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Al Agnew

Fishing Buddy
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Everything posted by Al Agnew

  1. Flyingeagle, you're right about the big companies being the ones buying up the land, but you're wrong if you think the Sierra Club would buy any of it. Sierra Club, to the best of my knowledge and I've been a member for many years, has NEVER bought any land in MO, or much of anywhere else. Quite simply, they don't have the money to buy land, most of their money goes into paying for lobbying efforts and other political efforts. Maybe you're thinking of the Nature Conservancy, who buys up land that is under threat of development, and then works out things like trades with state parks or other ways of making sure the land is protected but has some public access. Nope, I guarantee you, if this land is sold the majority of it will be bought by real estate developers who will then break it up into smaller parcels and sell it for a profit, or else build housing developments on it. The rest will be bought by timber companies, or by private hunting clubs. At any rate, you can kiss your chances to hunt on it or otherwise use it for recreation goodbye. And you're right, there will be some original owners of any riverfront property that will be angry about it.
  2. Gonefishin', I think you're right to an extent. Note that I don't consider it a "good for me, not good for you" attitude. If jetboats were outlawed from certain stream segments or on every river in the Ozarks, I wouldn't argue at all and I wouldn't try to insist I had the right to use one when others can't. If I was still convinced that the wakes were seriously affecting spawning of gamefish, I either wouldn't get one or wouldn't use one during spawning season...in fact, I DON'T intend to use one during spawning season. I also don't intend to use one on streams that are very narrow and shallow. For instance, I don't ever expect to use one on the Meramec above Onondaga, and probably not anywhere on the Meramec above Meramec State Park. And if I get one, I'm going to do my research first to determine which size and model will throw the least wake at planing speeds...I ain't interested in speed and I ain't interested in running extremely shallow water. I'm considering getting one for two reasons. One, it's pretty difficult to find somebody to shuttle me for float trips in the winter. And two, my dad is too old and has too many health problems to stand to ride in a canoe, but loves to fish the rivers. I'd like to be able to take him on the lower Meramec and Gasconade. And I ain't gettin' any younger myself...it gets a little harder all the time to paddle a canoe 3 or 4 miles upstream in order to fish in the winter! And yes, I'm still wrestling with the ethics of this. It's tempting to just say, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." It's also easy to rationalize that I'm going to be as careful as possible to minimize my effects.
  3. Supposedly the parts that are being considered for selling off are isolated parcels that have no great significance. Whether this is actually true or not, I don't know. I suspect it is a trial balloon thrown up to see how big of an outcry it causes. If it slides under the radar, they may go farther with it. I wouldn't be opposed to it IF, instead of just selling parcels of land, they were attempting to work out trades to consolidate the national forest areas...in other words, trade an isolated parcel for one that adjoins land they already own. But it sounds to me like somebody just sees an opportunity to profit at the expense of all of us. It boggles my mind that anybody who doesn't stand to directly gain from something like this can be anything but opposed. It's OUR land, and it ain't like we're gaining in hunting, fishing, and other recreational land all the time.
  4. Gone...that's always a sticky question. Whether it be motorized travel in wilderness areas or on wild rivers, do you allow it so that the handicapped, elderly, etc. can enjoy the resource at the expense of those who go to the place in order to get away from motorized traffic? Life ain't always fair. There are always going to be areas that some people can't get to due to either physical limitations or monetary limitations. If it's supposed to be a wilderness area, then it means no motorized access, period, in my opinion. But your question is a little different since Ozark rivers are not "wilderness" rivers. I guess if I was the emperor of the Ozarks I'd keep a few stretches of stream COMPLETELY free of motorized traffic, allow ONLY those who are in your type of position to use motorized craft on others that would be damaged by a lot of motorized traffic, and then have the larger streams pretty much open to everybody. And about canoe traffic--and rafters and tubers and all the other weekend river lice that infest our beloved streams...it would be nice if we could limit canoe traffic, but it kinda goes against the ol' American free enterprise system. Some streams can stand more canoe traffic these days, while others definitely would benefit from less traffic. Maybe a surcharge on rentals to make them a little more expensive, but the surcharge would be refunded at the end of your trip if you brought back a bag full of litter (could be your litter or could be that you picked up somebody else's litter). Maybe a limit on the number of rental canoes and other craft that can be put on a given stretch of river. I'm not gonna hold my breath waiting for either to happen. There's no doubt that the weekend river lice can do some damage to the streams. I'm not too concerned about the tearing up of the bottom, nor the litter problem. I'm a little more concerned about the elevated levels of bacteria due to the thousands of bodies and the bodily wastes going into the rivers. But I think the Courtois and Huzzah are case studies in how tremendous numbers of canoes and rafts and kayaks and tubes and drunken idiots affect a small, clear Ozark stream. You DON'T want to be on these creeks Friday to Sunday unless you are looking to see some real interesting and sometimes disgusting human behavior. But then you get on them Monday through Thursday and they are still Ozark jewels.
  5. Flyingeagle, the MDC biologists DID know they were killing machines. The guy from MDC that spent years taking his pet otters to talks all over the state drumming up support for the re-introduction was always quick to point out that they were in reality pretty impressive killers, and he also always showed the myriad scars on his arms and hands from handling them. What MDC didn't realize was how fast they would reproduce. They reproduced about 4 times faster in Missouri after re-introduction than what the literature said was normal. Should MDC have known this beforehand? Maybe. As I said before, it could have been expected from an animal moving into a vacant ecological niche. But I have always been amazed that at the time re-introduction started, you would have been hard pressed to find ANYBODY against re-introducing them. But once the problems appeared, everybody was all over MDC saying what a bad idea it was. Hindsight is always 20/20.
  6. Thanks, darthV...that's an OLD one! One of the first prints I ever published.
  7. Yes, there are lots of other problems we should address on Ozark streams. But that doesn't mean we should ignore one problem (if it IS a problem) until the others are fixed. And Gonefishin', here is my standard jet boat rant, slightly abridged: MDC did a study when it first became obvious that jetboats were getting popular, and they made the same mistake in their study that you just did. They compared jetboats to regular prop boats. That is IRRELEVANT. Prop boats were never abundant on Ozark streams. It took somebody who was very experienced and knew the river very well to run a prop boat on ANY of the Ozark streams, and even then they were limited to just the biggest ones. Sure, you'd see the occasional 14 ft. johnboat with 6 HP motor chugging up and down one or two pools, and a few old rivermen commonly ran the Current and Gasconade, but on any given weekend there probably weren't 10 boats big enough and fast enough to throw a significant wake on all the streams in Missouri combined until the advent of the jetboat. Now, you have jetboats running rivers that were NEVER run before, and you have huge numbers of them on summer weekends. In MDC's study, they ONLY investigated the damage to the bottom beneath the track of prop boats and jet boats. Surprise, they found that prop boats did more damage to the bottom! Duh! It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But the study was flawed in that they didn't take into account the repitition. To do an adequate study that was a true comparison, they should have run the jetboat over their 10 ft. square study plot 100 times and the prop boat 2 or 3 times, and they should have run the jetboat over another plot in water about 10 inches deep instead of the 2 feet they studied--and of course they couldn't have run the prop boat in water that shallow, which is the whole point. The study was also flawed in that they didn't study the effects of wakes, no matter what kind of boat was making them. I know a lot of "old timers" who are convinced that the riffles in streams like the lower Current River are much wider and shallower, with less defined chutes, than they used to be. One guy I know who WAS an experienced riverrunner before the advent of jetboats, and who now owns a jetboat, says there is no way he could run the lower Current in his old prop boat, the riffles have changed that much. And I know from my own experience that the Meramec has changed significantly since jetboats first appeared. I stopped fishing the Meramec for several years back in the early 90s, and when I started fishing it again I was amazed at how the riffles and runs had widened in many places. Floods were eating away even some tree-lined banks, which I had seldom seen happen before. Why? I think it is because boat wakes, the like of which the Meramec had never before seen, were weakening banks and allowing floods to do more damage. Yes, a boat wake is miniscule compared to a big flood. But that "miniscule" energy, multiplied by many times a week throughout much of the year, and concentrated on one very narrow zone at water's edge, might just weaken that narrow zone and give the flood a weak point to attack. Streams evolve with floods, and healthy stream corridors change surprisingly little with a major flood. But give the flood a weak point to do damage and the damage it will do is amazing. Streams like the Meramec, with it's abundant mud and clay banks, are probably much more susceptible to damage than a stream like the Current or Eleven Point, which has a lot more rocky banks. Limiting HP and thus speed is not the solution to the problem of wake damage, unless you make it like it is on reservoirs...no-wake zones. The problem is inherent to big boats on narrow waterways. We need boats with designs that minimize wakes, and just maybe it would be a good idea limit the use by big, high speed boats on some of the smaller but still runnable streams. Having said all that, I feel more than a little hypocritical in planning to buy a jetboat! But I do plan to only use mine on the larger rivers and stay off the narrower ones, and I intend to try to figure out which size and type of boat throws the least wake on plane. I plan to use mine strictly for fishing, and if you see me run by you more than twice in a day, once upstream and once down, shoot me.
  8. There is some question as to how abundant otters originally were in the Ozarks, with some authorities asserting that they were always rather rare. This doesn't really make much sense to me, since I can't imagine the Ozarks were not good otter habitat. It's true that conditions on many streams are much different, and much less favorable to fish and other aquatic creatures, than they once were. I think it's true that the streams that suffer most are those with degraded habitat, especially lack of large, deep wintering pools. I also think, and hope, that we've seen the worst of the adverse impact of otters. Whenever you introduce (or re-introduce) a creature to an ecosystem where it's niche was not being filled before, it will often thrive to the point of overpopulation until the ecosystem "adjusts" to it. In the case of otters, I think it has taken their prey species, especially game fish, a while to adjust to their presence. I suspect that eventually otters and their prey will reach equilibrium. I think the Ozarks is a richer place with otters, even though I don't like that they have really done a number on some stream smallmouth populations. I think and hope that eventually their re-introduction will be a positive. By the way, I saw an otter on the St. Francis in Madison County back in the 1970s before re-introduction ever started. The next one I saw was on the Huzzah not long after re-introduction started.
  9. Gonefishin', the way I look at it, if it's a conflict between resource users, then you either live and let live, or you figure out a way to divide up the resources so that everybody will have their own place to go. I don't like the noise and commotion of jetboats, but that isn't enough to make me want to ban them, because I figure I can still go to places they can't get to and get away from them. But if it's a matter of harming the resource itself, then it's a different ballgame. If we find out that jetboat wakes are causing a lot of bank erosion on smaller, narrower streams, then yes, they should be banned on those streams. If we find out that gigging IS seriously depleting the population of adult bass on a given river, then SOMETHING should be done about it. Of course, it has to be proven to the satisfaction of a reasonable person that the resource IS being harmed. I can't just say jetboat wakes are widening and shallowing parts of some streams (even though I believe that to be true). I have to be able to prove it. I don't want anybody's sport banned. I do want some controls on it, so that it doesn't harm the resource unnecessarily. Like you, I want to be able to do whatever I take a notion to do, within the law and my own personal ethics. I want to be able to gig if I want to, I even want to be able to use a jetboat...I have ideas about using one that won't conflict with my own ethics. I wish the things had never been invented and if I could turn back time I'd advocate that they should never have been allowed on some streams in the first place. But you can't put the genie back in the bottle so the only thing I'd advocate now is some sensible controls on both gigging and jetboats.
  10. As far as MDC having data from years ago on these streams...unfortunately, for most streams there ISN'T much data. MDC did some serious studies of Courtois and Huzzah back when they were deciding what kind of length limit to impose...the 12 inch limit was the result. But as far as I know, there is no good data on larger streams like the Meramec and Gasconade from back in the 1980s and earlier to compare current conditions to. For a long time, Ozark streams weren't very high on he priority list.
  11. I agree, Kicknbass, the Current has a lot of potential that's not being realized. I think the reason it isn't on the radar for special management is precisely because the growth rates are slower due to the colder water, or at least that's what a lot of the old data showed. It's almost like "conventional wisdom"...Ozark streams in general have slow growth rates because they are cool and infertile, and the most heavily spring fed ones are even worse. I really wonder about that. The more time I spend on these rivers and on rivers in other parts of the country, the less I agree with the conventional wisdom. Growth rates in many parts of the country that produce bigger fish regularly aren't much, if any, better than they are here. If you're comparing river fish to lake fish, yes, there is a difference. But rivers all over the ocuntry have similar growth rates. And I think somebody just decided that slow growth rates on rivers like the Current are due to cold water just because it seems to make sense. I disagree. I think fish on the less heavily spring fed streams go more dormant in the winter, so they have a warm weather growing season, but the fish in these heavily spring fed streams feed more all year long, so they may actually grow in winter as well as the summer. I think, based on what I've seen on the Current (and I don't spend much time on it compared to other streams) that it has LOTS of small fish. As you said, many are probably being cropped off at 12 inches. And it's also possible that the smaller fish may be a little overpopulated and that's contributing to slow growth rates. A slot limit would seem to me to be a great idea on the Current. Polock, yes, I fish the Jacks Fork some. Beautiful river!
  12. I'm not real sure about the whole otter situation. I know of some streams where I THINK the otters have really whacked the population of ALL fish bigger than minnows. And I've heard others say they've really decimated the bigger fish in some other streams. But I also know of some streams that should be really vulnerable to otter predation, that have the otters and are small enough for the fish to be pretty crowded in the winter when otters should be doing the most damage, but these streams are absolutely loaded with smallmouths and other fish. And then you take streams like Huzzah and Courtois, which have had otters for a long time and which still have about the same population of smallies they always had. I know otters can do a whole lot of damage. But I don't believe it's happening to any great extent on the Meramec, except possibly above Maramec Spring. The river is just too big and has too many deeper pools. I'd think also that the more heavily spring fed a stream is, the less damage the otters can do because the fish never get as slow and sluggish on the spring fed streams as they do on the colder ones. Kickinbass, the more I think about it, the more I agree with you both on the slot limit thing (lowering the lower limit to 12 inches) and on the idea that not as many people are gigging in the present special management area because it's a little smaller. Unfortunately, a LOT of people are gigging in the areas downstream, and I'm afraid that trying to close one of those areas, even experimentally, would really raise a stink. Of course, that's a problem no matter what...closing a stretch that gets little gigging anyway no matter where it is won't give you an accurate picture of the effects of gigging in a popular stretch, and closing gigging in a popular stretch is going to really make a lot of people mad.
  13. Several things... First, about the whole enforcement thing. There are a number of problems with enforcing gigging regulations. For one thing, it's done in the dark, so it's inherently more difficult to police. For another thing, the giggers are mobile, and the agents have to be mobile as well. And don't depend upon waylaying the lawbreakers at the boat ramp. On the Meramec in the Steelville area, there are a bunch of private boat ramps and private places where somebody can get a boat into the river. I'd be willing to bet that some of the illegals are using the private accesses to avoid any agents. Wayne brings up a point that the enforcement people I've talked to at MDC always bring up...just because you're not being checked by an agent doesn't mean the agent isn't watching you. It sounds good. But I have a real problem with it. I've been checked exactly three times in my long in the tooth life on Ozark streams...no, I take that back, I've been checked twice and have seen one other agent. If the whole aim of agents is to catch lawbreakers, that might be a good thing. But if it is to PREVENT law breaking, the more visibility the agents have, the better. If the agents spent more time being VISIBLE on the streams, the lawbreakers would think about it a lot more. Gigging is no exception. If the agents traveled up and down the rivers a few times each gigging season (heck, one thing is for sure, it's easy enough to find the giggers when they're gigging!), and also spent time at the ramps, I'm pretty sure it would put a damper on any gamefish gigging. Problem is, gigging season is also the height of hunting season, and the agents are spread even more thin than they would be at other times of the year. Is fishing better now than in the past? I don't think so...not on the larger streams. Smallmouth fishing on rivers like the Meramec and Gasconade started declining in the 1980s, and it has never recovered to what it was before then...especially for larger fish. I knew a lot less about catching big smallmouths in the 1980s than I do now, but if you average out the number of 18 in. plus smallies I caught from the Meramec back then (per trip) compared to what I catch now, there is no comparison. Yes, part of it is fishing pressure, which increased almost exponentially with the advent of jetboats, but so has the catch and release mentality. The fish just aren't there in the Meramec like they once were, and it declined with the use of jetboats. In my opinion, at first it was because the jetboat wakes totally screwed up spawning, because I watched the catch rate of smaller bass drop off very steeply while I was still catching bigger fish. But I think the bass have adapted to jetboat wakes to an extent, and now it is SOMETHING else that is keeping the big fish population down. The Meramec has not suffered any spectacular pollution, fish kills, pools filling in, etc. during that time, so it isn't an environmental factor. As for the special management area on the Meramec...yes, it's full of partiers, tubers, rafters, and canoers during the summer (especially Friday through Sunday). They bother the fishermen but they don't really bother the fish. If they did, I'd never be able to catch ANYTHING out of Huzzah Creek! The bad thing is, that section of the Meramec has to be the WORST section to choose to make a special management area. It's still too cold from Maramec Spring (along with a couple of other springs) to have the kind of growth rates in smallmouths that stretches further downstream have. If I had my druthers, I'd much rather see a section either from Birds Nest to Onondaga or Onondaga to Meramec State Park as a special management area, because those sections DO have excellent potential to grow big fish. So I'm not real sure how much impact an experimental ban on gigging would really have on the present special management area, but it would seem to me to be worth a try. I might wish that gigging had been outlawed many years ago, long before the advent of the jetboat, which I guarantee you has made gigging both MUCH more popular and MUCH more efficient. But outlawing it now is not, in my opinion, an option, because it WOULD be totally unfair to the law-abiding giggers. Nor am I advocating more special management areas with bans on gigging in them. It MIGHT be both doable and good for the resource to ban gigging on a FEW special management areas, along with some more creative regs on those areas. In my opinion, a one fish 15 inch limit on smallies makes little sense if you're trying to grow true trophies. I'd like to see a slot limit in some areas, something like 4 fish under 14 inches and 1 over 20 inches, or even something like they do in Alaska on some salmon streams, where you are allowed just a certain number of salmon per year, and you punch and date a ticket for every one you catch. When your ticket is punched, you cannot keep another salmon, and if you're found on the water with a salmon and your ticket is full, the last hole punched better be for that date. So to allow anybody to keep one trophy smallie a year on these stretches, you get a ticket and you punch it when you decide to keep one 20 incher or better. Bottom line is, Ozark streams have the POTENTIAL to grow a lot more 20 inch smallies than they do. Compared to streams in a lot of other areas of the country, from Oregon to Minnesota to Pennsylvania to Maine, Ozark streams suck when it comes to big fish, and there isn't a whole lot of reason for it. I think illegal gigging is only part of the problem, but it IS part of it.
  14. Kickinbass...I'll take you up on that offer if you let me decide where to look for the bass! I've done enough gigging to know that you're exactly right, the bass and suckers don't hang out in the same places. Which means that those who are gigging bass ARE intentionally targeting them, because if they were only targeting suckers they wouldn't be seeing many bass. Especially largemouths even more than smallmouths. So why am I and others seeing so many dead gigged bass and bass with gig scars on the Meramec? Bass at night are almost always close to cover, though they tend to often come up shallower at night in the autumn than where they are during the day. They are easy to gig IF you find them, and the only way to really find them is to specifically look for them. Kickinbass, YOU might not be looking for them, and most or all of your friends may not, but that doesn't mean EVERYBODY is not. When I've gigged, I've often gone into the places where I know the bass will be, just to see what's there. I have no trouble seeing bass that I could gig if I was so inclined. I suspect that some giggers just happen upon the occasional bass and gig it for the heck of it. But I KNOW that some intentionally look for them and gig them regularly. Again, IT DOESN'T TAKE MANY PEOPLE DOING THIS TO MAKE A REAL DENT IN THE BIGGER BASS. Your assertion that more big smallmouths are taken by casual floaters than by giggers is supposition, and I think it's supposition not supported by facts...and I don't have real facts on my assertion that gigging is such a significant drain on the big bass population, either. That's why I think it would be very instructive to close just one stream segment to gigging for a few years and study the populations of game fish in it to determine what effect gigging is really having. Again...I'm not advocating banning gigging. But giggers are going to have police their own ranks more, and MDC needs to get more serious about policing the sport.
  15. Polock, the 23 1/2 incher was one HUGE fish! Your 19 3/4 was also a terrific fish...and I know you actually weighed it instead of "guesstimating" weight. A lot of people would have called that fish a 4 or 5 pounder. 2.48 pounds sounds like it was a pretty skinny fish, since a smallie of that length should ordinarily weigh at least 3 pounds and possibly as much as 3.75. That's why I don't like to weigh smallmouths. Weight can vary depending upon the condition of the fish, the amount of food available, the time of year, even just whether it's been having good luck catching food lately. But a 20 incher will always be a 20 incher, and never get shorter if it had a bad month.
  16. Guys, I think I said it in the other thread, but I'll say it again... The problem with gigging is, unlike any other "legal" method of taking fish, you can specifically target the biggest bass in the river. For that reason alone, it's different from fishing out of season, or keeping over the limit, or even just fishing. It doesn't really matter if the majority of giggers don't gig game fish (and I believe that to be true). It only takes a few bad apples to decimate the population of LARGE ADULT smallmouths. I believe, and I'm far from the only one, that illegal gigging is one of the most significant factors in depressing the number of large adult bass in the Meramec. I can't speak for other rivers because I don't spend enough time on them. But I find it interesting that my experience in recent years has been that the fishing for larger fish has declined on the streams big enough for jetboats and gigging from jetboats, and has either stayed the same or increased on streams that are too small for jetboats but big enough for canoe traffic...including streams that have a LOT of canoe traffic and a lot of angling pressure. I also find it interesting that my experience for many years has been that there are more smallmouths with gig scars on them after a gigging season with lots of clear water than the seasons that get a lot of rain and more murky water. The Meramec was exceptionally clear this whole past autumn and winter, and the problem seems to have been worse than ever. I agree that gigging should not be outlawed, though I sometimes wish it had been outlawed long ago. It IS an aberration...anglers I've spoken to from other states have no concept of gigging, except to relate it to spearing pike in some northern states. But if you don't believe it is a problem, you either haven't spent enough time on the larger streams during the fall and winter, or you're sticking your head in the sand. Kicknbass has a good point that we shouldn't be alienating each other, and in reality the only answer to it is MUCH better enforcement, and a lot of peer pressure to discourage the bad apples. Outlawing it is unrealistic, and limiting the season probably wouldn't help all that much. Unfortunately, illegal gigging is extremely easy to do without being caught. I would like to see the smallmouth management area of the Meramec closed to gigging as an experimental regulation for a few years, just to see what that did to the population of larger bass. Once we saw whether it made a difference or not, we'd have a lot better handle on how much effect illegal gigging is having.
  17. Bob, I've used the pontoon boats...did a 6 day float on the John Day River in Oregon in one a few years back. Excellent fishing craft, handles any water we have in the Ozarks with the exception of true whitewater like on the St. Francis (John Day had up to Class 3 rapids). Biggest drawback is rowing it through long dead pools (not as easy as paddling a canoe through them), and it blows all over the place in strong winds. Also have to consider how you're going to haul it, whether you have to inflate it and put it together when you get there. A good solo canoe beats a solo kayak in my opinion...it'll do just about anything the kayak can do, plus you can haul a lot more stuff and you can get in and out of it easier than the typical sit inside kayak. Float tubes are great, but can be dangerous in heavy current. Small plastic bass boats are a royal pain anywhere you can't use a trolling motor (which includes the riffles of Ozark streams). Now that Mohawk is apparently going out of business, the three canoe companies that I think are best as far as selection, quality, and good designs are Old Town, Wenonah, and Bell.
  18. Basically I use one or the other of Brian's methods. Seems like I'm always fishing a two nymph rig, so I'll tie a piece of tippet to my leader that's about 18-24 inches long with a double surgeon's knot. Put the split shot just above the knot. Tie on the upper fly about 8 inches below the knot using a palomar knot and leaving the tag end (it'll be 12 inches or more long), and tie on the bottom fly on the end of the tag end. Don't know how many others ever use this method...works for me.
  19. I'll start out by saying that I'm far from an expert flyfisherman...Sam would probably outfish me on the Current every day of the week, and he knows more about the hatches on the Current than I'll ever learn, partly because I just don't do enough trout fishing in Missouri. However, I do always seem to be able to catch a few fish when I get down there. And I do like to keep my fly selection simple, mainly because then I don't have to worry overly much about matching the hatch! 1. Elk hair caddis in several sizes from 12 to 18 2. Tricos, #24 3. Flashback hairs ears, 12-16 4. Scud patterns (these always seem to catch fish for me no matter where I fish) 5. And when I want to do something different and go for a big brown...a simple streamer I make myself by wrapping some crosscut rabbit strips for a bulky "head" and using a red squirrel strip for a "tail". I'm not even sure what the hook size is, but the whole thing should be about three inches long. Gray and white to imitate minnows, olive and brown to imitate sculpins, or basic black. Doesn't always work, but once in a while some torpedo of a brown will investigate it, and once in a great while I'll actually hook one! Actually, my whole fly selection isn't all that much bigger...I also use a lot of pheasant tail nymphs, occasionally a Prince nymph, a few small emerger patterns that I originally stocked up on for fishing spring creeks out West, some Woolybuggers.... and the venerable Fetal emerger (egg fly).
  20. Gonefishin...point about the giant Arkansas redhorse is that they are there in Arkansas streams, and so are the gamefish. Redhorse or other suckers, the usual targets of giggers, do not compete with smallmouths and other gamefish for habitat, nor do they eat smallmouth eggs. They may eat invertebrates that smallmouth fry also eat, but they don't eat them in the same places. Sorry, I don't buy the rationale of liberalizing gigging in order to enhance gamefish populations, and up until now, the usual rationalization given by MDC for gigging is simply to better utilize an otherwise underutilized resource, which gets back to my point that the sucker population in MO Ozark streams is no longer underutilized. Also, I have to disagree with your assertion that bass don't stay in the same places and are not as easy to gig as suckers. You said you've never gigged. I have. At night, under lights, bass are easy to find and easy to gig. They will sometimes be found in with schools of suckers, especially on smaller streams, but most of the time they'll be found close to cover, as you said. That doesn't make them more difficult to gig, because they tend to hold still in the light. Once you find one, it's easy to gig. Bryantsmallie...I never said giggers are the only reason there aren't more big smallmouths. Habitat loss is a whole nother story, but it is often used as a convenient excuse for not doing anything about other problems such as gigging. Nor did I say smallmouths are never gigged by accident. Thing is, it's up to the gigger to positively ID their target before gigging it, and oops is no excuse. I've never gigged ANY gamefish by accident. I don't mind sharing the river with law-abiding giggers. It's a fun sport and a very interesting one if done right. But the worst thing about gigging is that in no other way can one so specifically target the biggest gamefish in the river. I do NOT like sharing the already scarce resource of big smallmouths with those who are illegally killing them. Maybe MDC should come up with a few waterproof stuffed 20 inch smallies and anchor them in the river and watch them nights during gigging season like they've done with the mounted buck to catch road hunters!
  21. When I talked to Kathy on the phone, she was a lot more upset about this herself than she wrote in the article, which seemed to me to be pretty even-handed. I too think she did a good job under the constraints of space. Few anglers spend more time on the Meramec and Gasconade in the winter than Nick Hamra. If he's seriously upset about this, it IS an issue. Unfortunately, the basic response from MDC is no different from what it ever was. In fact, Kathy told me that one biologist, who shall remain nameless here because I almost always respect him and his work otherwise, suggested that what look like gig scars on smallmouths may actually be scars from great blue heron attacks. How ridiculous is that? Funny how those scars are most likely to show up on bass that are too big for a heron to swallow, and it's funny how I've only seen FRESH wounds on bass during the gigging season...oh, yeah, and it's also funny that those herons have long enough necks to reach bass in the deep water that they are almost always in during the day in cold weather. I'm as big a supporter of MDC as anybody, but they are abdicating their responsibility on this one because they don't want to stir up the good ol' boy hornet's nest, and possibly also because they seriously DON'T know what to do to curb this. Pray for LOTS of rain next autumn!
  22. FishHawk, you're right, a 16 incher is nothing to sneeze at! It's just that, most of the time if I catch that many fish, at least one or two of them will be over 17 inches, with at least a couple more in the 16 inch range. But I can be perfectly happy catching a 16 incher...well, heck, I can be pretty happy catching ANY smallmouth! I did see one really big fish on that trip, probably 19-20 inches.
  23. Buying a canoe is never easy. There is no all purpose canoe, and no tandem canoe that will ever handle as well solo as a dedicated solo canoe. You CAN, however, get a little closer to an all purpose canoe with some designs than you can with others. But you get what you pay for. Cheaper canoes like the Pelicans and Colemans and even the Old Town Discos will be serviceable, but they aren't efficient paddling designs and they are a lot heavier. I don't like molded seats. They add weight, are not all that comfortable, and you can't sit backwards in them. They also don't work well with some of the seat backs available. I don't like short tandem canoes. The shorter the canoe, the more difficult it is to stow spare fishing rods, and the more likely you are to hook your partner. I don't really care for short, wide canoes. Yes, they have more initial stability--they don't feel as tippy. But chances are they have little or no more SECONDARY stability--once they start to flip, they keep going. They are slower to paddle, don't track as well, and are more difficult to stop in current. Some OK choices for a tandem canoe that can also be paddled solo, in my opinion, would be the Old Town Penobscot 16 (I have two of these, and have paddled them solo), and the Wenonah Solo Plus. The Penobscot is more of a tandem that can be paddled solo in a pinch and still have decent performance. The Solo Plus is more of a solo that can also be paddled tandem.
  24. Yeah, I'm afraid that both state departments in the past did some unwise stocking of walleye. Years ago, not too many years after Greers Ferry filled up, it was producing huge walleye from the native river strain fish that were there before the lake. The AR state record came from there and everybody thought it was only a matter of time before it produced a world record. But AR stocked the lake with lake strain walleye from somewhere up north, and they either outcompeted or mixed with the river walleye. It meant more fish but smaller ones. I suspect the same thing has happened in most of the Ozark reservoirs where lake strain walleye were stocked. More fish, but smaller ones. I'm not sure, but I think Bull Shoals also got some lake walleye stocking in the past. Probably the only pure river strain walleye in the Ozarks now are those that are found in the Spring, Eleven Point, Current, and Black rivers. MDC has been taking brood fish from the Black below Clearwater and hatching the eggs, and restocking them in the St. Francis and Eleven Point...the Eleven Point to see if they can improve the existing population, the St. Francis to try to re-establish a population. The St. Francis produced a former MO state record (and it didn't come from where the angler said it did, but that's a different story). But walleye died out in the St. Francis in the 1960s and 70s. Biggest walleye I ever caught was a 12.5 pounder from the Black, but I've seen walleye up to 18 pounds caught on the Black and Current. I've caught several by accident on the Meramec and Bourbeuse, but I don't think the Meramec river system fish ever get as big as those on the Black river system.
  25. Chain pickerel are pretty much limited to the St. Francis, Black, Current, Eleven Point, and Spring River systems in MO, along with Duck Creek, Mingo, and some other lowland waters in the bootheel. In Arkansas they are found over much of the lowlands and some of the Ouachita streams. Grass pickerel are a lot smaller, but are found pretty much over most of the Ozarks. They tend to be found mostly in smaller tributary creeks. I've caught chain pickerel in both small creeks and in the bigger rivers. They are more common in the heavily spring-fed waters, however. Jacks Fork below Alley Spring has a bunch of them.
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