Being an only child I went along whenever my parents took a notion to toss a line in the water. Since we didn’t have a boat our fishing was done from a dam, river’s edge or pier. Fishing was not really my favorite activity. I wasn’t too squeamish even though I preferred artificial bait. My problem was trying to sit and speak quietly so I wouldn’t spook the fish. If I had to be quiet I wanted a book in hand, but that wasn’t sportsman like behavior.
When I was about 10 my mother’s youngest brother, who was my age, spent the weekend with us. Dad decided G. should have an opportunity to go fishing. We loaded ourselves and all the equipment into the car and drove to the local dam. After sitting there, mostly quiet, for some time G. was getting bored.
Then it happened. A fish struck, a big one that pulled G’s line up-river. As we screamed for help, Dad rushed over and helped G. land the fish. Once G. saw how big it was, he fell on the ground, rolling around, screaming, “I caught a big fish. I caught a big fish.” He was in such a tizzy that the fishing expedition came to a halt. So did the weekend visit. G. insisted in going home immediately to show his mom. Dad put the fish on ice and we drove G. home. His mother showered him with appropriate praise. Then Dad took the fish outside to clean it. G. was much too excited to be trusted with a knife.
Years later I married an avid fisherman. I gamely fished with him until the babies started coming. By the time they were school age my husband had accumulated a small tent and a two-person inflatable raft. During the day the children and I hiked or played on the shore while O. fished. At night the girls and I slept in the tent while O. and our son slept in the car.
At sunrise I would feel something jiggling my foot. It was O. waking me so I could enjoy fishing while the kids were asleep. I gamely struggled into my clothes and then into the raft, all the while muttering that I’d rather sleep. I never caught anything on these outings, too sleepy I guess. But, I did enjoy watching the sun climb from ground level, above the trees and into the sky and listening to the birds awaken the other woodland creatures.
My most unforgettable fish story does not involve a hook and line. I had a rare opportunity. Sturgeon swim from the Great Lakes up their favorite river to lay eggs, following the same route to the same location each year. While sturgeon are huge, they are also vulnerable to poachers. Both the meat and the roe are worth large sums of money.
The most dangerous issue is that they are prehistoric fish with nodal cords rather than protective spines. This means that if they are lifted incorrectly their nodal cords will break and they will die. To protect the fish the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources assigns as many conservation wardens as possible to the nesting grounds and relies on volunteers to walk the river banks, just to be a presence and keep poachers away.
We gathered at a lodge near the river we would be walking and had a great supper. Someone brought out a 7” portable television and a video of “Robo-Cop.” About 20 of us gathered around the miniscule TV to cheer on our current cinema hero. Early the next morning we were awakened, fed and reminded to wear warm clothes because the high temperature was to be 40 degrees.
We paired up and drove to our assigned locations. Fortunately, my team mate and I were assigned to an area with a small house boat moored alongside and a narrow plank walkway leading from the bank to the boat.
By early afternoon a few fish couples decided to nest in water only a few inches deep. Males drummed the female’s sides to force her eggs to drop onto the fine gravel. Once that happened females swam away and males ejected semen on top of the eggs. Because their attention was otherwise occupied I was able to sit on the plank and pet those unique fish. Not only was touching them an amazing experience, it also reminded me just how vulnerable these gentle giants were to anyone wishing them harm. This is why caviar costs so much.
© by Sharon D. Dillon, April 15, 2015
firstname.lastname@example.org, http://energywriter.me “Laugh your way to peace, love and joy”
Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Author of one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com. Available in print and e-format at Amazon.com