Well it has been quite the month. All winter I waited for that first taste of spring. All I could think about over the last couple of months is I need some crappie fillets and mushrooms for dinner. Usually its easy pickins for either one, but this year has been a little unique. First, I like to get the crappie fillets out of the way so I can dedicate at three weekends to finding those great tasting fungi. My wife had been after me to get the boat on the water and it seemed like it was never going to happen. I saw where people where catching some crappie on Clinton Lake and I thought if we don’t get there soon we may miss the spawn. I knew it just wasn’t time for the morels to be popping so I decided it was time to hit the lake. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble finding people to go since that is all I have heard for the last three weeks is “when we are going fishing?”. I made a couple of calls and sure enough my friends Al and Tim were chomping at the bit. I like to get up early and hit the water around day break and I could hear in Tim’s voice, he wasn’t very excited about getting up and leaving at 5:00am. Being a second shifter it was not his favorite time of day, but on this day, he actually arrived a few minutes early. I was figuring I would have to start blowing up his phone to get him out of bed but the call to the lake was enough to get him up and moving. As we all set off for a day on the lake everyone was anticipating a great day. We rounded up our minnows and to the boat ramp we went. Thinking everyone and their brother would be on the lake when we arrived I was wrong. There were a few boats already on the water and there seem to be a bass tournament going on but other than that I didn’t see many crappie fisherman. As we loaded the boat in the water we headed to one of our favorite spots on the lake to see if we could fill the live wells with some nice crappie. When we set up on our location it didn’t take but a couple of minutes for the first 10-inch crappie to come over the side of the boat. All I could think about was getting enough crappie for dinner and off to the woods I would go to find the mushrooms. As we sat in this location for a couple of hours we were catching several crappies. It seemed we would catch two to three non-keepers for every keeper but that didn’t bother me any. Of course, my other goal for the day was to make sure the wife and Ella caught a few crappies to keep them fishing for the day. As anyone knows, for an eleven-year-old that isn’t always easy. Ella would catch one or two and the become the minnow fetcher for a while before she would go back to fishing. It seems she became more interested in naming the minnows than putting them on the hook. It didn’t matter to me as long as she was content and happy. She likes being the minnow girl and we could definitely keep her busy. It seemed Leah had the hot hand for awhile and she continued to put fish over the side of the boat. She was happy to say the least. After fishing that spot for a few hours, it was time to see what else we could find. At our next spot it was more of the same. A few keepers every now and then but many fish were just under the 9-inch limit on Clinton Lake. We eased around every brush pile and it seemed there was a few fish on every one. We used minnows about two feet under a bobber and that seem to do the trick. Al did use a jig under the bobber and it really didn’t to make a difference either way. As long as you had your bobber by a log or brush you would be getting a bit. Throughout most of the day this continues as we were getting closer to a limit of fish. The ones we found full of eggs were released for future harvest. As the day was coming to a close I could see everyone was getting tired. We considered trying to hang out until the evening but as 5pm neared we were already to head for home. Clinton Lake is about an hour and fifteen minutes from home and we had some fish to clean. It was such a beautiful day we did get a few sprinkles but for the most part you couldn’t have asked for better weather. We arrived at the boat ramp and loaded up and headed for home. When we arrived back home we started cleaning fish. As we were cleaning fish I received a call that they had started to find some mushrooms. I knew I would have to hit the woods in the next couple of days to kick off mushroom season. As Tuesday rolled around I thought I better get to the woods to see how things were progressing. I always know the first time out for the year consists of me going to a few of my spots that I always find the first mushrooms. When I arrived at the first couple there was nothing. As I looked at the forest floor I realized there just wasn’t enough moisture for it to be good yet. The may apples were just coming up the leaves were just starting. The ground was cracking because of the lack of rain. It seems the last three or four years it hasn’t been the best. I have found 6 to 8 pounds a year over the last couple of years, but it used to be that if I didn’t find 13 -15 pounds then it wasn’t a good year. I have this crazy thing about finding them then making sure all of my family and friends get a taste of spring’s heaven. After spending about four hours that day looking in the woods I managed to find what I call pinky nail sized mushrooms which are really great tasting, but all they do is tease you. I knew these little mushrooms weren’t going to feed my family, but it was going to give us a taste and make me want to hunt them even harder. As the week went by we received some rain, but I just wasn’t hearing much about people finding many mushrooms. Wasn’t sure if people were being quiet because they are finding them or if this was just becoming a poor year for mushrooms. I tried to wait a week between going and the weather had been warm enough. I had been watching the soil of the temperature to gauge when my next trip would be. Once the ground temp is around 55 – 57 that is usually a good indicator that there will be some fresh morels as long as we have some moisture. One concern I had was that an old timer once told me if you get two 80-degree days in a row that it will burn up the spores and the season will not be very good. At this point it seemed we went from 45 degrees to three consecutive days over 80 and one day it was almost 90. The ground temp went from 54 one day to 61 two days later. I figured we were going to find the mother load of mushrooms. My thoughts were they were all going to pop at once and it would be a short season but a good one. Once again, I was wrong. I am starting to think all of my years of hunting these morels I have learned nothing. I actually pride myself in finding mushrooms to give away to people who don’t have the property or time to go. This year I was afraid I would be letting people down. Of course, I was working on this issue of the magazine, so I didn’t have a whole of extra time to make to the woods but if your going to go, you have to when the time is right and I thought the time was now. I decided to get up early one morning and hit the woods just after day break. All of my friends were working, and Al wanted me to get some mushrooms to bring over to dinner on Friday night. I said you supply the fish and I will supply the mushrooms. As I hit the woods I was there only a couple of minutes and I found one fairly dry mushroom. As I worked my way up the south side of the hill I found a couple more in a patch then another 50 yards I found a few more. Thinking to myself this could be one of those great days of picking mushrooms. I roamed the top of the hill and it seemed I would find one or two here than another one or two there but just wasn’t finding the patches of mushrooms I was used to but at least I was finding them. After working the ridge it was time to hit some honey holes to see if I could fill the bag. Unfortunately, all of my old haunts didn’t seem to produce much. Again, I would find one or two but not the 20 or more I was used to. After spending a good four and half hours walking the woods I was ready to call it quits. I ended up finding 35 but it took a lot of walking to find that many. It was plenty for me to take over to dinner and left everyone get their fill, but it wasn’t enough for me to keep eating them for a week or two like I am used to. We had a fabulous dinner and my next thought is give us some rain and humidity and we should have some good size yellows on the way. As a week passed Al, Tim and I decided to try our hand one more time for mushrooms. This was actually Mother’s Day but my wife didn’t care as long as she had mushrooms to eat. We headed out early in the morning to beat the crowds and so we could get home to spend time with our loved ones. For years I have heard people say they find mushrooms on Mother’s Day every year and I am not one of them. Usually, I have more than enough mushrooms by the first week of May that my season is over. Not in this wacky year. As Al, Tim and I entered the woods that morning I was fairly confident we would find a couple of pounds a piece at minimum. As we started walking the woods I soon realized that may not be the case. I was finding nothing in placed I have been finding them over the last 20 years. Had my spots finally dried up or is the weather messing with the mushroom season. We spend several hours looking for mushrooms and in my bag was six total mushrooms. Unfortunately, Tim and Al arrived back at the truck with a big goose egg. To say this mushroom season has been weird is an understatement. I am actually very curious how others have fared this year, but this just doesn’t seem to be the year of the mushroom for me. I may try to get out one more time but my confidence isn’t too high. Maybe the fishing season will be better!
May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!