July 8 – White bass run!

Tuesday I ran a bunch or errands around town, loaded the kayak on the Egg, and went to the Lewis County Fair.  I had volunteered to judge the photography competition.  They had too many categories and not enough entries (in some of them).  A lot of the images were pretty bad.  Once I got into a groove, I had no trouble picking winners.  A friend of mine was judging some food entries and she gave me some cookies.  Yum! I got a hamburger afterward and walked over to look at the dairy cows.  I ran into some friends there.  Larry told me there had been a good white bass run on Saturday, on the bridge down by the river.  I showed him the kayak and described all its virtues.  I went to Lowell’s after that.  I was going to take the kayak out to LaBelle, but a storm was coming in.  We thought we might have time to get a round of fishing in on Lake Lowell before it hit.  We went down to the pontoon boat and cast off.  It began to rain.  We turned right around and moored up without ever having cast.  There were no projects we could work on, as it began to lightning, thunder and pour.  The satellite reception went out, so we watched the King Kong DVD (most recent version).  When I left it was already 5 but I went straight down to the river to look around.  Fish were jumping.  I took out the baitcaster with a spinner and started casting about.  They were jumping like mad, but not biting.  I switched to a funky green curlytail grub.  Still no bites.  I switched that for a white doubletail grub and caught a small white bass.  I released it and caught another.  Finally, I caught what would be the biggest at 15.5 inches.  It might have been a hybrid striper, as some of its longitudinal lines were broken.  I caught four more keepers.  I had forgotten how well they fight.  It was lightly raining the whole time.  A dragonfly was emerging from its nymphal shell right next to my tackle box.  When the bite slowed down I ran back to the car for the camera.  A guy had stopped by with his two little girls.  They wanted to see my fish.  I said OK, but first I’d show them something really cool, the fresh dragonfly.  As I approached, it flew away.  Dang!  They had to settle for the fish.  I tried to catch one while they were there, but had no biters.  I caught no more. 

Wednesday morning I went straight back to the same site.  The fish were jumping and the bite was still on.  I caught several from the far side of the bridge, but when I switched back to the near side and figured out how to pitch the lure under the arch I started nailing the lunkers.  I added the end of a curlytail grub to a funny saltwater jig, and this was really working for me…until I snagged and lost it.  I switched to a spinner, which they seemed to like nearly as well.  I caught 32 and kept a limit of 15. 
 
I knew some of the recipients of this missive would not believe me without photographic evidence, so I arrayed them with the ruler set at 18 inches near the largest one at right.

I thought they looked better in this pile, however.

That night we went to a swim meet in Quincy.  Stacey met us there on her way back from work.  I volunteered to be a timer.  The meet was chaotic.  It was indoor, and the kids were so loud you coudn’t hear anything.  The lady running the race tried to use a whistle to get the kids in the right places, but it was just loud and annoying.  She bore a strong resemblance to the Mrs. Ballbricker character from the Porky’s movies.  He voice over the PA system was unintelligible.  Some kids didn’t swim their races because they didn’t know they were up.  A speaker on the other side of the pool, near the bullpen where the kids wait, was apparently nonfunctional.  I’ve seen this at many area pools.  Why don’t people know how to rewire speakers.  It’s easy! Savannah borrowed a pair of “better” goggles for her race in breast stroke, but they came off, and she had to swim blind.  She took second.  Her other races were about like usual. 

Thursday morning I went back to the river to see if the fish were still biting.  They were.  I didn’t get the size and numbers of the previous day, but still had fun.  I kept only 7 of the 24 I caught.  I didn’t want to fillet another 15.  What a pain!  I’ve been giving away a lot of fish.  I also caught a large skipjack herring, and hooked several smaller ones.  I haven’t caught one in years.  I put it back, even though it’s good catfish bait.  During a lull, I caught a baby gar with my net.  I put him in a bucket and he stayed there all morning.  Later I caught some minnows in the same net (huge schools were right at my feet) and put them in the bucket.  Immediately, the little gar caught a minnow and ate it.  I netted a few dozen more and brought them all home.  Savannah was amused.  I put them all in my little fish pond.  Wonder how long the minnows will last before the gar eats them all.

In the evening we went to the Lewis County Fair.  We saw a number of friends there, got some high calorie snacks, and sat in the bleachers waiting for…the combine demolition derby!  Only three combines showed up.  I guess scrap metal is so valuable that there aren’t too many junkers lying about anymore.  That was OK because I don’t know how many more would fit in the arena.  The John Deere had more power and speed than the two Massey Fergusons, but he broke the rod connecting the two rear wheels early on, losing directional control.  He limped along for awhile, but eventually couldn’t go anymore.  One of the Fergies lost its transmission, leaving the other as winner.  It took longer to clear them from the arena than the whole derby did.  Next up was the pickup truck demolition derby.  Only three of those too.  It was more exciting.  One rammed the other in a tire, causing a blowout.  One guy got sandwiched, which toasted his transmission.  Two of them nearly overheated, having steam pouring from the radiator most of the time.  It ended with a near fire.  It seemed to be sparking up.  I thought Stacey’s friends on the fire department who were volunteering that night were going to see some action, but the fire never caught.  The winner, in a suburban, spun a big victory donut and sprayed the crowd with mud.  Not us, fortunately.  We left before the lawnmower races, our necks feeling pink enough already.

Friday I went to Quincy, dropped off the recycling, and went to the office for a bit.  I worked a registration day at QU, ran some errands, and stocked up on lures at the sporting goods store.  I got back into Canton in time to help Savannah get a new cell phone.  We all went out to dinner for my birthday (46th).  I had a nice steak.  Stacey got me some kayak stuff I had wanted.  We went grocery shopping then just relaxed the rest of the evening.  Ron wrote me a birthday poem:

ONE WEEK AFTER INDEPENDENCE DAY


It’s one week after Independence Day


51 weeks to another some might say


Those in the know say it’s more important than that


It’s about a guy who has built a home for a bat


It’s about a guy who keeps bugs as a pet


And would keep a wasp inside if Stacey would let


He even calls his lovely daughter, “larva”


And I’m surprised he didn’t name her Marva


Yes, it’s Joe’s birthday and I hope it is going great


But keeping creepy crawlies is just his fate


I know high in the air he has his fist


And in it a bug…what the hell he’s an entomologist


So, Happy Joeday to you and your zoo


I guess you know I’m just “bugging” you


Happy Joeday,
Ron

I think I appreciated more the name he coined for my kayak — the Coyak. 

Saturday morning I went fishing at the river yet again.  The white bass were still jumping and biting, only fewer in number and smaller in size.  I caught 9, some of which were large enough to keep, but I didn’t feel like filleting fish.  I also landed a couple of skipjack herring. 


Skipjack Herring

During a lull I noticed a dragonfly nymph that had hauled itself out onto the bridge, but not in a place that was convenient to me.  I flicked it off with the tip of my rod.  By good fortune, the current carried it near the shore and I netted it.  I placed it on a nearby cottonwood tree.  I kept looking back between casts, and it finally began to eclose.  I took about 150 frames, but I’ll only show critical stages here.
 
Drying nymph   
 
Pop out                                                                          Pull up
   
Extricate abdomen                                                         Inflate wings
 
Step aside                                                                      Form up abdomen

   
Spread wings                                                                                           Fly away

I was hoping this would be a new species for me.  The swollen abdomen tip makes it a member of the Gomphidae, and I have few of them.  Though it has few adult colors, being freshly hatched, the thoracic stripes make it the Russet-tipped clubtail.  You saw that in last week’s message as an adult.  This event makes up for the one I missed a few days ago.

Sunday I took the kayak (or Coyak) out to LaBelle Lake.  This is one of the best fishing lakes in the area, and I have caught a near 5-lb bass there.  I had gotten up early, but there were already a dozen boats in the lake when I arrived.  To make a long story short, I got skunked.  I tried a variety of lures, including a white spinner, which I saw another guy use to catch a fish.  Not even a legitimate bite.  I still had fun paddling around the lake, though a stiff wind added to the challenge.  At least the wind blew me back to the launch ramp on the way in.  I harvested four bobbers anyway.  I also took the time to test some of my equipment.  The anchor and trolley worked well, and the new paddle grips were comfortable.  They also made it easy to find the proper hand position without looking.  The dry bag and otterbox kept things dry, including a camera.  I photographed just one thing.

Buttonbush has really cool inflorescences, nearly spherical.

A lot of my prairie plants are in bloom.  It’s starting to shape up into what I had hoped, I suppose because many of the plants are in their second season.

 
Showing some color                                              Black-eyed Susan
 
Bee balm                                                                    Purple coneflower with bonus bee
 
Gray-headed coneflower                                                 Purple poppy mallow

Other things in bloom at this time include coreopsis, moth mullein and probably others.  OK, there were a few bugs.
 
Evil weevil                                                                                                 Female widow skimmer–yet another dragonfly pic


“Mad sea dogs, the Portuguese.”
Leonardo DaVinci, as a character on Star Trek Voyager

I love that quote.  Yes, we are!

Monday morning I went down to the river.  I cast a couple of different lures, but got no bites.  The white bass run is over.  Sniff.  The minnows were still there, but the water had fallen at least a foot, and no fish were jumping.  I took a bike ride to feed the dog and cats of my friends.  I found out Tucker wasn’t there because he died some months ago.  Bummer.  On the way back I was riding along a ditch when I spotted a butterfly.  There have been very few this summer, as perhaps they were wiped out by the heavy rain.  There were also quite a few dragonflies, but you’ve seen enough of those!
 
Black swallowtail, male.                                                                           Clear-winged sphinx.

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