QUESTION: Last fall I went to a farm pond to catch bream. Instead, I caught five eels. Are they edible? Do they make beds and spawn like other fish?
ANSWER: No eels are born in North America. When eels become sexually mature -- from 5 to 20 years of age -- they begin the long journey to a place in the North Atlantic Ocean known as the Sargasso Sea. There they breed, lay eggs and die. The young eels then begin the trip to North America which takes a year or more. They enter bays and rivers and eventually end up in our streams and fish ponds. The eels do not need a water inlet to get to the ponds. During wet weather they are able to slither over wet land to get to the ponds. Once in a pond, they grow and mature until it is time for them to return to the Sargasso Sea. There the cycle begins again.
Eels are edible and to some are actually a delicacy. Most people, however, are turned off because they are extremely slick and resemble snakes.
QUESTION: What are the advantages of barbless fish hooks? Where do you buy them?
ANSWER: There is no need to spend the time looking for barbless hooks. Simply bend the barb on a regular hook, pressing it down against the shank with pliers. They can also be filled away but this takes some time.
The primary function of a barb is to dig into the flesh of the mouth of the fish so that it doesn’t throw the hook and escape. Fish that are hooked deep into the throat or stomach -- as is common when using the plastic worm -- are usually injured to the point of death when the hook is removed. Barbless hooks make unhooking the fish easier and are very useful when one is practicing “catch-and-release”.
When I am fishing just for fun, with no intent of keeping them for the table, I bend down the barbs on my hooks to prevent injury to the fish.
QUESTION: I notice that you always recommend the 12 gauge shotgun and never the 16, 28, 20 or the 410. Is there any particular reason for this preference?
ANSWER: I have no quarrel with the proponents of the other shell size. I prefer the 12 gauge because it is powerful enough to get the job done. Since the 12 gauge is the most popular, there are far more different loads to choose from.
The 16 gauge is practically obsolete and shells for this one are hard to come by.
I will not allow a 20 gauge shotgun -- or ammunition -- in my house and it is a personal decision. If one accidentally drops a 20 gauge shell into the chamber of a 12 gauge shotgun, it will slide halfway down the barrel and stick. If a 12 gauge shell is introduced, and fired, the barrel will blow up. I have a one-eyed, three-fingered friend who made this terrible mistake.
Emory Josey is a freelance writer who has a weekly column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org