I know something about winter fishing that needs to be kept a secret, so please keep this close to your vest. I met this fellow by the name of Don Lewallen, who has owned a nice little resort on Norfork Lake for several years.
Don and his wife lived most of their life in Joplin, but they are sure tickled they are now living down on Norfork. The Three Oaks boat dock sits so far down a steep bluff below the resort that guests go down and up on an electric tram, which hauls them and their gear to that dock. That dock is unusual in that it sits over about 50 or 60 feet of water off that steep incline. If you want, you can rent a boat or dock your own boat there and then head off out into the lake to find some good fishing.
But the secret is… the best fishing you can find is right beneath that dock…at night, all night long. I know all about night-fishing beneath submerged lights. I have done that on Missouri and Arkansas lakes for more than 35 years, in the spring and early summer. It is a great way to catch all kinds of fish… crappie, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, white bass, stripers and big bluegills.
In Bull Shoals and Norfork, there are millions of threadfin shad, perhaps the favorite food fish for all of those species. And so you would figure that in the spring and early summer Lewallen would have a good number of fishermen come down and catch fish from his dock. It is constantly lit up by bright dock lights, and when visitors are there Don puts the submerged lights in as well. His bait nets hang down below them, and the threadfin swarm around and get hung up in them so that bait is easy to obtain… and nothing beats those little three-inch shad. So heck yow, you can catch some dandies there this coming spring. Everyone knows that.
But the secret we have to guard, and please don’t tell the Lewallen’s I spilled the beans on this… results from a conversation I had with Don last summer when he and I sat there on his dock for three hours one night and never had a bite one night after he caught a dozen or so. “I reckon I should have been here a few weeks ago,” I said. “I guess April and May are the prime times?”
Lewallen was quiet for a moment and then he replied… “Actually, if you want to see some real fishing, you need to come in the winter, from around mid-December to early March.” Upon my questioning he told me that during those times, especially in the dark of the moon, he catches giant crappie and walleye and even some big stripers, right there in the depths below his dock.
What I figured at the time was that he was just joshing me. But it didn’t take long to see that he was serious. So we got to talking about the why-for of such a thing. Neither of us could come up with a logical explanation. But he swears it is the truth. If you can sit there until the wee hours of the night and stand the cold, you are liable to catch who-knows-what and big ones at that. If you don’t believe this article, call Don Lewallen at the Three Oaks Resort near Gamaliel, AR, and ask him. His phone number is 870/467-5283. Maybe you can go down there on one of those winter nights when I’m there and fish with me. But again, keep this under your hat. We don’t want a bunch of folks down there catching fish that don’t deserve that kind of luck.
I know that most state agencies anywhere in the country aren’t steered by a whole lot of common sense, but the Missouri Department of Transportation wastes enough money that it is no wonder they are always insisting on more taxes. How many thousands would they save if they paid attention to just sprucing up the highway medians and limited the outside mowing and tree-hacking to half what they do now? We have all seen it, you know what I am talking about.
Along Hwy. 160 from Poplar Bluff to Springfield, you will notice they have cut almost every little shrub, cedar and pine up the sides of the steep cuts as if they pose a real problem. You will also see the many places where steep inclines beside the highway barren of vegetation are bright orange with eroded, washed clay which every heavy rain takes a few more inches of, carrying that sediment down into the little creeks which eventually carry it into rivers like the Current and Jacks Fork. The highway department could work at covering those eroded banks with some kind of vegetation, and surely make tourists think that highway was a little more beautiful.
The little pines which sprout up in that poor soil on those highway inclines above the ditches pose no problem to anyone at all. If given a chance to grow, they would stop the erosion and add green to the highways instead of the color of eroding clay. I guess MoDot must figure they need to keep laborers busy, and that’s why they hack away at them. Having a thicket of cedar, pine and sumac along our highways just might save a life or two if they are situated on ground sloping down into gullies, where they can stop a car hurtling toward the rocky ground below, or provide a windbreak for blowing snow. But things won’t change. Where they can get to them, they will hack away all bushes and high grass and cedars and everything else. And when they do that you will be able to plainly see the litter and trash that decorate those ditches. MoDot can’t afford to come back and clean it all up, they have to move on to more roadsides to hack up. Next time you see them doing that, count the number of mowers and big trucks involved in such a meaningless operation.
Speaking of cedar trees, in next week’s column I am going to tell you how you and MoDot could make tens of thousands of dollars. Well they aren’t really cedars, they are junipers. But you will enjoy learning some things about those trees you may not know.
If you want to find out more about giving one or two of my outdoor books, any of nine I have written, or a subscription to my outdoor magazine to a friend or relative as a Christmas gift, just call me at 417/777-5227 and I will have Ms. Wiggins, my executive secretary, explain how you can do that easily with your debit or credit card. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613