My mother loved to fish, as did her mother. Some of my earliest memories are following them to local farm ponds with our cane poles. Theirs were much longer than mine, and they carried all our supplies, from hooks, sinkers and corks to meal and earth worms for bait.
We fished for anything that would bite and ate our catch. Mama always said, “if its big enough to bite its big enough to eat.” She was especially fond of the crunchy fins on little bream fried to perfection.
We fished together a lot until I went off to college, then spent many happy hours in my bass boat when I came home for the weekend or holidays. One day at the boat club I saw her love of fishing. As we walked to my boat tied under the floating boat dock, we saw a snake slither into a hole where the control cables went in.
Mama’s fear of snakes was well known, but she got into the boat and went out with me anyway. I did notice that she managed to keep her feet up off the boat floor most of the day though.
One summer we threw out sinking catfish food under the dock, trying to attract them. As I walked by the dock one afternoon, mama was sitting there fishing all by herself. I saw her rod bent as she fought as big fish.
I stopped and watched, afraid to distract her. I could hear her coaching herself, saying things like “keep the rod up, don’t get in a hurry, don’t reel while its pulling drag.”
After a few minutes I went down and helped her net a six-pound carp.
That night I could not sleep thinking about that experience. I got out a can of kernel corn, baited up a hook on a spinning rod and caught two carp that size. The next three days mama, daddy and I caught 37 carp weighing 175 pounds fishing with corn. And true to form, mama found a way to can the filets, making the small bones dissolve like those in canned salmon, and we ate many carp patties.
On one trip to a local pond mama and I were ready to leave when we noticed a lot of tiny bream in the pool below the spillway. We took our rods and went down there and caught them, baiting out hooks with tiny bites of earthworm.
We had a contest to see who could catch the smallest one, a challenge since the biggest was about two inches long. We half filled a coffee can with them for the cats, it took about 30 to fill it that much.
One summer I spent some time easing around the bank in my bass boat with a spotlight at night, seeing what was under water. There were carp everywhere. I rigged a big frog gig on a piece of metal conduit and started gigging them.
Mama went out with me one night and would sit on the back seat, opening the live well when I gigged one. I would put the carp in, she would drop the lid and I would pull the gig out.
My dog Merlin was with us and always got excited. One time as mama opened the live well lid Merlin jumped at the carp as I put it in the opening and went in with it! The look on Merlin’s face was priceless as she stood in there with all those carp.
Mama and I laughed until we cried.
If your mother is alive, cherish every minute with her. Some of us no longer have that joy.