The midsummer night was alive with the sounds of that time of year. The moon was full and bright, and the night air was an intoxicating blend of smells of the season. It was one of those nights it felt good to be alive and well in southern Missouri and about to embark on a wade-fishing trip. You might ask yourself, “A wade-fishing trip in the middle of the night?” That was the same question I asked myself when my good friend and fellow forester said, “let’s go jitterbugging.”
As it turned out, it was a night full of adventure and has been one of those special fishing trip memories of my lifetime.
The objective was to use the light of the full moon to wade the wide pools on the river, tossing a jitterbug into the blackness and slowly reeling in the lure. The musical wobble of the jitterbug coupled with singing cicadas, crickets and the occasional hoot of a screech owl made the trip memorable. However, the fun had just begun. After a few tosses of the lure, the usual wobble was soon followed by a slap-slap on the water and a hard tug on the line. The fight was on! The largemouth bass jumped a few times, returning to the water before I could reel the fish to my side.
My fishing buddy and I spent the remainder of the night working our way through the pools of water. Fortunately, we had waded this particular stretch of water several times in daylight so we could avoid the deep pools when the moonlight would be hidden due to the position of the bluff. Another memorable moment was when I apparently got too close to Mr. or Mrs. Beaver (Castor canadensis) as the sharp tail slap almost made me jump out of my waders. What a night!
While my jitterbugging episode involved a close friend, my most memorable moments have been fishing with my children. Whether it has been at the neighbor’s catfish pond in Texas County or fishing at Mutti and Poppi’s cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota, both have been special moments. There’s nothing like a youngster catching their first fish. The opportunities for young and old, parent and child, to participate in outdoor activities that provide insight into the natural world are priceless. In our great state of Missouri, memorable fishing opportunities abound, whether it be a small stream or pond to larger rivers and impoundments. Each will create a memorable moment.
A great opportunity to introduce family and friends to the joys of fishing is Missouri’s Free Fishing Days on Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12. No permits or prescribed area daily fishing tags are required for this weekend. I would encourage each of you to take advantage of this opportunity to spend some time enjoying one of Missouri’s many natural wonders with family and friends.
In addition to these incredible fishing opportunities, Missouri is the home of many natural wonders. We are blessed with a rich history of citizens who were tied to the land and supported the conservation of those special natural resources. Through the wisdom of past generations, a Commission for conservation governance was established in 1936.
As a public servant and avid outdoorsman, I am constantly in awe of Missourians’ vision for our natural resources. I am equally aware of the tremendous responsibility employees of Missouri’s Department of Conservation have to meet the expectations of citizens. Please know the Department’s employees take the mission entrusted to them very seriously. As chairman of the Department’s Regulations Committee, I am constantly looking for ways to balance the desires of citizens with the need to responsibly protect and sustain Missouri’s natural resources for current and future generations. Will we always agree on regulation approaches? Probably not. But, be assured the Department is always looking for balance and is eager to hear from you.
I wish all of you many memorable outdoor experiences in this great state of ours.
Tom Draper, deputy director
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