By Larry Dablemont
It is unusual for the Ozarks to get so much rain in July, but it certainly doesn’t hurt fishing, especially in streams. When I was a kid, any summer rain that raised the Big Piney and made dinghy-colored water flow into it, sent me to a couple of favorite gravel bar spots with a rod and reel and a bucketful of night-crawlers.
There were some special places where muddying water swirled and slowed below shoals, and about every kind of fish in the river would congregate. They wouldn’t be there like that in normal low levels you would find in late summer, but that change in water color and flow really turned the goggle-eye on.
They were the fish I was after of course, but with those night crawlers you often hooked big “yaller” suckers maybe 18-inches or so long. Talk about a fight, when you hooked an occasional sucker or catfish, you had your hands full! And while I don’t remember catching lots of smallmouth at such times, largemouth bass were quite often in those pools in good numbers.
I would take home good ones at times, up to 16- or 17-inches long. To a 12- or 13-year-old kid, those bass were lunkers. But of course, that long stringer of fish mostly held the goggle-eye and green sunfish, both up to nine- or 10- inches long, something rarely seen today.
But when any small stream or creek is very clear, fish are tough to catch. Take Crooked Creek down in north Arkansas for instance. I have seen it so clear in August that if you intended to catch a smallmouth you almost had to be a fly fisherman. But certainly it can be achieved in clear water with spinning gear and four-pound line and very, very small lures.
If you want to catch lunker smallmouth though when water is low and clear, go out on a small stream on a dark night and fish a jitterbug in the deeper holes below a shoal. You had better not do that with light line.
I remember times when I was a naturalist for the National Park Service at Buffalo Point when we would fish the river at night because the caravans of banging canoes made it tough to catch a big brownie during daylight hours. But those jitterbugs at night made you realize just how many smallmouth lived there. In another column, I will write about late-summer lake fishing for bass.
To change the subject, I have received several emails from landowners asking me if I was going to register my land with the Missouri Conservation Department in order to get a free landowner permit this fall. I will absolutely not do that and I recommend that no other landowner does that.
One of the few honest lawyers I know in this day and time tells me that the problems behind doing that are very numerous, and that the MDC will use that “registration” to do things in the future few people realize is coming. He says, “pay them for a tag” and keep your land unregistered.
An employee with the MDC tells me it is going to be another thing the agency uses to do the type of enforcement work that victimizes landowners who hunt. He said that as soon as they feel they can push it through, to get a free hunting permit for your own land the MDC will require you to own 40 acres instead of 20, and in time it will go to 80 acres.
What is behind all this is money, he told me. They want hunters who are now hunting with free permits for deer and turkey on their own land to pay for deer and turkey tags. He says they feel they are losing too much money.
I talked with a landowner in another county who told me that he and several other landowners have agreed they will not register their land, but hunt on it anyway without tags. They hope to sign up about 20 landowners this fall who will follow suit, and put up money to pay the fine of anyone who gets caught and cited.
But he made a good point. He said if you are not part of the system they use to victimize people on technicalities, (and he meant the “call-in” checking system now used which brings a game warden to your door step only an hour or so after you have called in a deer kill), then no agent will know a thing about you. He is right…no one in years has received a visit from a game warden in deer season unless they have called in a deer kill, or put a picture on Facebook, or took a deer head to a taxidermist…NO ONE! Think about that.
I won’t worry about killing a deer on my land without handing over land registration to this bunch. Agents do not leave their pickups and there are no roads they can use to get to the back of my land, they would have to walk in. And if I kill a deer on my land, they will have to bring a search warrant to find it. Or they will have to hide out in the brush on my place for days and days to catch me. They don’t do that.
If you want to join those landowners resisting the land registration law the MDC has imposed I can tell you who to contact. I myself have nothing to do with it. If they catch me, I will be very happy to pay my fine. Until now I have never intentionally broken a game law! But now I feel a little bit like those fellows who threw the king’s tea overboard back in the 1770s. In this country we have to someday group together to stand up for what is right.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.