The Perfect Catch: Fishing in Georgia | Georgia Outdoors

The Perfect Catch: Fishing in Georgia | Georgia Outdoors


Funding for Georgia Outdoors has been made possible, in part, by a grant from the Imlay Foundation. Woah yeah, he’s on! That’s a good one! Good dang! Some people in Georgia love fishing so much, as you’ll see, they kiss their fish on the lips. Who knew a fishing show could have a love story, unintended comedy routines, and some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. This is unlike any fishing show you’ve ever seen! Rick Claredad has a special talent. He can throw a line in the air and make it land wherever he choses. No easy task, since there’s nothing at the end of that line but a little bit of fuzz designed to look like a bug. He is one of millions who practice the ritual of unfurling a weightless strand across the water. The point is simple: pretend to be an insect and fool a fish. But when Rick and his fishing buddies get together, complexities emerge. It’s like a special club with a secret language. Oh you’re with that guy who fished that rubber worm! One of those fly-reels were all magnetic, no moving part, no springs, nothing. That’s the PhD of fishing right there. Pinch it down the barb. The barb was actually designed to hold bait on. Now the only thing more expensive than fishing is chasing women! These men have made their way through many forests. They’ve walked down the banks of countless streams just to stand in the rapids and cast those lines. Ener the world of fly-fishing. They may cast over and over again, but when it all comes together, when that moment arrives, this is shangrillah. Good grief! Holy moley, Doc! That’s about twenty-four inches! Holy smokes! That’s a big fish, Doc! Oh he’s fine. Thanks Doc! That was pretty incredible. That’s a big fish! Wow. You can fly-fish anywhere, including the ocean, but the streams and rivers that flow through Georgia seem to be a favorite. The anglers who fish them are as protective of the water as they are of the fish. Every fly-fisherman says that trout only live in beautiful places. It really is true. Trout are sort of like the canary in the mineshaft, as far as water purity goes. If a trout can’t live in it, it’s not very pure water. So, particularly the wild trout up here in north Georgia mountains, if it weren’t for water purity and some of the organizations that have worked really hard to fight for water purity, we wouldn’t have any native trout and in the process we wouldn’t have any clean, pure water. Fly-fishermen may study nature more than most. They pay attention to small details many of us miss. Success depends on how well you can imitate a bug, so knowing your insects is part of the game. Many fishermen, like Rick, make their own flies. His favorite is the famous woolybugger. I think, even though it is somewhat of a joke among fly-fishing people, the very first fly most of us ever learn how to tie is called the woolybugger. When this stuff hits the water, I mean, it’s just wow! If the fly is pulled slowly, it may look like a crawfish. Pull it faster and the woolybugger looks completely different. And then once we made that drift and the line’s swung-out, we can strip this fly back and then it’s going to look like a little minnow. So, it’s a good universal fly. Many believe the first account of fly-fishing came from a Roman author who described people fishing with bits of red cloth attached to a hook. Today, there are hundreds of flys, made by hand or manufactured, to look like everything from a dragonfly to a small reptile. Fly-fishermen try to match the hatch. That means they try to make their artificial bugs look like whatever insect is hatching at that given time of year. You know, you can be out on a stream and actually see a hatch happen and go, you know, I don’t have any of those in my flybox. So, you set up your flytie and stuff and you tie it. If you haven’t already figured this out, Rick Claredad lives and breathes this stuff. He seems in awe of the world around him and the fish within. Wow! Look at that! Little tiny sunfish! That common sunfish was the very first fish that I caught and most everybody who’s ever fished, that’s the very first fish that any kid ever catches. Actually, that is a pretty cool thing when you think about it, you know? No matter how sophisticated we get with the fly-fishing, and all the places, you know, go to Patagonia, New Zealand, all over the world and still, you know, come back and still catch the very first species that you ever caught and got you started fishing. You got to have a little respect for those sunfish. They survive in any kind of water. Rick has owned fishing shops in Arkansas and Atlanta. He’s taught the rich and famous, but there’s one student who topped them all. See, don’t let the tip point back. Stop there. Nice and smooth. Donna was Rick’s student for eight years, then something happened. One day he sold his shop, she quit her job as a paralegal, and they moved to a cabin in Raybun County for a life of clear mountain streams and lots of trout: fly-fish heaven. We met early one misty morning at a local pond to talk about their love of fish and each other. I was a young widow and I wanted to do something that required a hundred per cent of my attention, that gave me joy, that was brand new, that took me outside in beautiful places. I had shopped around for a good fly-casting teacher and he’s the best there is. He invited me to dinner. He was living- Actually, I wanted you to come to the river- To see your cabin! To see the cabin and it was really nice to actually be with somebody who really did know about fly-fishing who you were friends for eight years and knew that they weren’t just putting you on. That they wanted to go fishing. Just four months after that dinner, Rick and Donna got married. We went to England and fished the Wharf River in front of castles for our honeymoon. And they’ve been fishing ever since. This is a sport a lot of couples do together. If spin-casting is exercise, well, fly-fishing is like yoga. The lines are beautiful. The fishermen at peace. It doesn’t even seem to matter if you catch a fish! It looks so easy, but it’s not. That’s not bad at all, except we want to keep our elbow down, okay? So we got the rod down here. Now, watch. It’s a nice crisp motion. You were here and you needed to be here so you were almost there. How long does it take for me to be able to say, I want to put that fly on a rock over there? How much do you want to practice? Rick was determined I would catch a fish. There, you feel the difference? Pick it up nice and crisp. Go ahead. You got it. You got to, when I say crisp, you see- Elbow in, wrist at one-o-clock, snap the line, strip the line. I tried. I really did, but those fish, like dogs who smell your fear, they knew. Got ’em! You got ’em! Oh, it got away! One fish even swam under my line! Eventually, I had to take the walk of shame over to the baby pond where they teach children. Even here, the fish laughed. One fish did take pity and grab my hook! If only it ended there, but I invented a new sport, grass-fishing, and another one got away. Take my fly and go home and tell everybody how big the fish was. Here’s my excuse. Fly-fishing is a bit like golf. Anyone can do it, but it may take years to do it well. With four thousand miles of trout streams, a lot of anglers try it out in Georgia. About one hundred thirty State streams are stocked with brown, brook, or rainbow trout from places like the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery. Our water is so pure, it’s almost to the point of being distilled and what happens is there’s not a lot of insect reproduction and that’s the main food source for trout in the streams. So, you don’t get a whole lot of fish reproduction and so to handle the amount of fishing pressure that we get from our trout anglers, we have a restocking program. Georgia’s trout stocking program dates back to the 1940s, but nationally fish hatcheries have been around since 1872. We found a bit of hatchery history. Since that film was made, the system of fish hatcheries has expanded greatly. Today, there are hatcheries in thirty-five states that provide more than sixty different species of fish. At least one hundred sixty thousand anglers fish for trout in this state and the Lake Burton Hatchery spends most of every year just trying to meet that need. It takes about eighteen months for trout to reach nine inches, at which time they are weighed, counted, and loaded into stocking trucks. Then, the Department of Natural Resources begins a tedious process of spreading fish across the State net by net. This can be the difficult part: getting the fish to the stream. Keeps you in shape, though! Trout tops the chart in north Georgia, but different anglers prefer different fish. Across the State, there are eighteen rivers, five hundred thousand acres of reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and miles of ocean. Fly or spin, trout or bass, they hit the water armed with rods, reels, bait, and lures, but some fishermen are out for a bigger bang: the roar of the ocean. The fight of a really big fish. I found them in the middle of nowhere in a boat crammed with enough stuff to stock a tackle shop. I got the kitchen sink! Our fearless leader is Spud Woodward, head of the State’s Coastal Resources Division and a bit of a legend in fishing circles. Avid fisherman Glenn Durden and Jack Todd made up the rest of the crew and they were jazzed. Get that line out of the way! Dadgum! It starts out fast. Woah yeah, he’s on! The first one! This would not be the only time Glenn kissed a fish. It’s a perty fish! Golly! As someone who’s never surf-fished before, this part is puzzling. They cut bait, then they put the bloody stuff in a pouch around their waist, then go waist-deep into the water where there are sharks swimming around! Now, they may know how to fish, but you will not find a bait pouch around my waist! There were lots of things biting, but not what they wanted. They cut that bait in hopes of catching Red Drum, sometimes called Red Fish or Channel Bass. They are so popular, the State protects them with size and possession limits. Many, including all the big ones, are caught and released. And uh, these fish have a tremendous lifespan. They live to be over forty years old. Sometimes it’s kind of a tough thing for new fishermen. This is the biggest fish they ever caught and they want to take it back and brag on it, but I carry a digital camera and a high resolution image is the best thing you can do because you get to let the fish go you bring the image back and you have the best of both worlds. True to his word, we had photographs to document every catch and, as if on cue, Spud’s wish for Red Fish came true. They started rolling in! Man the slots are out! And they are beautiful fish. When they reach adult-size, they’re called Bull Reds. The largest one on record weighed just over ninety-four pounds. They are known for a large black spot on the upper part of the tail. Scientists think that spot may fool predators into attacking the tail instead of the head allowing the fish to escape. A lot of times they’ll have five, six, as many as eighty spots. We’ve caught them with eighty spots before. That’s where he gets the name Spot-tailed Bass, Channel Bass, Red Fish. This is a male. It’s drumming. Oh my goodness! Isn’t he? He’s drumming. I feel it! This is an odd thing that only the male does. It produces a drum-like sound. It’s not the same as a heartbeat, but more a thumping sound produced when a muscle vibrates the swim bladder. The sound is produced during mating or when the fish is stressed. What is that? That’s a black drum. See? His stripes are faded, but see the black stripes in there? Oh yeah, I do. See he’s got a more rounded head? Yeah! Pretty jazzed? Yeah I’m jazzed! I’m on a natural high! One thing we learned about fishing: people who do it want you to do it too. We were just there to watch, but the crew wasn’t having any of that as Glenn hooked another fish. Come on out here! Don’t worry about getting wet it’s not going to hurt! I was ordered into the water for a class on Red Drum 101. Now go down and reel now come up and use your rod tip to wear him out! Look at the woahh! Look at him run! That’s a good one. Pull the rod tip to wear him down. That’s a good fish! Now look at the red color in this one! Wow, now you can see what’s red! Look at that. No thanks! You can kiss your hand and kiss it! There is obvious respect for the Red Drum. Anyone who kisses a fish on the lips has to think pretty highly of the species. But then this sport is a big deal to a lot of folks, kiss or no kiss. More Americans fish than play golf and the millions they spend on equipment, licenses, even boats gives a nice boost to the economy. Saltwater fishing, both recreational and commercial, pumps more than five hundred million dollars to the State’s economy and creates at least five thousand jobs, but as many fishermen point out, all Georgians can have an impact on their sport and livelihood. Fishing is one of those things that, if we take care of it, we can have it forever. If we take care of the habitat. If we take care of the fish populations as a sustainable form of recreation we can have it from now on, but we’ve got to be vigilant now and be good stewards and it starts with water quality and that’s what I tell people when they come down, maybe from Atlanta, I said believe me. What you do in Atlanta, Georgia effects the ability of us to catch Red Drum on these sandbars down here because the water comes down the Altamaha River. It’s all connected together. Solid advice, but the rod’s tipping over. Our crew spots a fish and this one is mine. Okay it’s fighting me! Yeah it’s fighting you! That’s the point of the whole thing! That’s a good one! A Bull Red! It’s understandable why they call these Bull Reds. I can hardly hold the rod! This is hard! Use the rod tip! That’s right, use the rod tip! Look at the bend on that rod! Man! Good dang! Is this the biggest one you’ve ever caught? I’m tellin you! Look at that! Here’s another important lesson: when you release a fish, you can’t just take the hook out and throw him back. Hang on to the tail to make sure the fish has its equilibrium back. Only when it’s upright and trying to swim should you let it go. There you go! Good coaching! Good coaching! It’s been a good day, but it’s time to get out of here. Surf’s up. Way up. Surf fishermen look to the sky and the tides. Tides are higher here than anywhere in the rest of the southeast. In fact, Georgia has the highest tide from Texas all the way up to New England. So, more than twice a day, the surface level of the ocean can fluctuate between six to eight feet. When the tide is rising, or coming in as they say, the fish come in too. So, it’s easy to lose yourself in fish before realizing you’re stranded by that rising tide. That’s why many people think it’s easier and more fun to fish from a boat. Some days that would be right, but not today. This is unusual to not have a bite of any sort. We may have to move to that shoreline over there. There were moments. But despite several hours cruising along Georgia’s coast, the pickings were slim. As most fishermen will tell you, fish can be fickle. On another day, we found that St. Simons beach is all that it should be. It’s free to anyone who wants to play here. Boogie boards are flying, dogs are jumping, and sun-lovers are basking. We move the poles around and change the weights in an effort to trick the fish. You put this in place and when you cast it out, it sets on the bottom, if you’ll hold that weight for me right there, and see this flies up and down so if a fish comes and bites this bait and takes it, it’ll slide through and he thinks oh that’s a perfectly safe bait to eat cause he’s not feeling the weight immediately. Even with all the special bait and the tricky weights, our catch today is dismal. See the waiting would drive me crazy. It’s all part of it! Good things in life you gotta wait for. You know what your Mamma and Daddy told you? That’s not what my Mom said! Go for it! I know it’s tough. Take a deep breath. That’s right, just relax. Sometimes it’s more about the fishing than the fish. President Herbert Hoover wrote, “Next to prayer, fishing is the most personal relationship of man.” I think it’s because man, you know, if you look back in the history of man, for so many hundreds of years we spent every moment of our life connected directly to nature. You know, because our life depended on it. And now in the last two hundred years, we have began to be separated from nature because it’s all provided for us and we grow out of touch with it and fishing is one of those things that reaches deep down into the core of your brain and wakes up those little memories of what you used to be like and how you relate it back to nature. That’s why there’s no substitute for it. A video game doesn’t do it. You can sit in your living room on a video game and have a simulated fishing experience, but there’s no water washing over your feet. You know, there’s no wind in your face. There’s no sweeping sand under your toes and birds hovering over your head. You can’t duplicate that and that touches a part of the human brain that nothing else can touch. And fishing is just a good excuse to go do it! Every angler seems to have a different reason for why he or she fishes. They all have their favorite spots, that special bait, a lucky rod, even a floating chair. It’s just personal. The reasons for fishing are as varied as the fishermen themselves. With easy access to all of Georgia’s parks, lakes, rivers, and streams, fishing may be one of the best ways to get outside and truly appreciate the natural beauty around you. Yeah, when you’re fishing, particularly if you’re fly-fishing, you don’t have any time to worry about the economy, your car being repossessed, or illnesses, or anything. You’re just concentrating on trying to get some poor crazy fish to take that lure and give you a fight. And that’s what it is about fly-fishing. The more you go the more you learn. It’s all those experiences that add up. It’s a real knowledge-intense sport. And it’s one of the very few sports that, as you get older, you actually get better. I want to catch a fish every time I go, but I don’t, but I don’t care I’ll still go again. I’ll go as long as I want. So if you’re looking for something to do, a way to relax, maybe just a way to escape, grab a rod and cast a line. You never now what you might catch! There are hundreds of places to go fishing in Georgia! We just visited a few. Now, some of you will probably love to know where we pulled in those big Red Drum and I would love to tell you, but I believe there’s some unwritten fishermen’s code that says you keep the best spots for yourself. Hope you enjoyed this show. We’ll see you next time! For more information about this show, check out our web site at GPB.org/GeorgiaOutdoors Funding for Georgia Outdoors has been made possible, in part, by a grant from the Imlay Foundation.

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