May 31, 2006
Catfish Catch Has A Ring To It
A Kentucky angler's recent catch resulted in something of a missing person's investigation in Ohio, after a whiskerfish coughed up a mystery woman's 1984 high school class ring. We also have a follow-up story about a Florida angler who received a gator bite to his backside, tales of close encounters with grizzly bears, and more.
A Certain Someone
On a Sunday in May, Wayne Nickerson landed several catfish from a small pond near Augusta, Ky., and placed them in his livewell. When he removed the fish later that day he found a shiny ring from a Columbus, Ohio, area high school -- located about 150 miles from the pond -- with the inscribed name Lisa Marie Certain.
When Augusta Police Chief Greg Cummings was notified of Nickerson's peculiar catch, he visited the Franklin Heights High School 1984 alumni website, where Ms. Certain was listed as "missing in action." The chief's first thought was that perhaps a crime might have been committed involving the mystery woman.
A news story aired by TV stations in Cincinnati and Columbus subsequently led to the ring owner, now Lisa Peterson, who resides in Idaho Falls, Idaho. When contacted by Chief Cummings, Peterson said the ring was stolen from her mother's central Ohio home 15 years ago.
Today, thanks to a sharp-eyed catfisherman and good police work, she has been reunited with her missing ring.
Back In The Water
Remember our May 17 tale about Sam Crutchfield, the 66-year-old Fort Pierce, Fla., angler who received a gator bite to the buttocks while he was fly-fishing and wading in a marsh off Lake Istokpoga?
Well, Orlando Sentinel writer Tim Povtak caught up with Crutchfield last week and asked him if his recent close encounter and the three subsequent Florida alligator-related fatalities were enough to change his wade-fishing habits. He discovered that the ardent angler has put his chest waders back on after two weeks of antibiotic treatment for his puncture wounds and lacerations.
"Any time you go into the water, you can put yourself in harm's way," the fifth generation Floridian said. "I don't know what the odds are, maybe a million to one, but you can throw those odds out the window when one bites you in the [behind] like it did me."
When it comes to gators and anglers, the odds are definitely on our side. Of the 20 reported fatalities in Florida since 1948, the conservation commission reports that none has involved fishermen. Most have involved someone swimming or snorkeling, or an unattended child in the water.
Of his gator run-in, Crutchfield mused, "I probably did the best walk-on-water routine you'd ever see, but I also know you have to get back on the horse. It's not going to change my fishing habits, just my judgment about where I can go."
Calling All Grizzlies
According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, each year about 1,000 grizzly and black bears are killed in British Columbia because they pose threats to humans or domestic animals. Persons living in bear habitat are often reminded not to leave garbage or other items that may attract bears because such action can contribute to another dead bear.
In researching the story, and obtaining freedom of information documents, reporter Larry Pynn discovered that not only garbage and apple orchards often attract bears, but so do hunters calling for moose and elk during the regular hunting seasons.
Pynn wrote that a husband and wife were calling moose last September when a grizzly snuck up on them. In a report to the B.C. Environment Ministry, the wife wrote that she handed her husband the 30.06 rifle and "he took the safety off, aimed and fired. At this point, the bear was only 25 feet away, crouched down on its belly, stalking up towards us with its ears laid back on its head and the lips were curled back away from the teeth, nostrils flared, mouth partly open."
Also last year, two hunters were bugling for elk near Prince George when they were charged by a large male, grizzly. According to a conservation officer's report, one hunter was knocked to the ground and mauled, while his partner shot the bear in the hindquarter at a distance of 13 feet. The bear released its victim, and the hunter finally killed it with a third shot to the head.
Arizona's Urban Critter Feeders Targeted
Legislation actively supported by the Arizona Game and Fish Department that bans the practice of wildlife feeding in the state's two rapidly growing urban counties has been signed into law by the governor. The measure will make the practice of purposely feeding wildlife in Maricopa (Phoenix) and Pima (Tucson) counties punishable by a $300 fine.
Wildlife/human encounters in and around the booming Arizona metropolitan areas are nothing new, but the situation drew lawmaker's attention after a series of mountain lion sightings in 2003 near homes adjacent to Tucson's Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Agency hunters culled several problem cougars in the area that year, and biologists blamed the appearance of the predators on the availability of food for smaller animals that mountain lions regularly target for dinner.
Encounters with Arizona's rattlesnakes, gila monsters, coyotes, bobcats, and javelinas is a growing problem as housing developments expand into the desert and foothills. It is increasingly common for folks to toss out food scraps or leave dog food to attract wildlife -- especially javelinas -- for viewing purposes. But as soon as the family pooch receives the business end of a javelina tusk, or a coyote carries off Fluffy the cat, seeing wild animals in the backyard isn't quite as cool anymore.
Quote Of The Week
"(Noodling) is a technique practiced by men (and perhaps the very tough and very rare woman) with monosyllabic first names, gun racks in their pickups, tattoos across their chests, men who live hard lives and earn their ways with their hands --pipefitters, oil drillers, powerline men. These men are not part of the fly fishing set. Sir Chalmers Castworthy and Godfrey Lightibbets would never associate with them, except when the plumbing needed fixing."
"The Offbeat Angler -- Fish Tales and Muddy Adventure," 2005
J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom and ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.