Robert U. Montgomery

'She Makes Me Smile Every Day'


With Ursa (in photo), a stray Lab-mix pup I adopted in 1998, I began to understand that dogs are at their finest and happiest when we treat them as companions instead of just pets. As a consequence, we are better and happier too. I'm not sure how this happened. Call it sudden insight coupled with long-overdue maturity on my part. Certainly Ursa needed no epiphany to consider herself my companion, just as Squeaky and Happy didn't decades before.

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Who Is 'Smarter' Than a Bass?

If you're an angler who believes that sometimes you get "outsmarted" by those wily ol' bass, I have some bad news for you.

Carp are even "smarter." That's right. The bottom feeder disrespected by so many is no dummy.

Florida bass--- Okeechobee

"From my years of experience in observing bass in the laboratory, I would have to rank them around the middle of the intelligence range: definitely smarter than trout (at least hatchery trout) but dumber than carp (no insult intended — carp are smarter than you think!)," said Dr. Keith Jones, who has long studied fish behavior for Berkley.

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"The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are indeed among the smartest freshwater fishes, if not the smartest," said another source. "They learn well for fish. They have the longest complex learning retention of all fishes tested."

Seriously, though, it's impossible to measure fish "intelligence" in any way comparable to the way that it is measured in humans. Rather, we watch how they behave in nature, and, more importantly, in laboratories and just their response to various stimuli.

* * * *
As I reveal in
Better Bass Fishing, you’re just outsmarting yourself if you try to “out-think” bass. Yes, bass are capable of learned behavior. But they definitely aren’t the “Einsteins” of the fish world. Carp and bluegill rank higher in laboratory tests. Most importantly, though, bass (and other fish species) don’t “think” and they aren’t “smart.”

Rather, bass are selective as to
food, cover, and water, and, each spring, they are driven by the biological imperative to spawn.

Those anglers who are smart enough to recognize those needs and respond accordingly, are the ones who catch the most and largest bass. They look for water and cover that they have learned is attractive to bass during each season of the year. They learn the migration routes that fish take to those locations. They observe what bass are feeding on and try to offer baits that are similar in appearance.

Although bass are not smart, they do seem to learn to avoid some baits. That why new baits--- and new colors, to a lesser degree--- seem to produce better than older styles. For a while. We saw it happen with buzzbaits in the 1980s and soft jerkbaits in the 1990s. Chatterbaits, swimbaits, and Alabama rigs are more recent examples.

* * * *
And here's an interesting take from the
World Fishing Network:

The IQ of fish varies greatly depending on the species. It varies even further depending on individuals within any given species. Anglers need to look at the species that they are targeting for known traits and advantages that could make them more difficult to catch.

Fish can learn to avoid specific lures and noises made by anglers. In order to continue to be successful, anglers need to try new lures and colors on a regular basis. An effort should also be made to fish new areas and to make as little noise as possible.

Fish intelligence is hereditary and they can be bred to be easier to catch. Anglers should care take when harvesting fish in order to avoid selectively breeding intelligence. Smaller fish, whether intelligent or not, haven't had the chance to learn to avoid lures. Therefore, they make a better choice for harvesting.

Whether you are catching fish or not, it is unlikely that they are outsmarting you. Their intelligence is very limited. You just need to work around what they may have learned.

For Anglers and Others Who Have Skin in the Outdoor Game

protection from sun

In 2009, a surgeon removed basal cell cancer from my right forearm and left me with an impressive S-shaped scar. At the time, I asked him if one basal cell meant that I was predisposed to have another. He said that odds were good that within five years I would have another.

In 2014, five years later, a small basal cell was removed from the top of my right ear.

Today, five years later, dermatologist found a suspicious-looking tiny place on my right shoulder and took a biopsy. She's not certain because the area is so small, but wants to err on the side of caution. In two weeks or less, we'll know. If it is cancerous, she'll simply remove it.

At this point, basal cell doesn't scare me. Yes, it
is cancer, as the surgeon emphasized to me back in 2009. But basal cell typically does not spread to other parts of the body, as many cancers do. It can expand on the skin from its origin and it can do nerve damage by sending down roots, if not taken care of.

Melanoma is the bad one because it is considered malignant. Squamous is of a little more concern than basal, but not much if caught early.

Also today, dermatologist froze four areas of precancerous skin on the sides of my face. For the new few days, I'll look like a burn victim. But that's a small price to pay as a preventative against future cancer.

For someone who has spent much of his life in the outdoors, I'm one of the lucky ones. I started early with maintenance to address the damage that the sun has done to my skin over the years. An annual checkup and a few frozen spots on my face generally are all I need now.

But I've seen many older anglers, including some whose names you'd recognize, who've paid dearly for their unprotected time in the sun.

Please, don't you be another one of them. If you're someone who spends considerable time in the sun, whether fishing, hiking, playing sports, or working, you should visit a dermatologist at least once a year to ensure you don't have skin cancer. And you're never too old to start.

On the other hand, you could die prematurely if you don't.

Also, wear clothing that will protect your skin from the sun. I long ago stopped wearing tee shirts and shorts for a day on the water. Now, it's long sleeves and pants. I might start and end the day wearing a baseball cap. But when the sun is high, I also wear a hat that will protect my ears and neck. A buff is another good option to protect those areas, while specialty gloves offer good protection for hands.

And don't forget the sun block, especially for your face.

Halloween Treat From Book That You Will Enjoy Year Around


Halloween is one of the times that I remember best from my childhood, a simpler time when many Baby Boomers were growing up. This is an excerpt from "Dracula's Disciple" in Under the Bed: Tales From An Innocent Childhood. If you were a child during the 50s, 60s, or 70s, this book will take you back in time and awaken your own fond memories.

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Bugged in Walmart

As I pushed my metal cart into the checkout lane at Walmart, a large, green praying mantis landed on the frame.

Startled, but never wanting to pass up the chance to have a little fun, I pointed out the insect to the cashier and said, "I'm not paying for that."

mantis2 low

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Tall Grass Delights

My house sits on 1 ½ acres, with much of the land sloping steeply down to the lake.

As soon as I moved in, I started allowing grass to grow unchecked on both sides. I did this to cut down on runoff and improve water quality in the lake.

Instinctively, I knew that allowing the land to exist naturally again would attract wildlife, but I really didn’t give it much thought.
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How Fast Can Fish Swim?

A leaping sailfish can hit 68 mph

Bass aren’t the fastest fish in the world. But no matter how quickly you retrieve that crankbait or topwater, you can’t get it away from them--- if they want it.

That’s because even the fastest reels are capable of retrieving baits at only 3 or 4 miles per hour. A bass, meanwhile, can swim in bursts of 12 to 18 miles per hour.

Most of the time, they don’t, not even when they’re feeding. Three to 4 miles per hour is closer to average. That’s because bass are pot-bellied, ambush predators. Much of the time, they would rather chow down on a slow-moving worm or injured minnow.

The key to success when you’re out fishing is not to know how fast a bass can swim, but how fast it is willing to swim. Experiment with speed until you find the right one.

With some fish, especially many salt-water species, you do want a speedy retrieve. That’s because tuna, wahoo, dorado (dolphin), billfish, and others are roving hunters that chase down their prey.

No one knows for certain how fast the fastest fish can swim. But experts estimate that a leaping sailfish can hit 68 miles per hour, based on the fact that it can strip out 100 yards of line in 3 seconds.

Other speed demons include the swordfish (60 mph), marlin (50), and wahoo (47).

Not surprisingly, the flounder is one of the slowest in the ocean, poking along at 2.4 mph, about the same as an eel.

In freshwater, the rainbow is among the fastest, capable of 23 miles per hour, while catfish have been clocked at 15 and northern pike at 10.6.

And in case you’re wondering: the flying fish can reach gliding speeds of 35 miles per hour.

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The Plastics Problem for Our Oceans--- And It's not Straws

The Plastics Problem for Our Oceans--- And It's not Straws

As someone who cares about nature and the environment, I consider people who litter our waterways, roads, parks, and other public places with their trash among the lowest of the low. If my car were equipped with a Star Trek pulse cannon, I'd have no problem obliterating anyone I caught in the act.

If I were benevolent king of this country, owing no allegiances to any special interests, I'd ban takeout from fast-food restaurants, a major source of pollution along our roads.

But let's get real: Banning plastic straws in the U.S., as has happened in San Francisco--- a city literally awash in human waste--- is idiotic and little more than politicians pretending to do something meaningful to curry favor among voters.

Why do I say that? Here's why:

plastic pollution

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