Stream of Consciousness
a "trophy" size limit for smallmouth on 20-mile stretches of the Jacks Fork and Gasconade rivers. Anglers may keep only one smallmouth of 18 inches or more daily.
They can fill out the normal daily limit of six bass with largemouth or spotted bass but only the one huge smallmouth. Of course, if all anglers released all bass, fishing would improve dramatically.
The 18-inch limit will be in effect for at least several years. Fisheries managers studied existing size and populations of smallmouth bass on the two rivers for several years before the size limit went into effect. That way they can compare the effects of the regulation.
Years ago, the Conservation Department instituted a catch-and-release regulation on Courtois Creek, which resulted in a 12-inch minimum length limit on stream bass.
Mortality is high once fish reach legal size-it's 30 percent or less below 12 inches and 70 percent or more after they reach that size.
Smallmouth bass grow slowly. It takes 5 years for a bass on the Gasconade to reach 12 inches and 6 years on the Jacks Fork. The fish have a normal life span of 11 years.
Managers have found that a smallmouth that tops 11 inches is likely to be caught and kept. The result is few fish survive to larger sizes. There is a high mortality rate.
At the same time, Conservation Department biologists are studying crayfish, the favorite food of smallmouth bass, trying to tie in the health of the crayfish population with the growth and health of smallmouth bass.
I change the popping bug for a crawdad imitation, a hairy brown thing that should tear up the indifferent bass.
It sinks among them like a brick. A couple turn toward it with mild interest, the way you'd look at a clown car backfiring and lurching down a crowded city street.
I let the lure sink to the bottom then retrieve it with slight jerks, trying to imitate a swimming crawdad. The bass politely move out of the way. A couple of tiny green sunfish chase the moving fly, but they aren't big enough to take it.
When in doubt, I always turn to the woolly bugger. A friend once offhandedly promised me a lifetime supply of the fly, and I've been holding him to it ever since, despite his grumbling and threats to break my fly rods.
The olive-green fly has a couple of strips of flash material tied into the tail that glitter