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Author Topic: All fished out.
Member # 9331

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I finished a hot and strenuous garden project for my wife today, so I decided to reward myself by taking a late afternoon fishing trip.

I've recently noticed a pond on the map about five miles from my house. It's not well known because it is almost completely surrounded by private property; but there is small bit of water frontage on a busy road with a few parking spots. So I put the canoe on the cartop and when I arrive I'm in luck; it's a sunny Sunday afternoon, but there's only one other car there. I launch the canoe.

Since this is a just a few miles outside of Boston, I've brought my "urban fishing" tackle box, which is stocked with small "panfish" lures. City fishing isn't about catching trophy fish, it's about catching anything at all. So I tie on a tiny 1/16 oz "Rooster tail" -- it basically looks like an allergy pill with a hula skirt. It also features an oval brass tag that spins around as you retrieve it. In my experience this is practically the only thing besides earthworms that catches anything in urban ponds.

I make my first cast about twenty-five feet down wind down the shore, retrieving along the edge of a bank of weeds visible from the surface. I immediately get a strike. This is the first time I've ever got a strike on my very first cast, anywhere. I reel in a pumpkinseed -- a kind of sunfish. That's no surprise; practically the only thing you get in these suburban ponds is sunfish (bluegills and pumpkinseeds), yellow perch, and very rare smallmouth bass. The surprise is this is the biggest pumpkinseed I've ever caught. It's as long as my hand (why would I bring a tape measure *here*?), which means that it's a bit over eight inches long. That makes it close to trophy weight. But it's Sunday and the town clerk is closed, and I'm doing catch and release anyhow, so I throw him back.

The wind has taken me to the north shore of the lake by now, so I cast again and immediately get another strike. And this guy puts up one heck of a fight. I'm fishing with 4 lb test monofilament, so I have to set the reel's drag very, very low. It takes me several minutes to land him. He's a juvenile largemouth, only eight inches long, but spunky. Now I'm starting to think I should have brought the big lures -- this little guy is exactly the size the tiny rooster tail lure is meant to attract.

Now obviously I don't continue to get a strike on every cast, but every place I go in the 100 acre lake I catch fish. No more largemouth -- I've got the wrong bait -- but tons of black crappie. Some of them are quite big, and one was close to official trophy size. And everywhere I'm pulling yellow perch out. They're all on the small side, about 4-5". I think because they all get eaten when they're minnows.

Before coming I'd picked out a very fishy looking spot on the map. It was a place where a brook emptied into a bay which in turn opened by a narrow neck onto the main body of the pond. A spot like that is perfect for a predator to hang out and wait for lunch to pass by. But I don't even bother going there, and when I tell you why you'll think I'm crazy, if you don't already.

You see, I love fishing. But I hate catching fish.

I like the setting -- out on the water where it's quiet. I like the time, usually in the quiet early morning or late afternoon. I like the *process*. I rig up my line, study the terrain, decide on a spot where I imagine a hungry fish may be lurking. Then I pick a target beyond that. Become the target. Plop! The satisfaction of a perfect cast.

Now I become the lure. Help! I am a wounded minnow. Please don't dart out of the weeds and swallow me. Help! I'm a cicada who has dropped out of the tree onto the water. Please don't come to the surface and gobble me up.

And it's not that a perfect day fishing doesn't at some point entail catching something. Ideally I catch just enough to support the pretense that I'm not out here wasting my time. One fish is a good day. Two fish is a great day. But three fish is just another good day. Time to go home and cut my losses.

It's because I don't like the killing part. So I catch and release, killing only the fish I can't unhook cleanly. Then I immediately kill and bleed the fish, but that's my least favorite part of fishing. Even catch and release can get fiddly when it doesn't go well. None of this catching business is as simple and satisfying as the fishing is.

I find myself in the canoe becoming increasingly apathetic. Oh, something's nibbling on the lure. I'll just keep reeling in. If it wants the bloody thing let *it* do the work. Then I find myself casting and thinking, "God I hope nothing strikes." I hear myself thinking that and decide it's time to head home. I won't say this was a bad day; like they say a bad day fishing is better than a good day working. But it was a bad fishing day. There was too much catching.

Unfortunately this pond has now ruined all the other ones around my house. Now when I spend a day not catching anything, it won't be because catching fish is hard, it'll be because I deliberately went somewhere I wouldn't catch anything. The pretense of purpose will be gone.

So I'll come back to this pond, but rigged for big fish. Very big fish. In fact, I think I'll go to the bait and tackle store tomorrow and see if they have a lure that looks like a puppy who's fallen into the water.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Member # 59

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Matt Leo, you need to delete this right now and send it to a fish and game magazine.
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Member # 1818

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I agree with KDW. Submit this thing somewhere. It's great reading, and I don't even like fishing.
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Grumpy old guy
Member # 9922

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Yeah, MattLeo. When I first read it I thought, wow, that's good storytelling.


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Member # 9213

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Perfect. A great read.

Nice way to beat Kathleen's 13 line limiit. >wink<

Dr. Bob

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Member # 8019

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Convenient to have the luxury of not catching fish for to have to eat. I don't enjoy that convenience. A flounder flops out of the surf, evades a shark, onto the beach when I take a walk, where I just got out from a swim--dinner.

A mile from the house a beach where I cast net for shrimp, dob and dip net for blue crabs. Other haunts for clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, snails--dinner, lunch, and brunch. Roe mullet--caviar. Minnows, smoked and salt cured, sardine-like pickled fish--dinner. Drop a handline off a boat, a pier, a bulkhead, fish for dinner. Nothing like store bought nor fast food neither.

You-all freshwater fish folks got it easy-peasy, though with finesses we martimes got to work at for a living. A blue fin tuna is a finesse until the hook's set, then it's a long coal haul from the bowels of the deep. Even a little grouper or snapper or triggerfish or black sea bass on the hook is a heavy-hard long haul from the deep.

Redfish--red drum--not allowed to keep unless they're at least 18 inches, less than 27, one per day, or jail and fines. Monsters on the hook, creel limits, size ranges, in or out of seasons.

Once worked a few seasons aboard a seine trawler, caught a few fish, tens of thousands at a set, and made a buck or two too.

Done my share of freshwater fishing, for dinner. Crappie, brim, bass, perch, catfish, trout, yeah, dinner. We call them lures with skirts on em Hula Poppers. Worms are wigglers. Dough or cheese balls on a hook are turf treats. Frog gigging is staubin. Crayfish trapping is buggin.

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Member # 9345

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I'm the exact opposite of MattLeo... there's no poetry in my fishing. I have no patience with it, and the only reason I fish is to catch dinner. I fish the deep holes using a live grasshopper, and if there's a fish at home I'll have it in less than a minute. My reeling-in technique is to HEAVE!! the fish from the water, then go hunt for it over in the bushes. I don't lose any fish.

I used to live convenient to a nice deep hole in the East Gallatin River. Just upstream was one of those shallow riffles the fly fishermen frequent. Many a time the fly fishermen would be "doing everything right" with their fancy rods and flies, and catching fingerlings, if anything at all... Oooh, the looks I got with my primitive antique rig and my big fish flying through the air!

In Minnesota's shallow lakes, we'd catch sunfish with bare hooks. I guess they're dumb even for fish.

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