By Josh McGowan
What a year 2012 has been. An extremely mild winter killed the late duck season, but the fish stayed active and gorged throughout, leading to the best crappie and catfishing our area has seen in years.
Quantity was great, but the quality of the fish was really astounding. All across the midwest a ton of state records were broke for various species due to the extended feeding season our soft winter provided.
Then came the drought that nearly turned the Mississippi River into a dried up creek bed. The low waters were tough on the shipping industry, but made for some of the best river catfishing in years.
The hotter it got, the better they bit, and a lot of outdoorsmen got introduced to “bottom bouncing” or “drift fishing” as the word got out.
Then came the official beginning to hunting season for many of us over the Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, Hurricane Isaac’s remnants were smashing through the Heartland and made for a very dismal opening weekend of dove hunting. Over the next few weeks though, the crappie fishing at my home lake, Reelfoot, turned on and is yet to turn off. This was the best fall fishing we’ve had in years.
Myself and others in the outdoor industry predicted that, with the acorn crop suffering due to the drought, the Missouri Ozarks would turn out record numbers during deer season, since the deer would have to stay constantly on the move in search of food. The youth season proved us right, and even with very warm weather hurting opening weekend of firearm season, we still had an 8% increase in total deer taken. Missouri’s Share the Harvest program also set a new record, with hunters and processors working together to donate over 252,000 lbs of venison to needy Missouri families!
The irony is the anti-hunting crowd views themselves as the humanitarians, and us as selfish, neanderthols.
Duck season has been a roller coaster ride. Their was a record hatch and a ton of birds, but after the first few days of the season, the warm weather and lack of water made it tough. We’re halfway through, and things are looking up, we’ll just have to see.
I’ve spent the last five days laid up with the flu, so I thought in the big “year-ender” I’d share some of my personal highlights from the great outdoors over the last year.
My year started with my first pheasant hunt. I was invited to tower hunt in the foothills of the Ozarks, and we had a great shoot. The very next week, my buddy Chris Stephens and his partner Jerry Whitehead showed up with the biggest catfish I’d ever seen, a 110.2 lb Mississippi River blue cat. February brought my annual trout fishing expedition in Jackson, Mo and I got to take a good friend and see him catch his first trout. Late February found Chippy, my father-in-law Romel, and myself on Sardis Lake, Ms where we caught nine crappie over 2 lbs.
The first weekend in April was awesome. I caught my biggest ever Wappapello Lake crappie, a lake not known for big crappie, a 1.9 lb slab! The next day my wife and I descended on Reelfoot and hammered the crappie, bream, and goggle eye, and the video from the two trips combined has over 10,000 views.
Late April brought two consecutive wins in fishing tourneys on Reelfoot for Chippy and I, including the Legends of Reelfoot Lake tourney, our biggest crappie fishing win to date. Another first was entering the “2012 Redneck Flying Carp Tournament”. Cody, Chippy, and I took 2nd Place and “boated” 69 carp, and I took a carp to the chin, resulting in three stitches!
The beginning of August found me and my family on the gorgeous white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we had an amazing time and I managed to catch a limit of delicious, hard fighting pompano. The end of September brought Chippy and I our best day of jig fishing ever, loading the boat 60 big Reelfoot crappie in five hours.
Novemeber was probably my favorite month. I took my son to the Missouri Ozarks for his first real deer season and stayed at The Landing on the banks of Current River.
We had a blast! One week later I killed my second biggest buck ever, a big, north Missouri 10-point!
I’d like to thank everyone across the region for reading my columns and watching my videos, and I’m looking forward to another great year with a bunch of new outdoor adventures! Don’t forget to visit www.joshgowanoutdoors.com!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoor Columnist, Crappie Angler Magazine field staff, Freelance Writer @ 573-579-0212