During our July 8 meeting of The Weekly Mistake, Yours Truly mentioned several ways to help beat the summer heat during fishing excursions. Those suggestions included fishing at night from a boat, the bank or a lighted pier. Early morning or late afternoon fishing were other suggestions. However, as senility sets in, I forgot to mention small stream fishing.
Maybe I failed to mention small stream fishing because my first experience was a total disaster, but that’s another story for another day. Regardless, maybe it’s time for you to give small stream fishing a try, and possibly beat the heat in the meantime … somewhat. Actually, you won’t beat the heat, but small streams often make the heat more tolerable. Overhanging tree branches, for one, offer shade and some relief from the sun - the sun, you know, that’s the thing you used to see in the sky most every day!
Another relief factor is that there are usually slight breezes blowing up or down small stream corridors that seem to make it cooler. Then again, those same overhangs mentioned earlier that provide shade often restrict breezes, depending on prevailing wind directions.
Due to frequent and often heavy rains lately, small streams will be more navigable. It’ll be easier to avoid getting hung up on snags or being beached on underwater sandbars. Higher-than-normal depths and swifter currents will also, unfortunately, make stream fishing a bit more dangerous.
HAVE A PLAN
So you must have a plan to avoid increased dangers of fishing, boating or simply canoeing on rain-swollen creeks. First of all, no matter how macho or (the feminine word for macho) you consider yourself, wear a life jacket! You never know when you’ll need that extra bit of help to keep your nose above water.
And before you embark on a float trip, decide whether you’re going to navigate upstream, then fish back down. Or, if you’re going to fish downstream, you’ll need to make arrangements to get back to your starting point.
Of course you already knew that... but like I said in a previous Weekly Mistake, it’s been really tough this summer trying to find things to write about.
Moving right along, once you’ve made travel arrangements, don’t just jump in the boat/canoe and go. After all, if your float is going to be enjoyable, you’ll need a variety of supplies, especially if a kid or two is involved.
Naturally, if you intend to fish, check your tackle. And since you’ll be trying to beat the heat, it only makes sense to take an ice chest for cold water and soft drinks. You’ll certainly want to throw in some snacks, and maybe a sandwich or two, because float trips are often unpredictable as to the length of time it will take to complete.
It’s quite tempting, I know, to sink a bottle or throw wrappers into the stream or on the bank, BUT DON’T LITTER. If you think no one will ever see it, you’re wrong! So be a good steward of the land and water. In fact, if you see trash, pick it up.
Be prepared for a wide variety of species if you intend to fish. Streams are home to bass, bream, catfish and more. A landing net is not often necessary, but a variety of baits is, from lures to live bait. If other game fish don’t bite, try the catfish. I’ve found that even when you can’t pay a bream, bass or crappie to bite, stream catfish always seem to be hungry.
One of the most important things to remember is that you aren’t just a hop, skip and a jump from medical treatment. So take your prescribed medications with you in a small emergency kit. Include things like bandaging material and disinfectant. Don’t forget mosquito repellent, either. Being prepared can salvage an otherwise miserable float.
WATCH THE WEATHER
Don’t even consider a float trip if the weather is iffy. Sudden, torrential rains can ruin your float, but flash flooding can take your life. So carry a cell phone (and who doesn’t these days?) in case of emergencies, but be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight (what’s that?) and in a Ziploc bag.
Whether fishing or simply enjoying a float trip, get out and enjoy Mississippi’s small waterways. Check weather forecasts beforehand to be safe. Have fun, be careful, and when you go, take a kid with you … every time you can.
Hattiesburg native Phil DiFatta is a lifelong outdoorsman who has written a newspaper column since 1982. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.