The Big Year-Ender
What an awesome year we’ve had in the great outdoors, and hopefully 2015 will be even better! There’s a bit of a cold snap bearing down on us that should bring at least a few ducks down to our area. Deer season is all but over, with just a week of archery hunting left, and the fishing has been fantastic everywhere in the Midwest and will continue to get better as long as Mother Nature will refrain from freezing all the water again! To keep from crying on my computer over the sad story that culminated last Tuesday without filling that youth deer tag I’ve been carrying around, I figured a look back at the year was in order.
If you recall, last winter brought the longest and most severe stretch of arctic air that has descended on the Heartland in at least the last 20 years. Everything, everywhere was frozen, and this took quite a toll on the fishing. Anglers were unable to get on the water until late February, and the shad kill that was the result of the extended freeze made it nearly impossible to catch fish. The good news though, was that once the gamefish had finally eaten their weight in shad enough times to clear them out and give us a chance at catching them, they were fat and healthy!
Early March found Chippy and I in southern Mississippi fishing a BassProShop’s CrappieMaster’s tournament on new water. Lake Washington has since become our favorite place to visit. The oxbow lake in the Lower Mississippi Delta is not only full of gargantuan crappie, it also houses one of the most picturesque landscapes I’ve ever seen, wrapped on one side by ancient, moss-covered cypress trees, with the other side dotted with old plantation mansions, some renovated and some hollowed out and covered in vines. I also got to meet Mike Jones, owner/operator of Bait’n’Thangs and Southern Star R.V. and Cabins on the bank of Lake Washington, who has since become a good friend and was instrumental in the highlight of my year in the outdoors, but we’ll get to that.
April, May, and June were an absolute blast, and on April 12th, my 34th birthday, I had one of the best days crappie fishing I’ve ever had, and was lucky enough to share it with my wife. The video from that day has well over 20,000 views, with my wife and I smashing big black crappie from the shallow swamp that is my home lake, Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee (if you haven’t seen it, it’s at www.youtube.com/wylecat1). We caught fish all the way through late June, and completely made up for the late start the frigid winter caused.
Summertime often found me poolside and spending a lot of weekends playing volleyball, as well as sharing my love for carpentry with my son, as we built numerous whatnots out of free pallet wood I’d collected from work. I also managed to make time for a bit of fishing, slipping over to Kinkaid Lake in Illinois for some big crappie. Another vacation at our favorite beachfront locale in Mexico Beach, Florida took my brother-in-law Crowley from deep-sea fishing to pier fishing to shore fishing for a myriad of saltwater fish.
In September I landed a new gig as the “crappie writer” for Wired2Fish.com, one of the biggest fishing websites around, and with their help and Mr. Mike Jones, along with some beloved local sponsors, Chippy and I were able to attend our first National Championship back on Lake Washington. I lost my outboard to a rogue stump and we took a whooping in the process, but the experience was incredible and something we’ll never forget!
Fall fell and I returned to the woods, chasing the elusive whitetail buck with my favorite, albeit most unlucky weapon, my 9-year-old son. We hunted a total of 24 hunts, spanning two states and five counties, and as previously mentioned were unsuccessful, but only if you measure success by your harvest. We had a lot of great times in the woods and I really appreciate everyone who invited us out.
The only week I hunted without him was during rifle season when I traveled north and left him in school, and of course the deer were running all over each other, and I shot a good buck, which my son was very proud of and we have been dining on venison ever since!
I’d like to thank all the readers that follow this column throughout the year, and especially the folks that send in pictures and stories! If you ever have a good picture or story, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.