Winter fishing? Enjoy the view

CorrespondentJanuary 26, 2012 

Cool Springs Landing: Never believe anyone who claims to be an expert on fishing. And while on the subject, take every bit of fishing tale you ever heard with not a grain of salt, but a whole tablespoon, for no fish follows rules as proclaimed by man, and therefore does the fishy things it chooses. Last week Gene and I decided it was time to get a mess of fish for supper, breakfast, lunch or whichever came first.

After conferring with local fishermen, those fishing fortune tellers, psychics and promoters who claim to possess inside information on what, where and when a kind of fish is biting, we were told local fishing consisted of excellent crappie response in the lower Neuse basin waters; numbers of stripers were moving into the northern regions of Carolina, including the Neuse and Trent, and there were reports of shad returning to their spawning grounds. My preference for fish is pretty much towards those finny creatures that when filleted fit in a 12 inch cast iron fry pan.

The omens sounded good. West wind, partly cloudy, however till under way I'd missed mention of 25 and 35 knot winds whistling out of the northwest.

Cool Springs area has always harbored some good populations of crappie, blue gill and other choice panfish. Moreover, we had never failed to catch fish and the area would provide the best choice for finding shelter from any weather.

My favorite wife, Conni, having a need to tend to some business in the neighborhood, delivered me to Gene's place. As we unloaded my gear, she realized we'd forgotten to load my coffee thermos (a water jug substituted). Next she couldn't find the lunch bag she had prepared. Gene volunteered he could spare a sandwich. As we departed I noticed they seemed strangely entertained at my misfortune.

Carolina's back waters hold untold beauty, especially during the winter months. Open cypress swamps and black waters, free from biting bugs and sweltering sun offered shelter from the wind. Funereal shrouds of Spanish moss sway in the breeze, mistletoe hangs high overhead, scarlet berries gleam bright against the dark background and offer a sense of wild freedom. Bird life, however, seemed notably absent. Occasionally a distant crow called, flights of cedar waxwings swirled overhead, and the twitter of small concealed forest birds was heard.

Gene, as custodian of the bait bucket baited up with a minnow, I, being of lesser rank, became caretaker of our worm pan. Vigorous, healthy worms provide excellent bait, though are hard to come by this time of year. No problems, they weave happily in the depths of horse/mule manure until lunch time. Then the idea of digging in the worm can prior to eating requires serious scrubbing of hands in the icy creek waters,

I turned as Gene tossed me a sandwich, adding "I hope you like road kill!" I sniffed. The contents consisted of a rich ruddy brown mess of stringy meat type in some sort of sauce. Gene, grinning, was watching closely. It had a rich smoky scent, something like barbecue. Gene confessed. When unloading gear, my lunch bag had fallen unseen beneath the car. Conni's departure resulted in a "road kill" barbeque sandwich wearing tire tracks.

Temperatures were at a cool 45 degrees. Experience suggested fishing deep, using worms and/or minnows. It didn't work. After exploring and testing every major hole and bank from one end of the river to the other with nary a nibble, we agreed: winter fishing mixed with "road kill" is great. Catching is another story.

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