Monday, March 2, 2020

Emergence of the March 1 Species

Sam Yarnall
         I have written a lot about trout fishing over the years, some of it I have done on a limited basis in the west, lots of it I have enjoyed in the White River of Arkansas where you can catch big post-spawn brown trout now.   And I have written about trout fishing in Lake Taneycomo when I was just a kid going to School of the Ozarks College, which sits on a bluff above it.

         But the opening day of trout season over the years, when thousands mass together on March 1 to stand shoulder to shoulder with a fishing permit pinned to their hat, waiting for a whistle to tell them when to start fishing… that does not appeal to me in the least.  Not that I don’t approve, I do.  I am happy to see such a social event for that sub-species of fishermen.  But you couldn’t catch me doing that for anything in the world…

         I suppose I ought to give a reason.  Well, several years ago fishing all by myself up a tributary to Truman Lake, I caught a seven-pound walleye on March first and there wasn’t anything within ten miles but me and the river and its creatures.   Only a few years back, a friend and I fished a river on March 1 and caught and released 86 smallmouth bass, a third of which were between 2 and 3 pounds, and a couple of them almost 4 pounds.  There were 8 largemouth caught that same day, 2 walleye, and so many little 12-inch male white bass we began to make inflammatory aspersions against their species.  I have the photos to back that up, and my fishing partner that day, not being an outdoor writer himself, is honest, truthful, and a witness to the event.  Then there was that March trip when I was floating a river and got into some spring spawning run hybrids.  I hooked a dozen of those half white bass-half stripers that day that would have weighed between 5 and 10 pounds.  That day, I landed only three of them and four swam off with my lures and several feet of broken line.  A good species of hybrid angler uses better gear than I had that day.  So there are some good reasons.  I know where fishing is even better on March 1st.

         There are many species of fishermen, and trout park fishermen are one of those species.  Dyed in the wool paddlefish-grabbers are another, and I guess those who set trotlines for catfish are another. Tournament bass fishermen are a separate species, affected by genetic mutations, like those creating two- headed frogs.  But it does puzzle me why anyone would want to fish in a crowd for fish that, on the average, are about 12-or 13-inches in length.  I have met a lot of those fishermen and over the years, guided many of them on river fishing trips here and there at times, well after the opening of trout fishing parks.  They seem normal! 

         One old friend, Sam Yarnall, of Houston Mo, loves to fish at Montauk.  In all other ways he seems to be a regular river rat, having spent so many hours on the Big Piney River where I was raised, you would never suspect him of ever fishing with other fishermen at each elbow, strung so far each direction it looked like a line going to a Trump rally.  Sam has always been a great fisherman, and a fishing guide since he was a kid.  He could do any kind of fishing he wants to do and do it well.  Therefore he fits into a really rare and unusual species of angler himself.  But on March 1, you can bet you will find him at Montauk.  I don’t know how many big trout they will turn loose there on opening day, but I’ll bet he’ll get one of them.

         The reason I like the species of fishermen you find on March 1 at a trout park is because there won’t be any of them where I am going to be this week.  What they keep on opening day, as a rule is too small for me to eat.  And trout raised on that fish food they feed them in the concrete pens in the days before they are freed for a short life in a shallow creek makes them taste strange when you have eaten brook trout in the Rocky Mountains.  I’ll eat a walleye or two this week if I can catch one.

         I have received letters from angry landowners recently who have been able to hunt their land for deer and turkey on landowner tags for many years.  They are upset because the Missouri Department of Conservation wants all of us to register our land with them now before we can get those landowner tags.  The MDC has pulled some dumb stunt in recent years, but I think this move tops them all.  In next week’s column, I may use some of those letters, and tell you why my source inside the department of conservation believes this is being done, and why no landowner should do it.  You do not want to register your land with the MDC until you read what I have learned!

         I still have plenty of room for more tables at our big outdoorsman’s free swap meet on March 21, and I am publishing the spring issue of my magazine next week… The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal… a 96 page color outdoor magazine.  If you want a copy, it should be on the newsstands this spring distributed by a new company for us out of Atlanta Georgia. I hope it works. If you want to get an earlier copy in the mail, call our office, 417 777 5227.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email

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