There's no accounting for some peoples' tastes. Did you know, for example, the brook trout is the most popular state fish? I discovered this recently while doing some on-line research. Eight states have proclaimed the brookie their official state fish.
Now don't get me wrong. I like brook trout. They're pretty. I like eating the little buggers, too. But making the brookie your state fish would be like making the chickadee our country's symbol instead of the bald eagle.
The largemouth bass … now there's state fish material. It's the state fish of five states. The smallmouth is a good choice, too. Tennesseans made it their official state sportfish.
Six states still don't have a state fish. My advice to those states is this: when you choose an official state fish, don't pick something wimpy. Pick a fish with character — something hard-hitting like the largemouth bass, or something tough like the striper, muskie or flathead catfish.
My home state of Arkansas is one of the states without an official fish. I'm going to kick off the campaign here by nominating the alligator gar. An 8-foot, 200-pound monster that can bite your leg off … now there's state fish material.
Here's another thing I noticed recently. Manufacturers are giving lure colors some really sissy names. This needs to stop.
First of all, if you manufacturers are listening, you can quit making pink lures altogether. I don't care if you call it Bubblegum or Cotton Candy or, for god's sake, Tickled Pink! It's still pink. I don't wear pink hats or pink shirts or pink socks and I'm darn sure not going to tie something pink on my line!
And pumpkinseed. What knucklehead came up with that? It's like something lovey-dovey you'd call your girlfriend in private. "My little p-u-m-k-i-n seed."
Some other names are even worse. Starry Night. June Bug. Rainbow. New Penny. Sherbet.
And Limetreuse. What the heck is Limetreuse?
Motor Oil. Now there's a real man's color. Give us more colors like that. We want colors like Irish Whiskey, Smoke, Fire Tiger, Black Widow, Chrome and Red Dog.
Tickled Pink? Give me a break.
Improved Fishing Reels
While I'm talking to you tackle manfacturers, hear this, too: My fishing reels don't have enough bells and whistles. I know this because so far I've been able to figure out the function of every knob and button on every reel I've owned.
I still can't set the timer on my VCR or decide what those icons represent on my digital camera, but I know how to use everything on every reel in my boat. It is obvious, therefore, we need reels with more gizmos.
A rangefinder would be useful on a reel. It would tell me it's 20 feet to the log I'm casting to, not 200 feet, and I'd be more likely to put a lure in the sweet spot. Someone should build GPS units into reels as well, so I can mark my buddy's secret honeyhole without him knowing next time he takes me there.
I don't know why reels don't have clocks, either. A clock with an alarm would be especially useful so I don't forget to leave the lake after the PTA meeting starts or after my in-laws go home. I'd have to get one of my sons to set the clock when the time changes, but that would be ok. They already have to reset my watch.
A reel with a built-in digital camera would be great, too. And maybe a reel with one of those tiny televisions. That way I could watch the ball game while I'm fishing.
Have you ever read those tiny ads in the back of hunting and fishing magazines? Are folks really buying this stuff?
Here's one that says you can buy 10,000 mealworms for just $38. Now what the heck am I gonna do with 10,000 mealworms? Even if I used one worm every five minutes round the clock, it would take me more than a month to fish up all that bait.
Here's another one that says "Learn taxidermy." I actually fell for this one and purchased nine weeks of lessons. It is a crying shame three squirrels, two quail and six bass had to give their lives before I realized taxidermy is best left up to the professionals.
You've all seen this one, too: "See the Miracle of Birth!" For only $18.98, you receive a clear plastic "chick hatcher" and four quail eggs.
First of all, folks, this is the "Miracle of Hatching" not the "Miracle of Birth." And second, why do hunters and anglers want to see this?
Confess, though. You bought one of these, didn't you?
Pulling the Plug
If you're like me, some time while fishing, you've wondered: What would I see if I could suddenly pull the plug on this lake?
This is a common fantasy among anglers. It usually occurs on a slow fishing day. You're waiting for a bite, and you begin wondering if there really are any fish down there.
You ask yourself, "Are those blips on my sonar really fish, or could they be gas bubbles?" If you could suddenly drain the lake, you'd know for sure.
Well, let me tell something: you don't really want to know what's down there. During a recent drought, one of my favorite fishing lakes dried up. I learned then why I'd never caught many fish there. The only fish I could find on that cracked-mud lake bottom were a few dead carp.
The fish were scarce, but cans weren't. Thousands upon thousands of them littered the lake bottom. Can you guess what kind they were? They weren't beer cans or soda cans. They were sardine and Vienna sausage cans.
There were no potted meat cans. Even fishermen won't eat potted meat.
Speaking of sardines and Vienna sausages …
On my way to the river the other day, I dropped by a little grocery to grab some for lunch. There was a time when this didn't require a lot of decision-making on my part, but that's all changed.
Take sardines, for example. Fishermen eat sardines because a fishing boat is the only place you can open a can of these stinking things without going to jail. Remember, though, when all sardines were packed in fish oil? You didn't have to decide what kind of sardines to buy.
Now you must choose from sardines packed in olive oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil or a variety of other ingredients such as spring water, hot sauce, mustard, tomato sauce, lemon sauce, dill sauce, basil sauce and more. It's hard to find sardines in just plain fish oil.
And Vienna sausages. There used to be only one kind of those, too — regular. Not so today. The types available include barbecue, hot and spicy, smoked, jalapeno, chicken, honey mustard and even "lite," with 50 percent less calories for you fishermen watching your waistlines.
One thing hasn't changed. Every can of Vienna sausages, regardless of flavor, still has that weird jelly stuff in it. Does anybody know what that really is?
And finally, have you noticed how often fish are exploding these days? It's a problem we should do something about.
I was watching a fishing show recently when I saw this happen. The host was working a topwater plug when a bass struck and missed.
"Did you see that fish explode?" he shouted.
I've found exploding fish in books, too. Last week I read this line: "When I set the hook, the fish exploded!"
Sometimes whole schools are blowing up. One fisheries department issued this report: "The bass population in Lake Smith is exploding."
If a fish blows up on your lure, will you be ready? Don't wind up like the guy in this poem:
"Dear Jim died when a fish exploded,
He didn't know that the bass were loaded."
Keith "Catfish" Sutton is the author of several books on the outdoors. For more information, visit his web site, www.catfishsutton.com.