Clocks from past years displayed a different time than ones I notice now. In those days, I fished from daylight until dark, ate a quick sandwich, went back out until wee hours of the morning, took a catnap, and was back in the boat by daylight. I fished like it was the finals of a Bassmaster Classic.
I didn’t notice many things along the shoreline. My focus was the next cast and lure presentation. I greatly enjoyed casting and worked on technique like a golfer does his swing. The areas my friends wouldn’t cast into for fear of getting hung were my favorite places. One of the first lessons my dad taught me was, “If you don’t get hung, you’re not throwing where the fish live”. It’s exciting to drop a buzz bait in a tight spot just past a submerged log, and then guide it between forked stickups on the surface. I still remember forgetting to take a breath as my bait passed through strike zones. And fondly recall moments when strategy paid off and the water blew up under my lure. No matter how you prepare, it still makes you come up out of your seat.
What a difference a few days make. A dirt county lane is now my pace. The speed limit of a pasture road is even better. Now I make fewer casts. I point out likely looking spots to my younger fishing companions and enjoy the excitement when they connect. I take longer looks at a turtle sunning on a stump or watch fishing prowess of a heron.
I’d love to watch a young reader browse these memoirs, shake his head, and say, “I’ll never get that old”. It would be fun to look over his shoulder when his clock begins ticking a different speed and he writes this chapter of outdoor experiences. It’ll be around 9 or 10 p.m. He’ll say, “I’d just be coming off the lake”. Maybe he’ll pause, smile, and shake his head when recalling remarks made about my story. Sounding familiar?
One experience I’ve also “lived” is you don’t lose the youthful enthusiasm; it’s just channeled into new interest. I still spend my share of time in a fishing boat, but many days I now sit from daylight to dark observing indescribable activity at a bass or bluegill spawning bed. I closely examine bass I catch instead of hurriedly releasing them to catch another one. Recently, I discovered a few grubs in one. My friend will be stocking more redear sunfish for snail management this spring.
When spotting new aquatic vegetation, I research its characteristics for benefits or potential headaches. If you’re not confident of plant identification, e-mail a photo. Chad will help classify it. Positive identification is critical to successful management. Many chemicals are formulated for specific plants. If misapplied, you could misappropriate great expense with no results.
Keep a logbook of water temperature, measure clarity with a secchi disk, and note water level. Submit annual water samples and file results for future reference. Record when you fertilized and the amount applied. Enter rainfall and affect on lake levels or visibility. This data could be valuable to a consultant evaluating a water quality issue. I have seven years history for a lake I frequent. When entering recent readings, I observed water temps usually range in the middle to upper 40’s during February. Two weeks ago, the temperature was 62. That alerts me to monitor potential early vegetation activity.
On days your clock ticks a little slower, feed the fish and watch for unexpected guests that may have migrated in with a runoff event. If it’s an undesirable species, you may need aggressive harvest policies before they pollute the fishery. Survey bluegill sizes. It’s important to see fish in all lengths from one-inch to adult. If you’re missing a size class in bluegill or bass, call us. The population profile is drifting out of balance and may require revising harvest policies. Don’t delay!
We encourage folks enjoying the “golden years” of their outdoor trek to involve youth in above experiences. Many kids don’t have such opportunities today. Don’t let their recollection of youthful memories be about video games or things they saw at the mall. You have valuable knowledge to share. When you each write “your story”, I’ll bet the longest chapter will be about times you spent together—around the pond.