By Larry Dablemont
It is amazing to me what a drought we have gone through for two months throughout the Ozarks, after the high water from heavy rains in the early summer. Seems like we are living in a day of feast or famine. Down on Norfork and Bull Shoals a couple of months back, I saw some very high water. But last week on Bull Shoals the lake was about 30 feet lower. It looked like they were draining it.
Same thing up on Truman Lake. A few months ago, it was the highest it has ever been, but now it is as low as I ever saw it. BUT… low water on these reservoirs makes fish easier to find. I remember fishing Bull Shoals years back with a resort owner by the name of Jim Carr in October at night. We fished with big white spinners against bluffs and let them drop down over ledges into deep water, where smallmouth bass and a few largemouth as well, seemed reluctant to let that spinner pass.
Those were moonlit nights that were chilly but not cold. Right now as low as the lakes are, I would love to do that again. But it is harder now to start my day early in the morning and still be going strong at midnight. If anyone in Arkansas knows where Jim Carr is, tell him I said hello.
And if you want to catch catfish now is the time to set trotlines. Truman Lake is a great body of water for that, and so is Norfork. I think Truman has as many catfish per acre, especially the big blues, as any lake in the Midwest. For a while, October’s flathead catfish will feed hungrily to fatten up for winter. On the night I was born in mid-October, many decades ago, my grandfather caught a 72-pound flathead catfish from the Gasconade River.
Blue catfish and channel catfish can be caught on dead shad or blood bait or many other baits, but flathead are always taken on live sunfish or big chubs, good-sized live baits of any kind or occasionally nightcrawlers or crayfish that are put on a hook live. I have always wondered why that would be, but it is one of many things in nature that seems unexplainable. Of course there are always exceptions to that, but usually you will not catch flatheads on any bait that isn’t alive.
I have hunted wild turkeys in the fall since Rover was a pup. But no more! It is alarming to me that wild turkey flocks have declined so much over the past few years. If you are a hunter, the best thing you can do for wild turkeys is to pass up the fall turkey season. I urge you to do so.
Right now we need all the turkeys we can get to survive through the winter. Any kind of fall harvest is too much. There aren’t many outdoorsmen who know how bad things are, and I think that our biologists in the Midwest may not have a clue. They keep saying it is due to a poor spring hatch, and that is only a small part of it. In Missouri, there has been no change whatsoever in the turkey seasons or bag limits through the many years of decline, and it is time for that. Consider this…. In 2014 there were 47 thousand gobblers killed in the spring, and 57 hundred killed in the fall. In the spring of 2019 there were only 38 thousand gobblers killed and only 19 hundred killed in the fall. I am afraid the MDC will watch them fade into oblivion before changing anything because they do not want to lose the revenue from turkey tag sales. BUT, with fewer turkeys there will be fewer tags sold.
Back in 2010 I photographed seven mature toms feeding in my back lawn. In 2014 there were only three, and now there are none. There have been none since 2016. My game cameras last year on my back acreages caught the image of one gobbler last winter, and one hen. In places where wild turkey congregate along rivers in winter fields before spring, I remember seeing flocks of turkeys that would number from 40 to 80. Last winter I never found one flock in those numerous areas that would number more than 20. That folks is really a problem. If I could see any kind of rebound in those numbers the past 8 years it would be a little bit of encouragement, but all I have seen is a steady downtrend. Something needs to be done yesterday! Nothing is being done in Missouri, and I wonder why not. The MDC will never abolish the youth season, which accounts for more illegal kills than anything else. Missouri biologists, depending so much on their telecheck system, have no idea what the actual harvest is, because more and more each year, hunters who have never been violators are starting to just ignore reporting gobblers they take because the telecheck system is being used to target hunters. If you doubt that, read a letter from an enforcement agent on my computer site, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. Every deer and turkey hunter needs to read that letter. Myself, I will hunt gobblers in the spring with my camera, as I have been doing. But the photos I got so easily years ago are harder and harder to come by. If you have been a fall turkey hunter, I urge you to do something else this fall. Squirrel hunting is good and fall fishing can be fantastic.