Column: While hunting or fishing, always follow the law

By Larry LaGrange

When February arrives, we know warmer temps are right around the corner. It may be possible to catch fish the usual way now (de-iced) since they’re hungry after the winter’s fast. The early season is the best time to catch the biggest bass in the lake or to get a nice bunch of crappie. But you must fish dead slow and be very patient. Afternoons are usually best. When it was 50 degrees with sun and a light wind, I saw a couple of boats out on West Boggs Lake — an encouraging sign.

One service I can provide here is to publicize outdoor related clubs. If you have a hunting or fishing-related meeting or activity coming up, email me a month ahead of time.

Right now I know that the Patoka Hills chapter of the Quail and Upland Game Alliance is meeting at 7:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month at either the YMI or 1408 (Reflections) in Huntingburg, and the Dubois County Sportsman’s Club meets on the third Monday at a variety of locales. The club’s February 19th meeting is at the Rock in Ireland at 7 p.m.  Joining one or more of these groups is a fine way to give back to the outdoors and meet good people.

Also, remember to renew your hunting/fishing licenses soon. You don’t want to be caught without proper documentation. It’s embarrassing and expensive. A couple of times I have nearly run afoul of the law, due to my ignorance or carelessness.

Once I was merrily fishing away at Turtle Creek Reservoir near Merom, south of Sullivan. My dad and I were in a cove which was near a county road. A couple of officers stopped and asked us to read the numbers from our licenses. My dad complied, but as I frequently do, I had left my wallet locked up in the car. I always imagine I might fall in the lake and there goes the contents; also a wallet is uncomfortable to sit on all day. The officers were not pleased with my claim, and in hindsight, it sounded phony. They debated what to do for awhile. They played “good cop, bad cop,” a scenario in which one wanted to write me a ticket then and there and the other argued for meeting us at the ramp. Luckily the good cop won out, and we all had a semi-pleasant meeting back at my car, where I produced my license. I could’ve saved stress and fishing time by having my paperwork on my person.

Another time my dad and I were not so fortunate. We were at Dogwood Lake (Glendale) in the late fall. It was duck season, and the entire eastern shallow section of the lake was off limits to fishermen.  This restricted area was our favorite, so we resigned ourselves to staying as close to the cutoff zone as we could. Fishing wasn’t good, and things got much worse when an official-looking boat approached. The fellow identified himself as the Glendale property manager and asked, “You boys know anything about an angler’s boat motoring through a decoy setup?”

We had not done this and thought anyone who did would be nuts, because somewhere close would lurk a guy with a shotgun. We vehemently denied any guilt, but he asked us to accompany him to his office. When we got there, a conservation officer was present. After quite a bit of discussion in which my dad, never one to anger that much, grew quite upset, the officer wrote us up.

My dad was absolutely incensed—very seldom had I seen him that mad. We weren’t guilty, but we paid the price for being at the wrong place at the right time. My law-abiding father was concerned that since I was a teacher in Jasper, my good name would be soiled forever. I’m pretty sure Dad, a retired teacher and community leader, had never gotten a ticket for anything in his life. I have forgotten what the penalty amounted to, but we paid it and moved on. We consoled ourselves by knowing the newspaper notice of the fine would be in the Washington papers and not Jasper’s. It was a difficult situation for everyone, so we put it in the past. Spilled milk.

Be proactive and know the law. And if you see a situation that needs a conservation officer, the fellows assigned to this area are Jonathan Watkins, Kendrick Fuhrman, Tony Mann and Corporal Joseph Haywood. They can be reached at District 7 headquarters at 812-789-9538. After hours call the TIP hotline at 1-800-847-4367 and an officer will return your call as soon as possible.

Remember: These guys are on our side.

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