A Fish Tale

S Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

My eight-year-old son, Lucas, is not an outdoorsy child. He never has been. He is terrified of bugs. His pale skin burns very easily. Benign mosquito bites swell to Elephant Man-like proportions on him. He is a little less coordinated than his peers and has always seemed a bit awkward in the great outdoors. He comes by it naturally. My partner’s idea of “roughing it” is a hotel room without a minibar.

As the result of a camping trip last year —by “camping” I mean a weekend spent in an air-conditioned two-bedroom cabin with a full kitchen— Lucas has recently developed an interest in fishing. Being the outdoor neophyte he is, I really want to encourage this newfound interest. The problem with encouraging him is that I know absolutely nothing about fishing. Zilch. Nada. However, I didn’t let that stop me from recently going out and buying a rod and reel and a little red tackle box. I even went online and purchased a fishing license so I can take him fishing at any lake in Minnesota. I admit to feeling a bit studly carrying my fishing license around in my wallet.

With new rod and reel in hand and my fishing license safely ensconced in my back pocket -butch-style, we decided to take the kids fishing. As luck would have it, it was raining on the Saturday morning we chose for our outing. Of course, we had promised Lucas that we would take him fishing, so we refused to let a little bit of rain stop us. We pulled into the parking lot of a local suburban nature center with a lake that I knew had two fishing docks. I turned the minivan off and turned to face the children.

I immediately warped into full-on lecture mode in preparation for our departure from our warm, dry van. Still strapped into their car seats, my three children were a rapt audience as they listened to me explain that, despite the rain, we were going to go fishing. I went on to say that none of us is made of sugar and, therefore, none of us would likely melt from a few errant raindrops. I explained that all five of us were going to get out of the van into the drizzling rain and not complain about getting wet. Ruanita, taking a different tactic, tried to hype the whole thing as an “adventure”. The kids seemed to buy it, though I was much more dubious.

After walking into the woods on a trail that included at least fifty wooden steps straight down a steep hill, we arrived at the first fishing dock. We ambled out and went about the task of readying our fishing lines. I opened the adorable little red tackle box I was so proud to carry and stared at the contents, dumbfounded. Lures, bobbers, what appeared to be some rope, numerous hooks. An array of colorful items that completed confounded me. Not only did I not know which lure to use, I really wasn’t even sure how to attach the lure to the hook. Of course, I couldn’t let Lucas realize that his mother was a complete and total moron, so I confidently grabbed a pretty pink lure with a feather on it and stuck it on my hook.

To my utter surprise, I remembered how to cast from the fishing days of my youth and was able to actually get the hook to land in the lake. At one point, Lucas asked me what kind of fish I thought we’d catch in that lake. “Ummmm…yea…okay,” I stammered. I couldn’t think of the name of a single fish. Finally, I blurted out, “Smallmouth bass!” I wouldn’t know a smallmouth bass if it jumped out of the lake and kissed me on my lips. But Lucas was none the wiser.

As it turned out, the particular lake I had chosen had an overabundance of seaweed and an under abundance of fish. Actually, can it be called seaweed if it is not in the sea? We’ll just call it plant sludge. The lake had an overabundance of plant sludge, which made it very difficult to reel in our lines. As luck would have it, we did not see a single fish all morning, but managed to catch a great deal of slimy plant life before finally calling it quits. We walked back up the fifty wet steps and back to our awaiting minivan. After that, we took the kids to Chipotle for lunch. We needed sustenance after the morning we had just experienced.

I am afraid I have some learning to do if I am going to successfully encourage Lucas’s interest in fishing. Last night, the kids had fish sticks for dinner. As Lucas was unceremoniously poking his fish sticks and refusing to eat them, he asked me what type of fish were in the fish sticks. I hopped up, grabbed the box from the freezer, checked the ingredient list, and triumphantly announced “Alaskan pollock!” I may not know a thing about fishing, but fish sticks are right up my alley.

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