OK, it's cold, the lakes are frozen, you don't ice fish and spring is a long way off.
Somehow, you must live a fishless life by either reading, tinkering or watching it on YouTube or the TV. For me, that means a long winter of watching cable and satellite fishing shows on networks like the WFN or the Pursuit, Outdoor or Sportsmans channels.
Here is a short list of what I've been viewing lately and maybe there's a show for you.
HOOKED ON AFRICA: This is different, a show about both fresh and saltwater angling in the Dark Continent. Pretty cool stuff, some of it. They have already had two episodes where the target was the spectacular tiger fish on the fly. These critters have dentures only Dracula could rival, and they are super speedsters in a river environment. One installment has the host and company fly-fishing for carp in a huge lake. In another they are fishing for gigantic Nile Perch in the same river. Yet another trip shows rainbow trout fishing from a tube boat on the fly. Big giant trevally off the coast as well. Different, but enjoyable.
SCOTT MARTINS CHALLENGE: This show has been around a few years, as bass fishing icon Roland Martin has his son "challenging" different hot bass anglers in tourney-style, head-to-head friendly competition. If you can get past Scott's non-stop jib-jabbing and testosterone-filled banter, then you might just enjoy this show. They usually fish high-profile "big bass" lakes like Toho, Fork or other southern destinations. In a market that has been flooded with a seemingly endless file of bass related shows where small, 15-inch fish dominate, I find the 5-to-8-pound bass in this offering to be a pleasant deviation from the boorish norm of run and gun, tournament style bass fishing shows. Check it out.
LINDNERS ULTIMATE ANGLING: A really good, educational show. Legendary angler-educators Al, Ron and Jim Lindner of past "In Fisherman" fame offer up a nice visual package with solid how- to stuff that can apply to the most of us. One recent segment had the boys out ice-fishing, and targeting, brutish channel catfish through the frozen crust of an upper Mid West lake. Crazy stuff, as one 30-inch plus cattie after another had to be shoehorned through an almost "too small" hole in the ice. And get this, they were catching these toads in 15 feet of water over a depth of 30 feet or more … suspended ice cats! Many good bass and panfish segments. Only drawback is that the show is a midwest gig that focuses heavily on walleyes, pike or muskys, not huge drawing cards in the Mid-Atlantic, though some great fisheries do exist.
ORVIS GUIDE TO FLY FISHING: Host Tom Rosenbauer has the nicest, most laid back, easy and simple approach to teaching fly fishing I have ever seen. In his hands, the long rod seems almost like a musical instrument that anyone can play. But I know better. Still, the "demystification" of the sport of fly-fishing is explained by him and other experts as they persue bass, panfish, trout, toothy critters and even challenging carp on the fly. No run and gun, no brash and bull, just solid info and instruction with some cool, on-water footage. I like that!
FACTS OF FISHING: Now, on quite the other end of the angling spectrum, we have this fairly large, somewhat mouthy, but occasionally funny guy named Dave Mercer who fishes for a variety of species, but focuses mostly on bass. Many of his episodes have him catching nice smallmouths in Canada or largemouths here and there. One pretty neat installment had him and J.P. DeRose catching Lake Simcoe yellow perch by the ton with light tackle and jigs … a world apart from most TV fishing exploits. They were what I would call nice, eater-sized perch, but I doubt that even the largest of the show would have exceeded 12 inches. At the end of each show they present the "facts" of the day … number of casts, number of fish, number of hours on the water and a rundown of the tackle used. Mercer also can take a lot of kidding, often making fun of himself and joking around. That's nice to see in a modern era where brash and arrogance too often is the order of the day.
JOHN GILLESPIE'S WATERS AND WOODS: My wife hates this show, but I love it! John has been an upper mid-west fixture for a few decades, basing his fishing trips out of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. Like Mercer, he is large and loud, but in an excitable, upbeat way. Most of his angling partners are his friends and family and he hooks up with local guides on most occasions to showcase area waters and vacation opts. Lots of variety here with bass, walleyes, giant muskies and pike. Toss in slab crappies, ice-caught bluegills and terrific smallmouth waters that most of us have never heard of. What I like is that he has a different show every week. Now that's a challenge! Throw in weekly Fleet-Farm fish contest winners and mouth-watering segments on Johnsonville Brats and Sausages and I'm ready to eat! Plus, there's that silly song and dance at the end of each show. Gillespie's a hoot!
There are many more shows out there, including much salt water and trout topics. Check the listings, grab a drink and sit back and settle in for the winter. Spring is a long way off.
Jim Gronaw is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.