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Flora, fauna and fantastic fishing on the world's largest river system
Story and photos by David A. Brown
Two anglers set out from their mothership to fish a stretch of abundant Amazon
waters. The river flows nearly 4,000 miles and bisects the South American continent.
It’s 9 p.m. on Rio Jatapu and the darkened stillness draping this Amazon tributary gives way to swooshing passes of sonar-guided bats gorging on clouds of moths hovering overhead. My guide, a short, burly man who goes by “Yuca,” has wedged the bow of his aluminum bass boat onto a rocky outcropping so we can fish one of his favorite spots for pirarara – the beautiful redtail catfish, whose stunning coloration bespeaks the visual splendor of the world’s most biodiverse jungle.
Stationed on that bow, I felt highly vulnerable with my back to whatever wildness may approach, so when Yuca shined his spotlight over my head to scan the jungle for a third time, I had to know what he was searching for. His nonchalant reply captured the adventurous, if not occasionally danger-laced appeal of Amazon fishing: “Jaguar no good.”
Indeed, sharing a 20-foot boat with a large, carnivorous feline would not be good. However, "good" woefully understates the magnificence of an unspoiled habitat that threatens sensory overload, while filling the soul with an instantly addicting euphoria that left me mentally clinging to this wild and wonderful memory, even as my U.S. bound plane departed at trip's end. Read More
People get excited talking about walleye, but is there a greater spiritual and political connection to this seemingly ordinary, silvery-brown fish than you might first have thought?
One Sunday morning at St. Dominic's Church in Saskatchewan, Canada, Father Mariusz Zajac was in the middle of his sermon about the importance of giving back, when he sensed some in his congregation were dozing off. He knew just what to do.
"Now, a walleye doesn't act this way …," he began. Those seven words shot around the pews, bounced off walls, and within the time it took to say them, every eye and ear was waiting for more. You see, in Saskatchewan, Father Zajac is better known as "Father Walleye," after catching a world ice-fishing record walleye on Tobin Lake in January 2005 that weighed more than 18 pounds.
Father Walleye and his father, Richard, in northern Saskatchewan.
"It's a way to connect [with] the whole congregation," he says, remembering. "We send them out at the end of the service laughing and smiling, because people love the outdoors. Fishing is a positive vehicle to make a point. You know, Jesus was the greatest fisherman.”
Father Zajac has used the walleye as a bridge, too. Recently he visited a senior center to offer prayers for those in need of a spiritual lift. As he approached one man in a wheelchair and introduced himself, he was met with a blank stare followed by, "Leave me alone, I don't want to talk to you." When someone in the room told the patient, "You know, that's Father Walleye,” the frown became a smile, and the two talked for half an hour about fishing; they continue to do so today. Read More
It might be hard to find a better fishing location than Destin, and getting there is pretty easy. You won't need a GPS, or an iPhone app, or a map because there's usually a caravan of cars, trucks, and trailers to follow on I-10 headed toward Florida's Emerald Coast. You want numbers? Each year, more than 4 million visitors enjoy its beaches, fishing, and seafood.
Most will stop in Destin, and with good reason: You can access the 24 miles of sugar-sand beaches from a dozen different places, drop anchor at Crab Island, and still be about an hour from other significant cities in the panhandle. For a self-described "fishing village," Destin has more than its share of festivals, high-rise condominiums, and celebrity homeowners (Karl Rove and Emeril Lagasse, to name a few). It's no wonder the city's population more than triples during tourist season. But even if it's your first trip to Destin, you don't have to tackle it like a tourist. Shelling, snorkeling, and dolphin-watching are all accessible from several vantage points, and the area where the land and water meet is pretty special, too.
A young angler thrills at the sight of a red snapper caught by mom just offshore from Destin
"The sand looks like snow here. It's really beautiful," explained Captain Victor Adams of TowBoatUS in Destin, noting that the city has won accolades for its beaches. With a 98-percent-quartz composition, the sand doesn't stick to beachgoers and also helps reflect a sharp emerald-green color across Destin's waters.
After nearly 30 years, Adams knows his way around the city's best-traveled water and land routes. After leaving his previous career as an architect (he even designed a local department store), Adams chose to retire in Destin — except he didn't stay retired. His family operates the TowBoatUS location, and regularly takes to the water for work and leisure. Read More
More than 80 million Americans have used those two words this year. And in order to do so, they have spent almost 38 billion dollars on rods, reels, tackle boxes, lessons, lures, boats, trailers and fish restocking. Fishing is the number one recreational sport in the country. Here, you will meet some Trailering Club Members and learn where they go and why. And you'll meet some professionals who are willing to divulge a few secrets about how they make a living doing what many only dream of doing. Everyone here is serious about the words "gone fishin."
WHERE: Chesapeake Bay
RULES: (1) I always say fishing "pends da wind. West is best. East is least." (2) Fish the currents. You want maximum current velocity. (3) Never give out your buddy's secret fishing spot.
ADVICE: Take the kid.
FIRST FISH: I caught a 15-pound pompano in Florida fishing with my grandfather. He had to hold on to me when I hooked it because I wasn't going to let go of the rod and this was a big fish for a little kid.
FISH STORY: I was fishing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on New years Eve with my friend Tony. I was using my pride and joy rod and reel combination and connected on a big striper that was taking the drag in spurts. "Your drag is sticking," Tony said. "The drag on this reel never sticks," I shouted back. "You'll lose that fish if you don't loosen your drag," Tony yelled. "No I won't," I yelled louder. "Yes you will," and "No I won't" went back and forth until I actually did loosen the drag and landed the fish. I assured Tony my drag was properly set and it wasn't sticking but just in case he was right, I sent it out and had the drag rebuilt. Several weeks later, Tony and I are fishing in another favorite winter spot when I hooked another striper that took the line in spurts. "Your drag is sticking again. Loosen it up or you'll lose that fish," Tony yelled. "My drag is not sticking," I yelled back. "Here let me help you," said Tony. Then, poof, the fish was gone. The silence of the moment was shattered when I heard the words, "See, I told you your drag was sticking!" Truth be told, my inept net handling had cost Tony a big fish early in the day so, you can put this one down as a matter of deserved poetic justice.
RULES: (1) I observe catch and release rules. (2) For salmon you have to be on the water early. (3) When fishing San Francisco Bay, the fish bite on incoming or outgoing tides. (4) Be patient. ADVICE: Don't plan on catching fish. Instead, plan on having a good time out on the water. Catching fish is icing on the cake. FIRST FISH: I was 6 years old. I caught a northern pike in Lake MacGreor in Alberta, Canada. I was with my mother, who didn't like fishing, and my father, who provided all the necessary guidance. My mother did a good job preparing the pike that evening but I didn't like it because of all the bones.
FISH STORY: A friend and I were fishing for albacore 20 mils north of San Francisco Bay early one morning. Seas were flat. We went to an area called "the 601 spot" and the seas started getting some swells. We had four rods in use with no safety lanyards (not a good idea) and the seas started getting rough enough that the lure would actually come out of the water and the tension on the line would be lost. At one point the lure came out of the water just as the boat took a huge wave on the windward side and leaned to leeward. The rod came out of its holder and into the sea. My friend and I watched it happen and neither one of us could react in time to save it. A few seconds later a rod in the back corner sounded off. My friend started reeling in and when the lure came to the surface, there was another lure attached. A familiar one. We had caught our own fishing rod.
RULES: (1) Fish on the East Coast of Florida are caught only when winds are less than 15 knots. Since I'm a working stiff, the only time I can get out on the water is Saturday and Sunday. And every weekend, the winds are blowing more than 15 knots. (2) Offshore trolling before 10A.M.is always better than fishing after 10A.M.
ADVICE: A low tide on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is a great time to go to the boat ramp to watch the "low tide pull-out" drama. FIRST FISH: My first fish was a trout about four inches long I caught in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I was about 4 or 5 years old and I was with my Dad.
FISH STORY: One Saturday, two
other guys and I launched my 21-foot boat from the Dinner Key boat
ramp and headed across Biscayne Bay south of Cape Florida. We were
going to troll for schoolie dolphin. We had four lines out and the
deck was slippery because we had caught a few fish already. And
since it was a Saturday, the winds were blowing out of the east
at 20 knots. One of my friends gets a smoking reel hit on one of
the deep-running baits. While he handles bringing the fish in, the
other guy cleared the other three lines while I steered. A huge
wave rolled beneath the boat and the guy with the fish lands on
his back. The rod goes over the side. We were in 300 feet of water.
A few months later, one of the guys buys his own boat. He asked
for suggested names and we all agreed "Reel Loser" is
Click Here to Read More "Gone Fishing"
It is the largest of the nine reservoirs operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, running more than 72 miles from Watts Bar Dam northeast to Ft. Loudon Dam. Built as part of the New Deal to put people back to work during the Great Depression, these TVA projects were the center of the largest hydroelectric project in the country. Today, the five power-generating units inside Watts Bar Dam providing electricity are one of 29 hydroelectric power plants in the TVA system.
"In comparison to other inland lakes, Watts Bar has a history," says Al Alexander, assistant manager of West Marine's Knoxville store. "You'll see old road beds that come out of the hills and go into the water and old railroad trestles." This was all part of the Tennessee River until 1939 when TVA went to work creating reservoirs and power plants. Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam to the north created the huge lake, which now has more than 783 miles of shoreline.
"You can come out of our cove (Cane Creek)
watching the depth finder," says Blue Spring Marina owner Larry
Steidle, "and though we have plenty of water (30 feet), you'll
see where there are parts of a trestle bridge you'll pass over.
This was part of the area before the dam was built."
Click Here to Read More about the Waters of Watts Bar Lake
When Texans talk about bass fishing, they also talk about Lake Lewisville. Its huge 183- mile-long shoreline, around which 17 boat ramps are located, brings anglers from all over the country to try their luck at largemouth bass, stripers and, depending on the time of year, Texas-size blue catfish. This past October's National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship co-sponsored by BoatU.S. was the fourth major fishing tournament on Lake Lewisville in the past 18 months.
But fishing is actually secondary around Lake Lewisville. In the 1930's, the Trinity River-the longest river in the state-was dammed to provide a reservoir of drinking water for Dallas (24 miles to the south). As the population grew, a decision was made to make the reservoir (at the time called Lake Dallas) even bigger, so another dam was built and the original one was destroyed. Lake Lewisville was in business.
Some of the older stories that are told go back before any of the lakes (now managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) were created-to when a cane pole and a line were tossed into the Trinity River and a bass was pulled out of the water. One of the towns along the western shore of Lake Lewisville, Shady Shores, was originally a fishing camp for Dallas residents back in the 1920's. Today, fathers tell sons and daughters about their grandparents fishing for bass pretty close to where they fish now.
And many of those fishing now are serious anglers, among them Robin Babb who has placed in the Women's BassMaster Tour Championship.Read More
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