Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lessons of Fishing

I have never known a young boy who would decline the opportunity to go fishing. There is just something about fishing that draws young boys to the water. It is like an adventure that no matter what happens, it will be fun.

When my three boys were in the range of about seven to twelve years old, a friend of mine, who had a farm where I occasionally hunted, told me of his pond that was back in the woods.  He offered that I could bring the boys to the pond for fishing. He guaranteed that they would catch enough bullhead catfish to wear them out.

The pond also had some channel catfish and bass but the bullheads had proliferated exponentially. It was to the point that my friend either needed to poison the pond or try to seine off the bullheads. Therefore his only requirement, aside from respecting his property, was that any bullheads caught were not to be returned to the pond.

The boys took along a couple of friends the first time that we went fishing at the pond. Everyone had a great time reeling in bullheads. The bullheads were so quick to bite that the boys didn't get a nibble from a bass or channel cat. I stayed plenty busy just freeing up snags and occasionally helping to get a hook swallower off of the line. Small bullheads are known for swallowing a hook.

The boys were not to worn out by this fishing as my friend had said that they would be. Thus, not a single acre of those woods was explored nor were any rocks skipped across the water. The activity of the day was catching fish and nothing else.

As it came time to go home, mild protest was put down with my promise to bring them back very soon. The big issue came in what to do with the fish. We had been collecting them in two five-gallon buckets of pond water and, because of their small size; it was my intent to toss them into the river that was a half mile away. The boys would not have it.

I agreed to let them take some of the fish home on the condition that they would all share in cleaning them. I was NOT going to clean a bunch of little nibblers while the boys played soccer or baseball in the backyard. At my insistence, they also agreed to toss the smallest of the fish into the river. That still left each boy five or six fish to clean.

When we arrived at home, I reiterated the agreement before letting them out of the car. My boys knew better than to change their mind at this point but I wasn’t certain of their friends. After being showed how to skin, gut and behead the fish they all got down to it. Reality started to settle in as they saw what a small accumulation of edible flesh was soaking in the brine as they neared the end of their task.

To the boys’ credit, however, they didn’t complain about cleaning the little fish. They stayed on task until it was done. If they hadn’t learned the folly of bringing the little fish home by the time that they finished cleaning them then they certainly understood it when the tiny appetizers came out of hot oil.

We went fishing at the same pond a few days later. This time, the boys decided to have a bucket for nibblers and a bucket for keepers. The keeper bucket was empty after about an hour of fishing and interest began to wane. After all, the woods were not yet been explored and the surface of the pond had not been rippled by skipping rocks.

Interest in fishing came back when one of the younger boys, who wouldn’t give up, hooked a channel cat of about two pounds. By then, however, it was time to go home.

This was almost thirty years ago and I don’t remember for certain what happened to the channel catfish. It may have been returned to the pond but it seems unlikely that the boy would have allowed that. I certainly don’t remember cleaning it or helping the boy, who caught it, to clean it. One thing was for certain, though, there was no protest about putting the bullhead nibblers into the river before we went home that day.


  1. marlin,
    these are definitely the memories boys have when they grow up, and i my case, my daughter as well. we have a lake in the back of our home that all 12 houses around the 2 acres own, and they did a huge amount of fishing. there were plenty of sunnies-with gorgeous colors, and bass, but they were supposed to throw the bass back in. it was a great way to pass the time and have fun in the nice weather.

    1. You know what the sad part is, Sue? When I finish these stories and I send they out on Twitter, which is set to forward them to FB. My kids see them hit FB on their Star Trek phones but don't read them.
      Maybe someday they'll start reading and treasure the stories.
      I always look forward to your comments, Sue. Thank you!