August 26, 2003

Something's Fishy. Oh, It's Me

I'm not an angler. When it comes to fishing, I have about as much skill with a pole as a Republican Guard soldier has with an AK-47. I don't know the correct speed for reeling in lures, and I have no idea how to play the line to give lures a more realistic movement.

So, I fish with worms and bobbers.

Well, that's somewhat inaccurate. I should say that, the last time I fished, which was many, many years ago, I fished using worms and bobbers. And I loved fishing using only worms and bobbers. I loved it because it was so easy.

I was spoiled because my aunt and uncle had a house on one of Minnesota's not-so-famous Crow Wing Lakes, a collection of lakes strung together by, you guessed it: the Crow Wing River. The only mentionable aspect of the Crow Wing Lake #? was that, according to local legend, a meteor splashed down in it sometime in the 1980s. I don't know if that had anything to do with anything, but it sure sounded kinda cool.

The other metionable aspect about the lake was that it was alive with bluegill, perch and assorted other fish that are known for their tendency to bite on anything you offer on a hook. Seriously, I caught fish using corn, hotdogs, and chunks of fried chicken. Now that I think about it, the state fair food vendors are all excellent potential bluegill bait outlets. Overall, though, my bait of choice was nightcrawlers.

There were walleye and northerns, too, but those fish were just too finicky. I preferred the instant satisfaction inherent in bobbing for bluegills. Drop your line, pull up a fish. Drop your line, pull up a fish. You could set your watch to it. Fishing off my aunt and uncle's dock, I think, built up, in my mind, a sense of entitlement when it came to fishing, and I'd start to get impatient if more than four minutes passed without a nibble.

Fast forward to last Saturday afternoon, when my friend Marc and I decided to do some fishing at a local reservoir known for bass and bluegill. Now, the bass end of things didn't interest me. They're too smart to get caught and I'm too stupid to catch them. But bluegill? Now there's a fish I can catch.

Of course, seeing as how I haven't gone fishing in just about forever, I had to buy a pole. A trip to Gander Mountain underscored just how in-depth fishing can be. They have poles for EVERYTHING. Poles for panfish. Poles for icefishing. Poles that specifically cater to your nationality. I'm pretty sure they had Polish poles, so if you ever have to buy a Pole a pole, you can go to Gander Mountain. Tell 'em Ryan sent ya, even though they'll have no idea what that means.

I opted for a $20 pole that came with a reel and a small tackle box full of assorted tackle, so it was a pretty good deal. Granted, I have no idea what spinners and jigs are for, but at least I had some. Appropriately armed with fish enticing equipment, we set out for the reservoir (Chester Woods Bear Creek Reservoir, for those of you familiar with the Rochester area).

Out on the canoe, setting up my trusty pole, I was reminded of one of the more gruesome aspects of fishing: tearing a worm in half. I used to think nothing of it. You just grasp the worm somewhere in the middle, and give a tough quick tug apart. Mission accomplished. You decide which end you want to skewer on the hook and drop the discarded end back in the styrofoam container where it writhes and twists and spews blood and an unknown yellow ooze all over its intact brethren that have yet to be split. Like I said, I used to think nothing of it, but now apparently I do. Granted, I got over it after the third bifurcation or so, but it still creeped me out for some reason.

I learned rather quickly that the reservoir bluegill are a far more particular lot than their brothers living up north in Crow Wing Lake #?. Despite a thick, juicy, recently-yanked-apart worm right there for the taking, they weren't all that interested in the offering. I tried different bobber depths. I tried casting out to areas beyond the canoe. I even tried swearing at the finicky fish. What was their fucking problem? Don't they recognize a fucking free meal when it's offered? Do they fucking think worms grow on trees and then magically cut themselves in half and then mysteriously hover right in front of their noses? Do they. . .

The bobber went down. Oh my God! Oh my God! What do I do?! What do I do?! Well, you overreact, of course. I yanked the line to set the hook so hard, the fish's skeleton was probably on the verge of coming out of its mouth. I always wonder what the fish thinks when the hook jams them in the lip.

FISH: Huh, a worm. A worm that's cut in half and coiled around a strange metal object. I know this looks too easy, and maybe a bit suspicious, but I'm a fish, so I don't think in suspicious terms. I'm going to eat this worm before somebody else does.

*chomp* *yank*

FISH: Ahhhhhhh! What the fuck!? The worm! It's evil! It has a sharp tooth! Wait a minute. . . I'm being pulled around by some strange force! What kind of sorcery are you up to worm!

WORM (dazed): Don't ask me. I was just laying there eating newspaper and dirt, when suddenly I was ripped in half, stuck on a hook, and dropped in the water to drown. The way I see things, I'm having a hell of a lot worse day than you.

FISH: But, if you're not doing this, who is?! Ahhh, it's a giant hairless monkey-like creature! Not that I know what monkies even look like, but I've heard tales.

Or. . . something like that.

So, there I was, eye to eye with my bluegill catch, confronting the other harsh reality of fishing: removing the hook. You see, although bluegills may appear pretty helpless out of the water, they're armed with some of the sharpest, pointiest, skin peircing fin quills ever to adorn a fish. Great care must be taken to comb back the dorsal fin so you can get an appropriate grasp on the fish. The problem is that any grasp you apply to a fish is tenuous at best, owing to a particularly slimy exterior. The fish will take advantage of this by lulling you into a false sense of fish complacency, acting all dead in your hand until just the right moment.

That moment comes when your attention is focused on prying the hook out, at which point the fish will violently spasm, momentarily giving the fish enough wiggle room to redeploy its spiny dorsal fin and stab all of your fingers at once. It's a pretty tricky maneuver, and it happens. Every. Damn. Time. Without fail.

Come to think of it, I can't understand the appeal of fishing at all. Lousy fish.

Posted by Ryan at August 26, 2003 04:13 PM
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