The 10 Reasons You’re Not Catching Big Striped Bass in the Surf

The 10 Reasons You’re Not Catching Big Striped Bass in the Surf

Finding cow stripers from shore is much easier if you make a few small adjustments to your strategy

Of all the qualities that make the striped bass one of the country’s premier game fish—including its tremendous strength, its regal purple sheen and stately black stripes, and its ability to grow to large sizes—perhaps the best is the striper’s tendency to feed close to shore. The fish’s littoral nature means that even the shore-bound angler has the opportunity to hook a fish of 30-, 40-, or 50-plus pounds, but relatively few do.

Not having a boat is not a valid excuse for not catching large stripers. Nor is living far from striper hot spots like Block Island, Montauk or Cape Cod. The striped bass migration routes brush by some of the most populated parts of the country, meaning that at some point during the season, fishermen between Virginia and Maine have large stripers swimming near their homes. The key to catching big striped bass lies not in having a boat or fishing in storied locations, but in understanding the striper’s habits, and learning as much as you can about the waters where they swim. If you’ve been pounding sand looking for cow bass without luck, one or all of following reasons may be standing between you and your trophy surf striper.

Reason #1: You’re not losing sleep

If your surfcasting is taking place during banker’s hours, you’re unlikely to encounter trophy striped bass. Of course, there are exceptions. A few times a season, usually during the spring or fall, schools of migrating stripers collide with schools of migrating baitfish, resulting in an all-out feeding frenzy in broad daylight. When you’re lucky, it happens within casting distance of shore.

More often, however, big bass sulk in deep water when the sun is high, waiting for darkness to move into the shallows to hunt. Stripers feeding at night settle into a pattern. This makes them much easier to predict and the good fishing easier to replicate compared to sporadic daytime blitzes. Get comfortable with fishing at night, and become familiar with the areas you’re fishing during the day, so you know exactly where to cast when the lights go out.

Reason #2: You’re not fishing with fresh bait

Frozen bait is convenient. You can store it indefinitely, use it over multiple trips, and it’s almost always available at your local bait and tackle shop. Unfortunately, if big stripers are your goal, you’re better off fishing lures than bait from the freezer. Whether it’s chunk bait like mackerel or bunker, or shelled bait like clams, the freezing and thawing process results in a bait that’s too soft to hold a hook, and lacks the scent that attracts big stripers.

Most tackle shops supply fresh bait in season. You can call ahead to see when they get their shipments of surf clams or bunker, and even have them set aside some baits for you, if they’re likely to run out before you get there. Once you get the bait, you need to keep it fresh. This means keeping it cold, but avoiding direct contact with freshwater or ice. Using re-freezable ice blocks is one option, but it’s easier to place your baits in a zip-top freezer bag and then place that bag on ice.

Reason #3: You’re not fishing deep

Fishermen dream of big stripers smashing up the surface to eat a topwater plug, but the biggest bass do the vast majority of feeding on the bottom. There, stripers find large, slow-moving meals like lobsters, crabs, tautog, and flounder. Even when hunting schools of large, surface-swimming baitfish like menhaden, big stripers will lurk near the bottom, picking off the wounded baits left behind by bluefish or smaller stripers. That means large bass are less likely to swim to the surface to attack a lure. For the best odds of getting a behemoth bass, you need to get your bait to where they spend most of their time. To do this, select lures that swim deep (See Reason #8), or add weight to your baits to make sure they are getting down. While most fishermen use 2- to 8-ounce sinkers when casting cut baits or clams, many fishermen fail to realize that adding a small egg sinker or rubber-core sinker to the leader above a live bait will help drag it down to the strike zone. Making that small adjustment may mean the difference between success and failure when fishing in current.

Reason #4: You’re not okay with skunking

Culling through large numbers of small stripers is not a strategy for catching a big striper. Small stripers might as well be a different species from 25-plus-pounders. They eat different foods, live in different places, and feed at different times. Fishing for big stripers requires sacrificing quantity for quality. Each trophy striper caught in the surf is the culmination of many fishless nights. It requires faith that fishing big fish baits in places where big fish swim will eventually put a cow bass on the end of your line.

Reason #5: You’re not checking your tackle

Big fish get away more often than small fish. They straighten hooks, break lines, and swim around boulders and other structures. There are plenty of ways a big fish can escape that you have no control over, so it’s important that you don’t give it any more of an advantage than it already has.

Keep your hooks sharp, and change them frequently. Set your drag tight, but not too tight. You want to put enough pressure on a fish to slow it down and turn it quickly, but not so much pressure that you break the line or bend out the hooks. Bent hooks make for great fish stories, but more of them are caused by a drag that’s too tight instead of an unstoppable fish. Check your knots and leader. If you catch a bluefish or a bunch of small stripers, run your fingers along your leader to check for nicks or abrasions. The smaller fish may not break a chafed leader, but a big one will.

Reason #6: You’re not keeping a log

It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing for big stripers or big bluegills, keeping a log of your trips will help you dial in the conditions and locations that produce big striped bass. Your log should include:

  • Date
  • Wind Direction and Strength
  • Tide Phase
  • Moon Phase
  • Water Temperature and Clarity
  • Weather and Air Temperature
  • Baitfish Present
  • Recent Reports
  • Fish Caught
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Talk with other anglers about when, where, and how they’re catching fish, and share your own intel, to get a better idea of what you’re doing wrong or right.

Desing Pics Inc. / Alamy

Reason #7: You’re not working with other surfcasters

A group of like-minded fishing buddies will help you learn about the areas and conditions that produce big fish faster than you could on your own. By sharing information and observations, you’ll have a larger pool of experience to draw from when trying to predict where and when big fish will show up.

Reason #8: You’re not fishing bucktail jigs or needlefish

There are dozens of lures that will catch large striped bass, but for consistently fooling big fish, you need to have a selection of bucktails and needlefish. The simplest reason is because you can fish these lures with the most precision in the water column.

An experienced angler can skim a thickly dressed bucktail jig or a slow-sinking needlefish just above the rocks and grass where big bass do their hunting (see Reason #3). Diving plugs may not get deep enough, and they definitely don’t spend as much time in the strike zone as a bucktail or needle.

Both of these lures require a certain “feel” if you want to fish them well. They don’t thump or vibrate, like swimming plugs, and success may not come quickly. But stick with these lures, and they’re likely to become your top producers of large striped bass.

Reason #9: You’re not seriously fishing your home waters

The surfcasting Valhallas of Montauk and Cape Cod are well known for producing big striped bass, but most anglers are lucky to spend only a few days fishing these areas each year. I’ve known fishermen who put maximum effort into a single Montauk trip a year while overlooking the lesser-known waters close to their homes. After their Montauk trip ended, so too did their hopes of catching a trophy striper—but that shouldn’t be the case.

Odds are, the waters closest to your home have a prime time or set of conditions when big stripers move in to feed. And, because they are closer to your house, you can fish these locations regularly enough to learn them in all of their “moods.” Record the details of each trip (see Reason #6) and eventually you’ll crack the code on what wind direction, tide, and time of year brings the bass to your doorstep. When you do, you’ll start passing on road trips to Montauk to fish the can’t-miss conditions in the surf close to home.

However, knowing your home waters inside and out won’t help if you’re not using tackle and techniques suited for big fish (see Reason #4). I grew up fishing Cape May County in New Jersey, a stretch of shoreline much better known for weakfish and fluke than for big stripers. Most fishermen used light tackle and small lures, and as a result, most of the stripers caught were small. One fall, while still coming down from a great trip to Montauk, I tried the plugs and tactics that had been working for the bigger stripers at the end of Long Island. A funny thing happened: I started catching bigger stripers in South Jersey. That revelation extended my big fish opportunities far beyond my long weekend in Montauk.

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Unlocking the tricks to landing big stripers on your home waters improves your skill set for when you’re fishing unfamiliar territory.

Jimmy Fee

Reason #10: You’re not fishing whenever you can

It doesn’t matter if you can fish every day, once a week, or once a month, if you are serious about catching a cow striper, you won’t let lousy weather or bad reports keep you from hitting the surf. There’s something to be learned from every outing, even the fishless ones. In fact, without the (welcome) distraction of catching fish, you’re more likely to observe how the water moves through the area.

Fishing reports rarely tell the full story. Many times, schools of big fish move through an area unnoticed or unreported by the few anglers who find them. Even in this age of instant reports on social media, many surfcasters—at least the smart ones—still keep their secrets. The only way to get the full story is to get out there yourself, whenever you can.

Written by Jimmy Fee for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

The 50 Best New Fishing Spots in America

The 50 Best New Fishing Spots in America

We found the hottest new rivers, lakes, and streams—one for every state—to catch big bass, trout, walleye, catfish, and more. Road trip, anyone?

Everything in fishing changes. On the minutest level, that change can be as simple as fish suddenly turning off of green-pumpkin worms after they’d been hammering them for hours, or a slow bite ­suddenly going bonkers before a storm. In the grander scheme, what can also change is the overall quality of an entire fishery. Sometimes lakes or rivers that were hot for decades suddenly go cold. It can happen for any number of reasons. On the ­contrary, removal of dams, a revival of water ­quality, or a regulation change can revive a struggling fishery or turn what was a little-known body of water into a big-time destination. To get the most up-to-date skinny on which bodies of water are trending now, we reached out to biologists, conservation officers, guides, pros, and local sharpies in every state. Here are their picks.

Alabama

Water: Lewis Smith Lake
Targets: Largemouth Bass and Striped Bass
Alabama is home to some of the best bass lakes in the U.S., but Lewis Smith Lake wasn’t one of them until recently. The deep, clear lake that seemed lifeless for years currently has a thriving fishery thanks to the newly flourishing blueback herring population, which largemouths and stripers are chowing down on.

Alaska

Water: Situk River
Targets: Sockeye and Pink Salmon
The Situk gets less attention than some of Alaska’s other rivers, and while it sees its share of traffic during the spring and fall steelhead runs, anglers all but disappear in the summer. Big mistake, because the Situk has strong runs of pink and sockeye salmon waiting for anyone seeking solitude.

Arizona

Water: Saguaro Lake
Target: Largemouth Bass
A fish kill in 2005 decimated Saguaro’s largemouth population. However, with rejuvenated grass growth, clean mountain water flow, and a resurgence of baitfish, the bass population has rebounded big time. Saguaro is now a top trophy lake in Arizona, and one that the locals consider a hidden gem.

Arkansas

Water: Lake Ouachita
Targets: Striped Bass and Walleyes
Lake Ouachita has seen a recent boom in its shad population, and with it came a boom in the number and size of stripers and walleyes. The state also recently lowered the minimum possession length of bass to 12 inches in an effort to urge anglers to fill their coolers with smaller fish and let the bigger ones go.

California

Water: Skinner Reservoir
Targets: Largemouth and Striped Bass
California is known for its big bass lakes, but Skinner Reservoir is a total sleeper. Local sticks refer to it as the “SoCal Clear Lake” for its similarities to the famous Clear Lake farther north. Its lunker largemouths and stripers get fat on the abundant trout.

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A healthy trout from Colorado's Eagle River.

Tim Romano

Colorado

Water: Eagle River
Targets: Rainbow and ­Cutthroat Trout
Eagle River was sadly rendered lifeless by heavy metals from mine runoff in the 1980s. Eventually, the mine water was diverted to holding ponds, and after years of recovery, the populations of rainbows, cutthroats, and cutbows have made an incredible comeback.

Connecticut

Water: Mill River
Targets: Brook and Brown Trout
Though the state of Connecticut has some very notable wild trout streams and rivers by East Coast standards, you may not have heard of this tailwater. Improved year-round flows, new catch-and-release regulations, and an extended Wild Trout Management Area have all contributed to a major bounce back for the Mill, where wild brook and brown trout numbers continue to climb.

Delaware

Water: Nanticoke River
Targets: Blue Catfish and Northern Snakeheads
Blue catfish and northern snakeheads are both invasive species in Delaware, but love or hate them, they’ve made the Nanti­coke the state’s hottest fishing spot. Delaware has even ­established a state-record slot for snakeheads thanks to their abundance here. The current record weighed just over 12 pounds.

Florida

Water: Harris Chain of Lakes
Target: Largemouth Bass
Fertilizer runoff wiped out the hydrilla in the Harris Chain in the ’80s, resulting in algae blooms, low oxygen, and multiple fish kills. Fast forward to 2018: After numerous rejuvenation projects, you’d need almost a 40-pound bag to win a bass tournament here.

Georgia

Water: Upper Chattahoochee River
Target: Striped Bass
The striper fishing in Georgia’s Lake Lanier is no secret. But the fish that make their way up into the Upper Chattahoochee get much less attention. The stripers follow the plentiful shad schools, feeding in true blitz fashion.

Hawaii

Water: North Fork of the Wailua
Target: Smallmouth Bass
Bass fishing doesn’t jump to mind when you think of fishing Hawaii. But the North Fork of the Wailua on Kauai has surprisingly good smallmouth action that continues to improve due to a lack of fishing pressure. Those in the know routinely hit smallies over 3 pounds.

Idaho

Water: Pistol Lake
Target: Rainbow Trout
Idaho’s trout get a ton of pressure. Because of this, the best new hotspots have come at the end of short hikes in the ­McCall area. High-mountain waters such as Pistol Lake are somewhat remote and filled with rainbow trout that don’t see many flies or lures.

Illinois

Water: Lake Springfield
Target: Crappies
According to local sharpies, Lake Springfield is up and coming as a serious panfish producer. Other area lakes get the majority of the pressure, but tighter restrictions on Springfield have created a superb crappie fishery. A 10-inch size limit and a 10-fish creel limit ensure plenty of fish stay in the water.

Indiana

Water: West Boggs Creek Lake
Target: Largemouth Bass
The state of Indiana renovated the fish population in West Boggs Creek Lake in 2014 due to an overabundance of gizzard shad and carp. Gamefish like largemouth bass and channel catfish were removed and later returned. Since replanting, the bass are growing fast, as are the catfish and panfish populations.

Iowa

Water: Little River Watershed Lake
Targets: Bass, Bluegills, Walleyes, and Channel Catfish
Little River Watershed Lake has undergone recent renovations, and the improved structure and expanded access have helped establish it as one of the best lakes in Iowa. Massive bluegills, above-average bass, and trophy-class walleyes complement a population of lesser-known giant channel cats.

Kansas

Water: Milford Lake
Target: Blue Catfish
Blue catfish were first stocked in Milford Lake in the 1990s. Since then, continued stocking efforts and strict regulations have resulted in a true trophy fishery. Fish over 40 pounds are very common, and blue cats over 80 are being caught with increased frequency.

Kentucky

Water: Dewey Lake
Target: Muskellunge
Kentucky’s Cave Run Lake has drawn national attention for its muskie fishery and created a demand for others like it in the state. A stocking program was started five years ago in Dewey and is shaping up very well. The lake has a huge forage base of shad, and the structure-rich shallows are perfect muskie habitat.

Louisiana

Water: Toledo Bend Reservoir
Target: Largemouth Bass
Toledo Bend is a well-known body of water, but it made our list of new hot spots for a specific reason. Just over 10 years ago, the reservoir was stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass. Being a big lake with lots of threadfin shad, Toledo Bend is producing an exceptional number of hawg bass today.

Maine

Water: Sebago Lake
Targets: Northern Pike and Crappies
The overwhelming majority of anglers who travel to Sebago are itching for lake trout and salmon. That means the lake’s pike and crappie populations have been left virtually untouched. There is little fishing pressure for these species, which explains why bait shops are routinely weighing in pike and crappies that surpass the current state records.

Maryland

Water: Upper Potomac River
Target: Walleyes
While the lower Potomac gets attention for its blue cats and stripers, the walleye fishing on the upper river is hush-hush. Surveys of marked fingerlings show half the surviving fish are from stocking and the other half are naturally reproducing.

Massachusetts

Water: Wachusett Reservoir
Target: Smallmouth Bass
This pristine, bait-rich ­reservoir is limited to shore fishing only, which drastically reduces the pressure, in turn helping the massive bronzeback population thrive and kick out plenty of quality fish.

Michigan

Water: Silver Lake Basin
Target: Northern Pike
In 2003, the dam at Silver Lake Basin failed, releasing 9 billion gallons of water. Low water levels following the failure and several years of repairs wiped out the trout population, but the northern pike that found their way in during the breach have taken a strong hold. Mid-40-inch fish are there for the taking.

Minnesota

Water: Big Stone Lake
Targets: Yellow Perch and Bluegills
Big Stone Lake has become a panfish mecca. Sitting on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota, it benefits from both states’ stocking programs. Thanks to tight bag regulations, many perch grow over a pound and bluegills exceed 11 inches.

Mississippi

Water: Lake Lamar Bruce
Target: Largemouth Bass
Construction on the Lake Lamar Bruce Dam was completed in 2012, and ever since, the bass fishing has exploded. In addition to the dam work, the state added in the formation of underwater islands. It’s a whole new lake, where largemouths weighing 6 to 10 pounds are common.

Missouri

Water: Bull Shoals Lake
Targets: Largemouth Bass and Walleyes
Bull Shoals Lake is a storied body of water with a new tale to tell. In the past six years, the lake has seen three 100-year floods. The high water has given walleye and largemouth fry lots of hiding places, helping to promote incredible spawns.

Montana

Water: Upper Madison River
Targets: Brown, Rainbow, and Cutthroat Trout
After the completion of the lower spillway on Hebgen Dam, the Upper Madison River is running considerably cooler than it has in the past. These cooler temps are bringing back explosive caddis and salmonfly hatches, and the river is estimated to have up to 3,000 trout per mile.

Nebraska

Water: Elwood Reservoir
Targets: Walleyes and Striped Bass
Elwood Reservoir saw a drastic reduction in its walleye and hybrid striped bass populations from 2009 to 2015 due to low water. In the past two years, however, improved water levels have led to a resurrection of these fisheries. In 2016 and 2017, the largest samples of fish to date were recorded, including loads of 25-plus-inch walleyes.

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Casting long on Pyramid Lake.

Arian Stevens

Nevada

Water: Pyramid Lake
Target: Cutthroat Trout
Cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake were fished nearly to extinction. In the last few years, however, the state started releasing Pilot Peak Lahontan cutthroats into the Truckee Basin, which helped repopulate Pyramid Lake with trophy cutties. This fishery is now on the rise and expected to reach new heights in the next few years.

New Hampshire

Water: Connecticut River
Target: Walleyes
The Connecticut has had its ups and downs over the years, but in the New Hampshire stretch, walleye fishing is on a huge upswing. This stretch sees little pressure outside of the locals, which helped the walleye fishery to redevelop largely unmolested. Thirty-inchers are appearing with more regularity.

New Jersey

Water: Raritan River
Targets: Striped Bass and Smallmouth Bass
Several dam removals on the Raritan’s lower end have boosted runs of shad, herring, and striped bass over the last few years. The river also boasts a healthy smallmouth population, as well as some of the biggest carp in the state in its tidal section.

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A view of the upper Rio Grande.

Tim Romano

New Mexico

Water: Rio Grande River
Target: Walleyes
After a seven-year drought, improved flows and a booming baitfish population have pushed walleye fishing in the Rio Grande through the roof. Best of all, virtually no one knows about it. Walleyes to 34 inches and 12 pounds are not unheard of, and anglers can limit out fast.

New York

Water: Wappinger Creek
Target: Carp
The streams of the Catskills and Hudson River Valley are famed for their trout fishing, but when the water warms in summer, fly enthusiasts have turned to a newly recognized carp fishery on Wappinger Creek. The composition of the river makes it perfect for stalking and sight-fishing.

North Carolina

Water: Badin Lake
Target: Blue Catfish
When it comes to North Carolina blue cats, lakes Gaston and Kerr get all the attention. Their popularity, however, has let Badin Lake and its trophy fishery develop. With the lack of pressure and a healthy supply of baitfish, Badin blue cats are growing big. In fact, state biologists and local sharpies agree Badin may produce the next state record.

North Dakota

Water: Lake Sakakawea
Target: Northern Pike
Beginning in 2008, improved water levels in Sakakawea began fueling great northern pike year classes. With prime habitat and a solid forage base of smelt, the lake has blossomed into a top-shelf heavyweight pike fishery.

Ohio

Water: Clear Fork Reservoir
Target: Muskellunge
Ohio muskie fisheries don’t get much attention from outsiders, and with other state muskie waters getting the majority of the pressure from local anglers, Clear Fork Reservoir has developed into the new honey hole. Studies show that only a small percentage of Clear Fork’s muskies have been caught more than once, indicating a strong population.

Oklahoma

Water: Lake Tenkiller
Target: Smallmouth Bass
The smallmouth population in Lake Tenkiller has recently gone off the chain thanks to stockings of Great Lakes–strain fish. In addition, an infusion of nutrients from the Illinois River Watershed has resulted in more vegetation. This has strengthened the food chain with a larger forage base, helping the smallmouths reach top-end weight quickly.

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A Craine Prairie Reservoir rainbow.

Arian Stevens

Oregon

Water: Crane Prairie Reservoir
Target: Rainbow Trout
Crane Prairie Reservoir is a comeback story. An introduction of largemouth bass changed the reservoir’s dynamics, and stickleback infestations decimated fly hatches that supported Crane Prairie’s rainbow trout. With the stickleback gone and the lake in balance, the trout have bounced back big time.

Pennsylvania

Water: Lake Erie
Targets: Walleyes, Smallmouth Bass, and Steelhead
Lake Erie has been more historically known for pollution than quality fishing. Slowly but surely, that has been changing, and Erie is currently firing on all cylinders. The lake now supports healthy populations of numerous freshwater species, including panfish, walleyes, smallmouths, and steelhead. The flourishing fishery is a direct result of better water quality, which boosted the forage base.

Rhode Island

Water: Blackstone River
Target: Carp
Ironically, the Ocean State is home to the some of the largest freshwater fish in New England. Among carp anglers, mirror carp are special and sacred, and the Blackstone River may have the most plentiful population of them in the country. Because carp fishing is still not as popular in the U.S. as elsewhere, the Blackstone’s monsters also aren’t overly pressured.

South Carolina

Water: Lake Wateree
Targets: Blue, Channel, and Flathead Catfish
Lake Wateree is another body of water that has benefited from the popularity of other local waters. With Santee Cooper drawing massive catfish crowds, less-pressured Wateree has seen a boom of blues, channels, flatheads, white cats, and bullheads. The lake is teeming with threadfin and gizzard shad, propelling the kitties to massive sizes.

South Dakota

Water: Deerfield Lake
Targets: Lake Trout and ­Yellow Perch
Deerfield Lake has traditionally supported good numbers of rainbow and brook trout, in addition to a huge perch population. To create a second lake trout fishery next to well-known Lake Pactola, the state has been stocking adult-size lakers. This not only established an immediate lake trout fishery but also culled the perch population, allowing a lot of the remainder to grow huge.

Tennessee

Water: Watts Bar Lake
Targets: Blue Catfish and Striped Bass
Watts Bar Lake is an impoundment of both the Tennessee and Clinch rivers. In 2008, life in the lake came to a halt after 1.2 million tons of ash were accidentally spilled. It took years to recover, but Watts Bar is now chock-full of shad and skipjack that provide plenty of protein for the lake’s big, hungry cats and stripers.

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A summer lunker.

Keith Sutton

Texas

Water: O.H. Ivie Reservoir
Target: Largemouth Bass
It can take time, strict regulations, and a healthy forage base to set a lake ablaze, but that’s exactly what’s happened at O.H. Ivie. A change in regulations that prohibited keeping fish above 18 inches has led to a spike in big bass. Texas records trophy catches through entries into its ShareLunker program, and currently, only Lake Fork is producing more double-digit fish than O.H. Ivie.

Utah

Water: Pineview Reservoir
Target: Muskellunge
Utah may be considered a trout state, but Pineview Reservoir has one of the best tiger muskie fisheries in the country. The size and number of tigers in Pine­view was already astounding, but a 2017 stocking of an additional 20,000 of these fast-growing fish has made your odds of sticking a trophy tiger better at Pineview than anywhere else in the U.S.

Vermont

Water: Lake Champlain
Target: Muskellunge
Champlain has always had a world-class bass and pike fishery, but we bet you didn’t know about its muskies. The muskellunge was native to Champlain until they were wiped out by overfishing and poor conservation efforts. The state reintroduced the fish in the northern reaches of the lake, and the effort is paying dividends.

Virginia

Water: James River
Target: Muskellunge
While the muskie fishing in the James is no secret, it has never been better. The state discovered muskies were reproducing in the James in the ’90s, and the population of fish is now abundant and self-sustaining. The James is also not as big and deep as other rivers, which greatly increases your chance of encountering a fish.

Washington

Water: Columbia River
Target: Walleyes

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Wall-Hanger: The Columbia River is synonymous with salmon, but it also holds some massive walleyes.

Bill Lindner

The Columbia River is famed for its salmon, but with recent salmon runs being subpar, ­anglers are enjoying the ­incredible walleye population that has developed. Walleyes have been in the Columbia since the ’60s but have really taken off in the last decade. With an abundance of salmon and steelhead smolt to gorge themselves on, it doesn’t take the Columbia’s walleyes very long to grow massive.

West Virginia

Water: Cheat River
Target: Smallmouth Bass
The Cheat was once a dead river due to severe mine drainage. That began to change after 1972 with the passage of the Clean Water Act. The process has been slow, but in recent years the smallmouth population has bounced back strong. Annual state surveys are finding that from year to year, the smallmouth population is increasing dramatically.

Wisconsin

Water: Lake Geneva
Target: Muskellunge
Wisconsin has no shortage of muskie water, but Lake ­Geneva has recently become a new ringer. Muskies were first stocked in Geneva in 2010, and the fishery is now taking hold. With deep water, shallow flats, and plenty of weed growth, the habitat is prime for growing muskies. Geneva is also loaded with panfish and ciscoes to help fatten them up.

Wyoming

Water: Salt River
Target: Brown Trout
The Salt is one of the few ­rivers in Wyoming that doesn’t get much fishing pressure, largely because it’s bordered mostly by private property as it flows through a valley in the Salt River Mountain Range. This limits anglers to fishing the fertile, spring-fed river by drift boat, but those who row it have a serious shot at browns measuring better than 30 inches.

Written by Mark Modoski for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

How to Carve a Jaw Spear for Survival Fishing

How to Carve a Jaw Spear for Survival Fishing

This is a wicked D.I.Y. version of Poseidon's trident that's deadly on fish and frogs

Pacific Northwest natives devised salmon spears with sinew and bone that were brawny enough to hoist kings and silvers from roiling rapids. You can channel your inner Suquamish with this survival spear capable of snagging frogs, fish, and small rodents. All you need is a sharp knife and a bit of parachute cord. A bone from your last squirrel dinner isn’t required, but it will make for a beefier—and more savage—spear.

Step 1

Cut a 2-foot length of p-cord and tease out the inner core strands. They’re a perfect twine for lashing.

Step 2

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Step 2

Brown Bird

Cut a straight, green sapling of hardwood, such as hickory or maple, 1 foot longer than your height and with a strong fork on one end. Remove the bark from the forked tines. Trim the ends of the forks so each is 4 to 5 inches long, and angle each fork tip slightly by removing a few slivers of wood from the inside of the tip.

Step 3

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Step 3

Brown Bird

For a center spike, carve a 2-inch-long sharp stick—or better yet, a sharp spike of bone—and lash it to the inside of the fork. Start with a clove hitch about a half inch below the fork, and wrap the windings tightly toward the fork. When the lashing reaches the fork, continue by making a few more wraps to create a pocket for the butt of the spike. Place the spike in this pocket, then continue lashing by alternating the cord under and over the spike, tightening with each lash. Secure the lashing.

Step 4

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Step 4

Brown Bird

For the backward-pointing jaw spikes at the ends on the fork, carve two 2-inch-long spikes of wood or bone. Begin with a clove-hitch lashing about a half inch from the end of the jaw, and wrap six lashes. Place the jaw spike so it points backward, resting on the angle you carved into the jaw tip. The initial wraps will aid in setting the spike to a proper angle. Lash the tip down and secure. Repeat on the other jaw. Now that you have a wicked D.I.Y. version of Poseidon’s trident, it’s time to grocery shop for frogs and fish.

Written by T. Edward Nickens for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

16 Outdoor Adventures in Charlotte for 2016

Secluded campsites, high-altitude hikes, and new experiences from Charlotte’s climbing experts—there are so many great ways to be active around the Carolinas it would be impossible to do them all in just 12 months. So we humbly offer these 16 outdoor adventures in Charlotte to put on your list. It’s going to be a busy year—you’d better get going.

Paddle to Camp

Catch a sunset from your secluded, lakefront campsite.
Catch a sunset from your secluded, lakefront campsite.

Rob Glover

1. Catch sunset from your campsite overlooking the crystal clear waters of Lake Keowee.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park is amazingly well-appointed for such a small campground—there are only a couple dozen cozy, tree-shaded sites total—with showers, a gift shop, and hiking trails. But when it’s time to get away from even this small crowd of campers, pack your ’yak and paddle a short distance to one of three lakeside sites. Listed as TS-001 to 003, these sites are also accessible via half-mile hike. But your boat is much better at carrying provisions.

2. Get away from everyone else that is getting away from it all at Devils Fork Campground.

Ringed by rolling green mountains and decorated with waterfalls, the 75-mile shoreline around Lake Jocassee is a flat-water paddler’s dream. Devils Fork State Park, which claims the southwest portion of this deep water lake, is the perfect launch site for Jocassee exploration. Among the camping options here are 13 primitive, boat-in sites. The easy trip from the boat launch, maybe 30 minutes at a leisurely pace, nets a seclusion not easily found at busy campgrounds. If you get there early enough, grab site No. 1. It’s on a small point and provides fantastic lake views.

Don’t Delay Your Belay

Located in a booming area of south Charlotte, the new Inner Peaks makes indoor climbing accessible to a whole new crew of climbers.
Located in a booming area of south Charlotte, the new Inner Peaks makes indoor climbing accessible to a whole new crew of climbers.

Rob Glover

3. Try new stuff at USNWC

The crew at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the now 1,100-acre outdoor playground that sidles up to the Catawba River, were very busy this “offseason.” New races fill the few open weekends of the Center’s calendar, new trail miles make all-weather riding and running possible, and supersized zip lines make flying over it all a whole different experience. But the most ambitious project is the multi-walled deep water solo climbing area. No ropes needed, just get up the wall (ranging from 25 to 40 feet) and drop into a 16 foot deep pool.

4. Be pitch perfect

Inner Peaks has been serving the Queen City climbing community via its location in the far southeast reaches of greater Charlotte for a long time. The grand opening of their new South Boulevard site—with its vast bouldering areas, convivial social scene, and incredible array of routes—means greater access in a booming section of the city. Take a class, learn the knots, and add “belay on” to your adventure lingo this year.

Give Back

You can help protect Charlotte's best natural resource by volunteering with the Catawba Riverkeepers.
You can help protect Charlotte's best natural resource by volunteering with the Catawba Riverkeepers.

Catawba Riverkeepers

5. Help protect Charlotte’s most valuable resource

For hundreds of miles the Catawba River flows down mountains and through lakes, providing drinking water, power, and recreation for millions of us. This highly endangered resource deserves protection. Spend a few days this year helping the clean-up efforts orchestrated by the Catawba Riverkeepers or join their network of Cove Keepers and become the eyes and ears for the group’s water quality monitoring programs.

6. Help kids learn the joy of trail riding

Since 2001 the Dirt Divas have been removing the barriers of perception that sometimes follow mountain biking, making Charlotte’s trails more accessible to all sorts of riders. Their group rides and clinics introduce beginners to the sport and help longtime riders improve their skills. But the all-female riding club also breaks down the financial barriers of the sport. Their charitable effort, Project Angel, provides bikes and ancillaries to kids around the Queen City who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Join the group for a clinic, a monthly meeting, a volunteer day, or simply donate to their worthy cause.

Enjoy Time on Two Wheels

Joining a group ride is a great way to get to know the Queen City and fellow cyclists
Joining a group ride is a great way to get to know the Queen City and fellow cyclists

Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride

7. Bike with a little help from your friends

Biking in the Queen City is a social affair and cycling groups abound around town. From fast paced pelotons to leisurely pedaling through pretty parks, there are plenty of ways to gather up and go. A great place to start is the Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride. The variable route will introduce you to a bunch of bike friendly restaurants and hundreds of new riding pals. The ride is always on so jump in whenever you have a free Tuesday night.

The Winter Short Track Series can help keep you cycling through the offseason.
The Winter Short Track Series can help keep you cycling through the offseason.

Winter Short Track Series

8. Get dirty at cyclocross

Combine the best of road and trail riding in the quickly growing sport of cyclocross. On trail, field, and over obstacles, the varied terrain of the NCCX series test a wide range of riding skills. The spectator friendly events are always a party and even the most competitive teams are willing to chat up new riders, offering tips and tricks to succeed.

9. Race in the winter

Unlike other short track racing, the ¾ mile route of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series spends time on pavement, gravel road, and challenging mountain bike trail. The six week series begins in late January and always includes music, food, and a variety of sponsor tents to fill out the day. Race day schedules includes races for beginner kids through expert adults.

Get Fit at a Brewery

Mellow out with a pint and a pose at Sycamore Brewing's weekly yoga practice.
Mellow out with a pint and a pose at Sycamore Brewing's weekly yoga practice.

NC Yoga Bar

The group activities sponsored by Charlotte’s breweries will keep you running, stretching, and hopping (sorry).

10. Join a social run

NoDa Brewing, with all its shiny gold medals and sparkling new facility, has been one of the brightest stars in the Queen City’s ever growing constellation of beer makers. As the longest standing brewery run—happening whether the weather calls for rain, snow, or blazing sun—the NoDa Brewing Wednesday Night Run Club has also been a constant point of light for Charlotte’s running scene. Join the group for a 1, 3, or 5 mile jaunt around the NoDa neighborhood and finish with a pint of the breweries many award-winning refreshments.

11. Discover Yoga

Make 2016 the year you complete your down-est dog and least-shaky crow. The open space at Sycamore Brewing is the perfect spot to refine your yoga skills. The talented teachers at NC Yoga bar bring their portable practice to the brewery’s lawn on fair weather Wednesdays. Look for the weekly class to start up again in spring and prepare yourself to finally win yoga.

Try a Tri

Find out why so many people love the sport of triathlon.
Find out why so many people love the sport of triathlon.

Courtesy of the North Carolina Triathlon Series

12. Join a triathlon training program.

There are few athletic endeavors more noteworthy, or more intimidating, than completing your first triathlon. The mentors at Tri it for Life have helped thousands of women of all ages, backgrounds, and athletic ability accomplish what they once thought impossible. Their 12-week programs, including a mock triathlon, not only prepare participants for a live race event, but offer a sense of empowerment that goes far beyond the pool and road.

Explore the Waterfalls at Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.
Looking Glass Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.

Jake Wheeler

13. Stay for awhile

The dramatic changes in elevation and plentiful rain in Pisgah National Forest incubate a collection of waterfalls that rival anywhere else in the Old North State. With hot showers on-site, Crank Coffee just outside the park, and the charming mountain town of Brevard a very short drive away, Davidson River Campground is the ideal launch pad for a multi-day exploration of these dazzling cascades.

14. Play in the rain

Go ahead, splash in puddles and get your shoes muddy. We won’t tell mom. The densely vegetated Pisgah Forest becomes a mysterious place when shrouded in the fog of a rainy afternoon. Waterfalls gush and bright green moss on downed logs seems to glow against a smooth gray backdrop. And a hearty stout from the Brevard Brewing Company feels well-earned at the end of slightly soggy day.

Hit the Islands

Zip lining takes on a different look when flying over a blackwater swamp.
Zip lining takes on a different look when flying over a blackwater swamp.

Rob Glover

15. Explore the Brunswick Islands

In North Carolina, adventure doesn’t end at the edge of the Blue Ridge. Plan a week-long exploration of the Brunswick Islands for a surprising list of activities sure to keep you moving. Get a hawk’s-eye-view of turtles and cypress while zip lining over a swamp. Run on miles of tightly packed sand under the watchful eye of soaring gulls. Spot snowy egrets and great white heron through waving spartina grass on a kayak tour of Montgomery Slough. Then chase down a day of shredding pine-canopied singletrack with a locally brewed beer and shrimp burger.

Climb to the Top of the East

Nowhere in the east can you stand taller than on the top of Mt. Mitchell.
Nowhere in the east can you stand taller than on the top of Mt. Mitchell.

Rob Glover

16. Summit Mt. Mitchell

As a 12-mile out-and-back day hike, the trip to the top of the eastern U.S.’s highest peak should be on every hiker’s must-do list. But to really understand the majesty of Mt. Mitchell, an overnight backpack trip is in order. The memory of watching a fiery sunset reflect off the clouds that settle in nearby valleys from your perch on Commissary Ridge will easily replace the thoughts of the quad-burningly steep trail that got you there.

Written by Rob Glover for RootsRated in partnership with OrthoCarolina.

Featured image provided by Rob Glover

The 12 Best Casual Adventures in Chattanooga

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Taking an epic, all-day trip into the great outdoors is one of the best things you can do—when you have the time and energy. All too often, though, busy schedules mean that micro-adventures requiring little to no preparation are more realistic.

And with manageable excursions around every corner, Chattanooga makes it easy to get your outdoor fix in small doses. Here are a few of our favorite effortless ways to get outside in Chattanooga—no maps or gear required.

1. Signal Point

Tucked into the cliffside in Signal Mountain’s historic district, Signal Point is the perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike. From the parking lot, it’s only about a hundred yards down a gradual staircase to the first overlook, a spot was used by the Union to send communication signals during the Civil War. From here, you’ll have a clear view of the Tennessee River as it cuts through the steep gorge. Raccoon Mountain is also visible to the west.

2. Riverwalk Cycling

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The Riverwalk is an easy way to enjoy a smooth bike ride.

Kathryn Crouch

Chattanooga’s Riverwalk is impressive both for its length and its scenery. The wide, paved path spans from St. Elmo to the Chickamauga Dam, passing directly through downtown along the way. The Riverwalk is almost entirely flat, making it manageable for all skill levels and ages, and it offers amenities such as restrooms, playgrounds, and picnic tables. A popular access point to the riverfront path is from the Bluff View Art District in the heart of downtown. Don’t have a bike? Pick one up at one of over 30 bikeshare docking stations and pedal to your heart’s content.

3. Reflection Riding Nature Center and Arboretum

Take a trip to this hidden gem for a relaxing day in a beautiful natural area. Located at the foot of Lookout Mountain, Reflection Riding offers 14 miles of hiking trails, a 3-mile scenic drive, calm water, wildlife, and much more. With more than 300 acres of beautiful meadows and forests—plus a native animal exhibit and vibrant gardens—Reflection Riding is a lovely place for people of all ages to spend a day outside.

4. Walnut Street Bridge and Coolidge Park

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The Walnut Street Bridge, as seen here from Coolidge Park, offers excellent views of the Tennessee River.

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Connecting the trendy NorthShore neighborhood to the lively downtown area, the Walnut Street Bridge is one of Chattanooga’s signature attractions. The blue-trussed bridge was constructed in 1890 and was once the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Though it no longer holds that title, the beautiful bridge remains a favorite place for both locals and visitors to enjoy walking, running, and biking. Coolidge Park, located just below the Walnut Street Bridge on NorthShore, is a great spot to relax and cool off on the Tennessee riverfront after your stroll.

5. Outdoor Bars and Restaurants

For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between, Chattanooga restaurants are teeming with fantastic outdoor seating areas. For coffee, pastries, and café fare, visit the European-style cobblestone patio at Rembrandt’s Coffee House in the art district. At lunchtime, grab a seat outside of 1885 Grill for southern coastal cuisine and premium people-watching experience in the St. Elmo neighborhood. In the evening, have beers, burgers, and fried pickles on the rooftop deck of the Pickle Barrel, which overlooks the busy downtown Market Street. Or, for a slightly swankier outing, stop in at Beast and Barrel for cocktails on the back porch, which looks out over Coolidge Park.

6. Chattanooga Ducks

For a one-of-a-kind tour of the Scenic City, take a spin on the Chattanooga Ducks. The Ducks are amphibious military vehicles that offer a two-for-one tour of downtown and the Tennessee River. After an informative ride around some of the city’s main attractions, the Ducks coast right into the river for a trip around MacLellan Island and a unique view of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum, and the riverfront parks.

7. Sunset Rock

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You only have to go a few steps for amazing views at Sunset Rock.

Kathryn Crouch

Another of Chattanooga’s most well-loved natural features, Sunset Rock is an easy-to-get-to panoramic overlook on Lookout Mountain. The parking lot is tiny, but if you manage to get a spot, it’s only a few steps to catch a gorgeous glimpse of Lookout Valley from Sunset Rock, which was also a key site during the Civil War. While it’s arguably the best place to watch a sunset in Chattanooga, this overlook is worth a visit any time of day.

8. Chattanooga Market

Every Sunday from May to November, vendors and artisans from around the region set up shop at the open air First Tennessee Pavilion for the Chattanooga Market. You’ll find gourmet cheese, local produce, craft beer, unique art, fresh popcorn, and much more among the market’s many aisles. Each week, there are an array of food trucks and local musicians, so you can easily make a day of your trip to the Chattanooga Market.

9. SUP on the Tennessee River

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The Tennessee River has become a very popular place to go stand-up paddleboarding.

Jake Wheeler

If you’ve always wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding, there’s no better place than Chattanooga. With the Tennessee River flowing right through downtown, getting on the river couldn’t be easier. And because of this easy access, there are several places around town to rent gear and get instruction. Rock/Creek Rentals and Outpost on the Riverwalk offers a variety of SUPs and kayaks, and their knowledgeable staff will make sure you’re comfortable and confident before getting on the water. Similarly, L2 Outside on NorthShore offers SUP rentals and weekly guided paddles on the Tennessee River.

10. Montague Park

This little-known park on Chattanooga’s Southside is part green space and part outdoor art museum. As the largest sculpture park in the Southeast, Sculpture Fields is home to more than 35 pieces of gigantic outdoor art from sculptors around the world. With walking paths and acres of grass, Montague Park plays host to festivals, yoga classes, school field trips, and much more. It’s perfect for a picnic or a casual stroll among the sculptures.

11. North Chick Blue Hole

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Take a dip at the North Chick Blue Hole on a hot summer day.

Kathryn Crouch

One of Chattanooga’s favorite swimming holes, the North Chick Blue Hole is an easy walk from the parking area near Soddy-Daisy. Large boulders in the creek act as natural dams to create several deep plunge pools, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Though the area is heavily trafficked, especially in the summer, its location in the valley between Mowbray and Signal Mountains makes the North Chick Blue Hole feel like an oasis.

12. Southside Coffee Shop Crawl

Enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Chattanooga’s many cafés is always great, but enjoying it on the porch of one of the Southside’s quaint coffee shops is even better. Take a little tour of the coffee scene and experience the variety of relaxing patios at each one. Treat yourself to locally roasted coffee and fresh-baked bread on the stony patio at Niedlovs, sandwiches and a view of the bustling Chattanooga Choo Choo at the Frothy Monkey, and biscuits and house-roasted coffee at Mean Mug.

Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated in partnership with Chattanooga CVB.

Featured image provided by Kathryn Crouch

Spring Skiing Checklist: Are You Ready?

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For some skiers, spring is a tragic emergence of tulips and aspen leaf buds. In a fairer version of the universe, as they may see it, winter powder days would still be going strong. But other skiers embrace spring skiing as the last on-snow hurrah before summer sets in.

Spring skiing is its own particular art to master and enjoy. Go in with rookie moves, and you’ll trip all over yourself on the sticky snow and get a flashy red raccoon-eye sunburn. But approach the event with a few tricks up your sleeve, and you’ll be primed to give the last days of the ski season the respect the sport deserves. Here, a checklist to get you perfectly primed for spring skiing, in Salt Lake City and beyond.

1. Do you have a fresh coat of wax on your sticks? (And more in your bag?)

And if you don’t, do you like the awkward start’n’stop of hitting warm slush pockets? Nobody likes that. So hit up your local ski shop and request a warm-weather wax job, and at the checkout counter, make like a smartypants and buy a little container of rub-on wax to keep in your pack or car.

2. Do you have sunscreen—the good stuff?

So here’s the scoop: If you live, work, and play among fellow ski bums, a goggle tan is totally unremarkable. If you have a day job or associate with more cleanly groomed, nine-to-five humans, you’ll be asked about your goggle tan about 27 times per day. So unless you want every coworker and bank clerk to say “Gee, been skiing?”, just keep your fair-skinned mug unburnt and un-racooned. Keep high-SPF sunscreen in your pocket and refresh regularly.

3. Are you dressed for the occasion?

Many folks seek attention (and get sunburns in unmentionable places) by skiing underdressed or even in their birthday suits. Great for funny photos, but horrible when you inevitably crash. (Someone inexperienced enough to ski in a bikini or shorts probably also doesn’t have spring wax on their skis.)

Spare yourself the indignity of grating all the skin off your backside when you fall, and choose an ensemble that covers your skin but perhaps has a dash of seasonally appropriate flair, like a funny shirt or tutu. Then trade your beanie for a ballcap, and you’re ready to go.

4. Have you adequately researched on-snow beer-toting methods?

‘Tis the season to swap your Thermos of hot toddy for a nice cold tall boy. A small backpack or oversized coat pockets will do just fine for carrying a PBR for yourself, plus one for the most attractive person you share a lift ride with during the day. With a little smidge of booze in your system, you can forget that powder and corn really aren’t quite the same thing.

5. Have you adjusted your ski schedule from mid-day to early-bird?

Spring snow is a fickle, shape-shifting temptress. First thing in the morning, you’ll carve pleasant, fast corduroy. Then you hit a brief window of consistent corn snow, now softened from its overnight freeze. Then, the fun ends abruptly when temps heat up just enough for the slushmonster to come out and stop everyone’s skis in their tracks. This is when everyone goes in for lunch … then never goes back out.

So don’t show up at the resort at your usual post-brunch hour. That’s a quick recipe for missing the fun boat. Show up for first chair and enjoy the corduroy and corn, then transition to tailgate mode.

6. Have you selected a suitable party posse?

Since spring days are a little light on quality skiing and heavier on the social and sunshine aspects, you’ll want to choose the right people to spend the day with. Your spring ski posse doesn’t have to shred hard as much as they need to be fun to giggle and throw slushballs with.

7. Is your vehicle prepped for parking lot shenanigans?

Spring calls for the two-hour ski day and four-hour tailgate program. At many resort parking lots and base areas, this means you'll want to come ready with a portable barbecue, grillables, a cooler full of drinks, camp chairs, and snacks. Bonfire supplies would not be inappropriate.

It’s hard to top a premium winter powder day. But if winter insists on going away each year, you may as well give it a hell of a sendoff.

Written by Beth Lopez for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by flexrider

Demystifying Nordic Skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center

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Could there be anything more peaceful than gliding along on your skis among towering pine trees with views of the Dillon Reservoir glistening in the sunlight and snow-capped mountains in the distance? While downhill skiing or snowboarding is all about getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, Nordic skiing is gaining in popularity for those looking for a change of pace. And there’s no better place to soak in the scenery than in the mountain town of Frisco, Colorado.

"Nordic skiing is not only fun, it’s great exercise too," says Linsey Joyce, Recreation Programs Manager for the Town of Frisco. “It’s a great alternative to downhill skiing or snowboarding. The Frisco Nordic Center offers solitude and breathtaking views.”

Located just a few minutes away from Main Street, the Frisco Nordic Center offers options for skiers of all ability levels. "The main goals of the Frisco Nordic Center are to be a community hub for cross country skiers," explains Joyce. “We aim to provide a variety of programs and events for our community while welcoming skiers of all ability levels.”

Whether you’re looking to take a break from a nearby resort or have been inspired by the recent Winter Games in Pyeongchang, now is a great time to try a new snow sport. Here’s everything you need to know about getting started at the Frisco Nordic Center.

What’s special about Frisco?

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Nordic skiing is fun for all ages.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

Frisco’s Nordic scene is uniquely situated to make cross-country skiing accessible to all ages and abilities. Unlike most other Nordic centers, Frisco actually produces man-made snow, just as a downhill ski resort would. As a result, even in otherwise low-snow years, Frisco makes considerable effort to open a 2.5-kilometer loop to Nordic skiers.

"They already have the infrastructure there because of the tubing hill," explains Whitney Hedberg, director of the Summit Nordic Ski Club. “But [the ski trails] aren’t in one centrally located place, so they have to take front-loaders and physically move snow onto the trail—it’s a huge operation. The town has gotten behind it and is willing to do that. That’s what makes us stand out.”

The Summit Nordic Ski Club is a huge part of the Frisco Nordic Scene. The club is for kids as young as six on up through post-high schoolers and uses the Frisco Nordic trails. (They also compete nationally under the direction of head coach Olof Hedberg.) In addition to the youngsters, you’ll see plenty of hardened locals hitting up the trails even on the chilliest mornings—these folks are dedicated.

Where do I start?

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The Nordic Center offers lessons and clinics to help you get started.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

"The Frisco Nordic Center offers beginner ski terrain right out our back door, creating a welcoming experience for anyone who is new to the sport," says Joyce. “I would highly recommend taking a ski lesson if you really want to learn tips and technique that will create a positive experience for you.”

Luckily, the Frisco Nordic Center offers budget-friendly lessons for new skiers, along with regular clinics and events for those looking to improve their skiing. There’s at least one block of lessons every weekday during the season (two blocks a day on busier weekends), so a knowledgeable staff member will give you the tools to have a great time on your first outing.

"A lesson will make the difference between it being a one-time thing and something you come back to," Hedberg adds.

Once you’ve gotten yourself ready for a day on skis—dress more like you’re going for a run in cold, wet weather than like you’re downhill skiing, since you’ll work up a sweat—it’s time to decide what kind of skis work best for you.

Cross-country skiing encompasses both classic and skate skiing. Classic skiers have slightly wider skis, often with a fish scale pattern on the bottom to help with kick and glide. These are the folks you’ll see in the classic track, which are the two parallel lines on any groomed cross-country trail. It’ll take some time to develop a solid technique, but this is a great way to take in the sights and, if you’re eventually so inclined, explore more backcountry trails.

Then there’s skate skiing, classic’s speedier cousin. Skate skiers are the Olympians you see double-poling and getting a serious upper-body workout on the groomed track. It’s a fantastic full-body exercise and definitely requires some fitness to get the hang of.

Fortunately, the Frisco Nordic Center rents both types of skis.

Where are the best Nordic skiing trails in Frisco?

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Once you get into Nordic skiing you might want to take up racing!

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

The Frisco Nordic Center boasts 27 kilometers of ski trails. They start making snow as early as November, so even in the early season, you’ll have the 2.5-kilometer loop near the Nordic Center to ski.

Those 27 kilometers include beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails, which are marked like an alpine ski area (green circle for beginner, blue square for intermediate, and one or two black diamonds for advanced and expert trails). On intermediate and advanced trails, you won’t find cliffs or moguls as you would at a downhill resort—more like steeper or more sustained ups and downs and sharper turns. Keep an eye out for one-way signs, too.

Before you head out onto any of the trails, check out the Frisco Nordic Center’s Trail Conditions page.

Fees and Season Passes

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Grab a season pass if you plan to spend a lot of time at the Frisco Nordic Center.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

Day passes for the Frisco Nordic Center are $20 per day for adults. If you’ll be hitting the trails ten or more times this season, invest in a season pass or, better yet, pick up a season pass that includes the Breckenridge and Gold Run Nordic Centers. Frisco Nordic also offers discounts for residents and families. Rentals at Frisco Nordic Center are $20 per day for skate or classic setups and include skis, boots, and poles.

Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Town of Frisco.

Featured image provided by Joe Kusumoto/Town of Frisco

Winterplace Ski Resort- Skiing & Snowboarding

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Intro

There's no better place for you to learn the ropes of the slopes. Winterplace Ski Resort has a comfortable teaching environment with eager instructors ready to help make your introduction to skiing or snowboarding fun. Boasting 27 trails, 9 lifts, 2 terrain parks, and the state's largest snowtubing park, Winterplace has something for everyone.

If you would like to spend a day or a weekend, you can stay at the resort’s on-site lodging, which includes cabins. The resort also has agreements with other fine lodging partners in the area. There are plenty of dining options as well, including Mountain Mama's Food Court, The Mountain House, Mickey's Mountain Cafe, and The Snowdrift Lounge, where you can try your hand at karaoke on Saturday evenings, and maybe even win prizes.

What Makes It Great

Winterplace is inviting and family-friendly. It’s ideal for beginners wanting to learn the fundamentals without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. In fact, it was voted “The Best Place to Learn How To Ski and Snowboard in the Southeast” by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.

It’s also very affordable. You can join their 5-week program, which includes an all-area lift ticket, equipment, and a 90-minute lesson for 1 weekday evening per week, for only $109. The goal is to give you everything you need to get started. So, no more excuses; it’s time to hit the slopes.

Winterplace has one of the most elaborate snowmaking systems around, so even when Mother Nature is not dependable, the slopes here will still be ready and waiting for you. And, they have the longest skiing day in the southeast—slopes are open 9am–10pm weekdays and 8am–10pm weekends.

Who is Going to Love It

Winterplace is committed to developing lifetime skiers. No matter your age, this is the ideal place to hone your skills. Though some trails may not meet the level of more seasoned skiers and snowboarders, mountain veterans will still enjoy the clean lines and smooth runs.

There is also a focus on family fun. With terrain that is not too technical, you can ease your way in. A day of skiing or snowboarding is very affordable, especially during the week, when you can sometimes get specials for up to 50% off. Buying online also saves money and time. Rentals are available.

If you have people in your group who may not be interested in skiing or snowboarding, then perhaps the largest snow tubing park in the state will pique some interest. There are 20 lanes of tubing at an affordable rate.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The resort is easily accessible, located immediately off of I-77 in Ghent, and within a few hours’ drive of many metropolitan areas. There is plenty of free parking.

Written by Angela Sundstrom for RootsRated in partnership with West Virginia .

Featured image provided by Winterplace Ski Resort

6 Must-Do Adventures in New York’s Southern Finger Lakes Region

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Verdant rolling hills, shimmering waters, and a lively culture make New York’s Southern Finger Lakes the perfect adventure destination. Soak up the sun while lounging on the shores of Keuka Lake, spend an afternoon sampling craft beverages, or get out in nature—you really can’t go wrong when it comes to how you spend your time here.

Known for its sprawling vineyards and wishbone-shaped lake, the Corning and Finger Lakes area is the perfect summertime playground for water sports, fishing, biking, hiking, and so much more. Start exploring with this list of the most iconic outdoor adventures and things to do in the region. (Don’t be surprised if you find a new summer tradition!)

1. Get on the Water at Keuka Lake

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Keuka Lake is perfect for stand-up paddleboarding.

Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Almost endless opportunities abound on the clear, cool waters of Keuka Lake. Rent a motorboat and cruise the 22 miles of undulating shoreline or get the family out on water skis, boogie boards, or in a tube. For a more hands-on experience, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are all widely available for rent. While not exactly a watersport, another not-to-be-missed Keuka Lake experience is a seaplane ride that offers an overhead look at the famous Y-shaped lake as well as views of the vineyards stretching into the horizon.

2. Cast a Line in the Chemung, Cohocton, or Tioga

The fish are jumping and the waters are flowing year round for both experienced and novice anglers alike on the Chemung, Cohocton, and Tioga rivers. More than 30,000 stock trout are released into area waters, helping create some of the best fishing in the northeast. The Chemung and Tioga Rivers are known for their muskie fishing, but the jewel of Steuben County fishing is the Cohocton River, which is home to both wild and stocked trout. A nice stretch of the waterway where you can drop a line is off State Route 415 and Wentworth Road, where there is a special angler footpath for river access.

3. Cycle Through the Countryside

Breathe in the crisp air as you explore the lush, vine-covered hills while biking through the Southern Finger Lakes region. Of course, a couple of winery stops and a picnic along the way is always a popular option, but for a real heart-pumping adventure, try the Hammondsport Circle Tour. This 36-mile route takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Steuben County.

If riding for a cause is appealing, sign up for the Tour de Keuka, an annual charity bike ride around the lake region in July that benefits the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. There are several scenic routes and distances to choose from including 16-, 45-, 60-, or 100-mile rides.

4. Chase Waterfalls at Stony Brook State Park

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Take a hike through Stony Brook State Park for some of the prettiest views in the region.

Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Stony Brook State Park in Dansville is a go-to destination for waterfall lovers, and three moderately challenging trails are the best way to explore the park. The Gorge Trail is the easiest, following Stony Brook as it winds past picturesque rock formations and three waterfalls, ending at a stream-fed pool at the North Entrance. Wear brightly-colored clothes during your visit to attract the grey petaltail dragonfly, often seen landing on arms and hats.

5. Tour the Craft Beverage Scene

It’s well-known that the Finger Lakes region produces great wine, period. But the area also has a thriving—and growing—craft brewing and distillery scene. With almost 30 brewers to choose from, you’re sure to find a beer, cider, vodka, gin, or whiskey to suit even the most discerning palate.

Four Fights Distilling in Corning is Steuben County's oldest distillery. This "one-man show" produces small-batch vodka, gin, bourbon, and a variety of specialty products, including the intriguingly named Imperial Apple Pie. Find out first-hand just how many options you have on the self-guided Craft Your Adventure* *tour and sip into some of the most innovative craft brews and spirits on the East Coast.

6. Explore the Finger Lakes Trail System

A true labor of love, the Finger Lakes Trail system was born in the 1960s and has grown to almost 580 miles of trails winding their way across the Finger Lakes Region. (When you consider neighboring trails off the FLT, the total system reaches close to 950 miles.) About 70 miles of the trail twists across Steuben County, with the expanding network growing thanks to a dedicated band of volunteer helping to create and maintain trails. You’ll find multiple access points for getting onto the trail, including many hikes starting at most of the area state parks.

The trail system is perfect for day hikes or weekend-long adventures, and highlights include crashing waterfalls, treks through vineyards, a wide range of diverse habitat and ecosystems. The well-maintained and marked trails make access easy—the biggest decision will be where to start! One of the more unique places is the Huckleberry Bog Nature Trail on the Bristol Hills Branch Loop near Hammondsport, which is great for families and anyone interested in the history of the area.

For even more ideas of things to do on your next trip to the Corning and Finger Lakes region, download our Experience Guide and start planning!

Written by Lisa Collard for RootsRated Media in partnership with Steuben County CVB.

Featured image provided by Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

An Ode to Alabama’s National Wildlife Refuges

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Long before groups like the Nature Conservancy were established to protect lands and waters in the United States, the federal government set up agencies and programs to protect fragile landscapes, wildlife and wildlife habitats.

The first “reservation” was established in 1869 in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska to help protect fur seals. That reservation led to the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), which now includes more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and other protected areas that total over 150 million acres, all managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

In Alabama there are 11 National Wildlife Refuges, and they protect a great diversity of wildlands, from the deep caves in the northern sector of the state to the barrier sand dunes on the Gulf Coast. Thanks to these refuges, Alabama remains one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the South, and in the country. Plus, the refuge system ensures that the state’s abundant forests, streams, lakes and coastal ecosystems will be enjoyed by generations of Alabamians. If you’re not familiar with the various refuges in Alabama, this quick guide will get up to speed on the wildlife and landscapes they protect, and what you’ll encounter when you visit them.

Protecting the Geology

In north Alabama, where the geology is primarily made up of limestone, you’ll find a remarkable geologic phenomenon called karst topography. Because limestone is very soft, wind and water dissolve it easily. What’s left behind is what cavers will tell you is a fascinating labyrinth of sinkholes, caves, and underground streams.

Alabama is part of the TAG Area (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia), which has an extensive karst topography. In 1997, in aptly named Limestone County near Florence, the 1,060-acre Key Cave NWR was established to protect this fragile geologic area and in turn the habitat it provides for two species of sightless crayfish and the Alabama cavefish, a small, sightless fish that can only be found here. The cave is also the home of 40,000 endangered gray bats.

Protecting Gray Bats

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The Sauta Cave NWR was created in Jackson County in 1981.

Alan Cressler

Gray bats were placed on the endangered species list in 1976, but their numbers began to dwindle long before that. The reason for the decline? Gray bats tend to live in large numbers in only a few caves. Because of this, they are highly sensitive to any disturbance, which causes them to use a lot of energy during hibernation, and many die because of it. In recent years, gray bats have also faced the deadly virus known as white nose disease.

Shortly after being placed on the endangered list, USFWS established the Fern Cave NWR near Gurley, Alabama. This 199-acre refuge is the gateway to an intricate underground cave system that is the home of the largest wintering colony of gray bats in the country. The refuge gets its name from the rare Hart-Tongue Fern that grows here.

In addition to Fern Cave, the Sauta Cave NWR was created in Jackson County in 1981. It was once a Civil War saltpeter mine, then a prohibition nightclub, and then a 1960s fallout shelter. Now, the cave is the summer home and breeding habitat for more than 300,000 gray and Indiana bats. It’s an awesome sight to see hundreds of thousands of these nocturnal creatures swarm out of the caves around sunset en masse.

Protecting Fish, Reptiles, Birds & Mammals

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Established in 1938, Wheeler NWR near Decatur and is the oldest wildlife refuge in the state.

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Among Alabama’s 11 NWRs, five really stand out, including the state’s largest, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Located near Decatur, Wheeler is the oldest NWR in the state, having been established in 1938. The location was selected because it’s on a major waterway, the Tennessee River, but also because it’s on the eastern boundary of the Mississippi Flyway, a major migration route for birds. Thousands of wintering birds call the refuge home each year, including the rare Whooping Crane.

The watercress darter, a colorful but small, 2-inch long fish can only be found in a few natural springs in the state. In 1988, USFWS opened the Watercress Darter NWR near Bessemer to protect the quarter-acre Thomas Spring.

On the Gulf Coast in northern Mobile County, more than 4,200 acres in the Choctaw NWR have been set aside to protect a winter habitat for migrating wood ducks.

On the eastern side of the state, the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge has over 11,000 acres of what has been called a “mosaic of habitat” – impoundment ponds, wetlands, streams, and, of course, Lake Eufaula – that hosts an incredible 300 species of birds, including wood storks, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons, as well as 40 different species of mammals

And then there is the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge in West Blocton. The Cahaba River is arguably one of the most ecologically significant rivers in the South, and perhaps the entire country. In fact, the Cahaba has more species of fish in its waters than in the entire state of California.

The Cahaba NWR protects five federally listed species of fish, snails, and darters, plus 64 endangered animals and rare or imperiled plants like the famous Cahaba Lily that grows in only a few places in the world.

Protecting Habitats

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Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge protects many migratory songbirds and endangered or threatened species.

Stephanie Pluscht

Since President Theodore Roosevelt established the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903, the refuge system has served one main goal—to to protect wildlife habitats.

Three other NWRs in Alabama showcase that effort nicely, including the Mountain Longleaf NWR near Anniston. This refuge was created to restore the region’s longleaf pine ecosystem so it can regenerate and return to Alabama the prime habitat for many of the birds and mammals that live in the state. The refuge also provides scientists and educators a chance to study this intricate ecosystem first-hand as it matures.

On Alabama’s Gulf Coast you’ll find the Grand Bay NWR, which protects one of the last remaining expanses of Gulf wet pine savanna. And just down the road from Grand Bay across Mobile Bay is the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which protects the state’s natural barrier sand dunes and in turn the home of many migratory songbirds and endangered or threatened species of wildlife, including the Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Opportunities for You to Explore

The best part of the National Wildlife Refuge System is that it’s yours. USFWS has opened many areas so you can hike, canoe, bird watch, or do photography. Visit each of the NWR websites for information on planning your visit to Alabama’s amazing wildlife refuges.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Featured image provided by Stephanie Pluscht