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Catfish Gumbo: 2008 archive

1/21/2009

Best Christmas ever: Return from the Amazon — 12/28/2008
Christmas Day, 2000

Christmas is here again. As is our family's tradition, we all awaken early and gather around the beautifully decorated tree in our living room. I play Santa, passing out gifts to my wife Theresa and our sons. Everyone smiles as they open presents. Continue reading...

Why I love timberdoodles — 12/19/2008
"Why is it you like hunting woodcocks?" a friend asked me. "You wear yourself out wading through mud and vines, hoping to find some little brown birds that may be there and may not. And if they are there, if you somehow miraculously timed it right, then every bird you find will flush right under your feet and scare the wits out of you. You'll twist yourself into a knot trying to shoot them before they sputter away through the timber, and if you're really, really lucky that day, you'll actually kill one or two. Continue reading...

Giving thanks — 12/02/2008
I drove to the old deer camp last week. It looks nothing like it did then. The field where we pitched tents is overgrown now. Most of the woodlands we hunted are bean fields. When I arrived, though, a big buck bounded away, and memories came flooding back. Continue reading...

Mallard mecca: Stuttgart, Arkansas — 12/01/2008
It's not very big — population 9,260 — but in the world of waterfowling, Stuttgart, Arkansas is hallowed ground. Continue reading...

Finding fall crappie — 11/13/2008
Autumn fishing frustrates many crappie anglers. During fall, America's favorite panfish often are scattered and hard to find. Crappie may be deep one day, shallow the next and suspended at mid-depths the next. Fish may be feed ravenously in the morning and get a bad case of lockjaw in the afternoon. Continue reading...

Wilderness whitetails — 10/27/2008
Today, more and more deer hunters are looking for ways to get off the roads and trails, back into the marrow of the land away from the trappings of civilization. The hustle and bustle of our technological society has created a compulsion to log as much time in the backcountry as possible, and deer season offers a chance to do that. Continue reading...

Finding perfect deer gun — 10/20/2008
While visiting a friend's deer camp recently, I was amazed at the variety of guns being used by the 15 or so guys who were members of that camp. In fact, there were so many different variations, I decided to make note of a few. Continue reading...

Saying goodbye — 10/16/2008
Pete Hodge from Puriton, Great Britain, loved catching fish in Somerset's River Huntspill, and when he learned he had a terminal illness in 2006, he continued fishing there right till the end. Hodge, age 61, died peacefully in his sleep this summer and was cremated in a coffin made from wicker to look like a fishing creel. Continue reading...

Patently absurd — 10/08/2008
Inventors have been registering bright ideas with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since 1790. While some inventions like the flush toilet, personal computer and aspirin have proved invaluable, the same cannot be said of every innovation, including many products made with outdoor recreationists in mind, many of which could charitably be described as far-fetched. Continue reading...

Siamese twins: double the fun — 10/06/2008
From an aquarium in Bangkok, Thailand, comes this photo of a most unusual creature, or creatures — Siamese-twin tilapia. The two fish are joined at the stomach and apparently healthy. Aquarium officials say the bigger fish protects the smaller one from harm, while the little guy scopes out the bottom looking for food. Continue reading...

Passport to private lands hunting — 09/30/2008
Thirty years ago, I rarely encountered problems when I wanted to hunt on private land. I was taught early in my hunting career that it was proper etiquette to gain permission before hunting on another person's property, which I always did. But often as not, if the landowner said it was OK for me to hunt, I also was told to "Come back and hunt any time you like; no need to stop and ask." Continue reading...

Squirrels make a great wild-game dinner — 09/29/2008
"Squirrel and dumplings" rank high on my list of all-time-favorite wild game dinners. My mother and grandmother often prepared this delicious, filling meal when I was growing up, and I still get a hankering for it when autumn starts chilling the air. Continue reading...

NSSF president's op-ed strikes a green chord — 09/25/2008
On Monday, Sept. 15, an op-ed piece appeared in the Washington Post with the byline of Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It was entitled "Hunter Green," and made the case, in a clear and compelling way, that hunters are, and always have been, the true "Greenies." Sanetti concludes his essay with this observation: "For us, the amusing irony is that American society, which has looked down its nose at hunters more sternly with each passing generation, is now discovering that camouflage has been a primary shade of green all along." Continue reading...

Remember National Hunting & Fishing Day — 09/23/2008
One of the great annual traditions in the outdoors, National Hunting and Fishing Day, is set for this Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008.

For the past 37 years, the day has served as a public reminder that hunters and anglers are America's premier conservation supporters. Through licenses and excise taxes, they now generate $100,000 every 30 minutes for fish, wildlife and habitat programs, benefiting all citizens who appreciate wild things and wild places. Continue reading...

Break bad habits, bag more doves — 09/12/2008
When I was editor of Arkansas Wildlife, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission's conservation magazine, I spent time one fall going through back issues and pulling quotes from different authors for a special anniversary issue we were working on. Many good writers contributed to the magazine during its long history, and I found hundreds of wonderful tidbits I saved for future reference. Continue reading...

Scout now for opening-day doves: Part II — 08/29/2008
Of the various ways to hunt mourning doves, I think shooting as they come to water offers the fastest action. Last September while hunting a small farm pond, I got a taste of that action.

At dusk, doves started pouring in. Some streaked in 90-to-nothing from across the pond. Others blazed in behind us. As I swung on one, several more appeared, flaring as our guns boomed. For 10 minutes the action was non-stop, and then a short lull. I found, to my amazement, I'd gone through more than half a box of shells. The barrel of my shotgun was hot, my knees were weak, and in the midst of all that bedlam I only downed two birds. Continue reading...

Scout now for opening-day doves: Part I — 08/28/2008
Before dove season opens, it pays to scout your hunting area, looking for heavily-used flyways doves travel when moving from one activity area to another. Doves usually fly from their night roost to a watering hole shortly after dawn, then quickly move to feeding areas where they stay until midday. They loaf at perching, watering or graveling sites near the feeding area for an hour or two around noon, then return to the feeding area for the remainder of the afternoon. Before going to roost, they stop to drink again. By determining the exact time and locale of these activities, you can ascertain the best place and time to hunt at a particular site. Continue reading...

Ten reasons I love dove hunting — 08/25/2008
"Behind you! Look behind you!"

The muffled shout came from our hunting companion Lewis Peeler. My son Zach and I looked around just in time to see a low-flying mourning dove streaking into the field of cut sunflowers.

"Get him, Zach!" I said.

Zach swung his single-shot 20 gauge behind the bird, pulled the trigger and grinned a big grin when the dove tumbled in a puff of feathers. Continue reading...

The fish that eats salad — 08/14/2008
Mr. Roy Graves emailed me this week and said: "I'm interested in carp fishing. I live on a lake in central Arkansas in which I have caught two grass carp around 40 to 50 pounds. I would appreciate any info on baits and where to fish for these carp."

Well, Mr. Graves, anyone who has caught a couple of 40 to 50 pounders probably knows a darn sight more about grass carp fishing than me. But I have caught a few of these high-flying roughfish over the years, and was able to do it by design and not just chance. So allow me to share what I know about these interesting fish. Continue reading...

Things I know — 07/17/2008
I ran into a fellow the other day who recognized me from the photo that's on my blog. I didn't know him from Adam's goat, but he decided to cut loose on me anyway.

"I read your blogs and magazine articles all the time," he said, "and I don't think you're for real. I'm betting you haven't done half the things you say you have. And I can tell by the way you write that you make up a lot of stuff just so everybody will think you're smarter than you really are. Continue reading...

Good news, bad news for ducks — 07/13/2008
It's a report waterfowlers await with great anticipation each year: the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). FWS biologists sample two million square miles across the north-central and northeastern United States, south-central, eastern and northern Canada, and Alaska to estimate the number of ducks on the continent's most important nesting grounds. Continue reading...

The extraordinary bowfin — 07/10/2008
"Cast to those bushes," I said to Larry Stark one hot afternoon on an Arkansas oxbow lake. He did as I suggested and crawled his lure over the muddy bottom. It traveled maybe three feet before it happened — something picked up the plastic worm and started off with it. No thump-thump as when a bass hits; something just picked up Larry's worm matter-of-factly and swam away with it. The worm obviously belonged to that something the minute it picked it up. Continue reading...

Crimson tide — 07/07/2008
The contrast is perfectly beautiful — the crimson of the red snapper tugging at my line in the sapphire-blue water of the clear Pacific Ocean. This is the twenty-third snapper I have reeled up from a reef 140 feet below the surface, but the brilliant coloring of this one amazes me no less than the first. The pink fish with ruby eyes is stunning. Continue reading...

El Salto: Still the world's best bass lake — 06/30/2008
When hardcore bass anglers discuss the world's best trophy bass lakes, the conversation inevitably turns to El Salto Lake, a scenic impoundment cradled in west-central Mexico's rugged Sierra Madre Mountains. This 24,000-acre lake 75 miles northeast of Mazatlan has rightfully earned its place among the world's truly great bass fisheries. Continue reading...

Moon-in-June Bream — 06/15/2008
On many blue-ribbon bream-fishing waters, there's a saying: the best time to fish for bream is in spring and early summer, during or near the time when the moon is full. Something mystical happens then, the old timers will tell you. Continue reading...

How to save money on boat fuel — 06/10/2008
If you're a boater like me, you're well aware you'll be facing record-high fuel prices this summer. But, there are some ways to save a few bucks each time you go boating. The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) offers these tips that could help stretch your fuel dollars. Continue reading...

Tips For Spring Squirrel Hunting — 05/28/2008
Does your state have a spring squirrel season? If so, and you enjoy small-game hunting, celebrate! Bushwhacking spring bushytails is more fun than stomping a cell phone — if you know the secrets to success. And in many states right now, spring hunting season is underway. Continue reading...

A Fish For A Soldier — 05/26/2008
I caught that fish for you last week, soldier. It was just what you wanted — a fat crappie, 2 pounds even, that glowed in the sun like a new silver dollar. I wish you could have been there.

When I received your e-mail last month, I was a bit surprised. The world is a smaller place thanks to the Internet, but I never imagined that military men overseas were reading my column. It's always nice getting accolades for something you've worked hard to create, but when you told me how you were reading my stories while waiting to be shipped out from Kuwait, I was touched in a way I haven't felt in a long time. Continue reading...

Prospecting for Bream Beds: Part II — 05/23/2008
In my last post, I described bream fishing tactics used by my friend Lewis Peeler. The lakes he fishes tend to be small, fertile bottomland waters with lots of color. Conditions on big upland reservoirs differ from those he usually encounters. Mountain impoundments usually have rocky shores and bottom. Thick beds of submergent vegetation often fill the shallows. The water is crystal clear. When bream are on spawning beds, it's easy to see them, even 12 feet down.

Arkansas' Lake Ouachita, where bream-master Bobby Graves sight-fishes for 1-pound-plus bluegills, is just such a place. And Graves' proven methods for nabbing giant bream here are applicable on similar waters nationwide. Continue reading...

Prospecting for Bream Beds: Part I — 05/23/2008
At first glance, the oxbow doesn't appear to be a good bream-fishing lake. No brush, weed beds or timber are present to offer cover. In fact, there's no visible cover at all, just a broad, U-shaped expanse of water without so much as a single twig breaking the surface.

The proprietor of the lakeside bait shop, however, assures us the bluegill and redear fishing is excellent, especially now during the spring spawn. Continue reading...

Shellcracker Short Course — 05/23/2008
We're quickly approaching one of my favorite times of year — the time of year when bream are spawning. While I love catching other species, especially catfish, fishing for bream such as bluegills and redear sunfish is another much-loved pastime for this country boy. Consequently, this week is Bream Week on Catfish Gumbo, and we'll start by discussing my favorite bream species, the redear sunfish, or shellcracker.

If bream were placed in divisions like boxers, the shellcracker would be a heavyweight contender. The largest member of its tribe, this popular sportfish delivers a knockout punch that'll put your bobber down for the 10-count, maybe longer. It's a George Foreman among sunfish. Continue reading...