I love bacon, but PETA might recruit me.

12 Sep

More my speed.

Alan has decided he will never fish with me again.

It seems extreme, but I can’t really say I blame him. Not after how I behaved last week.

We were in Michigan, visiting my family. My parents have a cottage on a small lake, and – in accordance with some unwritten Michigan Lake law – a pontoon boat. One night at sunset we decided to grab some fishing poles, some bait, and putter out into the lake to see if we could catch anything.

As a kid, I loved fishing and was generally pretty lucky with what I’d catch. Before our annual trek to visit my grandparents in Alabama, I’d be out in our back garden, digging up worms so I could take down some Real Michigan Nightcrawlers for Papa. He always swore they were bigger than Alabama worms, and I believed him.

Fast forward some 25 years, and my take on fishing is a bit different. When we finally dropped anchor, I watched as my dad and Alan threaded worms on their hooks. That didn’t bother me, but the amount of time involved in straightening their lines, tying on bobbers and getting the worm in place was excruciating to watch longer than I’d remembered.

My mom and I looked at each other after about ten minutes of sitting there, without a hook in the water. BO-RING, we mouthed at each other. I would’ve been game for casting, but after seeing all the prep work it entailed, I decided I’d just watch.

About that time, sun dropped low enough that I found myself wondering why I’d abandoned our campfire to sit in the middle of a chilly lake. Even with a sweatshirt, I had to wrap a towel around myself to keep my teeth from chattering. Soon my mom was snuggled in next to me, and we both kept eyeing with nostalgia the distant embers we’d abandoned.

Eventually there were two hooks in the water. Alan was first to get a fish, a little bluegill that wasn’t big enough to keep. He backed the hook out of its mouth and then released it. I say released because that’s the fishing term for what he did, but it actually looked more like someone launching a discus. I’ve never seen a fish thrown that high or that hard.

Both my mom and I gasped as we watched it hurling through the air. “Jesus! I thought you weren’t trying to kill it!” one of us said.

“It’s fine,” Alan assured us.

“Bullshit,” my mom said. “I bet it’s under the water, shaking its head back and forth like a cartoon character, wondering what the hell just happened to it.”

About that time, my dad got a bite, and pulled in a decent sized trout. “Nope,” he said. “Too small. Has to be at least twenty-four inches.” And he released it gently into the water near the boat, wanting to avoid a lecture from the peanut gallery.

No sooner than he dropped his hook again, the bobber went right under water. A few seconds later, he was holding an even larger trout in front of us. “Nope,” he said again.

“What?” my mom and I cried. “Surely that’s big enough to keep?”

My dad revised his earlier estimate. “I think the standard is actually 30 inches. This is too small.”

THIRTY INCHES? In a small lake? You. Must. Be. Shitting. Me.

Yes, this is kind of where my mind went. 30 INCHES? That's a BEAST!

I am appalled because I SWIM in this lake. With fish that are apparently the size of toddlers. Gah!

While I was performing mental calculations of all the fish I’d shared the water with, my dad was apparently struggling to get the hook out. Because when I looked over, there he was, holding a fish in one hand, with pliers down its throat.


“Oh, poor fish!” I said, thinking it was under my breath.

Apparently not, because my mom piled on. “John, you know if you have to use pliers, there’s no way it’s going to survive. It’s big enough to eat. Let’s keep it so it’s not a waste.”

Have I introduced my dad properly before? My dad loves some rules. Rules were written to keep him happy. Although he’s one of the smartest people I know and very capable of “grey” thinking in general, when it comes to rules (especially those formed by an actual government or civic body) he’s not one for allowing creative interpretation. The rules are the rules.

“Nope,” he said, releasing the fish.

My mom and I started cheering it on. “Go! Go! Go!”

“Whose side are you on, anyway?” Alan asked.

It was a no brainer. Especially since their hooks hadn’t yet yielded anything we could eat. “The FISH!” we told him.

About this time, Dad’s latest release started flopping around noisily next to the boat, clearly in its final moments. “Oh!” I exclaimed. “That’s just AWFUL! Are you hearing that?”

Again, Mom piled on. “I told you we should’ve kept it! Poor thing!”

“I’m freezing!” I proclaimed. “How much more of this do we have to sit through, anyway?”

Just as the words were out of my mouth, Alan’s line got a tug. He started reeling and reeling, and his bobber danced across the water toward us, with repeated tugs. Yes when he pulled it out of the water…

Mom and I high-fived. “Sweet!” one of us yelled. “Smart little fish!” the other added.

Alan shot us a look. The maimed fish next to the boat flopped dramatically in response.

Within twenty minutes, we were back in front of the campfire.

And that was the end of fishing.

Fish = Winning.

4 Responses to “I love bacon, but PETA might recruit me.”

  1. pithypants September 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    OK. So a friend just recommended this post by The Oatmeal. CLASSIC! http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-fish-almost-destroyed-my-childhood.html

  2. Lorna's Voice September 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    You and I are on the same page about fishing. I love this post and the picture of the fish-on-man action is priceless!

    • pithypants September 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      While I’m no hunter, at least with hunting you can choose what you’re aiming at. With fishing? Anything can bite your line, but you can’t eat all of them. Such a waste!

  3. sara September 27, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    I hate fishing. I don’t do anything scaly or slimy.

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