Catch of the Day

The search for the fresh catch of the day was time well spent with family.

| May/June 2017

  • A calm day on the lake trolling along the bank looking for structure is a day well spent, even if you come up empty.
    Photo by

When I was a young man, somewhere around the age of 10 I’d guess, I learned to fillet a fish from my older brothers, who had no doubt been taught either by my mom, my dad, or maybe even Homeboy, a family friend who was an uncle of sorts. In those days, he wasn’t the only family friend whom my brothers and I called “Uncle.”

A couple months back, on a Sunday after church, I made the roughly 500-yard walk down to a pond behind my house with a couple of fishing rods and reels. I typically carry one rigged for live bait, and the other rigged for my go-to bass and crappie lures. I also had my tackle box with me, with any number of jigs, spinner baits, plastic worms, you name it, although in the back of my mind I was really hoping I’d need my crappie jigs the most.

It wasn’t two minutes after casting out the pole rigged for live bait, this time with a regular old night crawler, that the bobber disappeared and I had a fish on. It turned out to be one of the largest bluegill I’ve ever caught, and I was careful as I filleted the meat out later that evening to get every bit that I could — bluegills are mighty tasty, if you can get enough of them. It felt nice to be giving thanks for the fish and perform a chore that takes me back to boyhood.

That was the only bluegill I caught that day, but I still managed a dozen or so fish that made good fillets. After only about an hour, I texted my wife, Gwen, asking her if she’d bring a bucket down to the pond and meet me, and she graciously showed up a few minutes later.

As I filleted the fish that evening, I felt a huge sense of redemption over the day before, when my brother Josh and I met at our favorite little lake for a morning of crappie fishing. Using minnows, jigs, and about everything else in our repertoire, Josh caught one good-sized crappie, and I got skunked — a far cry from my claims to Gwen the night before that we’d catch a limit of crappie and not to worry about any more Friday fish fries during Lent: I had us covered.

But although the fishing was slower than we’d ever experienced on that lake — which might have had something to do with the 30-degree temperatures and the snowstorm I towed our boat through on the way back home — the day I got to spend with my brother on the lake was every bit as fun and rewarding as the following day, when Mother Nature and the fish complied. I can honestly say I enjoyed the first day more, catching zero fish but catching up on the latest goings-on in each other’s lives, my brother smoking cigars and me chewing tobacco, and simply being in the presence of one of the people I respect and love the most in the world.

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