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February’s Outdoor Column

The month of February brings on the hope for spring and warmer weather in the Midwest. As the angle of the suns becomes more direct with earth’s surface this will affect your ice fishing somewhat as the darker objects on a pond or lake will absorb more heat and radiate it out to the water.  Stay away from rocks, boat docks, or anything that might absorb heat and pass it along to the ice. February produces some nice fish, but caution is more important the later the month progresses.

Shop at your local Big R Store. Big R is receiving their spring fishing equipment and now is a great time to check out the new items they have on their shelves.  Now is a great time to not only stock up on fishing supplies but also to clean and organize your fishing tackle.  Now is the time because many times I’ve been fishing in late February and that’s just around the corner. Fishing line can go bad over the winter as well as during the summer.  I always replace line on my reels each spring just for peace of mind.  I just hate to hang a big bass only to have my line break because I didn’t change it.

When I was younger and had little available money, I would tie my line to a pole and walk until the spool was empty.  I would then tie that end down and go back and begin winding up the used end, making the part that was deeper in the spool than the top.  This will work if you are low on funds providing you have loaded up you spool, and the bottom part is kept away from the summer sun’s rays.

Fishing and Cleaning Tips: Fishing reels need to be cleaned and oiled simply because they get dirty, especially if you are bank fishing.  You can keep your reels clean by buying a reel sock or just placing an ordinary sock around them once your fishing trip is complete. Heavily caked grease can harden in your reels over the winter.  A good solvent will break it free.  There are some solvents that can be used indoors that have no odor, gasoline has nasty fumes and is simply too dangerous to use indoors. Get ready; spring is coming, and it will be here very soon.

Shop your local Big R Stores for all your spring fishing needs!

Don’t forget the 64th Annual Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show at the Indiana State Fairground in Indianapolis February 16th through February 25th.  Coinciding with this show is the Indiana Deer, Turkey, and Waterfowl Expo also held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds February 22nd through February 25th.  Purchase your tickets online to save a wait in line.

 

 

Fresh Herbs Win – Every Thyme! How to Care for Potted Herbs

From Oregano in October, to Mint in March, Indoor Herb Gardening Is Every Cook’s Secret Ingredient

 

Rosemary, cilantro, dill, lemongrass, chives, basil, parsley. Don’t you agree, these magnificent herbs make any dish better? And picking a fresh sprig is way better than opening a jar? So do we! Here some tips for how to care for potted herbs.

 

Good Ideas Going to Pot

Different herbs may require slightly different care, so it helps to plant each herb in its own pot, or group herbs with similar needs together. Use a quality potting mix, be sure there’s good drainage and yes to plant food twice a year. You can buy most herbs at the garden center, but definitely check for pests before you plant them at home.

 

Rules of (Green) Thumb

Good news. Taking care of herbs is uncomplicated, leaving you more time to decide between making veal parmigiana or rosemary chicken.

  • Find a Sunny Spot Natural light, and lots of it, grows herbs the best. Four hours of sun is optimum and can usually be found near windows that face south or southwest. East- or west-facing spots are nice, too. But if you don’t want your herbs to go south, avoid the north.
  • Is It Cold In Here? Herbs are like people. They feel best when the room is about 65-70 degrees. But no need to coddle them. They’re resilient, and can thrive at night, even on a windowsill. (But keep their leaves from touching the glass.)
  • The Dreaded Droop Ovens can get hot. Heated homes in winter – even air-conditioned rooms – can get dry. Herbs in distress will let you know they need attention by the simple act of wilting. Resuscitate by watering and they’ll perk up fast. You may even consider a weekly shower.
  • Avoid Soggy Feet If your herbs are planted in pots – especially terra cotta ones – there will be drainage. You should protect the surfaces under pots with saucers that you keep an eye on. Herbs don’t like sitting in water while their roots rot.

Interior Design, Not Inferior Design

Keeping herbs at hand means they’ll be “on display” in the kitchen. So if traditional terra cotta doesn’t reflect your inner decorator, think out of the pot. Cover tin cans with beautiful printed paper from the craft store. Hang an arrangement of clear drinking glasses from the ceiling. Group mason jars in a wicker basket. Be creative, but match your kitchen’s décor, so the herb containers blend in seamlessly. Just like the flavors in a good stew.

January's Outdoor Column

JANUARY’S OUTDOOR COLUMN

January, the coldest, longest month of the year as far as I’m concerned, and it doesn’t appear it will get much better.

The arctic blasts through the Midwest have been extremely bitter this time of the year and the damage to wildlife I’m sure will be apparent as time goes on. The one good thing these frigid temperatures have given us is ice. Ice that we can use to fish on and your local Big R Stores have everything you need to have a great day ice fishing.

I’ve ice fished most all my life and there are some things a novice or even a veteran should know before venturing out on the ice. Never put your life at risk because you don’t know the ice. The difference between good ice and bad ice is generally easy to tell if you scrape the snow off the top and drill a hole.

Good ice is clear and hard like a block of ice we used to get from an ice dealer to put in one of the old refrigerators called an ice box. Bad ice is much more like a snow cone; full of pores (tiny holes) and not tightly compacted together. You can’t get a good look at the ice from above; a snow may have fallen on the ice and then melted turning the top layer into a cloudy, milky looking layer. Once you drill through this top layer you will find some good solid ice particularly now.

Milky rotten ice occurs when the temperatures warm and slush develops on top and refreezes at night. When water comes through your ice hole; when the ice is milky and porous, it’s time to stay off. During a cold winter this usually occurs in mid to late February. During a warm winter it can happen anytime, especially if temperatures reach into the forty’s or fifty’s.
Fish light line tests such as 2, 4, and 6-pound tests if you are after bluegill or crappie; higher if you are after game fish. Use small bobber’s as well!

It is safe for one person to fish on 4 inches of ice, more if the ice is clear and hard. Four inches is iffy if the ice is rotten. Never risk your life for a fish! We hear this all the time yet, inevitably someone drowns every year and we must wonder why? It is simple, they chose to challenge nature and they lost.
Don’t be a statistic this ice fishing season. Learn to read the ice and use good common sense and live to enjoy ice fishing next season. I hope to see you on the ice!

October’s Outdoor Column

October, the most beautiful month in the minds of many as leaves change their color and the entire landscape takes on a different view. Waters cool down, hunting season comes in as temperatures begin to fall. Not only do the changing colors make this a great month but the fact that crappie move up into the brush ready for that last meal before winter and the row crop gets harvested leaving the big bucks with less cover to hide.
October has always been good to me when it comes to fall fishing; there are fewer anglers on the lakes and the fish are less stressed. Slipping into an area of prime cover allows me to take the big crappie that begin to stir.
I have never been a minnow fisherman instead I like the tube jig tipped with a bee moth. I find the bee moth to have the most tantalizing effect on both crappie and bluegill over anything I have ever used.
Many anglers don’t slow their baits down in the fall like I do. I’ve always said, “Fish your baits as slow as you can and then slow down some more!” Working your baits slow will get you a lot of snags but will also get you some monster crappie that you may have missed by moving your bait too fast.
I start the day with 25 tube jigs already rigged with a metal jig head and sitting right on the boat where I can reach them when I lose one of these baits. There are days when 25 baits are not enough for even a two-hour trip! Many times, I’m working my bait in the depths ever so slow and it just seems to stop as though I have hooked into a big strand of algae; then it begins to move. From October 10th on it is many times a big black crappie at that time of the year.
Let’s move on to another subject involving deer hunters. October is a prime month for tree stand accidents; many of these accidents could and should be avoided.
I know hunters that go into a stand that they’ve set up last season never checking it first. Steps going up and down from the stand can become loose and break bringing a hunter to the ground. The stand itself may have worked its way loose over the past year making it unsafe to shift your weight in.
Many tree stand accidents happen on the way up or down from the stand, the most vulnerable time when weight shifts especially if you are in a hurry after downing a deer.
Don’t become a deer hunting statistic, check your stand well prior to the season and make whatever adjustments and repairs that you need to make. Have a safe hunting season this year. I know a lot of hunters in my area that did not follow this good advice and are paying the price now; one was even a fatality!
Shop your local Big R Store for all your fall hunting and fishing needs.

July’s Outdoor Column

 

Once July arrives the temperatures tend to get very warm and so does the water. This keeps a lot of people off the water as far as fishing is concerned. Sometimes during these hot periods, the fish slow down and bass, bluegill, crappie and walleye really shut down for a while.

I find this is a good time to fish for something else or to change my bass fishing tactics to something else. A good change of pace sends me after carp and catfish and many times I head for the rivers to get a little action. I have long been a fan of good fights with fish whether or not I land them doesn’t bother me. I encourage anglers to practice Catch & Release and not worry about how many you can put in your frying pan. Taking a big carp or catfish is just as exciting as landing a big bass or walleye and July is generally the month when the big river catfish can be caught, especially the flathead. Catfish have been known to tilt the scales at over fifty pounds in several of the rivers near where I live in east central Illinois.

Many of the big flatheads come during the month of July and you had better have some heavy-duty equipment if you want to land one of these big ones.
Shrimp, chicken liver, shad entrails, along with blood and cheese baits are all used for catfish but, the flathead has a different type of diet. The flathead feeds on clean live bait such as small bluegills and cut bait (fish that have been cut up and pieces put on the hook).

Of course, many big catfish are taken with bank lines, trot lines, nets and jugs but, to me, that doesn’t give me the thrill of the actual battle one can have with a rod and reel.
The same goes for carp; hang a big carp on a rod and reel and the fun begins. Catch that same carp on a light fishing outfit and you have won a battle lost by many.

Carp are generally caught on live night-crawlers in the early spring but in the hot summer, dough ball is considered the best bait. I make a great dough ball out of ½ cup of yellow corn meal, ½ cup of flour. Add enough water in a bowl to knead the two ingredients together to make a ball. Bring a pan of water to a boil and drop the ball in and let it boil for about twenty minutes. Be careful the pan doesn’t boil over. Find an old rag or towel and lift the ball from the water to the towel and let it cool. Wrap up the dough ball and head for the lake.

Of course you can add things like vanilla, licorice, or other ingredients to the boiling water if you wish but I prefer that dough ball just the way it is!

Your local Big R Stores have all the fishing equipment needed to land these big fish as well as pre-packaged baits so check out their selection and have fun trying to tame one of these big fish.

June’s Outdoor Column

kid in boat fishing

 

The month of June is always a transitional month for the fisherman. The fish have, for the most part, already dropped their eggs, the water is beginning to warm up and the muddy waters of spring are beginning to clear. Mosquitoes become a problem while fishing as well as gnats and ticks and these can cause a real problem for the angler.

Father’s Day always falls during the month of June as well as some Free Fishing Days, at least here in Illinois. This gives families a chance to renew their fishing times together as dad takes son or daughter or grandpa takes grandson or granddaughter.

Staying safe on a fishing trip is a must and I encourage anyone getting into a boat to be wearing a life vest whether you are an avid swimmer or not a swimmer at all.

Your local Big R Stores have long supplied its customers with their fishing needs. Insect sprays, life vests, and tons of fishing equipment are there for customers to stock up on for the summer.

Please check yourself for ticks when you return for your fishing trips. Ticks not only carry Lyme disease but they carry other problems as well.

You can remove a tick that is dug into your skin by placing a cotton ball covered with dish soap, such as Dawn, over the tick. This will shut off the air to the tick and it will eventually let go and become entangled in the cotton ball. If, after a tick bite, you become ill, get yourself to a doctor immediately and tick bites can result in some severe and permanent damage.

Another bad summer pest is a chigger. Walking through the tall grass to get to a fishing spot or a wooded area can bring you in contact with chiggers. These nasty mites can cause a welt which can itch like crazy. The best relief I have found for these is at a drug store; it’s called Chigarid. Back in the old days a chigger bite was covered with clear fingernail polish. Chigarid smells like it has fingernail polish in it but also has extra ingredients to stop the itch. The object to killing a chigger is to cut off its air supply.

A good insect repellent will keep chiggers, mosquitoes and many other summer-time pests from ruining your fishing trip or trip to the woods. There is nothing worse than coming home from a fun trip and finding yourself miserable for the next several days because you forgot to protect yourself from these unwanted pests. And while you’re at it; don’t forget the sunscreen!