Fish Tales

The water slurped against the side of the canoe making it rock ever so slightly. The sky overhead was impossibly blue, the air pure. I was eleven years old and on a family vacation along the eastern shore of Lake Superior, staying in a cabin at a remote place called Otter Cove. On this particular day, my father, my younger brother and I had set out in a power boat with a canoe in tow, our destination an inland lake by a bay called English Fishery.

We portaged from the shore of Lake Superior to the lake that was rumored to hold huge northern pike. We soon found out just how huge. After a half-dozen casts, younger brother had a fish on that literally wrapped his rod around the gunwale of the canoe and promptly snapped it into two pieces, leaving the butt of the rod upright in his hands. Then dad landed two large pike, both of which were trophy fish in any angler’s book.

After two hours, I had not had a single hit. I was feeling discouraged and a bit bored by the whole experience when I flung my lure toward the shore, more out of disgust than sport. It hit a tree branch, bounced off and fell into the water below. It was a terrible cast. I began reeling it in, intending to try again. There was a weight on the line, something heavy as if I was pulling a person through the water. Not a single wiggle or tug, just . . . weight. My dad thought I’d hooked a log until the object got to the canoe. He got real quiet. Little brother leaned back from the edge.

After a moment my dad said it was the largest fish he’d ever seen. Pike are toothy fish, able to tear skin with their razor sharp teeth, so dad would grab them by the eyes which paralyzed them. I’d reeled the monster to his left side, and knowing he’d never get a good grip on it with his left hand, he said I needed to bring it around to the other side of the canoe. I slowly dragged the heavy fish to the other side. As I did, it shook its head, tossed the lure, and swam away. I never got a good look at what I’d hooked that day, but my dad, not given to exaggerating, said it’s head was as large as a shovel and it was half as long as the twelve foot canoe we were in. It was the proverbial one that got away.

I have been chasing that fish ever since. Well, not that fish, but every time I’m out on the water with a rod in hand, I think maybe the next one could be as big as the one I lost. My love of fishing has gotten stronger as the years have passed and I have more time for the sport. While I grew up on fresh water, I’ve become enamored with salt water angling. The fish hit a lot harder and one never knows what might be on the end of the line. There’s a whole lot of weird creatures in the ocean.

As with most outdoor sports, fishing is largely male dominated with women accounting for 35% of all anglers. The number of women who are professional anglers is growing, but still lags behind the men. I was born into a family that instilled the love of the outdoors, so I never shied away from earthy adventures. Putting live bait on a hook seems as natural to me as tying my shoes. I’m always a little amused when talking with non-angling women about the sport. There’s a huge ‘ick’ factor—it seems a lot can’t handle touching a worm, even though they’ve wiped up a sick child’s puke with barely a thought. ICK!

Sometimes I run into other women who are as enthusiastic about fishing as I am. My husband and I were surf casting off the beach in Fort Pierce, Florida, when a pretty young woman struck up a conversation, asking about our equipment. She and I talked at length, bonding over our common interest. The conversation took an amusing turn when she said she couldn’t find a man who wasn’t threatened by her fishing ability. She said the men who took her fishing didn’t want to take her out again once she out fished them. We told her to find a better man!

We subsequently exchanged texts and she sent a picture of the rod and reel she eventually bought. She still hadn’t found a man to take her out on the water, though. I’m sure she’ll find someone who will be happy for her company and fishing ability. I hope she does. As for my big fish, take a look at the cobia I’m holding in the photo below. Not bad, but still not as big as the one lurking in Canadian waters. Perhaps I’ll get ‘em some day.




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