January 12, 2016
What is the most memorable fishing trip you’ve ever had?
I asked that question of several friends and was pretty sure I’d hear lots of big fish tales. Those who answered are all avid anglers who travel extensively, and I knew several of them had enjoyed exciting battles with trophy gamefish any fishermen would admire.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, when my big-fish theory turned out to be wrong. As it turns out, catching a big fish isn’t the only factor likely to make a fishing trip extra special. Read on and see.
I don’t think any fishing trip will ever replace watching my child catch his first fish. I relished the entire day, even putting him to bed that night smelling to high heaven, despite some protest from his mother. A first-time fisherman: by any other name would he or she smell as sweet?
--T. Wilson, Brownsville, Tennessee
Fishing with Grandpa
My parents were a patient and loving pair, but they didn’t fish. Instead, it was my grandfather, my mother’s dad, who taught me to appreciate the brute force of a bluegill and the acrobatics of a largemouth. He was a fly fisherman who waded the creeks of Alabama for bass and bream and whatever else he found.
As his oldest grandchild—and the only one who took an interest in his beloved fishing—I think he may have given me a little extra time while growing up. At first, I probably basked in all the adult attention, but fishing soon had me captivated in the same way it seemed to grab him.
My most memorable trip wasn’t on one of the Alabama streams that he fished for nearly 70 years, but on a small state park lake near Birmingham. I was probably 12 or 13 years old; he was in his 70s. We were breaking in a brand new rod and reel that I had just bought with my birthday gift money. Like most new toys you get when you’re young, I just knew that the reel was going to revolutionize my fishing.
Even though he was getting on in years, my grandfather insisted on paddling our rented johnboat. He didn’t carry a rod and reel for himself, choosing instead to be my fishing guide.
When we got on the water, I was positively desperate to start casting my new outfit, but my grandfather insisted that I wait until he could paddle us over to some stumps and trees in the water. It was one of those places that experienced anglers would call “bassy.”
After what seemed like an eternity, but couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, we were within my limited casting range and he told me to let it fly. My first cast with the new outfit sailed through the air, and the crankbait crashed down near one of the stumps. I couldn’t have turned the reel handle more than two or three times before a bass slammed the bait and the fight was on.
It was probably touch and go there for a minute or two, but I managed to land that 3-pounder. When I got the fish in the boat, my grandfather was more excited than I was.
I’ve caught a lot of fish since then, some of which were a lot bigger, but I’ll never forget that trip with my grandfather.
--K. Duke, Lakeland, Florida
The most memorable fishing experience for me involved a particular fish my nephew caught out of my boat. My brother, Tom, and his son, Tommy, and I were night fishing for crappie one summer nearly three decades ago. Fishing was slow. We were tired and sleepy, and we were about to leave the lake when Tommy, then about 14 years old, flipped a small jig next to a lighted pier and got a strike. It was obvious he was onto something big.
After a struggle to keep whatever it was from breaking off, I slipped the fish into the net and brought it aboard. All three of us were a bit crest-fallen when we saw that Tommy had caught an old “jackfish,” our name for chain pickerel.
Tommy was about to toss it overboard when I remembered a press release I’d received a few days earlier listing the state records for various species of fish. I specifically remembered the chain pickerel record being something around 4 pounds, and Tommy’s fish looked to be at least that big.
To make a long story short, instead of tossing the fish back, Tommy took it home, brought it to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries office and had it certified. For a brief time, Tommy’s chain pickerel was the state record, tipping the scales at 4.44 pounds. Today, more than 30 years later, Tommy’s fish is still listed in the Louisiana top 10 for chain pickerel.
--G. Harris, Ruston, Louisiana
This Fishing was a Hoot
Many people go fly fishing, but I experienced “flying fishing.” At twilight on a South Carolina river, a great horned owl swooped out of the swamp and snatched my Rapala topwater bait from the water. Unfortunately, the hooks caught the owl in the talons. I could imagine its surprise when it flew off with an easy meal only to reach the end of my fishing line!
Surprise soon switched to abject anger as the embattled owl flew in circles over my boat. Not wanting to condemn the bird to a painful life attached to a three-treble topwater bait—and desiring to get my favorite $5 bait back—I continued to fight the feathered beast. Hooked on an ultralight rod, the owl gave me one of the most spirited and loud, fights I’ve ever experienced. It hooted, hissed, growled, cursed and uttered every other irate sound imaginable.
Finally, I reeled in enough line to dip the owl into the river. I scooped it in the net and brought it into the boat. Immobilized under the net, the owl really let me have it with its verbal attack. I can’t speak owl, but it sure blistered my ears. I pulled its leg out from the net, unhooked it and flopped the owl back into the river. Apparently, owls cannot swim well. It eventually thrashed over to a low limb where it gave me a scowl that could have melted iron. I cranked the motor and raced home before it called for his uninjured friends.
--J. Felsher, Semmes, Alabama
The lake had no name I ever heard. It isn’t large—maybe 15 acres—and was built during the WPA era. The general area is known as Grandmother Holler and back then, 15 years ago, was accessible only by a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a partially drunk driver.
We were camped on the bank and launched the johnboat near dusk. The action started on the second cast. A 5-pound-plus largemouth hit a buzzbait. From then until dark, it was constant action with bass from 1 to 7 pounds tearing up the Jitterbugs and buzzbaits. We caught 23 and kept four of the smaller ones for a dinner of fried fish, potatoes and onions, fresh tomatoes and cold beer.
We slept the sleep of the honest that night and, at dawn, back on the water, it was as if it had never happened. But I can still close my eyes today and see and hear the fantastic topwater action of that May evening 15 years ago.
--J. Sloan, Lebanon, Tennessee
Double the Fun
My most memorable fishing experience occurred on the Unini River in South America. It was my thirty-first trip to Brazil and is one of several fantastic experiences with the world’s most exciting fish, the peacock bass. I tossed a giant topwater plug out to a sandbar drop-off in a blackwater lagoon, twitched it twice and had the proverbial explosion. The fish rocketed away, paused and then repeated the fighting tactic. At each pause, I found that I couldn’t move the powerful fish. I didn’t know what I had until I finally inched it closer and found a 13-pound peacock on the rear treble hook and a 17-pound peacock bass on the front treble! That’s 30 pounds of the strongest fish alive. When they swam is unison, the twosome couldn’t be stopped, but when their alignment was perpendicular to each other, they were quite a mass to deal with. I’ve never had a more unforgettable fishing experience.
--L. Larsen, Lakeland, Florida