The rivers of the Ozarks are terribly low. It is tough to float many of them now, though they’re usually at their best in May. Slowly, slowly, year after year, our rivers drop lower and lower, and springs which were never known to run dry, stop flowing. When we get big rains we have floods, water higher than ever… and then it is gone in a hurry, and our creeks dry up, rivers drop lower than anyone remembers seeing them. The bass season opens in late May on those streams in the Missouri Ozarks, but some of the headwaters of our best streams may not be high enough to float.
Still, there are lakes to fish.
We have been catching big strings of fish on Stockton Lake beneath those submerged lights since mid-April. Usually between 8 p.m. and midnight, we have limits of big crappie, from eleven to fifteen inches in length. One night in early May, three of us caught 45 crappie and not one was less than twelve inches long. Our last good trip was May 16, and those crappie, 25 feet deep over 40 feet of water, were full of eggs. That seems unusual to me, makes me wonder if there will be a good spawn this year. But there’s still time.
On Stockton there are no threadfin shad to draw, so we take a good supply of minnows, and always catch a couple of walleye and twenty or thirty white bass. But we use lighter gear on Stockton, with six-pound line on light spinning rods. The crappie hit light.
One night on Stockton when we were there in mid-week and there were no other boats around, I saw something really strange. I kept hearing a splashing about 50 yards away just before it got dark. A great blue heron was sitting on a stump sticking up out of the water about a foot or so, out 60 or 70 yards from the bank, where it was really deep. That heron was diving into the water headfirst, apparently grabbing fish, then climbing back up on the stump and repeating the whole process. The big wading bird was a diver that night, and I’ll bet he dived off that stump headfirst at least twenty times. When darkness set in, he stopped and flew away, surely going to roost with a full stomach. Or maybe he wasn’t so successful, who knows. It seemed way out of character for a heron, a bird that generally wades the shallows of rivers or lakes, hunting as slow as cold molasses until he quickly strikes an unsuspecting fish or frog with that long sharp beak. The one on Stockton Lake that night must have been watching a pelican or two.
Don’t forget our Common Sense Conservationist fish fry and pork dinner, which will take place on June 9. All information on that daylong event will be found on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com, including a map telling you how to get there. That will be done this week. That website is something you can use to express your own opinion about this column, or tell something you have seen in the outdoors. I notice that there is a statement that all submissions to that website are subject to editing, and that is not the case. You don’t have to agree with me. Your opinion, your ideas, your observations, will be left unchanged.
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