Last year in October I went down to Bull Shoals Dam and built a wooden White
River johnboat in conjunction with an event which Bull Shoals State Park has
been sponsoring for several years. It is known as the “Dutch Oven
Cook-Off”. Dozens of cooks bring their Dutch ovens and make stews, chili,
meat, cakes, cobblers, bread, etc. Then the best of those Dutch oven
delicacies wins awards.
A Dutch oven is a big iron kettle with a heavy lid, and while the
contents cook from the coals below, the lid is made so that coals are also
heaped on top of the kettle, or oven, and cooking comes from both top and
bottom. It is said that the earliest Ozarks settlers depended on those big
iron kettles and that unusual way of cooking. Last year when it was all
over, visitors were given the opportunity to sample all the varieties of
foods cooked, and I am here to tell you folks that if I have forgotten
anything about last October, that Dutch oven food isn't it. Unbelievable…
you need to come and sample it yourself.
Of course, I intend to bring that 21-foot johnboat along with dozens
of photos from the days when they were used on Ozark rivers, and old
trotline spools, gigs, traps, rods and reels and lures from those days back
70 or 80 years ago. If you want to join us as a vendor, you should contact
Bull Shoals-White River State Park by phone at 870-445-3629 or by e-mail at
email@example.com . This year,
people who want to display and sell outdoor gear such as turkey calls,
lures, rods and reels etc, can obtain a space for only 10 dollars, and set
up right along side us.
It will be a great time, I hope you can join us. I will be giving away free
copies of the October Lightnin' Ridge outdoor magazine and also will have my
own outdoor books for sale, including the one on Ozark rivers, “Rivers to
Last year in this column I told readers they should come to Bull
Shoals and make a weekend of it, or perhaps a week. There is so much to see
and do, trout fishing on the White River below the dam, and bass, crappie
and walleye fishing on Bull Shoals Lake. The fall colors should be at a
peak, and you need to tour Blanchard Caverns in the National Forest to the
south an hour or so, which is surrounded by some of the most beautiful
Page 2 of 3 - wilderness campgrounds and creeks you have ever seen. There's the Buffalo
River in that same area, and the mountain music capital of the Ozarks, Mt.
View, Arkansas not far away. In addition, there's also some great fishing
on Norfork Lake, only thirty minutes or so away. Norfork is known for its
walleye and striper fishing.
At the west end of the dam is a beautiful State Park Visitor Center,
and down on the White River, Jim Gaston's resort has a museum and restaurant
combined that you have to see to believe. But as I said, don't miss the
food cooked there in those Dutch ovens. If you are a Dutch oven cook, you
need to get involved in this. You might win first place.
Put it down on your calendar and be there to eat some great cooking,
and help me work on that wooden johnboat, at the park pavilion only a few
hundred yards east of Bull Shoals dam.
I wrote last weeks column from Lake of the Woods in Northwest
Ontario, Canada, and when I wrote it, we had caught lots of fish, but mostly
smaller than I remember from ten years or so ago, when we would stop through
and fish Lake of the Woods in early October for a few days on our way to
northern Manitoba to hunt ducks and geese. The same old places I fished
back then were still good, as that afternoon, after sending my column,
Gloria Jean landed a huge smallmouth bass. It was about 20 inches long, but
I think it would have weighed five pounds. It was the fattest, widest,
thickest smallmouth I have ever seen in all my years of fishing in Canada.
She was using a light-action spinning outfit with 6-pound line, trying to
catch averaged sized walleye for supper when she hooked it, and thankfully
her drag was set properly.
Sure enough, as the week progressed towards October the fishing
improved. We must have caught a hundred or more walleye while we were
there, and the last few days we caught several from 15 to 19 inches.
I also caught some of the biggest yellow perch I have ever seen, up
to 14 inches long. They aren't sought after much, but when you get bigger
ones that aren't wormy, they are better eating than anything else you can
catch, including walleye, which is a close relative of the yellow perch.
One afternoon at Lake of the Woods I fished with a young guide who is
Page 3 of 3 - Tinker Helseth's son-in-law. His name is Byron Walker, and while I have
fished with several guides on Lake of the Woods, I think he is the best. He
has a super personality and attitude, and he is talkative and enthusiastic,
full of stories. Only 39 years old, he seems to have the experience of
someone much much older. And he really knows the east half of that giant
lake. Every reef and cover that is so hard to find if you are new to the
lake, he knows about. It is wise to fish that body of water, where you can
easily get lost because of all the bays and islands, with a guide. Byron
has a big safe boat which he can use to guide three or four fishermen at a
time, so a party of visitors can split the cost and it winds up being very
Prices are tremendously high in Canada, we bring our own gas in
plastic tanks and groceries. A ten-pound bag of potatoes in the local super
market was nine dollars, and we saw whole frozen chickens priced from 24 to
28 dollars. A loaf of wheat bread and a small can of beans were both four
dollars, and gas was six dollars per gallon. The cost of boat or outboard
labor is one hundred dollars per hour. An eight-day fishing license can be
from 35 to 75 dollars, depending on how many fish you want to bring home,
and if you give their bank a hundred dollar bill, you get back ninety-five
dollars in Canadian money. Fifteen years ago, you would get back about 140
in Canadian money for 100.
You can hunt grouse, moose and huge whitetail deer in October around
Lake of the Woods, and fish too, just by contacting Byron. He has a U.S.
cell phone, 863-202-6414. If I hadn't been so impressed with him, I would
never give that number. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In our November issue of the Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal, we'll
have an article with beautiful color photos about this recent fall trip to
Lake of the Woods, and tell about fishing with Byron. But the gist of the
story will be how you can go there and fish successfully in a group of three
or four, on a budget. There's a trick to it, and I will tell you in that
story how to do it even if you are un-rich… like me