David Schiefelbein: Fish stories, or 'How I spent my summer vacation'
I’ve always considered myself fortunate to live at a place that people save their money all year to come visit on vacation. I still do, although I don’t always visit the many things there are to do around Lake of the Ozarks when I take time off.
In fact, I spent last week headed in the other direction, most often west of the lake, submerged in one of the cool, clear rivers that feed into the lake. I fished, therefore I am.
I fished nearly every day, the one exception being Wednesday, which was a stay-at-home day to hang out with the 4- and 6-year-olds who call me dad.
My river-rat vacation started with the purchase of a fishing license Sunday afternoon, the latest in the year I can ever remember purchasing one - it’s been that kind of year.
Sunday evening I caught four smallmouth bass ranging from 12 to 14 inches in the Little Niangua River between Macks Creek and Climax Springs. I also brought home a 4-pound Kentucky bass, which I was quite fond of, and ate him coated in beer batter with some fresh-picked okra for lunch Monday afternoon.
On Monday evening, I hooked up with syndicated outdoor writer and Lake Sun reader favorite Larry Dablemont. We fished the Pomme River upstream from Pomme de Terre Reservoir, which is near his Lightnin’ Ridge home. I didn’t see any lightning while I was there, but the home Mrs. Dablemont shares with him is quite nice.
When I pulled up in the driveway, Larry’s executive assistant, Mrs. Wiggins, was helping him fill the gas tank on his jonboat out of red gas cans. Man, where do you find secretaries that will do that? I guess you have to be a famous outdoors writer and publishing magnate.
Larry and I took a very long jonboat out on the Pomme River upstream from Pomme de Terre Lake on what had been the hottest day of the summer at that point. When I say long jonboat, think the stretch limo of jonboats, without the Cadillac trimmings. Larry said it had been his dad’s and was made the same year I was born, and there were only a few made, mostly for the MDC.
When I say it was long, I mean I had to walk about a half-block from the front seat to join Larry in the back of the boat for a little of his elk sausage snack during a break between casts.
Larry said later the boat takes awhile to steer, and here I thought he was trying to freak the suburban-raised greenhorn in his boat by making the passenger up front think he was going to ram the tree snag sticking out of the water. Which I did, but Larry missed them by at least 6 inches nearly every time.
We caught a few fish each that evening, and I’m not telling a fish story when I brag that I caught more than Mr. Dablemont.
Larry, being a professional liar, er, fishing writer, may try to defend his integrity by telling you the bass he caught were bigger. Technically, that’s what you might term true, but only if size matters when it comes to an inch or two. He might also tell you he doesn’t catch bluegill and sunfish, but I think that’s only because he couldn’t hook ‘em, keeper-sized or not.
Truth be told, we both caught four bass each, both right about that same time, two at time, twice each. We caught two a little after 6 p.m. and two just after 8. And nothing but my three little bream in between.
We did witness a couple oddities while out on the river.
A 6-inch bass fingerling jumped straight up out of the water about a foot and went back down head first. Larry asked me if I saw that and I acknowledged I did.
“What do you think was up with that?” he asked.
“I think he just wanted to get a good look at the famous outdoors writer so he’d know him if they met again later,” I responded.
“Nah,” Larry said. “I think something was chasing him.”
I didn’t. If there was a big ol’ turtle or 5-pound bass wanting to make a snack out of him, I think that fingerling would have tailwalked on down the river to a spot where it was safe. He wanted to get a good look at Dablemont, I’m sure of it.
This is also no fish story. The second bass-catching spurt we had I hooked a bass in about 4 feet of swift running water just above a shoal. As I cranked the fish in to about a foot of clean water on the gravel shore, another, slightly larger bass, attacked it.
I came within a split second of having two bass on the same lure, which happens occasionally, but the weird part was it happened in about 10-12 inches of water where we both saw it.
Larry kept two of his Kentucky bass for me to take home as souvenirs while I returned my around-legal-sized bass back into the water.
Back at his house, Larry filleted them up for me as well (in his kitchen!), which wasn’t necessary but appreciated. I was going to raz the self-appointed “grizzled, outdoor veteran” for using an electric fillet knife, but he was done filleting the fish so fast I didn’t have time. Larry, I’m thinking, has filleted a few fish in his time.
I spent the rest of the week partially submerged in the Little and Big Niangua rivers, but that’s another fish story.
I’ll be out looking for a new fishin’ hole before MoDOT tears up my favorite spots when it replaces the low-water bridges, so e-mail me at email@example.com.