I enjoy an early February warm front as much as the next guy, but the 20 mph south wind that accompanies it I could do without. But alas, that is the nature of early spring, which regardless of what that Pennsylvanian varmint sees or doesn’t see, starts for us outdoorsmen the day after duck season ends.
The golden opportunity for us weekend warriors came Saturday morning, before the wind gusts exceeded the speed limit on most city streets. Thanks to the wonders of social media and my vast array of friends, I was able to see monster crappie coming from every body of water between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Erie! Reelfoot Lake is turning out some slabs in the shallow, stumpy parts of the lake, and Kentucky Lake is turning on as well. The caravan of Missouri boats arrived early enough at Lake of Egypt, IL to waylay the power plant specks, and a couple of locals at Wappapello caught their limits by 9am. From now until early April is the best time to target big crappie, as they are moving shallower and aggressively feeding, fattening up for the spawn.
As for me, I had floor seats Saturday morning to not one, but two elite level basketball games that I couldn’t pass up. The first was watching the highly touted and undefeated Sikeston 9-10 year old Red Team, which dominated again, and I’d say could take on any team of the same age-group in the Midwest and possibly the world. Standout second-string forward and defensive specialist Jameson Gowan did not disappoint! Then it was up to Jackson, MO to watch the also undefeated Jackson 2nd and 3rd grade girl’s Noon Optimist Yellow Team, who continued their streak as well. The other standout second-string forward in my immediate family, my niece Lynn-Avery Crowley, tied four other players for second-highest total points with two.
Being that I was already in Jackson and the wind prevented us from a Saturday afternoon trip out on the water, my old fishing buddy and step-dad Perry Jackson and I slipped down to Rotary Lake to target a few fat, rainbow trout. The MDC has been stocking Rotary Lake for years now every November, and after February 1st you can use scented or live bait and take home four trout per day, provided you have a Missouri fishing license and the $7 trout stamp.
I’m not sure the exact year when the program started, but my first trip was around 2005 and I was bound and determined to catch my first trout. February 1st arrived with frigid temperatures and a blizzard, and I showed up wearing my heaviest deer hunting gear, with a casting pole and a can of whole kernel corn. I wasn’t near the expert at stocked-pond trout fishing that I am now, but I felt if I could take the cold and outlast the other fishermen across the lake on the pier, the fishing Gods would surely smile on me. One by one my counterparts succumbed to the wet snow and howling wind and retired to their vehicles, and I stuck with it. Nearing frostbite and without feeling in many parts of my body, my old float sunk, and I set the hook on my first rainbow trout. I recall vividly trying to get the hook out of the fish’s mouth, but being unable to work my fingers, so I instead carried my fish, rod and reel still attached, up to the car and threw them all in!
I gutted the trout, seasoned it, and put it on the smoker at Port Cape Girardeau in downtown Cape, where I managed the bar. A group gathered around and “oohhed and aawweed” over the foreign fish, and we all sampled the white, flaky meat.
Being a salty veteran now, #12 treble hooks equipped with a wad of multi-color dough bait from Foutz’s Fishing and Hunting in Cape, fished about 10 inches behind a 1/4 –ounce sinker is my bait of choice. Cast out and tighten up your line, much like catfishing, and be ready to set the hook quick and hard, and you too can bring in a mess of tasty rainbow trout!