jackson County 146 at the 4-way stop.

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Mike Checkett, the media relations biologist for Ducks Unlimited, forwarded the Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey on Wednesday along with a little update about the migration … or lack thereof.

“I continue to hear that mallards are stacked in northern South Dakota,” he wrote via email. “That could be changing as the temperatures drop in Prairie Canada and northern U.S. states. This week will be the firs time the temperatures do not exceed freezing.”

Checkett said a large amount of open water and flooded, unharvested bean and corn fields in the Midwest and Great Plains are holding waterfowl. Even if those fields flood, he said, there still is open water on the Missouri River and other waterways to keep the birds around. In short, as long as there’s food and open water with no snow or horrible weather, we won’t have a gigantic migration. If those things change then we’ll start to see birds.

Here is the Missouri report:

Coordinated statewide surveys of Conservation Area wetlands and National Wildlife Refuges are conducted approximately every other week during the waterfowl season. They are normally conducted on Mondays, weather permitting, and reported on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Comments of: 2009-12-02

Frank Nelson

After October thwarted farmers and restricted access to their crops, November has been more amiable and has had better fieldwork conditions. The corn harvest is 85 percent complete, 9 days behind last year, and 28 days behind the normal of 99 percent. Harvest increased over 10 points in the northern third of the State. The moisture content of corn harvested averaged 17 percent statewide with a range of 16 to 19 percent. Soybean harvest is 93 percent complete, 4 days behind last year and 8 days behind a normal of 97 percent. Soybean harvest progressed 21 points in the southwest district, while the west-central and north-central districts increased 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The mild temperatures throughout November haven’t moved in a ton of Mallards into Missouri, but they haven’t moved all of the Green-Winged Teal and Northern Pintail out either. The cold fronts that came through Thanksgiving (Nov. 24 and 26) and this weekend (Nov. 29) did bring a few small flights of Mallards onto some areas. Last year was similar in that there was a slow increase of waterfowl in Missouri during the first half of the season.

The back to back fronts did help increase the number of waterfowl on most areas. Overall, we do have more ducks than we did on the last survey (Nov. 16), but there are a few areas that have fewer ducks. Our total number of waterfowl on our managed wetland areas is 799,154, which surprisingly is higher than both last year’s total at this time (651,898) and the five year average (704,944).

During the first two weeks of December there typically are a series of strong cold fronts that move through the state. This occurred last year and it appears that it might happen again. Icy temperatures are forecasted to persist in the Dakotas, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin, which should lock up flooded habitats up north. Strong NW winds will be felt across Missouri on Wednesday and Thursday as the front moves through, bringing colder temperatures and a mix of snow and rain. There is a good chance that this will also move birds in and around the state.

Additional waterfowl hunting information about habitat conditions and hunting prospects can be found on the Department’s website

Also check out the mallard migration status:


Squaw Creek NWR now provides their counts from the last four weeks on their website:


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