Backcasts archive: Through June 15, 2007

Blog calendar: June 14 | June 13 | June 11

posted June 14, 2007

No Smurf and turf for these lobstermen

You can call it an extreme case of the blues.

But it turned out all right in the end, especially for one lucky crustacean that was spared the death penalty.

Steve Hatch and his uncle Robert Green were pulling up lobster traps at the mouth of the Thames River on Sunday when they noticed something rather odd about their quarry, the Associated Press reports out of New London, Conn.

There inside the cage was an unusually hued critter, as blue as a Smurf. Indeed, the 1½-pound clawed creature was bright blue, the result of an extremely rare genetic mutation.

"I've heard about them but this is the first one I've ever seen," Hatch told The Day of New London newspaper.

So instead of boiling it and breaking out the lobster bibs and those tiny forks, Hatch put the lobster in a cooler Sunday afternoon and brought it to the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, where it will live out its days in an elementary school classroom for children to learn about.

Catherine Ellis, curator of fish and invertebrates at the aquarium, said only one in 3 million lobsters are "true blue," meaning their color is the result of genetics and not the environment.

The one caught last weekend will join two other blue lobsters at the aquarium. Red lobsters the world over were reportedly green after hearing the news … yuk, yuk, yuk.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that the blue coloring occurs when lobsters produce an excessive amount of protein because of a genetic mutation, according to the AP.

One side note for would-be consumers of blue lobsters: If they are cooked like their red brethren, they, too, turn red, Ellis said.

Click here for a glimpse of colorful lobster; hey, I'd be blue, too, if my, er, claws were wrapped in thick, rubber bands.

She can run, but she can't hide — from deer

The victims were the same as in the previous three accidents — deer vs. human — but the mode of transportation was new this time around.

Sure, a Midwest woman had another run-in with a ruminant, but she took things much more literal this time.

Here is the entire brief that appears on the NPR Web site, where you can listen to the National Public Radio report:

Kandi Hanson of Minnesota was running a 10-K race last weekend when a deer ran into her. That probably wouldn't have made the news, except that Hanson has a bit of a history: She's totaled one car and damaged two others in collisions with deer.


posted June 13, 2007

Sturgeons, surgeons and one whale of a tale

Leapin' lizards, Florida's Suwannee River sure is getting a bad reputation for boating injuries. But it has nothing to do with human error.

No, we're talking jumping sturgeons colliding with recreationists, the Associated Press reports out of Rock Bluff, Fla.

The latest incident involving a flying fish took place Sunday, when boater Tara Spears, 32, of Bell, Fla., was knocked unconscious by one of the prehistoric-looking denizens with the sharp, armorlike scutes, or plates, on their backs.

Fortunately Ms. Spears — whose surname appropriately describes the punishment she took from the sturgeon — is expected to recover after being treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported.

That's more than we can say for the 50-year-old woman from St. Petersburg, Fla., who in April was struck and severely injured by a leaping sturgeon while riding a personal watercraft on the Suwannee River.

She suffered a ruptured spleen and had three fingers reattached by surgeons, but she lost her left pinkie finger and a tooth, according to the AP.

In 2006, 10 people were injured in sturgeon vs. human incidents in Florida, according to according to the Web site of NPR (National Public Radio).

Capt. Roy Brown of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Department told NPR drought conditions mean there is less room for boaters and sturgeon to move. When rivers shrink, sturgeon get crowded, Brown said.

Sturgeon in this part of Florida can grow to 8 feet long and up to 200 pounds, the AP reports.

Meanwhile, native Alaskan hunters got a b-i-g surprise recently when they discovered an arrow-shaped projectile that had been embedded since, get this, 1890 in the bowhead whale they were butchering.

Based on researchers' estimates, that puts the whale's age at between 115 and 130 years old, the Associated Press reports out of Boston.

Calculating a whale's age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. But the 3½-inch lance tip found in the 50-ton bowhead whale is significant because it's thought to be the most accurate aging tool to date, according to John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

"No other finding has been this precise," Bockstoce said.

It's rare to find a bowhead that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old, according to the AP.

The bomb lance fragment, lodged in a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling center in the 19th century, Bockstoce said.

It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.

The device exploded and probably injured the whale, Bockstoce

"It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place," he said. "He couldn't have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years."

And that's probably just what transpired until last month, when the 49-foot male whale was killed after being shot with a similar projectile off the Alaskan coast. The older device was found buried deep beneath its blubber as hunters carved it up with a chain saw for harvesting.

Whaling has always been a prominent source of food for Alaskans and is monitored by the International Whaling Commission, the AP reports. A hunting quota for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was recently renewed, allowing 255 whales to be harvested by 10 Alaskan villages over five years.


posted June 11, 2007

The Fishing Geeks make history with world-record rainbow trout

Identical twins in Canada who target behemoth trout and call themselves The Fishing Geeks may be destined for a more complimentary moniker after their most recent milestone — the world-record rainbow.

Adam and Sean Konrad, 26, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, each have line-class records for rainbow trout as recognized by the International Game Fish Association. But Adam was the lucky angler who hooked into their largest rainbow trout the evening of June 5 at nearby Lake Diefenbaker, while Sean was targeting walleye on this reservoir system of the South Saskatchewan River.

The final tally after the 20-minute tussle to get the bruiser 'bow to shore: 43.6 pounds, 38.75 inch in length and a girth of 34 inches. Should the numbers stand, Adam Konrad will hold the all-tackle world record for rainbow trout, eclipsing the 42-pound, 2-ounce standard that was set by a boy, David White, in June 1970 on Alaska's Bell Island.

"I call it a freak of nature, but that's what we were looking for," Konrad told Backcasts this afternoon.

He was casting from shore using an orange, 4-inch Mepps Syclops spoon on 6-pound line. If his line tests to that strength, Konrad also will break the 6-pound line-class rainbow record of 31¾ pounds, taken at New Mexico's Santa Cruz Lake in 1999, according to Becky Reynolds, the IGFA's world record coordinator. And should the line test high, to 8 pounds, Adam will overtake his brother's record of 34½ pounds, Reynolds said today.

Adam Konrad already holds the 12-pound line-class record of 33 pounds, 6 ounces. Each of the Konrad twins' records has been produced at Lake Diefenbaker.

Konrad has 90 days in which to submit his catch for record consideration, but he said he already has sent all his paperwork to Reynolds, who confirms she has spoken with Konrad about the catch and has seen photos of the brute.

Reynolds said the twins certainly have a reputation for catching big trout. "They have started and are after the jackpot for rainbows," said Reynolds, who can't comment on pending records.

Photo evidence of the 43.6-pound rainbow was first publicized on trophytroutguide.com, which has an exclusive arrangement with the Konrads. An article has since appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper.

"It is an ugly one and it is fat," Adam Konrad told the StarPhoenix. "With a 34-inch girth, that's bigger than a human, almost."

The Konrads hope eventually to make livings out of guiding for trophy Saskatchewan trout, and they certainly aren't hurting their reputations with the fish they've brought in recently. Most are released, but "every once in a while" one winds up on the dinner table, Adam Konrad said. And, if you're keeping tabs, the 43.6-pounder is most definitely on ice, he said.

Konrad said he had released an 18-pound rainbow trout some 10 minutes before hooking into the world record about 100 feet from shore. "Then my heart just starting going up," he said. "At first I couldn't move this thing, then I felt the tail wag."

Afterward, the twins bagged the behemoth, drove it home, put it in the freezer, then had it weighed the next morning at a Saskatoon butcher shop.

"Our goal was to break every line-class IGFA record for rainbow trout, then to break the all-tackle record," Adam Konrad said. "But it looks like we broke the world record sooner."

Sean Konrad still has yet to apply for a 50-pound line-class record with the 26½-pound rainbow trout he caught at Diefenbaker two weeks back. The twins only have the 2-, 4-, 16-, 20- and 30-pound line-class records to tackle now.

"We want to prove to people how big fish are here," Adam Konrad said. "Saskatoon is underrated."

Not any longer, Adam, not any longer.

Cicada with blue peepers leaves fans bug-eyed

Cicadas are known to make great bait for bass, catfish and even carp — which, curiously, seems to have gotten more and more mention in this column as a possible target for anglers.

What's more, if you happen to be lucky enough to be on a trout stream during a one-every-17-years hatch of cicadas, prepare to be dazzled should you have a pattern to match.

I've heard epic tales of plump trout getting much, much plumper when the cicadas are in bloom and anglers consequently singing nearly as loud and piercing as the insect itself — thought to be the loudest song producers in the bug world.

The most-heralded cicadas in North America have extraordinarily long life cycles of 13 or 17 years, so you can well imagine how anglers salivate when these big-eyed buggers are expected to show up.

Most of the 17-year cicadas that have emerged in recent weeks in parts of the Midwest have red eyes, the Associated Press reports out of Downers Grove, Ill.

So it was anything but a downer Friday, when 6-year-old Nicholas Wagner blurted out, "Mommy, I found a blue-eyed cicada!"

According to Nicholas' mother, Maria, the young lad learned about blue-eyed variations of cicadas in kindergarten, so he decided to go out and hunt for one himself … in the backyard of his suburban Chicago home.

"He's been looking for a long time," she said.

And we're betting it's the fish that would be salivating over this find, thought to be one in a million, according to Gene Kritsky, author of "Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle."

While it is indeed rare for a cicada to sport blue eyes, caused by a genetic variation, it's not unheard of, according to the AP.

"Of course,'' Kritsky explained, "there are hundreds of millions of cicadas."

Still, we're figuring Nicholas Wagner is now the best good-luck charm going and anyone would be privileged to have him along on a fishing trip during a cicada hatch.

Mystery walkabout finds Flagstaff Fred 430 miles from home

Fred was last seen at his home in Riverside, Calif., shortly after moving there in December.

He finally showed up again last week in, of all places, the parking lot of an animal shelter in Flagstaff, Ariz. Good thing, too, for Fred is basset hound that had disappeared from home all those months ago.

Staff members with the Second Chance Center for Animals found a microchip in Fred the next morning. The chip enabled them to figure out he was registered with California's Riverside County Animal Control, according to the Associated Press

The shelter on Friday contacted Fred's speechless owner, who said she didn't know how Fred could have wound up in Flagstaff.

Paul Fink, a veterinarian at the Flagstaff shelter and a pilot, has offered to fly the dog home to his family, the AP reports.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site.

    He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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