They just don’t normally do that in winter

By Larry Dablemont
    As the seasons roll on in the outdoors, year after year, I see the strangest things…things I haven’t seen before. That happened again. Last week on one of those 70-degree days, with clouds moving in before the rain, I went to visit one of my favorite places on the river about five miles above an Ozark lake.


    I go there because it is a place where I get to fish all by myself; the boats stay down in the lake trying to find crappie this time of year. I was actually figuring I might be able to catch a walleye out in the long, deep eddy below a flowing shoal. In the fall, they are often found there in the middle, in water that is eight- to 10-feet deep.
    Occasionally, there is a nice black bass or two along the banks, under a log perhaps. There were bunches of those small white bass and a deep running bait that walleye often like on cloudy dark days was ineffective because the small whites wouldn’t leave it alone. One of them got a treble hook into his gills and started flipping around on the surface in his death throes. About that time a mature eagle came flying up the river about treetop level and he spotted that dying fish. He made a spectacular in-flight maneuver nearly turning upside down in midair and seized the small fish in his talons only about 20 yards away from my boat.
    When I fish in Canada I see that often and have fed a number of eagles with small yellow perch I catch. They really get tame there and will swoop down within a few feet of your boat to get a perch.
     But that isn’t the story of that afternoon. I wasn’t finding any walleye, so I switched over to a small black jig with a rubber duplicate of a crawdad hooked on the jig as a tail. In still water I fished it to no avail, and then I worked up toward the shoal. In the very end of it, where flowing water swept over a shallow lip of gravel only a couple of feet deep, my jig and crawdad got some attention.
    I saw the line tighten and I set the hook into my first good fish in the past hour and brought a 13-inch smallmouth through the current and to my boat. You might expect that in the spring, but not in mid-November. He should have been out in that deep water, resting and dreaming of spring. But he wasn’t! And neither was the 15-inch largemouth I caught minutes later, only a few feet below the drop off from gravel towards deeper water.
    I sat there for an hour and caught four more bass casting almost into the exact spot, no bigger than a washtub and no deeper that two feet. I stayed there so long because my third bass was a doozy and he, or she, gave me a battle, picking up my fake crawdaddy right where the gravel ended, and I would bet the water wasn’t more than 18 or 20 inches deep there.
    It was a big-bellied smallmouth about 18- or 19-inches long and I will bet it weighed on one side or the other of three pounds only by an ounce or so. With that light rod I was using, I had some fun with the fish, wanting to see it to be sure what it was. I got it alongside my boat and it was indeed a smallmouth, and he slipped the hook when I reached down to pull him up.
    Of course I intended to release the brownie but I guess it didn’t trust me so it did so itself. I don’t know why the fish were there as late in the year as it is. But one thing I have noticed is there are no hard fast rules in the outdoors. Sometimes fish don’t do what they did last time. So I have learned to keep trying different ideas when I hunt or fish. When that works it is great, but when it doesn’t you had better be happy with the trying…and things like that eagle.
    If you are still deer hunting, be sure and read that letter on my blogspot (larrydablemontoutdoors) telling you the facts about the telecheck system and how it is used to create victims. On my website, (www.larryablemont.com) you can see all ten of my outdoor books, and my magazines. I have a Christmas issue of my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal I will send you free if you will send the postage. To get that, call my office, 417-777-5227.
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.