When I was a kid at Crothersville (in good ol’
Jackson County), my father, The late Jacob Wesley Scifres, also an ardent
outdoorsman, had the reputation of catching more than his share of largemouth
bass (smallmouth too) on hard crayfish (craws).
He would readily admit that he did this thing
to anyone who wanted to talk about it, but he wouldn’t talk much about
how he did it . . . especially bait.
He did share this information with me--even demonstrated
it a few times--and I have shared “the skinny” with a few close friends
over the years. Now, I think, it would be a shame for this secret of the
wild to pass into oblivion.
His fishing tackle had gone up in smoke when our
old woodshed burned to the ground (not to mention his steel traps . . .
he was a mink trapper . . . and all-around outdoorsman).
At any rate, one beautiful fall day toward November,
he gathered three or four of the boys of our neighborhood and explained
that he would take us bass fishing, presumably with live minnows. Minnows,
he said are always a good bet for bass.
But as we seined minnows at Buck Creek, I noticed
that my dad saved a dozen or so hard, dark craws (not the waxy little beige
craws he used on trotlines in the spring for fresh water drum--a k a white
perch). At this time of year craws have pretty much gone to their winter
hibernaculums. He kept the craws in a separate pail. He separated the craws
from the minnows because, he said, the former would kill the latter.
As we headed for Cal Ford Bayou, he cut long poles
(an inch in diameter) and attached strong line to the poles, bobbers positioned
three feet above a 2/0 steel hook and small lead sinkers.
We did not catch any bass that day on minnows,
but I noticed a few times he baited his hook with hard craws by hooking
them once through the tail, the point of the hook protruding. No bass with
Later (another trip to the same water) I noted
that he baited throw lines with hard craws. When we “ran” the lines next
morning he had caught several sub 10-inch largemouth. They were dead, however,
so he threw them back (back in the weeds) and we collected them when we
headed for home and took the fish home to eat. My dad placed a high value
on nature’s edibles. He rationalized keeping the small bass with the notion
that they were dead and he would have no part of wasting them as turtle
fare. The legal minimum size was 10 inches.
The tamarack, a northern tree, has groups of inch-long
needles (leaves) scattered rather uniformly along its branches. They turn
yellowish in the fall, and though the tree is scarce in Indiana, my father
said that is the time to fish hard craws. A small cone (less than an inch
and round) grows opposite the clusters of needles.
Officials of the Department of Natural Resources’
Division of forestry tell me we have tamarack (larch) only in the extreme
northeast, so I do not know how my dad had garnered such information. But
he steered me right on so much other natural lore that I can believe his
Incidentally, I am inclined to believe that I
have one big tamarack tree in my front yard jungle. At least, the minute
pinecones resemble very much the cones of the tamarack and I am told other
trees do not have cones that small. I don’t know what else it could be.
I had two such trees, but one died a few years back and I finally had it
cut down a month ago for fear that it would fall on power lines.
As my favorite old saw goes: Never say never to