PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Outdoors

October 26, 2013

Chester Moore column: Wakeup call coming to waterfowl community

PORT ARTHUR — Waterfowl hunters on the prairies of the Middle Coast have suffered the first real casualty of drought amongst Texas’ hunting community.

   Last year the Lower Colorado River Authority prohibited “duck water” being sold to landowners and leaseholders. In other words, there was not enough water for extracurricular activities.

    This sent shockwaves throughout the Lone Star State as several of the counties involved are the most heavily hunted in the state. Groups like Ducks Unlimited (DU) got involved because it affected tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and scores of hunters.

     Water is the new gold and with Texas’ population, growing at a rapid pace its value will continue to increase and the struggle between wildlife and sporting needs will pop up all over the state. It is not a matter of if but when and the fact of the matter is people’s needs will win every time.

    Something like this is coming on a much grander scare and it centers on the prairie pothole region of North Dakota, South Dakota and prairie Canada. That region has been at least fairly wet (and in recent year very wet) for better than two decades and that will not hold. At some point, perhaps in the very near future the region will suffer a drought and when it does, what is happening in the LCRA counties will look like a minor squabble.

    The vast majority of mallards, pintails, gadwall, shovelers and other key waterfowl in the Central Flyway are born and raised there and when a prolonged drought comes duck production goes down in a major way.

    That will translate to two immediate things: smaller bag limits and a shorter season.

    And it will likely cause a drop in duck hunter numbers.

    I started duck hunting twenty years ago and not a single hunter who started during that timeframe has ever experienced anything less than a five-bird limit or long seasons.

     How many will keep hunting if the limit is cut to three and the season is shortened to say 30 days?

    My suspicion is a good portion of these hunters, particularly those under age 30, will use it as an excuse to bail on an increasingly expensive sport.

    That will translate to fewer duck stamps sold and less money for conservation along with a host of other problems.

     We have raised at least two generations of totally limits driven hunters. Instead of learning about conservation and ecology, many are now more worried about tweeting “Five man limit this morning!” than understanding the dynamics of migration and the cause and effect relationship of drought on ducks. All generations have had limits driven hunters but this one has social media to push it to a new level.

     I have discussed this with several leaders in local, regional and national waterfowl circles and everyone is concerned. A few have said, “Good, it will get rid of the riff raff.”

    To a certain point that is true. The handful of unethical hunters who disobey the rules and cause problems will likely focus their attentions elsewhere but it could be a breaking point for the long-standing and conservation centered tradition of duck hunting.

    That is why it is vitally important to teach your children about the value of wetlands and how migration itself works. There is a much greater appreciation to be had for those who know its complexities. These are the hunters who will enjoy their quest no matter the season length or limit and wait until a wet cycle returns and rejoice.

    I hope we never have that giant Great Plains drought but history tells us we are due. When will it happen? It could be next year or it could be 10 years from now but in the interim, we should do our best to educate this generation about waterfowl conservation.

    It is a vitally important issue, not only for the ducks but for all creatures that utilize the wetlands we conserve in their name.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. You can watch him Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV (GETV.org) on God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore.)

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  • Chester Moore column: Bank fishing good approach on catfish

     Summer is one of the best times to seek catfish in Southeast Texas and thankfully, for local anglers without a boat, there are catfish in just about every canal, drainage ditch and bayou in the area.
      Fishing from the bank has its disadvantages but there is a way around it. This involves making the fish come to you.
      European catfish and carp anglers who typically fish exclusively from the bank use a system called “ground baiting,” which involves putting chum out with the bait. They attach a small cylindrical device above their swivel, which holds chum and dispenses it as the water rushes by. The problem is these rigs are not readily available in our marketplace.
      However, with a little ingenuity, taking a 35-millimeter film canister, punching a hole in the bottom and on the lid and then punching more holes along the side can make a similar device. This acts as a perfect chumming device and is very inexpensive.
      Not everyone has film canisters these days so the softer plastic aspirin bottles will also get the job done.
      Rig this above your swivel and weight, and then fill it with your favorite chum. Now you will not only be chumming the area you fish in but also bringing fish directly to your bait.
      Any kind of chum will work, but a mixture I have had some success with was menhaden oil (available through many mail order offshore supply catalogs) mixed with soured milo. The oil creates a huge chum slick and when it mixes with the milo, the smell is almost unbearable, which means catfish love it. The best part is that a little bit goes a long way.
     Something else to consider is using jack mackerel as bait.
     This oily fish is available in larger supermarkets in a can for less than $1, and I can attest it will bring in fish. While fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and tagging sharks for the Mote Marine Laboratory, my partners and I were able to chum in and catch nearly 40 sharks while using less than two cans of the stuff. It is oily and stinks to high heaven, so catfish should love it.
      For anglers interested in using film canisters to chum their bait, something else to consider is the use of a popping cork. Even if your bait is on the bottom, you can rig a popping cork above it and attach a baited film canister below. This will allow you to do some extra chumming and use the cork to “pop” the chum out whenever you want to release more.
     Another great tip for land bound anglers is to use braided line. In talking with several anglers who pursue brackish blues from the bank, I have learned that loosing striking fish can be a problem.
      I am not sure as to the reason but a definitely solution is using a braided line because they have no stretch. When making long casts with monofilament from the bank you have the potential for lots of line stretch when can make a poor hookset.
     Sixty yards of line might have five or six feet of stretch and that is plenty for a big blue to undo. When using a braid like Fireline, Gorilla Braid or Spiderwire you can forego these problems and greatly enhance your chances of putting some catfish in the frying pan.
     (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com and watch him Saturdays on GETV.org on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”.)
     

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