Prior to becoming so closely acquainted with Mr. Parkinson, fishing was my favorite hobby. I have been known to be out there wetting a line in December, January and February when most people were hunkered by their fires or huddled around their television sets. Of course it’s far more difficult to catch fish in cold weather than it is during the warmer months, but they will still bite if you can find them. The biggest problem is tying on hooks and baiting them while wearing gloves, but even that becomes second nature if you stay at it long enough.
I think it is safe to say that I never let a month go by for well over 40 years without breaking out my fishing tackle and hitting a lake, stream or farm pond. I’ve even gone ice fishing several times, using a gasoline powered drill made specifically for that purpose to make a hole about the size of a stovepipe through the ice.
In fact, the largest walleye I’ve ever caught, a 12-pounder, just barely came through a hole in the ice on Dale Hollow Lake back in the 1970s when that lake froze over so hard that folks were on it having Jeep races. It’s been a long time since any lake in Kentucky has frozen that hard, a good argument in support of global warming. Of course there are people who will argue that it just naturally got colder back then than it does now. I’ve become convinced that there is nothing natural about it but that’s another argument for another time.
In the meantime, my brother Andy came down from Paintsville to spend a couple days with me last week and we went fishing, only the second time I’d been since he took me to a nearby lake about the same time last year.
Actually, we went two days in a row because we did so well on Thursday that there was no way that we were not going back on Friday to catch bluegill that weighed somewhere between one and two pounds. Andy caught one that I am reasonably sure topped two pounds, but I dared not ask a fellow at the delicatessen to weigh it. Some people are fussy about getting fish slime on the platform where they weigh out such things as pastrami, liver loaf and sharp cheddar cheese.
I personally believe that a dead fish doesn’t smell any worse than some of the other stuff they weigh out, but I still didn’t ask them to weigh our catch.
Andy says he’s seen larger bluegill but I told him that if I’d ever seen any that big, I didn’t remember them. And that is very possible because there’s a lot more stuff that I don’t remember these days than stuff I do recall. Which makes it rather embarrassing to run into someone at the grocery store whom I’ve known for decades and not have the slightest idea what their name is.
Anyway, we first went to Owsley Fork Lake, locally famous in Madison and surrounding counties for its big bluegill and red-eared sunfish and where we’d done pretty well a year ago, but after a couple of hours neither of us had caught anything longer than my thumb nor much thicker than the nail on said thumb. In other words, nothing to put in the fish basket.
So we drove a few miles until we were able to get two bars of cell phone signal and I called a friend whose name I can’t mention in the paper because he doesn’t want people sneaking into his private pond. If you could see the bluegill we caught from it, you’d know that it’s a secret you’d want to keep if you ever wanted to go back.
Andy wound up cleaning the catch on both days. His batter recipe, basically beer and eggs to soak the fillets in before shaking them up in a bag of well-seasoned meal/flour and frying them in very hot oil, was so good that I called him on Saturday when I tried replicating it on our second day’s catch.
My effort did not taste quite as good as Andy’s but not a scrap went to waste. In fact, I’m getting ready to nuke the last fillet for a few seconds so that I can enjoy a fish sandwich for the late breakfast I have yet to eat on this Tuesday morning that has your friendly newspaper editor wondering where my column is.