Fishing Fun and the Fish That Got Away

A reader describes how her family fished out of necessity growing up, and how they now fish for fun.

Fried Fish

There’s nothing quite like fresh fish dipped in seasoned flour and fried in hot grease.

Olga Lyubkin/Fotolia

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Growing up in the 1930s, the sole purpose of fishing was to put food on the table. Like others of that era, money was scarce in our family. Luckily, I had three older brothers who taught me how to dig for worms and to bait a hook.

Our fishing equipment consisted of long wooden poles cut from a nearby thicket, strong grocery twine for the line, an iron nut tied on one end for a sinker, and either a fishing hook, when available, or a safety pin we opened and bent to form a hook.

Often, we would take home a stringer of pan-size fish for Mom to fry for supper.

Rolled in seasoned flour and dropped into a skillet with hot grease, the delicious aroma poured through the house.

I later married a farm boy from Indiana who had fished at a pond down the gravel road from his family’s house. He said no matter the size of his catch, if he carried a few fish home on a stringer, his mother would fry them for supper that evening.

The fish that got away

Since Paul and I both enjoyed fishing, we often took our three children on weekend trips and vacations, catching fish at nearby rivers, farm ponds or one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.

One summer in the 1950s, our family and my sister and brother-in-law headed to the Salt Fork River.

After choosing a campsite, the men put up the tent and built a campfire. As soon as their work was completed, they hurried down to the water’s edge to cast their lines. The river was known to have a variety of fish, and a few fishermen had bragged to my brother-in-law about the huge carp they had caught.

So, with their lines in the water, the men crouched on the bank of the river, waiting for a nibble. An hour went by, and still no nibble, so the men propped their poles on forked, wooden sticks and stretched back on the hillside to relax.

When my husband smelled our campfire meal cooking, he decided he was hungry, even if the fish weren’t. He had just started up the hill to our campsite when my brother-in-law yelled, “You’ve got a bite!”

Paul whipped around just in time to see his pole disappear into the river. He dashed down the hill, plunged into the water and grabbed the rod. Whatever had been on his line, be it a fish, turtle or serpent, let loose and vanished. And while it’s true that “the big one” got away, a very wet fisherman was just glad to have saved his expensive rod and reel.

Margaret
Sidell, Illinois

Read more reader-submitted fishing stories in Great Fishing Stories and Tales.