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Life goes on at Gunnels Camp

April 13, 2013

G. Sam Piatt


PDT Outdoors Writer


There are so many nice people living down in the hills of southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee that we pass through life with no hope of meeting them all, but last weekend I was able to add a few of them to my list of friends.


Myself and nine other members of the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association spent April 5-7 at Gunnels Fishing Camp, located at the headwaters of the Wolf River, just across the Tennessee line.


The Wolf joins the Obey River down past Trooper Island and the two rivers form Dale Hollow Lake.


The lake, which gave up the world’s record smallmouth bass (11 pounds, 15 ounces) back in the 1950s, covers 27,000 acres, part of it in Kentucky but most of it in Tennessee.


I’ve been going to Dale Hollow for 40 years in the hunt for that 12-pound smallmouth. I’d fished up the Wolf River as far as Spring Creek but had never been on up to Gunnels.


All of the water from Trooper Island up to Gunnels can be fished with either a Kentucky or Tennessee license.


Gunnels Camp, which has been around since the dam went up in the 1940s, is now owned and operated by Vic and Sheila Lowhorn.


“We bought it in 1986 and haven’t stopped working (on it ) yet,” said Vic Lowhorn.


What he’s hoping to see – looking to see – anytime now is a state record crappie coming from the brush and willow tops along that stretch of water running past the camp’s launching ramp (which, by the way, is free).


The Tennessee record white crappie, taken from Garner Brown’s Pond 45 years ago, weighed 5 lbs., 1 oz. The black crappie state record stands at four pounds, four ounces. It was caught 28 years ago from Brown’s Creek Lake.


ABOUT THE CAMP

I’ll share with you what I learned about Gunnels Fishing Camp:


The biggest job was getting city water from the top of the hill down along the lake shore. Once that was done, they had people standing in line to rent permanent sites for trailers and campers.


“We have some people who have been with us the entire 26 years we’ve been here,” Vic said.


The sites rent for $125 a month, which includes water. The electricity is billed to their homes.


Very rarely would one of these permanent sites come open, although they are working to develop 10 additional sites.


Looking for a place to build your dream home, summer home, vacation home? The Lowhorns offer half-acre wooded building lots on top of the hill overlooking the lake. They handle their own financing.


There are two rental cabins and a trailer with four bedrooms suitable for a large family or a group.


Myself and Creighton Stephens, along with Soc and Wanda Clay and Bob Danner and Joan Maddox, all stayed in the trailer, while Tom Clay and Rob Bentley shared one cabin and Chris Erwin and his wife, Linda, were in the other cabin.


The Lowhorns have a small restaurant/store, close by the launching ramp, offering breakfast and sandwiches.


The bait shop offers red worms, nightcrawlers and minnows (kept lively by spring water running into and out of the tank).


The store displays new and antique tackle. Vic will buy, sell or trade. I had one great old-time Dale Hollow smallmouth lure, the Devil’s Horse, from my father’s tackle box, which I was hesitant to cast for fear a bass would break it off and take it home. Vic handed me three more of them, picked from a wire running along the top of the bait shop wall.


I believe he would give me the shirt off his back had I needed it.


“What I want people to be aware of,” said Sheila Lowhorn, “is that we have a free primitive campsite, right on the lake shore, for church groups, Scouts, or individuals.”


For more information on Gunnels Fishing Camp, write 4244 Gunnels Road, Byrdstown, TN 38549, or call 1-931-864-7277 or Vic’s cell phone at 1-606-688-0567.


Also working at the camp are Vic’s cousin, Barry Lowhorn, and his wife, Tammy.


Barry operates Lowhorn’s Guide Service and is reportedly one of the best fishing guides on the lake. His services include supplying not just the knowledge but also the equipment and lunch. He can be reached at 1-931-864-7743 or on his cell phone at 1-606-688-1035, or his Web site, lowhornsfishingguide.com.


MEN OF VALOR

“No one saw it coming until it was right on us. Not a shot was fired at it. Three of us were on a plane watch on the open bridge. I was the messenger. We saw the kamikaze nosing down toward the end of the flight deck. We all three hugged the deck. We were maybe sixty feet from where it hit. It went through the flight deck and exploded on the deck below. One man down there was killed.”


That’s how U.S. Navy sailor Cobby Webb described the Japanese suicide plane hitting the Natoma Bay, an escort carrier he served on in the Pacific in 1944 and 1945.


Webb lives with his wife, Virginia, in South Shore.


His story is one of more than 65 combat stories told by veterans of World War II in my book, “Men of Valor.”


I know this is self-promotion, which I detest, but honestly I have so many people e-mail me or call me wanting to know how to get the book that I feel justified in supplying the information to them here.


First of all, I’ll be at the Boyd County Public Library in downtown Ashland (1740 Central Ave.) next Saturday, April 20, from 2-4 p.m., signing and selling the books.


If you can’t make it by there, you can get a copy by writing a check to me for $26, which includes the cost of postage and handling, and mail it to me at 50 First Street, South Shore, KY 41175.


Include a note saying who you want the book signed to and listing the address you want it mailed to. It will go out in the mail the same day.


G. Sam Piatt can be reached at 606-932-3619 or gsamwriter@windstream.net.