Aquarium an underrated part of Wonders of Wildlife

Column by Larry LaGrange

In the middle of winter, it’s always inspirational for us outdoorsmen to attend the various sport shows around the area. Here’s a list of some that will be taking place rather soon.

  • Louisville Boat, RV, and Sportshow, Jan. 23-27, Kentucky Exposition Center, Fairgrounds
  • Kentucky Sportsman’s Show, Feb. 2-4, Owensboro Convention Center
  • Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show, Feb 15-24, Fairgrounds
  • Indianapolis Deer, Turkey, and Waterfowl Expo, Feb 21-24, Fairgrounds

Interesting seminars on fishing and hunting, a tremendous variety of outdoor products, and willing vendors who actually make time to chat with you make these expos a fun time. I recall walking by a White River (Indianapolis) smallmouth guide’s booth. He had high visibility line on all of his sample reels, and I inquired about that. His reasoning was that his clients often were not aware they had a strike, and the hi-vis line helped a lot. The fish don’t see it, but the fisherman does. I’ve since used this type of line, which especially helps fishing soft plastics and crappie jigs.

Last time I talked about the appropriately named Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield Missouri. My wife has family there, and we go out once a year or so. I get to spend time at the outdoorsman’s playground, the original Bass Pro Shop, called the “Granddaddy of Outdoor Stores.” Now right next to the store, finally opening after ten years of construction, is the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium.

If you read the last column, you know the first part of the mile and a half walk-through experience is the wildlife, and it’s truly amazing. The reproductions and mounts are true artistic achievements. There is great art and a variety of displays everywhere. Don’t be in a rush; take it all in (with kids this could be a problem, but be patient and point out things to them, even if they don’t seem interested).

You’ll appreciate the stop at a conveniently located restaurant after the wildlife experience. Then it’s on to the aquarium. Sure, you’ve been to aquariums, but this one’s special.

Something like 35,000 live fish, mammals, and reptiles are showcased in super-clear glass environs and scenes. There’s an amazing 300,000 gallon “open ocean.”One sight I hadn’t seen in previous aquariums was a giant ball of small ocean baitfish spinning around in a cone-shaped ball, pretty much like they do in their natural home. Small children are allowed to crawl inside tubes that get them extra close to the penguins and fish. The incredible variety of fishes on this planet, from small organisms to sharks, just boggles the mind. There’s one knockout display of a full-size ocean fishing boat fighting a marlin or swordfish, complete with realistic-looking waves.

At the very end, there’s the International Fishing and the Bass Fishing Halls of Fame. Good stuff, but my wife and grandson were done for the day. I could’ve spent another two hours checking out the two Halls, especially the Bass Hall. The old guys like Roland Martin and Bill Dance along with the new guys like Kevin Van Dam and many others are featured, together with interesting stories about how far professional bass fishing has come. Next time I’ll allow time and energy for those displays. Johnny Morris has come a long way since he started selling bass lures out of the back of his dad’s Springfield liquor store.

Hope you get a chance to check out the Wonders ( and next door the original Bass Pro Shop, which in itself is a day or more worth of looking and shopping. Check out the other attractions Springfield has to offer by going online. There’s a Civil War battlefield with interesting displays, excellent shopping, and nice parks. In season you could check out the golf courses. Branson with its boatload of year-round entertainment options and Table Rock and Tanneycomo lakes are 45 minutes south.

A fine fisherman and human being died recently, former President George H. W. Bush, at 94 years young. He was also a good friend and fishing buddy of Johnny Morris. He once said: “The days a man spends fishing or hunting should not be deducted from the time he’s on earth. In other words, if I fish today, that should be added to the amount of time I get to live.”

Remember to conserve, protect, and enjoy our great outdoors.

More on