One of my favorite Christmas presents is the Missouri Department of Conservation Natural Events Calendar from a relative who works for the department.
This calendar features color photographs of Missouri wildlife and other nature scenes. In August, we are captivated by water rushing over granite boulders at Castor River Shut-Ins In Madison County. Turning the page to September, we are greeted by a close up of a gorgeous monarch butterfly feeding off a dazzling sunflower.
Besides this inspiring photography, most days of each month feature an intriguing caption describing natural events occurring in the state on or around that date.
On my birthday in early June, we are advised that “gray squirrels began second breeding.” Later in the month – June 26 – we are warned to “watch for northern water snakes basking near water!”
Those Journal readers who enjoy fishing should take special note that today “largemouth bass begin spawning,” followed by Friday when “smallmouth bass begin spawning.” To me, this provides a gentle reminder that various types of fish are waiting to be caught in nearby waterways.
I’ve enjoyed fishing most of my life. As a youth, I spent many hours with my father and brother fishing in small lakes and farm ponds in northeast Missouri. We also tried our luck in local rivers including the Mississippi.
Although we typically caught a few catfish in the farm ponds, we really didn’t pay much attention to the state-imposed limits. Truth be known, we caught so few that we were hardly in danger of exceeding those limits anyway. We always had our permits, though.
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed fishing with my own family and with our Boy Scout troop. Last year at Scout camp, I threw a line in the lake the first day and pulled out an 11-inch bass within 10 minutes. I fished a bit more during the week, but no other bites were to be had. I was tickled to find out at the end of the week that my fish was the biggest catch in the “adult leader” category and I was awarded a plaque to prove it.
Dedicated anglers take the sport seriously and competitively, and spend thousands on their boats and equipment. For many of us, though, fishing on a quiet lake or river either alone or with others provides a respite from the pressures of work and worries.
According to the Boy Scout Fishing Merit Badge book, the founder of the Boy Scouts, Lord Robert Baden-Powell of England claimed fishing as one of his favorite pastimes. Biographer E. E. Reynolds wrote, “When he needed to get right away from everything and everybody, he would go off for a few days’ fishing.”
Baden-Powell’s daughter, Heather, also wrote of her father’s love of fishing. In her book, “Baden-Powell: A Family Album,” she tells of her father going off to fish with her brother, Peter, at his side as a “willing pupil.” Waiting for a bite, they often repeated the following chant:
"It’s nice to sit and think and fish
And fish and think and sit,
And sit and fish and think and wish
The fish would bite a bit."
That about sums up my angling experiences. Yet, something still brings me back to the sport even if it’s only once or twice a year. I cannot say I’m trying to put food on the table; that bass caught at Scout camp did make a tasty snack, though.
To the large and smallmouth bass spawning this week, keep on spawning. We’re comin’ for ya.
Editor's note: The MDC Natural Events Calendars are available at MDC locations such as Powder Valley or they can be purchased on-line at mdcnatureshop.com.
Bill Schryver is an operations specialist with a financial services company. he enjoys hiking and camping with the Boy Scouts, spending time with his family and playing trombone with various community bands and ensembles.