Finally, it is perfect fishing weather. Not too chilly or too warm.
No bothersome wind. Mellow mornings and ideal evenings. No nearby lightning bolts, drenching rains or alarming peals of thunder.
If ever there was a day to catch a trophy fish, this was such a day.
And that has long been an ambition of mine — unrealistic, some would say. But for a lifetime fisherman, the joy is not so much in the succeeding as in the trying.
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Almost from the time our farm lake, Lake Katie, was constructed, I’ve had a plan.
In a hay pasture on a hillside above the lake there is a small pond — at most, half an acre in size — one of four we built soon after we bought the property. Mostly it has served for watering livestock, but it never was of much use as a fishery.
What I’ve called my “plan” was really the result of a collaboration.
Five years or so ago — maybe nearer 10 — during the month of May, when a good number of longtime friends gather at my Ozarks cabin for our annual reunion and turkey hunt, someone in the group suggested that pond would be a good place for raising minnows.
It turned out to be a major project.
First, a trench was dug through the pond’s dam, and a 7-inch-diameter pipe, with a manually operated valve at the upper end, was placed from the pond 100 or so yards down the hillside to an arm of the lake.
With the valve at the dam closed, the pond is refilled each spring by drainage of rainwater off the grassy field.
A friend in that neighborhood farms fish commercially, both for the table and for sale as bait. When the year’s runoff from the field began refilling our new minnow pond, he shared his advice.
Keep the valve closed, he said. When it’s full, we’ll put in minnows.
“Twenty pounds. Orange fatheads. They’ll spawn six times during the summer and fill your lake with food. By fall, when you open the valve and run them down into the lake, those bass will go hog wild.”
I have yet to see a state record come out of my lake. And 13 pounds, 4 ounces is a lot of fish. I was glad that two good friends (and witnesses) were with us in the boat 15 years or more ago — the evening one of my daughters brought to the net a husky 10-pounder. That one lives now in photographs, and mounted on a living room wall. But I know there must still be others like it, or even larger, in the lake.