"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

With most of Indiana’s hunting seasons ended, the arrival of February turns the spotlight on two kinds of recreation for Hoosier nimrods--indoors and outdoors.

While fishing for suckers and sauger on streams and rivers, late-winter ice fishing for a variety of game fish, and digging sassafras roots have their followers, the big draw of the month--at least in the central part of the state--is the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show, a k a “The Sports Show.”

This 51st rendition of this indoors extravaganza of outdoors activities will be staged, as usual, in Pepsi Coliseum and several other buildings at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Although the Sports Show, proper, will run from February 18 through February 27, it will offer two satellite productions; namely the eighth annual Indiana Deer and Turkey Exposition (February 18-20), and the 14th annual Indiana Motorcycle Exposition (February 24-27).

As always, Sports Show exhibits will run the gamut of outdoor recreation with its vacation and travel exhibits in Pepsi Coliseum, boat exhibits in the West Pavilion and part of the South Pavilion (immediately east of the West Pavilion) building immediately east of the West Pavilion). The South Pavilion also will offer recreation vehicles. The East Pavilion will house spillover vacation and travel exhibits and all-terrain vehicles, water ski equipment and truck accessories.

Tackletown, everything one could want for fishing, will be housed in Blue Ribbon Pavilion (immediately south of the East Pavilion.) 

Aside from the fact that this year’s Sports Show will offer many things for many people, anglers and hunters will find some real innovative features in clinics and seminars.

 The staff of hunting clinics will include Bill Epeards, Roger Raglin, Doug Janes, and Frank Addington Jr., and Indiana’s own John Carroll.

The schedule of angling seminars has been species oriented this year. This gives show-goers a chance to attend clinics for favorite species. Staffers for fishing seminars will be Dave Stewart, Joe Thomas, and Mike Delvisco, all on bass; Team Jones (brothers Bob and Rick), crappie; Chris Walker, muskellunge; Capt. Mike Orr, trout and salmon; James Patterson, catfish; Rick LaCourse and Julia Davis, walleye, and Dan Armitage, kids and ice fishing.

Another great feature of the Sports Show for anglers will be demonstrations on fly fishing by Dustin Harley, a Hoosier (from South Bend) who will conduct fly-fishing demonstrations at the Sportsman’s Arena in the Champions (East) Pavilion on both Saturday of the show and on Feb. 21 and 22.

Harley’s seminars and demonstrations will be reminiscent of a time and event from ancient annals of the Sports Show when Bill “Old Goat” Hughes, the late and great fishing tackle rep, wrote an unforgettable chapter in the history of the show’s archives. I admit to being an accomplice.

In one of those late-night sports show confabs, Hughes and Harry Renfro, the late and also great owner of the Sports Show, were discussing the joys of fly fishing.  Bill and Harry concurred that it was a shame that many Hoosiers owned fly rods, but few fished them because rods in those days did not carry recommendations for the line size that would bring best fly-casting results out of the rods. I admit to being an accomplice.

Harry, of course was always looking for another way to bring in more patrons, Bill was always looking for a way to sell more fishing tackle, and I was always had my eyes and ears open for a story to tell. Together we hatched this plot that provided that Bill, then repping Heddon products, and his staff, would have fly reels loaded with fly lines of many sizes in his booth at the side of the Coliseum casting tank where patrons of the show could test tackle. He would simply let show patrons bring in their fly rods and try them with lines until they found the right line for their rods.

The inaugural event was a huge success, but as years passed it became even greater. And in my book, it made Bill Hughes and Harry Renfrom co-grandfathers of Hoosier fly fishing.

Hours for the Sports Show will be as follows: Fridays (Feb. 18 and 25) 3 to 10 pm; Saturdays (Feb. 19 and 26) 10 am to 10 pm; Sundays (Feb. 20 and 27) 10 am to 5 pm; Monday (Feb. 21) noon to 9 pm, and Tuesday (Feb. 22), Wednesday (Feb. 23), and Thursday (Feb. 24) 3 to 9 pm.

Admission fees will be $9 at the gate for adults, $8 for senior citizens, and $6 for children from 6 through 12 years old. Children younger than six years old will be admitted free. Price of adult tickets in advance (before opening day of the show) will be $8 at Marsh supermarkets. A two-day adult ticket will be available at Marsh stores and at the gate for $15.

Click thumbnail image to see enlarged view.

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Dustin Harley will conduct fly fishing demonstrations at the Sport Show. John Carroll will conduct seminar on hunting deer in Indiana. Bill Hughes made fly fishing a household name in Indiana.


When you have had your fill of Sports Show activities--and even before this huge events open--February, the month when winter gives us a glimpse of spring, can be exciting and productive in terms of outdoor activities.

One of the February features I like best is that sometime during its 28-day run it will offer some weather that will build a fire in the hearts and minds of frostbitten couch potatoes and put them on the prowl for outdoorsy stuff.

From my book of pleasant outdoor memories I recall many afternoons of warm sunshine when I sat in shirtsleeves (or perhaps no more than a light sweater) hauling bluegills and bass from beneath snow-capped ice like the sport was going out of style.

I have had my fishing interrupted by the necessity of shedding clothing to stay comfortable.

The same conditions can make sucker and sauger fishing downright pleasant, and streams and rivers are now falling to near-normal late-winter levels. The sauger fishing is best on the Ohio River and tributaries, but suckers offer an even greater spectrum of outdoor recreation opportunity. 

Gigging (spearing) suckers comes into its own during February as this bony (but very tasty) fish intensifies its upstream migration to spawn on riffles with sand/gravel bottoms. And if winter returns in such proportions that streams are frozen, snaring suckers through holes in the ice will offer exciting afternoons. It is, of course, unlawful to spear or snare game fish.

Indiana fishing regulations provide that suckers may be gigged (speared) day or night on streams and river with a flow of 1,500 cubic feet per second. Otherwise, taking suckers (and other rough fish species) on streams of less flow than 1,500 cubic feet per second is limited to sunrise to sunset. Rivers offering stretches of water where gigging is permitted at night are the two forks of White River, the Wabash River, Tippecanoe River, Maumee River, Kankakee River, and St. Joseph River. Stretches of these rivers are listed in the Indiana Fishing Guide (available free at fishing license outlets)

Then, of course, the arrival of February assures that the saps and oils of sassafras “saplings” remains in the roots, but they are poised for their upward journey to bring about another year of growth. Digging sassafras roots now will lead to cups of brisk sassafras tea throughout the year. 

Of course, digging sassafras roots has long since become passe for those who have four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is much easier to hook onto small (wrist-size or smaller) saplings with a towing cable and pull them out of the earth. This may seem something less than sporting, but landowners “blessed” with stands of this hearty “tree” can’t destroy them fast enough to keep fence rows clean.

Note: For further information on suckers, sauger, sassafras roots and ice fishing search these topics with the search engine on my home page.

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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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