A small group of women are now prepared to take advantage of Free Fishing Day this Saturday, thanks to a clinic run by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officer Doug Lowery.
Six women gathered at the Cornersville First Baptist Church's fellowship hall last Saturday, for the clinic sponsored by the church and by the TWRA. Lowery introduced them to fishing equipment: rods and reels, hooks, sinkers, floats, and a variety of natural and artificial bait. He also taught the women how to tie on a hook using an improved clinch knot.
"The basic stuff works," said Lowery. "You don't need a huge tackle box."
The reels attached to the rods the women were given were wound with red "Cajun line," and Lowery explained that some fishermen change line according to the clarity and color of the water.
"It's your own preference," he said. "Sometimes you have better luck on cloudy days, or before a front comes through." Fishing line also has to be chosen according to the size of fish you aim to catch.
The kind of fish you want to catch also determines what you'll use for bait, and where you'll place it in the water when you cast your line out.
Lowery explained how bluegill like worms, crickets or any kind of bug, and can often be found closer to the bank.
Bass are predators of bluegill, he said, and are always looking for food. They will stay on the downstream side of a log or rock, ready to snatch anything edible as it comes by on the current, perhaps even a lucky angler's bait. A big bass will eat frogs and crayfish, and even snakes and baby ducks.
"They're fish," Lowery said. "They don't have a real big brain," but they do know how to survive.
Catfish are known to be bottom feeders, but they will "obviously eat about anything," and can be attracted to "stink bait." Catfish can also learn to come to the surface to snap up fish food scattered on the water.
After a little casting practice on the grass behind the church, the group was ready to ride the church bus to a private pond on a farm not too far from Cornersville.
Bluegill and catfish were the catch of the day, and Lowery was kept busy detangling hooks from trees and weeds, giving advice, and supplying more bait. A chunk of hot dog and a worm woven onto a big hook proved to be the perfect bait to attract a big catfish, giving Lowery a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how to hold the slippery fish to avoid being cut by the needle-sharp fins, and how to put the fish on a "stringer" to keep it from getting away.
Finally everyone had caught at least one fish, and it was back to the fellowship hall for lunch, followed by a demonstration of how to clean your catch.
Behind the church again, with running water and an extension cord available, Lowery showed how to scrape the scales off a bluegill, and slit it up the belly to get the guts out.
Catfish need a different treatment, and for them he pulled out the electric knife. Wearing a yellow fish glove that makes it easier to grip the smooth-skinned fish, Lowery cut down to the backbone behind the head, then along the backbone almost to the tail. Then he flipped the fillet over and continued cutting, this time between the meat and the skin. The end result was two perfect fillets, and the head, tail, bones and skin still joined together and ready to throw in the trash bag.
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime," is the saying, and Lowery did both, sending the women home with fish to eat and the equipment and knowledge to catch more and more.
Participants were Morgan Haley, Joan Thompson, Daphne Fagan, Sissy and Connie Nichols and Karen Hall. Helping out were Pastor Barry Fralix, Danny Lalonde and his son Garrett, and Lowery's wife Carla.