As soon as I wrapped up the May issue, I had one thing on my mind. Finding some morel mushrooms. Last year, as you all know, wasn’t much of a season for me. I only found a pound of mushrooms and it didn’t sit very well with me.
I love to spend time in the woods mushrooming. We only eat them three or four times a year and then I make sure all of my friends, in-laws and others get a taste of these tasty morsels. I set out on April 21st to see if I could find a few pounds for the fryer. As I entered the woods and took a few steps there was my first morel of the season. I thought to myself if this is the sign of how the day will go, I should have plenty of mushrooms in my sack. I continued to walk over 4 ½ miles that day and only found one other mushroom. I couldn’t believe I walked that far for two mushrooms. I was now more determined than ever to find some mushrooms.
My friends started calling asking if the mushrooms were popping. I told them not many in Marshall County, but I was going to head to Fulton County on Saturday. After talking with my cousin, Matt Beoletto, we were all set to head to the farm in Cuba, IL. This place holds a very special place in my heart. Right next door is the farm I grew up on. It was only 80 acres in Fulton County just outside of Cuba, IL and this is where my love of the outdoors flourished as a kid. My grandma would mushroom hunt almost daily. Once she got a few pounds my grandpa would take them up to Fairview Sale Barn and unload the mushrooms for a little extra cash. Years ago, my grandparents got sick off of Morels, but I assume they got a false morel and didn’t realize it. They were pretty sick for a couple of days, so they never ate them again. When I was a kid, I used to have to try and beat my grandma to the woods so she didn’t sell all of the mushrooms before I got my share.
I first stopped by the old farm and reminisced about my childhood there. It makes me sad to see the place all ran down and dilapidated. My dad and a few of his brothers built this house for my grandparents and it is tough to watch it just rot away. The day the farm was sold was one of the hardest of my life. Everything I knew about the outdoors was gained on that farm. I was only in my late 20’s when they decided to sell the farm and I just didn’t have the funds to buy it. I wanted that farm so bad it hurt. I watched the auction as things I grew up playing with sold one right after another. I bought what I could to keep as keep sakes, but I couldn’t afford the farm. I still struggle with the selling of the farm but there just wasn’t much I could do about it.
After reminiscing about my childhood, I headed to a spot that has produced mushrooms for 40 years. This ditch has never disappointed. This ditch was maybe 80 yards long but always had a few mushrooms. One of my first ever mushrooming trips on my own I found four pounds of morels in this little drainage ditch. As I walked the ditch, I found a couple of pheasant backs and a tree full of fresh turkey tail mushrooms, but not what I was looking for. Unfortunately, there were no morels, so I moved along to the next spot.
As I continued down to the creek, I walked to every dead elm I could find. After about an hour of looking along the creek, I came up to a massive dead elm that hadn’t lost its bark yet. The bark was cracked, and you could tell the tree was dead but definitely a fresh dead elm. As I looked along the base, I could see a few mushrooms. As I always do, once I found a few I sit down and start scouring the forest floor. I sat around this tree for over an hour and found around 75 mushrooms right around 3lbs.
I beat up that area pretty well, making sure I didn’t miss any mushrooms. I was excited and all I could think about was finding one or two batches like that and the old Morel Mania Mushroom Bag would be full. I continued to walk and hit various spots I had found them over the years, and I found a pair of mushrooms here and a couple there but no more big groups. This year seems to have me wanting more. I found so many trees that would just have one or two mushrooms around them and when I went back the next couple of weeks there were no new mushrooms that had popped.
The trip to Cuba was another three miles on my legs but I now had some mushrooms to fry up with some crappie when I got home. Of course, my buddy Al was keeping in touch throughout the day to see how I was doing. He knew if I got a few pounds, he would get a taste of morels too. Last year he didn’t get any so there was no way he was going to go two years in a row.
After talking with my cousin Matt again he wanted to head out on Sunday and try and find him and his family a mess to eat. So early Sunday morning, I headed to my Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob’s house to meet Matt. Bob had some potatoes he wanted planted, so we met there to get the potatoes in the ground then mushrooming we went.
Matt’s son Grayson joined us on the mushroom hunt. It was nice to have a young kid tag along with us to show him what he is looking for and also teach him the ways of the outdoors. We walked a few miles, and we found a couple here and there and Grayson was getting tired, so we decided to head back to the four-wheeler to call it a day. As we were walking down an old logging road, I looked down and said stop. At the bottom of the hill, you could see mushrooms all over the place. Nice size greys and yellows were abundant. We headed down to the patch and had Grayson set up for a nice picture and then we started picking. I would say there were around 2lbs around a few trees in that area. You can see in the picture of Grayson the mushrooms were all around him and up the hill aways. We had a ball picking this group of mushrooms and now we know they had a nice mess of mushrooms.
I didn’t really expect to keep any as we were there to make sure his family got a mess. Matt insisted on taking a few so I grabbed about a pound for the journey home. It was nice spending some time with my family in the woods. It seems usually I am by myself, so it was nice to have a young kid and Matt along for the ride.
I went several more times mushrooming but nothing spectacular came out of it. I went back to many of my spots that I found them this year and only found one more mushroom in those areas. Many years ago, an old timer told me if you get multiple 80-degree days in a row then mushroom season will be over. Now we had several 80-degree days this year and I am not sure if that is why it seemed the mushrooms all popped at once and then nothing after the original pop. Anyways I ended up with 7 ½ pounds on year and that was plenty for my family and some of my friends.
The first weekend of May is our annual fishing trip to Lake Shelbyville. This is one of my wife’s favorite trips of the year. She hasn’t had any time off since December, so she was ready for a couple of days of fishing.
The day before we were set to leave for Lake Shelbyville my good friend Matt England with England Expeditions sent me a text asking me when we were coming down. I told him we would be down and Thursday. Matt told me everything I needed to know about what the crappie were doing. He told me exactly what the fish were doing and how to go about catching them. Once we arrived on Thursday, I get out there to start fishing and I dropped my trolling motor in the water and its dead. I was like there is no way this is happening right now. I had to take the boat into the marina and ask a boat tech for help. Come to find out one of the batteries I just bought less than a year ago was no good and had no charge. Well, you need two batteries to run the trolling motor, so I bought a new battery and had it installed and ready to go on short notice.
By this time, we were in the late afternoon, so we stayed around Lithia Marina and did a little catch and release for the day. The crappie on Friday would not be so lucky.
We had a great day on Friday and ended up with 28 fish among the four of us. Not a limit but we were very happy with the day’s results. Saturday the bite was a little tougher. We had a storm come through the night before and it seemed to have changed the fish a little bit. We were catching fish in 3’-6’ of water and fishing a jig under a bobber about 18”. This bite just wasn’t as good as it was on Friday, so we decided to go back to my specialty which is drift fishing. I love letting the wind take me and just controlling the boat speed and going over fish. It never fails anytime of the year. There was no one on the lake fishing this way. Everyone was up on the back and in the timber trying to find the males that had moved up on the bed. We just did our thing we caught just as many this was as we did with a bobber. We didn’t knock them dead this year but for once we didn’t have to fish in 40-degree weather with it raining.
We usually get up and pack our stuff on Sunday and then head out for a few hours. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on, so we just decided to pack our bags, head to breakfast, and then make our trip back home.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Shelbyville, my recommendation would be Lithia Resort, Gregory’s Lodging or The Shelby Inn. They all have great accommodation and I always have a slip at Lithia Marina. Not only is it easier to just rent a slip you don’t have to fight the crowds at the ramp. I love staying around Lithia Springs Marina, there is lodging close by, minnows available and a nice cleaning station for your fish. If any of you are planning a trip to Lake Shelbyville, you should look at pages 12-15 for all of the information you will need.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!