Small waters offer scenery, challenges

Northwest Arkansas Outdoor Briefs

June 25, 2019 Comments Off on Stories behind the catch Featured, Fishing, Latest

Stories behind the catch

Editor’s note: Bob Britzke of Eureka Springs is the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 2019 fish story champion. His story, along with others entered in the annual contest, are featured today.

High-Dollar Fish
By Bob Britzke
Eureka Springs
When I was fishing in Canada last year, I tried out a new $20 wave bait with great expectations. Sure enough, a 24-inch pike hit it on the first cast. When my guide grabbed the wire leader to land the fish, the snap broke. The fish and the high-dollar lure were gone, and I didn’t have another one.
Several hours later, and in a spot hundreds of yards away, I hooked a pike on a Mepps spinner. When I landed it, it had my very large and expensive wave bait still hanging from its lower jaw. What are the odds of that with thousands of pike in that lake?

One Hook, Many Fish
By Tom Fletscher
I didn’t have much in common with my father, but we had fishing!
My parents divorced when I was young. Practically all my visits with dad involved fishing. It was the only way we truly communicated.
First, my fish story, which is 100 percent true. I have pictures!
I once caught 13 fish on ONE hook, with ONE piece of bait dipped into the water ONE time!!
I was 10 years old. We were fishing off of “The WWII cement boat” that beached, and was never removed, from Half Moon Bay, Calif.
There were many old men fishing that day, without much luck. I finally caught a very big fish. All the old men were in awe and slapped me on my shoulder.
We had a bucket filled with Pacific Ocean water to keep the fish alive.
About 15 minutes later when dad caught a fish and was going to add it to the covered bucket, we discovered that my large fish (now much smaller) had given birth to 12 babies while in the bucket!
Turns out it was a type of ocean perch that bears live young.
Side note: The men tried to use the young as bait, but they wouldn’t stay on the hook.
My dad told that story proudly and loudly to anyone who would listen up until the day he passed.

Fairway fish
By Chad Hicks
While a few friends and I were on a golfing trip in South Carolina, we played a round at Pawley’s Plantation. On the 5th hole I was looking for my ball after driving it into the woods like usual when I heard a few crows going crazy about something along with a golf buddy hollering, “Look at that!!” from the fairway.
What happened was an osprey had snatched a bass out of the pond next to the green and the crows were chasing it down. The osprey ended up dropping the bass in the middle of the fairway not far from my friend’s ball. We picked it up, snapped a few pictures with it and released it back into the pond. It swam off so maybe it wasn’t hurt too bad.

New Mexico Fishing
By Ron Rhea
Siloam Springs
I was fishing the Pecos River in New Mexico. Caught a lot of little ones and put one small perch live on my rod and reel hoping to catch one bigger. Soon gave it up and reeled in the rod with the perch on it getting ready to go.
A big bass hit it while I was reeling in. He held on until I got him on the bank, then flopped off. He had never got the hook but he wanted that perch badly. Only one I ever caught without getting him hooked. This is a true fish story.

Fight for the Fish
By John Baker
Eureka Springs
It was a perfect day for fishing. Beautiful blue sky and nice temperature. After hours of generation, when the Corps of Engineers stops generating, the water level slowly drops and the pace of the water slows down. Pockets of water are left all along the river.
I always go to the same place, the honey hole near Parker Bottoms on the Beaver tailwater. The key is to wade across the river to the other side. This particular day the river was unusually low, making for an easy crossing. Also there were plenty of tiny pools of water, perfect for temporary storage of your trout, keeping them fresh and alive.
My next cast was interrupted by a huge bird flying downstream about three feet from my head. Sure enough, this bald eagle, after scaring the heck out of me, plucked one of my trout right out of the pool and proceeded to land in a tree on the bank and devour my catch.
There was a family fishing from the bank a bit downstream, and I asked them, “Did you see that?” They just laughed.
I suppose I was proud to feed that beautiful bird. That awesome eagle could see those trout in that tiny pool of water almost a mile away. Bald eagles are awesome.

Towing the Line
By David and Rhonda Higgenbothem
My wife had hooked, and brought beside the canoe, a gar between four and five feet long. This was our biggest fish ever, and frankly we were both a little afraid of the thing.
Our net was useless for a fish that big, and neither of us wanted to handle five thrashing feet of needle-sharp teeth. I told Rhonda to sit tight and keep the line tight.
As I dug in my tackle box for pliers, the boat began to turn. The beast was towing us! Upstream! For several canoe lengths! Against the current!
And then for no apparent reason, the spinner bait popped loose. Stunned silence. I said finally, “Wow, that was close.” And Rhonda said, “Yep, but no gar.”

Responsible Fishing
By George Rowland
Two young boys ages 13 and 11 being taught the rules of fishing while enjoying the excitement of fishing in life. A dad that was an Arkansas game warden in Arkansas County summertime about 1950. The place of the lower White River, natural lakes.
Dad would take us to work with him and leave us alone after the trip up the White River chute on the bank. Then a short hike on a dusty path to Big White Lake.
Two young boys with a fly rod, other a casting rod, artificial baits in plastic cases in our pockets, small metal ice chest, canteen of water, Vienna sausages in cans and a short paddle.
What a wonderful sight to see the lake and a boat a sportsman friend had left in the lake after spring flooding of the woods. It seemed the lake was near the end of the world in location.
The bream would strike the popping bug on nearly every cast. The bass were a little slower as I paddle this small boat around the bank of this large lake. I caught many bream to have to throw them back due to the limit was 20 at that time.
We watched our watch for the walk back to the chute to meet dad. Therefore, the late afternoon was urgent to get a limit of larger bream for the limit of 20. Yes, I let the little brother catch his limit with my fly rod too.
A real lesson was learned in life about being prepared, fishing laws, taking care of yourself in the wild woods and on the lake water with trust and respect by a dad. Growing up as younger kids to return to town sharing as usual this mess of fish with older friends rocking on their front porches with appreciation.
Now I’m 81 with fond memories of the past, and the word responsibility that has meant a lot in life for me.

Proved Them Wrong
By Ron Pruitt
When I was 10, we were living in the country on six acres of rolling, treeless prairie. Our house was little more than a shack, there was no running water and the bathroom was an outhouse. But we had chickens, pigs, cows and a horse named Zip, and I thought our acres were one big playground.
My dad had a pond dug on the back corner of our place, but the thin prairie soil wouldn’t hold the water. When a big rain came, the pond would fill up, but in a few days all the water would leak out and the pond would be dry as Nevada.
One night, a violent thunderstorm came through. Dad woke me up in the middle of the night, and we hurried down the road to a neighbor’s storm cellar and huddled there until it passed. The next morning, in the field across the road from our house, a clear, wide path had been torn through the tall grasses. Daddy said he thought a tornado had touched down and cut the path.
The next Saturday, I was bored as 10-year-old boys often are in the summer. I asked daddy if I could go fish in our pond while it still had some water in it.
“You can go down there, but you won’t catch nothing,” he said. “There’s nothing in that thing.”
I grabbed my cane pole and headed off anyway. Down at the pond, I was happy to find it still had some water in it. I baited my hook and cast out my line and stuck the end of the pole in the dam of the pond. I wasn’t expecting to catch anything. I’d actually gone down to the pond to swim, which was strictly forbidden by my mama, who was deathly afraid I would drown.
I’d stripped down to my undies and was getting ready to jump in when my red and white bobber went crazy. I ran over and grabbed my pole just before it was dragged into the water. I heaved at my line and to my amazement pulled in a big old catfish long as my arm.
About as excited as a boy can be, I took the fish off the hook and raced across the fields toward the house, yelling for mama and daddy. They must have thought I was in trouble or hurt because they were both out in the yard by the time I ran up.
“Look what I caught,” I said, looking at daddy.
“That’ll make a mighty fine supper,” he said and though he didn’t say it, I could tell by the look on his face that he was proud of me.
When I looked over at mama, she had a stern expression and she said, “Why are you in your underwear?”
I was busted. I confessed my plan to go swimming On the spot, mama banned me from ever going back to the pond. But right then nothing could have dampened the pride I felt.
Later than day, after I calmed down and thought about it, I was puzzled.
“How did a big old fish like that get into our pond?” I asked daddy.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” he said. “I reckon that twister the other night picked it up from some other pond somewhere and dropped it in ours.”
We moved back to town the next year. I missed the prairie of waving grasses, the farm animals and the freedom to run and explore. But I’d never forget that big old catfish that came into my young life like a miracle from above.

Not Worth the Trouble
By Tom Main
A few years ago my brother-in-law, Duane, and I decided to travel to Lake Oahe, north of Pierre, S.D. for some great walleye fishing. We began the trip from Kansas City, Mo. up Interstate 29 to Sioux Falls, S.D., at which point I asked Duane if we needed gas.
He said there was plenty of fuel, even though the gas gauge was broken, and we were hauling a 16-foot. boat and bucking 20 mph winds. Three miles outside of Sioux Falls and 2 o’clock in the morning, the vehicle stopped. Fortunately, we had gas for the kicker motor, and proceeded, make-shift funnel in hand, to put enough gas in the vehicle to allow us to return to Sioux Falls to fill up.
We arrived at our campsite outside of Pierre and proceeded to pitch our two-man tent alongside of all the RVs and large campers. We weren’t intimidated at all. All we wanted to do was catch some fish. The next day we hired a guide, who put us on some nice walleye. We brought the fish back to the campground and put them in the community freezer, marked with our names.
The next day we went fishing again, but the weather turned windy, rainy and cold. I, of course, left my rain gear in the truck, so I was not a happy fisherman. We did catch a couple of walleye. Upon returning to the camp I proceeded to the community freezer and discovered someone had stolen our previous day’s fish! When I returned to our tent to tell Duane about our fish, I learned that he had left his window flap open and our tent was flooded!
I had had enough. Cold, wet, hungry and angry; that was the end of our trip. Sometimes you just have accept that fate is against you and go home.

Fine fishing trip
By David Haynes
My friend Randy Jones invited me to go fishing at Hickory Creek on Beaver Lake on April 6, 2019. It was the time of the year for crappie.
So we were using a 1/16 ounce crappie jig with 6-pound test line. I cast my jig two or three times and caught a crappie and later caught a 23-inch walleye. First one I ever caught. Pretty exciting.
On the next cast I got a strike and told Randy, “Don’t know what it is but it’s big.” Pulled harder than any fish I ever caught.
That fish ran all around the boat, as it was stripping my line off. Randy started the trolling motor, trying to keep up with the fish.If not it probably would have broke my line.
After 15 or 20 minutes I got it beside the boat. It was too big for the net, but got enough in to get it in the boat.
My first striped bass weighted 25 pounds. What a great day for this 78 year young man. On the lake about four hours with Randy, we put the striper back in the lake for another day and caught our limit of crappie.

Cottonmouth Caper
By Kerry Bercher
While I thought I knew about every small lake within 20 miles of Fort Smith, the new Torraine Lake was a complete surprise. I had read about it in a Times-Record article a few weeks earlier and vowed to check it out when the weather warmed up.
Since it’s a county lake, as opposed to an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lake or U.S. Forest Service, I wasn’t expecting much but in this case it was state of the art with new roads and parking lot, a large pavilion with picnic tables and even an air station to air up bicycle tires.
Upon scouting the lake for a few minutes to determine the best place to fish, that became obvious when I spied an earthen dam with water flowing over it. Apparently the county agreed with my assessment as it had constructed an asphalt road ending at that dam, and even a park bench where one could sit and fish.
As I walked along the riprap dam to that spot, I noticed a number of new fishing corks bobbing in the water up next to the rocks that folks had just left behind. That was strange. Another strange point was the lack of other people, as there was only one other car in the lot on a beautiful spring day that should have been overflowing with retirees.
After rigging up a worm on my ultralight rig and throwing it in, I caught a small bream which I put on a stringer so I wouldn’t have to catch him again. Attaching the stringer to the bank was a problem, as I was on a sheer 10-foot clay slope which went on a steep angle down to the water. I spied a small tree coming out of the water where someone had clipped off a branch, making it a natural looking spot to loop a metal stringer around.
To get down there I had to slide down the hill and catch my boot on another staub growing out of the clay, then lean over about a foot into the water and attach the stringer with my fish on it. Experience told me that larger bream would have their backs to the dam and facing the wind that was blowing food in along with the current.
After stringing up my fifth bream and working on my sixth, my eye caught movement near my stringer. I gazed upon a 3 ½-foot water moccasin with his head back to strike. After jumping up and cleaning out my pants, I threw a pebble at him and he took off.
Five minutes later, I saw movement again and there were not one, but two 3 ½-foot long moccasins that started to tag team me. Obviously they had done this before as one held his head up high to strike while the other one went after my fish on the stringer in the water that was now so muddy from the commotion the snake was causing I couldn’t see them.
I looked around for some smaller rocks in the riprap and after finding three I threw one at the guard snake, which turned tail and ran. I couldn’t see the other snake. He might be waiting for me to grab the stringer six inches above the waterline then strike. Or he might be gone.
Time was of the essence because the guard snake would be back any minute, so I slid down the hill, braced my boot on the staub, reached a food out over the water and grabbed the end of my metal stringer. As I pulled it out of the water and ran up the hill, I looked back to see that one of the snakes had his fangs sunk deep into one of the bream and I was hauling him up the hill with me. He let go as I crested the hill and I stood there, cleaning out my pants again.
That was the end of what had been a real fun morning of fishing. I threw my would-be lunch, mostly dead bream, back into the water because I didn’t know what effect venom might have on me if I ate them.
While approaching my car I said hi to the only other person there, who was strapping his bike to his bumper. He told me about his fishing excursion here years ago when there wasn’t even a road there yet. He waded 10 feet out into the water with his fly rod and the moccasins ran him back to the bank. He said the place is full of water moccasins.
It all made sense then. The bobbers left in the water, no people fishing there, it all made sense.

Anglers to the Rescue
By Ken Needs
Bella Vista
I was not on this trip, but it happened on Bull Shoals Lake.
One of the fishermen still lives, named Greg Eischen. We all worked for AT&T many years in Kansas City. My name is Ken Needs. I fished over 20 years with a group of co-workers who always once or more per year took an annual outing to Bull Shoals, at the Hwy 125 ferry crossing from Protem, Mo. to Peel, Ark. The trip normally occurred in April or May to catch the spring bass frenzy.
One year, as would have it, the weather turned dour. Too early in April, and you could be snowed upon. Cold weather gear was always part
of your preparation Normally two or more boats of fishermen would gather and enjoy some great bass fishing.
One of the boats, near dusk saw some unidentified objects floating on the water. Upon closer examination they found a covey of quail had
landed in the lake. Must of gotten too far from land, and ended up in the cold spring water.
Being conscientious sportsmen they scooped them out of the water and loaded them into the boat with them, and the quail being cold and damp were happy to be out of the water.
Wagon Wheel resort at the Hwy 125 recreational area was the lodging for the group, so they took the quail to a cabin used for sleeping, made a tent with a chair and a quilt, placed the quail in the tent, and went to another cabin for their evening meal.
Now after a fine meal, and an adult beverage or two, the group retired for the evening. During the night, one of the occupants of the quail room, Dale, got up during the night to answer a nature a call, and upon exiting the powder room, decided to check on the quail and verify their recovery.
Well he found out that they indeed had recovered, as when he lifted the quilt which was their temporary cover, quail being fully normal will flush as a group when prompted to do so. Well his lifting the quilt and the bathroom light appearing as sunrise, was prompt enough, and they flushed, as quail hunters say.
Being confined to the space of the cabin, they did not fly far, however, far enough to spread feathers all over the room, scare the heck out of Dale, and let him know their recovery was complete.
Good thing he checked them after he came out of the bathroom, instead of prior to going in.
He opened the door of the cabin, the quail returned to nature, Dale went back to bed, and the cleanup of feathers was completed the next day.
This event happened in many years ago. I was not part of the fishing group at the time, but the story was related to me by those present at the trip. Many good memories were made through the years.
In memory of Bill Godsey, and Dave Armstrong, who spent many hours spooking the fish on Bull Shoals.
I live in the northern yankee holding camp of Bella Vista.

Flathead fiasco
By Lyndon Edge
(Home town not listed)
I was trotline fishing several years ago. I was baiting my lines with perch. I felt this sudden surge and decided to go get this fish and come back later and bait up. I didn’t want the fish to get off. He really felt like a good one.
I reached the flathead and he probably weighed 20 pounds. As I began to take him off I noticed he had the trotline in his mouth. There was no hook. I thought someone was tricking me. Finally I figured out what happened. Someone had caught this fish but was too busy or lazy to clean it right now. They had cut a small hole in bottom jaw with a knife and stuck a piece of string thru the hole and tied line to fish. Then they tied string to a root or limb or something. They fully intended to eat the fish, but the fish disengaged the string from the tie down.
The fish was swimming around with string following him every where he went. His string inadvertently ran into my hook. This fish had no luck. He made a fine fish fry. I never knew who originally caught the fish.

Missing a motor
Rusty Meyer
I was fishing in my jon boat with a small outboard in early March on the White River by Goshen.
It was my son’s birthday and I needed to get home quickly. As I was heading upstream I knew where the rock shoals are and to be careful to lift the engine at the right time. As I was going full throttle and just a microsecond before I was going to let up on the gas I heard a big “POP”.
Suddenly it was very quiet, and the boat was coasting to a stop. I then realized I wasn’t holding the throttle in my hand and turned around to see nothing but the back of the boat and water.
As I reached for my anchor I realized the engine was gone. The anchor took hold quickly and I was now in the middle of the stream. About that time I heard someone say “stay where you are I think I can find your motor”.
A fly fisherman dressed in nice chest waders and a walking stick worked his way over to me. He was standing in water above his waist at the edge of my boat. He began poking the bottom of the river and found the motor almost directly under where my boat had stopped after being anchored.
As he looked up to me I could immediately see in his eyes that the only way that motor was coming back up was if I went in after it.
The 40 something degree water did not look inviting but losing the motor was not an option. I stripped down to my boxers, took a deep breath and went in.

I came up with the motor and I’m sure blue lips. I walked the motor over to shore to the applause of several other fishermen watching from farther upstream. I wanted to reward the man for his help when I realized I didn’t even have my billfold with me. He stated he did not expect anything then hesitated and said, “Well there is one thing.” I said name it and it’s yours. He said “I would love a picture of you holding that motor right now”.
So somewhere (probably on the internet) is a picture of a dripping wet cold fisherman in his boxers holding a 10 horsepower motor.

Great white shark
By Gerald Kirkland
In 1962 I was a senior in high school. My dad took me on a one and only trip on a 50-foot fishing boat out of Ensenada, Mexico. The fee was $6 each for the half-day trip.
I didn’t have sufficient tackle, so we rented a rod and reel for me. It was a huge rig with a reel almost the size of a gallon bucket. I had never seen a reel this big. The rental for the rig was $1. Times have definitely changed.
We were going after yellow tail. We finally got into a school of them that looked like the size of a football field. I caught the first one and even with the industrial-sized reel I figured the fish weighed at least 50 pounds by the way it fought.
When I got it in it weighed 11 pounds. I quickly hooked up with my second yellow tail. And as I got it close, six huge sharks appeared. I didn’t know it then, but after seeing many on TV they were great white sharks. The largest of the six nonchalantly swallowed the fish on my line.
It casually swam around, taking me with it, completely around the boat. As the other fishermen backed off the rail to let my by, many said “Oh my gosh, that thing is half as long as the boat.”
I truly believe it was close to 25 feet long. After a complete trip around the boat, I decided to take over. Yeah, right! I propped the heavy short rod on the railing and used it like a pry bar. I barely raised his head, but I think this is the first time the shark realized something was wrong.
It turned away from the boat and started to slowly swim away. About this time the captain realized what was happening and excitedly shouted something in Spanish, hit the release on my reel and wrapped some line around the rail post. It was heavy braided line and when it snapped, it sounded like a .22 caliber bullet.
This was about 13 years before the movie “Jaws.” After I saw the movie I said they really do get that big. By the way, I boated the only yellow tail because the sharks dispersed the school quickly. I won the boat pool, which I don’t remember how much money, but not much. The memory of the shark is still vivid in my mind after 57 years.

Handy umbrella
By Vanis Sigman
In 2017 my son Stacy and I were fishing the upper end of Lake Ouachita near Mt. Ida. We had fished for several hours for largemouth bass and had not put a fish in the boat. It became obvious we were not using the right bait. We made a decision to try out an umbrella rig.
Stacy pulled the boat into a small cove that contained several bushes in the water. On his first cast he caught a nice keeper. Our confidence increased when another bass got on the line and he began to reel it in.
After he had reeled it about halfway to the boat, another bass was hooked on the umbrella rig. As the two fish were reeled in, another bass became hooked on the rig and pandemonium broke out.
Stacy was trying to keep the three fish out of the brush and I was trying to get a dip net under the fish. Luck was with us and we were able to get all three of the bass in the boat. Stacy remarked this was the first time he had gone from no fish to limiting out in less than 10 minutes. Needless to say, we now have a good fish story to tell many times over.

Goose attack
By Sarah McBride
One day I bought some worms and Judy and I went fishing at Lake Atalanta. Judy brought a book and I carried a long chain for Jack Anthony, my old boxer, because Jack wasn’t known to come when called.
The lake was crowded, but we found a perfect spot with a view of the whole lake. Immediately I caught a little sunfish. Judy said it was the most beautiful fish she had ever seen. So I carefully placed it back in the water.
All of a sudden, a big white goose swam up to Jack and hissed. Jack jumped in the lake and started swimming after the goose. I screamed, “Jack! Come back! You know you can’t swim!”
I grabbed the chain and pulled Jack out of the water. Then I heard Judy whisper, “All dogs can swim.”
I looked up. You know how fishermen stare when someone is disturbing their fishing? They stare with a cantankerous grimace.
I put Jack in the can and pulled my fishing cap over my eyes. Judy sat low in the car, her face puckered in a scowl. I drove slowly away. Jack never liked geese after that fishing trip.