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Dablemont’s, “An Underwater World”

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What a wonderful time it is to be outdoors… as the temperature cools and all of nature seems painted by the Master Artist’s brush.

Finally the darn spider webs are gone from woodland trails. If you find a place to walk through a real forest, unmarred by the hands of man, you cannot help but have your spirits lifted.          

There isn’t a therapist in the world who can give a man answers to his problems which compare to those he can find alone, walking through a woodland in October, or drifting down a river, eyes and ears and nose tuned to a world where everything is as the creator made it.

A few years back, I wrote about gigging in Ozark rivers, and mentioned seeing river redhorse suckers between 10 and 15 pounds as a boy.  Shortly afterward I received this letter from someone by the name of Brown.

“Like Ronald Reagan said ‘There you go again’! The state record red horse is just over 8 pounds. But you’ve seen 10-15 pounders? Ha ha ha ha ha! 

Man are you full of it!… yuk yuk yuk.”

Mr. Brown is convinced the book he has is the last word in the subject, but there are many of us who actually spent time on our rivers 60 years ago and saw much larger river redhorse. In William L. Pflieger’s book, “The Fishes of Missouri,” he writes this about the river redhorse…, “length and weight in Missouri streams seldom exceeds 26.1 and 8.25 pounds now, but the present state fishing record is 17 pounds.”

Mr. Brown is guilty of what so many of our present-day biologists and overnight naturalists are guilty of… relying on whatever book they have read, and not spending enough time outdoors… not having been there. I have been there!!!

I grew up using those books too, but also spending enough time outdoors to see and learn things on my own. 

Natural history books are not always accurate, nor are present day wildlife biologists. For whatever reason, while we have smaller individuals of that species still fairly abundant in some rivers, those big, river redhorse suckers do not exist anymore. 

But they did once, and believe me, there was a time when even larger specimens than that recorded 17-pounder swam in our Ozark rivers.

My grandfather gigged many of those big ones, and I saw them… and ate them.

Anyway, thanks for the letter Mr. Brown, I hope you have learned something today… yuk, yuk, yuk.

Anyone who wants to know about the outdoors has to spend a great deal of time in the woods and on the waters! When it comes to the outdoors and fish and wildlife, the books and the Internet are often wrong, as in this case. There are five different redhorse sucker species in Ozark streams, and the largest is the river redhorse. 

Who knows what happened to the river redhorse that we knew fifty or sixty years ago? They were a fish with average weights way above 8 pounds. Maybe it is the declining quality of our streams, maybe it is an inherited genetic defect, maybe it was over-harvesting.

William Pflieger was one of the best fisheries biologists Missouri ever had. He started working for the Missouri Conservation Commission in 1961, and first published his book in 1975.  He worked with some of the best, biologists Otto Fajen, Fred Vasey and George Fleener, to compile the information found in the book.  If you are interested in fish, it is a book you need to get ahold of. 

That was a different state agency than we have today. 

The name of the agency was different and the men who worked for them were different, and the goals were different as well.

In the night, beneath bright lights, the bottom of an Ozark river was once a fascinating world of many creatures, and seeing it was absolutely amazing. 

I saw the rivers when the gravel hadn’t filled the deep eddies, and the big rocks and underwater caves could still be seen.  Back then, you didn’t see the slime and algae there is today.  Even golden redhorse, black redhorse suckers, and hog-molly suckers were so much bigger and more numerous back then. But too, there was just so much more life in those waters. 

It is seeing that underwater world in that time which makes one realize how fish numbers are being reduced, from the largest to the very smallest. 

If you saw the bottom of a river in the sixties, and you see the same substrate in the same place now, you absolutely will not believe what has happened to them.

I hope readers will visit my website, www.larrydablemont.com to see the outdoor books and magazines we produce.  And you should know that you can read this column each week on the computer under larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com when your local newspaper has space problems and cannot run it. 

We have a new book coming out soon, and you can learn about it by calling my office, 417-777-5227.

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