After 50 or 60 years spent chasing the elusive bluegill, I still have a lot to learn. Maybe in another 50 years, I'll get it right.
A New Day
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.
Give him a fishing pole, an old boat, and some night crawlers and you might never see him again.
That's the thing about fishing. Whether on the water, from a pier, throwing flies on a brook or through a hole in "hard water", the sport just kind of takes hold and you are in fact, hooked.
It might be something reminiscent of the hunter, gatherer instinct of our ancestors but then again, if I had to provide for my family or myself from what I have hunted or gathered over the years, I would be a whole lot thinner.
My father fished and his father before him, along with uncles and aunts and cousins. Their purpose just might have been more of the hunter/gatherer kind but still, I remember the fun we had trying to catch that elusive bluegill.
In the early days, we didn't have a boat and fished from shore on Wilson Lake. That's when there was a shoreline to walk and fish left to catch.
They both seemed to have moved on with progress and the demand for lake property.
He used a steel casting rod with an open-faced reel, with what seemed like, to me, a half-pound of sinkers attached to the line. He could cast that thing about fifty yards out into the lake. When he reeled it in more often than not he found a fish hiding in the glob of weeds pulled up from the lake bottom.
I still have the pictures of him and me, and a bucketful of panfish.
So, I fish.
Fishing vs. Catching
There is a difference of course, between fishing and catching.
Anyone can catch a fish.
That is if you happen to be in the right place, with the right bait and presentation, with a slight breeze from the south, overcast skies, and fish that just happen to be hungry at the time.
There is absolutely nothing like being on the water as the sun is coming up, with anticipation of a full live well, accompanied by a trusted friend and fresh coffee.
The sun sparkles on the waves as you move slowly into the shallows, looking for bluegills or that northern pike cruising the weed beds. A bald eagle soars overhead.
The sun, waves, and water become a catharsis for the worries of the day. Stress flies away with the gulls or disappears while hypnotized by a slip bobber. The only sound, gentle waves against the hull.
At times like these, baiting the hook becomes an option.
To guarantee fish it sometimes becomes necessary to hire a guide and go "up north" for real fishing.
A group of us did just that, until three-foot waves, sideways rain and bedbugs dampened, heck drowned, our desire to return.
With a guide, you pay for the day and you get the day regardless of foul weather, finicky fish or motion sickness.
Still, you can't beat fresh caught walleye fried over an open fire at about $150 a plate.
Then there is Canada.
A 15-hour drive with the last 40 miles over washboard logging roads, with all the comforts of home, if you carry it with you. Gender-specific outhouses included.
And fish! Thousands of fish! Walleye, northern pike.
Eagles soar above while bear and moose look on.
The weather can be hot, cold or anywhere in between. There could be snow with the whitecaps.
Survival becomes only secondary to the fishing.
More About Fishing
Today, with the technology available it's a wonder that fish are not extinct.
You can have a depth finder, fish alarm, a GPS trolling motor with sonar and an underwater camera, and still go home empty handed.
It was a day in the middle of August, temperature in the 90s, bright sunshine and not a wisp of breeze to hinder the black flies. I was determined to bring home a meal of fish.
There's a reason these are called the 'Dog days'. Because even a dog has more sense than to expect to catch a fish when the water temp is like that of a bathtub and there is no relief from the heat unless you would jump in.
By noon or so I had actually pulled two bluegills from the slightly green-tinged water along with a small largemouth bass.
With the excuse of getting a couple more to make cleaning more acceptable and to show my wife that I really could catch fish, I stayed until my skin turned red and the flies were scared away by mosquitoes.
One more in the tank.
Twelve hours on the water with four fish, sunburned, tired, hungry and bug-bitten, I released those in the live well and went home.
The fish only thought they'd won.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do you, the author, ice fish?
Answer: Wisconsin. There is usually plenty of "hard water".