Sunday, September 25, 2022
Catching a Dinosaur
Last week my Best Half and I loaded up the boat and trailer onto the minivan and set out for an early morning fishing adventure. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this time of the year is one of my favorite times to float on the water and wet a line in hopes of catching some fish. Not always do we keep the fish we catch, it always depends on the ambition I am feeling towards fileting fish on that set day. Many times we will go out fishing and just return them to the water after the thrill of hauling them into the boat and seeing how big they are.
That morning we did set out to catch some nice sunnies for supper that night. The plan was to catch enough to have for supper and hopefully freeze enough for another meal this winter when we are gazing out the windows at the frozen dark tundra and -30 below temps. That always is a special treat in the dead of winter.
We got to the boat landing and backed the boat into the water and within a few minutes I had my line cast out with one of the wooden fishing lures I had made a few years ago. People laugh often when they find out I make my own lures out of a chunk of pine wood, a hook, and some $.50 Walmart hobby paint. I always receive a smile from the person looking at one of my “lucky lures” and the look of “you’ll never catch anything with that”. And imagine the surprise when I have them take a closer look at the teeth marks on the lures from past catches. They kind of stare in disbelief.
We had just launched the boat and were slowly trolling out from the boat landing and about 30 seconds into the boat ride, I told my Best Half to put the boat in neutral as I was hung up in weeds already. So he complied and I started to reel in my line with so much resistance I was pretty certain I would snap the lure right off the line and leave it in the weeds beneath the water. But slowly it felt like maybe the weeds would give up my lucky lure as it became less resistant as I reeled.
A few seconds later I felt the gentle but firm tug on my line and realized I had a fish on my line. The way it started to tug on my line, I figured it was more than likely a bass yanking around. For a few seconds it sat on the bottom of the lake deciding what to try next to get the hook out of its mouth and be free. I continued to casually reel in my line knowing it was a bass and I’d release it back as soon as I could get the hook out of its mouth.
After about a minute of trying to reel the fish in, I finally got it up close enough to see what was on the end of my line. There next to the boat a few feet from the surface was a ginormous Northern. I took one look at the fish and let out a squeal Iike a little kid entering a candy store!
This fish was well over a few feet long and as fat as could be. It came to the surface long enough for me to get a glimpse of it and then dove back into the deep water. Imagine my disbelief. This was the absolute biggest fish I ever had on my line. I was so grateful I was using a heavier duty rod and real and not my ultralight I use for sunfish and crappies. At least I had a chance of landing this bad boy.
I let the monster fish have some line and go back down into the deeper water while my Best Half and I figured out how we were going to get this dinosaur into the boat. I yelled at him to get the net and he gave me the strangest stare. Then I realized why he was staring at me. The only net in the boat was a net I used when in the kayak. It’s a small collapsible net used for panfish and trout. The head alone on this monster Northern wouldn’t even fit in the net. The regular fishing net was down in the chicken coop hanging up. We had used it for rounding up a few loose chickens and never got it back in the boat.
So with no other means of landing this fish I continued to play it out. I would get it up next to the boat and ready to pull it in by hand and it would race back into the deeper water. This went on several more times and finally after about 5-6 minutes I told my best half to just reach down and grab the metal leader the lure was hooked to and haul the monster into the boat. So after a few more attempts he grabbed the leader and hoisted the fish into the boat. Just as he got it into the boat the Northern released the death grip he had on my lure and dropped into the cooler that was being used as a livewell.
The fish immediately started jumping and thrashing around in the cooler that was about 6 or 8 inches shorter than the fish. I slammed the cover down and began filling it with water. After a few minutes passed and my adrenaline rush had subsided, I opened the cooler and took a good look at what I had just caught. It was close to 3 feet long and had to weigh 6-7 pounds I was guessing. The absolute biggest fish I had ever caught in my life!
I took a look at my lucky lure that had been in this fish’s mouth and only then realized that my lure was completely stripped of the hooks. That fish had somehow ripped the hooks right out of the lure, spit them out and had been holding on to the lure with clenched teeth around it. What are the chances of that happening, I thought. My lucky lure had done its job and then some. I had caught bass and even a few large sunfish off that lure and similar ones I had made, but never the size of this beast. As I looked at the lure I could see teeth marks indented into the pine wood, encircled all around it from the Bad Boy of Summer, my northern.
We got home with our catch and I fileted them out by the cleaning table, down by the pump. I had made a fish cleaning station years ago to teach the grandkids how to filet fish they caught. That Northern was way too big for the kitchen sink. It took up the length of the 4 foot table. I had weighed and measured the Northern and it was just under 36 inches long and a titch over 7 pounds. Definitely the catch of a lifetime for me.
As I said before, I love to go fishing, especially in the late Summer or early Fall. There is just something about the cool crispness of the morning air and the fog sitting just over the lake and the stillness that surrounds me. For me…it is the closest I can get to my Creator. It is in that stillness way down deep in my heart that I can feel the Presence and stir of what brings me joy and happiness and peace. Catching some fish is just the bonus.