When my dad was in the National Guard, he used to have to spend two weeks of every year at summer camp to participate in training. Since he was a doctor, of course that made him camp physician and eventually commander of the medical brigade.
Doctors don’t get a lot of vacation time. So he would take us, that is, my siblings and my mom, with him to the camp. When he was lower in rank we would stay in a trailer, or some of the camps had cabins. But Camp Grayling in Michigan, well those cabins were less common and reserved for the higher ranking officers – like the commander of the medical brigade. So we stayed in these nice cabins, right on the lake.
Ah, did I say lake? Well, of course this meant towing the boat all the way to Michigan, so my family could water-ski. Unfortunately there wasn’t a dock near the cabin, so we would anchor it fore and aft when we weren’t using it. The water was shallow enough near the shore that we could wade out to the boat to board it.
One evening Daddy decided he would take my sister and I fishing. The three of us got into the boat, and braving the mosquitoes, took our gear and nightcrawlers out into deeper water. I was probably about 13 and my sister was perhaps 15. Typically, Daddy spent most of the time baiting our hooks or taking fish off our lines, so he didn’t catch much. I think that daddies aren’t supposed to catch fish, anyway. After a while, we decided to close up shop and head back to the cabin. So we sat back in our seats and he revved up the engine. We were going a pretty good clip we heard this flap-flap-flap behind us. Looking toward the back of the boat, our hearts collectively sank. Our bare stringer, once full of fish, was flapping against the side of the boat. We’d forgotten to pull it in. The poor fish had been pulled right off the metal stringer by the force of the boat in the water.
Daddy felt awful, blamed himself for not remembering to pull in the stringer before starting up the motor. But it was late, we didn’t feel like fishing some more. So we headed home with a story about our lost catch, dejected.
Lying there in our bunk beds, my sister and I talked about the loss of the fish. She felt badly that Daddy was so upset in losing the stringer of fish. “Hey,” she said from the upper bunk. “Let’s get up early, wade out in the shallows off the beach, and see if we can catch anything.” I quickly agreed. We thought that big fish might come out to feast on the little minnows we see swimming around our ankles. Plus, there were still plenty of worms left.
The next morning we hauled ourselves out of bed early and put on our swimming suits. We walked down to the beach and left our stringers and worm container lying in the sand. Baiting our hooks, we waded out until it was starting to drop off. We were right about the minnows and big fish. The tiny fish would dart away in schools as we waded into the water. Standing still, looking down into the cold, clear water, we could see them slowly swim closer to us. Almost immediately we got a strike. Then another. And still another. Amazingly, we’d filled all 12 hooks on one of our stringers in what seemed like a few minutes. Not little throw-backs either, these were big bass. Then we doubled them up. Two fish per hook. I don’t know how many we ended up with but we must have filled two stringers and then some.
We headed back when the sun was starting to get high, sunburned and tired. We couldn’t believe the number of fish we caught, and Mother was amazed too. Daddy had come home from the clinic for lunch, and we showed him our catch.
I don’t think he got much of a chance to eat lunch, because he immediately started to clean them for us. Boy did we fill the freezer with fish.
“A failed family fishing outing turns into a memorable story.”
– By David D. Good
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