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Outdoor Corner: Dewberries!

Lyle Johnson
Plaquemine Post South

Wow, springtime has hit in spades, and the evidence is all around us. It’s especially noticeable on the water as the background is changing from a drab, dreary gray to the beautiful green color of our warmer months. The wildlife activity is just buzzing everywhere.

But those beautiful, bright white blooms of dewberry bushes are the sign that really lets me know spring in the outdoors has truly arrived. It’s my favorite time of the year, because I’m usually fishing around them in the canals and their pesky briars interfere with my casts as I’m trying to land my bait as close to the bank’s edge as possible.

A few years ago, my son Wesley and I were returning from a fishing trip in Bayou Gauche below Des Allemands . The eight-mile ride from the boat launch out of the small community provided the sight about springtime that was the clincher for me. After you leave the stretch of road that follows the water you come to open land that has homes on if and a few subdivisions, but most of it is pasture land with lots of cattle and fences.

The fence lines along the road are loaded with those dewberry bushes and white blooms. All the while visions of home made cobbler were dancing in my head. It was a warm day, and we saw a small group of young boys fishing in the canal on the left side of the road; “That’s pretty normal,” I thought.

But the scene repeated itself more and more as we travelled along. But there was one addition; we began to see families on the right side of the road where a ditch was and most of the adults were wearing white rubber boots. We said it at the same time, “Man, they are crawfishing with set nets! That’s pretty cool.”

The scene repeated itself time after time; daddy with the bucket and pole to raise the nets and the kids running around playing. Man, did that bring back memories. A beautiful sunny day with people all along the side of the road either fishing or trying to catch enough crawfish to make a good stew; it don’t get no better than that.

I have seven siblings, five brothers and two sisters, so an outing of any sort was a pretty big chore for mamma and daddy. But I remember all too well when we loaded up all of us in whatever vehicle we had (10 folks in a car; not enough seatbelts!) and usually headed out to McElroy swamp to catch crawfish.

We usually were there with the Lees from Sorrento, as my Uncle Kearney belonged to the McElroy hunting club. They had seven kids, so this was a sight to behold. Daddy and Uncle Kearney usually hit the swamp to put out the nets along with one or two of the kids that were old enough to walk the swamp.

So that left momma along the road to entertain the younguns who couldn’t walk the swamps. Most of the time we had strings with a small piece of beef melt (crawfish bait) tied to the end of it. We tossed it in the water and waited for a mudbug to latch on to our offering. Then the string would slowly be pulled in to try and catch it.

Our success rate wasn’t really great, but it made us feel like we were adding to the catch. You know, doing our part. The rest of the time was spent running around, yelling and screaming and the normal kid stuff. Lunch was usually bologna or lunchmeat sandwiches with a little dirt and mud added in for flavor you can only get from the swamp. Washing hand was optional as the only place to do it was swamp water. Hand wipes hadn’t been invented yet.

Then it was time to load everything up and head home to boil what we had caught. If there wasn’t enough for a boil, crawfish stew was surely on the menu. That’s pretty tasty as well and swamp or ditch crawfish seem to have a flavor that goes just right in a stew.

I guess it sorta comes with age, but I find myself appreciating more of the things that went sort of unnoticed earlier in my life. The closer I get to the other side, the more precious the memories become. Memories of taking my kids crabbing come to mind as I’m sitting here typing.

I’m looking forward to bringing my grandkids crabbing as soon as I can to create more great memories with them as well. I already know part of our conversation will consist of some great memories and they will start off with, “Do you remember when…” and we’ll talk about a trip into the outdoors that will never be forgotten.

Then I hope our conversations will be interrupted by the call for the net as a hungry crab tugs on one of our lines as we’ll be trying to catch enough of them for a boil back at home and more memories will be served up.

A short fishing trip might be in order soon as the warm (or should I say hot?) weather we’re having have the fish really biting in the Amite/Blind River area. The bream and goggle-eye are really feeding up for the spawn and are easily fooled with worms, crickets and jigs.

The sac a lait are just about done with the spawn so while some big females can still be caught and those that are finished spawning are returning to their normal spots. The bass spawn is on the down side but the opportunity to catch a big one is still a possibility.

Oh yeah; the dewberries. My wife, Deborah, and I have picked those precious, black colored treats for the past two years to add blackberry jelly to our cupboard and a least a couple of cobblers to eat with ice cream. Just look for those small, white blossoms, they are everywhere.

We are truly blessed here in Louisiana with our outdoor activities we have available for us to enjoy. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!