Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, May 23 2013 05:30 PM

Steve Merlo: Memorial Day a special time of remembrance

By The Bakersfield Californian

A special trophy hangs from a wall in my house. Unlike my other hunting or fishing trophies, so strong are the emotions associated with this particular piece of life's memorabilia, I would gladly give all my worldly possessions if the trips related with it never existed.

Writing about this black-inscribed commemorative trophy is difficult, because merely mentioning it brings tears to my eyes along with a weird sense of guilt. There are no feathers, antlers or scales upon this framed piece, only the pencil-darkened names of four fine men I once knew and loved.

Taken in Vietnam during the very early years of their lives, the names of Larry Johnson, W.R. Crabb, Bob Banks and Gary Edwards are there for the world and me to see and remember. Reverse-stenciled from the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., their names are also inscribed in eternal honor in my home. They were my close friends and I still miss them.

This Monday, Memorial Day, America remembers all of its fallen heroes, the men and women who have paid for our freedoms with their ultimate sacrifices. Please honor and thank them on that special day, because all of the freedoms we are able to enjoy, all the hunting and fishing trips we are able to take, are a direct result of their incredibly unselfish gifts.

Red-hot bite at Isabella

The red-hot crappie bite at Isabella Lake, locally nicknamed crappie-mania , continues even after water temperatures have soared and the water clarity has improved. Although a lot of fish have gone deeper after their initial spawn, anglers are making solid contact with the good eating gamesters at many locations around the Kern River Valley impoundment. The 18-20-foot bottom contours and the emergent trees seem to be the best crappie magnets.

Anglers can expect at least one more mass crappie spawning migration before the full moon in June.

Don Crabtree, Dennis Polm and I found plenty of black crappie action Wednesday near Red's Marina, where the fish hit our one-sixteenth-ounce plastic-skirted jigs with regularity. Using light 4-pound test, we tipped our jigs with Berkley crappie nibbles, which seem to be the key to making continuing contact with them. Showing up on the depth finder at that magical depth, we made short work of several limits before graduating on to 12 largemouth bass weighing from 2-5 pounds each on soft plastics.

The day before, my wife Candy, our neighbor Delores Clark and I also spent some quality time fishing for bass and found them eager to attack our plastic worms. Holding in very shallow water at many spots around the lake, we caught and released around 30 nice fish from 1.5-to 4-pounds, highlighted by Candy's monstrous 10-pound bucketmouth that finally came to the net and released after an epic battle.

Also on the radar for the first time in several weeks are some nice trout that are just beginning to show up with increased regularity since they all but disappeared before the Derby. Anglers that showed up to fish the event in April are reminded that several $1,000 fish yet remain in the lake, the cash reward good through Labor Day.

Catfish are also swarming into the shallows as the fish prepare for their annual spawning run. Fishing jigs for crappie, my friends and I have accidentally caught nice channel and white catfish every day, some to over 5 pounds each. The lake regulars are obviously also making solid contact with the whiskerfish, as evidenced by the full garbage cans at the cleaning stations located around the lake.

Feathers are flying

I try not to ever let it happen, but I occasionally make a mistake in species identifications. Such was the case last weekend after I received several missives regarding my bird column from a host of local birdwatchers.

The proper terminology for blue jay, a catchall name I should not have used, (The real Blue Jay lives way north to Canada and beyond) should have been "scrub jay." Also, the bird does not have a crest, as I claimed, though some of its close relatives do. Next, since linnets are not found in America, I should have used the correct title 'house finch' to describe the cute little sparrow-like birds that inhabit and nest in our foyer.

And, according to one person, the wild canaries I wrote of are actually goldfinches. I do know what a goldfinch is, so there must be another name for the tiny yellowish, olive green bird with a red slash hidden in the feathers of its head that I was speaking of.

Maybe someone out there can email me and give me the proper name rather than the local one.

Anyway, my thanks go to John, Rosellyn and Gregg for taking the time to set me straight.

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