A boy and His Grampa.
“Go get the leeches and put on your life jacket, Bruce. It’s time to go fishing.”
I was off and running almost before he was finished speaking. Grandma chimed in. “And don’t forget the bug spray, young man. Those mosquitos will eat you alive and carry off the carcass.”
After loading the 1962 Crestliner with rods, bait, tackle, nets and a couple of beers for Grampa, we set out to anchor off the point of Drumbeater Island on Pokegama lake. Grampa kept the Scott-Atwater 25hp outboard at a low rumble.
“Just amblin’ on out. No Sense disturbing everyone’s evening.” Grampa said.
The lake had gone still, smooth as granite, reflecting the inky dark pines of Drumbeater Island in the fading light. As we got close to the spot, Grampa told me to get ready with the anchor. Killing the motor, Grampa checked his landmarks and said softly, “Let her go, Bruce.”
Kaploosh! In went the anchor. This was known as “still fishing”. I liked it the best. What you do is, you get your leech or minnow on your hook (don’t worry, Grampa will help if you need it) and then, with about 3 ounces of lead weight mounted 6 inches above the bait, you dropped it straight down into the lake, letting sink all the way to the bottom. Fifteen feet deep is ideal, according to Grampa. Then when the lead hits bottom you crank your reel three times. Now that minnow or leech is at the perfect spot to entice the most coveted fish in Minnesota. The Walleye Pike.
Soon we were both fishing. Grampa puffed his pipe, and was in the process of opening a can of North Star beer when BAMMO! Something hit Grampa’s bait and took off, whizzing line off Grampa’s reel like nothing I had ever seen. Grampa was cool. With his pipe clamped in his teeth, he managed to put his beer in the wire holder, give his rod a almighty yank, saying, “Must be a big Northern.”
I got my line reeled in and readied the landing net. As I watched, Grampa fought that fish up one side of the boat and down the other. It was one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. After what seemed like hours, Grampa said, “Here he comes, Bruce. Be ready with the net.”
And then Grampa’s fishing rod, which had been bent nearly double for many long minutes snapped up straight, and the fish was gone. The big one was gone anyway. What remained, still dangling from Grampa’s hook was a half-pound Perch nearly bitten in two. Apparently, that Perch had grabbed Grampa’s baited hook and gotten caught, then that big fish had grabbed the Perch. That big fish was never actually hooked. He was just reluctant to give up his Perch.
As Grampa surveyed the Perch, raked down the sides with teeth marks, he said to me, “Quick get your line in the water and drop it straight down. Now!”
I did as I was told, and almost immediately got a hit. It felt like I was reeling in the bottom of the lake. My nine-year-old arms, and little Zebco 202 were hard pressed. Within 30 seconds Grampa scooped a 22-pound Northern Pike into the net and set it on the floor of the boat.
I was ecstatic. It was my first Northern and it was huge. And I caught it all by myself. Everybody made a big deal out of my giant fish. Many pictures were taken to mark the occasion. What a day!
It wasn’t until several years later that it dawned on me. Grampa had that fish on after it grabbed his Perch, and fought it to near exhaustion. He knew it would head for the bottom to rest. I remember it like it was yesterday. “Quick get your line in the water. Drop it straight down.”
Not every kid gets a Grampa like mine. I was a lucky. And I will always and forever remember the one that got away. From Grampa, anyway.