Outdoor Recreation

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From Missouri Conservationist: Apr 2009

Scout it Out

Community Lakes

Name: Binder Lake

Location: West of Jefferson City and the Missouri River. Take advantage of all the recreational opportunities at your local community lake.

For more information: see our online atlas, keyword "Binder".

Missouri’s “Great” Lakes are the system of reservoirs on our state’s rivers. If you live near one of these angling meccas, count yourself fortunate. If not, you can likely find smaller—but still good—fishing lakes within just a short drive. In many cases, you’ll find one within your community. Since 1981, the Conservation Department has worked with more than 80 Missouri communities to improve or establish local fishing opportunities. In most cases, the Department provides angler accesses and facilities and manages the fish populations in the lakes.

Binder Lake is on the west edge of Jefferson City. The community park and the 155-acre lake it surrounds draws anglers, hikers, sightseers and picnickers. In most community lakes, bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish are the primary fishing attractions. The biggest attraction, however, is the ability to take your family fishing when you only have a few hours to spare. Bank fishing and boat fishing are both productive. Find a community lake near you by calling your Conservation regional office.

Shallow Crappie

When dogwood is in bloom, look for crappie near shore.

You can almost set your watch by it. When dogwood flowers speckle the forests in spring, speckled bass (another name for crappie) move toward the shallows.

Missouri anglers come out in droves when crappie are “on the banks.” That’s because spawning season is the easiest time of year to collect a mess of these tasty panfish. Both bank and boat fishermen have a good chance to fill a stringer.

Crappie are the first panfish to spawn in Missouri. They generally start to nest when water temperatures reach about 56 degrees. As the water warms from there, nesting activity increases.

The fish prefer gravel nesting sites but will nest over a sand, mud or rocky bottom. Their nests are often found near submerged vegetation or near boulders or trees. Generally, the clearer the water, the deeper the crappie will nest. Spawning depths typically range from 2 to 10 feet, but sometimes crappies nest in water so shallow that you can see the water swirling as they move.

Crappie spawn in the same areas year after year, so check places you’ve found them before. They nest in groups and prime spawning areas continue to attract new fish. Search for new sites by casting a tiny jig or a minnow suspended beneath a small bobber along the shoreline. Crappie often “hit” just to defend their nests.

Native Beauty

Find a Bed of Bluebells

It’s perfectly legal and safe to let yourself become intoxicated with the delicate fragrance of bluebells, and in Missouri it’s easy to indulge yourself. Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, are common throughout the state. They often grow in clusters—sometimes acres of them. Bluebells flourish this time of year, their pink buds exploding into clusters of restful blue, trumpet-shaped flowers.

Look for them in woodlands, particularly in valleys or in floodplains of creeks or rivers. The plants stand up to 2 feet tall. Their flower clusters seem to “nod.”

Bluebells, which are in the forget-me-not family, are also commonly called Virginia cowslip or, simply, Mertensia. Bluebells describes them best, however. When you look closely at one of the flowers, you can almost hear it ring.

These perennial natives make pretty landscaping. Sow seed in the fall to have spring wildflowers. Put them in a part of the garden that gets little disturbance so that you don’t damage their small roots. Bluebell vegetation goes dormant in the summer as the plant’s seeds ripen. Plant columbine, a later-blooming native plant, in the same area to have ground cover all during the growing season.

Learn when native flowers bloom by exploring the links listed below. For more information about landscaping with native plants visit the Grow Native! web site.

Morel Dilemma

Keep your eyes peeled for mushrooms.

There’s an art to hunting morels. Unlike hunting for deer or doves, you can’t just find a comfortable seat and wait for your quarry to come to you. Good morelers—if we can call them that—log plenty of miles. They also know where to walk. Morels can grow almost anywhere, but they are more likely to be found in sandy soils and in woodlands and forests. They often grow near riverbanks and dead trees. A burned area is likely to contain morels the following spring. Cottonwood trees and old orchards also are prime hunting grounds.

Morels are fickle in that they don’t always come up where you expect them, or even in the same places where you found them the year before. Some experts speculate they produce fruiting bodies only when the nutrients they need to grow become scarce or when the spreading underground structure encounters resistance, such as a path, riverbank or different soil.

As in all hunting, make sure of your quarry. Morels have look-alikes that can make you sick. Study field guides to learn to confidently recognize edible morels. Find more information about morel mushrooms at the Conservation Department’s Web site.

Turtle Time

Give turtles a brake, but first make sure it’s safe.

Spare the box turtle. You’re apt to see many of them crossing the road in the spring, and their tough shell, which they rely on to shield themselves from predators, is no match for a vehicle that weighs more than a ton.

Most of the box turtles you see on the road are male. They are either immature males looking to establish a territory of their own, or mature males seeking mates. Some areas are turtle-rich, so where you see one, you’re apt to see several.

Slow down and steer around turtles if it’s safe. If there’s no traffic, you can stop and gently help it to the other side of the road.

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler