Well as I sit here the temperature is -11 degrees. The cold in the Midwest has finally set in. The only thing I have been thinking about is getting out onto some ice. Last year we only had ice for about a week and the same could happen this year. The lakes finally have enough ice for me to start thinking about fishing but if I don’t get out this week or next it will probably be gone by the first or second week of February if the weather man is right.
My first adventure this year was attending the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville Illinois the first weekend in January. I have been attending this show now for 8 years and I must say it is definitely one of the better shows I attend each year. They consistently bring in 10,000 people and as many show promoters will say they have 10,000 most have less than half of that. This show, however, is for real. There is so much crappie fishing items there you could spend a month’s wages.
The show has a great mix of local seminar speakers as well as some professionals. A couple of the guides from Lake Shelbyville, Matt England with England Expeditions and Steve Welch with Lake Shelbyville Guide, were giving seminars there as well as many others local guides. If you really want to get some great information on crappie fishing this is a must attend event. You could literally spend all day there walking around the booth area and attending a couple of seminars. Every time I attend one of the seminars, I learn something new. I don’t care how much fishing you do, there is something we can always learn. I really appreciate the guides who give seminars since they are on the water pretty much daily. They understand the bite as good as anyone. They can show you what to do on a slow day and help you put more fish in your livewell. So next year plan on attending the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, IL. It is the first full weekend in January.
With this snowstorm and crazy drop in temps I have been reminiscing about all of the adventures from 2023. We started off in February with our first ever hog hunt for Ella and I. Ella was so excited about this trip and it did not disappoint. Everyone in our group was able to harvest a hog and watching the kids get their first harvest was one of the most rewarding things we did in 2023.
In March I took a trip to Grenada. If this is something you have always wanted to do, then I wouldn’t wait. The size of the fish is unbelievable. We were catching two-pound fish pretty regularly. We had a great guide Carlos Willis with Carlos Willis Fishing. He was a fantastic guide and if you are heading down to Grenada, I would suggest you give him a call at 662-809-7470. I am unable to take this trip this year, but a couple of my friends will be down there at the end of March trying to break the three pound mark. I really wanted a three pounder to put on the wall, but it will have to wait.
After our Grenada trip we scheduled our trip to Lake Shelbyville. I always look forward to this trip every year. It is about two and a half hours from home, so I only make the trip once or twice a year. I wish it was a little closer because it is my favorite lake in Illinois. I know there are better lakes but this one is the one I know the best. Plus, if I ever need a little info on what is working I can always call one of my guide friends from the lake and they are always willing to give me some good information on current conditions. I think I enjoy this trip as much as any other because my wife loves to crappie fish and Lake Shelbyville doesn’t disappoint. I must say 2023 wasn’t easy. For the first time since owning my boat I had some battery problems after spending way too much money on a battery, it didn’t help. Somehow both batteries decided to go bad at the same time. Somehow, I never figured that out in Shelbyville. So, our trip wasn’t as smooth as it usually is.
I shouldn’t admit it, but after thinking I figured out what was wrong with my boat, we headed to Eagle Creek Cove to find some crappie. As we were starting to fish, my wife Leah looked over at me and said, “is this supposed to be like this?” I was like, “What the hell are you talking about?” At that time, I looked down and the back half of my boat was filled with water. I began to panic. I looked at by battery box and it was about to be under water. I looked at Leah and said hold on I am not sure this is going to work. We put our life jackets on, and I punched the throttle. We were nose in the air and the back of the boat was about to succumb to the lake. It was by far one of the scarier situations I have been in while fishing. Luckily it never quite made it over the back of the boat and little by little my speed was picking up and the water was being sucked out. After a twenty-minute ride we got to the boat ramp. Leah ran up the hill to get the trailer and luckily, we were able to get it loaded and pulled up the ramp. It still took over thirty minutes to get all of the water out of the boat, but we survived. Note to self, make sure you put the plug in the right hole. If not, there are consequences.
We took a family trip to Wisconsin as usual but in 2023 we went to spend some time with our daughter in her new house. We fished for a few days on Lake Winnebago and in all honesty it sucked. I thought I could go out there and catch crappie and I was wrong. I should have found a guide and the next time I am up there I will.
The one trip I look forward to every year is North Dakota. There is something magical about duck hunting in the prairie pothole region. This year was a little tougher than last year but we always have our opportunities to shoot ducks. Somedays you just don’t shoot straight enough. We harvested over 200 ducks during those seven days so I would say it was another successful year in North Dakota. You really get tired of eating duck everyday just so you can stay legal. That is probably why I only eat it three or four times a year other than on our trip.
The last couple of trips I took in 2023 were to Missouri deer hunting. I really enjoyed the farm in Missouri and unfortunately, I believe this was my last year. This place has become very special to me in the last couple of years not just for the hunting, but I feel like when I am there, I step back in time a little. The farm is like my grandparent’s old farm stead with a couple of barns, an old chicken coup, tools laying everywhere and coffee cans full of screws and bolts. I have spent hours just looking around and seeing things I used to when I was a kid at my grandparents’ place. I was able to harvest a nice 11 pointer during that week and the next week they were nice enough to ask Ella and I back for rifle season. This allowed Ella to get her first buck. I can’t thank Terry and Deb Watson for allowing me the experience of this farm. I am truly grateful.
The last thing of 2023 wasn’t hunting at all. My grandpa was 99 years old and lived at home until October 2023. Unfortunately, his health began to worsen, and my 92-year-old grandma was not able to take care of him anymore. She is truly the most amazing lady I have ever met. They were married one day shy of 70 years. She took care of my grandpa for seventy years. She is the rock of our family and one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She would work third shift taking care of people, come home fix breakfast, do the chores, fix lunch and supper, take a couple hour nap and do it all over again. My grandparents were a major reason the I am the person I am today. They taught me the value of family, hard work and love for others. My grandpa had his mind made up he was going to make it to 100 years old but unfortunately that didn’t happen. He lived a full life, and I am glad he is at peace.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!