The Choclanana Delight

This one is probably a little fattening but that’s what holidays are for. I combined my midwestern chocolate delight recipe with a southern banana cream pudding recipe to make “Choclanana Delight”. I’ve always like bananas and chocolate so why not get them together. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Betty Crocker Pie Crust mix or make a graham cracker crust if you would like
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese softened
  • 2 8-ounce tubs of Cool Whip
  • 1 large box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 small boxes of banana cream pudding
  • 5 cups milk

Prepare the pie crust using the whole box of pie crust mix and using 4 tbls of cool water and 4 tsps of cool water. Mix thoroughly and create a ball of dough. I used a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter, but I roll it out on a thin bed of flour and flour on my rolling pin. Once I’ve rolled it out I place it in my greased 9X13 baking dish, and a little granulated sugar on top and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

Once the crust cools, I mix my first layer of 1 cup powdered sugar, 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 8 ounces of Cool Whip.

Mix the large box of chocolate pudding with 2 and a half cups of milk and I add a few small chocolate chips to the mixture before spreading it.

Spread chocolate mixture on top of cream cheese mixture and then mix the banana cream pudding using 2 and a half cups of milk.

Spread pudding mixture and spread on top of chocolate mixture and top with sliced bananas.

After the bananas slices are added, top the whole dish with 8 ounces of Cool Whip and garnish with a few more miniature chocolate chips, cover and chill. Serve chilled and enjoy!!

The History of Cast Away Cove

It’s been at least 10 years since Lisa, and I found a little piece of lake property for sale during a time when the lake level was down more than 10 feet and the dock for the property was sitting on dry land. There were some young renters that were occupying the small doublewide trailer and the dwelling was in pretty bad shape. Still, it was lake property and something both Lisa and I had dreamed of owning one day. The property had been on the market for a while, and it was getting ready to drop off the listing again. The seller had come down on the price, but he had no takers. I didn’t really want to make the investment, but Lisa really thought it would be worth it one day. We made an offer on the property and it was accepted by the seller.

Once we took ownership of the property we went to work with a total remodel and replaced the old dock as well as installing rip rap at the water’s edge. In that same time frame the rains came and the lake filled to full pool, and we had plenty of water in our little cove to float the dock. Since that time, which was more than 10 years ago, our dock hasn’t seen dry land once. Lisa and I spent 6-7 years using the little lake house as a weekender for us, friends and family members. Some reading this may have stayed in our little lake house we appropriately named Cast Away Cove because of my tackle business (Cast Away Bait and Tackle) and the little cove the property was on. Here are some pictures of Cast Away Cove from years ago.

We had always wondered if we could build on the property and the prospect of building a new home was always something in the back of our minds. Around 2016 we started investigating the possibility of building a new home on the property, but we ran into a big roadblock that concerned the installation of a new and larger septic system. In order to expand a septic system, you need to have a certain amount of undisturbed soil and on the side of a hill you are required to have a holding type tank and pumping system. When we had the soil tests done, we didn’t have the room and there were too many large rocks to put in a larger septic system.

At that point we decided to sell the property and purchase a permanent existing lake home, but the market was tough, and it was hard to invest our money into something that was already 20 years old. We placed the lake house on the market, but we had no takers and eventually took it back off the market when a tree fell on our dock during hurricane Irma. We had the dock repaired and just before we were going to place it back on the market an area very near our property was developed and some townhomes were built just a few hundred yards from our lake house. Lisa and I did some investigating and found out the townhomes were located inside the city limits, but our house was in the county. It was a long shot, but we were hoping there were city sewer lines near our house from the construction of the townhomes and we could somehow tap into the city sewer even though we were in the county. Originally, we had been told through hearsay that it couldn’t be done because it was commercial type sewer system. We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we set up a meeting with the Cumming City Utility Dept. and pleaded our case. They were very understanding and there was actually a sewer line very near our road and it was just a matter of running the sewer line down our street and we, as well as our neighbors could hook up to city sewer. It was like a dream come true when the guys at the city utility department said that we could build the biggest house we wanted, and they would provide the sewer services to our property!!

Next was finding a house plan and Lisa and I looked at a bunch but settled on a plan we both agreed to. We both scanned design after design on a website called Architectual Designs. They had hundreds of designs and we settled on one after weeks of looking and looking and looking. Turns out that the architect (Garrell and Associates) for the plan we finally agreed on lives near the lake, and we were able to modify the plan to fit our property. Once we settled on a plan it was time for a builder. We found Coal Mountain Builders were local folks and we liked the custom homes they had built in the past on the lake, so we signed the building contract and scheduled the build. We broke ground in the early spring of 2018, and we were in our new home by Christmas. Here’s pictures of the tear down of the old and subsequent build of the new Cast Away Cove lake house.

How Many Do You Need?

That’s the question I asked myself over and over again this week. I found myself wanting to go to the deep ditches where I could spend hours just casting or bouncing a spoon around because the fish are there in big numbers and I could catch a bunch.

This week I started out practicing my jig skills in the back of some pockets early in the morning and if there’s one thing I’m lacking when it comes to fishing, it’s confidence with the jig. I can never seem to get on a roll with the jig although it’s a winter staple on Lanier. I just choose other baits to use during the winter months but this winter I’ve made myself use the jig more. Early Monday morning, I was all about the jig in the shallow pockets in the back of a ditch in the creek. As I moved up shallow in the center of the ditch, I started marking fish suspended and moving around at the 20-25-foot depth, so I started making casts towards the shallow back of the ditch and letting the 1/2 jig slowly sink to the bottom. After I feel the jig make contact with the bottom, I like to lower my rod tip and slowly drag the jig along the bottom in a stop and go motion back to the boat, always making contact with the bottom. The cool part about the jig is that when a bass hits the jig there is a pretty distinct thump and it’s your que to set the hook. I got on a roll with the jig early and managed a few confidence builders early in the morning in the very back of ditch pockets.

Monday afternoon I picked up my neighbor for a few hours and we looked for a few shaky head fish in the creek. It was kinda slow, but we managed a few. My neighbor David is working on his shaky head technique, and I always enjoy my time with David as we always talk about the bible and being better Christians. David and wife Ann both teach Bible study and are accomplished Christian writers and just a joy to have as friends and neighbors. Here’s David and his afternoon fish.

On Tuesday I was back out for the afternoon run again and I had a plan. My plan was to run 2 long stretches of docks with the shaky head, one in the shade and one in the sun to see if there was a distinct difference. I started on the deeper shady docks and by the time I had finished running at least a dozen docks in the shady stretch I had amassed a smaller 5 fish limit. The 5 fish were mainly caught between the docks up shallow or on the spud poles. The thing about spud poles this time of year is that they hold heat in the sun, and fish will suspend near the pole, usually chasing anything that moves near the pole. If I see a spud pole, it always gets a cast. Some of the docks were deep with big chunk rock or flat slopping rock shelves which usually produces a fish or two. It was a good dock run.

I then moved to the sunning docks that were just a bit shallower on average and this dock stretch had less rocky stuff. It had a flat out in front of a stretch of 3-4 docks and the flat was in the sun. Bass were always patrolling the flat in the sunny afternoons and I generally expected to always catch a fish on the flat. At the end of my run, I had 4 more fish and missed what would have been my 5th to a slow hookset. That’s the thing about the shaky head, you gotta be on your game because every once in a while, a fish will hit the worm on the way doing to the bottom and you’d never know it if you have a lot of slack in your line. If that’s the case, sometimes the fish will suck the worm in and eventually spit it back out, undetected. I almost always control my drop with the shaky head. I quit fishing after running the sunny stretch of docks and as I was leaving to head back to the house, I noticed a 3/4 moon was rising in the east as the sun was setting in the west. I had a good evening and I remembered what an old wise fisherman told me one time, “when the sun and the moon are in the sky at the same time, the fish bite the best“. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be something to that observation from my old friend. Here’s some pics from Tuesday.

On Wednesday I decided to fish the morning hours to see if I could find a few larger fish, so I started out on the docks again but the fish either weren’t there or weren’t active. After an hour of running docks, I shifted my attention to the sunny, windy points and rocky areas that had wind and waves blowing across them. It was mid-morning and the sunny points facing the south with wind was the ticket with the shaky head. The bigger fish were up, and cruising and I slowly amassed a good sack on the rocks. I was back at the house by lunchtime and considered the morning bite much more productive for size. Here’s a few pics from the morning bite on Wednesday. The biggest was very close to 5lbs and I caught that one on a shallow south facing flat.

On Thursday things started changing and we were facing clouds and no wind to speak of. The fish that had been coming up shallow in the sun and wind were not coming up shallow and I had to head back out to the ditches for my bites. I spent a few hours out from mid-morning till early afternoon and found my fish either very deep or very shallow, but the big girls just weren’t out cruising like they had been doing in the sun. I did manage to catch a few on a pearl Magic Swimmer when I saw fish chasing a bait on the surface but all in all it was just a bunch of staring at the graph and dropping the spoon deep for 2lbers. It was kinda fun because I would drop straight down on empty bottom and start slowly going up and down about 10-20 feet and eventually, I would draw a crowd. The crowd would chase the bait up and down until one lone cowboy would say ‘I’m your huckleberry bass” and my rod would load up. I gotta brag on my Humminbird units. Whether I was fishing in 50 feet of water or looking for a certain contour on my mapping to find my shallow fish, I couldn’t have had success this week without them. They were key whether it was sonar or mapping.

Probably the highlight of my afternoon was seeing a striper work its way back into a pocket I was fishing. I watched the striper chase bait on the surface in the shallows and I couldn’t resist putting a stalk on the goofy striper just all carefree and focused. It reminded me of red fishing in the marsh and sight fishing a red in some backwater pool in the evening. The water was gin clear, but the striper is very curious and aggressive so my bait of choice that almost always fools the striper is the white pearl magic swimmer 125. It’s almost always a lock and when I saw my opportunity to make a cast to the striper, I made it count and the fight was on. Lots of fun and a great way to end my afternoon.

Friday, (yesterday) I was back out in the morning and it was kinda overcast with patchy sunshine here and there but no wind again. I didn’t have a long time to fish but I was able to find a few nice shallow fish and a few deep fish. It seemed like as the morning progressed into afternoon, and the temps got up into the 60’s the shallow fish responded, but I mainly caught smaller fish up shallow. It seemed like the bigger fish were reluctant to come up shallow at first but just when I thought it was going to be a smaller fish afternoon, I hooked a giant in a few feet of water, and she just went to jumping and shaking her head on the way to the boat. She was working the heck out of that single hook in her mouth and on a last-ditch pile drive the hook pulled at the side of the boat and she disappeared into the depths. That’s how my week ended this week and I’m still a little bummed, but I did manage a few decent fish to end the week. Right now, I’m pretty stuck on running banks and docks with the worm although the numbers aren’t quite what they would be if I were out in the ditches, but I always end up asking myself, “how many do you need”? Here were the last of the fish to end my week so I can’t really complain about the ending. I had Mac Deisel, mini mac and broke back mac.

Cast Away Beef Enchiladas

This has been one of my favorites for years. Sometimes I substitute chicken or shrimp for beef. Be sure and adjust the ingredient amounts or ingredients to your liking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cooked ground beef (drained)/or cooked chicken
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces of Mexican cheese
  • 1-2 cans of green enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 small can sliced or chopped black olives

Brown hamburger and add chopped onion

In large mixing bowl add drained Rotel

I add 6 ounces of shredded cheese to the mix

I usually just add a couple tablespoons of the green sauce to the mix for flavor

I add a swipe of cream cheese to each tortilla

Add a generous scoop of mix, roll and place in 9×13 baking pan or dish. I usually spray the pan with Pam

Add the remainder of the sauce and top with 8 ounces of cheddar cheese

Add olives to the top

I cover the dish and bake at 375 for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes longer before serving

I top mine with sour cream, a little hot queso and serve with a side of refried beans top with the remainder of the Mexican shredded cheese. Enjoy!!

Skinning the Cat

Years ago, when my dad was still living, every year for his birthday I’d take him down to West Point Lake and Highland Marina to stay in their floating dock house and do a little fishing for a few days. I remember when I was a little kid growing up my dad always took the time to take me fishing so I thought I would return the favor for his birthday in October every year after he retired. We had some good times down at West Point and the cabin we always stayed at was a floating cabin, so it made it very easy for my dad to get in and out of the boat. The back door to the cabin was about 3 steps from our docked boat so it was very convenient, especially as my dad got older and didn’t get around as well.

Back then I was a striper fisherman, and I netted my own bait at West Point when we went. Bait wasn’t very hard to find, and we could usually set out my Hydro-glow light at the cabin dock and net as much bait as we wanted, but if we needed more, I could usually find it back behind the marina where the water got very shallow and muddy. That’s where the gizzard shad liked to hang out. I could usually get a lot of threadfin shad to come to my Hydro-glow light just before dawn but netting the gizzards was usually a bit more of a chore, especially if you didn’t know where to find them. I had a few places back in some pockets behind the marina that usually produced the gizzards we were looking for though.

Fishing on West Point in October can be pretty good if you know where the fish are hanging out. Usually by October the fish are in the river along a stretch just north of the lake proper and it’s just a matter of using your electronics to find them. Once you’ve found them, that’s where the live bait comes in. I would put out live bait on downlines, freelines and my planer boards, which I manufactured and sold. We would usually have an average of about 6-8 lines in the water at one time which isn’t really uncommon for striper fishermen. The more lines you have out, the better your chances. It can be fun and when you find the schools of stripers and you can be busy for a while.

My dad used to love catching fish and sometimes we would be on so many fish he would be reeling in fish one after another. The stripers were usually 3-5lbs in size and they were perfect if we wanted to keep a few for filets to take back home. When we were growing up my dad did not believe in killing anything for sport or releasing fish if they were edible. His thoughts on guns were that they were only to be used for self-preservation, whether it was nourishment or self-defense and his thoughts on fishing was that you keep everything you caught. Sometimes we would catch 50 fish in a days’ time, and I told him that if he wanted to keep his limit, he was going to be fileting his limit; soon after that he decided that catch and release was kinda fun and within the confines of the law.

Growing up, we had a little 5-acre farm on the outskirts of town and my dad was very frugal. We didn’t have a lot of money and we would McIver everything or make do with what we had. We were always Gerry rigging something to get the job done so sometimes you had to think outside the box. My dad used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat“. Kinda scary phrase when your young and your old man believed in eating anything and everything that had 4 legs, fur, skin or scales. We didn’t eat any cats that I’m aware of, but he did use that phrase a lot when he would be working on something and found a fix.

So anyway, back to West Point. There was one year that we went to West Point in October, and we couldn’t find the fish in the river that year. This was a year that it was still unseasonably hot, and a lot of stripers were still either down lake or way up the river, beyond where we could have gone so we chose to fish the lake that year. The first day of fishing, bait wasn’t a problem as I went behind the marina in a small cut, and we found the mother lode of 3–4-inch gizzard shad. They were so packed back in the pocket, I could fill my 8-footer with one bad throw. After getting bait we set out to find the fish, but we struggled to find any fish at all. The fish seemed to be scattered and we spent all day on the lake without much luck. Speaking of luck, I remembered a scene in the movie “Titanic” when the villain, Billy Dane says “I believe in making my own luck“. Such a cool phrase from one of my favorite villain actors. Well, by the end of the day we hadn’t caught any decent a fish, and I wasn’t not going to be satisfied with bringing my dad down to the lake for his birthday and not watch him catch plenty of fish. I believe in making my own luck so that evening I came up with a plan. I told my dad that we had plenty of bait at our disposal, so we were going to pack our bait tank full of gizzard shad and also pack a few 5-gallon buckets full of the netted gizzards and take them down lake in what I called the “bait relocation program”.

Early the next morning we went back to the gizzard hole, and we netted gizzards by the hundreds and put them in my big 50 gallon bait tank and the buckets of water. The bait was overpopulated in the buckets and tank but still alive for the quick move. I went down lake with the bait and I found a bay that had a west wind and waves blowing right into the bay. I positioned the boat at the mouth of the bay and started slowly driving across the mouth of the bay while we were releasing scoops of disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay. I believe some may call this technique “baiting the hole” but for this story we’re going to call this “skinning the cat“. That’s the plan I came up with. We scattered lively, half dead and disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay and let the wind-blown waves scatter the bait into the bay. At that point I told my dad that we were going to take a break and let nature do its thing.

We centered my 21-foot Carolina Skiff right in the middle of the bay and before long we started seeing fish on the graph below the boat. I baited my dad’s downline with a small gizzard and as soon as he dropped it down under the boat, he had a fish on. I spent all day netting fish after fish for my dad. Just as soon as he would lower the bait, his rod would load up and he had another fish to fight. He must have caught 30, 40 or maybe 50 fish that day, as I have no idea, but I know he was worn slap out that night.

The next morning, we went back to the bay and to our amazement the fish were still in the area, so we spent the morning catching more fish with fresh bait I had netted before leaving for home. All in all it was a great trip for us filled with fish catching and laughs. Had we not come up with the idea of moving the bait to the fish we might have had an unproductive trip. It was very easy to pick off fish after fish by drawing in the numbers and just dropping one line down at a time to catch one fish time after time after time.

West Point was a lot of fun for my dad and I in his last years. I always wanted to make sure he knew how much I appreciated all the things he had done for me over the years when I was growing up. This video below was one of our last trips to West Point Lake. We were blessed.

Keto Bass vs The Meat-Eaters

This week was pretty typical for an early winter warming trend, and I played it perfectly. The west wind we saw all week followed by very warm temps brought some good fish to the bank. This time of year, a small population of bass will migrate to the shore for one of two reasons: first being rises in the water level will put fish on the bank in search of a meal in new submerged shoreline and the second reason they come to the bank is for the warmth of the sun.

When the water cools these fish have a metabolism that slows as their body temperature drops. The fish is much more lethargic and not very aggressive when it comes to eating and they tend to take on a paler coloration in the deeper water. These fish tend to stay in the comfort of the deep ditch and gorge on the massive schools of bait that seek the same comfort of the depth of the ditch. They spend all day chowing down on the schools bluebacks with a high fat and adequate protein diet with little exercise because of that slower metabolism, these bass are my “Keto Bass” of Lake Lanier.

This week I found a massive school of bass in the creek, just chilling on a 40-50 creek channel bottom. These fish were in 5-10 fish wolfpacks and were just lying on the bottom for the most part. When clouds of bluebacks would drift by the fish would feed on the school and then go right back down to the bottom. Some of the wolfpacks were moving around looking for bait and some were just lying on the bottom in wait. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had my way with these fish and boated a bunch of the deeper bass. Most of the bass were in the 1-3lb range and pulling them out of the depths with my little chrome or white spoon did the trick either casting or dropping the spoon vertically. Each day I was fishing the area I could tell the population of both bass and bait was dwindling and each day the temps were getting warmer. I figured that the bait and the fish were migrating as the temps got warmer. When Thursday morning came, and I went to my little deep water honey hole only to find the hole had been compromised by a boat that had passed through and seen me the day before. It was bound to happen eventually, but it was fun while it lasted. I did make a little video of some of the spooning technique I was using for the Keto Bass.

The cool part about the compromised location is that it got me to thinking about an alternate plan and it didn’t take me long to figure out that the west wind that was kicking up, outside air temps approaching 70 degrees with abundant sunshine meant the meat-eaters would be out on the rocks. The meat-eaters are the fish that seek the warmth of the sun to boost their metabolism into predator bass in search of the steak and lobster diet up on the rocks. These bass are revved up and looking to eat the crawfish that are out in the sun and going through their spawning rituals. They are also looking for bream and gizzard shad to add to their foraging diet. These fish are much stronger than the lethargic keto bass and these bass tend to take on darker, richer colorations in the warmer water. I chose to spend the rest of my Thursday pursuing the Meat-eater bass up on the sunny wind-blown rocky areas.

There are 2 baits I use on the windy rocky banks and that’s a crankbait or a worm. There are an assortment of crankbaits that will work as these meat-eater bass are up on the rocks for one reason and that is to eat just about anything that moves. Crankbaits rattle and the crawfish clicks and rattles when they spawn so the crankbait on the rocks is a no brainer, especially when the wind blows.

When it comes to worms, I prefer the shaky head worms, but I’ve also had tremendous luck using Texas rigged worms also. On Thursday I chose the shaky head as I’ve got more confidence in the bait plus I just love to feel the bite when it comes to the shaky head. In just about every instance, I can expect to catch larger fish when targeting the areas where the meat-eaters show up.

About lunchtime on Thursday the wind was blowing at a pretty good clip so I started pounding the wind-blown rocks with the worm using spot-lock and my fan casting method. On my second cast up into less that 3 feet of water this bass pictured below just smoked my worm and the fight was on. I knew that it was going to be a good afternoon for the worm when I got this fish to the boat. A true meat-eater.

After This fish it was just a matter of bouncing from rocky area to rocky area and I even found a bonus of larger fish hanging around the docks so I was able to whack a few more very nice fish with the shaky head on deeper docks as well as sunny shallow docks. I ended my week Thursday and it was definitely a fun week of Keto and Meat-eaters. Water temps are in the mid to upper 50’s right now and the lake is down about a foot and a half. The corps is generating off and on and the lake level is slowly falling. Here are a few of my memorable fish from the week.

Breaking Down the Poop

I haven’t told many people this over the years but way back when I used to run the marsh in Louisiana I was always learning. I was always trying to better understand the feeding habits of the redfish in the marsh so I could be more successful. One of the most important factors to being successful in the marsh is finding the fish and sometimes it can be a chore in the vast open marsh. Observations were very important to me and one observation I made after a few years is that groups of feeding fish poop a lot when they are feeding, and the redfish was no different. On a few occasions when I had found redfish in an area feeding on mullet, I also found the presence of what looked to be small floating dog turds in the same areas I was catching a lot of fish, so I started examining the floating oddities and sure enough they in fact were fish turds. I finally cracked the code on locating redfish; just look for the presence of turds. Of course, that’s not always possible if the wind is blowing or the tide is moving very swiftly but, on a few occasions, when the wind is calm and there are a lot of hidden fish in an area, you can’t hide the turds.

Ok, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, so I’ll get to the point. Yesterday when I was making my rounds in the creek checking ditches, I pulled into one ditch and around 45-50 feet in ditch depth I saw a massive school of bluebacks that were thick from 20 feet all the way down to the bottom. Another observation I made and it’s not the first time I’ve made this observation, is the presence of these small floating splotches of discolored bubbles about the size of pancakes above the middle of the ditch. Shortly thereafter I started marking a steady stream of fish moving about the bottom but not interested in feeding. I knew right away what was going on; these were stripers that had just got done feeding on that massive school of bluebacks and they were just chilling in the pocket. The pancake splotches on the surface are something I see often in the areas where large schools of stripers are or have been feeding and there is no wind to break up the flotilla of liquid poop. I took a snapshot of the stripers chilling on the bottom while I was banging my spoon all over these fish and they had no interest in eating at that point. They were just chilling on the bottom near the massive cloud of bluebacks. This isn’t the first time I’ve found this phenomenon and since I first observed it, I’m seeing it more and more over the course of the past few years. If anything, it’s just another tool to help find these fish and sometimes you really need to get outside the box to do some thinking. Next time you’re out, keep in mind that there could be the presence of poop, and where there’s poop, there are probably going to be some fat stripers just chilling on the bottom after a delicious meal of bluebacks.