Claim the privilege of hunting according to the dictates of your own conscience, and allow all hunters the same privilege;
let them practice how, where, or what they may.








Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010, Afghanistan

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Another Christmas finds me far from home. Far from my family, my loved ones, my friends. Times like these make you remember the poignant, and coarse, the laughter and tears, the life left behind.

As you read this, our day is well under way, another day spent passing the time dilligently applied to our tasks. I think of you and the campfires we will share.  Yours truly, Albert

To all our friends,
Both near and far,

to those still with us,
and those gone, but not forgot,


"Tannenbaum"

Here is wishing you the very Merriest of Christmas, Happiest of Holidays, And all the Peace and Prosperity God may Grant You!


May you find the very best gifts around your trees,
Your friends and family!

"Holy Night"




Good Wishes to All!
Albert, Cristal, Jordan, and Blake




Drawings by my great-uncle, Guillermo Rasch, 12/24/1947
Malaga, Spain

Thursday, December 23, 2010

West Central Florida Fishing Forecast 12/24

West Central Florida Weekend Fishing Forecast for Dec 24th thru 26

West Central Florida Fishing:
From Aripeka to Longboat Key which includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton.

Capt Ray says:

It’s only right to expect cold weather for the Christmas holidays and the holiday season this time of year. The weather prognosticators have been a bit off lately, but the patterns seem to be similar each week. The weather warms up through about Friday. The winds lay down, and by the weekend, it starts to go back downhill into another front. This holiday weekend’s prediction is for similar weather, but don’t let that hold you back and keep you from going fishing, unless you’re headed offshore, then a more prudent approach should be taken.

For you OFFSHORE Fishermen

The weatherman has made it tough on offshore anglers looking to get out before grouper season closes next Saturday, January 1. Federal waters will become off limits for grouper at that time. The inshore waters remain open and plenty of grouper have been caught inside Tampa Bay and the channel running in from Egmont Key, well inside the bay. While this may not qualify as offshore, Tampa Bay can get mighty mean if the winds are blowing, and an offshore boat is the only way to get out and get them. Trolling a number 2 or 3 planer with a big Bubba’s Curly Tail Jig on a heavy jighead is a favorite of top trolling skippers like Vance Tice and Channel 13’s Doug Hemmer.

Captain Dave Zalewski out of Madeira Beach likes a broken-back gold Bomber lure. Trolling is a good way to find fish, and using a downrigger is best, since the approach to the fish is “up and down” with some blowback from the downrigger ball. Hitting the waypoint save button and using the plot feature on your bottom machine could bring you back to the mark where you were hit to anchor up for some bottom time.

Not much else was reported this week, with the weather taking its toll. Water temperature has dropped to the low 50s and frozen bait is the way to go to get lethargic fish to begin eating. Chum should be an absolute necessity, and with the full moon on Tuesday, the current will be running pretty hard, so give fish time to move up your chum slick to feed.

Inshore fishing on Florida's West Coast

At this point, December in the West Central area is on point to rank as one of the top 10 coldest Decembers since records were first taken. NOAA National Weather Service in Ruskin recently said that the average temperature has been running 10 to 12 degrees below normal for December. What should this mean to anglers? Here are a few tips to help you catch more fish in this cold weather.

Well, for starters, make sure your start time on the water is later in the morning or early afternoon when the sun has a chance to begin warming shallow waters. This should help fish get more in a feeding mood. Presentations should be ultra slow.

Reports this week were limited, but the ones received were similar. The bite was slow in most locations, with trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, and bluefish headlining the catch. Live shrimp have been in limited supply in some areas due to the cold and windy conditions.

If you’re thinking about using jigs or artificial shrimp, now is the time to use the bait with a red, brown or chartreuse tip on the tail. Working these baits slowly on the bottom will imitate shrimp that have just come out of the mud, where their tails have been discolored from burying in for several days. The DOA night glow/ fire tail shrimp or the night glow/ chartreuse tipped tail produce exceptionally well now.

Water in most areas is gin clear when out of the wind. Make leaders extra long out of stealthy leader material like Seaguar or Ande fluorocarbon material, or blue Ande Backcountry Copolymer. These materials are nearly invisible in the ultra clear waters during winter. Downsize baits, both natural and artificial to match appetites that are stunned by the cold. Make casts as long as possible to avoid spooking fish. When sight-fishing, don’t drop baits on top of fish, but cast beyond and bring the baits by in front of the fish within their strike zone. Remember, strike zones shrink in cold weather and fish rarely chase down bait. Move both live and artificial baits very slowly. Fresh cut baits and “stink baits” like Berkley Gulp excel when fished in the “dead-stick” mode without moving the bait, particularly with some current or water movement.

FRESH WATER

Work plastic worms slowly around boat docks and structure. Bass have been holding tight to grass beds and deeper structure in the rivers and in the lakes, such as Lake Tarpon. Crappies are beginning to show signs of schooling in Central Florida Lakes. Look for the action to be on the rise this weekend with the full moon this week.







Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's the Right Time to Hunt Squirrel!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Top Squirrel Hunting Tips and Techniques

Florida’s small game season extends from November 13th through March 6th, offering both new and experienced hunters ample opportunity to keep their skills honed for the bigger game they pursue. Squirrel hunting, traditionally a family pastime, is no longer the most popular off season hunting activity that it used to be. The exponential growth and distribution of turkey, and the burgeoning population of deer, has taken the luster off of small game hunting in general, and squirrel hunting specifically. That’s a real shame too, because with such liberal seasons and bag limits of up to 12 per day, Mr Bushytail offers excitement and skill building that we all need.

Finding squirrels is as easy (LOL!) as finding acorns! But what about those times when the acorns are scarce or the trees non-producing? You would do well to look for any fruiting tree. Mulberry, persimmons, paw paws, and peach trees when ripe; even green hickory nuts are a prime draw for foraging squirrels. Evergreen cones are frequently full of seeds year round. Remember, that they don’t just eat nuts! They frequently forage on the ground, looking for root plants and tubers, along with seeds heads, green plants, and mushrooms.

Black, or melanistic squirrel. Common in some populations.

Of course, food availability will dictate what squirrel populations will be like in any given area. In good mast years, squirrel litters will be large and well fed, and many more of them will survive. Bad years cause the opposite, weakening the population and limiting numbers. This is of course common with all rodent populations; boom and bust cycles affect the population on a regular basis. Remember, gray squirrels build a nest, (known as a drey), in the forks of trees. The drey is made up of dry leaves and twigs and here in Florida, Spanish moss is commonly used to build a comfy domicile! In the winter, look for them up in trees; where there are lots of them, you will find lots of squirrels!
White Squirrel

Squirrels, like all rodents, are very prolific, and a good year of seed and mast production insures an even better season to come. In a good year, it does not take long for several female squirrels to multiply prodigiously and repopulate an area as they breed twice a year, giving birth to a litter of up to 8 pups. Hunting barely affects the furry nutcrackers, and even under exceptional pressure recruitment from neighboring areas quickly repopulates the bushytails.

As common as they are in many areas, it makes sense to keep them in mind when initiating someone into hunting. Young people will appreciate the quicker tempo of small game hunting and be better prepared for the needed patience of a deer or turkey hunt. Adults will be challenged and again, as an introduction, squirrel hunting provides the potential for just enough action, without being overwhelming. Everyone will learn the importance of picking their shots and shooting accurately; lessons that will be of utmost importance when bigger game is sought. Keep in mind that early in the season they are most active early in the day, and again later in the afternoon. Once the days start to shorten, they spend much more time foraging and burying nuts for the winter. Once the cold sets in, they'll be on the forest floor digging up their cached bounty.

Firearms for Squirrels. Rimfire, Black powder, and Shotgun.
Your old trusty twenty-two, or that new rimfire 17HMR may be your ticket to a limit of squirrel. An accurate bolt action or repeater will put the lead where it needs to be, and help you to ethically collect your game. A good scope helps immensely, especially when trying to pick out the top of their heads while they plaster themselves to a branch. Remember that most all 22s are finicky about which brand of ammo they will shoot accurately, so make sure you’ve bench tested your rifle and know which brand will give you that good accuracy you want.

Shotgunning for squirrels is also a popular way to bring them down. #6 shot in a low base shell is more than adequate out of a 12 or 16, as well as in a 20. Lots of folks chase them with 410s, and I bet the occasional 28 does too.

Blackpowder hunters have their own rifles for bushytails, “Squirrel Rifles!” Usually in 32 caliber, they are fairly quiet, conservative in their powder use, and 44 inches of Pennsylvania barrel makes for a very accurate roundball. Even up to 45 caliber, some aficionados use reduced loads to collect Mr Nutcracker. Head shots are the ticket here.

Hunting Tactics for squirrel.:


Still hunting: When still hunting, a hunter finds a place that he knows harbors an abundance of squirrels. After locating a promising area, you sit and wait for a squirrel to come and announce himself, hopefully in front of you! After that, all it takes is careful aim! Immediately recover your game, and sit down again. In a short while the woods will come back to life, and you will be presented with another opportunity.


Stalking: Walking quietly through the woods in search of squirrels can be another very effective way to hunt Mr Bushytail. Not only is it effective, but it is great training for big game too. Walking alone or with a partner, slowly make your way through the woods untill you perceive the busy squirrel. Stalking to within range takes great care and practice. But even if spotted, you can rest assured that after a short time, the Nutcracker will reappear to investigate. If hunting with another person, always keep gun handleing safety in mind.

Dog Hunting: In many areas, squirrel hunters hunt with the help of a hunting dog. Squirrel dogs can be pure bred hunting dogs, to rascally mutts, like my very own Charlie, who can sniff out the scent of the squirrel and track the squirrel. A good squirrel dog will tree the squirrel and lead the hunter to the spot, thus providing the hunter with the opportunity to take his shot.

Preparing Squirrels: There are many guides to skinning and cleaning squirrels on the internet, so I would urge you to take a look. The one important thing I learned, was to wet the fur real good before you start. It helps keep stray hairs from getting on the meat! (How to Clean a Squirrel)

Squirrel Hides and Tails: Hides can be tanned at home for any number of projects. The tails especially are of some value to fly tiers. Again research the internet for more explicit instructions.

Squirrel recipes.

Here is a tasty looking recipe that I wish I had known about twenty years ago when I was reduced to hunting squirrel for sustenance. Squirrels and a handful of Chinese radishes kept me from starving to death until that first check came in!

Ozark Squirrel with Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 squirrel, cleaned, dressed and disjointed
1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 strips bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. thyme
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. mushrooms, sauteed in butter

Directions:

Dredge squirrel in seasoned flour. Cook diced bacon over moderate heat and remove browned bits. Saute squirrel in bacon fat until browned on both sides. Add garlic, thyme, tomato and chicken broth. Cover and simmer about 1 hour or until tender. Serve with sauteed mushrooms, grits and green salad.

Servings: 2

I hope the motivates you to go out and do a little squirrel hunting! Take a non-hunter or aspiring hunter with you, and show them the ropes from start to finish! Remember, every hunter you recruit, even if its for only one hunt, is a person that now understands the role of the hunter.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, Albert A Rasch, Hunting in Florida




Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.




Monday, December 20, 2010

Catch Your Own Stone Crabs!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Trapping and Catching Stone Crab

Florida Fishing, Albert Rasch, The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, best fishing in Florida
I got to thinking about some of the really delicious things that come out of the ocean, especially after a great day of the best Florida fishing! Among them is the oh so delicious Stone Crab Claws! For those of you who live here in Florida, and maybe some of you who are visiting, I thought I would put together some of the tips and tricks we use to harvest some succulent claws. The season for Stone Crab is currently open and stretches from October 15 to May 15.

The retail price of Stone Crab claws is always high. We have always enjoyed fresh claws and used to make it a point to go occasionally with friends on a foray for them using either commercially made inexpensive traps or snorkleing gear to dive for the Stone Crabs.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) allows anyone with a recreational fishing license to possess up to 1 gallon of claws (By the way, you can only harvest the claws, the crab MUST be released unharmed) per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less.

Again, here are two methods that you can use to catch a Stone Crab Claw dinner. You can put out your own traps or dive for the crustaceans.

  • Florida law allows any recreational angler to use up to five stone crab traps.
  • The rules for recreational traps are simple and straightforward, and must meet the following criteria:
  • Buoys must have a legible "R" at least two inches high, permanently affixed to them.
  • Traps must have the harvester's name and address affixed to them in legible letters.
  • Traps must be retrieved manually during daylight hours.
  • Traps cannot be placed in navigational channels or waterways.
  • Each trap must have a degradable wooden panel equal to the size of the entry hole on the top of the trap. This panel is designed to rot away and allow crabs and other creatures to escape should the trap ever be lost. This avoids it becoming a ghost trap.
Florida Fishing, Albert Rasch, The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Most bait and tackle shops carry prerigged plastic and wire traps. A single trap is usually less expensive than cost of a pound of claws at your local supermarket, even in Florida!

When situating your traps, look for rocks, cover like some old tires or a shallow wreck, or sand bottom for the best results. Use large fish heads for bait as they will usually last a week, which makes it easier for you to keep up with the traps. Half a ladyfish is also very good, as is a good sized Jack Cervalle.

I would suggest that you set up all of your traps (up to five, remember) in a line about one hundred feet apart, and record the GPS coordinates at each end. Give your traps three to five days, and check them. This will give the crabs time to find your traps and enter.

Snorkleing takes a little practice, but is loads of fun! Not only will you see all sorts of marine life, but you will recover TONS of fishing gear! Seriously. Shallow rock piles and jetties are great places to started at, and of course great places for fishermen to snag and lose gear. Be careful though. Dont get tangled up in any fishing line, or snagged by a rusty old hook. Bring diagonal cutters and a mesh bag for any treasures you come upon.

Check along the bottom edge of the rocks and examine each hole for the telltale sign of the crabs. If a Stone Crab occupies the hole, you will usually see sand and broken shells littered about the the opening of his excavation.

Most divers use a short metal or heavy plastic rod with a 90-degree or more angled end to reach behind the crab and pull it out. Remember, that anything less than 90-degrees is considered a hook and is therefore illegal!


Image Credit: Pinellas Marina 
Stone crabs move fairly slowly, so in most cases you can pull them out and into the open before they clamp down on your fingers should you allow the unthinkable to happen. Once you have pulled them out of their hiding place, release them in a clear spot on the bottom. Thus exposed, they assume a defensive posture and they will raise their claws waving them up toward you to ward you off. Now grab a claw in each of your hands.

Now you have your hard won crab!  But before removing the claws, by law you must measure the claw and make sure it is over the minimum size required. . The minimum claw size is 2 3/4 inches measured from the lower tip or "finger" to the first elbow joint. At no time may you remove claws from any egg bearing females. A minor twist of the claw will cause the crab to release it so be careful when handling especially if you aren't sure they are legal size. Once you are ready to remove the claw, twist it toward the center of the crab and up. I have always avoided removing both claws, I only take one. Some folks say it doesn't matter, but I just don't feel right about takeing both claws. Call me a softy.

Note: I just found this!
Studies by the state of Florida have shown that removing both claws do not harm the Florida stone crab in any way when removed properly. In fact numerous studies have shown that by removing both claws, Florida stone crabs are forced to eat sea grass which has been proven to be more healthy for their diet and regenerate their claws faster and female Florida stone crab have more baby stone crabs since they are unable to fend off the advancements of the male crabs. Now that I have science to rely on I can create double amputees without any guilt! Study here.

Try to release your clawless crab close to the rock pile you harvested them from. If you got them from a sand bottom area, try to find the closest rocks or jetty and release them there. The abundance of food and cover will allow them to regenerate more quickly.


Florida Fishing, Albert Rasch, The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Do not put your harvested claws on ice. Putting them on ice will cause the meat to stick to the shell. Set the claws into an empty cooler that has some ice in a container to keep it cool. I have seen people keep them in an empty bait well.

Our next installment on Stone Crabs will be preparing them for the table!


Until then, Good Hunting, and Great Fishing!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, Albert A Rasch, Hunting in Florida


Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mr Hunting Expert!


It's not often that I have the opportunity to introduce a world class hunting expert to my friends, but here it is!

Ian Nance is a lifelong resident of Central Florida with a passion for hunting just about anything. He is Mossy Oak Regional ProStaffer and proud member of NWTF and DU.

If you have a couple of minutes, click on Mr Hunting Expert's link, and be prepared for the wit and wisdom of Mr Hunting Expert!

Mr Hunting Expert

Gone Fishin'! : Releasing Fish Unharmed

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Here are some important tips on releasing fish unharmed, so they will live to be caught another day.

Fishing isn't what it used to be, there was a time when you just went out and fished with little regard for the fish. Regulations were far and few in between, and social customs different.

But now we have slot limits, catch limits, open and closed seasons, catch and no-catch zones; it's a wonder we can still fish! The fish though keep on biting, and we must do everything we can to make sure the resource isn't harmed by our actions. How you release a fish, determines if it will survive to fight another day, or if it becomes food for crabs and seagulls.

I read a long treatise (available here) on Striper mortality with respect to fish hooks. The long and the short of it is that the major cause of mortality in released fish comes from where a fish is hooked, and how the hook is removed. To make it short, circle hooks don't kill stripers as readily as J hooks. Circle hooks tend to only hook the fish in the jaw, whereas there is a high percentage chance of a J hook hooking a fish past the gills. The odds of a Striped Bass dying were 17-times higher if the bass was deeply hooked. The J-shaped hooks had 3.7-times greater chance of gut hooking a fish than circle hooks did. By switching to circle hooks, you can reduce fish mortality by a factor of four!

Wild Ed wrote a very good piece on the circle hook, Texas Fishermen Love the Circle Hook. He says: "All you had to do was start reeling and the fish would hook themselves. The best part was ninety-nine percent of them were hooked right in the corner of the mouth. No more gut hooked fish and no more undersized fished hooked so deep they would die upon release!"

There are other steps we can take to help nurture and protect our fish resource. The way you handle your catch makes a difference in how well they survive the encounter.

As you may know, handling a fish can remove much of the protective slime coat off of the fish's body leaving it vulnerable to parasites and infections. The best technique for releasing a fish would be one where you don't touch it. There are de-hookers available that allow you to remove the hook with out touching the fish. If you have to handle the fish, wet your hands, or use soft gloves that are wet to gently hold the fish and not rub the slime off. If you frequent any of the flyfishing blogs, you'll notice that they always take great pains to carefully unhook the fish, many times barely holding the fish where it breaks the surface. They tend to use barbless hooks, and soft rubber coated nets.

Give a thought as to how you handle you fish. It is a resource that is renewable, and we need to treat it with care!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, Albert A Rasch, Hunting in Florida


Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.