Monday, April 14, 2014

Ten Pounders Every Spring

A drake and hen blue-winged teal rest on an Ozark pond, 
on their way back to the northern wetlands where they will nest.
I caught another ten-pound fish this week, on ultra-lite gear with four-pound line. I do it about every year, while fishing for white bass on a small tributary where they like to come to spawn. Caught one last year and another the year before. I wish I could say they were ten-pound walleye, but they weren’t. They were carp!

Every carp I catch during the spring is hooked in the body somehow. Wish I could hook a ten-pound walleye just once. It is a fact though that gold and silver is more rare than sandstone and limestone. And almost everything you want to catch is rarer than a carp!

But what the heck, a ten-pounder is a ten-pounder and fighting and landing a hard-fighting carp isn’t like falling in the creek or being flogged by a goose. If I weren’t too lazy to clean it and prepare it and smoke it in my smoker, a carp from that clear water would be pretty good eating.

While fishing that one tributary, I have also caught some hybrids that were from six pounds up to ten pounds, and they are a prize fish that fight like nothing short of a trophy smallmouth. But with all those fish in that family, whether striper, white bass or hybrid, you really need to remove the red meat, or you won’t find it as tasty.

 About twenty-five years ago I would go up the Pomme de Terre River above Pomme de Terre Lake regularly and find some outstanding white bass fishing. Fisheries biologists were up there every spring for several years shocking up walleye and white bass, intent on finding out all they could about them.

They would place small round white tags just behind the dorsal fin, embedded in the flesh. If you caught a white bass with that tag and sent the tag in, you would get five dollars, or perhaps twenty dollars for the tag.

One spring I caught about 25 of the five-dollar white bass and two of the 20-dollar ones. Back then you caught some big whites up that river. Most white bass only live from four to five years in Ozark reservoirs. The biologists came with big new boats, and new pick-ups, and I don’t know what they learned, with all that time spent on the river, all the research and all the money it must have cost.

Over the past five years the white bass fishing in that river has been awful. The species has experienced major die-offs in the lake during the summer. What good did all that time and money do, if biologists can’t find a way to at least keep the white bass numbers as healthy as they were back then? What in the world did they learn?

About three years ago, I thought there would be a real resurgence of the white bass in Pomme de Terre, as you could catch dozens and dozens of small ones, about 10 or 11 inches long. Then last year, there were few to be found. This year again, there are a bunch of the small ones, but big ones aren’t there.

The late Andrew Hulsey, an old time fisheries biologist in Arkansas who became the Director of that state’s Game and Fish Commission, once told me that he thought biologists did too much research without enough action. He said the constant studies and analysis did little to make fish and wildlife plentiful and healthy, if biologists didn’t do the work in the field to actually effect healthy populations.

They still come up the river to shock walleye in the spring, and they take the biggest ones from the fishermen to use as brood stock. I don’t know if the walleye fry they hatch ever get back into the Pomme, but I know walleye fishing in the Pomme de Terre River was much better twenty-five years ago. You might wonder if lots of those big walleye get eaten by the shockers and their friends and relatives.

 A fellow who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation tells me, at risk of losing his job, that in March every year, different area offices within the Conservation Department begin to buy everything they can think of to use up the money budgeted to them. “If there is money left,” he says, “then they won’t get the same budget for next year.”

He said he has seen boats and motors and ATV’s purchased and never used, just because of that. The huge sale the MDC has on occasion contains all kinds of those items purchased just to use up budget money.

I talked to another employee recently about what is happening on our wildlife management areas, paid for and owned by all of us. Here is what he told me… “Nothing is done the same for very long. We get into one kind of work to manage an area, and all of a sudden some new manager comes along and we have to change everything. His new idea lasts awhile and then they come up with something else.

They do not have any idea in Jefferson City what it takes to create small game habitat. They know that deer and turkey numbers won’t be hurt, so we end up tearing out fencerows and hedgerows so that some local farmer can reap the benefits of planting a bigger area. He leaves a little for wildlife, and the department gets lots of money and he gets lots of money, and each year we have fewer rabbits and quail.”

He also told me that no one knows how much acreage around Department of Conservation land that Bass Pro Shop is buying. He said that it might be that some day, Bass Pro Shops owns more land around the elk areas in Southeast Missouri than the Department of Conservation owns. “You can kind of see it coming,” he says, “When they start hunting elk on any kind of basis, a lot of elk will be found on Bass Pro Shop land. It might be that if you know the right people there, you will be able to kill a nice bull elk there someday.”

A resident of that Peck Ranch Area says, “You should see the clearing of the woods down there to put in ‘elk habitat’. I wonder sometimes if the elk wasn’t an excuse to bring in private logging companies to make a bunch of money for loggers and the MDC.”

There is a great deal of money to be made in bringing down the big oaks and other hardwoods that are increasing in value every year. It is happening on more and more of the public land we own, and the MDC ‘manages’… even land given to them to preserve and protect.

The news media could go out with some cameras and show the whole state what a devastating effect the modern MDC is having on our conservation areas. But no one in the media will ever investigate all this. I have asked them many times, and no TV station even responds.

Large newspapers aren’t about to when they are getting free material of all kinds from the Department of Conservation, including photos and articles slanted their way. The advertisers they need are too often close partners of the MDC. Anything you see about what the ‘elk project’ amounts to will be dictated to the media of our state by the MDC, and it will be what they show. This column goes to 30 newspapers and a few of the larger ones will likely not print it. If that doesn’t back up what I am saying here, what does?

 Contact me at or write Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. See my website at

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Issues Now Out!!!

The Spring 2014 Issues of both the Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal and the new Journal of the Ozarks are now available for purchase! Place your order by calling 417-777-5227 today...

Sights of Spring, and Gobblers

The Canada goose can be seen high on the steep bluff as a small black object
As still as she can be, the goose, (and it could be a male) is incubating eggs on one of the warmest places she can find…the bluff facing the west, where warm sunlight helps the incubation process.
 This weekend, fathers who take their kids turkey hunting on the Youth Hunt, may have a rough time calling in gobblers. It is a very late spring season, and all the turkeys I see are in large flocks. You may see six or seven gobblers all huffed up and strutting, but they are in groups of 20 or 30 hens or more. In such situations, they do not gobble much, and they have little interest in a call, no matter how good you are at it. Even grizzled old veteran turkey hunters like me can’t get them to move much when they are looking at those gorgeous hens only a few yards away. Sometimes when you have a situation like what we have now, they break up a little toward noon, and it is easier to call in a gobbler at that time of day. But sometimes it is easier to ambush one from a blind built somewhere, where gobblers fed on scattered corn back in the winter. Youth hunting is best done from very well-concealed blinds where a kid can move around a little and point a gun without being seen.

After I wrote the article making light of the wild turkey “grand slam feat”, Ms. Wiggins got a call from a hunter who was irate that I would write such a thing. But I stand behind what I said; bragging about achieving a grand slam is absolute silliness, as is the idea of ‘scoring’ wild gobblers. Eastern wild gobblers are pretty easy to kill any time by true outdoorsman who knows what he is doing. As a turkey-hunting guide in the 70’s and 80’s, I never had any trouble getting a turkey for clients in Arkansas or Missouri. And the Rio Grand gobblers of the flat country in west Kansas and Oklahoma are pushovers. I say this as someone who has hunted them often. The Merriam’s gobblers in Nebraska, which I saw year after year, were darn close to being tame. I used to call up Merriam’s gobblers with my mouth while hunting ducks up there in the sandhill’s waterholes. There were not many trees, and each rancher had a grove of pines or cottonwoods around his home. That’s where the turkeys roosted and they became pests.

Honestly, if you are going to brag about a “grand slam” in turkey hunting, you should try to achieve an Ozark river “grand slam”… a largemouth bass, a smallmouth bass, a Kentucky bass and a rock bass all on the same float trip. Or try for an Ozark lakes grand slam… a green sunfish, a bluegill, a long-ear sunfish and a crappie on the same fishing trip. Originally, back when I was a kid, the outdoor magazines wrote about the “grand slam” of big game hunters in the west. It could consist of any four “trophies” from the Rocky Mountains, out of mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, antelope and mountain goat. Each had to have big horns or antlers of course.

Influenced by those magazines, I had several duck hunting “grand-slams” on the river with my dad when I was about thirteen… a mallard, a wood-duck, a gadwall and any other species in one day, maybe even a coot. I got over that kind of thinking when I grew up. Anyone who tries to make other hunters think he is a great turkey hunter by killing Rio-Grands or Merriam’s gobblers is still a little bit juvenile.

Men should hunt to enjoy the challenge, to enjoy the outdoors, to enjoy the meat.
No wild creature should be deemed a ‘trophy’. If you take a youngster hunting this week, impress that upon him.

Rich Abdoler and I stopped at a brushy little draw on the lake to look for some old fishing lures and it was just full of coots, maybe a hundred or so. What dumb birds they are. I remember a bad spring storm hitting one night, leaving dead coots all over the streets of Houston, Missouri. Caught migrating in that storm, they had been trying to find a place to alight, and the streetlights on wet pavement made them think they were taking refuge on water.

Coots lack the wariness of anything but the most witless of creatures, but you’d have to be desperate to eat one. They taste BAD!! Okay, so I ate a couple… once. An otter was hiding in that brushy mess along the bank, no doubt preparing to have himself a coot feast. Rich and I spooked him, and the rascal made a run for it, diving into the lake convinced he had narrowly escaped. The lake is rife with dead shad now, washed up into the coves by the thousands and thousands. Up on the banks there are sun-dried shad everywhere.

We also saw a loon on the lake, on its way back to the Canadian lakes where it will breed in late May. And there were pie-billed grebes, normally just little unremarkable brown diving birds. But we saw several breeding males, which look nothing like they will look on our rivers in the fall when they head back south. They had bright orange eye-patches on their heads and rusty colored breasts. In mating season, even the most unspectacular of male birds take on colors and attitudes, something short of peacocks perhaps, but still magnificent to the mates they wish to attract.

The day was capped off with finding a goose incubating eggs on a bluff ledge high above the water, so steep you could not have climbed it or even stood upon it. Many years back, artist and biologist Charley Schwartz brought to our attention the fact that giant Canada geese often nested on bluffs along the Missouri River. In years past I have photographed Canada geese nesting in logs, in hollow trees, on the ground and in man-made boxes, but finally I got a photo of one nesting on a sheer bluff. You can see those pictures on my website, given at the end of this column.

We will take one more nature trip to Truman Lake on April 19, but this one will be a little different. Along with Corps of Engineers Ranger Rich Abdoler, we will hike into the woods to show people the nesting eagles and a 300 year old white oak bigger than most folks have ever seen. But we will also teach people how to catch crappie and find edible mushrooms. You never know if we will hit a date when the morels are popping out or not, but I am hopeful. We might even be able to hear some wild gobblers. We’ll split the mushrooms among the participants.

We’ll take up to 15 people across the lake on a big pontoon boat, and have a fish fry at mid-day. I’ll take some minnows and bobbers and hooks so if someone wants to bring a fishing rod, they can have a shot at catching some crappie. Should be lots of migrating birds to see and we’ll take a short hike into the woods where there was an old homeplace first built in the 1800’s.

The cost is 50 dollars per person for the big dinner and the entire day outside, hunting mushrooms, exploring, fishing a little and visiting the eagles, which should have a couple of fledglings right now. To get more information, or to get your name on the list, call our office at 417-777-5227 or email me at We can only take the first 15 who want to go, but if we have more than that we may try to schedule another day soon after.

Check my website to see the photos of the bluff-nesting giant Canada goose. It is And if you are as anti-computer as I am, you can reach me via regular mail at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Miracle, No Doubt

 I want to thank everyone who came to our big swap meet last Saturday, the crowd was the biggest one we have ever had and the place was packed. I think it was the biggest crowd we have had in the five or six or seven years we have done this big event. I surely did enjoy getting to meet so many readers of this newspaper column, and lots of old friends. 
Visitors found some real bargains, and of course my wife Gloria Jean said it was the very best anniversary she ever had. I recall that spring day when we got married and borrowed her dad’s car and headed for Taneycomo. Halfway down there I was talking about the good trout fishing we were going to have and she sort of came down to earth a little, after the giddiness of being so happy about finding a husband of my caliber.

“Taneycomo!” she exclaimed as the old car rumbled southward… “I thought you said if I’d marry you you’d take me to Acapulco!”

Maybe I did, I can’t remember. I always got the two places mixed up. Anyways, I gave her the choice of going trout fishing on Taneycomo again this year or spending the day at my swap meet and she chose the latter. 

My executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, came to her first public appearance and showed up late of course. Folks were excited about finally meeting her. But she isn’t much for public relations. When she got there, she started working on her nails and put up a little sign saying she would sign autographs for ten cents apiece or two for a nickel. This, in spite of the fact that I am paying her three dollars and a quarter an hour just to sit there and be nice to folks. I don’t know if I will let her come again.

By the time you read this, the spring issues of both my magazines, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal and the Journal of the Ozarks, will be out. If you are a subscriber, you should get your issues to one or both next week, providing the U.S. Postal Service does what we paid them for. If you don’t get yours, or if you want to get one or both and aren’t a subscriber yet, call Ms. Wiggins at 417 777 5227 and ask her how to get one. She might sign one for you twice… for a nickel.

Sometimes you see small miracles happen. I saw one yesterday. I normally don’t fish or hunt on weekends, because I like to be outdoors alone and I avoid the crowds. But Sunday a pair of elderly relatives came by and wanted to catch some of the smallmouth I have found over the past couple of weeks. In their younger years they became accustomed to catching bass on casting outfits with line of 12 or 14 pounds, and with those, you cast big spinner baits or topwater lures which weigh three-eighths of an ounce or better.

But what I have been doing involves little quarter-ounce jigs and you can’t cast those with bait-casting open face reels unless you are really good with one and know what you are doing. These folks were unable to get the lighter lures out very far, and while I was catching lots of fish on a little light action spinning reel that I could cast a long ways, they weren’t catching many. They wanted to catch fish on crank-baits and spinner baits they could throw easily, but in the clear deep water, with that heavy line, the bass weren’t hitting those larger lures. 

I gave them the smaller jigs to use and for about two hours they would catch an occasional small bass, none larger than 11 or 12 inches. On casting gear, with the heavier rods, those little fish do not put up much of a fight. I tried to maneuver the boat where they would have a good chance of catching fish but it wasn’t working. Finally about four in the evening, they decided they just weren’t going to catch any fish and decided they would quit and head home.

I do a lot of praying when I am out in the woods. Lots of times I just thank God for letting me be there, and allowing me to be healthy enough to keep doing what I do. Sometimes I thank God for letting me see things you don’t normally see, and sometimes I thank Him for everything I can think of. Sometimes I argue with God, asking Him why He has let this world be taken over by such money-hungry, downright evil people who seem to mock Him. 

Sometimes I get downright mad because the wind is blowing so hard, and I let Him know it. Sometimes if a storm comes up and I get scared of the lightning, I talk to God a great deal differently than when I am mad. My praying isn’t very flowery or poetic, like the kind of praying my dad could do, so I don’t let anyone hear it. But I know God hears it. Once when I was arguing with him and blaming him for not doing better with things here on earth, a big limb fell off a tree and landed in the water a few yards from my canoe. I got the message!

But Sunday I told God I don’t get to church very often, and reminded him what good Christian people I had with me, and how they are in church most every Sunday and have done so much good with their lives. I reminded him that because of their age this man and his wife wouldn’t get to fish many times this year, and I ask him if he’d just let them catch a couple of good bass before we went in. I really figured God was too busy to hear such a selfish request.

And while I know many people will laugh about this, I swear this is the truth! I had some compulsion to stop in a big deep hole on the way back to my pickup where I dropped my little lure right down to the bottom. And while never once in my entire life have I caught smallmouth bass under my boat in such a manner, a hefty smallmouth nailed it, fighting like a tiger. I told the couple to do the same thing, and they began to drop the lure straight down, and big heavy bass from 14 to 16 inches long began to clobber everything that hit the bottom in that deep water. 

I stopped fishing, and watched the two of them just have a ball, pulling up 20 or more hard-fighting smallmouth and one good fat largemouth in a half hour or so. One would be releasing a fish while the other was catching another one. They caught fish until they were actually too tired to keep fishing. It was a great day, and I took time to thank Him! 

Praying isn’t a bad idea, I don’t care where you do it. On Sunday, lots of folks go to church and pray there and forget what they said the rest of the week, but I do most of my praying outside, all week long. Sometimes I wonder if God is listening, but I think He always is. Sometimes, like last Sunday. I know darn well he is!

I hope this hasn’t offended anyone…(that’s a lie, I actually do not care who it offends). I would like to remind you that the largest newspaper in the Ozarks, which I once wrote for, wouldn’t let me publish this in my column I wrote for them. Those instructions they gave me fifteen years ago to not mention God in what I wrote is the reason I have not written for them since. But over the last fifteen years, my fishing has been great. Think about that!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Little Yellow Grubs…and a Swap Meet

--> Sondra will release this smallmouth because it will have a number of yellow grubs in the meat.  otherwise she'd take it home and eat it.
I took Sondra Gray and her husband fishing this past week and she caught some really nice smallmouth. All over again I had to explain to her why everyone should return smallmouth to the water, as they are a supreme game fish in the Ozarks, disappearing mostly because our streams are becoming so degraded, and filling in as the water recedes more and more each year. But I gained some ground when I showed her the evidence of the little yellow grubs in the meat. She doesn’t want to eat them now. 
It is a fact that largemouth bass and to some extent, spotted bass, have few to no worms in the meat most of the time. That’s because, in their feeding habits, they don’t often eat the little tiny aquatic snails found in the swifter, gravel substrate where they are found. Those snails are one of the three reasons yellow grubs are found in the Ozarks streams. They have three hosts, and they pass in a cycle through herons, aquatic snails and the fish that eat those snails… The fish eat the snails; the herons eat the fish and then pass a certain stage of the parasite back into the water where they seek out the snail again. We might stop the whole thing if only the herons would just not… uh.. use the water for a bathroom. If they would climb up on the bank to relieve themselves…. No grubs!

I have several really good fishing reels that have been used so much they need fixing, one little part replaced or repaired. I have a fishing reel repairman coming to our swap meet who will set up a table and tell you if your reels are worth fixing. I suppose he can take your broken reels with him, fix them and send them back to you. I am darn glad I ran into him, as I am tired of paying what you have to pay at the bass pro shop repair center just for replacing some little spring and getting your reel cleaned. The name of the repair business he runs out of his home on the west side of Pomme de Terre Lake is called “Brite-Water Rod and Reel Repair. You can talk with him at our swap meet this coming Saturday. 

That big day is pretty near upon us. On Saturday, the 29th we will hold our big Grizzled Old Outdoorsmen’s Swap Meet Event at the Brighton Assembly of God church gymnasium. Who knows if anyone will show up? It might just be you and me. The Church youth groups will have biscuits and gravy for breakfast and pork sandwiches and hamburgers for dinner with fixin’s and pie. There’ll be 45 tables loaded with all kinds of outdoor stuff and it is FREE to the public. How many times do you find something of this magnitude you can attend free?

We open at 8 am and close at 2 pm. We have some really nice wildlife art by some of our state’s best wildlife artists, and some wildlife carvers as well. You will see Larry Egger’s handmade turkey calls, some of them hand-painted and some plain, and some wing-bone turkey calls made by Eddie Davis which are decorated with scroll work and hand-painted. Dr. Carl Huser is bringing some of his wood bowls and vases made on a wood-lathe that are simply too beautiful to describe. 

We have a fellow who has the heads of bobcat, foxes and coyotes mounted on stands made from deer antlers, and some old time fur hats and garments, like mountain men wore. And another taxidermist will bring fish and deer heads to add some outdoors to your den or office, or your wife’s kitchen. How would your wife like to be the only lady in your town to have a ten-point buck mounted right over the dinner table, or a nine-pound bass over the microwave?

Of course, there will be all kinds of fishing lures, maybe thousands of them, some new, some used, and some antiques. There will be so many old fishing lures there, that if you are into vintage fishing stuff you won’t be able to see it all unless you spend all day. One year there was a lady there who sold several lures worth 30 to 50 dollars for $3.00 each. We will have camping and fishing gear and an assortment of used guns, many of them antiques. 

Ladies who attend our swap meet need to see Dale Olson from down around the Arkansas border, who makes laminated cutting boards out of strips of differently colored Ozark wood that are beautiful, and cost less than 20 dollars. Other vendors have hand-made bird houses and feeders. I know there will be some wooden longbows and archery equipment, and a fellow there who makes stone arrowheads. Another vendor will bring handmade wood furniture, and outside there will be several used boats and motors for sale.

Best of all, my bashful but beautiful wife Gloria Jean will be there, since it is her anniversary, and two of my daughters, Christy and Leah will be there too, since I am paying them two dollars and a quarter an hour, just like I did when they were youngsters. I don’t know about my little grandsons, Ryan and Alex, who say they won’t work for that kind of money, since President Obama has been trying to raise the minimum wage.

This big event is sort of an anniversary gift for Gloria Jean, as I have told her that she can take twenty dollars and go around and look at everything and pick out something nice she wants. There’s always jewelry and stuff for the ladies there, as we especially invite folks who have things outdoor ladies are always looking for. 

Sandra McCormick from MacCreeds Art Gallery, from over around Bennett Springs, always brings a bunch of stuff for the ladies, which fills and entire side room at the Swap Meet. Lightnin’ Ridge Publications editor, Sondra Gray will be there giving away some of our magazines free, and signing folks up for subscriptions. There will be a big drawing at her table for a valuable piece of art to be given to one of our magazine subscribers. 

I will be selling and signing my outdoor books of course, and making some of my famous turkey calls, guaranteed to call in big ground-raking gobblers on a regular basis. We are also bringing a pair of 6 week old, registered Lightnin’ Ridge old-style Labrador puppies that will attract some of the kids who show up.

  But the real attraction will be my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, there to sign autographs as she works on her nails and talks on the phone to her lady friends at the beauty shop as she so often does here at work.

The church is found 16 miles north of Springfield just off Highway 13. You turn east at the Hwy 215 junction that goes to Pleasant Hope, then turn north on old Highway 13 just a few hundred yards to the east. If you are coming from the north the 215 turn-off is on the left, about 6 miles south of Bolivar. Look for the swap meet signs.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email me at My website is under larrydablemontoutdoors.

Monday, March 17, 2014

We Slayed ‘Em

Rich Abdoler and I were sitting in the boat the other day catching smallmouth bass on about every other cast. We slewed ‘em… or slayed ‘em, or whatever you want to call it. They were fighting so hard that after a couple of hours my shoulders and arms got tired, so I just leaned back and as I am wont to do, waxed eloquently about the quality of the afternoon of fishing in the warm sunshine, comparing it to what heaven must be like.
“Rich” I said, “you and I have had hundreds of fishing trips and I can’t think of much anything better than catching fish, but this afternoon reminds me that at times it can get a little tiresome and repetitious. If heaven is indeed like this, every day, don’t you think we’ll get tired of catching fish even if St. Peter goes along?”
I could see Rich was thinking about what I had said, as he bent his rod hard on another two pound smallmouth, fighting to gain the green depths below the boat. 
“Well… maybe a little,” he said in a monotone voice. “But I figure there’ll be some good duck-hunting too!”
The Gasconade River trip, which I wrote about last week, was a bust. The river was high, and I didn’t finish third or fourth after all, I finished second. That no account Dennis, who practices fishing on a greater scale than the rest of us, caught six bass, and I caught four and Rich caught two. Kent caught none, and you might feel sorry for him until you hear the rest of the story.
Anyhow, we didn’t do well, and we didn’t even pick a good spot to have hot dogs for lunch, as Rich nearly set a whole drift afire and the hot dogs all fell in the fire as the grill collapsed. When you have to wash your hot dog off in the river it becomes something different than a hot dog, and mine was burnt pretty bad on one side anyway so I couldn’t reheat it.
But the river was beautiful and we didn’t see another soul.
As we were loading our boats and gear, Kent Caplinger went to complaining about not catching anything. He reckoned he just wasn’t as lucky as the rest of us. He said on his last trip on another river he hadn’t caught any fish either, and then he remembered that was the time he was wading in the river at dinnertime and found a hundred dollar bill floating in the river. Unlucky, he called hisself! I told him if I found a hundred dollar bill in the river just once I wouldn’t care if I caught any fish for a month.
So forgetting the Gasconade trip, Rich Abdoler and I picked another stretch of river last weekend, and that’s when we got into the fishing that was a lot like heaven’s finest smallmouth stream. We started fishing at two o’clock in the afternoon and were trying to keep track of the fish we caught.
 “That’s 34,” I said as we both fought hefty smallmouth at the same time.
 “No that’s 36,” Rich said. “The last one I caught was 34. That gave me 17 and you 16. Now I have 18 and you have 17. That’s 36!” You have to remember that Rich once worked for the government!
By six o’clock that evening we had caught and released 79 smallmouth and five largemouth. Three or four of the smallmouth we caught and released were better than 18 inches long, and so fat I believe they would have weighed three and a half pounds. But we were using light gear, with nothing larger than six-pound test. Part of the time I had an ultralite crappie outfit with only four-pound line. Because of that, Rich had his line broke twice and I had mine broke once. We saw the bass what broke the lines, and they were lunkers. We intend to go back this week and catch them again and try to get our jigs back.
The real story to the trip is the little quarter ounce brown and orange jigs we were using. My dad, who has been gone for more than a year, had an old tackle box with several of the little jigs in it, and he thought they were the only lure in the world for bass and goggle-eye. He and his best friend, Charlie Hartman used them for years as they fished the Big Piney and the Gasconade. I found four or five still in little plastic bags. As I tied one on that day, I could see my dad telling me I needed to find some just like it. He was good with them. Once on the Gasconade many years ago, he tied one on for my mom and she caught a 22-inch, five and a quarter pound smallmouth which is on my wall today. Dad never equaled it.
I loaned Rich one of the jigs, and told him I hoped dad was watching, and it just felt like he was there with me all day as again and again, hard fighting bass jumped all over the little jig. I am surprised that little light outfit I used was still intact.
This might leave some fishermen asking, what good did it do you to catch all those bass and come home with nothing to eat? Well, this story ain’t over! At six o’clock, Rich and I tied on little yellow curly tails and moved downstream a couple of miles and began to catch white bass. They weren’t big, just small males, but out of the 30 or so we caught, I kept 21, and filleted them and had more fish for Sunday dinner than St. Peter might allow you to eat in heaven, due to their rules on gluttony. Anyway, on light outfits, those white bass were fighters, and by seven o’clock we were tired of catching them too. They were really hungry, and just like the bass, we really slewed ‘em. Or is it “slayed 'em”?
Folks, please come by and see me and Ms. Wiggins on the 29th of March at our big Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet, only about 17 miles north of Springfield just off Highway 13. It will be at the Brighton Assembly of God Church gymnasium. Only the readers of the column know about it, on account of we can’t get any publicity anywhere else. There’ll be 45 tables loaded with all kinds of outdoor stuff and it is free to the public.
My old college roommate Woody P. Snow will be there, signing his new book, “Blood Silver” which is a great book about the Ozarks. But for those of you who have listened to him on the radio for years as the Ozarks best-known radio personality, you will want to ask him for his C.D. entitled “Blood-Sugar”. It is a collection of songs he wrote and sings, and it is fantastic. I have nearly worn mine out listening to it in my old pickup when I travel …great music!
Next week I will give a better idea of what to expect at this big event, but you can get full information and see something of a listing of what will be there on my website,
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at Our office phone is 417 777 5227.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Great Big Bass and Grand Slams

By the time you read this, I will have already caught a bunch of great big smallmouth and largemouth bass, and released them all.

But I’ll be fishing in a Missouri Ozark river where the bass season is closed. The idea is to wrestle them around awhile, strain the line a bit and get some good pictures, get the fish to admit he is whipped and then brag to my fishing buddies about how big he was.

On this trip I will be fishing with three of my old fishing friends in two river johnboats, and the purpose of this trip is to see who catches the most and the biggest. Most generally I don’t ever come out any lower than third or fourth in that kind of contest with those three buddies of mine.

Sondra Gray, the editor of our magazine, can’t stand the thought of having to catch big bass and release them back into the water. Sondra tells me that some of her relatives went down to Norfork Lake this past weekend and caught a whole tubful of big stripers and hybrids, so that is something to remember. She says if she was going fishing with anyone, she’d go fishing with them. But I don’t know that they would take her.

Not many men want to fish with a woman, and I’ll tell you why. Its because if she catches the most and the biggest, it is embarrassing having to hear about it for a week, and she might go down to the pool hall and tell everyone and show pictures. If you outfish her, she just says, “What did you expect, I am a woman after all”.

I’ll tell you how you will know if I caught some nice bass this week… I will be writing about it next week and bragging quite a lot. If you don’t hear anymore about it, you’ll know I came in third or fourth again.

We’ll catch all those big bass in deep water below the shoals on big heavy rubber-skirted jigs with rubber crawdads or pork rinds, and we will fish with casting gear and 12- or 14-pound line.

Since I was small, I have wished I could talk to a bass and ask him what he thinks those jigs might be, bobbing along on the bottom. I always suspected that he would tell me… “I didn’t know what it was, but I just get so tired of my wife’s cooking that I wanted to try something new.”

It is indeed a great time to go after crappie, white bass, even trout, but when you grow up on a river like I did, it is the river that calls to you most often, whether you can catch a fish or not. When you are alone on a river you are a million miles from the nonsense that we have to put up with in our modern progressive society that finds itself hurtling toward the brink of disaster at such an increasing speed.

Float fishing was the first fishing Ozark settlers learned about, and smallmouth bass are still the royalty of Ozark waters. I can indeed go back in time, and pretend I never heard of a computer, when I am on the river. Someday, maybe we will have some leaders in our conservation department wise enough to make it illegal to keep smallmouth bass at any time. But because the season is closed right now, we’ll be fishing without hearing or seeing another boat, and we won’t hear a motor either. The sound of a paddle dipping into the water is a type of soothing music.

Many of our readers have asked me how to get the spring issue of the Journal of the Ozarks, after they read the premier issue we put out this winter. That first issue will indeed be a collector’s item someday, but we do not have any of them left.

The spring issue will be ready about the first of April, and we will pay the postage to mail it to you if you send seven dollars to Journal of the Ozarks, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. Our outdoor magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal will be out about the same time, and you might want them both. If you have any questions about what the magazines amount to, you can call 417-777-5227 and talk with Ms. Wiggins, our executive secretary. It is amazing that so many who read this column have never seen our outdoor magazine, which we have published now for 13 years.

You can also call that number to get information about the Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet Event, (G.O.O.S.M.E.). We still have about ten tables available, all free of charge, but you have to be selling something pertaining to the outdoors. Admission is free and I hope to have our biggest crowd yet. It will be held March 29th at the Brighton Assembly of God church, so put that Saturday on your calendar as a special day.

If you get out in the woods at daylight now, you will begin to hear wild gobblers ‘thundering their passion’ from their roosts. I didn’t make up that poetic phrase, I heard it from another outdoor writer. I always just called it ‘gobbling’. I think maybe I will try to get out before the season and get a photo or two of some old tom that is trying to create an early harem. That can be more fun than shooting one.

Turkey hunters nowadays get a little silly about their sport. Some of them spend more money on hunting clothes than my old shotgun is worth when it is full of shells. And I have seen turkey calls sell for two or three hundred dollars. No joke. I always sold the ones I make for five dollars and felt guilty doing that, so I would throw in a box of chalk free.

Have you ever heard of a ‘grand slam’ in turkey hunting? It amounts to little more than having the money to travel to different states to hunt four species of wild turkeys: the Osceola Gobbler, the Rio Grand Gobbler, the Merriams Gobbler and the Eastern Gobbler, which is the only true challenge of the whole bunch.

I have never hunted the Osceola Gobbler, but I have hunted Rio Grands and Merriams, and I would just as soon hunt a leghorn rooster turned loose in the woods behind the barn. Neither of those two species involves any great skill, and I think you could call either one to you at a dead run with an old rusty gate hinge. Honest folks, in Oklahoma a few years back, hunting in early May, I called up thirteen Rio Grand Gobblers and I actually stood up to shoot one. Half of them ran around in a circle after I clobbered their chairman of the hoard.

Hunting ducks in Nebraska once, I called several Merriams gobblers to our duck blind with my mouth. The darn birds gobbled every time we shot at a duck. That was in October! You could probably get one in May with a slingshot!

Next time you hear some turkey hunter boasting about achieving a grand slam, have him call me, and we will make some money by taking him on a guided groundhog hunt! Or maybe we could take him on a triple play squirrel hunt: one fox squirrel, one gray squirrel and one chipmunk.

 Well, remember… if you catch a big fish, send me a picture and we will put it on my website, or in the magazine. Even if you are a woman. Equal opportunity and all that. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo, 65613 or email me at