Column: Winter has fishermen dreaming of warm days

By Larry LaGrange

Ah, January. Isn’t it great, especially if you’re an Indiana fisherman? All you have are outdoor TV programs and boat/fishing/camping/travel shows in Louisville and Indy, unless you’re into ice fishing, which my wife has banned me from even trying. Something about me falling through.

Kidding aside, be careful if you try ice fishing. Have a long rope tied to a tree or some other smart safety maneuver. This winter’s unusual cold has some possibilities for getting fish through the ice. Just be smart. Personally I’d rather cast a lure and hear a splash. But I’ve heard fish taste better when caught out of the icy water.

The Louisville outdoor show is January 24-28 and the Indy event is Feb. 16-25. I’ve been to both a few times, and it always gets me cranked up to see all the displays and hear the experts talk about how to get ‘em when the season comes. I don’t buy much at the shows, but I enjoy walking around looking at the products and dreaming of the exotic angling trips I could take. The brochures make their destinations look mighty appealing.

I have hopes of getting out on a rabbit hunt if it ever warms up. As I write this in early January, I’m expecting that soon this bitter cold will pass. By the time this appears in the paper it might be quite nice, but I have doubts. Last year February was warm and the crappie were biting early. This year, maybe not. But fishermen are ever hopeful. This is also a good season to clean and oil reels, put on new line, even if you don’t think you need to, and organize the tackle boxes.  

I just ordered a new casting outfit. I have been using only one rod and reel on my boat for several years, and by golly I’m going to have two now. Many times I have wanted another handy lure to throw, but with only one rod I’m hampered. Now I’ll have a couple of choices. Hey, the bass pros on TV look like they have maybe 10 rods or so on the deck of their rigs. I can surely have two without feeling guilty.

Speaking of the pros, I really enjoy watching these guys, but wow, does it look like a tough occupation. The grind of travel, the tempermental weather they often face, the being away from home for extended periods, the stress of needing to produce fish every day — I really don’t see how Kevin VanDam, Chad Morgenthaler (sponsored in part by Jasper Engines) and the others do it season after season. But the tournament money and endorsements can be big if you produce. That’s a big if. Fishing is a humbling sport.

The Bassmaster Open tournaments start Feb. 1-3 at Kissimmee in Florida and the Elites (the top guys who’ve qualified) begin Feb. 8-11 at Lake Martin in Alabama. The Classic is March 16-18 at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. It will be televised on ESPN2 March 31-April 1.  

Speaking of tough jobs, I see Tom Jahn at times, and I think to myself, this guy had one tough occupation when he worked as a conservation officer in this area. Tom retired in 2011 after a lengthy stint chasing game violators and helping in various emergency situations. In addition to nabbing deer poachers and fish hogs, there are several other duties “game wardens” have which make their jobs really difficult and even hazardous.

I told Tom I wanted to mention him in a column and of course he modestly told me that surely there were better topics. I said no — I wanted to pay tribute to him and the other officers out there who perform such a valuable service. So, soon I’ll get into Tom a bit. In the meantime, go to Amazon and order his book, Keeper of the Gifts, a book about the various memorable incidents Tom faced in his long career. You can obtain one at the Mill, Great Outdoors, the county museum, or at most state park inns.  

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