White Bass, scourge of South Dakota fishermen who only want to catch walleye! At least that's what the "sportsmen" on the Missouri River were acting like this morning.
I’ve had a number of posts in the past about experiences I’ve had when I’m out taking photos, or fishing, or hiking, when I’ve run across some idiot “sportsman” who is doing something like blasting away at every living thing they see, taking over their limit, etc. I’ve generally been pretty careful when I post about something like that, saying things like “I realize most hunters, fishermen, etc. are conscientious and respect and try to protect the resource”.
Well, to that, I say bull$hit. Every time I go out, I swear to god there’s some bozo who personifies what being an outdoor sportsman is NOT about. Today I went fishing on the Missouri River below Oahe Dam. It’s one of my favorite spots, with crystal clear, cold water coming through the dam from Lake Oahe. The words “crystal clear” and “water” are NEVER used in the same sentence in South Dakota, as most rivers and ponds around here have a visibility of about 2 inches. This is certainly a welcome difference, and it is a wonderful place to fish.
Wonderful place to fish means…lots of fishermen, at least by the standards of sparsely populated South Dakota. And of course, lots of fishermen, means a LOT of “sportsmen” who seem hell-bent on trashing the place or breaking the rules just to ensure THEY get their limit of fish to bring home. This morning, I got there and walked down to the water, dodging beer cans, old bait containers, and discarded fishing line as I went. One thing I ALWAYS do when I go fishing…I end up bringing back more than I went with, and I’m not talking fish. I made a point of picking up some of the garbage in my vicinity, and started fishing.
It was wonderful! In about 3 hours of fishing, I caught about 20 fish, BIG fish for their kind, fish that put up a hell of a fight. The problem? This is South Dakota! There IS no “fish” that matters to about 85% of fishermen, other than walleye. Have you ever caught a walleye? They fight like a limp noodle, even the big ones. But they’re tasty! And filling the freezer, harvesting as many as you can (legally, or illegally in many cases) seems to be “the” mode of fishing around here. Back to the “problem”…I didn’t catch a single walleye this morning, which actually shocked me. 19 of the 20 fish I caught were White Bass…BIG white bass, very fat and happy, averaging about 14 inches, with a few that were absolute monsters for the species.
In that fast current below the dam, a big white bass puts up a hell of a fight. You certainly KNOW when it’s a white bass that hits, rather than a walleye. I had a blast. I didn’t keep any fish today, but I do keep White Bass to eat sometimes. To me, they’re every bit as good as walleye, once you strip this one dark strip of meat out and keep the white meat. But the other fishermen in the area seemed to have a pretty low opinion of what they were catching. There were 2 young guys next to me, looked to be about 20 years old. They too were catching white bass…and BITCHING about it, because they weren’t walleye. So, the one guy catches a white bass, unhooks it…and immediately throws it 10 yards back into the weeds. He and his buddy had a GREAT laugh, talking about getting rid of the “damn white bass” to “make room” for the walleye.
You can imagine my opinion of these two dolts, but I hoped it was an isolated thing, and just scowled, but didn’t say anything. Then the other guy catches a white bass….and does the same thing, throwing it back into the weeds. THEN I said something! Think I kind of surprised them by speaking up, but I first asked what put up more of a fight, a white bass, a walleye, or a dish towel (answer: walleye comes in 3rd). Then I said you don’t have to like them, but it is illegal to be throwing them up on the bank.
The answer was about what I expected from a pair of 20-year old South Dakota “sportsmen”…the one guy said “whatever”, and the other just rolled his eyes and turned away. They only fished for a few more minutes before leaving, and didn’t catch any more fish, but they certainly put a damper on the fun I was having catching white bass.
SO….I think I’m done saying “most” sportsmen ARE true sportsmen, who care about the environment and the resource they’re using. I’m not convinced any more that it IS a majority, so “most” is too strong. SOME fishermen and hunters are wonderful sportsmen, who do their best to preserve the environment. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that “most” fishermen and hunters only care about filling the freezer, environment-be-damned.
Whoever you two were this morning…you have won this week’s “Scum of the Week” award.