Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fishing the Upper North Fork

With severe weather looming in the forecast, I decided Wednesday night I would take advantage of the last nice day of the week and head upstream for a little smallmouth and goggle-eye fishing on the upper reaches of the North Fork. After dropping Eli off at school, Amy took me to Hale's crossing which is 26 miles or so upstream of Sunburst. I would float from there to Hammond covering a distance of 14 miles. Putting in at Hale's I was happy to see the river flowing bank full, and although somewhat murky I couldn't have asked for better water conditions. The section of river before you reach Hammond can get much too low to be of much fun by the time summer arrives. Today this was not the case. I told my fishing buddy Finn (my loyal Boykin Spaniel) to load up, and he took his place in the front seat of the canoe. We quickly were forced to negotiate some rather treacherous rapids, which on this section of river are very narrow with sharp turns and often times guarded by fallen trees. This being said we came through the float unscathed, although there were several times Finn questioned my canoe handling skills. The fishing was just fair, I hooked and lost what felt like a nice smallmouth early in the float, and later brought a nice 12 incher to hand. I also broke off a 15" smallmouth by setting the hook a little to hard with 4 pound test. The goggle-eye (rock bass) did keep the action steady although most were only fat little 6-7 inch fish, big enough to make a meal if I was camping out, but too much trouble to take home. I also added several green sunfish, and longear sunfish (aka punkinseeds) to my creel. While my favorite smallmouth bait is a 4" worm, fishing by myself without an anchor made this type of fishing almost impossible with the river running fast. I caught most fish on a good old beatle spin. If you ever get a chance to come to the river when the water is really flowing, I would highly recommend a float on the upper part of the North Fork, you will see beautiful bluffs, lots of wildlife, and with any luck at all you should enjoy catching a mixed bag of colorful Ozarks fish.

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