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Entries in Tennessee (20)

Monday
Aug142017

Anglers Paying More to Access Public Waters

Fishermen don't like paying fees to launch their boats, park their vehicles, and participate in tournaments at public facilities on public waters. Even more, they don't like that those fees are increasing in places where they've already been established and being added in locations that once were cost-free.

As  Harvey Craft has learned, however, mostly all anglers want to do is complain about it. For years the Tennessee man who calls Percy Priest his home water has been trying to get fishermen and clubs to speak out in protest at being charged fees to use facilities that were paid for with taxpayer dollars.

But they're "not interested in doing a letter-writing campaign or anything else," he said. "They're willing to either pay the money or go to a (another) public ramp and just take their chances of hopefully not being broken into. Mainly, they just complain to each other."

Media and politicians aren't especially interested either, he said, with the latter adding that there's little they can do about it.

Although Craft had noted costs going up on other waters, what finally stirred him to action was new ownership at Four Corners Boat Dock on Percy Priest, a Corps of Engineers impoundment, which started charging $5 to launch. Now, it's $8.

Additionally, he said, "We've watched 50 to 60 spaces for vehicles/trailers reduced to 13."

Over on Norris Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reservoir, an angler on the East Tennessee Fishing Forum was complaining about a $20 launch fee at Stardust Marina nearly eight years ago.

 "Many of the marina operators are shunning local folks, especially fishermen," he said. "They say fishermen don't spend money and they really don't want us. Some of the marinas don't even allow public launch at all."

On Kerr Lake, also known as Buggs Island, the Corps charges non-profit fishing tournaments $25 for under 25 boats, $50 for 26-100 boats, and $75 for more than 100 "to cover costs incurred by the Corps." For-profit competitors must pay $75 regardless of the size of the event on this fishery that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. Additionally, each vehicle using a Corps launch ramp must pay $5 per vehicle per day.

"By this point, I assume it will take many folks writing or calling their elected officials in Washington to get this stopped," Craft said.

Sorry to say, I don't think even that will stop it. The sad reality is that the recreational facilities built on Corps- and TVA-managed land require maintenance. Faced with cutting down on their own operating costs to stay within budget or closing public access areas, these agencies have turned over management of marinas, and their associated launch ramps and parking spaces, to commercial operators. The latter are in business to make a profit, and they also have maintenance costs.

"The Corps has allowed marina operators to charge a launching fee since 1993, just as the Corps has authorization by public law to charge a launching fee at its launching ramps," said Corps spokesperson Carolyn Bauer.

"The ramps, roads, and parking at the marina were constructed at federal taxpayer expense. However, ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of the marina operator. The docks and other structures were constructed at the marina operator's expense."

For TVA, it's much the same. "Commercial marina and campground operators can choose to charge for the use of their ramps or include a fee for the ramp use in their camping/marina fees," said Jim Hopson, manager of public relations. "This helps reimburse the commercial marinas for the capital improvements they make."

In sympathizing with Craft, Michael Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, pointed out that this arrangement is win-win for the agency and the vendors who operate the facilities, "but the public gets screwed."

He added, "Personally, I think this is something that is a deterrent to more use, especially by tourists and others that can bring money into the state and into rural communities to support our economy."

What, then, is the solution for Craft, who is willing to speak out, and the millions of other anglers, who aren't?

Possibly the Corps and TVA should cede management and/or ownership of public access areas to those states willing to accept them. Almost certainly they would be more interested than are federal agencies and commercial vendors in the happiness of their angling constituencies, as well as in keeping costs down to attract business and help local economies.

Realistically, though, even under state management of these areas, fishermen are going to have to pay to play on Corps and TVA impoundments. That's just the way it is.

Thursday
Jun222017

Alabama Duo Wins Bassmaster Junior Championship

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — Heading into the second day of the Bassmaster Junior Championship, Miller Dowling and Chandlar Hollingsworth knew they needed a couple of bites from big bass.

The boys from American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa, Ala., were in seventh place after the first round of the tournament on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake and trailed the leader by nearly 7 pounds. To account for the difference, they needed a lot of skill and likely a little luck.

They got both during the final day of fishing on Wednesday and came from behind to win the national championship bass tournament for young anglers 7-13 years of age.

Dowling and Hollingsworth weighed the heaviest limit of the tournament with five bass that totaled 16 pounds, 9 ounces. That gave them a two-day total of 10 bass that weighed 25-12, and that was enough to push past Rein Golubjatnikov of the Rochester (N.Y.) Junior Bassmasters for the victory.

Golubjatnikov, who led after the first day of competition with 15-13, finished second overall with a two-day total of 23-12. Jordan Sylvester and Jacob Tullier of the Southwest Louisiana Junior Bassmasters were in second place after Day 1, but slipped to third with 21-5 total.

Dowling and Hollingsworth were a tough act to follow on Wednesday. Each angler caught a bass that weighed more than 6 pounds, and the shared success paid big dividends. Both anglers won a $1,000 scholarship for the victory, not to mention championship trophies and national bragging rights for the year.

The 6-pounders both were caught on a green pumpkin shaky head worm in about 15 feet of clean water. The team fished only two spots the entire tournament.

“After Miller caught the second big fish, we said ‘We’re going to win this,’” Hollingsworth said.

But the day didn’t start so swimmingly. The boys thought they had the big bite they needed when Dowling hooked a bass they estimated to weigh in the 9-pound range within the first five minutes of angling time.

“We knew it was a big one right away,” Hollingsworth said. “We got him straight to the boat, but the hook came out. We were depressed — but later on, we had the first 6-pounder I caught on a shaky head, then we had some smaller 1-pounders. When we moved to our other spot later on, Miller caught another 6-pounder. I thought we were going to have only one big bite all day, but it got better and better.”

Dowling said the team was fishing old ditches that crease the bottom of the man-made 1,000 acre lake. They found their honey holes in practice, and they decided to stick with them in the tournament.

Dowling and Hollingsworth finished eighth in last year’s junior championship by catching nine bass that weighed 7 1/2 pounds total in 2016. That prompted them to select new spots this year, which turned out to be a decisive factor.

“This is like nothing ever before,” Hollingsworth said. “I’m shaking. We caught the first fish, and we knew needed one more. When we caught it, we were confident.”

Still, the eventual victors were among the first teams to weigh-in on Wednesday, and sitting in the hot seat for the majority of the day was a daunting task. Dowling and Hollingsworth literally sweated out the remainder of the 51-team field in the Tennessee summer heat to see if they’d finish on top. When the Louisiana duo of Sylvester and Tullier posted only 6-4 on Day 2, the Alabama tandem felt a bit of relief.

And when Golubjatnikov posted a second day total of 7-15, they finally could breathe easily.

“We got more nervous the closer we got to the end,” Dowling said. “But now, it feels great.”

Golubjatnikov caught his big bass by dragging a Carolina rig on the first day. His legs sunburned badly on Tuesday, and he was in pain on Wednesday, said his dad and boat captain Ken Golubjatnikov. Still, to fish solo in a national championship event and to fare so well was a feat in itself. He won a $1,000 scholarship, too, which didn’t have to be split with a teammate. School ends this week in upstate New York, and Golubjatnikov took his exams early knowing he would fish alone in the national championship.

It was the third consecutive year he qualified for the tournament. He finished seventh in 2016.

“To finish second in this tournament this year is a really great feeling,” he said.

Waupaca (Wis.) Junior Bass Busters teammates Reece Keeney and Bryce Moder finished fourth with a two-day total of 18-12. Bradlee Parish and Tyler Guin of the Monroe County (Miss.) Youth Bassmasters finished fifth with 16-9 overall.

Teams from 28 states and Canada participated in the junior championship. Each earned the right to compete in the championship through B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers in their respective states.

Wednesday
Jun212017

Lunker Helps New York Youth Take Lead in Bassmaster Junior National Championship

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — The Bassmaster Junior National Championship is a team bass tournament, and all but one of the 51 teams are made up of two anglers between the ages of 7 and 13.

The one solo angler, Rein Golubjatnikov proved Tuesday that one is more than enough when he brought in a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces. The 13-year-old New Yorker seized the first-round lead in the two-day junior championship on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake in northwest Tennessee. The tournament has attracted anglers from 28 states and Canada — all of whom advanced through the B.A.S.S. Nation ranks to the championship.

None were as impressive as Golubjatnikov, whose bag was anchored by an 8-2 lunker that easily was the heaviest bass of the day. Golubjatnikov said he fought the big bass for nearly two minutes as it worked its way underneath his boat before he could net the bass. It was a considerable battle as the eighth grader tips the scales himself at only 85 pounds.

To put the “boy vs. bass” struggle into perspective, the equivalent would be the average adult man battling a 20-pound bass. He’s used to catching big bass, as he advanced to nationals on the strength of a 22-4 bag on New York’s Cayuga Lake. The 8-2 heavyweight he caught Tuesday, however, was a personal best.

“They don’t have bass like that in New York,” Golubjatnikov told the large crowd gathered in downtown Huntingdon for today’s weigh-in.

They do in Carroll County’s 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake though, and Golubjatnikov (whose boat captain/coach is his dad, Ken) said he fished a variety of lures in shallow and deep water on Tuesday. Rein targeted baitfish for most of the day, and he had a 4-pounder to go with his 8-plus kicker on Day 1.

Considering the results, he said he’ll stick with the strategy on the final day of the championship on Wednesday.

“I was really excited,” he said. “It was really cool to catch a fish that big. It was like a once in a lifetime thing.”

Rein is fishing alone this week as school is just letting out this week in Pittsford, N.Y., where he lives. He was able to take his final exams early, but he knew he likely would fish alone if he made the nationals (which he did for the third consecutive year as New York’s youth champion). He finished seventh in last year’s junior championship when he paired with Garrett Lawton to catch a two-day total of 8-1.

One day into the 2017 tournament and he’s nearly doubled that output — by himself.

Golubjatnikov has competition hot on his heels, however. The Louisiana duo of Jordan Sylvester and Jacob Tullier caught a limit that weighed 15-1. Sylvester boated a 5-7 bass to anchor the team’s bag and put them only 12 ounces behind the leader. It was the second-heaviest bass caught on Tuesday.

“I think tomorrow’s going to be fun,” Sylvester said. “We’re going to go out and try to do the same thing we did today.”

Golubjatnikov and the Louisiana pair were the teams to weigh double-digit bags on Tuesday. The tandems of Bradlee Parish and Tyler Guin of Mississippi and Colby Carrier and Abe Lafrance of Maine both weighed 9-15 totals, but the Mississippi boys are in third place officially because they boated five bass on Tuesday. Carrier and Lafrance caught four keepers.

Florida’s Fisher Cusic and SammyJay Acree are in fifth place with 9-12.

In all, the 101 junior anglers caught 195 bass on Tuesday for a total weight of 271-2. There were 28 limits among the 50 teams that came to the scales. Only one team zeroed.

Today’s weights will carry over to the final day of fishing on Wednesday. The team with the best two-day total will split $2,000 in scholarship money, though if Golubjatnikov still leads the field after the final weigh-in, he will have the entire prize to himself. Members of the second-place team will share $1,000 in scholarship funds.

Tuesday
Jun062017

Mild Winter Contributed to Asian Carp Die-Off

A milder than normal winter likely was responsible for the large die-off of Asian silver carp that occurred during April in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, as well as on the nearby Ohio River.

"It appears that young Asian carp are succumbing to stressors brought on by insufficient fat storage to get the fish through the winter and spring months," reported Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Department (KFWR), crediting scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the diagnosis.

"Young, but large carp are likely most vulnerable to starvation after a warm winter because the fishes' metabolism was elevated above that of a normal, colder winter."

In other words, the fish couldn't get enough to eat, which weakened them, and made them more vulnerable to secondary stressors, such as bacterial infections that their immune systems normally would fight off.

An Asian carp die-off also occurred in 2014. But Kentucky biologist Jessica Morris said that was in just one place, below Lake Barkley, with gas bubble disease as the diagnosed cause.

"As long as only silver carp are affected (this time), we're going to say that it's a good thing, because that's helping us control the population," she added.

When anglers and boaters began reporting dead and dying fish in early April, biologists from both KFWR and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) were quick to investigate.

“The widespread die-off does not seem to be impacting other fish species, which is good news for game fish and anglers” TWRA fisheries chief Frank Fiss said early in the investigation.  “We appreciate all the reports we have received, and we want everyone to know we are aware of the die-off and are monitoring it.

“While we are trying to learn how to slow or stop their expansion, the recent die-off of thousands of fish for whatever reason has occurred naturally,” he added.

One angler on Kentucky Lake reported dead carp along the banks, as well as distressed fish "moving fast and making a wake, and they were anywhere and everywhere. Many came by the boat and a couple even banged off the trolling motor."

He also saw fish "beach themselves on the bank and that's when we noted why there were so many on the bank."

Another fisherman said the carp  were "swimming lethargically in very shallow water. Then the craziest thing happened. We saw the carp getting really close to the bank and throwing themselves onto the bank. We had never seen them do that before."

Fiss added that most fatalities seem to have been two-year-old fish, "but there are a lot of dead fish, and we are probably only seeing a tiny percentage of what actually inhabits the reservoir."

Wednesday
Feb012017

Pay It Back, as Well as Forward; Take the Elderly Fishing Too

 

When I was 15, I would do anything for the chance to go fishing. That included taking my elderly neighbor, Mrs. Smith, with me.

Her daughter's family owned a farm with a pond, but no one had the time or interest to walk with her down to the water, help her set up her lawn chair, and then keep an eye on her as she fished with her Zebco for bluegill and bullheads.

Such a job, though, was right in my wheelhouse. The only real work was getting her to and from the pond. After that, all I had to do was check in from time to time to make sure that Mrs. Smith was okay as I walked the banks, casting for bass.

That was all I had to do. But, as it turned out, that wasn't all I did. Bullheads aren't easy to get off the hook, especially when they swallow it. And bluegill will steal the bait in a hurry, if you just let it dangle instead of threading it on. In other words, by our second trip, I was spending nearly as much time helping Mrs. Smith have a good time as I was fishing. I certainly hadn't planned for that. I was the kid. People were supposed to take me fishing, not the other way around.

Yet I don't think that I could have enjoyed our trips together more if I had caught a 5-pound bass on every trip. It was my first experience with giving back, and it felt really good.

In the years since, I've shared my passion with many more. Until I received a note recently from a friend in Tennessee, however, I didn't realize that I had tunnel vision. I had forgotten about that summer when I was 15. For me, sharing fishing had been all about kids, about instilling a love for the sport in the next generation.

But what about all those Mrs. Smiths out there who would love to go fishing but can't without our help? And what are we missing out on when we don't pay it back, as well as forward?

Here's what:

This past fall, my friend and his wife helped take Granny, Dot, and other residents at an assisted-living facility fishing for panfish at a dock on J. Percy Priest Lake.

The bite was slow, my friend said, but finally someone caught a small bluegill and "everyone got excited."

Seeing the joy derived from one little fish, my friend had an idea. "I told Dot that I was going to put some fresh bait on and handed her the pole with the bream," he recalled. "But she did not know the bream was on the hook.

"A few seconds later, the float started moving and Dot got excited, hollering that she had caught one. Words cannot describe how excited she really was. After getting her calmed down and swapping poles with her, I passed the little bream down to my wife and she pulled the same trick on Granny.

"After that, we released it. If only this little bream knew who much it had given to three ladies and also the helpers."

And it gets better.

Later during a Halloween party at the assisted-living facility, my friend talked with Dot about the outing at Percy Priest. "Dot told me how much she had enjoyed that fishing trip," my friend explained, adding that she said the bluegill was the largest she had ever caught.

And when he asked her how big, she said, "Almost 5 pounds."

He also learned that she had been telling all who would listen about her "big fish."

"You cannot imagine the good feeling inside after that trip with these elderly folks," my friend said. "One of the ladies is at a very low point now and may not be with us long.        

"We often do not appreciate what we have until something like this slaps us in the face. I am just proud that my wife and I are able to assist in some small way to make their remaining days just a little brighter."

By all means, we should keep taking kids fishing. In fact, we should do more of it. But also we shouldn't forget Dot, Granny, and Mrs. Smith. We should  spend some time with those who love the sport just as much as we do but can no longer enjoy it without a little assistance.    

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)