"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

February translates into a lot of things for a lot of Hoosier outdoor folks. But if nimrods of our state voted on the matter, the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show would win in a snowslide.

This year's 50th renewal of the Sports Show, as it has come to be known, will open Friday, February 20 and continue in many of the Indiana State Fairgrounds buildings through February 28.

In that 10-day run, more than 100,000 Hoosier outdoor types will temporarily inhabit the Coliseum, east and west pavilions, and several of the other buildings to see the latest outdoor equipment or rub elbows with some of the nation's and state's experts of the boondocks.

It is appropriate that the hub of the Sport Show will be found in the Coliseum. That building is devoted largely to vacationlands of our country, our neighbors to the north and south, and other far-flung countries.

In reality, this 10-day run at the State Fairgrounds is three shows in one, all running simultaneously and overlapping. The other two are the seventh annual Indiana Deer & Turkey Exposition, and the 13th annual Indiana Motorcycle Exposition.

Here's the way it shapes up:

February 20-29--the 50th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show is continuing its' tradition of bringing quality and innovation to the outdoor sports and recreation arena.  This year's show is bigger and yes, better than ever, with a record number of exhibitors and demonstrations.  There will be a variety of special features including: the Rock Wall, Midwest Outdoors fishing seminars in Tackletown and much, much more! From camping gear to extreme sports, the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show has everything imaginable! 

February 20-22--the 7th Annual Indiana Deer & Turkey Exposition fits right in with the largest indoor sports show in the U.S. This show is brings exciting features and seminars from the top experts! From nationally renowned bowhunters, gun dog demonstrations, the Bowhunter 3D Challenge, deer scoring and an indoor archery range, the Indiana Deer & Turkey Expo will bring the great outdoors to the heart of America!

February 26-29--the 13th Annual Indiana Motorcycle Exposition cruises into the Indiana State Fairgrounds the last four days of the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show. Come see a wide variety of deals on motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, go-karts, accessories and apparel and various show features. This year's features include; the Bikers' Showcase Custom Bike Contest, Tiny Tots Test Track and the Hooters Fashion Stage.

Friday, February 20 3 pm-9 pm
Saturday, February 21 & Saturday, February 28 10 am-9 pm
Sunday, February 12 & Sunday, February 29 10 am-5 pm Monday, February 23 12 pm-9 pm
Tuesday, February 24 - Friday, February 27 3 pm-9 pm

Indiana State Fairgrounds- Indianapolis, Indiana

Save MONEY!  Purchase your tickets in advance at participating Marsh Supermarkets starting Monday, January 19, 2004. Adult tickets are priced at $8 in advance, or $9 at the gate.  Senior citizen (60 and older) tickets are priced at $8 and children ages 6-12 will be admitted for $6. Children under 6 are admitted free.  Marsh will sell tickets throughout the show for $9.  2-Day event tickets are available at Marsh and at the gate for $15.00 

Although the Fairgrounds extravaganza will be the big show for Hoosier outdoor folks this month, it will not be the only show on the billboard. Weather will write that part of the story.

While the hunting is over--seasons on late species went into the archives with the end of January--fishing will gain popularity this month--weather or not.

The last days of January left little doubt that we will have some ice for fishing the length and breadth of Hoosierland. How long it will last can only be a matter for speculation, but we will have ice fishing throughout the state, at least on the small to medium-sized standing waters.

Large and smaller lakes of the northern third of the state have been safe for fishing throughout the waning days of January. The open waters of larger lakes of central and southern parts of the state still will be suspect as February treks onto the outdoor stage, but if frigid air temperatures continue, we could see the first safe ice in several years on such impoundments as Monroe and Patoka this month. But this still is iffy.

However, we don't have to doubt the ice cover of smaller bodies of water in central and southern portions of the state now. Moreover, this ice will stay with us until air temperatures again creep up into the mid-40s, or 50s.

That, of course, brings one of my favorite feelings about February. 

Although February almost always is bleak and cold, it also almost always turns on the sun lamp for a few days and we are bathed by southern winds, all of which can be parlayed into some comfortably great days of ice fishing and other activities.

Teue, the macho ice angler likes the illusion of a heavily-clad figure hunched over a five-gallon bucket with wind driving fine snow past frostbit ears and hands as blue as late-clinging persimmons, I have counted some very good and comfortable February days on the ice in a  sweater, some even in shirtsleeves.

Bluegills, bass and other denizens do not stop feeding as the sun grows equinoctial. As a matter of fact, this turn of events increases the natural desire of fish to feed because the development of eggs is dependent upon a sound, healthy body.

This, of course, is the reason late winter and spring fishing is the best of the year.

The members of the sunfish tribe are not the only piscatorial citizens that have much to offer Hoosier outdoors folks in February.

Suckers offer a wide variety of "fishing" methods, and it could be that this extremely cold spell we are currently experiencing will offer the first opportunity in many years to snare this species through the ice on streams. Snaring suckers through the ice on streams has become a lost art over the years.

As this is being written White River's West Fork behind my house (Hamilton County) has ice 10 to 20 feet from its banks. If this continues, mid-sized streams could well freeze tight enough to make foot traffic by humans safe. This, of course, could lead to snaring suckers above and below riffles (fast, shallow water). 

Snaring is not always fast action, but if suckers are moving up the streams in good numbers they can be snared (lassoed) by with light copper-wire loops attached to a short, strong pole. The loop (about six inches in diameter) is dropped through a hole in the ice, and is maneuvered around the fish's body as the angler peers into the water.

This usually makes it necessary for the angler to lay belly flat on the ice, or perhaps on cardboard, a sled, or tarp. Cloudy days are best for snaring because bright sun tends to create problems of vision. However, a cover of some kind over the hole in the ice and the angler's head will improve the view.

Once the noose has encircled the fish, the angler lifts the tip of the pole with a short jerk and hoists the fish out in one smooth motion. The wire noose should not touch the fish until the loop closes. Otherwise, the fish will spook and be gone.

Suckers also can be taken through the ice on hook and line with such natural baits as gobs of earthworms (garden worms are better than night crawlers), or even such ice-bait offerings as bee moth larva or wax worms.

This angling can be done on riffles, or above or below the fast water at the point where the water is a bit deeper. But wherever the angler tries his luck, sand or gravel bottom is important, and the bait should be kept on or near the bottom.

But what happens if those southern breezes and higher air temperatures bring open-water conditions?

The panfish species--especially bluegills--and the suckers still offer a lot of opportunity in open-water situations.

For the bluegills, slow sinking little jigs (say 1/64 th ounce) fished on fly rod (or on spinning tackle with casting bobber) are the order of the day, Fish the deep side of the break (the line where shallow and deep water merges). If the action is slow, the jig can be sweetened by punching a maggot-type larva on the hook. Move your bait very slowly, allowing it to sink between up movements.

Open water on streams and rivers spells sucker gigging, but this activity is closely regulated by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations. These will be found in the latest edition of the "Indiana Fishing Guide), as well as in previous postings of this web page.

(To find previous postings on catching, cleaning, cooking and preserving suckers--and bluegills--search this page for those subjects).

Nature Is Natural

If a thaw comes--or if February lives up to its reputation of being perfectly miserable--there are many other great outdoor recreation opportunities.

If snow persists, a day of tracking and observing (even photographing) Mother Nature's children will reward the outdoor enthusiast in many ways.

Then, before the sap starts rising in deciduous trees and shrubs, it is time to dig sassafras roots and partake of a steamy cup of tea sweetened with honey while you laugh at the weather. (Search "sassafras" for more details.)

How To Make Sucker Noose

With a piece of light copper wire (it must be strong enough to lift fish out of water) wrap wire tightly around a hollow swizzle stick (drink stirrer) about five turns, then twist short end of wire with long end to hold the turns in place. Cut swizzle stick off with scissors 1/16 inch from wire on both sides, leaving the plastic piece of stirrer in the turns of wire.

Thread a fishing sinker (about ¼ ounce) on free running wire, then run free end of wire through the opening of the wire turns and stirrer. This will create a slip-loop (like a lasso . . . five or six-inch diameter is about right). Attach free end of wire to a strong stick of 18 inches. 

The sinker is not necessary in all cases, but in current it will help the angler control the loop and will make it easier to move loop through the water. The sinker may also help keep fish in the noose.

The running part of the wire must be kept free of kinks to keep the noose working well. 

 Click Thumbnail image to see enlarged photo.

noose1.JPG (9866 bytes)
rig.JPG (5144 bytes)
Noose: The loop for snaring suckers should be 5 or 6 inches in diameter . . . free-running lead sinker at bottom of loop helps stabilize wire in moving water. Rig: The copper wire noose is created by tightly wrapping wire around a hollow plastic swizzle stick (stirrer). Stirrer is cut off close to wire turns on both sides.

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All columns, stories, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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