What will varmint soothsayer’s prediction be?


This is the weekend when many eyes across the nation look for a varmint soothsayer’s weather prediction.

Around 7:30 a.m. (sunrise Sunday in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. is 7:25 a.m. Sunday) Punxsutawney Phil, the rodent weather forecaster will come out of his burrow and tell the nation if it will suffer through six more weeks of winter or enjoy a early spring.

The famous groundhog has offered this forecast since 1886, a tradition that was begun by German immigrants in Pennsylvania. In Germany, a badger was used for the weather forecast around Candlemas, which is the day that is the midpoint between winter and spring. It was also a day when the clergy would bless candles and distribute them among people. Consequently it was a day when the weather was important to these European Christians.

According to an old English song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright

Come Winter, have another flight;

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Go Winter, and come not again.

When Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania, they didn’t find many badgers. So they chose another habitual digger - the groundhog, which also is considered a pest by man especially farmers. This notorious bean eater likes clover, alfalfa and corn in the milk stage. It will invade gardens for beans, peas and carrots and also eats fruits like apples and pears.

When Phil emerges from his burrow, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, we are supposed to have an early spring. Data shows Phil is correct only about 40 percent of the time.

So why would you believe in a groundhog as a meteorologist? Don’t forget, people believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

It’s part of folklore that has stretched into is third century. And you know how people hate to mess with tradition, even if it is a destructive rodent.

As with many traditions, people do take Phil seriously. Growing up in Pennsylvania and being of German heritage, I was well aware of the groundhog lodges in that state.

Groundhog Day has become a real happening since the popularity of the movie by the same name with as many as 30,000 people on hand for Phil’s annual weather prediction.

Over the years, Phil has gained growing fame.

Among his highlights were traveling to Washington, D.C., in 1986 where he met with President Reagan; appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1995; having his prediction in 2001 shown live on the Jumbo Tron at Times Square in New York City; having Gov. Ed Rendell being the first sitting Pennsylvania governor to attend the annual prediction ceremonies in 2001 and having Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company visit him on Groundhog Day in 2011. The following year, Phil posed with Koch’s Sam Adams Alpine Spring Ale, which was designated as the “official beer” of Groundhog day.

There supposedly are other groundhog weather forecasters including Buckeye Chuck in Ohio, but the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club considers them all to be imposters. Besides as I like to point out to Ohioans, how can anyone take a groundhog seriously that is named after a nut?

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Kyle Weisenburger broke away from slow starts on the FLW Series trail the last three years and is seeking to snap his struggles on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Central Florida.

The Lima area bass anglers finished in the money a week ago on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas when he placed 59th (75 places paid) with a two-day catch total of 21 pounds, 7 ounces.

He salvage his first day by getting a five-bass limit that weighed 9 pounds, 14 ounces. He had only two bass by 1 p.m. Weisenburger put together another five-bass limit that weighed 11 pounds, 9 ounces on the second day.

“This was by far my best start. I have struggled out of the gates every year,” he said as he began his fourth season on the tour. “I am excited to walk away with a check, some confidence, and valuable points. I am hoping to figure out how to do well at Harris Chain. That lake has had my number in the past. I am going to try and find some different ideas for event two from in the past.”

The Harris Chain tourney begins on Feb. 20.

Weisenburger and his dad, Ron, drove his boat from Columbus Grove to Texas the weekend before the Sam Rayburn event began. He and his dad drove his boat to Florida and then flew home.

* * *

Spring jigging season has become very popular for walleye. If you are interested in learning more about it, you can attend a seminar featuring Capt. Ross Robertson at Fin Feather Fur Outfitters in Milan on March 5. The seminar begins at 6 p.m.

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Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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