Rangers at Lumber River State Park are hooking ‘em, two or three at a time.
For bait, they’re using the bass and redbreast sunfish in the dark, tea-colored water of the national Wild and Scenic River. The whole experience of floating and fishing the Lumber River hooks park visitors on the natural resource and continued, deep-seated support of the state park.
“Awesome,” said Noah Allen, a teen of few words, after his day on the river. Noah and his father Jason, who moved to within a few miles of the Lumber River, had never spent much time on it or in it. They had floated the river with a ranger earlier in the week for just a couple hours, had returned for the guiding fishing trip program and already were making plans to attend other park programs – and thinking of buying a used canoe.
Rangers Ronald Anderson and Brantley Bowen decided a couple years ago to occasionally add a fishing element to the canoe and kayak trips they guide from several points along the winding river. Starting with borrowed rods and a few lures they bought themselves, they’ve probably introduced 75-100 people to fishing, Bowen said, mostly in groups of 3-4, although hosting an occasional group of youngsters will keep them busy for hours retrieving lures from the treetops and untangling line. Recently, a park advisory committee member donated some new rods, which has helped the cause.
The rangers are convinced that snagging a fish from the Lumber River gives visitors an intimate connection with the resource that few other experiences do. The biggest haul to date was 74 fish caught on a perfect June morning with a very small group, Bowen said. Most trips of 3-4 hours result in just a handful of smallish fish, but the visitors are hooked deeper than their prey. It’s a much more challenging and physical experience than a simple canoe float, with limbs, snags and swift current adding drama to every cast, and that leads visitors to total immersion in the task at hand. It’s a level of concentration that’s hard to achieve in a park program.
In slack water or the occasional stop on a sandbar, a ranger will slip in a few words about the protection of the natural resource, the park’s history and conservation in general. Spotting a cottonmouth water moccasin or unusual plant opens the subject.