The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 18, 2012

Dablemont: A bright, pleasant autumn and a battle with a giant catfish

By Larry Dablemont
The Joplin Globe

— Maybe I am just getting too old to remember, but it seems to me this has been one of the best and one of the longest periods of fall color ever.

Here on Lightnin’ Ridge, some of the oaks turned red, others turned golden, and they stayed that way for three weeks. Believe it or not, there is still one oak that has all of its leaves left, and all of them are green. I suppose there is a non-comformist in every crowd. The winds that came over the weekend took care of most of the leaves, and the cold which moved in after the rain made me start moving firewood to the back porch.

Before the cold, my Uncle Bryce, my Aunt Betty and their son Dennis came up from Arkansas for one last fishing trip. Sondra Gray, editor of Lightnin’ Ridge publications, and Rich Abdoler, a friend who writes for the magazine, joined us, figuring there were not going to be many more 70 degree days the remainder of this year. We put a pair of 19-foot Grumman canoes in the river and fished with spinner baits, and jigs adorned with rubber crayfish. Both produced a few bass. Rich caught six nice Kentucky bass on a white spinner.

A year ago, Sondra got a special fishing rod for Christmas, a custom made light rod with spinning reel which is made for 6-pound line, and best used for white bass, crappie, trout and walleye and bass less than four pounds in weight. I told her this summer that when she fishes for bass, she should be using a stronger rod and a fast retrieve medium action spinning reel that will hold 10- or 12-pound line, but Sondra really likes that light outfit, and she catches a lot of fish on it. She decided to try a little Rapala deep running crankbait, and in little time she hooked and landed a walleye and a bass which were both around 2 pounds.

In mid-afternoon, in deep and shady water, she bent the rod hard and exclaimed that she was hung up on something, a log or rock perhaps. It was then I saw the line slowly moving toward mid-river, and I told her I didn’t think she was hung up, except on the jaw of a pretty good-sized fish. For awhile she didn’t believe me, and then she watched it move and lunge the tip of that rod.

Sondra has landed some bass in excess of four pounds on that light outfit, but nothing larger. What she had that afternoon was likely three times larger than anything she has caught on it. I was thinking she had a really large bass or walleye, listening to that drag whine as the fish took more than he gave. Sondra gave it her best, but 15 minutes later she was worn down more than the fish was. With the rod handle tucked under her armpit, and her wrists tiring, she finally had an idea why I suggested using a stronger rod at times.

Finally, she got the big fish close enough to see in the clear water, and it was a huge channel catfish, about 12 pounds or so. The fish saw the boat, saw the net, and gave it a hard long lunge with not much line out. It snapped, and Sondra looked like she could cry. But I told her she had done a great job of fighting it, and it was a lot more his fault than hers. But to really get her back to a semblance of ‘happy again,’ I had to tell her that I had never once ate a big catfish out of that river that didn’t taste like mud and wet leaves.

The end result is she will soon have two sizes of fishing rods, one to use when there’s big fish to be caught.

Successful hunt

The opening weekend of deer season went about as it always does. I took my daughter Christy to her tree stand deep in the woods, and I went off to another area and leaned up against a tree to take a nap. I never shoot a deer until she does, and a lot of that is because I like to hunt with a muzzle-loader in December.

About 7 or so I saw a pair of does, and a half hour later, two more. The latter two had a nice buck following them, but he was moving pretty fast through the timber and it was more of a shot than I wanted to take. Christy dropped an 8-point buck about 9 a.m. The antlers weren’t large and heavy; the buck was only 2 years old. We spent the rest of the weekend cutting up, processing and packaging deer meat and ate some really good loin steaks on Saturday and Sunday.

New journal available

The November-December issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal is now on the newsstands and can be found throughout the Ozarks on magazine sections of Wal-Mart, Dillons, Price-Cutter, Country-Mart, Woods Grocery and many more. If you want to see the magazine, check your local magazine sections.

We have published this old-fashioned magazine for 10 years now, and I am always amazed how many Ozark readers have not seen it. We have sample back issues we can send out. If you would like to see one, just send us $2 in postage and we will send a sample copy.

We had a contest to find the best outdoor story written by readers of this column, which we could use in our magazine. There were a great number of stories sent in, and we kept all of them on file. But the number of entries made it impossible to send acknowledgement to the various contributors, so I will thank all of you here in this column. The winner was James L. Ford from Seneca, Mo., who sent in an article about running a trapline during his boyhood. Mr. Ford will receive a $50 check for his story.

If you would like to write about an outdoor adventure of your own, the deadline for our February-March issue is Dec. 15. Any length is OK, but we prefer articles between 1200 and 1800 words.