You can learn a lot about fishing from today’s popular puzzles

Sudoku is a popular puzzle in America today. It uses numbers but really doesn’t involve math. Instead, players must look for patterns and places where only one number will work. While pondering on Sudoku recently, it occurred to me that the game and fishing have some things in common, such as:

• Practice helps: The more one plays Sudoku or fishes, the better they become. Thus, anglers should fish as often as possible, even if it’s in small waters nearby. One needn’t fish a reservoir to practice; finding and enticing fish to bite is learned more quickly on small waters.

• Patterns: The numbers used in Sudoku could just as easily be substituted with letters of the alphabet, graphic designs, drawings, pictures of animals or birds, etc. The key is to find the pattern in the puzzle. Patterning fish is much the same. Look for what should be in a particular place and fishing will get easier.

• Speed: It’s fun to see how fast a puzzle can be solved; this is similar to tournament fishing—trying to get results as quickly as possible. But a puzzle, or fishing trip, can also be savored on a lazy day. Sometimes, it’s better to slow down and enjoy the moment.

• Accuracy: To solve Sudoku, one must look for places where only a particular number fits. It doesn’t pay to guess or speculate. The mind must look for spaces that have to be a certain digit. In fishing, accuracy may mean putting the lure in just the right place, selecting the right color or picking just the right structure to fish.

• The big picture: Sudoku is more easily solved when players learn to see the puzzle as a whole, not concentrate on individual squares. Likewise, anglers must be aware of many things around them; the splash of a feeding fish, a change in the weather or light, variations in water temperature or color, or a sudden shift caused by unknown forces.

• A new approach: When stumped on a puzzle, players focused on numbers vertically should focus on numbers grouped horizontally, or in groups of nine-squared blocks. Anglers get stumped, too, and will catch more fish if they’re willing to switch focus with a new lure, different tactic or retrieve or even switch to another species.

• Back to basics: On a tough puzzle, it can help to begin by looking at all the “1s” on the page and trying to find where any missing ones should be. Do the same thing with numbers two through nine. When fishing is tough, go back to the basics, start with your basic understanding of where fish should be, use your “go-to” lure, explore all factors, try various approaches and you’ll be more likely to catch more fish.

Like Sudoku, fishing is a puzzle with infinite variations. No two days are just alike; anglers who consistently catch fish are those who can figure out the puzzle, find the pattern, and use the right tools and techniques to make fish bite. Best of all, anglers who catch fish get more than just satisfaction; they can also enjoy a fish fry or a tournament check.

<strong>AYSSP countdown</strong>

Have you heard about the free Arkansas Game and Fish Commission trapshooting program for youngsters in grades 6-12? The Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program is the largest youth shooting program in the U.S., and available to all who qualify and can safely handle a shotgun. It’s a great way for students to learn gun safety and enjoy competitive shotgun shooting.

Sound like fun? It is! But, the sign-up period lasts only until Jan. 31. Interested persons have only a week and a half to sign up for the program anywhere in Arkansas and qualify to receive free supplies (targets, shells, eye and ear protection).

To sign up, youngsters need parental consent. Application forms are available on the AGFC website at www.agfc.com. Just Google “AYSSP” and follow the link to the AGFC page. Download and print application forms, fill them out completely including parental signatures, and get them to your local AYSSP head coach. Call your regional AGFC office or local wildlife officer for more details.

In Bradley County, forms can be delivered to coach Charles Bridwell. Original, signed forms are required, so e-mails and faxes cannot be accepted. Deliver completed forms at the Arkansas State Police building at 1237 North Myrtle Street in Warren, or call Bridwell at 870 820-2253.

Drew County shooters can drop off completed forms at the Farm Bureau Insurance office, 656 Barkada Road, or contact either Terry Koone at 870-723-6428 or Matt Pelkki at 870-723-3779.

Trapshooting isn’t like a ball team, where some players sit on the bench. Everyone participates. Practice scores determine placement on five-person squads. If you want to learn to shoot, AYSSP is the place to learn. If you’re already poison with a scattergun, your help is needed in building the best possible team in your county. Sign up today!

Don’t leave home without it!

As we move into our coldest days, it’s a good idea to consider the basic essentials for unexpected situations. The best survival item one can have is knowledge. It can’t be lost, left at home or broken. Study and learn survival techniques and practice them in your yard. Always carry fire-making tools, including a firesteel, matches and a lighter, and always have a knife afield. Add a small metal cup or pot, some pocket essentials and medications. With only these tools, one can survive easily overnight, even making it several days or weeks without rescue.

<strong>Big Buck Classic returns</strong>

LITTLE ROCK—The Arkansas Big Buck Classic returns to the Arkansas State Fairgrounds Friday through Sunday. Everything from hunting equipment to live animals are part of the annual event, now it its 26th year.

The show centers on successful hunters from the 2015-16 Arkansas deer season. Hunters are encouraged to bring their deer’s antlers or mounts to be scored and judged for prizes, including a Can-Am 450L Outlander ATV, courtesy of Bradford Marine and ATV. Categories for archery, muzzleloader, modern gun and shed antlers are available, and special categories for ladies and youths offer additional prizes.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s mobile aquarium and Scales of Justice exhibit trailer will be at the event, and AGFC staff will be on-hand selling the AGFC’s book “A Century of Conservation” and cookbook “A Celebration of Conservation.”

The awards presentation begins at 4 p.m. Sunday. There is no charge for parking on the fairgrounds site. Show hours are: 1-9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

Admission for the ABBC is $12 for adults, $5 for children 5-12 and no charge for youngsters under five. Also, door prizes include 25 guns and $10,000 cash. Many other activities and events are planned, including a chili cook-off.

Go to www.bigbuckclassic.com for more information. (AGFC Press Services)

<strong>Sausage on the grill</strong>

Whenever we grill, we usually place a package or two of link sausage on the coals after they’ve burned down a bit and let the links cook slowly. When they’re done, the sausage is stored in zip-top bags for future use. The addition of some fire greatly improves its taste, and it is excellent for hot dogs, adding to a pot of beans, serving at breakfast or surrounded with kraut.

Although we’ve done this for years, it never occurred to us to cook sausage patties on the grill. At a breakfast with relatives, though, we discovered that grilling sausage patties makes them much tastier than cooking in a skillet.

Next time you grill, try cooking a box of pre-formed sausage patties over the coals after you’re done cooking the steaks, burgers or chicken. Watch them carefully so they don’t overcook. Just get them done all the way through, lightly brown on both sides and remove them to a wire rack or paper towels to drain. After they’re cooled, store them in a zip-top bag in the chill chest. One, two or the whole bag can be quickly warmed in the microwave and served easily and quickly at breakfast. The taste will instantly make them a family favorite.

<strong>Turkey permit deadline passed, but still available</strong>

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission took applications for spring turkey hunting permits on public lands (Wildlife Management Areas) in Arkansas until Jan. 15. However, some permits will still be available if you missed the application period. The permit process is used to protect areas that are too small to handle large numbers of hunters, but often there are unclaimed permits after the drawing. Those who were drawn must pay $10 by Feb. 2 to claim their permits. Some of those will remain unclaimed.

All unclaimed permits will be available at www.agfc.com on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8 a.m. Feb. 16. For information, call the AGFC at 800-364-4263. The 2016 Arkansas turkey season opens April 16. (AGFC Press Services)

<strong>Trout video on YouTube</strong>

Anglers in south Arkansas focus mainly on bass, crappie, catfish and bream, but a few know the fun of driving a bit and enjoying some of the excellent trout fishing a bit north. An episode of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s television program on catching brown trout in the Little Red River is now available on YouTube. If you’re a trout angler, or think you might want to be, the video program highlights the excellent fishing found in the state’s best-known trout fishery.

Log onto YouTube and enter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w65E8hNLVI to watch this 10-minute video. Or search for “Little Red River trout fishing” for other videos.

<strong>Boat quarantined</strong>

MOUNTAIN HOME—Thanks to the alert eyes of a marina and boat transport service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists intercepted a vessel carrying hundreds of invasive zebra mussels before it could be launched in Norfork Lake.

Jeremy Risley, district fisheries supervisor for the AGFC said the boat had been housed in a marina slip at Bull Shoals, which has been infested with zebra mussels since 2007.

“The owner of the boat had just purchased it and had contracted the marina to move it to Norfork,” Risley said. “When the men who worked for the marina saw what they thought were zebra mussels on the boat, they called us to come out and inspect it.”

Upon inspection, the boat had many adult zebra mussels attached to its hull, motor and in its bilge area. Some of the mussels were as large as two inches. All zebra mussels will be removed from the boat and the vessel will require power washing and a 30-day drying period and final inspection before the boat can be launched into Norfork Lake.

To date, there have been no confirmed sightings of zebra mussels in Norfork Lake, Table Rock Lake or Beaver Lake, but the zebra mussels in Bull Shoals Lake saw a large population increase in 2014 and 2015. One adult female can produce between 10,000 and 50,000 larvae (called veligers) each time it spawns; the species can spawn up to five times per year.

It is still unclear how zebra mussel infestations will affect the overall health of the fishery, but they can cause native mussel populations to decline and cause serious damage to water intake pipes and other equipment left in the water. A report by the U.S. Department of State in 2009 estimated the total cost in the United States of the zebra mussel infestation from 2010 to 2020 at $3.1 billion.

“I really want to say thank you to the men who spotted the zebra mussels and called them in,” Risley said. “Any time you see something like this that doesn’t look right, it’s always best to ask for help to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”

Visit cleandraindry.org for more information on how you can help stop the spread of invasive species.  (AGFC Press Services)

The Advance-Monticellonian

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Monticello, AR 71657

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Monticello, AR 71655

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