Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fishing report for Platte County, Missouri

First Fishing Report of 2011

The average high temperature around Kansas City in mid March is in the 50’s. When I watched my grandson get on the school bus Monday morning it was already in the 60’s. I had a list of routine household chores to accomplish and another list of projects that must be completed to keep our lives in order. While reviewing the lists and picking out the top priorities this day I noticed that fishing was not yet on the list. I immediately corrected this unfortunate oversight. I placed a capital “A” next to fishing, declaring it the top priority for the day.

Another task on the lists was to turn over the soil in the raised garden boxes my wife uses to plant and raise some vegetables and flowers for our kitchen table. Wanting to do at least one other thing on the list besides fishing (because guilt free fishing is more fun) I grabbed the spading fork and began turning the soil. There they were, right where I last left them, worms! Good thing I brought that little plastic margarine tub with the holes in the lid along with me. I decided the dirt was still a little too damp to turn over in all four garden boxes, so I just did the one for now. Besides 17 worms should fill a stringer of fish big enough to feed my wife and myself? It’s also not often a good idea to work your tasks out of the pri
 oritized order.

I reported to my wife that I needed to do some research and would be taking her garden worms, my recently reorganized tackle box, and rods along with me. I packed a chair too, just in case it took a while. As I loaded everything in my ‘88-‘96 (1988 body with a 1996 engine) pick-up truck I felt smug in the knowledge that those routine maintenance lists had caused me to have the truck and gear ready to go at just such an unexpected moment. There was a cooler in the back of the truck, just in case I might need to ice down some fish. Preparedness is not just for emergencies.

The tan 23 year old I like to take fishing
My '88 /'96 F-250

I headed up I-29 highway, got off at the Tracy, Missouri exit and went a couple miles north to Guy B. Park Conservation Area. Tobacco Lake there is stocked and managed for “trophy” Blue Gill. The big little perch there must be at least 8” to be harvested. Allegedly there are bass and catfish there too. Only electric motors are allowed on boats. It is a very small lake. I planned on fishing from the bank anyway today.

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot there was a grandpa and kid fishing from a bench near the boat ramp, a young romantic couple holding hands and fishing poles on the fishing dock, and a quiet gentleman on a single seat pontoon working the rip rap on the dam. I chose to go a bit away from them along the well worn paths on the banks of a peninsula between the two creeks forming the Lake. I imagined the hundreds of kids that have previously walked those paths. I envisioned a future trip with my 5 and 6 year old grandsons carrying their Sponge Bob Square Pants and Spider Man fishing poles.

Continuing my research, I sought a place where we could all fit and not bother others too much while we were flailing away with our unskilled casts and beating the water with sticks as little boys are fond of doing. Fishing with toddlers is always about fun first, and productivity last. I found just such a spot at the end of a path through some trees. It has some shade, but enough of an opening to allow casts without hanging up in too many trees on shore. There are enough brambles on the nearby shoreline to keep others far enough away so that they are not endangered by our wild aim when casting out bobbers onto the water. I probably should have brought the Spider Man pole for a test cast. Oh well.
One arm of Tobacco Lake

The other arm of Tobacco Lake

I did the best I could with a full size pole. I used a small hook and placed a bobber on the line so that the worm would dangle a tantalizing two feet below the surface of the water. The wind was blowing enough to gently push the bobber from left to right giving me 15 minute intervals between casts. Plenty of time to help two little boys I thought. Too long a time for two little boys to have to wait to check their hooks I knew. By the third cast without a bite I became one of the little boys again. I just let the line sit there and began exploring the banks.

Being 51 now and not 6, I used my eyes and ears, not my feet. I watched ducks fly in and geese swimming and preening themselves. I startled a beaver that swam ashore near me, disgusted to find me trespassing on a weekday. I might have been too quiet as two small snakes crawled very close to me also. I moved to the other side of the peninsula. The water on this side was dead still and my bobber sat motionless. A second line without a bobber got no bites either. The lake was quiet, too quiet. No one seemed to be getting a bite. I knew my grandsons could not tolerate so much of this serenity if they were here. Time to move on I thought.

The next stop was to be Sharps Station on the Platte River. This river access is part of Platte Falls Conservation Area near Platte City. I turned off onto the gravel access road and noticed it looked unusually well manicured. When I got near the end where there is a large circle for parking and turning around I found the culprit. A road grader who’s operator was clearing the mud deposits made by the Platte River over the winter months. It seemed too muddy and noisy, even for a little boy like me. I drove on.

I pulled off at the boat ramps near I-29 and HH highway. The two steep and narrow concrete ramps here are only about 100 yards apart with separate gravel access drives. Because of a bend in the river here you can put a boat (or a canoe) in at the upstream ramp and float downstream about a mile before you come across the downstream ramp. You could park your car, take a one mile float and be back where you parked your car. That is kind of cool.

The banks of the Platte River are pretty much mud everywhere, all of the time. It is not easy to find a good place to approach the bank from land when the weather has been wet, as it had been this week. There is a little bit of small rock dumped near the edge of the downstream boat ramp at Platte Falls, and it makes just enough room for someone to fish. I felt like someone special this day as I had the spot all to myself. The gentle cleansing breeze and warming 70 degree sunshine soothed my body. Watching the water meander and swirl its mysterious path toward the Missouri River soothed my mind. I cast my daily worries onto the water and watched them float away.
The muddy banked Platte River

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the bobber bounce. I picked up the rod and began to take slack out of the line. Just then the bobber disappeared under the water. I began to reel in line and felt the familiar tug of a fish on the line. Here we go; this is what’s for dinner! After about 3 cranks on the handle I realized the fish on the other end was not going to feed two people. I slowed the retrieve to savor every second of the first catch of the season. I brought in a little channel catfish. They are among my favorites to catch and to eat. It was a good day to be me. An hour later I realized the first catch of the day, was to be the only catch of the day. It was time to go watch the school bus drop my grandson back home. I just had to skip one rock on the water though. It went five times.

Mafo can still be a little kid. Mafo remembers that fishing is more about having fun than it is about being productive. I went home and put “fishing” on the to do list for next week too. Make sure you put fishing on your list somewhere, so when the day is right you can put an “A” next to it and enjoy yourself.
This little guy went back in the river to grow a couple of more years

No one reported catching anything at Tobacco Lake this week. Limb lines baited with shad and placed near Sharps Station on the Platte River had very limited success with catfish. Reports are that folks are getting their limit of catfish further downstream around Farley near the Missouri River. Shad and worms seem to be the best bait for now, as usual. The water temp is still in the 40’s. Don’t fall in.

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