I have always enjoyed fishing at Bagnell Dam, Lake Ozark. I have also been enamored with how the dam came about in the beginning of the Great Depression and how quickly it was built.
You would think that would not be a good time to start or continue with such a large undertaking at that precarious time. It took a lot of insight to continue with the work of building one of the largest man-made lakes in the U.S., two months after the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange.
It is doubtful we could build a dam like the Bagnell Dam today in less than two years. Even with the 20,000 workers that it took then, it would probably take five to fifteen years of studies, charts, lawyers, and don’t forget the politicians to even get to the groundbreaking stage.
Bagnell Dam stands 148 feet tall and holds back the Osage River. It has a 520-foot spillway with 12 generators producing 215 megawatts, (Wikipedia) and makes a lake of about 60,000 acres, with 1,500 miles of shoreline.(Missouri State Archives)
Enough of history already, back to CATFISH AND TURTLES. A few years ago I was staying with my in- laws who had a house, in a cove, on Lake Ozark. When I went there to stay, I usually went fishing.
The first thing I did was to catch bait. Usually I caught bait on my fly rod and topwater popper. That was probably the most fun, one after another right into the fish basket to keep them fresh and alive. Late in the afternoon I would pull my trotline and set up my limb lines.
In the early evening I would set the limb lines and trotline with the live sunfish I had caught hours before. The limb lines were set with the sunfish submerged in water just deep enough to cover the dorsal fin and the hook. The bait would swim around in circles and make a lot of noise on the surface of the water.
The trotline was set with sunfish hooked like limb lines only on the bottom of the lake. I also baited the hooks with liver and stink bait.
I had tried to get my wife to go out that night and check all the lines, but she said she would go early in the morning. I was excited about getting out early because Joy had never gone out to check lines before.
As I paddled slowly to the first limb line set, I could see the large branch the line was tied to was moving a bit. I told her to move to the front of the “V” bottom aluminum boat quietly and pick up the aluminum dip net.
As I moved the boat slowly to the moving limb, I told Joy to quietly place the dip net into the water as we approached the possible fish under the water. As we neared the limb she stood up to put the net into the water.