Outdoor Recreation

Scout it Out

Missouri’s Walleye Factory

  • Name: Stockton Lake
  • Location: 15 miles north of Springfield in Cedar, Dade and Polk counties.
  • For more information: Call (417) 895-6880 or visit our online atlas, keyword "Stockton".

Imagine how far the water level in Stockton Lake might drop if all the walleye that lived there were suddenly removed. That could never happen, of course, but it’s a fun — and positive — mental exercise to engage in while heading to southwest Missouri for a day of fishing on the picturesque reservoir.

Stockton Lake’s nearly 25,000 acres pump out walleyes as if from an assembly line. Through periodic stocking of finger-size walleye, the Conservation Department makes sure the lake has all the basic material it needs to manufacture great fishing. Walleye are not the only product in Stockton’s line; smallmouth, largemouth, Kentucky and white bass are plentiful, and the crappie fishing is excellent. Most local businesses that sell fishing equipment have lake maps, or you can learn lots about the lake and its facilities at . Brush piles are marked, and you can view a map of them through the links listed below. For fishing reports updated weekly, go online.

What About Walleye?

Program makes toothy fish a big hit with anglers.

We Missourians may not have as many lakes that contain walleye as states to our north, but what we’ve got is good, even by their standards. Our “Walleye Initiative,” which started in 1998, has been working to provide more and better walleye fishing opportunities in the state. Search through the 2009 Fishing Prospects (see the links listed below) for waters biologists predict will produce good walleye fishing.

Walleye are considered a deep-water fish, but in early summer they are often caught on the flats, where they search for prey. Contour maps will help you identify large shallow areas that abut deep water. Fish early and late in the day, or even at night. An afternoon chop on the water may also bring walleyes up to feed.

Try dragging a jig with a piece of night crawler on it, or string a whole night crawler on a hook or pair of hooks behind a spinner. Let the wind or your troll motor move you along slowly so that your offering frequently ticks bottom. Nighttime anglers often slow-troll shallow-running crankbaits over the flats.

When walleyes are deep, try near bluff edges or across points that jut out into deep water. On big rivers, focus on deep pools and the upstream edges of wing dams and dikes. Mark where you catch a walleye; they’re a school fish, which means where there’s one you’ll often find more.

Native Beauty

Prickly Pear

Here’s a riddle: What’s nice to look at, dangerous to touch, yet good to eat? Few would guess a prickly pear, but this native ground-hugging cactus has showy yellow flowers — often with a splotch of orange in the center — a deceptive set of thorns and reddish fruit that is considered edible.

Like most cacti, prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) thrives in dry places, including glades, open hillsides, pastures and roadsides. The plants hug the ground and form clumps. Each flower only lasts for a day or two. Common names for them include Indian fig, beavertail and devil’s tongue. The last likely came from the plant’s spined stems, which resemble tongues and can deliver a memorable lashing.

It’s easy to avoid the long spines that project out from the stems, but lurking beneath are tiny soft patches — the actual leaves of the plant. Just touching these can deliver a multitude of tiny barbed bristles into the skin. These are irritating and difficult to remove. Try scraping them off with a dull knife.

With attributes of both beauty and beast, prickly pear has strong supporters and opponents. Some people like the idea of having a cactus in Missouri and even in their garden. Others struggle to eliminate the plant from fields and yards.

The Amazing Cattail

Some part of the plant is edible in all seasons.

Where you find cattails, you’ll find water, and that information by itself could be useful. These easy to identify plants grow throughout Missouri and are a favorite of wild food gatherers. You can start with cattail shoots in the spring. Amid the previous year’s dried and withered plants you’ll find small new shoots poking out of the ground or mud. Grasp them near the root and pull them free. Peel away the tough outer layers, wash what’s left in clean water and eat. They taste like cucumbers. The roots are a year-round food source. You can boil, roast or barbecue them, or you can extract a flour from them. Later in the year, boil pollen spikes and eat them like corn on the cob. Parts of these extremely versatile plants have also proven valuable as cordage, weaving materials, kindling and insulation.

Cattails can produce more edible starch per acre than potatoes, rice or yams. Learn about edible wild plants from the Wild Edibles of Missouri. The book is no longer in print, but PDF chapters of the book are available through the Conservation Department Web site.

I Burp for Bullfrogs

Nights near water bring out nature’s bass section.

In 2005, the Missouri Legislature designated the bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) as the state amphibian. Bullfrogs are the largest frogs native to North America and are found in every county in Missouri. Their loud, guttural jug-o-rum resounds through the night air near streams, ponds and wetlands during the bullfrog breeding season, which runs from mid-May to late July. It doesn’t help troubled sleepers that the chorus of calls usually peaks between midnight and 3 a.m.

Learn more frog facts from a free booklet available by writing Missouri Toads and Frogs, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or e-mail pubstaff@mdc.mo.gov.