Trotline Fishing on The Mississippi

After seeing that the flooding had gone down, I decided to drive down Old Highway 61 that parallels I-55 south of Sprigg Street and ends at a boat ramp. After taking a scenic photo, I noticed a couple throwing a cast net. [Click on any photo to make it larger.]

Aerial of Diversion Channel

Ed and Melinda Roberts of Jackson were trying to snag enough bait to put out two trotlines where the Mississippi River meets up with the ditch that is just north of the Diversion Channel. Ed Calls it the North Cut Ditch. I’ve heard it called the Little Ditch and at least one topographic map labels it the Dutchtown Ditch.

I was able to snap a picture of the Diversion Channel and the North Cut from the Cape Air Flight I was on. The Channel is on the right, the larger of the two canals.

“It’s all about stuffing the freezer”

Ed is a guy who fishes for the fun of eating fish. “I hope to have 400-500 pounds of fish in the freezer before the season is over. It’s all about stuffing the freezer.” Most of them will be channel catfish or blue cats. His biggest catch was an 82-pound blue on a trotline. “I WISH I had caught it on a rod.”

Enough bait to do the job

The water was boiling with fish, mostly gars, which the couple tossed up on the bank to join dozens more. “Most of them were killed by bow hunters,” he said. After about half a dozen casts, he brought up enough bait to do the job.

Heat killed many fish

“I’ve never seen shad die like this in the summertime. It’s the heat that’s killing them,” he explained. The hot water also limits how deep he can set his lines.

Nature’s cleanup crew

Maggots are hard at work cleaning up anything edible left behind by the flood and fishermen. “It’s a good thing,” Ed said.

Launching the boat

When I asked if I could follow them down to where they was going to put the boat in the water, ED offered me something better: a ride to watch them put out the lines.

Video: how to set out a trotline

Here’s your opportunity to see how to set out a trotline.

Motor wasn’t running right

When we started out, the motor was missing and sputtering. I wondered if they had invited me along to be a galley slave if the engine conked out. Ed assured me that wasn’t the case. He said that a plug was fouled and he wouldn’t go far from the ramp until he had it cleared.

Headed out the Diversion Channel

Before long, we were headed out the Diversion Channel to meet the Mississippi River. I’ll run scenic shots from the ride another day. I always thought of the Channel as a sterile ditch, but it’s a beautiful waterway with interesting trees on both sides.

Northbound on the Mississippi

Before long, we were northbound on the river. The boat felt a lot smaller out there.

Checking out the motor

When we got to where he was going to set his lines, he still wasn’t happy with the way the motor was running, so he left Melinda and me on the bank while he did a high-speed run in the river until he was satisfied.

Baiting the hooks

I couldn’t shoot both stills and video at the same time, so you’ll have to watch the video if you want to see what’s involved in setting a trotline. Here he is baiting one of the hooks with a fish he caught when we first met. If he’s in the river, he’s permitted to have 50 hooks; if he’s fishing in the ditches, he can have a maximum of 33.

Getting close to sunset

Ed was starting to run out of daylight, so he decided not to set out both lines. When we pulled into the bank, I asked what time the mosquitoes would show up. “I’ve got pepper spray, so I can hold ’em off for a little while while you make a run for it,” I offered.

Ed and Melinda assured me that they had plenty of bug repellent, but Ed said he’d run me back to the ramp before it got dark. They planned to stay a good part of the night running the line about every two hours and fishing with a rod and reel in the meantime.

It was a great experience. There’s a lesson here: you sure meet some nice people if you just get out of your steel cage from time to time and talk to the folks you come across. When I woke up that morning, I never dreamed that I’d end the day in a small boat on the Mississippi River.




“The Barn” for Good Fishing

Faithful reader and regular contributor Keith Robinson was in town from Kansas City for a family reunion and suggested that we get together. He was a little young to be on my radar, but he was in Scouts with my brothers and Dad. He’s a great resource because he’s a model railroader who is attempting to recreate a layout of all of Cape’s railroads between Nash Road and Cape Rock. I think he’s accounted for every spike that’s ever been driven in this area.

He came out to the house and we looked at old photos for a couple of hours. He spotted a landmark that I’ve thought about often, but would have sworn I never documented. When I started school and we moved out of the trailer that Dad and Mother hauled from job site to job site, we rented a house at 2531 Bloomfield Road. It was a great house for a kid: there was a flat field west of us that was great for playing catch. A sloping field on the east side had some climbing trees at the bottom.

Cape LaCroix Creek oxbow

Best of all for a budding fisherman, The Barn was close enough that I could persuade Mother to take me down to fish in what I thought was a pond, but looks in the aerial to be an oxbow of Cape LaCroix Creek. The Barn, sometimes called The Red Barn, is on the lower right. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)

Cape Ready Mix is center left. Rueseler’s Chevrolet is across the street. Click here to see the Chevy dealership at night from the ground.

I couldn’t find many stories about The Barn as an eating establishment. As I recall, their specialty was barbecue, but I think they also sold watermelon in season. I think they also had fireworks for the Fourth.

South Kingshighway today

The area looks entirely different. The Barn is long gone. It was located about where the S Kingshighway label is. The shopping mall is in the upper right-hand corner. Southern Parkway, which connects I-55 to the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge didn’t exist in the 60s.

South Kingshighway – Bloomfield Road

This was taken slightly north of the previous photo and shows the intersection of South Kingshighway and Bloomfield Road. On the far right-center of the photo, where the highway crosses over Cape LaCroix Creek is a small building that I think was Central Packing Company. Whatever it was, it produced the most nauseating stench on a hot day. They had to have been dumping offal into the creek. I’ve often wondered if the current occupants are aware of what the building had been used for.

Stories about 607 South Kingshighway

Even though I didn’t find any stories about The Barn as I remembered it, there were plenty of stories in The Missourian about businesses at that address.

  • Oct. 18, 1968 – Ad: 8-hour liquidation sale on appliances. Barn Discount Appliance. 607 Kingshighway (south of Plaza)
  • Dec. 6, 1968 – Ad: Liquidation Auction Sale. New merchandise – name your own price. Red Barn. 8 big sales days before Xmas. Terms: Cash Everything sells. Located 607 South Kingshighway, across from Rueseler Chevrolet.
  • Oct. 17, 1969 – City council news: Upon a report of the police department, refused the application of Thomas H. Armbruster for a liquor by the drink license at the Barn, South Kingshighway. [Note: I wonder if that’s what killed it as an eating and dining establishment?]
  • Nov. 15, 1969 – Fronabarger business column: There will be a new retail shoe outlet in the city. Dee Dee’s Shoe Outlet, specializing in women’s footwear, will occupy the site of The Barn on Kingshighway south. The outlet is now located at Dutchtown and is owned and operated by Kenneth Corbin. The store is to be opened soon.
  • Mar. 1, 1979 – A string of burglaries was reported. “The Dee Dee Shoe Outlet, 607 South Kingshighway, was also reported burglarized. Two six-packs of Coors beer were reported missing.” [Note: beer break-in at a shoe store?]
  • June 27, 1982 – A burglary was reported at Dee Dee’s Shoes, 607 South Kingshighway. Entry was gained by removing a padlock from a door on the south side of the building. Taken were eight pairs of women’s shoes, a 15-inch color television set, a radio and a fire extinguisher. Loss was estimated at about $275. [Note: Total loss for all of that was $275?]
  • Dec. 29, 1986 – Kingsway Nissan, 607 S. Kingshighway, joined group ad urging readers not to drink and drive.
  • July 11, 1988Michael S. Hurt reported a car stereo stolen Sunday morning at 607 South Kingshighway. (Coad Chevrolet, across the street, was also hit for an AM/FM cassette car stereo.)
  • Feb. 23, 1989 – A Jetsound AM/FM cassette radio and power booster belonging to Kingsway Nissan was stolen from 607 South Kingshighway, it was reported Wednesday. [Note: I wonder if it was an 8-track? It would be fun to see if I could find the date when the last 8-track stereo was stolen in Cape. Last week?}
  • Sept. 28, 1989 – Auffenberg Nissan – Jeep – Eagle looking to fill full-time office position for someone experienced in computer accounting, car deals, accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll.
  • Feb. 24, 1994 – Business wrapup: Crown Cadillac Old Nissan, which moved from Independence to 607 S. Kingshighway last year, reported a healthy increase in sales in 1993.
  • Mar. 30, 1998 – Business personnel column: Ray Drury is retiring from the automotive industry after 39 years. Drury will retire Tuesday from Crown Cadillac Olds Nissan, 607 S. Kinghighway, after six years with the company as salesman.

Glad I’m Still in Cape

I’m not happy to be looking at car payments again, but I’m glad I’m not somewhere down around the Georgia – Florida line. I’ve had a productive Friday and Saturday, although not in the way I had planned.

Friday afternoon, just about the time I was supposed to be heading over to Kentucky Lake for the first leg of my trip back home, I got a call from a fellow who thought he might have been a kid in some photos I shot back in 1966 or ’67. I’ve been chasing wild geese all week trying to get some leads on this. We made arrangements to meet at 5 p.m. After we decided he was going to help me track down a bunch of other folks on my next visit, I had some time to kill.

I headed down to see how much water had been pumped out of the cement plant quarry, but decided instead to cut down Old Hwy 61, which is east of I-55 and deadends at a boat ramp at the Diversion Channel. Yesterday was the first day I noticed that it wasn’t under water. It’s amazing what a few days will do. These fields had three or four feet of water on them when I hit town a month ago. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Ed and Melinda Roberts

Right after shooting this, I met Ed and Melinda Roberts of Jackson catching bait for their trotlines. We talked for a bit, then they invited me to go out the Diversion Channel and up the Mississippi River to set out the lines. I’ll be posting two days of photos from that excursion: one on them fishing and the other on the the beauty of the waterway.

CT lands in Cairo

Then, to top it all off, I got a Facebook message from CT, a reporter I worked with at The Ohio University Post, saying she was visiting her brother in Paducah, had become interested in Cairo after seeing my photos and was planning on a day trip there. I quickly made arrangments to meet her and her four brothers in town. It was the first time we had seen each other since the late 70s. I’ll have more on that¬† reunion in the next few days.

(I call her CT because her real name is Carol Towarnicky, a name I could never remember how to pronounce when I was introducing her to a subject. It usually came out some variation of TwarkNarky or something equally awkward.) Her brother shot this with my camera. I may have half the hair I had when she last saw me, but I am, otherwise, twice the man (in girth and weight). She was kind enough not to point that out. I knew there was a reason I liked her.

All in all, it was a better time to be in Cape than on the road. Tuesday morning, though, I have to be at the Cape airport to catch a Cape Air flight to St. Louis at 5:15. It’s not like the old Ozark days when you’d call to ask when the next flight to St. Louis was and they’d answer, “What time can you make it?”



Fathers and Fishing

Fathers and fishing just seem to go hand in hand.

My grandfather, Roy Welch, would have been content to spend his whole life on a creek bank with a cane pole and his ever-present Roi Tan cigars. I’ve told the story about how I asked him why he read murder mystery books instead of my fishing magazines. His heath was failing and he was living with us at the time. His answer: “If I read about fishing, I’d want to go fishing. I can read a murder mystery without wanting to go out and kill someone.”

I’m pretty sure the man in the center middle seat is my grandfather.

Dad and Grandfather in 1942

This photo was taken of my Dad and Grandfather in Rolla in 1942.

Caption says they’re talking fishing

The caption on the back of the photo, in my Dad’s distinctive handwriting, asks, “Where can we go fishing?”

Radio of death

The “portable” radio behind Dad would operate on a huge battery or on AC power. The only catch was that if you happened to touch any metal on the radio when it was plugged into the wall, you’d get a taste of what the guy in the electric chair must have experienced. The thing is still up in Mother’s attic. I’m afraid to get near it. I think it’s still looking for me.

Fishing was fun until you caught one

When I was a kid, I loved to fly fish. I loved that feeling when you dropped a fly in just the right spot and a fish hit it like he was a tennis player returning a serve. It was all the stuff that happened after that I wasn’t keen on.

When I was working in Athens, Ohio, the other photographer, Bob Rogers, lived in a house with a nice pond in his front yard. On a slow day, I’d park my car close enough that I could hear any radio calls, then get in a little fishing. If I caught anything, I’d leave a note on Bob’s door telling him there was a stringer of fish waiting for him. Catching was more fun than cleaning.

Looks like Brothers David and Mark share my enthusiasm for skinning and preparing catfish.

Tentative touching going on

I don’t know that Mark ever warmed up to fishing, but David got to be quite an accomplished fish killer. You saw how Son Matt reacted to fish when Dad introduced him to one. He still has that reaction.

So, how many of you associate fishing with your father? Was it a mostly guy thing or was there some father / daughter bonding done on the creek bank, too?

Stories about my Dad