Paddlefish Season beckons hardy anglers looking to tackle fish that can weigh up to 100 pounds. These behemoths are vulnerable to anglers’ hooks when they concentrate near suitable spawning grounds each spring. Naturally, paddlefishing requires heavy equipment. No bait is necessary, however, because paddlefish eat only microscopic plankton. The only reliable way to catch them is by snagging them with hooks dragged through the water.
The Osage River offers miles of water open to paddlefishing. Eight conservation areas provide boat access to the river between Bagnell Dam and the Missouri River. The most popular among paddlefish anglers are Bagnell Dam, Pikes Camp, Mari-Osa, and Bonnots Mill accesses. All provide a concrete ramp for trailered boats, parking lots and privies or restrooms.
Paddlefish season runs from March 15 to April 30. Snagging is legal on the Osage River from the Highway 54 Bridge, about 1.3 miles downstream from Bagnell Dam, to the Missouri River. Check regulations for size and bag limits.
In 1959, Maramec Spring Park had its first trout season, and this year the James Foundation and the Conservation Department will be celebrating 50 years of trout fishing at the park. What’s often called Missouri’s fourth trout park differs from the rest in that the park is privately owned. The property belongs to the James Foundation and a half-century ago they teamed with the Conservation Department to establish a put-and-take fishery there.
The land was a gift to the Foundation by Lucy Wortham James. She was the granddaughter of William James, the founder of the ironworks built on the site of Maramec Spring in 1826, and heiress to the R.G. Dunn (of Dunn and Bradstreet) fortune. It was her wish that the public be allowed to enjoy regulated access to the area. She died in 1938 and in her will she wrote:
“It is a spot of great natural beauty, which has been in the possession of my family for generations, and, through our permission, the spring basin has been and is now used by the public as a pleasure ground under such regulation and supervision as to insure that the public shall be seemly and shall not mar its natural beauty. I wish to continue such permissive use by the public and to keep its beauty unmarred.”
In 2008, anglers at Maramec Spring Park purchased 58,229 daily trout tags, and the Conservation Department stocked 146,544 trout in the park’s waters.
If Purple Martins could send text messages to humans, they’d sign off with “BFF” (best friends forever). Even before this country was settled, Progne subis and Homo sapiens had cordial relations. Native Americans hung hollow gourds near their settlements to offer the birds housing, and now you can find nest boxes in many Missouri towns, parks and cities. The eastern subspecies, which we have in Missouri, is the only bird that depends entirely on human-provided housing. Modern purple martin houses look like little condominiums. The birds seem to like to nest in groups, but each pair nests in a separate compartment.
Purple martin landlords should have their dwellings ready by at least mid-March, in time for early arrivals, often called “scouts.” If these early returning older birds find their former nest boxes adequate, they’ll stay and others will follow. This fidelity to successful nesting sites, which is common for most migratory birds, explains how purple martins have become so dependent on human housing projects.
What besides delight in their skimming flight do purple martins offer us in return for their housing? Many believe purple martins help control mosquitoes. Studies show, however, that purple martins seldom consume mosquitoes, even where these insects are plentiful. For more information about purple martins, visit online.
Spring woodland wildflowers grow, bloom and set seed before the first leaves appear on the trees overhead. These opportunistic flowers brighten the forests and woodlands and are incentive enough to organize a family hike on a warm spring afternoon.
The first woodland wildflowers may debut as early as late February, but March is a dependable month to see the early bloomers. Look first for the aptly named Harbinger of Spring along streams and near the bottom of woody slopes. Spotting them requires a keen eye, for the plants begin to flower when they are only 2–3 inches tall, barely high enough to clear the leaf litter. Spring beauty flowers early, too, but it is about twice as tall. The flowers have white or pink petals with pink veins. Other species you’ll find interesting include Dutchman’s breeches, with its intricate foliage and flowers that resemble trousers; bloodroot, with its red sap and flowers that last only one day; and pussytoes, with flower clusters as fuzzy and soft as kittens’ feet.
Learn more by going to Common Spring Wildflowers on the Conservation Department’s Web site.
Make it easier for wild birds to nest and raise their young by assembling houses for them. Many species are attracted by dwellings of unique dimensions, shapes and materials. For example, a difference of 1/8 of an inch in entrance hole size determines whether a box is best suited for wrens, nuthatches or bluebirds. Where you mount the box also is important. Building a bird house is a simple and satisfying woodworking project. It doesn’t require power tools or fine lumber, but a good set of plans helps. Find free bird housing plans and strategies in the links listed below.
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