Before I get into this column, I want to remind folks that the meeting to get the new magazine, Journal of Ozark Mountaineers, is this next Sunday afternoon. If you want more information, just call our office at 417-777-5227. We need writers and editors and artists.
I read the old Ozark Mountaineer magazine in my dad’s pool hall as a boy. I worked there after school as a boy, and listened to old timers who fished the river talk about various ways to tempt big bass, or to catch a limit of goggle-eye. The river was so much different then, so clear and clean.
The big deep holes, now most of them filling in with silt and gravel, and becoming choked with algae, had flathead catfish that commonly weighed from 30 to 40 pounds. There were huge soft-shelled turtles, hellbenders nearly two feet long, and occasionally an eel. You could gig red-horse suckers on occasion that exceeded ten pounds, and the river was full of pan-sized green sunfish that would make a great meal when you were camping on a gravel bar and had an iron skillet with you.
One thing I still do not understand… the Big Piney had no blue or channel catfish, or at least if it did I never saw one, and never knew anyone who caught one. The pool halls old timers said they were there once, but after the dam was built at Ft. Leonard Wood, they just faded away and weren’t seen anymore. I don’t know how that low dam could have done that, but I fished the river for years and never saw a walleye or a channel catfish. You had to fish someone’s farm pond to catch channel catfish, and you had to go to the Current or Meramec River to find walleye. But it didn’t matter, when you could catch smallmouth and great big flatheads, you didn’t need anything else.
I remember hearing about a method of fishing that worked in any clear, deep creek or river. Old Bill Stalder and Jim Splechter talked about it, and I never knew for sure if it really worked. They would take a glass gallon jar, fill it with big shiner minnows, at least a dozen or so, then tie a heavy string around the neck, make a dozen holes in the lid and close the jar with it, then sink it in a deep hole somewhere. They said they would put a couple of hooks on the jar, tied well with the same kind of trotline string, and that big old bass, or catfish or walleye, in waters where you found them, would be attracted to those minnow, flashing and struggling in that jar. The jar even magnified their size, and it drove fish crazy, seeing them like that and not being able to get them.
Ol’ Bill and Ol’ Jim both swore that you could fish alongside that jar and catch fish that were attracted to the shiners inside, and whipped into a feeding frenzy by their frustration. They said that big fish would often just grab one of those hooks on the jar and you could occasionally haul one in like that.
I was really surprised, while looking through my collection of old outdoor magazines, to find an article about that same kind of tactic in a 1940 publication, entitled ‘bumble-jugging’. It was written by a fishermen who claimed he came across two boys who had filled a big jar with bees, and as he watched they sunk it in the creek with the lid sealed, and began to catch fish right and left with bobbers and minnows fished around the jug filled with buzzing bees. It was an entertaining story, and so I published it in our summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor magazine, which you can find at various magazine racks in Ozark stores, including Wal-Mart.
He explained how the boys got the bees in the jar, and claimed that in time a huge walleye grabbed a hook on the jar. They landed it, but broke the jar on a rock beside them, and they all got stung in the process. If there are any readers out there who ever actually saw, or tried the jar-fishing that Ol’ Bill so adamantly insisted was a bona-fide method of fishing, I would certainly like to hear from you.
The flathead catfish spawn should be over, and I yearn to float a stretch of Ozark stream somewhere void of the summer canoe crowd, camp out on a gravel bar and set a trotline baited with live chubs and sunfish. In many of those deep holes which still remain along our blighted streams, there are catfish close to, or exceeding, forty pounds. I remember what it was like, waking up at dawn to stir the coals to life, drink a hot cup of coffee, and then feel the cool river water on my legs. Before the sun peeked up over a distant hilltop, I’d be paddling through the rising mist anticipating the hard lunges of a big catfish on a line stretched across a deep eddy. I miss it. Somehow I have to get out there this summer once again to a place where the chaos and capsize crowds do not go.
We need some leaders. And we’ll need lots of help on October 12, anticipating a crowd of perhaps 2,000 when our Common Sense Conservationists meet. We have a website of the same name in operation, and it will take time to let people around Missouri know it is there. We hope to soon have enough money to help defend in court some innocent hunters and fishermen who are being targeted by Conservation Agents who break the law by entering homes and property without search warrants by making unenforceable threats.
A website of this sort can carry individual complaints, and give the MDC a space to answer them. It can carry both sides of the situation, something that does not happen now. It can also show doubters, through photographs, of some of the things that are happening to public areas managed, or mismanaged, by this agency.
You will not see that other side given by our states large newspapers or television stations. But on this website, we are going to print the other side, and give the MDC a chance to answer. Putting the light of truth on what some of these agents have done, may stop many of the illegal practices they have become so fond of using.
We need a large turnout on October 12, and we need leaders. We need groups in every community to organize and grow, to insure that the Missouri Department of Conservation cannot operate without some oversight from those of us who pay hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars to them in license fees and tax dollars.
Maybe if we begin to show how they spend money in corrupt, and questionable ways, some of it will stop. And maybe if we show photos of some of the areas that our citizens own which they are devastating through contracted timber sales, we can save a few of them. It is something that will take time, and leaders. If you can be a leader, and if you are a conservationist, we need you. Call my office at 417 777 5227, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613
If you have opinions or questions about conservation, hunting or fishing or nature, remember you can talk to me about it on my Sunday morning radio program, heard on KWTO AM from 8:06 to 9:00 a.m. Our call-in line is 417-862 9977 and we will talk about anything you would like, pertaining to this column or the outdoors.
You can also hear it via computer on www. radiospringfield.com We heard this week from people who listen to the program from Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City.
My own website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com and thanks to our new employee, Kathy Pirtle, you can find Lightnin’ Ridge on facebook.