Looking to reel in trophy-sized black bass? Follow the lead of Missouri’s Master Anglers and wet your line in the Big River. The Master Angler Program recognizes anglers who catch lunkers that don’t quite measure up to state records. Since 1999, anglers have caught 24 smallmouth bass from the Big River that qualify for the Master Angler Program.
With a lazy gradient of about 2 feet per mile, Big River is attractive to float fishers. Smallmouth bass, catfish and goggle-eye are high on the list of favorite fish. In the Big River mainstream and its tributaries the daily and possession limit is 12 black bass, which may include no more than six largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the aggregate. There is no minimum length limit on spotted bass.
Big River provides more than stream recreation. Conservation lands along the Big River include Hughes Mountain Natural Area, and Young and Pea Ridge conservation areas. The areas offer hunting, nature study, wildlife photography and many other outdoor recreational opportunities.
Anglers who pursue catfish should view the Department of Conservation Web site and search “catfishing.” The site provides details on the cancellation of the handfishing season, following research indicating that nests left unprotected by adult catfish produced no young and that high angler harvest of catfish is impacting the number of larger fish. Besides ending the handfishing season, the Department is considering other harvest restrictions for catfish. Several public meetings will be held to discuss options for harvest regulations and anglers’ desires to catch larger, trophy-size flathead and blue catfish.
Conditions are favorable for a good squirrel hunting season. The best way to predict squirrel hunting opportunities is to look at the size of the acorn crop the previous fall. The 2006 bumper crop of acorns provided plenty of food to enable squirrels to survive the winter and reproduce. Squirrel hunting season kicked off May 26 and continues through February 15, 2008. The daily limit for squirrel is six, and the possession limit is 12. Both rifles and shotguns are legal methods for pursuing squirrels. Shotguns may be more effective when trees are fully leafed and squirrels are only glimpsed briefly as they move around in the treetops.
Some of nature’s smallest creatures often are the ones humans find most fascinating. Whether enthralled by their ability to hover or their iridescent plumage, people go to great lengths to attract ruby-throated hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds occur only in the western hemisphere. Ruby-throats are the only hummingbirds that nest in Missouri. They arrive in the state in April. Males and females remain together only for courtship and mating. Males court females with a dive display or U-shaped looping flight, starting as high as 12 to 15 feet above the females. Hummingbirds typically lay two white, peanut-sized eggs. The eggs hatch in two weeks. The young fledge in about 20 days.
The hummingbird’s rapid wing beats of 50 per second enable it to move forward, backward, upward and downward, and to achieve a flight speed of 60 miles per hour. The ability to hover allows the birds to use the same food source as bees, nectar. Hummingbirds feed by probing their long bills deep into flower centers. The birds’ rapid wing movements make a low buzzing sound, which contributes to the bird’s name. During aggressive encounters, males emit a higher-pitched, louder hum than females.
More information on enjoying Missouri’s birds is online.
Opinions vary on what makes a float trip enjoyable, but most agree that people who engage in offensive and dangerous behaviors while on a stream ruin a float. Following a few simple rules of etiquette can keep streams enjoyable for all:
Conservation agents and staff from other state and federal agencies patrol streams to assist floaters and enforce laws prohibiting illegal drug use, public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
Tall, green grasses and wildflowers of virtually every color bowing and swaying to warm breezes under a sun-drenched sky is just one of many beautiful sights to enjoy at a Missouri prairie.
The best time to view prairie wildflowers and wildlife in Missouri is June. Pale purple and yellow coneflowers will be in bloom, as well as prairie rose, tickseed coreopsis and black-eyed susan. Also look for dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, western chorus frogs, ornate box turtles and prairie voles.
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