Improving Your Odds at Fishing

Is there ever a reason to not catch fish?  No, the answer is definitely no!  Not if you know how to fish; and my Dad knew how to catch fish.

Dad sent us for fishing worms.  We knew exactly where to go.  Worms love the environment around a sewer exit. 100 yards north of our slate-sided farmhouse in rural southeast Iowa, the land slopped quickly to a gully leading to a larger creek. Halfway down the slope our sewage spilled out of the pipe and on the hillside and then filtered its way into the ground. This formed a moist slightly stinking area that could easily be stirred with a pitchfork, and with every turn, ten or fifteen fat juicy worms would try to take flight from the sunshine they had never seen in their damp tomb.  We could easily gather a half-gallon tin with fifty worms and cover them with the deep black Iowa soil in a few minutes.  Of course, my sister was never willing to get her hands dirty collecting the worms so she was the designated pitchfork operator.  She was the revealer and I, the gatherer. 

Dad loaded three to five poles and a tackle box into our 1948 rusted pickup; and off we would go to the New London country club’s lake.  If lucky, the fish would be biting and Dad would never get to wet his line because my sister and I would keep him busy baiting our line and removing the catch.  Sometimes, fishing with a pole ended without a bite.  Dad hated an empty stringer.  In such a moment, we learned there was more than one way to catch a fish.

You may remember that on one occasion seven of the disciples of Jesus spent the night fishing with no results.  As these hungry exhausted men recovered their empty nets on the Sea of Galilee; they readied them for another day.  A voice from the shore directed them to fish from the other side of the boat.  Probably with some resistance, they followed this directive from an unknown stranger, and dropped their nets out and immediately their nets became so full, they couldn’t haul in the huge catch.  I guess you could call that a divine plan B since the disciples later discovered that the directions came from the resurrected Jesus.

However, my dad had no divine plan B when we could not catch fish.  He did, however, have a number of “not so” legal options for those difficult days of fishing the “old fashioned way.”

He returned to our garage and opened a padlocked wooden box and removed one or two eight-inch long sticks about the diameter of a garden hose.  This box had always intrigued me!  And, now we learned its content. Dad said, “we will catch some fish now.  I promise.”  A thick layer of paraffin covered the sticks, but I chilled when I read the words dynamite and danger.  He also pulled out a couple of caps from another cardboard box and cut two-two foot lengths of fuse wire.  Off we would go to one of several isolated deep holes along the creeks of our farm.  We didn’t know it, but our escape to deep into the farm was to avoid any chance of a game warden hearing the dynamiting and suspect illegal fishing.

I was edgy and excited.  I knew dynamite was an explosive and worried that we could be blown to kingdom come should it accidentally explode.  But, I put two and two together and realized that we were about to create such an explosion that some fish would be killed.  I wondered how many and what kind?  Would they be edible after such a horrific end?

Dad carved a small hole in the stick of dynamite, pinched a cap tightly around one end of the fuse wire with pliers and shoved the cap as deeply as possible into the hole in the dynamite.  Dad issued a warning, “You kids get behind that big oak tree and stay there until I get back!”  I worried frantically Dad would hold on too long to the stick and it would blow up in his hand.  Yet, I was so hoping we would find some really big fish, the likes of which we had never seen.

He went to the edge of the creek, carefully lite the fuse, and threw it into the deepest point of the creek hole.  The length of the fuse wire allowed about 30 seconds before the burning fuse reached the nitroglycerin.  After the explosion and the sight of the water rising toward the sky, we rushed with long sticks to the edge of the creek and collected the stunned and dead fish.  This was just one of Dad’s alternatives to fishing with a pole, and they all greatly improved the odds of catching fish.   With these systems, there was never a reason to not catch fish.


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