The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More
These days I enjoy many different types of hunting. I’m an avid, some might say rabid, waterfowler. I love to bowhunt and have traveled the country doing so for various big game species, although I’m fairly content with Kansas whitetails and turkeys now. And when it’s not hunting season I’m usually fishing. I love to fish for walleye, crappie and channel catfish. I’m at home on the front of my boat on a big reservoir or wading a small Flint Hills stream. It’s all good.
Throw in a recent bout with the trapping bug and decades of camping with family and friends and it’s obvious I have an addiction for the outdoors.
Many of my most memorable outdoor experiences in recent years have centered on those with my children. My 18-year-old daughter and twin 12-year-old boys have been a major part of my outings. Watching their eyes light up as they realize the wonders of Mother Nature and her bounty likely has even more meaning than my own personal satisfaction. Spending quality time with them outdoors carries significant and substantial meaning, no matter what we’re doing.
In this Blog I’ll attempt to relay some of the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from being outdoors. Topics covered will be broad in scope and run the gamut. It’s all fair game. If you can sit at your computer and read a particular entry and it stirs you to try it, or helps make your experience more enjoyable, I will be pleased. And if it does nothing more than make you smile or laugh that too, will please me. The outdoors is truly a great place to be!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Don't get me wrong...we've had plenty of excursions where we never landed a fish or caught very few. I tend to forget those. But if something unique or unusual happens my boys tend to remember them vividly. Such was the case last weekend on our camping trip and a single fish may very well be remembered forever.
We were bank fishing where just two weeks prior we were still catching spawning crappie. Unfortunately, that party had ended and we basically just casted to see if we couldn't tempt something, anything really. We moved to the end of a rock jetty near the boat ramp as both boys stood on a lone submerged rock and kept flinging jigs. I was about to call it a night when all of a sudden I heard a giant splash and Cody hollered. He crouched down and was holding on to his spinning rod for dear life with both hands. The drag was singing and line was flying off his reel and he tried to panic. I warned him not to touch the reel and just hold on.
"Whaaat issss itttt, Dad?" he said frantically trying not to get pulled off his rock.
Cody was just about to lift his jig out of the water with only 5 feet of line out when the fish hit. His drag was set well and was doing its job as I told him it was likely a big ol' wiper or a tail-snagged carp. He had an audience of people in boats waiting to load out as he fought the fish. I hoped he'd at least get to see it and prayed he'd land it.
It took several minutes but soon the big fish tired. Both boys were going crazy as was a pontoon boat with several couples on it rooting for him. I reached down into the water and lipped the fish and there were hoots and hollers when I lifted it out. It was indeed a nice wiper and on light tackle it was an epic battle.
We shot some photos and released the fish as both boys were grinning ear-to-ear. We had to send text photos to cousins, my friends and mom and sis back at camp. Accolades poured in. For just a brief moment, one fish made Cody a bit of a celebrity and he was proud. I'm betting it will be decades before the details of that single fish fade from his memory.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
My family and I were at Marion Reservoir and just getting ready to enjoy a fire after a late dinner Friday night. But looking west we could see dark clouds and I knew we were in for a bumpy ride. Checking the radar my suspicions were confirmed. High winds and damaging hail were forecasted and our campground was right in the path of the storm. I didn't take any chances and loaded up my wife and kids and headed to a make-shift storm shelter below the dam to ride it out. One of my boys said, "Dad, should you put the grill away?" I replied, "Buddy, if that big ol' heavy thing blows off that picnic table we've got problems!"
But upon closer inspection with a flashlight I found I'd dodged a bullet. I had to cut several limbs off the tree to get my boat out but the trunk and major limbs had landed just a couple feet away. The limbs covering the boat hadn't caused any damage other than a scuff on my motor and cover. I felt extremely fortunate.
But my favorite Coleman Roadtrip Grill was on the ground and parts were strewn everywhere. The odd thing was I had a metal dog bowl with about an inch of water in it sitting right next to the grill. It never moved. The kids searched with flashlights and recovered most of the grill pieces. The drip pan was the last item needed to possibly salvage the grill when we heard a "clunk, clunk" from the road as a truck passed and ran over it. Ashley said laughing, "I think I found it, Dad."
The grill may not be salvageable. But if I'm only out a couple hundred bucks I feel pretty fortunate. It could have been much worse and run well into the thousands of dollars with just 2 feet difference. I couldn't help but think of the people suffering from tornado damage in Reading and Joplin. My heart felt for them as this was nothing compared to their loss. But it still serves as a reminder to keep an eye on ol' Mother Nature as she can get a bit nasty on occasion.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Since that time, Adam has become a bit of a fishing fanatic. He now fishes local ponds and creeks on his own and he goes fishing with me and my family every chance he gets. He fishes at least two or three times a week after work and on weekends. My daughter blames me for his addiction and the new-found competing interest.
It's all good in my book. The joy of fishing is getting out and doing it. It's the thrill of catching something and feeling the steady pull of a fish as it fights. It doesn't take much to hook a kid on fishing and a trip or two might be all they need to become a lifetime angler. It worked for Adam and it could work for someone you know, too. Give it a try.
Friday, June 10, 2011
We arrived Thursday evening and with light fading fast, my two boys and I decided to try casting a jig and bobber from shore to see if any crappie were still nearby. On Brandon's second cast our question was answered as he landed a nice slab. In the next 45 minutes we caught and released about 15 crappie and fished until we couldn't see.
The next morning the wind was whipping as I loaded my three kids and wife into the boat. I rigged each kid's pole with a bottom bouncer and spinner or slow death hook and we started a drift. Within minutes all kids had caught a fish and it never slowed down. They were reeling in wipers, white bass and walleye about as fast as they could at times. I did nothing but bait hooks, remove fish and run the boat for the next several hours. I never even had time to sit down.
The next two days the action was similar. I added another angler to the boat in my daughter's boyfriend. I also had to wear a white cotton glove on my right hand to protect my mutilated thumb. Ashley and Adam, the two oldest kids, made fun of my "look" and called me "Michael Jackson." The glove got a workout but the goofy "look" was worth it as we figured we'd caught well over 300 fish by the end of the weekend. We kept six walleye and seven crappie and released the rest.
The kids enjoyed it. I fished a total of about 15 minutes in my boat and the lack of "me" time didn't bother me a bit. Fishing is fun but catching is even better. And when you're watching your kids fish AND catch it truly is special.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
"Do you think I'll catch anything from shore, Dad?" Brandon asked about fishing from the bank.
"I doubt it as it's too shallow, the water's hot and the boat traffic is bad," I told him.
Undaunted by my less than encouraging prognosis, Brandon caught a crawdad by hand and pinched the tail off and baited his hook with it. He waded out to waist deep water and cast his pole. He let line out as he retreated to shore and wedged his rod into the roots of a Cottonwood tree and waited.
In less than 10 minutes his rod tip started bouncing. He grabbed the pole and the fight was on. His twin brother, sister, sister's boyfriend, mom and I were all cheering him on as the battle lasted about 5 minutes on the light rod and reel. Finally, he beached the 3-4 pound flopping, fat channel catfish and looked up at me smiling from ear-to-ear. He was truly proud of himself and his accomplishment.
"I guess it doesn't hurt to try, does it buddy?" I said smiling back.
The next morning Brandon was back at it as soon as he was awake. In short order, he caught a nice drum and a fat carp using the same technique.
In this instance, I'm glad Brandon didn't heed my advice. The fact he did it on his own made the moment even more enjoyable. He was proud of his accomplishment and I was proud of him for trying despite the odds.
Maybe I should tell him I don't think he could play quarterback for the New England Patriots or become President of the United States.....
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I dropped the trolling motor and monitoring my GPS tried to keep us trolling along at around 1 mph. We were using 2-ounce bottom bouncers so it wasn't hard to keep them on the bottom in 13 feet of water. It didn't take long and Craig had the first fish of the day. He dumped the plump 18-inch fish into the livewell and we were off to a good start.
Over the next few hours we caught a lot of fish and most were just under the 15-inch minimum length limit. However, a keeper was landed now and then and my livewell was filling up although the fish weren't big, but big enough to keep. We stayed in the same area and as more boats showed up others were catching fish, too.
By about 2 p.m. the forecasted wind showed up with a vengeance. We fished a while longer but were about ready to call it a day anyway. We guessed we'd caught 50-60 walleye and had a limit of 10 keepers between 15 and 18 inches.
We headed back to the ramp about 3:30 p.m. and I was reminded of why I try to leave the lake by noon on holiday weekends. The 3-lane ramp was standing-room only and the line to launch or take out was long. People couldn't back trailers, worked on their motors while sitting on the ramp and left their vehicle unoccupied in the way of others trying to get in or out. It was a virtual zoo but really not surprising. Common sense doesn't seem too common any more.
It took us nearly 30 minutes to load. But as we said goodbye it was a good feeling knowing we had a fine day fishing Kansas' oldest reservoir. Still old, but darn good.