This could be a woolly worm winter

G. Sam Piatt

Lots of folks can predict the weather, but none with any degree of accuracy. It’s strictly a hit-and-miss proposition, so I’m left to wonder if those fishermen who hate to be cooped up in the cabin all winter, who never put away their fishing gear, will be able to practice their sport.

I recall the winter that I met Carl Stambaugh, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever run into in the Great Outdoors – so nice that the day I met him he was walking on water.

Frozen water, that is.

It was late January 2009 when I put some gear in the truck and headed for Greenbo Lake to check out the ice. I stood at the boat ramp and wondered if the ice was thick enough to hold me. A light snow had fallen with a couple of inches covering the ice.

Then I spied the footprints leading out onto the ice. And about the length of a football field down the lake stood a man with a rod and reel and a fish flopping around at his feet. I boldly picked up my gear and stepped in his footsteps.

About halfway there I stopped and stood on one leg like a flamingo as I heard the ice creaking and complaining. But I trudged on to finally stand beside the fisherman.


Carl and I introduced ourselves. He was at the time an engineer with the Ashland Fire Department, but I believe he has now risen to the rank of captain.

Carl had three rainbow trout on the ice and was battling another up through the hole in the ice even as we spoke.

This was his first experience at ice fishing.

The fish were hitting on whole grain yellow corn right from the can. He gave me some. I chopped a hole in the ice, which was three or four inches thick, nearby and was soon in on the action.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources had stocked the lake with several thousand rainbows the day before. The workers broke the ice at the ramp and released the fish from their tanker truck to swim off under the ice.

The hatchery-raised tout were hungry. And feisty. They would circle and dance as we cranked them up through the ice.

The catching method involved tying a No. 6 or No. 8 longshank hook to the end of the line, baiting with two kernels of corn, and adding a small splitshot or two to take the bait down. We let out enough line to take the bait to the bottom, then raised it a foot.

Carl soon had his limit of eight and headed for home. He said his wife, Carrie, like me at the time a reporter for the newspaper, had a new recipe for baked trout that he was in a hurry to try.

I caught five before putting them on ice and heading for Ashland.

After all, I was supposed to be working.

If this winter is such that we’re able to enjoy some ice fishing, be sure to play it safe. To fall through the ice in January would be disastrous.

A general rule is that at least four inches of ice is safe to support us.


My friend and colleague, the late George Wolfford, used to write a pre-winter column in which he predicted what kind of winter we were heading for by the color of the woolly worm. I can’t remember now if an all-black woolly meant a harsh winter coming, or if the worm with two brown stripes around it pointed to a rough one.

I searched through the book, “By George,” a collection of stories written by George during his 40-year career at the paper, compiled and edited by his son, David, and published this year by the Jesse Stuart Foundation ($30 hardcover, call the foundation at (606) 326-1667), but could find no woolly worm column among the 100 or so stories.

I did find a story, on Page 32, about that horrible winter of 1976-77. George reported that the late Bob Prater of Salyersville “…swore that it got so cold in Magoffin County he saw two beagle hounds trying to start a rabbit with jumper cables.”


Calling all Canoeists, Kayakers and folks who want to have fun. Join Soc Clay, Tom Clay, Paul Verespy and me for the 2018 Soc & Sam Sandy Run Canoe Race Saturday October 6, paddling off at 9 a.m. It’s a six-mile race downstream from the Racoon Bridge on Rt. 2 to the town of Greenup. You can pay a $10 entry fee at the launch ramp, located at the bridge. Separate awards for canoe and kayak winners. Proceeds to help military veterans.

G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.