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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. See my website at www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com