What a banner year it is for walnuts and acorns and hickories. There are nuts everywhere! If I can just get my little grandsons out here on Lightnin' Ridge picking up walnuts I will sell enough of them to pay for my duck stamp.
The best parts of the year come and go so quickly. Fall is like that, more than any other season. It is my time of the year. Half of October is gone and I haven't yet picked up my .22 or shotgun for a hunting trip. I realize now that it is time to spend more time in the woods or on the river than ever before, to try to see and experience as much as possible while it is still here.
Tonight I need to put some new line on a couple of reels, because over the next 3 or 4 weeks there will be some great fishing in the Ozarks. Fish feel that cooling water, and begin to abandon the shallow water, heading to deeper spots. But they do not yet reach that point where metabolism decreases.
Fall fish feed in deeper water, but they aren't on a diet yet, they are fattening up, sometimes eating more than they can hold. It is primarily in the fall that I have seen white bass, and black bass gorging on shad, to a point where they attack a lure and have more shad or minnows in their gullet than they can get down.
And while schools of whites and black bass are moving deeper, all through October, when the sun is warm and the lake still, they will spend a half hour or so way out in the lake, surfacing, and attacking about anything that falls among them. You find them, you catch some of them, and they go down deeper, then they come up again nearby.
If you want to catch a big bass on a reservoir, fish deeper points and bluffs with a brown or black jig, with one of those salty rubber crayfish added to the hook. But if you have some pork rind, up to four or five inches long, that will work too. Some folks use nothing else but the pork, attached to a jig. For big bass, I am not talking about small jigs, I like the big heavy ones that will fall quickly down over ledges into deep water, or scrape against the standing timber ten or twelve feet down.
Crappie fishermen love October, but I seldom fish for them after I catch them in Canada in early October. I like smallmouth, and if I have a day to fish, I'll probably be floating down a river, fishing a buzz-spin or a spinner-bait. You would be surprised to see how big the smallmouth are on some of our Ozark rivers if you fish those waters without the bright canoes and kayaks seen there in the summer.
Page 2 of 3 - The buzz-baits and topwater lures still catch fish in the deep water below the shoals, but they won't work much longer. Smallmouth later in the fall will be deeper, gorging themselves on crayfish, and anything that looks like a 'crawdad', as Ozark anglers call them, will attract smallmouth, Kentuckies and largemouth bass on our rivers. In October I have caught bass regurgitating the crayfish, with a belly full of them, still trying to eat another one.
It is amazing how gluttonous bass can be. But what is even more amazing is I will have days during the summer when you can hardly catch one along a stream, and when you do, their stomachs are empty. I can't figure it all out, and that's why I never tire of it. You see something working in the fall in past years, and it just doesn't work at all the next year. Sometimes there are things that work year after year, and sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.
If a fisherman doesn't have a knack for those jig and pork-rind combos he can do well with crank-baits that imitate crayfish. Trouble is, in the fall, you have to fish a crankbait deep, but slow. It takes a while to master that too.
There are few float trips I take in October when I don't have a shotgun or .22 rifle along. One of my favorite hunting guns is an over and under, .22-20 gauge combination my dad owned since I was a boy. The rifle barrel is on top, and the shotgun on the bottom. You flip a button on the side to determine which barrel you shoot.
If you want a mess of squirrels to take home and cook on the grill, or with a pot of dumplings or stew, you use the .22. If you go quietly down a river, you'll see plenty of squirrels, and they seldom know you are there. Close, still shots are common.
You do not use the brightly colored kayaks or canoes along a stream if you want to see wildlife, or catch big fish. In fact, I would never ever hunt from a flimsy craft of any kind, and that's what 17-foot canoes are, accidents waiting to happen. My river boats are 19-foot or 18-foot square-sterned canoes, or 16- to 17-foot johnboats.
A river hunter has to know how to camouflage his boat, and paddle from one side of the craft without making any noise. It is wise to deaden the sound of those aluminum boats with rubber mats if you can, on the floor and wrapped around seats or supports as well.
If you are an outdoorsman with some capability, you can paddle up close to anything along a stream. In October, I find great turkey hunting along our more remote rivers. Often while I am fishing late in the evening I see flocks of wild turkey flying from one side to another, from the flat side of the river where they have spent the day to the steep side where they will roost.
Page 3 of 3 - In years past I have used my boat, with a blind attached to the front, to bow-hunt for deer. And when November gets here, I will hunt ducks from my boat, while I fish a little as well. But as I get older, the most important thing I have as I slowly and quietly move down an Ozark stream is my camera. You can see some of the photos I have taken from my boat by visiting my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com
Next week I will tell you something about the success of our big outdoorsman's event, which is now over. One of the artists that came was Kyle Carroll, the ex-conservation agent who is now a highway patrolman in northwest Missouri. I think you will be surprised what he has to say about the job he once held, before he was fired for reporting an illegal act by another agent.
And I had a lively debate with a regional supervisor for the MDC and the chief of enforcement, Larry Yamnitz as well. You can see a whole account of all that discussion on a very important website which I urge you to see. It is www.commonsenseconservationist.org Give me a few days to get everything on it.