March 15 – Leviathan

Sunday I planned to go out to Lowell’s.  We had some logs lying about in the woods that we needed to stack.  I also suggested we scout for more dead trees and maybe install the new trolling motor on the pontoon boat.  He said we should go around the lake a couple of times, just for grins.  The lake is open, and it was going to be a warm day.  Still, the first outing of the year is almost always a skunk, so I somewhat reluctantly packed my tackle box and rods in the Lil Egg.

On the way, I stopped for a red-tailed hawk on a power pole.  This one actually let me snap a few frames before it took off. 

It’s a juvenile, as the tail reveals.  Perhaps that’s why it was so tame.

First we walked out in the woods and found the firewood logs that had been left the last time I was out.  We stacked them and kept on walking, scouting for dead trees and anything else of interest.  No wildflowers were up yet, but a few frog species were croaking like mad.  We stopped at the cattail pond, where their calls were deafening.  Yet even at close range, they were hard to spot.  I finally picked one out near the shore.

Spring peeper.

Another spring peeper.  There were chorus frogs in there, but we just couldn’t spot them.

As we came back toward the house, we saw a little bird in a tree.

Eastern Phoebe.  This was a male singing from a perch.  Normally, they nest in a nearby shed.  I can think of at least 4 places they nest at Lowell’s.

So we decided to fish for awhile.  I pulled out the only rod that already had a lure attached, a small baitcaster Lowell had traded me for a vintage rod.  We got halfway around the lake and I put a new skirt on the spinnerbait, as the old one didn’t have too many rubber bands left on it.  I also cut off the frayed part of the line and retied it after getting snagged in a tree.  I had gotten a few bumps that might have been bites, or more likely were sticks I bounced off of, but neither of us had caught a fish.  We turned into the northern arm of the lake, which should be the warmest.  We approached the shallow end.  As usual, Lowell was running the trolling motor and fishing the deep water, while I fished toward the bank. 

I cast somewhere in this area, about where that little tree is leaning over the water, reeled a couple of revolutions and got a bite.  It wasn’t fighting much, so I slowed down to make sure I had a fish on, as opposed to a stick.  It was definitely a fish, but I couldn’t tell how big.  I kept reeling, and when it reached the surface I saw a huge head and immediately said, “Net!”  It was clearly going to be the biggest largemouth bass I had ever caught.  It was pale and sluggish in the cold water.  I grabbed the net and maneuvered the fish into the net, picked it up and put it on the deck of the pontoon boat.  Lowell and I were in stunned disbelief.  I was probably yelling a lot.  I put it in the livewell and filled it with water.  I kept the pump going to give it a constant supply of fresh water.  The ice chest that is the livewell is 20 inches long, and the bass exceeded that by a large margin.  We speculated about the fish’s size, but had to go back to the dock for verification.  The battery in the scale was dead and we didn’t have a long enough ruler.  Lowell went to the house for a fresh battery and tape measure.  I changed lenses and tried to remain calm.  When Lowell returned we took many photos and measured the thing in all the usual ways.

Vital statistics
Weight: 8 pounds, 6 ounces
Length: 25 inches
Girth:  17 inches

For the record, this fish is the largest fish of any species ever caught at Lake Lowell, including catfish.  It exceeds Lowell’s previous record of 7 lb 14 oz.  I think he has forgiven me.   I’ve been fishing at Lowell’s for just over 9 years.  He joked that he’s going to start running the boat in the opposite direction, so he’ll get the bank and I’ll get the deep water, for the next 9 years, or until he catches one bigger than mine.  We haven’t caught a fish over four pounds here since 2004, and despaired that any were left.  I don’t have fish mounted anymore, and I don’t eat big bass.  It would be a crime to kill a fish like this.  I released it.  Overall, we are encouraged to know that there’s at least one lunker in there, and probably more.

Lunker in the livewell.

I’ve been bass fishing for about 30 years.  It took forever just to break the 5 lb level, at La Belle Reservoir a few years ago.  This one does exceed the minimum for a Missouri Master Angler Award, 6 pounds.   That will be enough of a memento for me.

The winning combination.

The release.

After lunch at the diner in Ewing, we went back for another couple rounds of the lake.  I had one more fish strike at my lure, but didn’t hook it.  Lowell was skunked.  I only caught one fish all day.  It was the catch of the day, and the fish of a lifetime.

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