recycled fish

BASSCAR: It was bound to happen

I was recently driving back from an Unaccomplished Elk Hunt (more to come on that later), crossing the vast expanse of Eastern Washington. Helping to ease the pain of the fruitless hunt and 6 hour drive was a Fish Schtick podcast in which professional bass fisherman Darren Gallaher was interviewed. Now I’m not a particular fan of a tournament bass fishing (nothing wrong with it, just not my cup o’tea per se), but I do like fast boats so I listened with great interest as Fish Schtick host Teeg Stouffer (of Recycled Fish fame) recalled his butt-puckering experience of racing across the surface of a lake at well over 70 miles per hour. Apparently he left behind some brown stains on the upholstery of Darren’s boat. Good stuff right there – recommend you listen to the podcast HERE.

Another sport of which I’m not a particular fan is car racing, although I do appreciate fast cars (unfortunately I do not own one or the trip would have taken far less time). As I listened to the Fish Schtick podcast I couldn’t help but draw similarities between professional bass tournaments and NASCAR.  With the emphasis on speed and uniforms adorned with sponsor logos, they share much in common, not to mention there are a lot of southern accents in each sport, too. Undoubtedly there is also some overlap with the fan base of each sport. My revelation isn’t anything new, but I’ve yet to see a formal proposal for a new sport that combines the two so here it is…BASSCAR: The inevitable union of NASCAR and Professional Bass Fishing.

NASCAR race cars are to be fitted with hitches (which will attract new sponsors from the hitch manufacturing industry), to which will be coupled bass fishing boats/trailers. Obviously some alterations would have to be made to the trailers in order for them to be able to withstand speeds approaching 200 mph, but that won’t be an issue for the motor heads out there that love to tinker. Lightweight alloys, racing wheels and tires, high speed axles…no problem.

The race courses will be a combination of oval tracks, open roads and boat ramps. And of course, waterways. The cars will scream around the tracks much like they do at NASCAR races, although the track segment of the competition will be considerably shorter so as not to bore the audience to allow for the remainder of the race to conclude within a reasonable amount of time. A certain number of laps would have to be completed before the cars pull into the pits and have their tires changed and bass boat trailers hitched up. At this point the cars, with their boats in tow, would exit the race stadium and hit the open road en route to a distant bass fishing body of water, again at break-neck speeds. Obviously roads would be blocked off to prevent civilian traffic interference. Wildlife that would wish to cross the roads during the race will be on their own.

Once teams have reached the destination waters the drivers will be tasked with quickly backing their trailers through a challenging obstacle course, again at the greatest speeds possible, before descending the ramp and getting the trailers into the water. Good brakes will be essential here. At this point the pit crew would be on hand to quickly unhook the boat and tie it to a nearby dock. A good pit crew will prove invaluable here, tending to matters such as insuring that the drain plugs have been installed and the beer coolers adequately stocked. Prime positioning will be on a first come, first served basis–an incentive to obviously do well prior to this point in the race. The driver must then quickly park his race car and trailer in a designated location some distance away, change out of their race suit and sprint to the dock where the vessel awaits. Once in the boat the angling portion of the competition begins and will play out very much like a bass tournament.

A sport like this would combine the skills of race car driving, recreational trailer maneuvering, and of course, bass fishing. But another aspect of BASSCAR would be physical fitness. The foot race from the designated vehicle/trailer parking lot would be far enough from the boat dock that the race entrants would be required to have a certain level of agility and fitness in order to be competitive. I believe that by including this element it would make the sport more appealing to a wider, west-coast audience, and would of course attract a greater number sponsors, such as Nike and other running/fitness industry companies.

I’m not sure how quickly BASSCAR will take off in popularity, but I do know that the Unaccomplished Angler wants to sponsor a team. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of money in our camp, so Team UA may not be very competitive.

 

Lawn Trout

Fall is officially here and it’s a time of year that many anglers welcome thanks to the emergence of some noteworthy insects. With summer now in the rear-view mirror, hoppers and stones taper off and give way to baetis hatches that bring trout to the surface for some challenging autumnal angling: tiny bugs, light tippet, and water that is—to use an already overused term—gin clear. Another important bug, the October Caddis, offers an important source of calories to fish preparing for the long winter ahead. These large flies, in all their pumpkin-orange splendor, also signal that it’s time for humans to up their caloric intake by consuming vast quantities of completely unnecessary Halloween candy. Case in point: we’ve had exactly 2 trick-or-treaters at our house in 10 years, and yet we’re always somehow prepared with several pounds of candy bars.  Fall is also a time that another insect rears it’s ugly head: The European Crane Fly. They may or may not be prevalent near every trout stream in the world, but if you have a yard with grass you’re likely to witness this abundant fall hatch.

Crane Fly pattern (Galloup's Slide Inn Fly Shop)

The severity of the Crane Fly hatch can vary from year to year, and in my assessment a lot depends on how moist the previous spring was. If the ground in which the grass grows remains damp and cool, a good bountiful fall hatch can be expected. Given how extended and wet our Pacific Northwest Spring was this year thanks to La Niña (a.k.a. “The Bitch”), the Crane Fly hatch taking place right now is—to use another overused term—epic. The nymphal shucks can be seen scattered all over the lawn, and all I have to do is walk through the grass on my daily poop patrol to observe the adults fluttering about in every direction as they hook up with sexual partners before seeking moist, cool areas in which to lay their eggs. If I were to close my eyes I could easily imagine myself walking not across the lawn, but instead wading in a river as fish rise with reckless abandon to pick off these large, clumsy bugs. If I closed my eyes I’d also step in dog shit, so I keep my eyes peeled accordingly. Subsequently I see no fish rising to eat Crane Flies.

Crane Fly nymphal shucks

Consenting adult Crane Flies

Egg laying adult Crane Fly

Crane flies can be the bane of lawn owners and many use pesticides to kill the larvae (a.k.a. “leather jackets”), which may damage a lawn as they feed on the roots of the grass. The grubs are big, thick, meaty, nasty looking maggots that resemble something people would eat on the too-long running television show, Survivor. When densely populated, these grubs can devastate entire sections of lawn.

Crane Fly larva–nom nom nom

In order to control the larvae chemically, I’ve been told to use pesticides in the two months beginning with A: April and August. Apparently using a pesticide in April kills the grubs as they begin to actively feed, and applying again in August kills any grubs not killed in April, before they can hatch, lay eggs, and complete the circle.  I’m generally opposed to using pesticides for obvious reasons, though I have been known in the past to spot treat small areas where the infestation of Crane Fly grubs was heavy. Still, chemicals that will kill bugs will kill other things that we may not want killed, and pollutants run downhill and eventually end up in our streams. Where fish live. As they say over at Recycled Fish, “Our lifestyles run downstream.” So, please read the warning labels before you decide to use chemicals on your lawn. Pesticides bad!

Warning: Read this. No, really.

My opposition to using damaging chemicals recently gave rise to an alternative, organic idea that I think would appeal to many: Lawn Trout. Now I know what you’re saying: “Lawn Trout would be no different than moles, and would subsequently cause collateral damage beyond their benefit.” Before we more closely examine the idea of Lawn Trout, let’s first unearth some information regarding moles.

Lawn damage caused by moles, not Lawn Trout.

As hard as it is to imagine, there is an apparent benefit to having moles in your yard. If you look beneath the cosmetic damage caused by these velvet-coated, tunnel-digging pests, they are (allegedly) beneficial because they aerate the soil and control damaging subterranean insects (such as Crane Fly larvae). While that may supposedly be true, I would say to those who would tout the merits of moles, “You don’t have moles.” Well, I have moles. They’ve caused damage to more sections of my yard than any amount of Crane Flies, and there is no permanent means of keeping moles out of one’s yard, shy of digging a 5 foot deep trench around the perimeter of your property and filling it with concrete (if you do this, make damn sure there are no moles inside the barrier you’re constructing). Moles can be very difficult to trap, although I have had some success in doing so, from which I derived great pleasure. I make no apologies for this.

I hate moles and yes, I killed this one.

But Lawn Trout would not, like moles, burrow under the ground: they would cruise the surface. A Lawn Trout may pick at bugs on the ground and even make redds in your flower gardens, but they would no sooner burrow into the ground than trout burrow into the streambed. It’s a difficult concept to grasp so I’ve included a technical diagram to better illustrate the key differences between Lawn Trout and Moles:

In layman’s terms, you’ll be able to see Lawn Trout, whereas moles are sneaky and cowardly. Imagine, if you will, sitting on the porch proudly gazing out at your yard as Lawn Trout routinely cruise the expanse of lawn, feeding on damaging insects such as Crane Flies. The Lawn Trout would also control the mosquito population, which is problematic in many areas.

Lawn Cutthroat Trout feeding on Crane Fly

Obviously you would want to get up early or be watchful in the evening to observe most Lawn Trout activity, however on rainy, cloudy, miserable days you may even see Lawn Trout during midday as well. If you live where I do, you’ll routinely see Lawn Trout during midday. You may even see them beyond the perimeter of your yard as they venture about in search of food. Be on the alert when driving in Lawn Trout country!

Lawn Trout can brighten even the gloomiest day.

Lawn Trout would be free to come and go as they please, but the yard is where we must focus most of our attention, for it is the yard that will provide critical habitat for and derive the most benefit from Lawn Trout. The natural fish fertilizer would be excellent for the grass and other decorative plantings, unlike feline “Almond Roca” or piles of canine excrement which must be manually removed as it offers absolutely no benefit to one’s yard whatsoever. No need to spend hard-earned money at the hardware store when the same thing at no cost, thanks to Lawn Trout!

Why buy when you can get for free?

And speaking of Almond Roca, a resident Lawn Bull Trout living under your deck would surely solve the problem of the neighbor lady’s cat using your planter beds as its personal litter box.

Lawn Cat Fish?

It’s pretty clear already that the natural benefits of Lawn Trout will make them a welcome addition to any yard, but the presence of these overland salmonids needn’t be a matter of practicality without the potential for play. There’s no reason why lawn casting shouldn’t take on an added dimension: the chance to catch a fish while practicing your double haul!

Lawn casting becomes lawn fishing.

Furthermore, that same backyard sport needn’t stop with the home owner. Instead of chasing tennis balls or cats (if there are any cats left by now), the energetic family dog would be kept highly entertained by the presence of terrestrial pods of trouts. It’s safe to assume that Labradors could easily be taught to fetch and release. That is, if they could even catch a Lawn Trout.

Having a few Lawn Trout around the homestead may not be a substitute for actual fishing, but it may help ease the pain and suffering between fishing trips. We know that anglers love to fish, but let’s be honest—we cannot fish all the time. So when the angler cannot be on the water, what greater domestic pleasure can a fisherman derive than watching his wife mow the lawn? Watching his wife mow the lawn while Lawn Trout scurry playfully about the yard!

Mrs. UA mowing the lawn amidst a pod of Lawn Trout.

As Lawn Trout spread in popularity there will undoubtedly be some recreational landscapers who report sightings of Lawn Steelhead. These fanciful claims should be regarded with caution and skepticism. Without conclusive photographic proof, the authenticity of such outrageous claims cannot be accepted as truth. Do not trust grainy photographs or bad video footage as evidence of the existence of these mythical creatures.

Lawn Steelhead. Riiiight...

In addition to such ridiculous claims as Lawn Steelhead I suppose it’s certain to happen that with Lawn Trout would come less desirable species. There’s not much one can do about that so tolerance, if not outright acceptance, should be the yard owner’s goal as long as the undesirables aren’t damaging shrubbery. Some species, such as Lawn Grass Carp may even keep weeds in check and reduce the frequency with which your lawn needs mowing. And before you curse the presence of the Lawn Whitefish, remember–they may be an indication of a healthy yard. In fact, if you’ve got Lawn Whitefish, chances are you’ve also got a Blue Ribbon Lawn Trout Yard!

The misunderstood Lawn Grass Carp

The inevitable Lawn Whitefish

What of those burrowing vermin that were discussed earlier? Envision a 30-inch, hook-jawed meat eater lying in wait under a rhododendron for the sun to go down. As darkness falls and mole activity increases, the Brown Lawn Trout goes hunting. End of mole problem.

Mole-eating Brown Lawn Trout

My plan sounds remarkably foolproof but I will admit that the biggest challenge I see facing Lawn Trout is the matter of air.  Fish need water over their gills in order to breath, and even though the Pacific Northwest gets more than enough rain to keep things soggy most of the year (which Crane Flies like), it’s probably not enough water to sustain Lawn Trout (except during floods). That being said, maybe a few decorative Lawn Trout statues strategically placed throughout the yard would suffice to keep the Crane Flies at bay and scare off the moles. They may not be as good as the real thing, but at the very least ornamental Lawn Trout would be a welcome alternative to other yard decorations, right?

Ornamental Lawn Trout, good. Others, bad.