gray squirrel

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“Wait a minute — you want my WHAT!?”

Quick: What’s the largest known living organism in the world? If you said, “That huge snook I caught last week,” then you’re a typical prevaricating fisherman. If you think it’s a whale shark, you’re getting closer since a whale shark is the largest fish in the sea, but you’re still be way off.

Now, if you answered with the blue whale, you get partial credit. Blue whales are indeed the largest animals in the world, and are thought to be the largest animals to have ever lived on our planet since they are bigger even than the hugest of the dinosaurs. Yep, blue whale is a pretty good answer — but it’s not the correct answer.

The largest living organism on planet Earth is not an animal. It’s not a plant either. It’s a fungus, more specifically a mushroom. Out in Oregon, there is a honey mushroom that’s grown to almost four square miles in size. Don’t run out there expecting to see a toadstool-looking thing that’s miles across, like some giant sci-fi movie flying saucer perched on a towering stalk.

If you do make a pilgrimage to the site of this massive ‘shroom you might not see anything at all. Like most mushrooms, almost off of this one is hidden from sight underground in the form of threadlike filaments called mycelium. The familiar stalk and cap we see above ground is just the reproductive body of the fungus, sort of like a fruit in other plants.

Tails wanted

Would you like some free fishing lures, or maybe some extra cash? Mepps Lures up in Wisconsin will send you free lures or pay you cash in exchange for squirrel tails. They want your tails because they are a key ingredient in making some of their famous freshwater lures.

Mepps has been “recycling” squirrel tails into fishing lures for more than 50 years and boasts that they’ve used more than eight million of the bushy things. Mepps lures are extremely popular in many northern fisheries, but we don’t see too many of their inline spinners being used in Florida — which is a missed opportunity, since they will catch fish here too.

If you needed eight million squirrel tails how would you get them? Eight million is really a lot of squirrels. There are probably no more than half that many squirrels raiding my birdfeeder at any given time. Mepps has solved their supply dilemma by collecting squirrel tails from individuals who are asked to ship them to Mepps. I’ll bet their receiving department opens some really interesting boxes.

Don’t expect to get rich off this program, since the very best quality squirrel tails are only worth about 26 cents apiece (and only if you supply them in large quantities). But if you will take a trade for Mepps lures, they will double the payout amount towards the lures.

So if you enjoy squirrel stew, squirrel fritters or barbecued squirrel, then you may want to start saving the leftover tails. Visit https://bit.ly/2FfVts8 for the tale of the tails.

Potty training

I usually don’t endorse specific products in this column. I don’t even sneak in sly little product mentions very often because I think that readers see through this trick and it damages the credibility of the writing.

Yes, I realize that the paragraph right above this one does mention a tackle manufacturer, but I promise that I didn’t receive any consideration for that mention. But every once in a while, I stumble across a product that I just have to share. Be forewarned that if you keep readin,g you are about to experience an enthusiastic product plug.

I think all fishermen should investigate this gem: The Toilet Fishing Training Set. Say what? This nifty Australian kit allows you to multitask, something I am told that guys can’t do very well. Have you ever been seated on the porcelain throne waiting for nature to take its course and thought to yourself, “I sure wish there was a way that I could improve my fishing skills while I am stuck here.”

Well, now you can! The Toilet Fishing Training Set allows you to practice spotting and catching plastic fish in a little artificial pond that you set up right between your feet. This thing is so well thought-out that it even includes a “Do Not Disturb, Fishing in Progress” sign for the bathroom doorknob so no one will interrupt your practice session.

I am so enthusiastic about being able to hone the skills needed for my number-one pastime while going number two that I think I’ll ignore all the typos on the web page and the fact that there are no reviews for this product and fearlessly give my credit card information to this overseas company that I have never heard of before. What could go wrong? If you’re feeling bold, see for yourself at https://bit.ly/2FtNpUc.

Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at 941-639-2628 or Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.

Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at 941-639-2628 or Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.

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