Bad timing for severe weather

Published 12:23 am Sunday, May 2, 2010

The timing of the recent thunderstorms could not be worse over the past two weekends.

For the second weekend in a row, a low pressure system triggered a strong south wind and sent thunderstorms through the Miss-Lou. The fair weather fishermen and ladies don’t venture out during bad weather but the fishermen who know low pressure can create a burst of fish feeding activity did quite well with the bass and white perch this weekend and last.

The bass fishermen were still out in full force but not many white perch fishermen braved the high winds, rain and lightning. I have fished through all of the above and then some. The only thing that sends me running for cover is lighting.

You get a fair warning when you here the thunder in the distance and it is best not to ignore the warning.

When I hear that first rumble of thunder I start making plans which usually include moving closer to my launch site or the cover of a nearby boathouse if one is available. Lightning is nothing to fool with on the water or off. I have had a couple of close calls over the years.

While fishing Deer Park, an Old River south of Deer Park I did not heed the warning of the thunder in the distance. The fish were biting and I just kept casting and catching.

The storm came up hard and fast. I was a good 6 or 7 miles from the launch site and there are no boat houses to duck under at Deer Park. I decided to run for it. I rounded a bend and the storm was between me and the launch ramp. I was running about 78 mph when a lightning bolt hit about 5o yards in front of me.

When my boat went through the area I could feel the heat and electricity in the air. A very close call it was. That was about 20 years ago and I have never put myself in that situation since. I made a u-turn and headed back south toward Fairview. My fishing partner suggested ducking out in a group of tall standing willow trees along the east bank.

I thought better of that and ran my boat aground, tied it off and climbed the muddy bank. We landed on the front porch of an old friend’s house, Harold Short. Mr. Short is a veteran commercial river fisherman that knows the Mississippi River better than anyone in this area.

He was not home but pulled up a few minutes later. At first he had a concerned look wondering who these people were sitting on his porch. I very quickly identified myself. He asked what we were doing. I told him we were taking cover from the lightning.

About that time a huge lightning bolt hit just across the Old River and blew a standing willow tree up. The tree caught on fire. That was the exact location where my partner suggested we take cover from the storm.

Lightning is dangerous and it is even more dangerous when you are in a boat on the water so don’t flirt with disaster. If weather conditions threaten your safety get off the water quick or it could be your last fishing trip.

Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at