Got up Friday morning and got to work at 0800. I had to go check a bluebird box on the other side of the WMA, so I hopped in Shrek and took off to go take care of it. Sadly, I only had one box to take care of and the trip took 45 minutes to get there and back. Once back, I was about to load up the four wheeler and begin the exciting task of spraying exotics again. Lucky for me, my boss Tina saved me and asked…well…told me that I was going on my first burn. I was to use one of the technician’s (named Stony) four wheelers and trailer since it had the proper gear on it. I hooked the trailer up to Shrek and drove the Stony’s four wheeler up onto it. It only took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to start it since I’ve never seen a push-start button on a four wheeler.
After getting everything ready, six of us drove off to the area that was supposed to be burned. The section was about 2 miles long and about 1/8 of a mile wide. Since I’ve had no training in burning, it was my job to drive up and down the road on the four wheeler and make sure the fire stayed on the correct side of the road. If it jumped the road, I would get to spray it out and call for help. The fire never jumped the road I was patrolling but did on another road. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to help out since it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. At one point during the burn, as I was video taping some of it, I nearly ran over a 4 ft. Diamondback Rattlesnake. (For some reason I can’t upload the video).
I spun the four wheeler around and got a picture before we sprayed it off the road with the hoses. The only other animal I saw that got flushed from the fire was a small raccoon. I certainly enjoyed my first burn and I doubt my clothes will ever get the smoke smell off of them. I guess driving around through smoke for 4 hours will do that.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t too tired to go fishing after work, so I loaded up the kayak and went to try the same ponds again. Since I recently lost my favorite fly to an evil oak, I had switched to a larger grasshopper fly. I only caught a few fish from the pond covered with lilly pads, so I went over to the other one before it got too dark. There, I caught a few decent sized bluegill and 5 small bass. Fished until it was literally dark, then headed back.
Saturday I did a whole lot of nothing. Slept in until almost 1100 since I rarely get the chance to. I played around on the internet for a few hours, then decided I’d try out my crawfish traps. I dropped one at the edge of lake Jackson where I usually fish from the bank, then dropped the other off of road 7 (which was a terrible road, glad I have 4×4) where an old bridge reaches out over the canal. Came home and cooked (a.k.a incinerated) some hamburger steaks then decided I’d go for a run. I underestimated how long the road was that I was running down and a two mile run nearly turned into four. It was dark enough on the way back that I was running by moonlight. I also found a new form of motivation for running. I made the run last night without a shirt on and after turning around and coming back, I decided to walk for a few seconds. Motivation came alive in the form of a few hundred yellow flies. Needless to say, I didn’t stop to walk anymore.
Woke up and checked the crawfish traps this morning to find absolutely nothing. Made a few casts and caught one stump knocker. Driving down road 7 successfully covered my entire jeep in black, stinky mud, so I had to go rinse it off as best I could when I got back. Tomorrow I have to spend the day spraying exotics. Chelsea’s got some surprise for me on Saturday, so I’m excited to find out what that is. I have Wednesday off so that I can pick her up from the airport and we’ll be going by BassPro to buy some more flies.
My day yesterday started about 0545. I had to meet one of the technicians that work out here, named Mike, over by Carlton’s house at 0620 to do another quail call survey. Shrek and I left the office about 0600 but I miscalculated how long it would take me to get there and I was running late. Couldn’t get the gate onto the Three Lakes unit to lock shut so I had to make it look like it was locked and hurry on. About a half mile from where I was supposed to meet Mike, I noticed something in the middle of the road. As I approached, I saw that it was about 40 cows, some of which were laying down in the road. Unlike other WMA’s I’ve been on, Three Lakes allows rachers to keep cows and have them roam around the area. The cows, knowing I was late, mocked me by refusing to budge from the road. I rolled down the window and blared the horn at them. “Move cows! Move! Move!”. I inched Shrek closer and closer to them, threatening to bump them should they not get out of the way. Reluctantly, and with what seemed like amused grins, the cows slowly walked off the road and let me pass.
The quail survey actually took a little longer than expected thanks to some completely flooded roads. At one stop I was forced to open the door and crawl onto the tool box in the back to avoid stepping into knee deep water. After the quail survey I checked up on some bluebird boxes that I’ve been assigned to. After I got back to the office, I got help from Tina, the head biologist out here, and we went to go band a box of bluebird chicks.
I then got the exciting task of spraying herbicides to kill invasive plants. The sprayer is attached to a four wheeler so I pretty much had to just drive down the road, spray the exotics, flag them with orange tape, plot the GPS coordinates, rinse, and repeat.After work, I had enough time to go put the kayak in for some fishing. I tried some ponds near the turnpike that Mike had showed me earlier that morning. I launched in the first one and was having absolutely no success. Just when I was a few casts away from hanging it up and trying the next pond, something pulled my foam spider under. With renewed confidence that I might actually catch something, I switched to the grasshopper fly my dad tied and began getting strikes. I finally managed to hook and land a very nice bluegill. With some continued casts around the area, I soon landed the biggest bluegill I’ve ever caught on the fly. It actually pulled the kayak around. Luckily, I decided not to keep those two fish because I only caught a few small ones after that. I soon noticed it was getting late, so I loaded up the kayak and tried the other pond before it got too dark. The second pond had lilly pads all over it and within a short period of time, I landed a few small bluegill. Just a
s the sun was setting, I caught two bass in two casts. One of the bass was large enough to keep. I had to quit fishing since the sun had set by then.
Today wasn’t exactly spectacular. I went and sprayed exotics for 4.5 hours since I was closing in on my 40 hour/week mark (I get no over time). Finished up work at 1330 and I’m thinking about going fishing again.
0545 came pretty early this morning. Had to meet Carlton to head out to do a quail call survey. It pretty much consists of sitting on the back of a truck, and listening for quails and counting how many calls you here over an eight minute period. There were quite a few stops that had to be listened at so the whole thing took around 2 hours.
After we got back to the office, Carlton and I hooked up the boat and picked up a guy named Ken. Ken works as law enforcement out here but had been placed on light duty due to a four-wheeler injury. We grabbed the floating computer and left to go do the water flow survey. After arriving at the launch, Ken and I got out and started getting the boat ready. It was full of water from yesterday’s rain so we let it drain for a few minutes. I told Ken, “We’ve gotta make sure to put that plug back in before we launch”. I then hopped back in the truck to put on my hip waders and finish getting ready. We launched the boat and Ken and I started drifting out into the canal as I tried to crank start the motor. I was focusing on the motor and trying to start it, but the stupid fuel tank in the back kept bumping into my leg. It wasn’t until Ken said, “You put the plug in, right?”, that I realized the fuel tank was bumping into me because it was floating in the now sinking jon boat. Unable to get the motor cranked, we paddled as fast as humanly possible back to the bank and hauled the boat as far out of the water as we could. I stuck the plug in and we launched off again with only about a foot of water in the bottom of the boat (we had nothing to bail with and Carlton had taken off around the corner with the trailer). After what seemed like forever sitting in the sun, we finished taking tests with the floating computer and loaded everything back up. I hopped in the jon boat alone this time and started trying to motor to the launch point. It was then that I realized I needed another person to help distribute the weight in the front since all the water rushed to the back of the boat and weighed it down even more. It’s a good thing I don’t weigh any more than I already do. The stern sat so low that the waterline was less than 1 inch from coming over the top of the gunnel to sink me. Luckily the boat held up fine until it was time to load it on the trailer and the stern dipped below the waterline. I was certainly thankful for the hip waders as I jumped from the nearly swamped boat and we hauled it out of the water. We headed for the next area to survey, but thanks to some computer issues, we weren’t able to run the tests.
Came home and crashed on the couch for three hours after work which shot my afternoon fishing plans down. I’m looking forward to when Chelsea comes down and we head into Orlando. I’ve got some things I need to pick up from BassPro while we’re there. Tomorrow consists of another quail survey, bluebird chick banding, and possibly getting a chance to monitor scrub jays. Saw a HUGE eagle this morning, a few ospreys, an armadillo and a staggering 18 deer over the course of the day.