Sunday, July 5, 2015

Escaped Minnows and Fat Crappie


  If you don't lose your minnows, crappie bite all night long

       Crappies are about my least favorite fish to catch because you can’t catch them on a Zara Spook or a Jitterbug or a Rapala Floating Minnow.  You can only get a good fight out of them on four pound line and a switch for a rod.  But I had some fresh crappie filets to eat this week despite the high water, fishing for them only because I like to eat them on occasion.
       Rich Abdoler and I went out on the Friday evening before the Fourth of July and fished for bass awhile.  Didn’t have much luck.  I brought a minnow bucket along with two-dozen minnows in it to use later for crappie.  While bass fishing I set the bucket out into the water, of course, to keep the minnows alive.  Minnows are expensive, those cost me two and a quarter per dozen.  That’s almost 20 cents apiece.
       When creeks and rivers are at normal stage, I can take a minnow seine and get about 60 minnows with two or three drags of that seine.  Figuring the cost of them today at a bait shop, that is twelve dollars worth of minnows in a few minutes.  If you want to keep seining, I figure you can collect about 200 dollars worth of minnows in less than an hour.   However, you can’t do that on swollen, muddy creeks. In such conditions you might drown!

       Be that as it may, I bought the minnows and the boat gas and Rich didn’t contribute anything.  It all came out of my pocket, and I guess because I owe him some money he figures giving me more money is like throwing quarters in the lake, or even worse, comparable to buying fireworks, which most likely is the biggest waste of money ever for us grizzled old veteran outdoorsmen.

       But that isn’t important here, what is important is the fact that he is getting to where he can’t remember what he ought to, and when I started the boat to leave our bass fishing spot and go to the crappie fishing spot, he forgot that the minnow bucket needed to be brought into the boat.  So what happened was, the lid came open and we lost about three dollars and twenty cents worth of minnows.
       I counted what was left and there were only eight or nine.  Contemplating the loss of that kind of money, enough to by a couple of bottle rockets or a whole pack of firecrackers, I was really depressed.  But we went to a secret crappie spot as the sun sank behind a western ridge, a blood red ball through the haze. You could actually see it move.
       That’s worth something.  How many times can you look right at the sun and see it slowly dropping into the darkness while distant fireworks explode on the horizon in a variety of bright colors?

       We anchored, dropped the light into the water, and right off we began to catch crappie.  Rich caught two at one time.  What he did was, he tied a jig about two feet above the hook with a minnow on it, and I’ll be darn if one didn’t grab the jig just as one engulfed the minnow.  Quickly, I caught a nice fat crappie and though I tried hard to save that minnow it dropped into the lake as I hoisted the crappie into the boat.
       That left seven minnows in the bucket, but I was fortunate enough to save my next minnow through the landing of two hefty crappie.  When I counted the minnows again I found that Rich, who is not as conservative as I, had used two of them!  Five left!!

       I was really mad at this point, at nothing in particular.  It is just my luck that crappie would be biting and two thirds of the minnows I had paid good money for had escaped.
       Things never seem to work right for me.  I was born under a dark cloud.  As a matter of fact, you will remember that a gosh-awful storm raged the night I was born in that little Ozark farmhouse.  That night as I came into the world, lightning hit the old house my grandparents owned and killed a couple of chickens in just the other room.

       So in time, there we sat… each one of us with the last two minnows, one apiece.  And you know, this is strange, but we sat there for another hour and never got another bite! Even so, we had several nice crappies in the live well, enough for a really big meal or two, and that is worth at least ten dollars.  Since I got to keep all the fish, I figure I came out okay.

       As I drove home that night, I thought about how bad I would have felt if we had each caught great big nice crappies on those last two minnows and had none left!   But what would have been worse is if we had not been able to catch any more fish at all on the last three dollars worth of minnows.
       In such a case you have to just dump what is left in the lake, because they won’t live long on a hot summer night.  But if you can get home and get your bucket in the refrigerator you can keep minnows alive for a couple more days, even longer if you feed them crackers.

       I have done that a couple of times but Gloria Jean really gets mad about it.  She doesn’t realize the economics of it.  What takes more room in a refrigerator than a gallon of milk, which is worth only a couple of bucks?  On occasion, I have set a bucket of minnows in the refrigerator that was easily worth three or four dollars.

       To the readers of the magazines, the Lightnin’ Ridge Journal and the Journal of the Ozarks, I apologize for the summer issues being late.  We had a glitch at the printers and they are being reprinted and will be mailed soon.
       I have a new publications director on board now and she says she will get things straightened out and make the Lightnin’ Ridge magazines work like they ought to, soon to increase the number of issues each year and get things working on time.  I’ll tell you more about her soon if she can catch any fish.

       In the meantime, my new book, The Prince of Point Lookout, is doing well and if you would like to get a copy send fourteen dollars to us and tell me who to inscribe it to. The book is a humorous, factual account of my hunting and fishing adventures when I left the Big Piney for the first time at the age of seventeen to go to college at School of the Ozarks, down on Taneycomo Lake.  I now have nine books and I told Ms. Wiggins to arrange a little brochure telling about all of them, plus the two new ones I hope to publish this fall.  If you’d like to get those little info sheets on my books, write and let me know and I will send them to you. My address is Box 22, Bolivar, MO

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