Categorized | Opinion

Winter Thaw Welcomes Waterfowl

By Josh Gowan

Blue Bank Resort's guide Nelson Northern and clients pose with a limit of ducks from Reelfoot Lake.

Blue Bank Resort’s guide Nelson Northern and clients pose with a limit of ducks from Reelfoot Lake.

Are you a person who’s overrun with happiness? Has your constant cheerfulness and positive outlook on life alienated you from friends and family? Would you like to remedy this joyous, gleeful affliction? I have the cure… a mid-December trip to Walmart! All I needed was a few vegetables, milk, toothpaste, lightbulbs, and some more .50 caliber bullets and powder loads for my errant shooting muzzleloader. I went in a happy-go-lucky man immersed in the Christmas spirit, and I came out needing either a stiff drink or to speak to my Pastor, or possibly both!
I’m writing this on the 202nd anniversary of the New Madrid earthquake that formed my favorite fishing hole, Reelfoot Lake. Most everyone has heard the story about the Mississippi River flowing backwards and filling in a newly sunken swamp on the Tennessee side now known as Reelfoot Lake. The eyewitness reports from the time are quite harrowing, and it’s hard to imagine what it must’ve been like. This is from an eyewitness report from Firmin La Roche, a French fur trader from St. Louis who was taking three boats of furs to New Orleans:
“After we had supper we went to sleep, and I was awakened by a crash like thunder, and the boat turned upon its side so that Lamel, who slept beside, was thrown on me and both fell against the side. It was very dark then. After perhaps half an hour, when we got away from the bank, we looked at the watch and it was 3 o’clock. When I could see, the trees on the shore were falling down and great masses of earth tumbled into the river. Lamel cut the rope that tied us to a log that was there, and in a moment so great a wave came up the river that I never seen one like it at sea. It carried us back north, up-stream, for more than a mile, and the water spread out upon the banks, even covering maybe three or four miles inland. It was the current going backward. Then this wave stopped and slowly the river went right again.
Everywhere there was noise like thunder, and the ground was shaking the trees down, and the air was thick with something like smoke. There was much lightning. We believed we must surely die.”
There are numerous more reports from different people in different places in the area, if you find time it’s well worth looking up and reading them.
With the big water staying open at Reelfoot the duck hunting has been steady, but they’re looking for new birds as well. Crappie fishing has been hit or miss on the lake, but as is always the case with the northernmost swamp in the south, the fish are biting, it’s just a matter of finding them.
Wappapello lake is producing some good stringers of fish both slow trolling along river channel ledges and casting to the shallow structure on the north end of the lake, according to Slabber Dave Maddox.
As of today the fields are thawing and there should shortly be new ducks coming into the area. I’ve gotten the same story from most everyone I’ve talked to that had open water, they’re killing a few, but waiting for more ducks.
With all the snow to the north the Mississippi River is rising and making itself available to hunters who stalk its backwater. With the extended freeze we’ve had a lot of the ducks have been holding tight to the river, and there should be some good hunts with more water and sunny skies.
All you have to do is walk outside at night or drive around in the morning or evenings to see that the mass migration of snow geese has begun. It won’t be long and there’ll be tens of thousands of the large, loud honkers forming avian tornados in the fields of Southeast Missouri and West Tennessee.
On a side note, if you’re looking for any last minute Christmas gifts for that outdoorsman in your life (or if you’d like to pick up something for the grossly underpaid outdoors columnist) you can’t go wrong with ammunition! Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a stocking full of .22 long’s, .270 ballistic tips, .45 Mag’s, etc… Don’t worry about if we have the corresponding gun or not, the way our government is headed, ammunition may be a better investment than gold before long!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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December 2013
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