Gone fishin’ 26 years in the makingI’ve lived in Duluth my entire life and have never been one for outdoorsy activities. I wanted to be interested in fishing and possibly hunting, but never knew many people who did it. Therefore, I didn’t.
By: Sarah Packingham, Duluth Budgeteer News
I’ve lived in Duluth my entire life and have never been one for outdoorsy activities. I wanted to be interested in fishing and possibly hunting, but never knew many people who did it. Therefore, I didn’t.
That’s how I made it to age 26 without my first fishing license and my first attempt at real fishing.
I don’t count as “real fishing” being 4 and dropping a kids’ pole in the water wearing a Snoopy life jacket on family camping trips. To me, real fishing is baiting your own hook, casting your own line, reeling in your fish and removing it from the hook.
A few weeks ago, on a beautiful Tuesday evening, I had my opportunity to go real fishing.
My trusty guide was my co-worker, Adam, an avid outdoorsman who spends much of his spare time either fishing or hunting, depending on the season.
Before heading out, Adam asked me if I had my fishing license. Of course, that meant I had to go and buy one. I wandered into a gas station one evening and asked to buy a license. I had no idea what the boy behind the counter meant when he asked if I wanted a trout stamp. By the confused look on my face, he could tell I needed only the most basic license.
After paying $18, I walked proudly out of the store, one step closer to being a successful fisher-person.
Little did I know that the license-buying was going to be the easy part. On that beautiful Tuesday evening, I met Adam to venture to our fishing spot, which he just calls Lake X. I guess he doesn’t want to give up his hot spot; can’t say I blame him.
The evening starts with Adam’s explanation: “I’m going to show you everything once and then you have to do it yourself.” For the most part, he was true to his word. He knew I hoped to get over my fear of touching fish and leeches. He knew I wanted to make up for all the lost years of never fishing.
In three hours, I did just that.
Though squeamish at first, time after time I dropped hooks loaded with slimy leeches into the lake. By the end of the night, baiting my hook was easy.
I caught the first fish of the night while standing alone. I felt the tug on my line and reeled it in as quickly as I could. Before long, I was eye to eye with a beautiful little bluegill. Adam showed me how to remove the flopping fish from my line and plop it in a bucket. My first fish was a keeper.
My fear of touching fish was soon addressed, as it wasn’t long before another one landed on my line. It wasn’t the slime that was so bad, but the spikes that stabbed at my hands. The flopping about was stressful; sometimes I had to psych myself up to remove the little guys from the hook.
Throughout the night, Lake X was good to us. We ended up catching 14 bluegills we were able to keep, and a few other small perch that we threw back. I even caught the smallest bass you’ve probably ever seen.
I managed to also reel in a muddy sock and take in some of nature’s most beautiful creatures with a loon and a snapping turtle. I witnessed a beautiful Duluth sunset over the lake while I wiped fish guts on my pants and was able to stomach a sandwich and some veggies covered in the strong scent of fish.
A few times, I waited too long to reel in and my hook became lodged deep within my fish. I learned how to use a small pair of pliers to pull the hook from the fish. This was the most difficult for me, but I managed to get the job done (most of the time).
A beautiful evening in Duluth nature was relaxing and peaceful. I know what it’s like to be a fisher-person and I feel like I’ve been missing something all these years.
I won’t wait another 26 years to get my next fishing license.
Duluthian Sarah Packingham writes about sports for the Budgeteer. Contact her at sarah.packingham @gmail.com