I would like to break from tradition and talk about something a little broader than just my family and my successes in the realm of manhood. I have an annual tradition coming up that is as important to me as opening day of deer season is to a hunter. You know of course that I love to fish and I live very close to the Ozarks. The Ozarks are a hilly place surrounded in mist. ‘The Waltons’ lived there I think. Nowadays the Ozarks are full of boozed up college kids and party yachts. Fifty year old divorced men from Chicago with too much money, pounding down Busch beer and filling my lake with urine. Still on the quiet side of the lake and on down past the damn in the rivers, we MEN gather to forage for food and entertainment. There around the bend pointed south you will find me ‘THE MAN’ searching for the elusive. I am of course talking about the great Spoonbill spring spawning. Trout fishing is for weenies and city slickers. If the fish doesn't weigh more than my children I’m throwing it back. Snagging is what my friends and I do. What is snagging you ask? Let me explain.
Missouri is a state populated primarily by the great-great-great grandchildren of lazy frontiersman. Few people can admit this, but it is wholly true. A lot of people will talk about the outlaws that ran amuck around the state. They will claim to be the descendants of Jesse James or Coleman Younger. They will tell you that while he shot up New Mexico, Billy the kid spent his childhood in Missouri. They will point out that Wyatt Earp grew up in Missouri and The Clantons he shot also were from Missouri. They shout about Bonnie and Clyde and the hills that sheltered Ma and Pa Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd and Dillinger. Well that is but a small percentage of the population, I assure you. Most Missourians are far too lazy for bank robbing and such. That is a lot of work. Let me tell you how Missouri actually came to be. In the days of exploration and westward settlement, St. Louis was the ‘Gateway to the West.’ Settlers would travel by train to this burgeoning city and purchase the needed supplies to mount their expeditions. From there they would set off across the Great Plains in search of the perfect piece of land. They wanted nice flat land with black soil and plenty of clear water. They searched for the blue skies and purple mountains majestic they sang about back east. They wanted to toil and work and build their futures with their own two hands; or with the hands of their children who were building character.
The people who settled the town I live in drove their wagons a mere one hundred and fifty miles. The land was hilly, but they were tired. There was only an inch of red clay atop hard limestone, but their feet were already sore. The water was muddy and brown and dangerously fast and large bodied, it tasted like limestone, but the sky was growing dark. The weather changed every day and the only native wildlife were squirrels, opossum and raccoon. Still they thought it tasted good with enough salt. Salt they had plenty of, so they stopped forward progress, and declared themselves westerners. One man made it an extra twenty miles and named his town California. As if that would fool anyone. I figure this is my ancestor.
We hail from the ‘Show Me State.’ People always ask me what that means, they think it means that Missourians need proof of a thing before they will believe it. That’s not true. We believed we were in the wild west and there was irrefutable evidence against that position. ‘Show Me’ means show me an easier way to do what those other states are doing. We’re great at it. Missouri, the land where the mobile home was born. The beginning of moonshine and hillbillies. The state where goats have almost completely replaced the lawnmower. The land of the free, the home of fish that are caught with ease and eaten in great quantity. I love it here. I may never leave.
Missourians have a rich and proud heritage of being lazy. That is why we invented all these new ways to fish. We cast aside our fly rods and throw nets. Soon rods and reels too went away. Even regular cat fishing became too tiresome, I mean you have to watch the tip of that rod all night long. It’s exhausting! Jugging, Trot lines, limb lines and outright arm noodling replaced sportsmanlike fishing in this fine state. I love it! There is nothing better than setting your lines or floating some jugs, taking a nap and then crossing your fingers and seeing what you've got.
Now it is snagging season, it is time for me to get prepared. To snag the spoonbill or ‘paddlefish’ we still need rods and reels. We use very heavy rods rigged with salt water sized reels and tackle. We attach a large weight on the end of the line. Three giant treble hooks are spaced apart on the line behind the weight. Next, like police searching for a body in the river the lines are cast out from a boat and said boat is driven at three to five miles per hour. The forward motion of the boat pulls the lines trailing behind it off the river bottom. The cow like fish that hover in mid water eating plankton become ’snagged’ in the hooks and line. These poor fish don’t even have to be enticed to swallow bait. Oh sure every now and then you have to recast and the line is heavy. The lines will get caught on underwater obstacles and that is a hassle. If you do get a fish they are very hard to bring in weighing between thirty and one hundred and twenty pounds. It’s impossible to get rid of all the difficulties. Primarily though you just tool back and forth along the river or lake at a leisurely pace. It’s so easy it should be Illegal. Maybe we are outlaws but if so we are lazy ones. The season opened on the fifteenth and I am itching to get out there. Spoonbill is a delightfully good tasting white fish that goes great with batter and a deep fryer, (goes pretty good with beer too.) Wish me luck.
Your lazy countrified outlaw son.