Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wood Stork population - Positive Upgrade to 'Threatened' Status


Wood Stork at rest in a Cypress Tree in the Lowcountry

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reports that wood storks in the Southeastern U.S. no longer face imminent danger of extinction. Those with exposure to the Lowcountry saltwater ecosystem in the 1980’s can remember exactly when the large black and white storks appeared. The wood storks soared into the hearts of local birders, and conservation measures over the last three decades are helping to ensure that the wood storks stay on a path towards recovery.

Soaring wood stork with broad wingspan and markings
On June 26, 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the official announcement to 'downlist' the wood stork from 'Endangered' to 'Threatened.' Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. When wood storks were listed as endangered in 1984, their population was dropping by 5-percent annually. In 1997 the recovery plan defined a three-year average of 6000 nests as a goal for sustainability. Then from 2003 to 2012 the average jumped from 7000 to 10,000 nests over several three year cycles.


A flock of Ibis can look similar to wood storks
According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources there were no wood stork nesting pairs in S.C. until 1981, when eleven nesting pairs were documented. Prior to that date the wood storks were mostly found in Florida, but began to migrate north when development and habitat destruction put them on the search for suitable habitat. SCDNR counted 1,827 wood stork nests in S.C. during 2012. The balance of U.S. wood stork nests are found in Florida and Georgia.

Amateur birders may observe that herons and egrets hunt visually, with darting head movements to snatch their prey. While wood storks are tactile feeders who stalk shallow water flats and feel around with their bill for fish or crustaceans. Natural wetlands and impoundments where they can feed are very attractive to wood storks, and their proximity to nesting habitat is critical for rookery selection.

Rookery Cypress Tree and happy wood stork
The SCDNR reports the 2012 wood stork nesting colonies by county. Beaufort County leads with five colonies, Charleston County has four colonies, Colleton and Horry Counties have three colonies, while Georgetown and Jasper Counties have two colonies. Two of these colonies are on SCDNR managed lands at Dungannon wildlife management area (WMA) in Hollywood, and the Donnelly WMA near Green Pond.

When witnessing a nesting colony and rookery a casual observer might remark that it is simply a place bustling with bird life. While the romantic outdoors type might pause and give thanks to God that he saw fit to provide such a mechanism that protects our mighty feathered flock, so that they can reproduce and grace our wetlands with their stunning and chiseled beauty forever. Amen.

To view a past blog entry about Whooping Cranes in S.C. click here.





  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Leatherback Sighting / Sea Turtle nesting Season

Leatherback Sea Turtle with Head Up
Leatherback Sea Turtle with Flipper Waving
While the sea turtle nesting season in South Carolina mainly consists of loggerhead turtle nests, the occasional green sea turtle and leatherback sea turtle come ashore in the Palmetto State. Turtle nesting teams are on patrol every morning along barrier islands, looking for sign of a turtle crawl, and for signs of a nest. A 'false crawl' is when they find the overnight tracks on the beach, but no nest digging. The first loggerhead nest of the year came fittingly on Mother's Day, May 11 on Seabrook Island. Then on June 14 on Pritchard's Island the first Leatherback nest was discovered, followed up by a second leatherback nest on Fripp Island on June 24. There is a chance that the same Leatherback sea turtle created both nests, since they tend to nest twice. It is still rare to have them nest in S.C., and they are much more common in the Southern waters of Florida and the Carribean. The SCDNR turtle nesting survey for 2012 shares that a total of only four Leatherback sea turtle nests were found out of a total of 4623 sea turtle nests. Then the 2013 nesting year had new record for S.C. beaches with 5198 nests recorded. Did you know that the Leatherback sea turtle is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell? Its carapace is composed of a layer of thin, tough and rubbery skin. They are much larger that loggerheads in size and for more life history info check out this link on the SCDNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program. Sometimes recreational anglers will encounter Leatherback sea turtle while fishing in the ocean, and I have seen them myself a few times over the years, with the most recent sighting being on June 23 when I made these photos. This turtle was alone, but in the past I have seen them in small groups with the largest pod consisting of five Leatherbacks swimming together - which was a beautiful sighting in our natural resources that I may never forget. Turtle nesting season continues into July and turtle hatchlings begin to emerge from August on into the Fall, and can create even more excitement.

To view past blog entries click on 2012 World Sea Turtle Day or 2011 Mid-Season Nesting Report or 2011 S.C. Aquarium Sea Turtle Release at Kiawah Island or 2009 Release at Folly Beach
Leatherback Sea Turtle with back exposed





Friday, June 27, 2014

15th DOA Outdoor Writer's Event - Day Two

Jumping tarpon I caught on a DOA Baitbuster
Capt. Chris Myers sight fishing
WIth a little help from DOA's Ed Zyak, I was paired with another local fishing guide in Captain Chris Myers. And then for good measure Capt. Willy Le would also be aboard the Hewes Bayfisher that Myers has been piloting for ten years now. A 5:30 a.m. start ensured that we would make the 20-minute run to the Stuart Inlet and beyond in search of the pods of bait that Myers had seen the day before. All around those bait pods were schools of tarpon and nearly non-stop viewing opportunities, but despite three hours of working those tarpon they did not have a strike. On Day Two the waters were still calm due to a hot weather pattern that remained in place, but the tarpon had disappeared. Myers was disappointed while Willy and I were content to hunt them up a while. Sure enough after about two hours of searching we found two schools of tarpon, and they were on the move heading North with such a purpose that the trolling motor could not keep us in front of them. Myers had to crank the engine and run into position, then we would lie and wait. On several occasions the tarpon swam right under the boat, leaving us scratching our heads about how to solve this fishy equation. Finally the tarpon slowed down and Myers put me in position to cast a #372 DOA Baitbuster in front of the school. About three casts went unanswered but I went to school of each retrieve and soon had the bait in the right place with the right motion and WHAM a solid tarpon slammed the lure and began an aerial display. With two cameras snapping pics behind me, I remained on the bow as the tarpon first ran away from the boat, and then right towards me. My struggle to keep the line tight during the second run was successful, but the fish kept greyhounding and shaking, showing me the power of an 80-pound tarpon. Eventually the hook was marked Return To Sender by the poon postmaster, but we shared a celebratory moment before getting back into the chase. However, the tarpon school sounded and did not offer any more opportunities - but we had already made something special happen when that tarpon turned on. Heading inshore to the High Point area we found Capt. Mark Nichols wade fishing for snook and jacks in knee-deep waters, and plenty of other boats chose to fish inshore as well. As Day Two fishing came to an end at lunchtime back at the Chickee Hut I was able to thank Mark Nichols for hosting the event, and shared my tarpon story with Rufus Wakeman, knowing that just one good fish can make your day.
Mark Nichols (right) leads the wading anglers


To view past blog entries from the DOA Writers Event click 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011,2010 or 2009.



At the Chickee Hut the friendly faces were evident






Thursday, June 26, 2014

15th DOA Outdoor Writer's Event - Day One

Doug Olander and I double up on BIG 19-pound bonita
Capt. Greg Snyder's patented snook release 
With a hot summer weather pattern in place, keeping the Southeast well into the 90's, it was Go Time once again for the the annual gathering hosted by Captain Mark Nichols of DOA Lures. A fish camp along the Indian River Lagoon known as River Palms is the setting with the 'Old Florida' feel that make the visiting writers and fishing guides right at home. Arriving for supper on Sunday afternoon Nichols always speaks up  to thank the sponsors on site like Trokar / Eagle Claw hooks, Costa sunglasses, Humminbird, Shimano, Engel coolers and Tailin' Toads. The fishing talk and scuttlebutt continued to relay that challenging conditions persist after the ecosystem was tested by both extreme weather and pollution in recent years. However, after two days of fishing by this group of knowledgable anglers, the overall catch reports seem to be on the uptick. On Day One I met Capt. Greg Snyder at the Chickee Hut at 5:30 a.m. to load gear into his boat, and we were soon joined by Doug Olander and headed to the rock jetty at St. Lucie Inlet. Local guide Snyder had a plan to hook a snook before first light, before they got lockjaw during the heat of the day. With the sun just beginning to rise, Snyder used a 4-inch DOA shrimp in holographic to land a nice snook, getting our day off to a great start. Olander is the editor of Sport Fishing magazine and he was delighted to break out his GoPro camera and make a series of photos of Snyder and the snook using the burst mode, which is a still frame photo taken every two seconds. The hot weather made the Atlantic Ocean flat, and Snyder put his 22-foot Action Craft into overdrive as we headed offshore to fish a weedline. Unable to find any mahi that were reportedly in the area, we did see some sailfish but were unable to get them to eat. Just then, a school of beefy bonita showed up allowing Olander and I to double-up using a DOA baitbuster in silver flake. We moved back nearshore and fished over some reefs and scored a jack crevalle and spanish mackerel. A memorable moment included when bull sharks  surrounded the boat when we had a cobia on the line, and due to an underwater altercation beneath the boat the line was parted. More bonita crashed the party and were easily the most consistent fish of the day.
Doug and Greg .... Meet Jack

To view past blog entries from the DOA Writers Event click 20132012, 2011,2010 or 2009.



Marking time in 2014 at DOA Camp

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fly Fishing Trails and Jackson County, N.C.


Alex Bell is crouching over a small trout stream

Traveling to Western North Carolina means relief from the heat and humidity of summer for most Lowcountry residents. The Smokey Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cherokee Indian Reservation all intersect near the town of Sylva. A half-hour ride in any direction from Sylva will allow anglers to cast into their Fly Fishing Trail.           

I met Guide Alex Bell at 8 a.m. at Caney Branch General Store in Cullowhee. Bell is a Founder of the N.C. Fly Fishing Trail and he runs his own guide service, appropriately called AB’s. We were joined by Marianne Baker, a social media specialist working for Jackson County Tourism.
            
We loaded into Bell’s pick-up and headed into the Nantahala National Forest where public fishing is allowed. My out-of-state trout fishing license cost $42, making me eligible to keep seven trout per day with no size limit in effect. We were bound for Moses Creek, which is a tributary for the Tuckasegee River via Caney Fork Creek. We put on Frogg Toggs waterproof and breathable waders in order to be comfortable in the cold water stream. We also used boots with a felt sole for surer footing on the slippery rocks.
           
Beautiful brook trout are usually very small
After a couple of hours of fishing I managed to catch two small trout, and Bell managed two more. Perhaps the full ‘Honey Moon’ the night before had the trout full after a nighttime feeding frenzy? But that’s just fishing. Still, the small stream fishing for native brook trout in this instance is very demanding, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to find out about the challenge of brook trout waters.

We exited the stream and departed Cullowhee, or Land of the Lilies, and charged northward to Sylva to enjoy a lunch downtown. Due to the elevation changes in Jackson County, windy roads are the norm, making travel times increased since slower speeds are necessary. All along these roads are trout fishing areas that offer broad creeks and gentle slopes, so visit the Internet at www.FlyFishingTrail.com to review your options.
            
At Lulu’s On Main, Bell and I were joined by Julie Spiro, Executive Director for Jackson County’s Chamber of Commerce. “Our county covers 440 square miles, and the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Balsam,” said Spiro. “That elevation is 6053-feet and it’s near Scott Creek, which is also on the Fly Fishing Trail.” Spiro grew up in Jackson County fishing the Tuck near her family farm, and she can use that lifetime of experience to showcase their county as a trout fishing destination. 

To read this feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about Jackson County click on Nature Notes or Arrowmont Stables.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 6/24/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Sunrise Fish Photo - The early bird gets the 'Worm'

Inshore: Scott Hammond from Haddrell's Point West cracks that it's time to 'walk the dog'. Hot weather during the day has really turned on the topwater bite at dawn and dusk using a Yo-Zuri Pencil. Scott's Pro Tip is to be sure and have a second rod rigged up and ready with a suspending bait like a MirroLure 17mr to mimic a wounded baitfish. More times than not if you miss a fish on the topwater, you can then hook up on the suspending bait. Another tactic this time of year is to use a popping cork with a DOA shrimp, live shrimp or mud minnow underneath it. Fish your baits 3 to 4-inches under the popping cork at creek mouths and shell rakes for best results. Big bull reds continue to be found around the jetties and are readily taking chunks of mullet, blue crab, or live menhaden. Spanish are schooling up in great numbers along the front beaches, and a solid flounder bite is on using Zman jerk shadz near rock piles and other structure. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Craig Lupton from Buck Bass and Beyond shares that redfish
 remain the steadiest species to chase after. Fishing cut mullet and quartered legal size (5 inch point to point) blue crabs under corks seems to be the best bet. Try setting up in the mouths of small feeder creeks which drain the spartina grass flats,  placing your baits along grass edges in small coves, indentations, points and visible oyster bars. Venture onto the flats for tailing and fining redfish as the water floods the grass throwing the same baits as well as your favorite sight casting lures till the tide turns then set up again on the outside of the grass edge and ambush them on their way back off the flats via the feeder creeks. Up the creeks closer to fresher water is also holding large numbers of reds where mud minnows and cut bait has been working well. Present the baits in areas where water is flushing in or out of smaller creeks and rice field dike blowouts and old flood gates. Trout seem to be illusive as ever with few being reported. The only reports of keeper trout are near Fripp Island area, and fishing topwaters is a great way to target big trout. In low light conditions and high water toss the Heddon Super Spook Jr., Storm Chug Bug and the  Rebel jointed minnow in silver with a black back. If the water is choppy try something bigger and with a rattle. Fish them over submerged oysters and grass. A few keeper cobia are being caught on the highway 170 pier. It was caught on a live Greenback Herring and no chum. A few tarpon are being jumped but I have not heard about any being landed. Cobia fishing methods work well for tarpon. I like to stay close to bait pods so the beaches are a good bet this time of year and work back into the creeks as the bait moves back and water temps increase. Craig's best tarpon ever was caught in Chowan creek in the Orange Grove area. It fell for a live Menhaden fished under a balloon. Estimated weight around 150lbs. The fishing rips between  Bay Point and Joiner Banks seem to hold some nice Tarpon especially early summer, and live menhaden, mullet and live blue crabs all work well. Don't forget that the D.O.A. BFL size soft plastic lure can also be effective on tarpon. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck Bass 'N Beyond.
Surf Zone: Craig adds that the surf may be the place to be right now. Good reports of monster redfish, trout and founder are being bagged. Cut mullet, blue crab quarters, pin fish and live mud minnows are working for the surf fishermen. Make sure you are presenting your baits in the whitewater. The crashing waves disturb the bottom washing up and disorienting small crabs, pin fish and minnows making them easy targets for predators. If casting plugs and soft plastics is your thing, then try some of my favorite lures in the surf, the Mirrolure Mirr-o-Glass twicth bait, a 1/4 oz. jig with a Zman Paddlerz in pin fish color or Zoom Jerk Bait in pearl white. If Sand Fleas are present in the sand on the beach then definitely use those for bait. Look for a group of small V's as the waves recede off of the sand. Scoop them up with your hands or a small shovel pin them on a small # 4 hook on a Carolina Rig and cast them into the surf. If you are equipped for it there is always the chance at a King, tarpon, red drum and sharks of off the beach this time of the year. You would be surprised what's out there!

Near Shore: Craig says it's normal this time of the year for the near shore wrecks and reefs to produce nice catches of flounder, weakfish, Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, black sea bass as well as the occasional cobia, King mackerel and grouper. Live mud minnows on Carolina rigs or heavier jigs tipped with a mud minnow or a Gulp Swimming Mullet in chartreuse or pearl white have been working well for the smaller species. I'm hearing that the cobia being caught are a little on the shorter side but the fishermen are expecting one more wave of bigger ones to come through. If you are seeing and Spanish the kings are around too. Reports of kings even all the way up onto the beaches are coming in. Try slow trolling live menhaden, bluefish, greenies, and Spanish around schools of bait, structure, ledges and live bottom or try anchoring over some structure or live bottom and free line the same baits and chum like crazy.

Offshore: Scott tells us that some good size dolphin are still available in the deep blue anywhere from 200 to 1200-feet of water, with fish in the 40 to -55-pound class hitting the Trident-certified scales at the store. The sailfish bite has turned on lately, with many boats reporting back similar numbers to what Capt. Emerson read had when he released four sails and had several shots at more. The bottom fishing in 65 to 110-feet of water is jigging up some triggerfish, bee-liners and a few quality grouper too.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Field Notes and Photos in Cashiers, N.C. - June 2014

This Red Dragonfly had plenty of company
A mid-June visit to Cashiers in Western North Carolina revealed that the cold winter had finally relinquished its grip. Cooler than normal temps were still evident in May in upper Jackson County, but by June a more temperate climate was back in charge. Afternoon thunderstorms underscored why the Cashiers area will average over 100-inches of rain per year. Of course, water fuels both flora and fauna to respond and I was able to witness a few of these to share with you.

To view past blog entries with Field Notes click Saluda, N.C. or here.

This Junco was likely near a nest

A Brown Water Snake - good snake

Get Outside to experience nature!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Arrowmont Stables - N.C. Horseback Trail Rides

Nancy Sellars is delighted to be hands on with her guests
Home of free range horses
A trip to the mountains of Cashiers, North Carolina can be enhanced by taking a horseback trail ride to enjoy those spectacular vistas. Arrowmont Stables has been in business on their 200-acre hilltop campus for many years under the direction of owners David and Nancy Sellars. When I spoke to Nancy on the phone to set up a visit, she was cordial and polite when asking important questions like what level of horseriding experience you may have, as well as your weight. She then takes care to select a horse from her free-roaming stables that will be a good fit for you. Free range? That's right, upon arrival at Arrowmont Stables riders are asked to open the gate to let themselves in and then to shut the gate behind them. The entire compound is fenced, and these horses work hard during the day and then drift across the property after that - which a unique component of the Arrowmont concept. Each trail ride group is accompanied by a guide who is familiar with the terrain, and our Trail Masters were Josh Blue and Michaela Van Der Vyver. Sometimes the trail was a steep incline where single file riding is required, while other spots had wide open meadows that allow for more comaraderie during the trail ride. About halfway through the 2-hour trail ride we paused at a series of rustic cabins in the woods to tour the compound and kitchen that serves as a meeting facility now called the Old Fort Lodge. Back in the day, this was a boyscout camp and many antiques and relics from their endeavors grace the walls and serve to bring an authentic feel to their operations. Mounting back up, my favorite part of the ride included a ridgetop where a series of evenly spaced white pines, that were both tall and mature. They overlook a Christmas tree farm in the adjacent valley, with appalachian mountain tops visible in the distance. Arrowmont Stables is special and they invite you to come by and become the master of your own mountain retreat.

Vintage outdoors gear found in the Old Fort Lodge 
To view past blog entries about trail riding click here.


A practice ride in the ring proceeds every trail ride

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

60 Years at Edisto Beach for Atwood Vacations


Seashells and Atwood Vacartions make a good combo at Edisto
Choosing where to take a beach vacation can be an exciting time for families wanting to spend a week within earshot of the Atlantic Ocean. For those choosing to visit Edisto Beach, Atwood Vacations has been one of the home rental services available. Perhaps they have stayed in business for 60 years since they understand that for many, Edisto Beach is beyond compare.

The Atwood Vacations office remains located on Highway 174 as it winds towards the beach, and has become a landmark that is easy to find. Walterboro native John Hamilton purchased Atwood Vacations just three years ago, and is glad to share that he has been spending time on Edisto since his early days as a youth.

“Families have stayed with Atwood Vacations for generations now, and we’ll continue to offer the quality of service that these folks have come to expect,” said Hamilton. “We are celebrating 60 years of service in 2014, and we continue to evolve by offering a user friendly website for our guests to utilize on the Internet.

John Hamilton in rocker mode in front of Atwood Office
“We also offer a smart phone app called MyEdisto which is available to everyone with an interest in Edisto,” said Hamilton. “A special portal for guests allows access to specific details about their rental, and they can choose to receive notifications about local activities. Of course, customers can still simply stop by the office where the front desk staff is eager to be of assistance.” On the Internet visit www.AtwoodVacations.com and to read the 2014 edition of Explore Edisto magazine click here.

Atwood Vacations knows that Edisto Beach is the first choice for Colletonians, and for others from neighboring counties too. But people come from all over the Eastern U.S. to visit and Hamilton shares that all these vacationers have something in common. “They all basically use I-95 and then come through Walterboro, to access Highway 64 and from that point on they begin to experience the charm of the Lowcountry that is such a big part of Edisto,” said Hamilton.

To view this feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian

For past blog entries on Edisto Island click on Birding or Governor's Cup.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2014 Harry Hampton Auction at Carolina Billfish Classic


HAMPTON WILDLIFE FUND CO-SPONSORS LOWCOUNTRY FUNDRAISER WITH CAROLINA BILLFISH CLASSIC TO BENEFIT SCDNR
Carolina Billfish Classic partners with Harry Hampton Fund


The Hampton Wildlife Fund will join with the Carolina Billfish Classic (CBC), the third leg of the prestigious S.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, to sponsor a fundraising banquet with proceeds benefiting the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The banquet will be held at Gold Bug Island, 1560 Ben Sawyer Blvd, Mt. Pleasant, on Friday evening, June 20th, 2014 from 6 pm to 10 pm.



The Hampton Fund is seeking to re-establish the annual Lowcountry Marine Conservation Banquet, first held in 1991. The 2014 event will mark the 20th held in the Charleston area. Proceeds will directly benefit SCDNR’s Marine Resources Division headquartered at Ft. Johnson on John’s Island. Doors open at 6 p.m. and a silent auction begins at 6:30. Food will be served soon thereafter. Sponsorships and individual tickets are available at the door for $25 per person or $40 per couple. Information may be obtained by calling Jim Goller, the Hampton Fund’s executive director, at 803-600-1570.


The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund, Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation which partners with the DNR for the promotion of natural resources and natural resource education which benefits the conservation of wildlife, marine and other resources in South Carolina. Funds are obtained solely through private donations and special promotional projects, fundraising events and publications, and administered by a 14-member volunteer board chaired by Dr. Julius L. Leary of Greenwood. In March, the Hampton Fund donated $134,525, bringing the total donated to DNR over the years to $3,033,455.

The Carolina Billfish Classic wants to give back to the area and we feel this is an excellent way to do just that,” said Deidre Menefee, tournament director of the CBC and a Hampton Fund board member. “This is a great way sportsmen can directly contribute to DNR’s marine conservation programs,” said the Fund’s executive director Jim Goller of Beaufort and a DNR retiree.” The Hampton Fund is a long-time partner of the Governor’s Cup Series, helped establish the Bruce Rush Reef in 2005, donated to and correlated funding of the Memorial Deepwater Reef project this year and helped purchase DNR’s educational vessel Discovery in the past. Our all-volunteer board makes sure the money is used wisely.”

Public education in the principles of wildlife and marine resources management and conservation is a major thrust of the fund. Five scholarships are annually awarded to South Carolina resident students to attend a South Carolina institution of higher learning majoring in natural resources, marine science, environmental science or related fields, one is awarded annually in the field of law enforcement/criminal justice and one annually in the field of journalism. The Hampton Fund recently partnered with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and received a $50,000 donation for DNR marine projects, two new Hampton Fund scholarships and a graduate assistantship to correlate and publish billfish tag return data collected by DNR.

To view a past blog entry about the Harry Hampton Journalism Award click here.

Projects supported and funded by the Harry Hampton Wildlife Fund include:
*S.C. Memorial Deepwater Reef Project *Educational Vessel Discovery *Bruce Rush Artificial Reef *Hooked On Fishing Not On Drugs Youth Fishing Rodeos *Striped Bass Research
*DNR Law Enforcement Program *Operation Game Thief *Prescribed Fire Council

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jennette's Pier Loaded with Green Fishing Fun

Anglers jam Jennette's Pier on a nice summer day

At mile post 16.5 in Nag’s Head, North Carolina one might expect to find a weathered and splintering fishing pier ready for action. Instead thanks to a complete rebuild in 2011, a brand new fishing pier shares access to the ocean with anglers, and it is loaded with green power too. Besides technology, Jennette’s Pier is favored by geography since the Outer Banks jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, giving anglers a little extra distance on each cast.
            
Beach goers just don't know what they are missing!
At 1000-feet in length this is the longest pier open to the public in North Carolina. Walking down the planks past solar panels and windmill turbines anglers can stop at education stations to learn about the green energy in use there each and every day. A couple of constants at any fishing pier on the beach is sunshine and wind, which is why sunscreen and a hat will always be part of essential pier fishing gear.
           
Big blue marlin mount
Fishing rods, a tackle box with fish hooks, pliers and a towel for fishy hands are also recommended. Most piers including this one sell the bottom rigs and the lead weights that work best in their area. Anglers usually pay a small daily fee to fish off of the pier, which furnishes rod holders, running water, fish landing nets and any pertinent information about what constitutes a legal to keep species of fish.
            
Lots of windmill turbines for GREEN energy
Starting with striped bass fishing in spring, and continuing with red drum, flounder and even king mackerel fishing in the summer and fall, the tradition of fishing here continues well after the original pier was built in 1939. The location was originally known as Whalebone Junction and whale sightings from the pier continue each winter. It was Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that knocked out and shut down Jennette’s Pier, paving the way for the N.C. Aquarium Society to acquire the property and to build the new pier.
            
The Outer Banks of  N.C. also  has a history of harnessing the power of the wind. In the 1800’s windmills churned from Raonoke to Ocracoke for grinding grain, though severe storms were always a threat to them. Don’t forget that the Wright Brothers selected the same area to test their airplane designs that eventually earned them the First In Flight honors. Today, the wind turbines at Jeanette’s Pier are 90-feet tall and are automatically rotated away from facing destructive winds.

To view this article in its entirety click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries about pier fishing click on Folly Pier.



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Missouri Golf: Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge

Rustic gateway to Big Cedar Lodge
Infinity pool overlooking Table Rock Lake
The Top of the Rock Par Three golf course is but one facet of the Big Cedar Lodge located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. The clubhouse overlooks Table Rock Lake, which was the setting for some of the early bass fishing tournaments that inspired Johnny Morris to begin selling tackle and boats. Of course the rest is sporting goods sales history, with the Bass Pro Shops flagship store now located in nearby Springfield. Morris has spent seven years developing the Top of the Rock facility and Big Cedar Lodge so that outdoor enthusiasts can have a vacation destination in southern Missouri. The Buffalo Ridge golf course is only a short 15-minute drive away and is located on one of a series of plateaus, the top level offering a restaurant and clubhouse with a commanding view of the entire lush green surroundings. A mix of taxidermy , a pool table and locker room facility help to provide a clubhouse feel for those fortunate enough to see it. Both course were on display during the Inaugural Champions Tour event.

To view a past blog entry click on Big Cedar Legends of golf tourney.


Buffalo RIdge clubhouse sign

One of the many welcome centers to enjoy

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Champions Tour Legends Promote Hunting and Fishing


Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus share a story in front of the
Top of the Rock clubhouse overlooking Table Rock Lake

Do the outdoor sports of golf, tennis and cycling intersect with the outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing? You bet they do. Recreational outdoor pursuits are more important than ever to those looking for a reason to unplug from the Internet and to get outside. The Champions Tour in professional golf just held the first ever PGA event that included a Par Three golf course, a shooting sports school and a fishing tournament.

Sir Nick Faldo tees off at the Bass Pro Legends golf tourney
Golf legends like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson were not only playing golf at the Big Cedar tourney, but they were stressing how the outdoor sports mean so much to them. Colletonian readers may recall that the Legends of Golf tourney was held the past eleven years in Savannah, but due to a change in sponsorship, the event was moved to two golf courses in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

Attention to detail sets this facility apart
The new title sponsor is Bass Pro Shops of Springfield, and the Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock Par Three golf course are located about an hour South in the hills overlooking Table Rock Lake. Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris designed the Big Cedar area to host an event like this and fans who viewed this inaugural edition came away with a wow factor. The course, the views, the clubhouse, and the can-do spirit were all worthy of note.

The Ozark Mountains are not unlike the Smokies in that they are older mountains that have been weathered by time and are well forested. This natural setting is where the shooting sports, fishing and golf can all coexist. The tournament program shares that Jack
Grander black marlin caught by Jack Nicklaus
Nicklaus loves to go fishing and who knew that he landed a grander black marlin while fishing in Australia many years ago? Apparently Johnny Morris knew, and now a full-size mount of that marlin is over the bar at Top of The Rock.

The tournament program also shares that Missouri native Tom Watson enjoys the sport of waterfowling with his son and family when not playing golf around the world. Sir Nick Faldo of England was present, and he talked of fly-fishing back home and how casting was not so different from a golfer swinging a club. Both disciplines require practice in order to produce a successful motion that can be repeated over and over again.

The week began with a special gathering of outdoor VIP’s like Bass Master Kevin Van Dam, freshwater master Bill Dance, and NASCAR’s Richard Childress. They chipped, putted, shot and cast their way around a course of dreams for many outdoorsman. Childress shared that while he knows racing, he’s always tuned in to golf and outdoor shows so that he can pick up useful knowledge to apply in his recreational pursuits. It’s just awesome to see these folks all come together, including the PGA, to show that conservation and the outdoor sports are so important.

To view this feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about golf click Web.com Tour or PGA Tour or Champions Tour.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 6/10/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:

An artful depiction of a Mahi Jumping
INSHORE: Craig Lupton at Buck Bass, 'N Beyond shares that the Redfish bite is still strong with some decent schools still being spotted while sight fishing on the flats around oyster banks. Live Mud Minnows still seem to be what the fish want but many being caught on small 1/4 oz. jigs with a soft plastic grub in Space Guppy and other more natural colors. They are getting better reports from the fishermen going farther up the creeks. Lots of slot Reds filling the limits quickly then spending the rest of the day just having fun catching them. Talked to a few guys catching up to thirty or so a trip, mixed in with some good eating catfish. Live mud minnows and cut shrimp on the bottom have been working for both. Not much on the trout and sheepshead with only a few being reported. The local piers are reporting the usual Summer species you would expect, with lots of sharks, rays and the occasional cobia - plus delicious whiting. Cut mullet works for the sharks and rays but a live Greenback Herring is the ticket for a nice Cobia. Use peeled shrimp on a Carolina rig for the whiting. Surf fishing is also picking up. For more store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass 'N Beyond.

NEAR SHORE: The near shore wrecks and reefs are producing tons of black sea bass with few keepers mixed in. Flounder and weakfish are out there too, along with the bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The Flounder and weakfish are being caught using buck tail jigs tipped with Gulp swimming minows and live mud minnows but small herring, menhaden and pinfish work great also. For the bluefish and Spanish try trolling 15lb. tackle on planers with small drone spoons. Take assorted colors with you as I have found certain days only one color really turns them on. Remember too that if the Spanish are around there may be a big King mackerel there also. Fish for them on the same 15lb. tackle, and put a couple smaller baits like a menhaden, herring or pinfish close to the boat and put a Spanish close behind on of your shorter baits making it look like the Spanish is chasing the smaller baits. That live Spanish will keep those smaller baits moving and lively because they are sure they are about to be eaten. Craig has won more money kingfishing a live Spanish than any other bait, and promises if there is a King around, your spread looks good and your baits are fresh he will eat and it will be huge.

OFFSHORE: The Mahi bite is still raging with good reports starting in about 160 ft. on out. You know the deal, look for a tight weed line, birds and bait. Mix your colors in the trolling spread till the fish tell you what color they prefer. Start with some naked ballyhoo, then add a couple skirts in blue/white and some green/green and some green/ pink. Catch a few fish see what they want and switch your bait colors to match. Stay diligent watching your spread, looking for lures caught in the weeds, spinning or just not tracking right. Move baits up, drop them back and keep them fresh, don't just settle in on what you have out. Keep a pitch rod ready at all times, plus have a couple of dedicated rods rigged with plugs, jigs or hooks for cut bait.

BOTTOM: The bottom bite is red hot with awesome reports of limits of big Vermilion Snapper and triggerfish coming in. Mixed in the bag were some nice grouper and lots of black sea bass. Most guys make their own rigs using a 150lb. swivel on top, 4 to 5-feet of 60-lb. mono two to three hook loops tied in the middle about a foot apart, and a loop at the bottom for a 16oz. bank or pyramid sinker. I like my top two hooks to be 3/0 Octopus circles with a 5/0 circle on the last loop. Bait it up with cleaned and cut squid, ballyhoo chunks, cigar minnows or sardines. Send it down, lift it just off the bottom and get ready. Use your bottom finder to locate good hard bottom with as much relief as you can find. There needs to be fish marking on the finder or else just keep looking. Try some drifts find the sweet spot then anchor up. While anchored or drifting keep a rigged bait on a free line way out with very little or no weight. You will be surprised what you catch. You might get a king, mahi, spanish or even a nice grouper!

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.