The Amazing Flying Forage Fish Fry and Live Bait (No Kidding)

In the interest of full disclosure, I should first acknowledge that I am paid by the company that produces the product I am about to mention to do just that … mention it, when appropriate.

Being April, this is the most appropriate time to consider stocking a pond with I.F. Anderson Farms’ golden shiner fish fry. The rest is up to the folks who give it a try. So far, upon witnessing the end results, they haven’t had any problems with either my motives or the results.



For one thing, those who know me well know that I never have, and never will, write nice things about products that are not what they are cracked up to be. That particular trait has cost a bit of potential advertising revenue over the years, specifically the years I spent as editor and publisher of Texas Fisherman and other outdoor publications.

Editorial and advertising are two entirely different things, although looking at modern consumer magazines that might be hard to believe. To knock off Spiderman’s line, “With the writing of editorial comes great responsibility.”

When I signed on with Lonoke, Arkansas-based I.F. Anderson Farms in February of 2004, it was for a position in the marketing and public relations arena ... the first long-term project of its type I had ever undertaken. From the public’s standpoint, PR understandably hints at stilted coverage and reviews.

With a good product, however, it needn’t be. And across the board, with my ventures in tandem with I.F. Anderson Farms it hasn’t been.

Good products speak for themselves. Bad products die, slowly or otherwise, depending upon how much money companies are willing to spend promoting them and how many media venues are willing to assist in the effort. Regardless, when it’s all said and done, there’s not a dollar amount in the world that will keep a poor product in production year after year.

I told Neal and Jamie Anderson how important it was (and still is) that we keep credibility at the top of our list when I met them a little over five years ago. I was, at the time, host of the SportsRadio 610 Outdoor Show on Houston radio station KILT 610AM. It was commonplace to hear from a lot of good people with a lot of ideas, some good and some not so good.

I realized very early in the game that Neal and Jamie Anderson were presenting, via the Black Salty baitfish, something entirely new and needed. Pond-raised live bait shipped via Federal Express overnight shipping, raised in freshwater but effective in both salt and fresh … a farm-raised, certified-disease-free, live bait that reduces pressure on native bait stocks and can be stored for weeks at a time, saving consumers a good deal of money while making live-bait fishing more convenient than ever … there were these good reasons and many more why the Andersons’ vision held so much appeal for me.



As much as anything, however, it was the Andersons themselves. Neal Anderson and son Jamie are as ethical as they are hard-working, and believe me, that’s saying something. (Ever heard a farmer brag about “days off?” I didn’t think so.)

I told them I was fascinated with the concept, but could not record radio spots or conduct other promotions before I had put the baits to use, and successfully. They were good with that because they had such faith in the Black Salty. And ever since the truth, although not always as exciting as “falsified info,” has served us well. The best assurance I can give folks who inquire is that all of the photos and video posted at www.blacksalty.com represent documented catches. If people want the date and location of the catch, or for that matter, the time of day at which the fish was taken, I can provide that and more via a quick look at the computer.

Obviously, seeing as how you are reading this website post, you are an angler. As such you know that sport fishermen over the years have been deluged with a massive trove of new products that on some occasions, and by virtue of incredible promotional claims, have eventually proved to be … well, “questionable.”

One in particular comes to mind. I suppose it best I not mention its name lest I hear from an offended attorney, so we’ll call it the “Acme Rotator.”

The “Rotator” epitomized angling hype (with a bit of reflection upon fishing shows past you can no doubt come up with more than a few over-hyped examples of your own). I’m sure at some time that said highly-promoted lure caught a fish or two. Maybe even three or four. Throw it at school trout on the bay or surfaced white bass in mid-summer and you’re likely to catch fish nonstop … then again, the same can be said for a pink piece of shoelace threaded onto a wide-gapped single hook under a split shot.

We’re all used to fish stories, tales that “stretch the truth.” When you’re selling something, however, it needs to be the whole truth, and in actual size. Therein rested my problem with the miraculous Rotator Lure. Were the Rotator half as irresistible to bass as its advertising touted there would be barely a single tackle box in the country that would not be laden to this very day with at least a half-dozen of each color.

Lest my underwhelming Rotator Lure assessment be questioned, or seem unfounded, I’ll share the true story of a BassMasters Classic championship tournament I attended as a press angler in the mid-1980s. It was common back then for part of the show … and it was, I assure you, a show … to highlight B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott weighing the tackle boxes of Classic contenders prior to the event. Any excess weight above the maximum allocation became part of Scott’s lure collection … meaning he reached into those over-laden Plano double-deckers and pulled out the cherry crankbaits, topwaters and spinnerbaits of his choice.



Call me a cynic (get in line on that one), but it seemed pretty obvious that had the Classic competitors wanted their boxes to weigh exactly what they were supposed to weigh, they would have come in an eighth-ounce shy of the max. If these guys understand anything it’s the importance of an accurate scale.

The extra lures, I believe, went into those tackle boxes for the purpose of drama, the kind of interactive back-and-forth camaraderie that gives the event much of its human appeal. Ray Scott, a guy for whom I have tremendous respect, understood the critical value of entertainment during his tournament events … especially the Classic. Scott has done more for bass fishing than anyone else on the planet, but that’s another story.

Anyhow, the time came for one prominent angler, a guy who had fished his share of B.A.S.S. Classics, to ante up his tackle box for the scale. He was, of course, over the allocated weight maximum. Said tournament pro was an avid promoter of the Rotator Lure, and the way he told it, one of those multi-legged whirly-gigs fluttering its way down toward a grass bed spelled instant strike elicitation to any largemouth bass within proximity (the bass on the TV commercial crushed them with unharnessed ferocity, like sharks tearing at the flanks of a bleeding bonito).

“Hey (name removed to protect the guilty)!” a press friend of mine shouted. “You got any Rotator Lures in there?”

Our competitor friend did not know whether to scowl or laugh. Since the camera was on, he elected for the latter while doing his best to conceal his embarrassment.

The bottom line? The World’s Most Productive Fishing Lure was not in his tackle box. There was not a single one of those remarkable, bass-devastating artificial baits, the ones that he was incessantly raving about on TV, inside his box’s trays.

I never … ever … want to be put in that position, one that says “Give me a break. I need the money, okay?”

We all “need the money.” However, in my business at least … the select part that involves marketing as opposed to writing and reporting editorial copy … any money you gain against your better judgment, and far worse yet, against the interest of your audience and readers, is lousy money. You’re only going to get it one time. Then, next time you announce an Even-Better Most-Awesome-Fishing Lure Ever Made, you have to take a deep breath while people laugh.

Fool ‘em once, shame on me. As for fooling ‘em twice, that’s not going to happen often.

Despite the general media’s regular attempt to portray us as beer-swilling rednecks with room-temperature IQs, fishermen (and hunters) are not fools. Matter of fact, I challenge anyone who thinks so to check out the price tag of the bass or bay boat sitting on one of these “fools’” driveways. We spend more just getting ready to go fishing than a lot of people do while practicing their favorite pastime from start to finish.

And we don’t get the money to do so without being at least as smart and hard-working as the average bear.

After sharing these observations with Neal and Jamie Anderson, I was pleased to realize that these guys don’t need any lecturing on business ethics or the dangers of hyping products that either flat-out don’t work or at least don’t work nearly as well as they are purported to.

The Andersons respected my wish to establish the Black Salty baitfish one catch at a time. It’s a strategy that ever since has been working, one successful angler and one caught fish at a time. Some folks will always do what grandpa and his father did, no matter what. Others … and sadly, often through experience … will dismiss anything and everything new as a gimmick. Fishing is a provincial sport with deeply-rooted local traditions, and it takes time … at least one time, with an open mind … for most anglers to literally buy into something different.

Nothing substitutes for proof.
We built the Black Salty “proof photos” only after repeated trips at targeted species. If you go to www.blacksalty.com, you’ll see links for a Flickr.com photo gallery that shows just some of the successes we have experienced with the pond-raised, Fedex-shipped live baits. (There is more of the same via video on YouTube, with links to the Black Salty video library, currently in the expansion mode, posted on the BlackSalty.com home page as well.)

After the Black Salty kickoff, a little over three years ago Jamie Anderson put his college-procured (University of Arkansas, of course) inventory of aquaculture and general fisheries know-how to efficient use and came up with a unique way and groundbreaking way to stock small ponds and lakes with forage fish. One should never use the terms “unique” and “groundbreaking” unless they are absolutely merited, and in this case they are. Jamie Anderson’s concept is now a process that is not only effective but also as cost-effective as procuring pond forage can get.



For $250.00, customers who order 250,000 golden shiner fish fry get them delivered directly to their doors. Two-hundred-fifty dollars, a quarter-million fry-stage shiners. The same Federal Express Overnight Shipping “flying fish” practice that makes the Black Salty baitfish available to those who don’t have a dealer close to home makes pond forage just as available and convenient. Compared to the cost of trucking in mature golden shiners … well, you can’t compare it with trucking in mature fish. The cost differential is just too great. And the carry-over, provided the stocked pond has at least some degree of vegetation and protective cover, is remarkable.

Stocked in ponds with no predator species, for testing purposes, Andersons’ forage fish fry boast a survival rate of over 95 percent. However, even if your resident bass, crappie, catfish, etc. consume half of a stocking, that leaves 125,000 golden shiners swimming free to grow, and eventually, reproduce.

I.F. Anderson Farms’ Golden Shiner Forage Fish Fry Program is now going into its third year. It has been, to put it mildly, successful. I have written several stories about the strikingly positive results of forage fish fry stockings, one of which ran in the July/August ‘08 issue of Pond Boss Magazine. Pond Boss, the brainchild of veteran fisheries biologist, lake manager and designer Bob Lusk, is the go-to publication for everyone from pond-stocking novices to longtime lake managers who are now working to establish their own unique goals for their particular waters. Ditto for Lusk’s highly-popular website www.pondboss.com.

If you own a small body of water, or even a 25-acre lake, I.F. Anderson Farms’ forage fish fry, shipped overnight via Fedex, will provide an infusion of forage into your pond that will yield an almost-immediate difference in the weight of your resident fish.



The program is seasonal, with most of the shiners bred and shipped during April. At this point better than 50 percent of the farm’s golden shiner fry inventory has already been pre-ordered and paid for.

I.F. Anderson Farms is the nation’s biggest producer of shiner minnows. Nonetheless, even with the ability and capacity (granted reasonably cooperative weather conditions) to regularly boot out better than a billion shiner fry every year (yes, that’s “billion,” with a “b”), anyone who wants a high-intensity, high-quality infusion of federally-certified, disease-free forage into his or her pond or lake this spring needs to move fast.

Check the web at www.andersonminnows.com. The home page will take you to an ad and press release that explains more about the Forage Fish Fry Project. Or, pick up the phone and call 1-800-20-MINNO (206-4666).

For Black Salty information, check www.blacksalty.com or call 1-877-GO-SALTY (467-2589).

As was the case with the Black Salty, we withheld a fair dose of skepticism before fully acknowledging the advantages of pouring a fresh-shipped box of 250,000 golden shiner fry into a pond as forage. And, again, as with the Black Salty, we were pleased with the results and supportive evidence.

I wrote a Pond Boss story about one customer in particular last year who added golden shiner fry to his impoundment’s forage base. He and his comrades, managing a 25-acre lake, were hoping to tip the big-bass edge from 9-plus to 10-plus pounds. They ended up with several bass over 11 pounds, and that, of course, is just representative of what they caught.

These guys had previously stocked other forage, and used every technique available to make their lake as productive as possible. But when it was said and done, they credited the size increase to the boost afforded by forage fish fry stocking. With everything else the same it was the only logical conclusion.

Yes, it sounds like hype to say “Order Now! Supplies are Limited!”

But, fact is, if you own or manage a pond, you should. Because they are.

Production is currently in full swing, but how long that lasts is contingent on both weather and demand. Considering the intensity of the latter, those who dally will end up on a waiting list.

If you do give Andersons’ golden shiner fish fry a try I’d love to hear how the results came out in your case. Every lake is different, again, the primary variables being the number of predator fish in the water and the amount and quality of fish-protecting structure the body of water holds.



Still, be it white-tailed deer or largemouth bass, sufficient food is at the core of the trophy-creation scenario. Regardless of so many mitigating factors, I’ve yet to have anyone complain to me about fish getting too much to eat at too low a cost.

Be it stocking forage fish fry or using the Black Salty, if there is anything I can do to help you with your efforts I hope you won’t hesitate to drop me an email (larry@blacksalty.com).

I can’t, and won’t, promise you miraculous results. I can, however, based upon experience and documentation, assure you that the promises you do get will be kept.

And that’s no hype.
_________________________
Larry Bozka
Coastal Anglers
Contributing Writer/Saltwater - Tide Magazine, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Texas Sporting Journal