Outside of golfers, fishermen are probably the biggest liars.
They can carry on with amazing tales about the one that “got away”.
I have a fishing tale about one that “got away” but later we reeled him in.
It’s a story that’s almost impossible to believe except there were 3 of us who witnessed the event and two of us are still living.
As a kid growing up in northern Ohio, our family spent a lot of late spring through mid-autumn on the waters of Lake Erie.
My parents took me to Pelee Island in the Canadien waters of the lake for the first time when I was about two or three.
Later, my parents bought a boat, a 21 foot Correct Craft cruiser with a 100 horse Grey Marine engine and that became our home on the water for up to 7 months each year.
I was reminded of my fishing story when we celebrated my Uncle Chuck Malone’s 90th birthday recently.
He was an eyewitness to the chain of events that became my fishing story, along with my Father.
Dad and Uncle Chuck decided to go walleye fishing one night in Lake Erie north of the Huron River, perhaps a mile or two off-shore.
I’m not sure if I asked to tag along or not but I wound up accompanying them on this adventure.
To keep me amused and out of their hair, my Dad fixed me up with a trolling rod with line about the same test as clothesline.
We baited my hook with shrimp that had been “fermented” by the sun under the porch of our cabin on the beach.
My Dad tossed the heavily-weighted line in the water and it sunk to the bottom.
I cranked it once and Dad told me to keep an eye on it.
Little did I know then that catfish actually have a highly-attuned sense of smell and taste and since they’re bottom-feeders, the glob of nearly-rotted shrimp probably called out to hungry fish like a yellow and red neon McDonald’s sign along the interstate.
Like any typical 7 or 8 year old, I kept a close eye on the tip of my trolling rod for about 6 minutes.
While my Dad and Uncle Chuck were reeling in walleyes left and right, the action with the trolling rod was less than electric.
I set the rod down on the backseat cushion of the boat and occasionally glanced at the tip of that trolling rig.
But I found watching my Dad and uncle was a better way to wile away the time in the summer darkness on the waters of Lake Erie, as the Coleman lantern hung over the side of the boat drawing bugs in the air and minnows in the water.
Suddenly I heard a noise and saw that my trolling rod decided to take a dip in the lake.
But by the time I lunged for it, the gear quickly disappeared into the 30-40 feet of water beneath us.
My Dad first thought I had knocked it off the boat, a reasonable assumption with a fidgety 7-8 year old involved.
But when I convinced him I hadn’t bumped the rod overboard, my Dad figured he had just lost a pretty costly piece of fishing gear by trying to keep a squirmy kid out of the way.
We weren’t anchored and the night was relatively calm, so Uncle Chuck suggested using some heavily-weighted hooks and cast about, hoping to snag the rod and reel.
The term “slim and none” comes to mind.
How about a snowball being found in Hades?
Several casts into the night, Uncle Chuck snagged something and reeled it in.
It was fishing line that looked a lot like the material on my Dad’s trolling rod that I had misplaced.
They grabbed hold of the line and pulled.
In a few moments, my Dad saw his trolling rod coming to the surface.
They fished it out of the water and my Dad suddenly didn’t feel like tossing me in the lake.
But Uncle Chuck noted there was still tension on the line and he started cranking.
And, there, on the other end of the line where that hook, loaded with disgusting, smelly shrimp was a beautiful, 38 inch silver-blue channel catfish.
See, Dad, I told you I didn’t bump the rod and reel off the boat!
Our fishing trip concluded rather quickly after we hooked that whiskered critter on the stringer and headed back into port.
The three fishermen brought the finned behemoth into the kitchen of Uncle Chuck’s home and pictures were snapped with me holding that huge fish in my arms.
A photo of a young man with his butch haircut, a sunburned face and a white long-sleeve sweatshirt straining mightily with a gorgeous channel catfish draped across my arms.
The catch was wrapped in paper and plastic and Dad said he’d look into getting the trophy catch mounted..
But even back in the 50’s , the cost was prohibitive.
The fish occupied the family deep freeze for a few weeks and would be unwrapped to show to friends and doubters.
Eventually the novelty wore off and the fish became increasingly gamey so he made an unglorious trip to the Richland County landfill.
Now, if you told me this same story but it happened to you, I’d probably be looking for Rod Serling or at the very least Alan Funt lurking in the shadows, ready to “Gotcha! me at the first sign I might actually believe what I’m hearing.
But it’s true.
Every bit of it.
Hook, line and sinker.