Reflecting on 2010 and bidding it farewell while looking forward to brighter 2011
Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 10:31 am
By: Brent Callicott
As I sat down to write my final outdoors column for 2010, I tried to reflect on the many things I have mentioned to you.
The one thing that has stuck in my mind and continues to be true is the low, near historical water levels at Reelfoot Lake. This really bothers me. I just hope and pray that rain water will arrive soon and be plentiful.
One thing I do hope has happened is this week’s rainfall helps Reelfoot Lake. I care so much about this lake. My life has somewhat centered around Reelfoot Lake from early childhood to today and will continue to do so.
So many folks in our area take so much for granted with Reelfoot. Folks travel for hundreds of miles just to spend their one week’s vacation either fishing or hunting here. The water level is so important, especially come spring for our spawn. That seems like a long time from now mentioning the spring 2011 … but it’s not. I have calls and emails almost on a weekly basis asking if the lake’s water level come up yet.
As for the rainfall, the National Weather Service is saying the 8- to 14-day outlook is for above-normal precipitation in our part of the United States. Weather it be rain or snow or both, it doesn’t matter, we just need water and lots of it. I hope this past week is an indication of what Mother Nature plans to continue to do for our area on water.
One other thing, just remember just over eight months ago, the major floods that hit this part of the state and mid-state caused Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River system to go to very high water levels. This was the flooding that hit Nashville … remember? Now, eight months later we are almost begging for rains.
I know also there were some folks fishing this past week with the blessing of warmer weather that settled into our region. Water temps were also able to warm slightly.
The duck hunting has continued to be good for some and not so good for others. Folks who are able to hunt Reelfoot Lake and the surrounding private farm lands have had good hunts.
I have had several folks call and email me that their hunts have been good.
Speaking of ducks, here is the latest waterfowl counts we have received: Reelfoot National Wildlife Reserve Manager Alan Whited has reported we have around 15,000 to 20,000 ducks on NWR. “We are having trouble keeping our water pumped up with the continued drop of the Mississippi River,” he said.
The following is the projected Mississippi River stages at the Cairo, Ill., gauge — 17.2 (Saturday), 17.8 (Sunday), 18.3 (Mon-day).
Also, with this warmer weather, the Union City Reelfoot Pond is free of ice and has a new stocking of trout with another stocking due in mid-January. For more information on the TWRA’s Trout Fishing Program, go to their website.
The annual eagle tours around Reelfoot Lake will be starting in January. These tours are by bus around the Reelfoot Lake area with daily tours starting at 10 a.m. with additional tours on Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the eagle tours or to make reservations, call 731-253-9652.
Also, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be conducting eagle tours around Reelfoot Lake but are more of a hands-on experience.
These eagle tours are offered now through the end of February. The tours last between 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the abundance of wildlife you are able to view. Tours will leave at 8 a.m. and at noon on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A maximum of five people is allowed per tour and reservations are required. The tour will take you through Grassy Island wildlife drive, where many deer, hawks, songbirds and other wildlife are seen. You can stretch your legs at the viewing tower and look out over scenic Reelfoot Lake, where you will have a chance to see white pelicans, coots, bald eagles and a variety of waterfowl paddling in the water or flying overhead.
The tour will also stop at the Long Point unit, where thousands of geese and ducks congregate to feed on the moist soil units. Visitors will be able to see a close-up view of two active bald eagle nesting sites, where it’s common to see the eagles tending to their nests and, later in the winter, incubating their eggs. Throughout the tour, several stops will be made to view eagles, owls, hawks and waterfowl with provided scopes. Visitors will learn the history of the lake and the refuge, hear facts about local wildlife, and learn about the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuges mission, as well as the actions we take to make Reelfoot NWR a suitable place for waterfowl.
You can make reservations and obtain directions by calling 538-2481. Dress warmly: gloves, hats and a warm coat will come in handy, along with a camera and binoculars. If you do not have binoculars, they have several pairs they can loan out to adults and children if you call in advance.
When it comes to the winter months and even summer months, feeding wild birds and different type of wildlife in your back yard can be a enjoyable experience. This is really a learning tool also for all family members to enjoy.
Here are a few helpful hints in starting a small hobby the entire family can enjoy. Birds are a wonderful addition to a backyard. The birds in your neighborhood can survive without supplemental feeding, but it is tough on the small birds when the snows arrive. If your birds are dependent upon wild seeds, they can survive but they will not visit the backyards.
Offer food at the feeder all year, varying the amount and frequency with the amount of natural food available in the area as the seasons pass. Wintertime feeding is most intensive. Backyard bird feeding doesn’t significantly blunt winter’s impact on overall bird populations, but it may make a life and death difference for local populations of certain bird species. Continue it well into spring until insects and plant nectar and seeds are available to birds. When the growing season is in full swing and birds are starting their families, continue to put out food occasionally to help mom and pop feed the kids. In landscapes rich with a variety of plants birds can find food through the fall and only need to snack at your feeder.
I talked with my good friend and BassMaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez this past week. I want to pass along to you that Mark will be teaching a class — a Bass Fishing Class. This will be all about bass fishing. This class will be held for five consecutive Tuesday nights starting Jan. 18th on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, Ky. Cost will be $65 per person for this class.I will be sharing more information about this class in weeks to come. You can call (270) 534-3335 for more information about this class and register.
I want to close by wishing each of you a Happy New Year for 2011. I hope your goals, dreams and anything you set out to do the upcoming year come true. I want to also thank each of you who continue to read my column. I am overwhelmed by how many people read my column and enjoy doing so. I do this for you, the reader. I try to be honest and pass along any information that pertains to the outdoors in our area. It is my wish that I can keep the public informed on any issue and pass along reports our readers want to share. My dad has been doing so with his radio show since the early 1970s and then I came on board with him doing so. Once I had the opportunity to write this column, I felt it was another important avenue to inform the general public on the outdoors.
Oh, I might as well go ahead and get in trouble by publicly telling my mother a belated Happy Birthday. It was Thursday. Happy Birthday Mom, hope your day was a special one.
Please remember if you wish to share your story or photos with us, send them to me either via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone me at 446-3678 or simply drop by the Messenger office in Union City on Jackson Street.
Til next week’s report
Catch ya on the water folks..
Published in The Messenger 12.31.10