Amusing Monday: Catching fish by hand can be a rare spectacle

Robert Earl Woodard, an Alabama farmer and retired football coach, has spent 40 years perfecting his technique for catching bass by hand.

As you can see from the first video, his careful procedure involves dangling some bait in the water and waiting for a fish to strike. He then grasps the fish by inserting his thumb into the “V” at the bottom of the mouth and waits for the fish to calm down.

The large mouth bass that Woodard caught in the video weighted in at 16.03 pounds, just half a pound less than the Alabama state record of 16.5 pounds set in 1987.

The pond shown in the video is Woodard’s own five-acre catch-and-release pond on his farm near Blountsville, Ala., where he feeds and cares for the fish. That may explain why they are not as wary of him as fish would be on a typical bass lake. Woodard uses tiny shiners and bluegill to attract the fish to his dock. Some will come right up to him; others will hang back and wait for him to throw fish into the pond, according to a story by Robert Montgomery in Bassmaster Magazine.

Woodard knows these fish so well that he can tell them apart by their markings, according to a longer story in Activist Angler with information from B.A.S.S. Times. Woodard named the 16-pounder Kickin’ Bass for her ferocity after taking bait.

“But she’s also very cautious,” Woodard is quoted as saying. “She will suck the bait out of your hand without making contact.”

Others in his pond are named Dynamite, who explodes out of the water; Jaws, who bites so hard that he or she can draw blood from Woodard’s thumb; Bullet, who tries to knock the bait out of Woodard’s hand; and Sneaky, a smaller male who hides under the dock and will grab the bait as Woodard tries to catch a larger female.

Woodard said he made the video to promote his book “The Way It Was Back Then.”

A search on the Internet reveals other videos of people catching fish by hand. One of the more impressive catches is by Billy Smith, who finds a tarpon not only taking the bait the bait he is dangling but also half his arm (second video).

You’ll find lots of videos of people catching catfish with their bare hands, a technique called “noodling” that involves reaching into holes where a catfish may be hiding. The third video is from the television series “Hillbilly Handfishin” shown on Animal Planet. Since the outing in the video seems fairly well organized, I’m assuming that the folks involved are following state regulations for this type of fishing. I steered away from some videos that showed questionable practices — although I don’t know enough to say for sure.

Judging by the comments on some of the videos, even when people are being filmed, they don’t always follow the rules, which vary from state to state, with some states outlawing the practice entirely.

Ethics also are involved. Some commenters express anger when they observe on video people manhandling and killing some of the largest fish instead of letting them go, thus cutting off an ongoing source of genes that helps produce these large, long-lived fish.

Thoughts run to an orca called Granny and her clan of five generations

Looking back on the various comments that followed the death of the killer whale named Granny, I realized that there were a couple of thought-provoking tributes that I never shared with readers of this blog.

Granny, designated J-2, was believed to be more than 100 years old, and she was the obvious leader for many of the Southern Resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound. Granny went missing last fall and was reported deceased at the end of the year by the Center for Whale Research. See Water Ways, Dec. 30.

Some tributes to Granny were written and posted soon after her death notice, including one by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. I posted my thoughts along with some others in Water Ways on Jan. 4.

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Amusing Monday: Entertaining videos don’t show real holograms

An amusing video that shows a young family experiencing close-up encounters with killer whales, a polar bear and several penguins has been making the rounds on social media. The technology has been described as a hologram by many people posting and reposting the video, the first on this page.

Frankly, I was amazed at first, believing that people were really up close and personal with a 3D image in a shopping mall. The animals, which I assumed were projected for all to see, appeared so real that it was no wonder that people in the video were reaching out to touch them. Unfortunately, that’s not what we are seeing, according to observers.

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Crab Team training will foster the upcoming hunt for green crab invaders

A European green crab invasion may be taking place in Puget Sound, and Washington Sea Grant intends to enhance its Crab Team this summer with more volunteers looking in more places than ever before.

The second European green crab identified in Puget Sound was found in Padilla Bay, where three others were later trapped.
Photo: Padilla Bay Reserve

Training is about to get underway, and anyone with an interest in furthering science while being exposed to the wonders of nature may participate. It’s not always good weather, but I’ve been inspired by the camaraderie I’ve witnessed among dedicated volunteers.

The work involves going out to one or more selected sites each month from April into September with a team of two to four other volunteers. It is helpful to have folks who can carry the crab traps, plastic bins and other equipment. For details, check out the Washington Sea Grant website.

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Petition seeks to revoke Department of Ecology’s clean-water authority

Citing pollution problems in Puget Sound, an environmental group is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke Washington state’s authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.

Northwest Environmental Advocates, based in Portland, says a review of 103 discharge permits issued by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a failure to control nitrogen pollution. Excess nitrogen reduces oxygen levels in the water and triggers algae blooms, resulting in serious problems in Puget Sound, according to a petition submitted to the EPA.

“Ecology determined that over 80 percent of the human sources of nitrogen in Puget Sound comes from cities and towns, but it continues to issue discharge permits as if it were completely ignorant of these facts,” Nina Bell, the group’s executive director, said in a news release.

“It’s just flat out illegal to issue permits that contribute to harmful pollution levels,” she added. “These permits are the walking dead, existing merely to create the impression that the state is doing its job to control water pollution when it is not.”

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Amusing Monday: Ray Troll visits Puget Sound with Ratfish Wranglers

Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.

Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.

Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.

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Two-for-one executive order on regulations headed for showdown

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward to protect people’s health from toxic chemicals, despite an executive order from President Trump that requires two existing regulations to be repealed for every new regulation approved.

Photo: André Künzelmann, Wikimedia commons

On Tuesday, the EPA will hold a public hearing to help develop rules for controlling the use of 10 chemicals evaluated under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act. (See EPA Public Workshop.) As I described in Water Ways, Dec. 1, these high-hazard chemicals could be banned or significantly restricted in their use. Seven of the first 10 under review have been found in drinking water at various sites across the country.

Preliminary information about the chemical risks and the evaluation process can be found on EPA’s TSCA website.

The revised Toxic Substances Control Act received overwhelming bipartisan approval in Congress. Even the chemical industry supported the law, in part because it would limit what states can do to ban chemicals on their own. Check out my story in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

We have yet to see how Trump’s executive order on controlling regulations will affect upcoming rules for toxic chemicals, but the order is already causing some confusion. It has been ridiculed as “nonsensical” by environmental groups, which filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn the order. More than a few Republicans say they don’t know how it will work.

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USS Enterprise: A proud name with a very long and amazing history

The Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was decommissioned last week after 55 years of meritorious service under 10 U.S. presidents. Deployments ranged from the Cuban Missile Crises in 1962 to first-strike operations after 9-11.

The “Big E” was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and upon commissioning became the world’s longest ship at 1,100 feet. The video shows highlights of the Enterprise and last week’s observance.

I was not aware until last week’s ceremonies that eight ships named Enterprise have served the United States since before the country was founded. I’m providing a summary, below, of the missions and adventures of all eight ships. For much of the information, thanks goes to Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood of the Navy’s History and Heritage Command.

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Amusing Monday: Did any of the commercials bowl you over?

It’s becoming an annual tradition for me to feature some of the amusing Super Bowl commercials on the day after the big game, especially focusing on those with water-related themes. I also try to share a little of the backstory about the commercials on my list.

Kia ad with Melissa McCarthy

A day after actress Melissa McCarthy appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, Melissa was back on television in a Super Bowl commercial, doing her best to save whales, trees and rhinos.

McCarthy, who has won at least 20 awards for comedic roles in films and television, plays a tragic eco-hero in the Super Bowl commercial. In real life, she has accepted a position as Kia spokeswoman to promote the brand-new Niro, a car that captured a Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle, tested during a coast-to-cost trip. For details, check out Carscoops online magazine.

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Ballast water bill could allow invasive species to enter Puget Sound

Invasive species from San Francisco Bay — known as the most infested waterway in the country — would have an open door for entry into Puget Sound under a bill moving through Congress.

Vessel Incidental Discharge Act invasive species
Ballast discharge from a ship
Photo: Coast Guard

You may have heard this line before. I posted the same warning last summer, when the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, was attached to the “must-pass” National Defense Authorization Act. (Water Ways, July 16). Opponents fought back and were able to strip VIDA from the bill before final passage.

Now, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and an anti-regulatory atmosphere in place, the bill’s passage seems more likely this time — to the detriment of Puget Sound, the Great Lakes and other waterways.

If VIDA passes, ships coming up the coast from California will be able to take on infested ballast water in San Francisco Bay and discharge it without treatment into Puget Sound. Invasive species that hitched a ride in the ballast water would have a chance to populate Puget Sound.

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