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February 2018 Articles

Woods and Waters and Skunks

Oooooh, what is that smell? Mercy, it’s making my coffee taste bad, roll down the windows please! Living in southern Oklahoma we all know what it is and this time of year it is really bad! It’s one of those cute little black and white striped furry creatures we see flattened on the road. Sadly enough they have given their lives in the name of “love!”

You see, this time of year is when skunks start their mating season. Their minds are definitely on something other than watching the road.

Even with their potent defense, there are predators who can attack swiftly enough to carry off a young skunk before a mother can spray. Great Horned Owls strike from above and without warning. Other predators include coyotes and domestic dogs. However, the main threats to skunks have been human, who either killed them casually or out of fear. Also there are a large number of skunks that are run over by automobiles.

Striped Skunks are the chief carrier of rabies in the US, especially in the Midwest. At one time Striped skunks were hunted and trapped for their fine and silky fur.

The mountain men of the early fur trade wore fur caps they made from the entire skin of a striped skunk. In those days with infrequent baths and questionable hygiene, the caps may have introduced the first use of musk cologne!

There are several types of skunks commonly found throughout the United States, including the striped skunk, spotted skunk, hog-nosed skunk, and hooded skunk. They all have slightly different appearances and habits but also share may commonalities. For example, most adults grow to be about the size of a house cat or small dog. Some of the North American species have specialized diets but most are omnivorous and eat what is readily available, like grubs, plants, small animals, and even garbage. Finally, skunks all use a foul smelling spray to keep predators at bay.

Striped Skunks are the most common throughout North America and can be found from Northern Mexico to the Northwestern Territories of Canada. Their distinctive markings are used to identify them. Striped skunks have white stripes running from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails.

Spotted Skunks are most often encountered in the Eastern U.S. where they live in woodlands and prairies. They keep a diet of field animals, insects, wild plants, and farm crops. Despite their name, spotted skunks are not actually speckled. Instead, their black fur displays swirls of white stripes.

Hog-nosed skunks are typically found in the Southwest. They are easily identified by their stark white tails and the large, solid white stripe that runs down the length of their backs. These skunks also have relatively large noses that they use to root through the soil for food.

A pod of perfume

Hooded skunks are desert-dwelling mammals that primarily feed on insects. They are somewhat similar in appearance to striped skunks, but have longer tails and thick patches of fur around their necks. Some kinds of hooded skunks have two thin white stripes running down their backs and tails, while others have single, thick stripes and solid white tails.

Getting rid of skunks in an area first requires identifying the creature. Skunks are usually hard to miss, especially with the black and white striped body, bushy tail and scampering gait. If you encounter a skunk, pay close attention to whether it stomps its feet as this is a pre-spraying warning sign. Skunks start to move around in the springtime when temperatures get warmer and they begin their search for a mate and food. Since skunks can accurately spray between 10 to 15 feet, it’s important to move as far away as possible as they may assume you pose a threat. Getting rid of skunks can be challenging.

Skunks can be a pest, however, they do help control insects and other pests around your home.

Whew!

Growing up I remember the smell and horror experienced when a skunk got under your house, boy that was pleasant! They would manage to get into the crawl space in the foundation. Of course the best defense was to make sure these were areas were covered with screen or something to keep them out. If they did manage to get under the house it took a few days for breakfast to taste normal again!

The best advice is to admire them from afar! It’s time to get ready for fishing, get out and enjoy your Oklahoma!

Woods and Waters March 22 2018 Fishing

Before church Sunday morning, I was visiting with a good friend when she mentioned an upcoming trip to the Beavers Bend area. Fishing is in the air! She and her family will be trying their fly fishing skills on the resident trout population-that sounds like fun to me! Regardless of the type of fish you pursue, now is the time to kick it into high gear. With temps this week in the mid 80s, the big bass will be cruising the shallows of your favorite waters. Just remember that those temps will also cause our local snake population to be moving around, also looking for a springtime snack! If you haven’t tried fly fishing, you are really missing out! It’s a sport that offers a journey for a lifetime. It can be as consuming as you wish it to be, but one thing is sure, you will always be learning something new. Add the element of tying your own flys/lures and you have a hobby for life! I’ve probably spent just as much time fly fishing on bass ponds in my life than I’ve spent traveling around chasing trout. Fishing farm ponds is where I originally found my love for fly fishing. Dave Whitlock is a well known fly fisherman and craftsman. He creates some of the most beautiful and effective flies for bass I have ever seen. He really opened the door to fly fishing for bass back in the 70s and 80s with his books on the subject.

The book that started it all for me.

My first outfit was crude at best with a $10 reel and a 9 foot fiberglass rod, that seemed to be as heavy as a shotgun. Heavy and cumbersome but it worked! With no fly fishing stores around, everything was mail order, but every time a package showed up it was like Christmas. Prior to that time my exposure to fly fishing was limited to articles in “Field & Stream”, “Outdoor Life” and other outdoor publications. I spent hours at the pond below our house, in the Valley Pasture, trying to fool the local bass and crappie populations. I wasn’t always successful but I was learning a sport that I have loved for nearly 50 years! Fly fishing for bass on ponds is a great way to get into the sport. There’s usually plenty of fish, and you always stand a good chance at catching them. One of the greatest things about ponds, in my opinion, is that most of them are small enough to fish their entirety from the bank. And the smaller the piece of water you’re fishing, the easier it is to locate fish. If you don’t agree, go out to a big public lake, and you’ll quickly understand what a bonus this is for an angler. The many hours I spent fly fishing bass ponds in my younger days, I learned a great deal. Below is a list of tips that I’d like to pass on in the hopes it will help others find success. It didn’t take me long fishing ponds to figure out the best method for consistently catching fish was casting my flies parallel to the banks of ponds. The reason it’s so effective is because it allows you to cover water systematically and thoroughly. When you cast parallel to the bank you can work your fly along the natural contours of the pond. Keeping your flies in similar water throughout your retrieve. Instead of spending your time casting out into deep water and working your flies back to you, start out casting your flies just off the bank, then slowly working your parallel casts outward into deeper water. Doing so, you’ll be able to locate where the majority of the fish are located and feeding, eliminate unproductive water and concentrate your efforts and first casts in the hot zones. Early spring, when the shallow waters warm quickly, this will work wonders!

No explanation needed.

Warm water species of fish are very similar to trout, in the fact that they spend most of their life span staying close to their food sources. The majority of the food found in ponds is located in close proximity to the banks. This is even more true when you’re fly fishing on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure. If you take the time to look along the banks, you’ll find bream and juvenile bass, newly hatched fry, frogs and tadpoles, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and crayfish. All of these species use the banks, and it’s vegetation in and out of the water for cover and safety. If they venture out into open water, they know they’re sitting ducks for predators. Bass use two methods for foraging on their food sources. They either set up stationary in ambush spots close to cover or structure awaiting prey, or they stay on the move, slowly patrolling the waters where the majority of their food sources are located.  The key here, is to have a strategy with your presentations. Don’t randomly cast your flies around the pond. Hopefully I have stirred some interest in fly fishing your local ponds, next week we will continue our look at this exciting sport! Meanwhile get out and enjoy your Oklahoma. Before church Sunday morning, I was visiting with a good friend when she mentioned an upcoming trip to the Beavers Bend area. Fishing is in the air! She and her family will be trying their fly fishing skills on the resident trout population-that sounds like fun to me! Regardless of the type of fish you pursue, now is the time to kick it into high gear. With temps this week in the mid 80s, the big bass will be cruising the shallows of your favorite waters. Just remember that those temps will also cause our local snake population to be moving around, also looking for a springtime snack! If you haven’t tried fly fishing, you are really missing out! It’s a sport that offers a journey for a lifetime. It can be as consuming as you wish it to be, but one thing is sure, you will always be learning something new. Add the element of tying your own flys/lures and you have a hobby for life! I’ve probably spent just as much time fly fishing on bass ponds in my life than I’ve spent traveling around chasing trout. Fishing farm ponds is where I originally found my love for fly fishing. Dave Whitlock is a well known fly fisherman and craftsman. He creates some of the most beautiful and effective flies for bass I have ever seen. He really opened the door to fly fishing for bass back in the 70s and 80s with his books on the subject. My first outfit was crude at best with a $10 reel and a 9 foot fiberglass rod, that seemed to be as heavy as a shotgun. Heavy and cumbersome but it worked! With no fly fishing stores around, everything was mail order, but every time a package showed up it was like Christmas. Prior to that time my exposure to fly fishing was limited to articles in “Field & Stream”, “Outdoor Life” and other outdoor publications. I spent hours at the pond below our house, in the Valley Pasture, trying to fool the local bass and crappie populations. I wasn’t always successful but I was learning a sport that I have loved for nearly 50 years! Fly fishing for bass on ponds is a great way to get into the sport. There’s usually plenty of fish, and you always stand a good chance at catching them. One of the greatest things about ponds, in my opinion, is that most of them are small enough to fish their entirety from the bank.

My grandson, Ryder – the future of fishing!

And the smaller the piece of water you’re fishing, the easier it is to locate fish. If you don’t agree, go out to a big public lake, and you’ll quickly understand what a bonus this is for an angler. The many hours I spent fly fishing bass ponds in my younger days, I learned a great deal. Below is a list of tips that I’d like to pass on in the hopes it will help others find success. It didn’t take me long fishing ponds to figure out the best method for consistently catching fish was casting my flies parallel to the banks of ponds. The reason it’s so effective is because it allows you to cover water systematically and thoroughly. When you cast parallel to the bank you can work your fly along the natural contours of the pond. Keeping your flies in similar water throughout your retrieve. Instead of spending your time casting out into deep water and working your flies back to you, start out casting your flies just off the bank, then slowly working your parallel casts outward into deeper water. Doing so, you’ll be able to locate where the majority of the fish are located and feeding, eliminate unproductive water and concentrate your efforts and first casts in the hot zones. Early spring, when the shallow waters warm quickly, this will work wonders! Warm water species of fish are very similar to trout, in the fact that they spend most of their life span staying close to their food sources. The majority of the food found in ponds is located in close proximity to the banks. This is even more true when you’re fly fishing on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure. If you take the time to look along the banks, you’ll find bream and juvenile bass, newly hatched fry, frogs and tadpoles, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and crayfish. All of these species use the banks, and it’s vegetation in and out of the water for cover and safety. If they venture out into open water, they know they’re sitting ducks for predators. Bass use two methods for foraging on their food sources. They either set up stationary in ambush spots close to cover or structure awaiting prey, or they stay on the move, slowly patrolling the waters where the majority of their food sources are located.  The key here, is to have a strategy with your presentations. Don’t randomly cast your flies around the pond. Hopefully I have stirred some interest in fly fishing your local ponds, next week we will continue our look at this exciting sport! Meanwhile get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

Woods and Waters March 29 2018

Well, the warm early spring weather continues throughout our area. A cool down is forecast for this week, which may slow the fishing for awhile, but we are close to the magic time of the year.

The high winds we have endured in March have made it rough on local anglers. But my fishing buddy, Hoot, called last Thursday and we decided to give it a try. So, late that afternoon we were prowling the banks of one of his favorite ponds.

With winds approaching 30mph, fly fishing wasn’t practical, so we went the traditional route with rods and reels using swim baits. While the conditions weren’t optimal the results were great! While Houston landed the biggest, we both caught well over 20 fish with a mix of bass and crappie. I had to leave early but he continued to reel them in ‘til nearly dark. My, that boy loves to fish!

Houston “Hoot” Scott

Last week we looked at the use of a fly rod for bass and panfish, so let’s continue exploring it.

Many beginning fly anglers seem to think bass pay little attention to their safety and feed with total abandon. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Maintaining stealth during your approach and your presentations can often determine whether or not you find success on ponds. Move slowly and quietly at all times, and make your first presentations count. Pay attention to the distance of your casts and the water you’re targeting. Work a section of water thoroughly and then move down the bank so that your next cast has your fly landing into fresh water. This will ensure you’re not spooking fish.

Always make multiple casts to your target water before moving on. Bass aren’t always convinced on your first cast. Sometimes it may take a dozen attempts before you convince the bass to eat your fly. Keep your confidence and believe every cast is going to the be the one that ends with big bass on the end of your line.

Wind plays just as much of a role on ponds as it does on big lakes. It creates current, pushes and concentrates bait and influences bass to feed more in certain areas. If you’re fishing a pond and you’ve had consistent winds for a period of a couple hours or more, you should first focus your fishing on the downwind side of the pond. Generally, in this situation, the majority of the fish will prefer to position themselves and feed on the downwind side of the pond.

Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing also demands that you retrieve your fly in the correct water column or depth of where the fish are located. Bass are not always going to be willing to come to the surface to feed. Particularly if they’re positioned stationary in ambush points in deeper water. Start out by working your flies on or close to the surface and then continue to move them deeper if you’re not getting bites. Pause to let your fly slowing sink to help you control the depth of your flies. Also slow your retrieve down if you feel your flies aren’t getting deep enough.

Look Close, That Is Half a Catfish Sticking Out Of His Throat!

Retrieving your flies with a stop and go retrieve often works better than keeping a steady or constant retrieve. Doing so, your fly will resemble a dying or injured baitfish and it also can trigger reaction strikes by triggering the predatory instincts in bass. A stop and go retrieve also works great for keeping your fly in the strike zone longer, where sometimes a few extra seconds is the key to getting a strike.

Many anglers lose their confidence when the water is murky or stained. It’s actually a good thing most of the time, because it pushes bass into shallow water, close to cover and also provides added stealth for you.  Just remember that dirty water limits the distance bass can see, and they will rely more heavily on their hearing and lateral line to locate and zero-in on food. Choose flies that push water, make noise (rattles or surface commotion) and in a color that’s easier for the bass to see in stained water.

During the summer months or when there’s lots of smaller baitfish available in the pond, you often can have more success if you downsize your fly patterns. If you’re not having luck with your larger fly patterns, try matching the size of your fly with the size of the most common food source.

Swim baits paid off for us!

As the weather warms there is nothing like casting a popper bug to the calm water, letting it set and then start short retrieves followed with a pause! Be ready for the explosion that could happen at any time. Another great choice during this time of year is a deer hair frog or mouse pattern.

Remember, if you’re not getting any strikes, try something different, bass can be very fickle!

Relax, it’s just another way to get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

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