This is a tough time of year for outdoorsmen like me. How do you decide what to do with your spare time if you are a hunter and fisherman who likes to bow hunt for deer, hunt doves or blue winged teal, and yet knows that for the next few weeks you can have some of the best topwater fishing you will have all year.
I'll tell you something folks, if you think you have problems with your daily life, you are just lucky you don't have to make those kinds of decisions. I've near about developed an ulcer just worrying about it. If I am fishing somewhere, and I see a flock of blue-winged ducks wing pass, it just ruins my day. I stand there up to my knees casting a lure, wondering what it would be like out on the marsh with my Labrador looking at a handful of decoys.
You can't ask for a better time to set a trotline for flathead catfish, monsters that might weigh 30 or 40 pounds or better. What could you put in the freezer for the winter that would last longer or make better meals than three or four big old flatheads?
I can't complain about my latest fishing trip, in which we went after bass on the river above Truman Lake. The Pomme de Terre River was flowing fairly high, the water was fast. In one stretch of swift, deep water, my buzz bait attracted two or three fish that seemed to see the boat and dive away at the last minute. So we fished on downstream awhile, disgusted with the lack of interest shown to us by community bass, apparently not interested in stuffing themselves, in lieu of a cool front which had passed, and a slight northerly wind. Bass are like that. They hate a north wind and a change in barometric pressure. I understand that. When it is a warm fall day and the wind is out of the west or south, I can eat three or four pieces of fried chicken, some mashed potatoes and gravy and half a chocolate pie. But with the wind changing from the north, I can't eat but maybe a couple of drumsticks and a couple pieces of pie. I have no interest whatsoever in potatoes and gravy. It does the same thing to bass, when that wind switches from the north.
So I kept thinking about that spot where I had seen the fish and we returned to it about two hours before dark. It was too swift to try to fish from a boat, so I tied it up and we walked up the bank. I tied on a big topwater red-fin lure, and cast out into the current. I brought it back with a series of quick jerks, and two feet from the bank, and it disappeared in the swirl of a savage strike. The fish was twice as powerful as a big bass, and into the current he went, stripping line against the drag of my casting reel, straining fourteen-pound line. I knew then what those fish were, hybrid stripers, a cross between the eggs of a striper female, fertilized with the roe of a white bass male. They can grow up to 15 or 20 pounds in places, and they come up the rivers from large reservoirs in the spring and in the fall.
Page 2 of 3 - It was a fight! I tightened my drag in order to keep him from going too far downstream, and that medium-action casting rod was arced about as much as it ever has been. In about five or ten minutes, he pulled loose. I don't know for sure how big he was, but at least ten pounds, too big to hold in that powerful current if the hooks aren't dead set through a hard jaw. But I made another cast and another fish followed it to the bank only a few feet away and just tried to obliterate the lure. I thought I had this one a little better and he wasn't quite as big. Straining against that current, I finally got him up on the bank beside me, a 23-inch hybrid I think might have weighed seven pounds.
For a while it was fast and furious, and I landed four of a half dozen fish that I hooked. All were better than five pounds, but none bigger than the first. One of my fishing partners lost a fish that just would not turn, it went downstream until it broke the line and took a big red-fin lure with it. I think that fish may have been between 12 and fifteen pounds.
If we could have fished through that current again and again from the boat, it would have been easier to land the fish because you can follow them somewhat. I caught a ten-pound hybrid once from the Pomme de Terre River, and we must have followed that fish downstream for a mile or so before we could get him close to a net.
These hybrids are great fish, and biologists should pay a lot more attention to them and perhaps less attention to stripers. Hybrids are far more eager to hit a lure than stripers, and they are in the size range that gives ordinary fishermen a chance to land them. They survive better in the Ozarks than stripers. I don't know this for sure, but I will bet that if you stock a thousand striper fingerlings and a thousand hybrid fingerlings in any of our lakes, the survival rate of the hybrids will be 25 or 30 percent greater.
I not only love to catch them, I like to eat them. What a filet you get off of a seven pounder. I take the filets and put them in cold water to sit in a refrigerator for a couple of hours, then as the meat firms, I use my filet knife to remove every ounce of red meat. The remaining white meat is fine eating. With the red meat it is too strong, fishy- tasting. You surely do not want fishy-tasting fish. That's worse than squirrelly-tasting squirrel!
We still have plenty of room for outdoor artists and craftsmen who want to attend our Big Outdoorsman's Event on October 12 here in Bolivar, at our 16,000 square foot arena. I am betting we will have better than 2,000 people attend from all over the country, so if you are an artist, woodcarver, etc, who does wildlife, country or outdoor art, call me to reserve a free spot, at 417 777 5227. This may be the break you have been waiting for.
Page 3 of 3 - You can hear more details this coming Sunday on my radio program... 8:06 a.m. on KWTO 560 AM or on the computer, www.radiospringfield.com There are also details given on the website, www.commonsenseconservationist.org or www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org