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The Lake News Online
  • Winter Is Over.. Again

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  • This is something of an historic outdoor column.   In all of the years I have written newspaper columns, well over 40 years of one or two columns each week, I have never once had to print a retraction... until now.  I hereby retract what I said two weeks ago about how winter was over!
    It involved a bit of over-optimistic, zealous hopefulness on my part, but at the time I was sure all the signs pointed toward a moderation that would bring a jonquil or two at the conclusion of February. But now, every spring-plumage duck I saw then has headed back to south Arkansas and the only thing around my place that is green is a few boughs of cedar, barely visible through the layers of white.
    This morning, as I write this column there is a half-inch of sleet underneath an inch of snow, and the temperature is 9 degrees.  That is encouraging as it is now twice as warm as it was this morning at dawn.  Therefore I feel quite comfortable in saying that the jonquils are only a couple of weeks away, and yes, by this coming weekend, winter will be officially gone!  But when I said it was gone the last time, it wasn't, and I am sorry if I mislead anyone.
    Rabbits are most affected by a late winter.  You can see them out in the snow on a moonlight night, jumping over one another in a gleeful mating ritual, which precedes the birth of baby rabbits, sometimes a little too soon.  But rabbits do not worry about that kind of thing, as they will have lots of babies into the summer.  If you have 40 or 50 kids each year, it wouldn't be a big deal if a few of them froze or got eaten by a weasel.
    You may not think of a rabbit being really smart, but back home in the hills when I was a kid, Ol' Jim, sitting there on the front bench of the pool hall, told me how he once saw a rabbit so smart it killed several of its enemies after a cold snap in early March.
    "What he done was," Jim told me, "He figgered out that as light as he was, he could run across the pond on a quarter inch of ice as long as he didn't stop.  Well if a fox got after 'im, he just headed for that pond and streaked across it, and the fox went after 'im like a flash. Well sir, that fox, bein' heavier than that little ol' rabbit", broke through the ice an' drownded."
    I asked Jim if he seen it happen, and he said he did.  He said when it thawed out he fished two dead grey foxes and one red fox out of that pond and sold their hides for ten dollars apiece.   Ol' Jim Splechter wasn't the most truthful fellow I knew, but he seldom lied to me, so I believe him.  It just goes to show that rabbits are fairly intelligent, but any good beagle can tell you that.
    Page 2 of 3 - All my old buddies from the pool hall are gone now, but Ol' Jim was the last to go.  He must've lived to be 90.  Not long ago, a reader sent me a tape of Jim playing a guitar and singing songs he wrote.  I listen to it on occasion, sort of a bluegrass kind of music.  My favorite selections are "I Gave Up Jack Daniels For You", and "Its All Your Fault, But I'm Not Blaming You."
    You might wonder how all that has anything to do with the outdoors, but you have to remember that I learned all I know about reading the signs in the woods that tells us when winter is over from Ol' Jim and Ol' Bill and Ol' Jess, right there in the pool hall.
    So I think I can say with a certainty that judging from the signs, winter is done and over with.
    If you want to catch early crappie, you need to take some light line (no bigger than four pounds, on a light spinning outfit and cast the bluffs and steep banks where there's standing timber in the water and at least 20 or 30 feet of depth. Use eighth-ounce jigs.  There will be crappie there, and you need to fish slowly so the jigs get down at least ten feet or so.  If the water is very clear, the crappie will be deeper than you will find them in murky water.  You can make your own jigs, just buy some one-eighth ounce split shot and clamp them on the shank of a long gold crappie hook that will easily bend, so you can pull it free if you hook a snag.  Then you can use old various colored plastic worms cut in pieces about an inch and a half long, threaded on that hook, with a little tail sticking out.  I have found that color doesn't matter so much in March, but most everyone favors white, yellow or chartreuse.  You sure save a lot of money that way, and you can make fifty or so in your shop or basement in a hurry.
    Another thing you can do is use a long fly-rod to lower those same jigs down about 20 feet or so beside the standing trees and stumps, then raise them slowly, stopping every couple of feet for a second or so.  Seems like the crappie in March will hit them when they stop.
    March crappie fishermen on Lake of the Ozarks, where there are a million or so private docks, cast along those docks when they sit in deeper water, and they catch a ton of crappie that way.  But the lakes I fish do not have a million docks.  I find my best crappie fishing on Norfork, Bull Shoals and Truman Lakes.
    Page 3 of 3 - If you are good with a casting outfit, using 12 or 14 pound line, there's no better time to catch a huge, fat-bellied bass from our Ozark lakes than March.  You see them move for awhile into shallower brushy water when deep water is close hitting crank baits and big spinner baits, but you can also catch big bass out in deep water on jig and pork rigs.
    We are about to print the second issue of the new magazine "Journal of the Ozarks" replacing the old Ozark Mountaineer magazine.  As we did with the first issue back in December, we are going to send out the spring issue for $7.00 and we pay the postage.  There are some great Ozark stories in that spring issue, about people and places and historic happenings.  If you have any questions about how to get one, just call me at 417-777-5227.
    You can also call me to get information on our big Outdoorsman's Swap Meet, which is free to all, taking place the last Saturday of March, which will be a beautiful day on account of... winter is over by then!  We still have free tables for those selling outdoor stuff like guns, fishing lures, turkey calls, outdoor art and cakes and cookies and canned goods, etc.
    My executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, will be there from 10 to 12 that day, working on her nails, signing autographs and trying to sell her old '85 Datsun pickup.  Get information on everything coming up on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com
    Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge@windstream.net.  I am proud to report that in the past hour the temperature here on Lightnin' Ridge has risen from 9 degrees to 15 degrees.  I can feel spring in the air!

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