Early Morning Fishing Expeditions Were Another Summer Joy

18 Oct

When the mist was still rising above the lake and the sun had not totally come out; when the cool air forced you to wear a lightweight jacket over your clothes, then was the best time to go fishing!

But fishing did not just happen. You had to prepare. First you had to gather the worms. We never went shopping for worms. NO! You got your metal coffee can prepared ahead of time: filled with dirt and holes punched into the plastic lid. Then you waited for a rainy day, when the worms crawled out of the dirt. Collection began then.   You had to collect the living worms, the ones that were still squiggly and crawling and pick them up and put them in your coffee can.

Success was at least 20 worms.

Next step was getting permission and finding an adult who would go to the lake with you. On the weekends, usually a dad would come along. And sometimes the dad who was up for the week would come. But we also had grandfathers who would sometimes go fishing with us. We just had to get up early, collect our gear and go across the street to our dock on Kauneonga Lake.   We would fish off the dock or stand in the shallow water next to it to fish.   This is the time before we were allowed to go on a boat.

Once the permission was granted and a supervising adult was found, then the day was selected. TOMORROW! We will go fishing tomorrow morning. You have to be up at 6 am…Ha. Perhaps 7:00 am. Usually a group of us went fishing together, carrying our fishing poles and our cans of worms. Wrapped up in a warm jacket, we made our way across the street.

I loved to fish when I was little. I did not even mind touching the worms. But I was a bit afraid of the hook. I did not want to put the worm on the hook. I had seen accidents over the years. The hook in a finger or stuck in a leg. Sometimes it got caught up in my hair. I had to wear my hair back when we went fishing. A hat was best! I did not like when the boys flung their poles to get the hook and worm further out in the water. That is usually when someone got hurt.   I liked to stand by myself a bit away from everyone else.

But I still liked it.   Oh, we also had a bucket filled with water to put the fish in that we caught. And we did catch fish. Some were too small and had to be thrown back in. But some were just perfect. And they went into the bucket. They would be dinner eventually!

Fishing usually lasted an hour or two, and then we would take our catch back across the street. Near the area when the cars parked was a big rock and wooden low wall. That is where we cleaned the fish.   When we were really little the dads and grandpas did the cutting and cleaning. But I have to admit, I was really good at it. When I was about 10, it became my job. I could cut off the head and filet the fish the best of all! I do not care what my siblings, cousins or friends say, I know I was the best.

In later years this skill became important. During high school and college I worked in a deli, both in North Bergen, New Jersey, and at Daitch Shopwell in Monticello. I was the best at filleting the white fish. People would choose their white fish and then ask that I filet it.   I very rarely left any bones in. So fishing gave me a lifetime skill.

But when we filleted the fish from the lake, we sometimes found lots of eggs inside and other interesting features. It was somewhat gross, but also somewhat intriguing. I liked to be neat and organized about it.

After the fish were filleted, we would clean them and then wrap them in white paper. This is when the moms would get involved. They had to be wrapped perfectly to go in to the refrigerator. Sometimes we had them that evening on the grill. Other times we waited for the dads on the weekend to eat our catch.

When we got older we could go out on a rowboat to go fishing. I used to go with a friend of my parents. I remember Bernie getting me early in the morning to go out on his rowboat and fish. I loved it. Bernie E and his family had a bungalow on the property that was next to my grandparents’ colony. They lived near my grandparents in West New York, New Jersey. And they bought their property because of my grandparents.

One of my cousins now owns this property along with a piece of my grandparents’ colony. He has a great view of the lake. When I see it now, I am amazed. He has one home when four bungalows used to stand. It makes me realize how small the bungalows really were!

Besides fishing, we also could collect crayfish. These are like little lobsters. They lived among the rocks that held up the docks. We never ate them. We just liked to catch them. The boys liked to play with them. During the summer you would get to recognize different crayfish because of a missing claw or a scar. Those were usually put back into the water.

I would have loved to share my joy in fishing with my children. But living in Kansas, with no lakes nearby made that nearly impossible. However, we had a chance. It just did not go well at all.

Lara fishing lake of ozarks

My husband’s Aunt Matt and Uncle Stan spent every summer at the Lake of the Ozarks, a large man-made lake, which supplied the water power that ran the hydroelectric industry in Missouri. They also owned two weeks in March of time-shares in what were known as ‘tree-houses’ at a resort called Tan-Tar-A. All the nieces and nephews in easy driving distance, those of us in St. Louis and Kansas City, had open invitations to spend time with them. My husband’s Mom died when she was only 59, and her sister, Aunt Matt, took her role as substitute grandma very seriously. So for us an invitation to visit was really a veiled command. One that we loved to obey.

When my daughter was about three, we went to spend a long weekend with them in March. Uncle Stan was so excited, “Precious (he called all the little ones Precious), Do you want to go fishing?” He said. She nodded. And his joy was immense.

The search for bait began. My husband and his uncle drove to several different bait places looking for minnows. Almost all were closed. The season had not yet started. But finally, after hours of searching, they found an open store and brought home minnows. They had forgotten that they had no containers, so they used a big plastic container. Our daughter played with the fish all afternoon. Later that evening, we noticed our daughter walking around with plastic container.   “Where are the minnows?” My husband asked.

“In the sink!” was the reply. She was done with minnows.

My husband and his uncle ran to the bathroom. Some fish were still alive. They filled the sink with water, hoping against hope it would work. No way. That chlorine wiped the fish out. There were no minnows. There was no fishing expedition in the morning. And to be honest, we never tried fishing again with my daughter.   Of course Uncle Stan and Aunt Matt were fine about it. Aunt Matt’s response was typical for her, “Wasn’t that cute?” Uncle Stan chewed on the stub of his cigar. He never actually lit it when children were around, but he did chew a lot that evening!

Years later our nephews tried to get our son interested in fishing. They lived close to Uncle Stan in the St. Louis area, and had gone fishing with him at a nearby pond. But they could not get my son interested. Sitting still and waiting for a fish to take the bait was not his idea of fun. They even gave him a used fishing pool in an effort to convince him to like it. Did not work.

It is the only summer joy that I never was able to instill in my own children. And although I wish they would have learned to enjoy fishing, my memories make up for their lack of enjoyment.

 

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2 Responses to “Early Morning Fishing Expeditions Were Another Summer Joy”

  1. Madonna B. October 19, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    I love fishing also 🙂 very relaxing hobby

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