It was Memorial Day weekend and there was an important mission at hand. Catching a fish.
Neither my boyfriend or I had ever held a fishing pole before, but this was the weekend that would all change. We’re outdoorsy….we camp, we hike, so it just seemed like the right thing to do. We drove from Chicago to the Chain o’ Lakes State Park and set up camp at Site #6. Fortunately, there was a Wal-Mart nearby so stocking up on fishing supplies was a no-brainer.
We picked up the second cheapest pole on the shelf, a small tackle box with a bunch of strange and colorful devices, and a bucket of live earthworms. The state park had several fishing piers, and most them were occupied by at least a couple fathers with their kids. We picked the empty end of one of the piers because we figured the marshy and shallow shoreline wouldn’t be a great place to cast a line.
According to the Internet, these fish were supposed to be in this particular lake: bluegill, large-mouth bass, walleye, crappie, muskie, northern pike, bullhead, catfish and yellow and white bass. Yeah right.
My ex_magicianever-patient boyfriend sat with that fishing pole for a seemingly endless amount of time. I had anticipated my ADD to kick in, so I brought along a sketchpad and colored pencils to make crappy art and distract myself. The earthworms would occasionally get yanked off the hook and my boyfriend would reel the line back in to re-bait. To be a good sport, I pretended to help bait the hook a time or two. To save some bait, I attempted to cut the earthworms in half with a rock to make them last longer. While I’m sure this was amusing to watch, it created more mess than conservation.
After a couple hours, we had to give up. The nearby fisherdads exclaimed “What? You’re done already?!” and “Ya didn’t catch anything? I’ve caught at least five already!”. I hated them so much. They weren’t doing anything special. They weren’t putting any more effort into their catches and their pole didn’t look any more fancy than ours. Yet, our mission was failing.
Before the sun started to set, my boyfriend suggested relocating to another pier to see if fish in another area liked us any better. I continued making really bad art and snapping pictures of the scenery to pass the time. Not more than twenty minutes passed before he started yelling. Something was pulling on the line! Some fish was dumb enough to eat the mangled worm hanging on our hook!
I threw my sketchpad on the ground and furiously snapped pictures…hoping to get a shot of his first fish before it decided it didn’t really want to eat that earthworm. The fish stayed on the hook as he reeled it in and we shrieked with excitement. In all honesty, it was a pretty small fish. But after a day of sitting around catching nothing, this was about as exciting as it got.
Prior to this trip, my boyfriend talked scaling the fish he caught and cooking them for dinner on our mini camp grill. This particular fish was not exactly big enough to eat, and I was secretly relieved. The idea of fish guts squirting all over the grill didn’t exactly make my mouth water.
He ended up throwing the fish back into the lake. As I sit here typing this story, I wonder if that fish ever regained consciousness because we definitely played with it while it dangled from the hook for quite some time. (Cue bad joke about plenty of fish in the sea?) I held the fishing pole a few times as well to see if I’d have any luck, but to this day I have still never caught a fish.
We packed our fishing gear back in my Jeep and drove back to the all too familiar Wal-Mart. Going straight to the seafood section, we found individually-wrapped black pepper salmon fillets. Although we didn’t catch these store-bought fish, we just pretended that we did. They were delicious, they were ours, and our mission had been accomplished.