About an hour before sunset I maneuvered the big pontoon boat across the wide and windy waters of Stockton Lake. I found a good spot of calm water out of the wind, off an eastern-facing bluff. I stretched a rope between two trees sticking up out of forty feet of water. I have done a similar thing over the past forty years in Bull Shoals, Norfork, Beaver, and Truman lakes. I could write a whole book about those night-time trips in which many species of fish have been boated.

It is getting late, but finally, a crappie to be proud of.

It is fascinating what happens at night from that pontoon boat with submerged lights radiating a bright glow from beneath the boat. I had food and coffee and a bed arranged in the back of that covered big camp-style boat. I would spend the night there. A big cooler with ice in it most often gets filled with fish by one or two in the morning.

But there I sat that night on Stockton, watching the little water creatures swarm around my light while darkness settled. By ten o’clock, there were swarms of tiny gammarus, (fresh-water shrimp) clouding the water around the lights, with small fish only an inch or two long. I had my rod setting there beside me, with a live minnow on a hook, 26 feet beneath me. Nothing had touched it for an hour and a half. On the bank, a trio of young coons came by and passed, searching for an easy meal.. A heron flew by and squawked at me. I thought I heard a whippoorwill across the lake. They are rare anymore, especially this early. In the distance, a boat motor roared past. At 10:30 I still hadn’t had a strike and I was getting sleepy. The sleeping bag seemed more attractive as each minute passed. I got up and drank a cup of hot coffee as the night cooled… put on a jacket too.

I wasn’t going to sit there fishless much longer! Seemed as if it would be one of those nights. Maybe I would climb in the sleeping bag, which one of my fishing partners jokingly refers to as a ‘fartsack’, sleep a couple of hours and then sample the waters beneath the light again. Then about a quarter to eleven, it happened. The tip of my rod bobbed ever so slightly and the taut line beneath it slacked just a mite. I grabbed it and set the hook and the resistance below me told me I had a crappie. He stayed right beneath me, as crappie do, and I lifted him up to admire a 13-inch black crappie which meant that the sleeping bag would wait a good while.

Five minutes later, with a fresh minnow dropped into the depths, I was wide awake and holding on to my light action rod, when I felt a slight jolt. Another crappie, this one a little bigger than the last. I put him in the ice chest and nailed another, then another. By midnight, there were seven or eight crappie flopping around on the floor beside me. I just didn’t have time to quit baiting a hook and bending that rod, as I fought the results of a crappie school beneath me. Then a fish nailed the minnow hard and headed for the main lake. White bass do that, and you know what it is when you have hooked one beneath the lights. White bass really outdo a crappie and it took a couple of minutes to tire him. He was too big to lift aboard. I netted him and admired a two pound female white bass that was full of eggs in early May. Weird, but that’s the way it is. Tonight by 2.a.m I have my limit of crappie and none are less than 12 inches long. Two are 15 inches in length and most between 13 and 14 inches. In that ice chest there are a dozen white bass and none are under two pounds. I threw back several smaller ones. A couple of them exceed three pounds. There was also a 19-inch walleye. I realize that if I keep fishing I might land another walleye, maybe two. But the fart-sack will be warm. It is easy to drift off to sleep with the slight bobbing of the pontoon boat in gentle waves.

Read more about such fishing beneath lights in my book “Recollections of an Old-Fashioned Angler,” a 288-page book about 70 years of fishing experiences. That book or any of my others can be ordered by calling my office, 417 777 5227. E-mail me at lightninridge47@ gmail.com. I urge readers to read what I have written lately about the Missouri Department of Conservation which cannot be printed in newspapers. You can find those columns on www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.