By Josh Gowan
Well, here we are again, right dab in the middle of another “polar vortex”. Great. The two worst times of the year for an outdoor writer are when it’s 100+ degrees and when it’s 0- degrees, because very few people are spending any time outdoors if they can help it, myself included! I’ve gathered a bunch of tidbits and whatnots to hopefully tide you over until someone catches or kills something!
The Spring Tackle Show at Grizzly Jig was a huge success yet again, and the crowd was thick throughout the four days. Industry rep’s and professional fisherman from all over the country spent the weekend showing off products, answering questions, and selling whatever merchandise a customer might need or want. The Humminbird depth finder seminars were probably the biggest hit, as there are few fishermen on Earth who wouldn’t like to be able to operate their electronics at a higher level (myself again included). The non-stop seminars by professional fisherman were always packed, and there was a ton of information available for the enthusiasts.
The show also acts as a reunion of sorts, bringing all of us “industry folks” together for brainstorming on new ideas, planning events for the year, and getting to talk face to face to our sponsors. A lot of the new crappie fishing products you see throughout the year are results of the meetings. I was able to spend time with Anne Parker from Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Bruno Perotti from PerottiBuilt, and Scott Echols from Hi-Tek Stuff, along with the other B’n’M guys, and we have a ton of new and exciting stuff coming up from the crappie fishing world!
One of the things we talked about, and something I’ve touched on before here in my article, is the release of “trophy” crappie. Believe it or not, there are some crappie fishermen who do not filet and fry every fish they catch. While this is more prevalent farther north, it happens in our neck of the woods as well, and it’s pointless. Crappie in the big lakes and rivers from St. Louis to Memphis live an average of 5-6 years. If you’re lucky enough to catch a trophy fish, let’s say 1 pound 14 ounce and up, or 15 inches and up, it is almost always this fish’s last year alive, and throwing it back while keeping a load of 10 inchers that will spawn 2-3 more times in their lifetime just doesn’t make sense. The exception is a small lake or pond, where a crappie may grow at a different rate, or if you catch a really big male on a bed during the tail-end of the spawn, this fish is probably the last line of defense for the eggs, and I’ll occasionally release them.
Here is what I would be doing if not for the arctic blast bearing down on us! February 1st marks the opening of my trout season. While I have no desire to go stand shoulder to shoulder at a trout stream and make horrific, epileptic attempts at using a fly rod for anything other than dipping trees, I do enjoy catching and eating the hard-fighting and photogenic fish. Rotary Lake in Jackson, Mo is stocked every November by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and starting Feb. 1st you may use whatever color of sparkly, jarred dough-balls (Foutz’s Hunting and Fishing in Cape Girardeau has all of the above) or corn kernels, shrimp, pretty much anything, and keep four fish per day. These are not small trout, with a ton of 3-4 pound fish and some bigger. However, without ice skates and an ice auger, there will be no such attempts made on the trout for at least a week or two.
Do you have kids or grandkids that spend too much time in front of an electronic device of some sort? Of course you do, we all do, but here’s a free-to-very cheap way to help our problem. The Missouri Conservation Department puts out a kid’s outdoors magazine called Xplore. This magazine comes out every two months, and is chocked full of interesting pictures and stories aimed at kids. The magazine is free for Missourians, and for my friends in Tennessee it is $5 per year. My son has every electronic device known to man, and I may or may not be grooming him for a part-time video editor position, but he loves the magazine!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com