Small moil ill eaters: Repent!

If you are someone who fishes the rivers for small-mouth bass, I urge you to do this: Return the brownies 14 inches or larger, and if you must eat some, eat the ones under 14 inches.

This comes from someone who ate a million of ’em as a kid, and guided fishermen all through my teenage years who seldom returned a fish.

The idea was to string the “keepers” and throw back the little ones. It was a different time. Now, if we want to have quality smallmouth fishing, we need to think differently.

How many times do you think I have lay on some riverbank or bluff or big rock watching river bass spawn?

Do you think 12-inch bass are fanning out nests in the gravel and producing those fingerlings that will weigh three pounds in about 10 years?

They aren’t. Small-mouth that are spawning are usually the 15-to 18-inch bass or bigger.

Two thousand eggs per pound of female bass! And I would wager that there are many nests in which no fingerling will live past two years.

You wanna make a difference? Resolve now to never keep a smallmouth above 14 inches, even if you have to eat baloney and cheese for supper. Or just ignore me and be a part of the reason that there aren’t near as many smallmouth today as there were yesterday.

I cannot understand why we can’t join forces and do the simple and easy things here in the Ozarks to make the natural world better.

Our rivers are in such a declining state, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We can’t make them the kind of streams they once were but we can improve them, and we can stop the destruction of declining water pollution from cattle, small town sewage and manufacturing plants. We can ease the choking of aquatic life by gobs of slime and algae, and the eroding of banks, which fill the holes with gravel and sand. It can be done; why aren’t we doing it?

Recently I offered my time — free of charge — to the Missouri Department of Conservation to arrange for some work with landowners along rivers like the Niangua, Pomme de Terre, Big Piney and others. I know that many of them want to help with the preservation of watershed along the rivers where they own land, and it can be done for a minimum amount of money.

They need “up-front” money, which the MDC has plenty of, and can quickly recover through soil conservation service programs from the federal government.

We can do this. Why don’t we? In fact, I can do some of all by myself if the MDC will just agree to put up the money, which those landowners must initially spend. And it amounts to so little to put in water wells or buffer strips of native grass or young trees. It is easy to do!

Is there no one who cares, anywhere? We have clubs like the Ozark Paddlers, the Smallmouth Alliance, Stream Teams, the Nature Conservancy and others.

You cannot possibly spend time on our Ozark rivers and not see the problem as it grows each year.

Where are all you folks who talk a good game? It is time to go out there and participate in turning this problem around now. In a matter of years it will be too late and on many of our smaller rivers it already is.

Gosh-darn it, come and join me in helping. You may not believe what you can learn and how a few people can make such a big difference.

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