Thursday, August 6, 2020

Fall Issue, LIGHTNIN' RIDGE OUTDOOR JOURNAL

 

          After months of having no distributor for our magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, we now have obtained a way to put the magazine back on the news-stands in major stores.  But the best way to get the new Fall Issue we are publishing, is to call our office at 417-777-5227 and receive it via credit card, or send a check for six dollars to LROJ, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  You can subscribe to the next 3 issues for $18 if you wish.  The fall magazine has some great reading, 96 full color pages.  It is good to know our magazine has a future again, hope you are a part of it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Finland's Best









         If I had to pick a half-dozen lures to take with me all the time no matter where I intended to fish, one of them would no doubt be the celebrated floating Rapala. While we were in Canada a few summers ago, my wife lost one of my Rapalas to a hungry smallmouth, which came up from deep water to engulf it only a few feet from the boat. The drag was set properly, but when there’s only a few feet of line out, the drag doesn’t always keep a four- pound fish from breaking a four-pound line.

         She said that she would get me another one for my birthday but I don’t know if I came out ahead that way. If she hadn’t lost that lure, I could have got one for my birthday and then had two! Believe me, you can’t have too many Rapalas. These are unique lures that have never gone through the rise and fall that most lures have experienced. They have never stopped appealing to fish and fisherman alike.

         There’s quite a story behind the Rapala. And by the way it is not pronounced like most of us pronounce it.  The lure was first made in Finland by a man named Lauri Rapala back in the 1950s.  Say Rapala, like you would say ‘spatula’.  Believe me, no one likes to have his name mispronounced… no one knows that better than me, with a name having a long ‘a’ pronounced almost always incorrectly, with a short ‘a’.

         Lauri Rapala’s whole family worked to make the lures, each one handmade and tested in a tank before it was sold. There was a small clothing store in Duluth, Minnesota whose owner was the Minnesota Finnish Consul, and he brought in several of the lures to sell. In 1959, a Minneapolis fisherman named Ron Weber went through on his way to Canada for a fishing trip and he bought several of them. He was amazed at the way fish engulfed them, and when he got back to Minnesota, he ordered 500 from Lauri Rapala. He then started the ‘Normark’ Corporation here in the U.S. just to import and sell the new lure. But Lauri Rapala didn’t mass produce the lure, and in the early days, there just weren’t enough to meet the demand. “There are so many of you,” Rapala told Weber, “and so few of us.”

         My uncle Norten was guiding on Norfork Lake in the '60s when the first Rapalas were seen there. He told me that some docks acquired a few and refused to sell them because they could make so much renting them on a daily basis. The lures were rented to customers who paid a deposit of ten dollars in addition to the rental cost of five dollars per day.  If you lost the lure, you didn’t get the deposit back, and ten bucks was a lot of money back then.

         The casting reels back in the fifties and early sixties were filled with braided nylon and most of them were old Shakespeare and Pflueger casting reels, incapable of casting any light lures. So there were few small lures used, you wanted the big ones, about ten inches long.  One of my uncle’s clients could only throw the Rapala 15 or 20 feet, so he would back-paddle away from the lure while the angler would play out the line until they were a good distance from the lure.

         Then the fisherman would wiggle and dart the lure slowly across the surface, and the bass would go after it as if they hadn’t eaten for a week. Eventually, everyone copied the Rapala, and today you’ll find imitation floating minnows from two inches to twelve inches, used for everything from bluegill to muskies. The Rebel Lure company has long made a very good Rapala imitation, but when you are using a true Rapala, you are using a lure that just can’t quite be equaled. And I don’t know any species of fish that can’t be taken on a Rapala of one size or another, either a floater or a deep-running version. And they make a pretty good birthday gift for avid fishermen!

         I go over to the nearby lake in the summer with a little switch of a rod, light line and a small Rapala lure, and walk along the bank, or run my boat along just fifteen feet or so out away from it, and catch a tubful of small green sunfish and other panfish to use for summer trotlines.  The catching of a freezerful of catfish filets starts with that little short Rapala.

         But on any Ozark river, above or below a swift flowing shoal the last two or three hours of the day, an ultra-lite spinning reel with four pound line, and a four-inch silver Rapala will catch Kentucky and smallmouth bass one right after another.  Most aren’t really large, but two pounders aren’t rare.  And every now and then, standing out waist deep in that cool current, you hook a bass that makes you think you might not get that Rapala back. In such a case, I wouldn’t even think of letting Gloria Jean use one.

Please  visit my website, wwwlarrydablemont.com, and write me at box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com
          

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How not to be a Victim


Larry Dablemont column  July 20, 2020      
      
       About three years ago I sat in the Jefferson City offices of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Enforcement Chief Larry Yamnitz. Missouri citizens need to know his direct words to me. “No conservation agent can enter your home, barn, shed or vehicle without a search warrant. They can only do so if you give them permission.”

       I printed what he said. Some of my newspapers would not print that story. I do not know why so many people believe otherwise. I got two letters this week from Missourians who made the mistake of greeting a ‘game warden’ at their doors and allowing them to come in. One was told by an agent that he was following up on a tip he got over facebook. When the ‘tip’ didn’t pan out, the agent noticed a rattlesnake skin on the resident’s wall. He decided that since there was no proof he bought it in another state, it was illegal, and he confiscated it and wrote the guy a citation. Because he let the agent in, he wound up paying a $200 fine. If he had refused to let him enter, since there was no warrant, he would have saved his rattlesnake skin and $200.

       Yes, he is mad enough to bite nails, and yes he could have hired a lawyer and had the case thrown out.  But what every agent knows is that few people will hire a lawyer for $500 dollars and spend much of a day in court to save $200.  And so they come to your door with a smile and say, “Would it be okay if I come in and talk to you about something?”

       That happened to a young man with a family in northern Missouri two years ago by the name of Henshall.  The friendly agents confiscated five deer heads he had killed on his land on technicalities. Basically he couldn’t prove he wasn’t guilty… and if you open your doors to agents whom judges won’t give a search warrant, you won’t be able to prove you aren’t either.  YOU NEED TO SPREAD THAT WORD! DON’T LET THEM IN!

       My new book, “The Truth About the Missouri Department of Conservation, will be published this year, about 10,000 copies given away to Missourians free of charge. No one can accuse me of making money from it. It contains the stories of hundreds of outdoorsmen treated in such a way, many of them opening their doors to agents who should have been turned away or having their barns or vehicles searched illegally. The latest story involves a lady by the name of Sally Denton, who found 3 baby raccoons and called a licensed wildlife rehabilitator named Leann Tapscott who lived four hours away. She headed for the woman’s home. An agent by the name of Alex Walker who had been on the job for only nine months, found out about the baby coons, and got there first.  He took them out in Ms. Denton’s front lawn and shot them in the head.  Ms. Tapscott heard the gunshots as she was driving to Ms. Denton’s home. Now because of all this, Ms. Tapscott is in danger of losing her wildlife rehabilitators license which the MDC controls exclusively.

       Larry Yamnitz has retired. The man did a good job and tried to change things, but many agents beneath him ignored his directions. His replacement is nothing like him.  What is coming in MDC enforcement involves a complete loss of rights of every citizen. I never dreamed it could get this bad, with agents violating rights, breaking laws and dealing in stolen ‘confiscated’ goods. Even losing a one million dollar lawsuit filed against a pair of agents has not changed the MDC.

       Yes, they paid out a million dollars and the two agents still work for them.  One has been promoted.

       As an ex-agent recently told me in a letter to be published in my upcoming book, “There are many men and women working as agents today who should never be given a badge and gun… I know, I have worked with them”.  The book contains stories from many old time conservation agents and other employees.  I cannot wait to publish what ex-agent Rick Vance has told me, what long-time employee Ed Webb did to fight them.  But that book, like this column, cannot be mentioned in many newspapers, because publishers actually fear what the MDC can do to them financially.  I don’t, despite the threats I am receiving. That book will tell the stories of many who have been targeted and victimized.  If you open your door to a friendly smiling agent who does not have a search warrant, you are going to be one of them.

        If you do get to read this somewhere, ask yourself why it cannot even be printed as a ‘letter to the editor’ in many publications, much less as an independent column I give away.

Read more on my blogspot, larrydablemontoutdoors or my website, www.larrydablemont.com.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com

TOPWATER TIME

 Larry Dablemont column   7-18-20        


         Most reservoir bass fishermen fish deep in the summer, trying to lure a lunker by bouncing jigs over ledges and rocks.  But if you want to fish a topwater lure, there are places and ways to do it even in the heat of the summer.  It's easiest when you can concentrate your efforts toward those waters where bass can be found in 6 or 8 feet of water or less.

         In large lakes, where low oxygen levels and water temperatures force bass deep, you'll be wasting your time fishing topwater lures, unless you find schools of bass herding shad to the surface, or fish before sunrise or after sunset.   Some lakes have a lot of schooling bass activity during the heat of the summer, but they are usually not very large fish, and they don't stay on top very long.   Often, bass are found in tributaries leading into the lakes, where there is inflowing cooler water, and higher oxygen levels. To get up into those tributaries, and fish some fairly small holes, you may need a boat and motor you can pull over a shoal every now and then. Some of the holes are deep and clear, but after dark in the mid to late summer, bass in those waters become very aggressive.

         Smaller, shallower lakes hold bass which are entirely different in habit that those in big deep Ozark lakes.  A private lake large enough to launch a small boat can provide great topwater fishing at night, especially if it is spring fed.

         But perhaps the best topwater fishing is found on Ozark rivers which become fairly clear in the summer and yet maintain some current; and that includes rivers like the Spring, the Elk, and even Shoal Creek. I've caught bass after dark in dozens of small streams, and there's one topwater lure that I have caught more largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass with than all others ......... the jitterbug.  Jitterbugs are easy to fish, you crank them back with a slow, steady retrieve producing that bloop~bloop~bloop action on top. When bass hit them after dark, you hear it, then feel it.

         Two years ago in late summer, a friend and I flew into a small Ontario lake and camped for one night to see if Canadian bass would hit a jitterbug. In that area, largemouth peak at just a little under seven pounds. We found that they were suckers for a jitterbug, even before it got dark. The first bass, about 4 pounds, engulfed a jitterbug at 7:30 p.m.  It didn't get dark until about 11 pm., but when it did, the action just got hotter. We caught dozens and dozens of bass on topwater lures, and almost all ranged from three pounds up to six.  Big bass continued to nail the jitterbugs until 8:00 the next morning.

         In most large Ozark reservoirs  in late summer white bass or stripers will begin surfacing chasing shad and provide great topwater fishing.  You can find them on days when the water is calm and shad are massing.  They go on summer feeding frenzies and push shad to the surface on and off for hours at a time. Anglers who find this happening need to have lures they can cast for distance, because you can spook these fish with a wake or motor trying to get close.  When you find surfacing summer fish, whether its blacks, whites or stripers, you may find enough action to make your arms tired. But it should be pointed out that it takes more luck than knowledge to find them at times.

         One of the best topwater lures for deeper water, or for surfacing blacks, whites or stripers, is the Zara spook. It's a fairly old lure and it isn't  easy to use. But a Zara spook is large and easy to cast.  It is most effective for bass when it is slowly jiggled and walked, to cover as little distance as possible with the greatest amount of disturbance on the surface. Anyone can learn to use the lure with some work, but spook-fishing can indeed get into some work.

      You may have some topwater lure in your tackle box that will produce great results in a certain body of water at a certain time. The only way to find out is to go out and try it.  There are few methods of fishing that are easier to do than topwater fishing.  But sometimes the best time to fish a topwater lure is when it is the hardest to see....at night.

My website, www.larrydablemont.com is up and going… check it out.  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 OR email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The shirt off my back

I still have this shirt, acquired when I was in college at the age of seventeen, and nobody can have it!


         Down at the pool hall when I was a kid I heard some front bench regulars talking about the funeral they had went to. They said of the fellow being laid to rest that he was a guy who would give you the shirt off his back.  I thought about how I would like to think they will say that about me at my funeral, if I was lucky enough to have one---  Some kid who lived the life I lived on the river could never be sure of that.  But I thought how great it would be if I was referred to as “A kid who would give someone the shirt off his back.”  And what do you think happened to me a week or so later when I was down on the river baitin’ my trotline?  Here came two fellows in a canoe and the one in the back had no shirt on.  He was getting sunburnt something terrible and it came to me than that the Good Lord had given me the chance to do something of significance maybe for the first time in my life, and I could tell the old-timers at the pool hall what I had done.

         It isn’t that I am selfish or vain… I never have been neither.  I recently pointed out to a friend of mine that today I give away lots of fish to elderly folks I know on a regular basis.  But he pointed out that I don’t like to eat fish, and asked how many times I had given away a wild mallard, or a wild turkey or a batch of mushrooms.  He had me there… I have always been a bad one to put a dime in the offering plate when I had a couple of quarters in my pocket.  Well that’s the way it was when I was a kid anyway and had some quarters.

         “Fellers” I said to that shirtless canoeist as they pulled into a nearby gravel bar long ago, “ You are obviously in need of some good sunburn lotion or a good shirt.” With that I just pulled off my shirt to give it to him.  It was one that had a Houston Tigers logo on it. I guess it was a little faded, but for cryin’ out loud there weren’t no holes in it as I remember. It was one of my favorites!

         He thanked me for the offer and told me I could keep my shirt… said he had his own shirt in the canoe, but just wanted to get a suntan. He added that mine looked a little small.  That was back when I hadn’t got very muscular yet.  They went on down the river, and I muttered under my breath that I hoped they didn’t catch one good fish the whole day. I felt guilty about that afterwards. I don’t know if it will ever be said of me, “ol’ dablemont would give a feller the shirt off his back”! I have often looked for that opportunity but never had the chance to do it.

         But I would do that if the opportunity arose, and I think it should be noted as something I would like to have said of me at some kind of memorial service by someone who isn’t a relative.  It might be a stretch to figure someone would be there who ISN’T a close relative of mine.  But it doesn’t matter.  I know, and the Good Lord knows that I’d give most any shirt I have to someone who didn’t have one... Except for the one my daughters gave me a couple of years back for fathers day.  That one doesn’t have a stain on it.


         Thought maybe some of you readers might enjoy this little poem I wrote the other day when I sat on my screened porch and began to sweat for the first time this year and recognized that the spring of 2020 is now a thing of the past…

I was glad to see the spring come, I hoped it would last awhile.
The hatching birds and flowers, always makes me smile.
The breeze is warm, the fish will bite, and wildlife will be lively.
But then before you turn around, summer will arrive.
And there’ll be snakes and ticks and heat, that hangs on like the plague.  “Cause spring’s a fleeting young beauty, and summer’s a mean old hag.

Remember that if you need to send me a letter the address is Box 22, Bolivar, mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com  My new website is just www.larrydablemont.com 





Big Bullfrogs, Bright Lights









 
         I remember catching frogs from the river when I was only about 13 or 14 years old.  We used carbide headlamps like miners used, with polished globes.  My goodness, there are lights today that bullfrogs in the past would not believe.  And that’s what you have to have to catch a bullfrog by hand.  Blind him, and a bullfrog don’t know which way to jump, so you can just reach down and grab him.  But you can’t be indecisive about it.  You have to grab a bullfrog like you might go after a drifting hundred-dollar bill on a windy day. Many things shine in the light at night along our waterways, the eyes of spiders and insects, sparkling rocks, and other amphibians and reptiles, but when you learn what a set of bullfrog eyes look like, you have little doubt when you see a pair of them.  A big bullfrog's eyes looks a little like the headlights on a Model T Ford.

         Once you have him, the best thing to do is put him in a wet cloth sack... burlap feed bags were best but today they are hard to find. The men who once scoured the rivers and creeks at night, catching bullfrogs by hand as they traveled along either wading or boating, were true outdoorsmen and today they are really rare too, like burlap bags.  They came from a different time and training.

         Most of today’s froggers gig them, and that's a great deal easier perhaps.  You don't have to get into the weeds or get nearly as close.  But if you gig frogs, you need to know which ones are too small just at a distant glance, because you can't cull them.  A gigged frog will die in time.  The bigger the frog, the better the eating, and that's what most froggers are after.  Frogging may not be the greatest of sport; there are perhaps things to do that are more fun.  But frogs are as good to eat as anything!

         There are few people who do not relish fried frog legs.  A big bullfrog in Ozark waters may reach a length of 15 to 18 inches with their legs stretched out.  A twelve-inch frog isn't big enough for most, he isn't really a keeper.  Taking one of them home is like keeping a six-inch bass!  On a big bullfrog, you will find quite a bit of meat on the back and the front legs as well as the back legs, so skin the whole frog and fry all of it.  Cut off the head, cut off the feet, and then it will skin easily.  Remove the entrails and cut the sheath of nerve fibers in the inside of the small of the back.  If those are not cut, the frog will jump and twitch in the pan when you fry it, and it looks as if he is still alive.

         Frog meat is very white and firm, with a flavor all its own.  Frogs are very clean creatures, actually, though the water you find them in may look a little bit bad due to modern day pollution and algae growth.  If it gets too polluted, you won't find the frogs, and that's why so often you hear froggers say, "There aren't any frogs anymore!"  What they should be saying is, "There's not much clean water anymore."

         Bullfrogs eat lots of insects, and they do nail them with a long tongue.  That's why during the day you can dangle a hook in front of one with a little white or red yarn on it and they'll nail it.  Years ago when ponds had lots of bullfrogs and clean water, farm kids caught frogs during the day in such a manner.  But bullfrogs eat a lot of things, including smaller frogs, small snakes, worms, small fish and of course their very favorite food, the crawfish (crawdads).

         The bullfrog is highly favored by mink and coons and otters and bigger snakes as well, so they have to watch for lots of enemies, but only one enemy wears a headlamp!  One of his greatest predators is the great blue heron, and they are at incredibly high numbers right now in the Ozark waters.  There are too many of them, more every year. That has a lot to do with why there are fewer bullfrogs right now in small streams and lakes where there once were so many.  But froggers have a lot to do with that as well, as does the degradation of our rivers, increasingly tainted with herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer and becoming choked with algae.   Some ponds which were clean enough to swim in 40 years ago are now covered with slime.

         You'll find bullfrogs in future summers where you find plenty of big bullfrog tadpoles this summer.  And any place where there are bullfrogs, you'll find a few froggers in July.  And that's because you can't find anything much better to eat than a bullfrog.


         Please go see my website, larrydablemont.com and if you want to write to me, the address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. E-mail address is lightninridge47@gmail.com.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

A Bait Dealer's Delight



The benefits of a healthy cricket on a hook...


       I have a bait box in my basement that is made for crickets.  Personally, I never used crickets, I always had minnows and night-crawlers and crayfish for most of my serious fishing as a kid.  On one occasion, I used a big grasshopper on my Uncle Roy's farm pond.  My cousin Butch and I had a pair of old cane poles, and I took the lead weight off the line and hooked the grasshopper so he would float and kick.  A big old hefty bass, (which was only about two pounds...but back in my youth, that was a dandy) came up and nailed it.  That was an exciting day.
  

      But I never did use a cricket, not even once that I can think of.  Bluegill fishermen swear by them though, and if I remember right I have seen bait shops with large containers just filled with crickets, and they were selling them for a respectable price.  I bring this up because all of a sudden, here on Lightnin' Ridge, there are crickets everywhere in my sheds and even in my basement.  If they are indeed good bait, and someone would buy them, I may get rich!

       There are black ones and brown ones, small ones and big ones, and I'll sell a dozen for a quarter, obo.  Obo means I'll take any respectable offer, but I'd like to have a quarter a dozen.  It sort of reminds me of the time my dad sold my old 1950 Ford when I was a kid still too young to drive.  He told the guy who came to look at it that he was asking $100 dollars for the car but he would take $50.  I always wondered why he didn't just say it was $50 dollars and be done with it, but Dad said it was the way you conducted financial business...you made someone think they were getting a better buy than you wanted to give them. 

       So although I want a quarter per dozen for my crickets, if you'll come into the basement and help catch them, I will sell them to you for your best offer.  It is really hard to get them out from underneath my pool table. If you are a bait shop owner, and will promise to catch a hundred or more, I will pay you a quarter to come here and help me catch them, then we'll work the rest out on a commission basis.

       I notice that it is really hard to step on a cricket. I guess crickets have especially well-developed reflexes, because they are very good at jumping when your foot is only a few inches above one.  I realize what I must have looked like, trying to stomp several crickets at once which were faster than I was. Rap stars may have gotten started in cricket-infested neighborhoods.
      
  
     On a more serious note, in a recent column I asked the Corps of Engineers to respond to a problem about seeing fish entrails and carcasses all over a popular launching ramp known as Fairfield on Truman Lake. I did so after I saw a man get out of his pickup as he launched his boat, slip on a slimy clump of fish entrails and fall hard on the concrete. The Corps didn’t much like me writing about it… they never contacted me at all even though I asked them too.  I wanted to get their side of things, as they apparently feel that dumping of fish carcasses at a launching ramp is not something they are obligated to do anything about. Three different people who live in the area responded pretty much the same.  They told me about a very efficient fish-cleaning station at a big recreational vehicle operation and store a half-mile away where local R.V. owners and other area fishermen leave carcasses and entrails in a big tub.

       The man whom I saw emptying the tub at the launching ramp said the campground owner sent him there each evening to do it.  The Corps went to him and asked him about it and he said he had nothing to do with it.  Of course when I asked others, they said he did.  I guess the Corps Ranger who looked into it didn’t ask anyone else.  But the official word from them is that the campground and storeowner has nothing to do with the problem.  Anyhow, I am pleased to announce that I used that ramp a few days ago and there were no carcasses or entrails to be seen anywhere.

       Apparently the situation is this:  It is against the rules on Truman lake to dump live alligators, cottonmouths, dead dogs or cats, human bodies, household garbage or junk vehicles at the ramp.  But as for fish entrails and carcasses it is questionable.  If you get out of a vehicle to launch your boat and fall because the ramp is a little slick with dead fish, that is your problem.  You need to be more careful.  If I ever get any Corps people to talk with me, I will give their side of the story.