In my South, part of growing up was fishing–pronounced fishin’. (We never did have much use for a “g” at the end of words.) If you did not at least have the common sense needed for fishin’, or as we say, “to wet a hook,” you were not worth much. Almost any small creek, river or pond was home to a few Brim or Catfish.
A cane pole tied with a bit of line, a cork, and a few worms–even a grasshopper or some bacon fat–were all you needed. I say “cork,” although cork is seldom used as a bobber or float these days. Plastic bobbers, most likely made in China, are what is common today. Almost anything that floats would work–even a piece of a corncob. If you were short on cash, a bamboo pole could be cut or even just a long stick used. You could always find a few feet of string and something that floated. Hooks could be bought at the store for a few pennies. Many a supper was carried home after a few hours on a riverbank using nothing more.
In the small creek down in our woods there were a few deep pools. The minnows there were too small to take a hook. I spent many a summer afternoon lying on my stomach with a small net trying to scoop one up. That still counted as fishin’. How they got there remained a mystery.
My dad’s furniture store closed at noon on Wednesday, as did most of the stores in town. We (my dad and I) used those afternoons when the weather was good to go fishin’.
At first, we fished a weed-clogged millpond that was used to provide water to turn the waterwheel when Berry’s Mill was still grinding grain. The pond was rumored to be the home of giant bass. I liked getting up front on my knees in a sad old boat we rented for a dollar, and paddling as hard as I could while my dad used his paddle to steer us to his favorite spot. It was not a large pond–no more than three or four acres. The few other fishermen there tried their luck from the bank, but none of us caught many fish–certainly not a giant bass.
The next thing I knew, my father bought or traded for an old Evinrude 3-horsepower outboard motor. We somehow kept that old motor running long after its life expectancy. We did not work it hard and it spent most of the year propped against the basement wall.
Wednesday afternoon fishing was a time we both looked forward to. In high school when the last bell rang, or maybe before, I was out the door to meet my father already waiting at the curb–the old Evinrude motor and our fishing gear in the back of the pickup.
We had graduated from the millpond to a lake. To reach Lake Greenwood, at that time over country roads, should have taken an hour or so. However, my father never in his entire life broke the speed limit. It drove me crazy, but the spring days were longer, and we would get in a few hours on the water, then back home well after dark–hopefully with fish to clean and freeze.
At Lake Greenwood we went to a small fish camp and rented another old wood boat, but we now had our trusty outboard motor. It always started, but most times only after a bit of cussing, pampering and adjustments. The oil-gas mixture was a “Coca cola” bottle of oil to a gallon of gas. There was only one-size Coke bottle then and you could always find one.
After buying some minnows, off we would go. Crappie was the fish of choice. You fish for them with either a cork on a short line tied to a cane pole, or a rod and reel. The trick, besides finding a spot where Crappies were likely to be, was to put a minnow on the hook so as to not kill it. If the minnow was swimming around, the Crappie was more likely to gobble it up.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Crappie do not bite like most fish, leastwise not South Carolina Crappie. They first scale the minnow. Why? I do not know why or how. The fisherman can tell a Crappie is about to take the bait because the cork will start to move around. That is when the minnow is trying to get away while being scaled. Then, if you are patient, the cork goes under and you have a Crappie–usually about the size of a large man’s hand or a nickel bag of Lay’s. You needed to catch a mess (a southern measurement) to make a good fish fry.
Fishin’ for fun, alone or with friends, is not always what you expect, it can prove to be boring or exciting. I have fished in mill and farm ponds, in large lakes and rivers from Canada to Florida, the Keys and Bahamas for Bone Fish and large game billfish.
Fishin’ can lead you to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Places just past the tip of your rod on a cold mountain trout stream or the gin clear waters off a white sand island beach viewed from a fine fishing yacht. You can witness unimaginable sunrises and sunsets in pursuit of a fish or find yourself cursing the thunderstorm that interrupted your day.
Fish are elusive creatures who operate on their own timetable. They adapt to living where they can thrive–small pools in mountain-fast water or on the muddy bottoms of slow-moving rivers–deep in the oceans or shallow mangrove flats. I guess every sport fisherman has his favorite. Mine is to know a hungry aggressive Largemouth bass is lurking in a quiet pond, slow river or lake shallows.
This takes patience. You can make a hundred casts and change lures a dozen times, but some days just nothing seems to work. Then there’s a bump, your line goes tight, and, with the right tug, you and a beautiful Largemouth meet.
Give him an admiring look, exaggerate the weight, remove the hook, and return him to his home.
Now that’s Fun Fishing.
Don’t Forget Your Mask…..