By Larry Dablemont
If you spend a lot of time studying nature, you find that fish are harder to figure out than birds and mammals.
That stands to reason. They live in a different world … under water. I study fish a lot with my rod and reel and occasionally look into them with my filet knife. I recently studied crappie for several evenings in mid-May, only to be fascinated by the fact that they were pretty much behaving as they were in mid-February, out in deep water, close to trees and stumps and poles that were sticking up out of the lake. Except now, instead of being close to those stick-ups and 20 feet deep as they were then, they are close to those stick-ups and about six feet down.
The banks close by were steep, and the crappie were all full of eggs and still not even interested in spawning. How can that be, the dogwoods quit blooming long ago, and last year in that same area spawning had been going on for three weeks.
Fish spawn according to water temperature and lengthening daylight. Since the lake is reasonably murky this year it could be that the crappie can’t see when the sun comes up and when it goes down. And doubtless, the water is cooler, what with it snowing recently. The lake is dropping, and that may have something to do with it, too. Members of the sunfish family, which includes bass and crappie, do not spawn well under rapidly fluctuating water conditions. If they do, the eggs they lay might end up out of the water.
But what the heck, the crappie were uncommonly large and the fishing was good.
It is likely that somewhere in a lake the size of the one I was fishing, crappie living miles away are doing things differently. It could be that in another lake, they have already spawned. But there are three things all crappie fishermen hope for each spring: a really good spawn, lots of big hungry crappie and crappie coming into shallow water, which are easy to catch.
I am just aching to go to Canada, knowing that the ice will be out in a few days and fish will active. They are so happy to see ice gone that everyone you catch has a smile on his face, and with the warming sun shining down into clear water, they feed voraciously. There are several lakes I know of in that Lake of the Woods region where huge smallmouth bass begin to spawn right around the first of June, and they just tear up topwater lures. I particularly like to catch them then on buzz-baits, and there are plenty of four- to five-pound smallmouth to be caught.
It is the same in Canada lakes with largemouth bass, and you can easily catch a seven-pounder this time of year on topwater lures. But you’ll seldom see a Canadian largemouth much bigger than that because they just don’t get bigger in Canada. One thing you have to do if you fish in June for bass with topwater lures, you have to use an 8- to 12-inch steel leader. There are just too many northern pike there, and sometimes huge muskies. The teeth of both, and the razor sharp gill covers, can easily cut your line unless you use steel leaders.
Anyone can go to Canada and fish, even if you have never been there before. My advice is, take two of your fishing buddies along and split the cost. Take your own boat. Take groceries and several plastic tanks of gas. Gas is always twice as high in that country than it is here. So are groceries. In fact, so is darn near everything else. You do not want to have any motor trouble there, as it will cost you dearly to have any kind of work done. Before you leave, make sure the motor is in tip-top shape and your trailer bearings are greased well and you have two spare tires for the boat trailer. Use your seat belts, because they love to nail Americans up there, and the fine for a seat belt infraction is $300 to us.
If you are someone who likes the idea of saving 15 cents per gallon on gas, go to the computer and find out how many Murphy gas stations there are along your route between here and Canada. Those stations, which are affiliated with Wal-Mart stores and sit in front of many of them, offer a 15-cent discount to those who buy gas with a Wal-Mart credit card. In fact, if you go into the store and purchase a gift card, that card can be used until at least mid-July to save you 10 cents per gallon. When you combine that with the fact that those Murphy stations are usually already 10 cents cheaper than all other gas stations, you might save as much as 20 cents a gallon.
We traveled to Canada to fish last fall, and before I went I had a computer expert who works for me find all the Murphy gas stations on the way and determine the price per gallon of each one. There were about a dozen between here and Canada, and by using a pre-paid Wal-Mart gift card, I saved from 20 to 35 cents per gallon each time I needed gas. By the time I returned home, we had saved $120 by buying gas at no other stations.
In the Ozarks, these stations can be found at Ava, Mountain Grove, Joplin, Ozark, Springfield, Harrisonville, Houston and Flippin, Ark., just to name a few. Find the rest on the computer by just entering Wal-Mart gas or Murphy gas. I have no affiliation with them and I am not advertising for them, I am just trying to save Ozark folks some money.
Recently I made a trip where gasoline at a Murphy station in Mountain Grove was 30 cents cheaper than it was at other stations in Springfield or here in my area at Bolivar. That is a heck of a difference. If you take a few plastic gas tanks to such a place, you can return home and fill your boat motor tank with much more economical gas.
But here is a word to the wise, you need to treat all gas going in ANY outboard motor with an ounce or so of the gas treatment, Sea Foam, to protect your motor. All outboard mechanics are advising that now, and you can by a bottle of Sea Foam economically about anywhere. And again, I have no stock in that company either.
It hurts to know that here in the Ozarks; we are now paying the highest gas prices in the entire nation. There is one thing I do that others should also do. I never spend one penny inside these gas stations with those inflated prices. Buy nothing from them, no sodas, no candy, no food, no nothing. If they do not sell as much in their stores, maybe it will tell them that selling gas at $4 a gallon is not as profitable as they think.