I can’t remember the first time I went fishing, or the first fish I caught. I’m thinking I was about six years old or so and do know that I’ve been an avid fisherman to this day.
Every fisherman has a few tales to tell. Many have much better recollection than I. Mostly I have more than enough memories of tails swimming away to fill a thousand pages with ease. Seems I remember the ones that got away far better than those fish I’ve caught.
What I’m going to share here is a small collection of observations and incidents related to fishing, each a slice of life that left some sort of impact on me, big and small. The source of inspiration for what follows comes from my gazing at three old fishing reels I have sitting on a windowsill – a Zebco 33, dad’s old Shakespeare bait caster, and a Mitchell 300.
The Zebco is a push button, closed-faced reel that I used for several of my early years of fishing. I saved my allowance until I had enough to buy the Mitchell open-faced spinning reel. I was probably 12 or 14 years old. It was as though I owned a new Cadillac.
The Shakespeare was used by dad for trolling Daredevils and Lazy Ikes for northern pike on Lake Darling. His fishing was mostly from a 12-foot wooden boat he kept propped up against the garage. He co-owned it with the next-door neighbor. It was powered by the largest motor allowed on Lake Darling back then — 10-horsepower. There is no such horsepower limit today.
Salamanders and Spiders
I had to work them in this story somewhere. Guess this is it.
Salamanders used to be so abundant in the sloughs along Highway 83 south of Minot that there were times when you could not drive the speed limit. The reason? The road was too slippery from the thousands of salamanders that had been run over. I collected a few of the live ones now and then for shore fishing on Lake Sakakawea. They worked.
What about the spiders? How weird is this guy? Weird, maybe, but not that weird.
This is about rubber spiders. The fake ones. They used to sell them as fishing lures for panfish, probably still do. Of course, I had to try them.
The body size of those creepy things was about the size of a pencil eraser. They had jiggly, rubber legs about 3/8 inch long. I tied one of those fake spiders to light monofilament line attached to a cane pole and dropped the phony arachnid into the water at Strawberry Lake. Within seconds it was surrounded by little bluegills, like spokes on a wheel.
Those young fish approached slowly until they were within an inch or two of the spider. None would grab it. Oh, how cautious they were!
Sometimes a little bluegill would be about to take it but would suddenly spook, scaring the other bluegills too. With a few seconds they would gather again, always an inch or two away from the spider.
Finally, one of those four-inch bluegills slowly moved forward. It grabbed the very end of one the spider’s very tiny legs in and pulled on it. Then quickly let it go, which was cause for great alarm for the other bluegills that darted out of sight. Then they’d return and the whole silliness would start over again. Fishy stuff? I think so.
Now to other fishing-related incidents that left a lasting impression. I still have a scar on the little finger of my right hand, sliced for life, courtesy of a tooth of a large northern pike caught by my brother. Crazy thing though, but very pike like, that fish was on the cleaning table when it made one last flip and sliced me.
Imbedded in the finger next to it, and it has been there for many years, is part of a treble hook. I was using my Mitchell 300 and casting a Cisco Kid, orange with black dots, off the shore at Wolf Creek on Lake Sakakawea when I got hooked good. It was my 12th fish on consecutive casts, some walleye but mostly goldeyes, one of which I still hold responsible.
I slipped, that darned goldeye flipped, and I had a hook buried in my finger. I tried to pull it out with a fishing pliers but only got part of it. The rest I’ve seen on X-ray a few times, stuck right in the bone.
A slow learner, I’ve had visits with emergency room doctors more than once for similar “accidents”. Several years back I learned to put on Kevlar gloves before unhooking any fish. It’s saved me several ER visits too.
Aah! Those wonderful fishing memories.