2019 was good year for fishing, golf, hunting

Column by Larry LaGrange

The end of each year makes me feel grateful that I’ve experienced another season of outdoor adventures. I’ve been to a lot of funerals of people around my age and younger, so when I wake in the morning and I’m able to stand upright and take nourishment, I feel blessed. This past year was a good one for fishing, my main hobby, with golf second, and hunting third. I also celebrated 50 years of marriage to Jenny. It has been a good year.

In outdoors retrospect for 2019, I had plenty of short trips to local lakes that were usually successful. For the second year, I took a three-day trip with friends to West Boggs for bluegill in May. The trailer accommodations in the park are not pristine, but hey, it’s a guy trip. We cleaned a lot of gills. Also, the private lake I’m blessed with access to did not disappoint. The White River lowered and cleared this summer, and I caught perch and a few smallmouths. I really love wading that river when the water level is right. A jig tipped with a hellgrammite is the ticket. My last outing for bass in mid-November saw me hook the biggest largemouth I had on all year, only to lose her after a tussle. But I got a good look at her, and that was enough. I don’t grieve over lost fish as I used to. That big girl will most likely still be there next year. I’m just thankful to have the chance to be outdoors casting a lure, or fishing with live bait. If you really want to catch a bass and you’re not in a lures-only tournament, try using the smallest bluegill you can catch. Use a good-size bobber and a little weight, set it about three to four feet deep, and cast it near likely-looking cover. Then wait. If there’s a bass around, he or she will come investigate. Use a circle hook so you don’t injure the fish if you plan to release it.

I recall past days of yanking on outboard starter cords. Now my Tracker boat’s Mercury 40-hp engine starts without fail each time I turn the key. I did knock the graph transducer off of my boat hull and cracked it when I hit a Boggs stump. Then Mark at Port of Jasper did an epoxy job and it’s working OK. I also took a quarter-size chunk out of my propeller somehow, but the boat seems to run fine. BOAT often stands for “Bring Out Another Thousand (bucks),” but I’m under that for this year.

In golf, I parred the final hole of the year at the Huntingburg course, but this season my drives were down five to ten yards. What’s up with that? Is it my clubs? But my oldest son and oldest grandson both take my driver and hit it 250 yards and ask what my problem is. I used to tell my wife that a Callaway $300 driver would make a world of difference in my game, but she just gave me a look. I also had a couple of nice quail hunts last season. I will never cease to marvel at bird dogs homing in on quail scent. It doesn’t make any difference if I hit the flushing bird or not, although quail are the tastiest outdoor game in my book. In addition, I’ve now had over 50 Outdoor Type columns published by the Herald. Writing has been a nice retirement hobby for a former high school English/journalism teacher. And I am blessed to have a wife who seldom gives me hassle over my outdoor play time, that is unless there’s a job around the house I’ve been neglecting, or much worse, that I’ve been neglecting her.

Regrets for lost outdoor opportunities were also part of this year. I did want to try for bass at Turtle Creek Reservoir near Sullivan a second time after a zero on an April outing, but I never got back there. This lake has resurfaced as a sportfish location after years of water quality issues, but it’s shallow and any wind can kick up rough waves. I also had Newton Lake in southeastern Illinois on my wish list, but that didn’t happen either. This is a power plant lake with warm water all year, similar to Turtle Creek. A horsepower limit makes my Merc 40 too much, so I’d need to troll motor only. Trolling would be OK unless you want to travel a good distance on the water or you have stiff winds. Turtle Creek generously allows any size motor, but you must proceed at an idle.

I heard about big smallmouth in Bean Blossom creek, which feeds into Lake Lemon near Bloomington. I didn’t get there. There’s something about smallmouth bass; they jump like crazy and they don’t give up. I ponder going back to Kentucky Lake and trying the spots near Paris Tennessee that my dad and I used to fish in the sixties, but so far that hasn’t happened. From what I’ve heard, invasive carp are a problem there, and it’s just as bad or worse at Barkley. I’ll do a later column on that issue. Dogwood Lake (Glendale) is close by and I have a history on that lake, but I didn’t get there either. Boggs is such a nice fishery and about the same distance. The only downside to Boggs is the $16 charge for admission and launching. That keeps some angling pressure down though. It’s a heck of a fishery.

Hope you have a successful and happy 2020. Resolve to get outdoors more this year. It’s better than any pill.

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