September 07, 2023
Doves are in the air, blue-winged teal are roaring south and backyard grills are being spruced up after the last holiday of the summer season and the first big weekend of college football. While the end to the summer on the water is usually filled with smiles and laughter, this week’s edition of the G&F Digest, starts on a somber note as one of the world’s top musicians—and a pretty good angler, too—has sailed on to a distant shore.
Late Music Legend Loved Angling
Jimmy Buffett, the legendary musician who grew a billionaire’s career from "nibbling on sponge cake," "searching for a lost shaker of salt" and lamenting a blown flip flop in his iconic song, "Margaritaville," died on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 at his home in Sag Harbor, Long Island, N.Y., after a long battle with Merkel cell skin cancer.
The 76-year-old was surrounded by his family, friends and dogs when he passed, stilling the music of an entertainment icon who had millions of adoring "Parothead" fans and sold more than 20 million albums during a musical career that began in 1964.
As Buffett endured a quiet health battle that only family and friends knew about, he was forced to cancel some shows earlier this year after being hospitalized. When he updated his fans in May, Buffett shared he would be heading home soon and then going fishing.
"Thank you for the outpouring of support and well wishes," he wrote on Facebook according to People Magazine. "I head home tomorrow for a while, and then will go for a fishing trip with old friends, along with paddling and sailing and get myself back in good shape."
Buffett loved to fish, going on countless fishing trips, some for deep-sea species, including a 500-pound tuna he once wrestled to the boat a few years ago in New England. Other times, he had a fly rod in his hand and a large arbor fly reel, battling everything from bonefish in the Bahamas and Christmas Island to striped bass along the northeastern seaboard near Nantucket.
One of his close friends in Nantucket was Capt. Tom Mleczko, who related to the Nantucket Current this week that Buffett felt at home in the Massachusetts shoreline hamlet.
"I think he had a certain amount of anonymity here,” said Mleczko, owner of Captain Tom's Charters in Nantucket. "Sure, people would recognize him here, but in places like Key West, he stepped out on the street and he’d be mobbed. He had a lot of friends out here who loved seeing him and being with him but didn’t advertise that fact. They let him be Jimmy and it wasn’t about the fame. The people on Nantucket sort of understood that was why he was here—the anonymity—they respected that, and they let him have it."
One place that Buffett—who Forbes Magazine rated as a billion-dollar entertainer earlier this year—was just Jimmy was aboard Mleczko's boat. The first of many trips came with a phone call as the fishing charter captain recalled.
"My wife handed it to me and said ‘It’s for you,'" Mleczko told the Nantucket news site. "The guy on the other end says ‘Captain, this is Jimmy. Jimmy Buffett’ I looked at the phone and said which one of my good buddies is pulling my leg? He said ‘I want you to take me up to Tuckernuck and fish in the sand - I heard there’s some good fish up there.’ I said ‘OK, when do you want to do it?’ And he said ‘How about tomorrow’?”
The trip was a rough one with heavy winds and rough seas, but Buffett caught a fish on his first cast, then electing to go back in. That was the start of a great friendship—Buffett even reportedly bought the captain a boat one time—as the pair fished together often, learning how to catch stripers on the sand near Nantucket.
Buffett was often aboard a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) in more tropical waters, casting flies for bonefish with his graphite rod and Tibor reel. As recently as December 2022, he posted on social media a photo of him paddling a remote sandy saltwater flat with a fly rod in hand. The hashtag read simply #justafewfriends.
Buffett lived in a world filled with just a few good friends, angling and otherwise. And today, they’re all thinking the same thing as they hit replay. Rest in peace Jimmy, and thanks for the music.
Minnesota Coho Record Falls Twice in Two Days
The last time the Minnesota state record for coho salmon was set, Richard Nixon was the president. But that 53-year-old record appears to have fallen on Labor Day when a 10.92-pound coho was pulled from the cold waters of Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn., according to the Duluth News Tribune.
David Chichosz of Wabasha, Minn., caught the big fish, which measured at 29 inches in length, while fishing with Capt. Kent Paulsen out of Duluth. The Minnesota DNR, which is reportedly overhauling its fish-record system, has the paperwork and certification could happen as soon as this week.
Since the state’s record-keeping system overhaul is reclassifying all catches prior to 1980 as historic and non-certified, the longstanding Minnesota coho record was apparently broken a day earlier on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023 when Capt. Brody Kaldahl took out 7-year-old Walter Taylor and his dad on Superior, where the youngster landed a 10.06-pound fish that would have been the state record were it not for the bigger catch the next day.
For what it’s worth, the longstanding and now historic/non-certified Minnesota Department of Natural Resources state record for the coho salmon was pulled from the Baptism River area of Lake Superior on Nov. 7, 1970 and weighed 10 pounds, 6 ounces.
World Champion Squirrel Cook Off
Arkansas is a pretty good place to hunt greenheads, specklebelly and snow geese, white-tailed deer and squirrels. To that latter idea, after a three-year hiatus brought about by the pandemic, the Natural State is once again making plans to host the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off later this month in Springdale. The event will have up to 40 three-person teams cooking, using everything from grills, smokers and other cooking implements starting at 9 a.m. on the day of the event. Dishes will be presented to judges at noon and award winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m. The rules are pretty simple, including that all cooking must be done on-site and that entries must contain at least 80 percent squirrel, something that will be verified by contest officials before the cooking competition begins.
The comeback bushytail event will also have a squirrel skinning contest, the world's hottest squirrel hot wing eating contest—where's Joey Chestnut when you need him?—and a pellet-rifle shooting contest among other things.
For the first time, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission news release indicates that a nine-foot alligator will be on the rotisserie for the event, along with five-time Memphis in May World Barbecue Contest champ Mark Lambert bringing a 400-gallon pot to cook up the world's biggest batch of rabbit fricassee.
"You won’t be able to swing a squirrel in this place without finding something worth watching or doing,” said Joe Wilson, the event organizer. Wilson also added, "YouTube barbecue celebrity Malcolm Reed is one of the judges we’ve lined up for the cooking contest, as well as Brent Reaves from the MeatEater group’s popular Bear Grease podcast," Wilson said. "We’ll also have live music playing throughout the day, and a celebration of all things outdoors. If you walk away hungry or bored, I don’t know if there’s any help for you."
Visit the event Facebook page for more info.
The fishing world will look to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium this weekend on Saturday, Sept. 9 as the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame inducts its 2023 HOF class. The honorees at the sprawling museum next to Johnny Morris' Bass Pro Shops flagship store location will include IGFA world-record holder and tournament champion Roberta G. Arostegui; fly-fishing adventurer and trailblazer, Kay Brodney; conventional and fly-fishing master angler, captain and writer Dean Butler; distinguished Avalon Tuna Club member and conservation advocate, Gerald A. Garrett; and marine resources champion and fishing apparel pioneer Bill Shedd. … Early next month, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust will host its 12th annual New York City Dinner & Awards Ceremony in the Big Apple. Slated for Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023 at The University Club, the event will honor angler, conservationist, and longtime BTT friend Chad Pike as recipient of the 2023 Lefty Kreh Award for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation. Pike, the retired senior managing director of The Blackstone Group and founder of Eleven Experience, will be introduced by New York Times best selling author Monte Burke, writer of Sowbelly: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass and Lords of the Fly: Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World Record Tarpon.