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A Relaxing Day


Al Agnew
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It's nice having a new (to us) house on the river; I can look down from the house and see how low and clear the Meramec is.  It's REALLY low and clear.  And with the cold snap, the water temp had dropped into the mid to upper 30s.  But I figured a couple reasonably warm days might have gotten it a little warmer, and I needed a relaxing day of fishing.  Plus, I was really wanting to see how much power my new trolling motor has.  I had needed new batteries, and I bought them yesterday.

I had to drive into town to get gas for the motor, otherwise the ramp where I was going to put in would have been a 15 minute drive from the house.  Getting gas added an extra 5 minutes.  Darn.  (It sure beats an hour and a half, which was how far this ramp was from our old house.)  When I got to the ramp, there were already two boat trailers on the lot, and another truck and boat came in while I was backing down the ramp.  Guess I should have expected it with the good weather and the end of deer season.

I headed upstream.  The first good winter hole had a boat fishing it.  So did the second one.  There is a third pool upstream that LOOKS like it should be a good winter spot, but I'd never caught much from it.  I thought maybe I should really concentrate on it and try to figure it out.  But a couple miles upstream are two more good, proven winter holes, so after dithering a bit, I headed on up to them.  The low water made running the river a bit tricky.  I had to pick a narrow line through a rocky riffle, and then go over a log that I kinda expected to bump, but cleared it.

I stopped at the downstream of the two holes, and started up the log side of it, fishing a jerkbait.  Found a little group of spotted bass in a brushpile and caught one, got a strike from another one.  With 10 feet of visibility, it was easy to watch them take it; no having to feel soft jerkbait takes!  I remembered that we were low on fish in the freezer, so I kept the 10 incher, hoping to get enough for a meal.

I fished the rest of the way up the log side of the pool with no more action, then started back down the bluff side.  With the low water, the current was very gentle at the upper end, slow enough that I thought there could be some fish there.  Sure enough, I caught another spotted bass, a nice one, 15 inches.  My hope for a meal took an upward turn.  Then, a couple casts later, a very nice smallmouth took the jerkbait.  Can't complain about a 16.5 incher in these water conditions.  

I fished down the bluff side of the pool, picking up a fish here and there.  Another 16 inch smallmouth.  Then a third 16 incher on a hair jig.  No more spotted bass, but several smaller smallies.  I had one big smallmouth, looked to be 18-19 inches, materialize beneath the jerkbait, but no matter what I did I couldn't get it to take.  Same thing happened with several spotted bass, including a couple 15-16 inchers.  This is usual for water this clear and cold.  I was taking my time, fishing very slowly and thoroughly, and soon realized that I'd spent a good 3.5 hours in this single pool.  

I made the run up to the second pool I had in mind to fish.  Again, I fished up the log side.  Caught a 12 inch spotted bass that went into the cooler, and a 12 inch smallmouth out of the same deep flat area on the hair jig, but other than that had only a few small spots staring at the jerkbait without taking.  Had two nice bites at the upper end in a slack eddy and missed them both on the hair jig.  Then I started back down the bluff side.  In exactly the spot I expected to catch a nice one, my fourth 16 inch class smallie took the jerkbait.  Then a couple more smaller smallmouth, and the fifth in the 16 inch class. But I was more happy about the final two spotted bass I caught; giving me five, enough for a meal.  I'd spent another two hours in that pool, and it was well after 3 PM and the sun was getting low.  I headed back downstream, stopping for a short time at a couple spots, but now I was hurrying my fishing and nothing was happening.  So I took off for the truck.

In cleaning the spotted bass, they were all full of crawdads.  So much for crawdads going dormant in the winter; apparently there were enough of them out roaming to furnish a good meal for bass.  One of the crawdads was not your usual species.  It was a freckled crayfish.  Freckled crayfish are a species that ONLY lives in the Meramec river system in all the world.  And for the most part, they are only found in the upper sections of the Meramec, Huzzah, Courtois, Big, and Mineral Fork; it's very unusual to find on as far downstream on the Meramec as I was.  Just one more cool thing about the day!

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