Possumhaw: Tumbling into a fall

October 21, 2019 9:57:55 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"The reason the deep fish don't bite anymore is probably because what was deep in the summer isn't deep in the fall. The fishermen just haven't found them."


Gene Gilliland, conservationist




You might remember a column a couple of weeks back. Momma said when the State Fair comes the weather will turn cooler. Before the fair had ended and practically overnight, temperatures plummeted into the 40s. Propane trucks ran up and down the road while cotton picking machines raced through the cotton fields gathering in a bumper crop before the coming rains. What had been a field of the prettiest white cotton was stripped bare in no time. I hoped to get a picture, maybe with some family members, and put it on a Christmas card, like Southern snow. But the cotton was gone long before the family members could arrive.


When temperatures fall suddenly a couple of things happen. Jackets come out, sandals are put away and closets turn over from summer to fall. Closets are not the only thing that turn over. There's something called "lake turnover."


It usually happens in September or October, when temperatures suddenly turn cold, winds increase and cool rains pour down like they did last week. The typically warm water from the top few feet on lakes and waterways will cool down quickly, become heavier and sink to the bottom, causing the deeper cold water to rise. The quick mixing of the water can cause a depletion of oxygen and will sometimes cause what is known as a "fish kill."


Fish that typically stay deep except for the spawn are most affected. Crappie comes to mind. Fish kill is more likely in farm ponds, as the fish have no place to go. Whereas fish in large bodies of water like Lake Lowndes and those that can escape from creeks like Tibbee have more options for relocating.


Some lakes turn every year, some twice a year; some never turn, and some turn almost daily. A lot like people, fish are creatures of habit and when conditions change slowly, they acclimatize to the changes. But when conditions change suddenly, they may not be able to adapt. Like the aforementioned clothes closet. Weather changes and you're standing in front of the closet and wondering -- sandals or boots?


Around the Prairie house the ground is covered in brown wet leaves, no longer crispy. The spider lilies continue to surprise us. One year I dug up about 100 bulbs from the woods and planted them in the raised bed. After the rain, they sprouted overnight.


The swamp sunflowers are in their glory. Like a garden sunflower, some stand 8- to 10-feet tall. They are growing in a clump down by the lake. The swamp version of the sunflower is perfect for the Prairie as they thrive in moist, clay-based or poor soil. They add a certain amount of joy when viewed from the kitchen window on a rainy day


The Prairie petunias are also doing well. They spread with their daily purple blooms about as quickly as ant beds. Fall in the Prairie brings with it a comfortable change.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.