Originally created 05/07/00

Outdoors notebook



A plan to increase the per-hunter limit on deer from five to eight this fall appears to have the support of Georgia's 400,000 archers and gunners.

At least that's the impression the Department of Natural Resources was left with after only a handful of residents appeared at public hearings last week to discuss the change.

Dan Forster, Georgia's assistant game management chief, said only eight people attended Monday's hearing in Athens, and only five of those eight offered comments.

"One wanted to keep the current limit, one wanted to increase it and three wanted more either-sex days," he said. A similar meeting in Lee County attracted 19 people.

The absence of opposition makes it a virtual certainty the Board of Natural Resources will affirm the new limit, which is designed to reduce deer herds in suburban areas.

In our part of the state, we have Columbia County, which ranks second among 159 counties in deer-vehicle accidents.

Will increasing the bag limit put more suburban deer in freezers and reduce the number that bounce off minivans each year? Only time will tell.

FISHING: RIGHT OR PRIVILEGE?

Anglers were justifiably miffed recently when they were ordered off the rear portion of the "Mayor's Fishing Hole," a city-owned, public pond off Lock and Dam Road.

But the operators of nearby Swamp Nature Park, which tried to ban fishing on part of the lake that adjoins their preserve, were equally justified in concerns over garbage and illegally parked vehicles.

The group brings thousands of students to Phinizy Swamp for tours of terrain most kids have never seen. Beer bottles and bait cans along a nature trail can certainly sour the experience.

Mayor Bob Young rejected efforts to ban fishing on part of the pond, but agreed to erect signs and designate a parking area to reduce the abuses that led to the situation.

The Mayor has done his part and the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park folks have agreed to be good neighbors.

Now it's up to fishermen who use the area to clean up after themselves. If they don't, you can expect the issue to re-appear in the future.

NEXT WEEK: BIG CATS

I got a call several weeks ago from Clay Whittle, who takes his fishing almost as seriously as he takes being sheriff up in Columbia County.

"I sure wish you guys would do a story on how to catch catfish -- big catfish -- in Clarks Hill Lake," he said.

Whittle and his friends sometimes travel all the way to Santee-Cooper in South Carolina to catch big catfish. But they'd like to know more about catching them closer to home.

I tracked down several local anglers who specialize in boating these bluegill-gulping, bottom-feeding beasts. Most wouldn't return my call. One was downright rude when I asked for help on a simple "how-to" story.

I guess they were afraid sharing secrets would cramp their style.

Finally, Bobby Turner, the manager at Raysville Marina, introduced me to Thomas Casteel, whose willingness to share his catfishing expertise is surpassed only by the size of the flatheads he brings home.

Next week on this page, Casteel offers some insight into catching some of the biggest creatures freshwater fishing has to offer. I hope you'll enjoy meeting him as much as I did.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222.