Join me tomorrow, with a bunch of my friends and fellow outdoor business owners, at the Fishing Swap Meet at Maloney’s Bar and Grill in Kaukauna, WI. We will all be set up in the Venue and talking fishing, camping, hunting – you name it! If you are getting ready for fishing season (and who isn’t, right?), be sure to stop in and talk with all of us.
FLaG Baits will be onsite with some of our new colors and styles of baits as well as tried and true favorites. We will be there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the event is free, and set up by Tony Mollica.
Enter to win a $25 gift certificate from FLaG Baits. It can be used on stock colors or special orders. You are only limited by your imagination when you shop with us! We have quick turn around times and offer just about any color, scent or glitter you can imagine.
To enter, just guess the number of baits in the Tote of Baits. If more than one person guesses correctly, we will assign each person a number and use a randomizer app (live on Facebook) to chooses a number. If the number of baits is not correctly guessed, we will take all of those who are closest, without going over, and pick a winner using the same procedure.
Get yourself out of the house for a bit and great ready for fishing season! See you tomorrow at Maloney’s!
As you will see, looking around the site, we are under construction a bit. I am revamping the Bait Co. pages to separate them by type. I will be updating our stock colors, but please know we have the ability to make most any color you normally use. We have laminates and swirls at a small extra charge. We have a new variety of scents, for those who like scents as well. I will be posting all of those in the next few days.
With all of the political mess in the country right now, I think we could all use a little more thought toward fishing and the other things we love to do. I will say I am not much of an ice fisherman, but I almost want to get out there just to give it a try again after years away. Almost.
But, for now, I think I’ll concentrate on making some awesome baits for all of you to enjoy during your next open water season. 2020 did not start off the way tournament anglers would have liked, with DNR stipulations on tournaments meaning many were cancelled or postponed early on in the season. Hopefully we will not see a repeat of that in 2021. If we need anything right now, it is to spend some time outdoors to clear out heads.
Thanks for checking out the website and for looking at our baits. If you have any questions or want more information about other things we can do for you, feel free to send an email, text, message, homing pigeon – whatever works for you!
The time is at hand, once again, where thousands of people from all over the world gather together, working separately, to complete a feat not often undertaken by the faint of heart. That feat is called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Those of us crazy enough to undertake this unique challenge pledge to do our level best to write 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel in November. 30 days. 50,000 words. It sounds like a lot. And it is! But for those of us who love the written word, we are happy to give it a try, and to write the worst strings of words we may ever see hit the “page.”
The thing with NaNo, which is the shortened version of what we call our challenge, is to get a writer to write every day. It is also to shut off the “internal editor,” who will always be the doubter. The one to say our writing will never be good enough. The one who, really, stops us from writing junk that we can later turn into gold.
You cannot write gold before you write junk. You just can’t. We all get that, but we all doubt ourselves as we stare at a blank Word document, or as we open to the first page of a “really cool” notebook we bought specifically because we have an idea we want to get down on paper. But, largely, that idea never gets written. We never feel “good enough.” We never feel that we are “important enough” that anyone will want to read our work.
Here’s the great thing about fiction, though: We do not have to be “good enough” or “interesting enough” or “important enough.” We need to leave that to our characters. Let them be important or interesting or “good enough!” That is their job.
Okay, part of our job is to craft those characters. But that is not going to happen in a character sketch. That is not going to happen in the first character interview we conduct with our protagonist (that’s the good guy). It will also be hard for us to want to get to know our antagonist (the bad guy) enough to write about him or her. But we need to get to know them, so we know why people may actually feel sorry for them. We need to know why and when, long before our story started, readers should care about them.
The good news? We get to keep writing about our characters until they prove themselves worthy of our time. They need to prove themselves to us. As authors, we are in the background. Sure. We need to tell the story, but it up to our characters to shoulder the big weight. They need to make people care about them and what they go through in our novel, right?
I hope this idea might get just one more person to get involved in NaNo this year. Or to support a writer who undertakes the challenge. I know this is an aside from where I normally go with my blog, but it’s also something about which I am passionate. I believe everyone has a story. I also believe all of those stories deserve to be told! If you would like to get involved, check it out on the National Novel Writing Month website: nanowrimo.org
Not only do I love the outdoors, but I have a deep love of books that started even before I could read myself. I remember memorizing a book before I could read, and I would “read” that book to anyone who would listen.
Being an outdoor reporter has a bunch of perks. One of them is access to local authors’ books. I have been lucky enough to have many authors within the state send me a copy of their book, which I gladly read and reviewed in my column in the newspaper. I will always read local authors whenever possible and enjoy buying their books and attending book signings.
When I first saw the title of this book, “Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening,” I immediately felt like I was about to get my grandma or grandpa back again. The book is by Jerry Apps with photography by Steve Apps and recipes by Ruth Apps. While I have never met the author, the lessons he was willing to share in the book made me feel as if I knew at least a part of him.
For one thing, there is something about reading a local author, or even one who writes about things close to home. It just makes it that much more personal and fun, at least for me. I would always recommend, for those looking for a good read, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, It is one of the greatest places I have ever found to immerse oneself in an adventure or a different time in this place. We have so many talented authors in our midst and so many incredible stories to be told.
But back to Apps gardening book. It would be easy to write a book about successes. It would also be easy for any gardener to discount that in hand. Gardening is about learning, and it is an undertaking in which I do not think most ever stop learning. Gardening was something that I learned to enjoy at an early age, regardless of the work involved.
To say that my childhood was a happy one would be a gross overstatement. But I do remember two places where I was happy. One was in the woods with my Dad. The other was in the garden alone. Of course, I would never want Mother to catch me “stealing” vegetables out of the garden while weeding or picking rocks, but the reward was more than worth the punishment to me, so I often munched to my heart’s content. After all, we had bunnies and squirrels and so many other animals that helped themselves as well, I figured there would be little harm in it. We had plenty of food in the house, of course, but there was something about picking a fresh vegetable, brushing off the dirt, and just enjoying it in a moment of solitude.
App’s situation was different than mine, with actual acreage of farming going on, but it was his vegetable garden, and his mother’s vegetable garden, which brought back the most memories for me. I do not remember that my sister nor I were ever involved in choosing what would go in the garden, but I know we looked through seed catalogs, just like Mom did. One of the simple joys, I suppose. Apps, too, remembered his mother doing the same thing – looking for specific seeds from particular catalogs at just the right time.
While I do not have a lot of space currently for a garden, I make use of the space I have. In my old house, I had a large deck that was probably half the size of the apartment in which I now live. And that was perfect, because I lived in the woods. With the deck, I did not have to worry about bunnies or deer or any other critters, for the most part, getting into my garden. Although, in the winter when I thought it would be fun to hang some suet for the birds, some sort of mustelid did come up on the deck and help himself. I think it may have been a raccoon, although I had never seen one around. The other option was a porcupine, which I did find evidence of from time to time.
But, in both instances, it almost feels like cheating to not have to deal with those things. This year I grew two small tomato plants, which suffered some life-ending blight fairly early in the season (I believe I still got 3 or 4 yellow tomatoes, though, and I did manage one sauce tomato). My peppers fared much better, with the jalapenos and garden salsa peppers outperforming the banana peppers. My herbs, too, thrived on the north-facing balcony.
Reading Apps book, and learning about his successes and failures – not only his but those of his parents, and how his gardening has changed as he has gotten older, I am reminded of an elderly gentleman I had the pleasure of living next to when I did have a large garden. He was a botanist, as a stroke of luck, and a teacher at the local high school. I always thought I might bother him by asking “stupid” questions over the fence between our yards – until he told me a story about being overseas in the army and learning to darn sock via mail from his mother. That must have been quite the long process for him! Apps book reminded me of those days, too, and wondering if I would ever have all of the answers to gardening.
The answer to that, by the way, I believe is “no.” Even Apps, in 60 years of gardening, still has a degree of trial and error in his gardening. His book allows us to learn from his mistakes as well, and to follow his lead in his successes. And that is one of the great things about books like this – he is a Wisconsin gardener, just as many of us are. Granted, he likely has more experience than many of us, certainly more than I have, but to know that he is still learning, too, is comforting in some ways. I hate to put it as akin to misery loves company, but those who garden understand. We pour our hearts and souls into some of our gardening adventures, only to be wiped out by a pathogen or a torrential rain!
As you create your winter reading list, I really hope you will consider Gardener’s Wisdom by Jerry Apps. It will truly be time well spent, and hopefully will give you inspiration for next year’s garden.
It has been a long time coming, but Fish Like a Girl Baits is finally here. As some know, this is something I have been working on since I started hand pouring baits about a year ago. Now I have a dual injector, and a good start on the molds that I want for my business. I have a Facebook page set up and a fairly good start. But, of course, there is still more work to do.
I have several photographs of my baits posted on my Facebook page under photos. I will post them here, as well, for those who come to my website looking for products. I will also list my stock colors, but many more colors will be available.
I will be also doing laminate baits as well as swirl baits. Those will be posted after I get all of my stock baits listed. Those looking for a color they do not see, please shoot me an email. If you have a bait you use quite a bit, that I do not stock, please let me know that, too. I will be purchasing more molds in the next month or two and would be happy for the input! Stay tuned for more information. Here is the start of the catalog of baits. I will add a separate page when I get more samples done.
Spring tends to be a bit windy. Whether we are out fishing or enjoying some grilling, the wind can change how we do things. The winds of change are called that, I suppose, for a reason.
This spring the winds of change blew quite strongly, not just here in Wisconsin, but across the world. The winds of change drove a deep divide between friends, family, and co-workers. With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and national media doing what it could to create scary, horrible, and sensationalized headlines, these wedges were driven exponentially deep.
While the “feel good” catchphrase of the spring has been, “we’re all in this together,” nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is dealing with the circumstances in their own ways. While some of us have others with which to weather this health storm, others are wondering when they will see family again. Not all of us have been torn asunder by this, but some have. But spring is a time for renewed life and a renewed spirit. And spring can teach us much about the world around us, and ourselves.
For those of us who have a deep love of the outdoors, we do not ask for much: water to enjoy and a deep wood to roam. There is nothing more therapeutic, in my estimation, than a long walk in the woods as it starts to green up and the natural world comes back to it’s bright spring green. There is no color quite like that new-growth green, and it is a color that I am not entirely sure can be captured by a camera.
Maybe the reason it cannot be captured it because it is more than a color. It is a feeling. It is a renewed hope. It is the sense that things really can be okay again. The first “peepers” come out and we hear them in the quiet evenings off in the distant wetlands and swamps. Soft shoots of hostas and other early perennials in our gardens start to show themselves, pushing up through leaf duff and other decomposing organic material. Everything feels new again.
And the wind softly blows through our hair to remind us life is coming back, renewed just as promised. Birds start to build their nests, ready to create another year’s young. Eventually we start to see hummingbirds at the feeders again, their tiny wings buzzing as they flit by.
If we are lucky, as we traverse those woods, we may spy some of springs other miracles in the way of baby animals learning the way of the world. I am reminded of one day as a young adult exploring in the woods, headed to a river near by Dad’s new home. I was not thinking about anything, but just enjoying being outdoors. That was the last time I was so careless in that neck of the woods.
I came through to a small clearing with two small black forms playing near its edge. It did not take me long to realize, although they were what I thought was a safe distance away, they were bear cubs. It also did not take long, when I heard an indignant “huff” from my other side, for me to realize I had done just about one of the dumbest things a 22-year-old kid could do in the Wisconsin woods. I had put myself between mama and her cubs.
I slowly, oh so painfully slowly, backed up from where I was, headed in the direction from which I came. Viewing the river would have to wait until another day. It felt like I backed up a mile before I felt like it was safe to turn around and walk out without looking over my shoulder.
“Did ya learn anything?” I could already hear my Dad say as I came out of the woods. It was one of his favorite expressions with me, and, yes, I did usually learn something when it came to a situation where he felt the need to ask. Lo and behold, when I relayed the story, those were his exact words. It was dangerous, to be sure, but it was also one of the coolest experiences, albeit an accidental one, that I have had with wildlife.
The joys of spring. The winds of change. The new life, as well as the need to be careful. I have spied birds learning to fly, fawns learning to walk, and even ducks learning to swim in my time in the outdoors. Trees budding and flowers opening to show themselves off to the world, all at the same time. So many animals rely on native flowers, trees and shrubs. Even the plant community relies on its neighbors to be healthy and strong. Animals creating the food web rely on each other as well, each of them with their own place.
All of these phenomenon remind me that everything truly is connected. So, while we are all experiencing this spring in our own ways, we are not as alone in our cocoon as we may sometimes feel. Somehow we are all connected, and learning to live in a connected way, rather than struggle against each other, is perhaps one of springs greatest lessons.
With being home more during this pandemic, one of my activities I use to fill time is watching birds. There are quite a few LBBs, as my mom would have called them (little brown birds) around our apartment building, so before the last couple of snowfalls, I put out a feeder for them. They quickly found that a new restaurant opened in the neighborhood, and they frequent the feeder all day long. They are fun to watch, even if a little messy, and I have swept seeds off of the downstairs neighbor’s concrete slab in front of his door several times. Luckily, he is a super nice guy and does not seem to mind.
Being an outdoor reporter has a lot of perks, as I have said many times. One of those perks is that you get to learn about all the cool things that are going on with various groups related to the outdoors. One of those things I just found out about in an email I received from eBird. It is called Global Big Day.
Global Big Day is May 9, 2020 this year. The idea is to get birders from around the world to report their sightings wherever they are. Of course, many people are not going out like they normally would, but eBird does not ask for anything more than 5-10 minutes of looking around right where you are, if you are not comfortable venturing out. I am sure thousands of people will venture, out, however, as birding is largely a solitary undertaking, or it can be. Either way, to me, it gives a person something to do, with a great learning opportunity attached to it.
There are two cell phone apps that will make the day much easier. One of those is the eBird app and the other a bird ID app called Merlin Bird ID. Both can be found in your App Store. I downloaded both of them and lost the next half hour of my life. They are really cool apps. The first time you use either, it will ask to be allowed to view your location, and then download bird packs based on that. The Merlin app gave me the Midwest pack and the eBird app the Wisconsin pack. For those who would rather not use a their cell for whatever reason, sightings can be recorded on the eBird.org website also. But the app makes it super easy to submit a checklist in the field.
A checklist is simply a list of the birds that you see and hear. When you first log onto the eBird app, unless you are good with scientific names of birds (and I, for one, am not), go into the settings and change the names to common names. Now you’re all set to go out and start logging sightings!
One of the coolest things about Merlin is it can help you ID birds that you have no idea about. First you start off with identifying a bird by size. From there, you choose what colors the bird is. The app will populate a list of birds for you. It includes several full color pictures for each bird as well as audio of the bird’s calls and songs. From there, you can go back to the eBird app and log your sighting.
In the eBird app, if you think you know what a bird it, you can choose it from the list, then hit the “Merlin” button. That will bring you to the Merlin ID app and you can go through the same procedure, if you are not sure what bird you are looking at or hearing. Then you log how many you saw. You can also add notes, which I did in my short survey today. I added the chickadees and sparrows were at the bird feeder and the robins were in the yard.
For those who are out somewhere, or even walking their own property, you can record a track to see where you went and what you saw. The whole thing is really cool if you are into wildlife and are looking for something to do while you are at home, or even in the field. It can be done while hiking, fishing (I imagine fly fishing a stream and logging birds at the same time would be a great day), biking or any other activity. Just remember you will need cell phone reception, which can be sketchy in some areas, especially in northern Wisconsin.
I would recommend doing a checklist or two before May 9, just to get used to the platform. If you are like me, you will start looking up a few birds and, like I said, all of a sudden half an hour will have gone by. But I have certainly spent more time in less productive ways.
On May 9, each birder can complete a checklist, or several checklists. The idea is to get as many birders as possible to report their sightings all in one day. Last year over 35,000 birders is 174 countries recorded over 92,000 checklists in the 24-hours of Global Big Day, which runs from midnight to midnight. The goal for 2020 is to surpass 100,000 checklists.
It is easy to get involved. Go to ebird.org and set up a free and quick account. Download the apps, and you are ready to go. All you have to do is get out and look around, really. I think it will be a fun way to spend some time. Of course, birders can, and do, complete checklists all the time, but Global Big Day gives everyone a chance to be part of a global team, looking for bird populations. This information can be used to determine any changes in population numbers and ranges of different species.
On the Global Big Day page of the eBird website, birders can check in throughout the Big Day and find out what other birders across the globe are finding in their birding adventures throughout the day, too. We’ve got a couple weeks to get used to the platform and to make some discoveries on our own. Then join the global team on May 9, if you get a chance, and log whatever you find. I have found myself not busy that day, so I know I’ll be checking the birds out in my neighborhood at least.
It seems like it’s always “National Something Day,” with most everything getting its turn in the lime light. For me, some of those days are more fun than others, and some I like to point out more than others.
April 17, 2020 was Bat Appreciation Day. In Wisconsin, we think more about bats as they are darting above our heads when we are sitting around the campfire than at most other times of the year. However, with White Nose Syndrome being found in New York in 2007, and moving steadily west, we started to think about them in the winter time as well. Since the detection of the disease, it has been found in 33 states and 7 Canadian provinces.
White Nose Syndrome, WNS as it is knows, is a fungus that affects cave-dwelling bats while they hibernate. It is characterized by a white fuzzy appearance of a bats’ nose and wings. Bats affected by WNS are often seen flying around outside their hibernacula in the winter long before they should emerge. They often come out, looking for water. They usually seem disoriented and can be unable to fly. They quickly succumb to the extreme temperatures, or starve to death, as no food sources are available and the cold temperatures cause them to use up food store much more quickly.
The Wisconsin Bat Program recently reported that approximately 6.7 million bats have died due to this disease since it has been found in the United States. Thirteen species in all have been confirmed to have the disease nationwide with eight more carrying the fungus without exhibiting signs of the disease.
The program’s recent report stated there were over 200 hibernacula in Wisconsin including natural caves, mines, abandoned rail tunnels and old beer cellars. The 2019-2020 winter survey done on these hibernacula showed the disease was still widespread and, even worse, was still decimating bat populations. Every site surveyed this past year showed signs of the fungus, which grows well in these damp, cool conditions, as one would expect. While some sites had decreased to no bats at all, in others a 72-79 percent decline was seen.
According to Bat program lead and DNR ecologist Paul White, there were some bats, however, that were surviving with the disease. He felt the bats had learned to adapt somehow, possibly choosing hibernating sites that were colder and less hospitable to the WNS fungus. It was found that, in some places, year-over-year survival was increasing, even though WNS was still present in the bat community. This was good news!
So, why should we care? That is a common question some ask. Those of us who study the outdoors understand that everything from opossums to penguins are related. For others, those connections are not as obvious. So, what is the deal with bats anyway?
Bats eat insects. Most of us know that. They dive bomb around us, swooping through and snatching insects out of midair as we finish our late picnics or sit around the campfire in the summer. But the impact they have on agriculture is much, much bigger.
Bats, is has been estimated, save billions of dollars per year in pesticides and other control measures for those in the field of ag. One recent estimate I saw was as high as $53 billion per year. Even the most conservative estimates are in the billions of dollars. This total, wherever it falls, takes into account only the direct impact of bats, and does not take into account the downstream effects, if you will, of harm done to other wildlife, native plants, and even humans, when increased pesticides are needed to control a variety of insects on crops.
In the big scheme of things, then, these little bats are big business. This makes their plight important. Of the eight bat species in Wisconsin, all four of the cave-dwelling species, little brown bats, big brown bats, long-eared bats, and the Eastern Pipistrelle, are all listed as as threatened.
The good news is, there are many ways people can help. As many have heard multiple times, I am a citizen science geek. I love learning about anything outdoors. The Wisconsin Bat Program, and, at least in Wisconsin, your local county Land and Water Conservation Department, are great resources to help people learn more about how they can help bats.
Bat houses are fairly simple to make and erect. There are directions on how to accomplish this on the Wisconsin Bat Program website. This is actually a section of a larger citizen science website, so feel free to look around if you happen to visit there. There are many opportunities to monitor bats, too. Summer surveys are done around the state, in an attempt to see which bats are where and how populations are surviving and adapting.
I agree, it seems creepy at first – little mice with wings, as some people say. But if you can get out on a lake with an eco-locator that can capture the sounds of bats that we cannot hear with our “naked ear”, and later get to hear those sounds – it really can change your mind about them.
I remember Joel Knutson, a young man with a passion for bats, coming to talk to a Master Gardeners group a few years back. He brought audio of bats he had been out monitoring. It was really a cool experience to hear them darting through the trees, using their sonar to not run into anything at a dizzying pace. There was one recording where the sound went quickly dead for not even a second, and then picked up again. It did not take much for the group to interpret the fact the bat had been chasing an insect, and had caught it in midair, causing the brief pause in the action as it swallowed it’s prey. It was a really interesting discussion overall, but I think the audio really made it stick for all of us.
Bat Appreciation Day. On the surface, it might sound about as important as National Pickle Day (although at one point in history, I am very sure those were more important than as a burger side or a stir stick for a Bloody Mary). But, in reality, bats provide a much-needed service in the food web. I encourage everyone to hit the link for the Wisconsin Bat Program above and check it out with the whole family. Bats really are an interesting and important species.
Buying baits online is easy. Buying baits from a local manufacturer may seem more difficult – where do I find local guys? How do I know they will provide what they say they will? The answer is social media and word of mouth. All small bait manufacturers rely on those two avenues to gain customers.
We could all shop on Tackewarehouse…. and most of us get at least some of our products there. It is easy. It is a one-stop shop, if you will. But there are many reasons to shop local when it comes to artificial baits of any kind.
Every angler has their favorite color. Many of us have an idea for a color, but it is not one we can get in a the type of bait in which we want it. While I have heard Gary Yamamoto is an awesome guy, I cannot believe I could call him on a Monday after a tournament:
“Hey Gary! Yeah, Beckie Gaskill from Fish Like A Girl in Wisconsin. Hey, I have this great idea for a color for your twin tail grub….” Not only will Mr. Yamamoto likely not answer his phone, but if he does, I would imagine he long ago tired of random people asking him for different colors. On the other hand, I can call one of the several local bait makers I have a relationship with, and likely get the bait and color that I want by next weekend’s tournament. I make soft plastic baits now, too, and have for a couple of years. But I know people who have molds for baits that I do not have, nor do I want. I will certainly rely on them when I am looking for a certain thing.
Turn around time
Expedited shipping from a major supplier can be bought, of course. But, for the most part, you and I are just a number – not that I would expect it to be any other way. At some point in a business’ growth, everyone needs to be treated equally. But, I cannot tell you how many times I have called a local soft plastic bait maker and, really, called in a favor. Can you get me # of X by Friday? Any chance? The answer is almost always yes.
In a world where your order number is your identity, most local bait makers will follow you back on social media. They will start to understand who you are, how you fish, and a million other things about you. While you will most definitely get individual attention when you call or text to place your order, occasionally you will get that text:
“Hey, I saw what you were fishing last week. I made this color I want you to try out.”
Local bait makers get out on the water, too, but they may not be on the bodies of water we are on. They may have different experiences on the water. When they find people who are ambassadors of the sport, and who really put in the time and the effort, they often reach out to us – what is working, what is not working. Our input can help shape their business. For me, there is no bigger honor.
To me, there is never a harm in networking. I love to learn from everyone I meet. Occasionally I learn what not to do – as others learn from me what not to do! That is part of fishing and part of pitting yourself against any other animal on the planet. While we like to see ourselves as top predators, and we are, we can easily be tricked fairly easily by our prey, as any angler or hunter knows. There is a reason we celebrate our wins.
Networking allows us to meet people and get an insight into why they do the thing they do, why they fish the areas they do at certain times of the year, how they break down a lake, why they choose certain colors…when we order from a local bait maker, he or she wants us to be as successful as possible. They want us to talk to other anglers about what we caught on their baits and how it worked for us. Again, social media and word of mouth is the life blood of, really, any small business. The bait making business is no different.
I would highly recommend taking a look at what bait makers are near you. Find those who seem to have the same vision as you do, and place some orders. I do not say this only because I am making a few soft plastics myself. I am saying it because I love this industry and I would like to see people throw something created by their neighbor, or the guy down the street, across the county, etc.
Of course, we cannot discount the big tackle guys. Even though I make a lot of my own baits now, I will likely always have some Yamamoto, Strike King, and Reaction Innovations in my boat. But, for the rest of my tackle, I will rely on local people to get the big fish in the boat.
What are your favorite baits? Do you have a local bait manufacturer you love? Feel free to share that information here!