The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 18, 2012

Dablemont: The long and short of smallmouth bass

My good friend Rich Abdoler did set a record while fishing from my boat last week.

He caught the smallest smallmouth I have ever seen hooked on a fishing lure. It was less than three inches long!

But despite my derisive comments, he kept on fishing and in another hour or so he hooked and landed a big one, maybe close to four pounds. I have pictures of both on my website.

We release all smallmouth, and in this day and time, with all the pressure on our rivers, I urge all fishermen to do the same. There has never been, in all the years I have fished, fewer smallmouth bass in our Ozark streams.

We need a law requiring that all smallmouth be released, and we should urge fishermen to recognize and keep spotted bass, also known as Kentucky bass. Those fish, as best I can tell, are not native to most of the Ozark rivers, and they compete with smallmouth in several ways; for food, spawning habitat, etc. They cross with smallmouth bass and create a hybridized version which weakens the genetics of true smallmouth.

If you fish our rivers, kept the spotted bass, and occasional largemouth if you must, but please release all smallmouth, as most true rivermen do.

That day we were on the river we caught a number of nice bass, but it was a day in which I took some great photos. When you float quietly and slowly, and know what you are looking for, you can get pictures of something besides blue herons and turtles, which everyone and his cousin seems to photograph on the river.

Take a look on my website at the pictures I got of a young gobbler, and of the fishing action, a pawpaw tree with a cluster of pawpaws not yet ripe, and a beautiful flowering vine. If you recognize the flower, you can send me a postcard, and email, or respond right there on the website which allows comments from anyone who sees it.

I’ll bet there isn’t more than one reader out of a hundred who will recognize that flower.

Wildlife photography is something I enjoy tremendously, more and more as I grow older and use a gun and rod less and less. I never received any training, but over the years, by being there and having a very good camera, I have sold about 50 cover photos to various outdoor magazines, and hundreds of inside photos. That was a great boost to my income when I was a young writer.

My photo file is so large now it is nearly too big to find what I want when I want it. I have taken thousands of photos I have kept, and just as many that I have discarded.

You can get some fantastic pictures on the river if you know what you are doing. I have used a blind on the front of my johnboat in past years which hides me from everything downstream. Modern day photographers float the river in bright red or yellow kayaks, waving that double paddle up and down in the air high above them like a bright flag, splashing and zig-zagging down the stream. And they get photos of the same old things — turtles and buzzards and blue herons.

You can float miles down the river without a sound by paddling only on one side, and you can cover miles without ever taking a paddle blade out of the river. The best thing to do if you are a photographer on the river, is to choose a stretch of stream where the canoeist and kayakers don’t go. A string of those yelling, banging, splashing beginners turn the river into a carnival, and ruin fishing and photography for awhile.

Rich and I fish quietly and slowly, and the camera is beside me ready for a quick photo. Individual buzzards don’t usually prompt a photo, but I saw a picture that last trip which I couldn’t pass up, as a group was arranged in a high dead tree shaped somewhat like a cross. The young turkey couldn’t figure out what we were, and I snapped two good pictures of him.

As the colors turn this fall, I will attach a concealing blind to my boat, float the river when the chaos-and-capsize canoers and kayakers are gone, and find photos I have never seen before. And that’s what I love about it. On each trip, something you never saw before presents itself, and you can capture it forever.

In the September-October issue of my magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, we will have eight pages of color for the first time. The magazine is 10 years old now and has always been black and white inside. Now we begin to use color, and it makes such a difference. One of these issues we will increase it to 16 pages and then hopefully go to full color someday, perhaps creating a market for your best outdoor color photos.

We are always looking for good outdoor stories for our magazine, and occasionally buy articles from readers who have never written a piece for publication. Readers of this column sometimes send us great outdoor stories, and we are now working on both a November-December issue and a special Christmas issue.

I might mention here that we also badly need a part-time employee who can deal with prospective advertisers for the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal.

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