Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 3, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: A sentimental father-son fish story


GOSHEN — What began as a typical evening on the St. Joseph River near Bristol for eight-year-old Jon Howell and his dad became one they’ll never forget.

The father/son fishing trips have become routine this summer. Jon Jr. has been a river fishing fanatic ever since his grandfather gave his dad his old, Tracker Marine bass boat rigged with a jet drive engine.

“We put it in the water this summer and have been catching fish all year,” said dad. “That upper stretch of the river near Bristol really has some nice bass.”

That held true on that mid-October evening as well. Around 6:45 in mid-October, young Jon set the hook on a nice smallmouth while fishing a deep hole that contained rock and wood pilings.

“He got it up alongside the boat and I saw it had a metal tag in its jaw,” recalled the elder Howell. “I remembered seeing something at boat launches about a tagged fish program, so I told Jon he couldn’t lose that fish.”

He didn’t, and sure enough, the 16-incher bore a DNR tag that was carefully removed before the fish released.

They contacted the DNR with the information and discovered that Jon not only won a $5 Bass Pro Shops gift card, but the fish was tagged that same day it was caught!

Fish tags placed on the lips of several Indiana river bass are part of a study biologists are conducting to help them determine the success of a 12-to-15-inch river bass size limit imposed recently.

“I think Jon was more excited about catching the tagged fish than larger bass he’s caught on the river this year,” said dad.

The Trinity Lutheran third grader uses a 6-foot Berkley Amp rod with a Shimano Spirex reel spooled with 8-pound Trilene XL line.

 “He’s become quite efficient with spinning tackle,” said dad. “The boy knows how to handle a rod.”

Howell said he and his son’s fishing successes really picked up this summer when they changed lure choices based upon a recommendation of Dick Parker at Central Park Bait and Tackle in Osceola.

“I was in there earlier this year and told the owner we were catching a lot of small bass on Rapalas and jigs, but was looking for something that would catch bigger bass,” Howell said. “He told me that guys on the lower river were fishing 5-inch, green pumpkin Senkos and thought they might work up river as well.”

The next time they fished, the Howells stuck with their Rapalas for awhile before dad decided to try the new lure. He rigged it weightless and wacky style as suggested, placing the hook in the middle of the worm with the ends dangling.

“I threw up river and was going to put that rod down and resume casting another rod with a Rapala, when the bait took off,” Howell offered. “That fish was a 16-incher and a size we rarely catch up there.”

Since then, the Howells have been Senko fanatics and their catches of bigger bass have soared.

“It’s not uncommon for us to catch smallmouth between 16 and 19 inches now,” dad noted. “We cast upstream and let the current carry the lure around rocks and trees.”

Dad says young Jon is a fishing machine, and credits the success they have on the upper river for bonding them as longtime fishing buddies.

“He’s my fishing partner, and I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my son,” Howell said proudly.

Trappers day

The Michigan DNR Hunter Education Program will offer trapper field day in Dowagiac Dec. 7.

Field days are for trapper education students who have completed the online or home-study course and are required to receive a Michigan Trapper Education Safety Certificate.

The event, co-sponsored by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pokagon Campground, located at 58620 Sink Road. A parent or guardian must accompany any child 10 years old or younger.

There is no charge, but students must pre-register with Sgt. Tom Wanless at 517-335-3410. Students taking the online option must present their certificate of completion on the day of the field day. Students who wish to take the home-study option must receive their manual a minimum of one week prior to the field day. For more information, contact Sgt. Wanless.

Park closing

Potato Creek State Park will close to conduct deer herd maintenance hunts on Nov. 18 and 19 and Dec. 2 and 3.

No one except selected hunters will be admitted to the park on these days.

Canada goose reduction hunts will take place Nov. 9 and 10, and Dec. 14 and 15. The park will be open on these days, but aquatic areas will closed. Worster Lake’s boat ramps will be closed, and no fishing will be allowed. Access also will be restricted to selected wetlands. All other activities will be unaffected by the goose hunts.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at stoutoutdoors@comcast.net.