D. E. Larsen, DVM
Stan pulled into our driveway on his way home from work. I was in the garage and greeted him as he stepped out of his pickup.
“Hi, Stan, what’s up this afternoon,” I said as I shook his hand.
“Dave, you know I have a little fish pond up at my place,” Stan said. “It’s not much, but it grows some pretty good fish. The bunch I have in there now are all about twelve inches long. I am planning to catch a couple of five-gallon bucketfuls Saturday. You are more than welcome if you want to bring your kids up to help catch some fish. It will be pretty hectic. I just throw a small bucket of pellets into the pond, and those fish go crazy. They will bite anything.”
“Sure, Stan, I am sure the kids will enjoy helping,” I said. “What the heck are you going to do with ten gallons of fish?”
“I am going to smoke them,” Stan said. “It takes that many to fill up my smokehouse. It takes as much wood to smoke a small batch as it does to smoke a full smokehouse. Then the problem becomes getting them eaten. I usually put some in the freezer, but my kids are big enough. They can make pretty short work of a bunch of fish.”
“What time do you want to do this?” I asked.
“I was thinking about ten on Saturday morning,” Stan said. “We are supposed to have some light rain later in the morning, but I am guessing we will fill a couple of buckets in less than fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, we will have the girls up there by ten,” I said. “Derek is still too young, but he will enjoy watching.”
When I looked outside on Saturday morning, it was apparent that the weatherman was about as accurate as always. A steady light rain was falling, and it wasn’t seven yet.
I went back to the bedroom to roust Sandy out of bed.
“If we are going to get this crew up to Stan’s by ten, we have to get moving,” I said.
“Have you started cooking breakfast?” Sandy asked.
“I started the coffee,” I said.
“The kids don’t drink coffee,” Sandy said. “I was talking about something for the kids.”
“I’ll make pancakes,” I said. “That is something that they all will eat.”
After getting the girls dressed, I started turning out the pancakes.
“I’m not sure I want to go fishing in the rain,” Brenda said as she seated herself at the table.
“This is going to be a pretty simple fishing trip,” I said. “We will drive up to Stan and Erika’s place, get out of the car and catch a bunch of fish out of Stan’s pond. It won’t take long, and it might be a wild time.”
Amy and Dee were slower to get to the table, but they were there before Sandy came along with Derek. I had taken the kids over the Ames Creek to fish a couple of times this summer. The fish were small and few and far between.
I have always told people that when you teach a kid to fish, you must catch fish. If you are not catching fish, go find something else to do. If the kid asks you what a bite feels like, you have been fishing too long.
“Today we are going to catch a lot of fish,” I said. “And it is not going to take very long. And Susie will be there.”
By the time breakfast was over, I think everyone was on board to go fishing. And Susie had babysat for us, which gave them confidence that they would know someone there.
The entire Walter family was waiting for us when we drove down their driveway and parked by the house. The kids were ready to catch some fish.
Stan was waiting at the pond with a small bucket of pelleted fish food. The rain had stopped, but the grass was still pretty wet. It should be a good day.
This pond was not large. It was rectangular, maybe ten feet across, and thirty feet long. There was a small stream that ran through the pond.
“I dug this out and dumped a load of river gravel in the bottom,” Stan said. “It is eight to ten feet deep, and the fish do really well in it. The stream is not year-round, so we fish it out before the stream drys up. Then in the fall, I order another batch of fish.”
“The banks are pretty steep,” I said.
“Oh, yes,” Stan said. “You wouldn’t want a pond like this with kids the ages of yours. But it works well for us, and we use it just as another farm crop, fish instead of chickens, I guess.”
“So what is the process here?” I asked.
“Ralph and Tina have dug a few worms this morning,” Stan said. “I plan to throw part of this bucket in the pond, and these fish will go wild. It won’t take fifteen minutes to fill those two five-gallon buckets. You and I will have a hard time unhooking the fish and baiting the hooks.”
We got the poles ready and baited the hooks with a small piece of worm. Sandy was holding Derek, talking with Erika, and waiting for the start. We threw the lines in the water, and Brenda had a fish before Stan threw in the pellets. I quickly put Brenda’s fish in the bucket and got her line back in the water.
Stan threw in the pellets, and fish boiled to the surface. The kids all seemed to pull a fish out at the same time. Stan was helping Tina and Brenda, and I took care of Amy and Dee. Ralph and Susie were old pros to the process and caught the lion’s share.
Amy’s pole had a big bend, and she struggled to pull the fish out of the water.
“Do you have any big fish in here?” I asked Stan.
“No chance for a big fish,” Stan said. “These are just put them in and take them out. Most of these fish are the same size. We might see a ten-inch fish once in a while, but most of them will be twelve inches.”
Amy pulled harder, and I helped with a hand on the rod. Out came two fish on the line. One on the hook and one lassoed around the gills with the line.
“That’s pretty good, Amy,” I said. “Catching two fish with one hook.”
It was probably less than fifteen minutes, and the buckets were full.
“That was some event, Stan,” I said.
“There is nothing better than watching kids have fun catching fish,” Stan said. “I am glad you could come and help with the harvest.”
Ralph headed to the house with one of the buckets, and we cleaned up around the pond before heading home to clean up the kids.
“Do you want a handful of these for dinner?” Stan asked.
“Sandy and the kids are much for eating fish,” I said. “I might take a couple, any more than that wound just be wasting them.”
“Pick out what you want,” Stan said.
“Thanks a lot,” I said. “For the fish and for the kids getting a chance to catch them. One of these days, I will have to talk to you about how you smoke them.”
“I don’t do anything special,” Stan said. “Just some salt and brown sugar in a dry brine.”
“I was talking with a guy who said that he would smoke a bunch of kokanees, cut off their heads and tails, and then can them in quart jars,” I said. “He said it worked great.”
“I haven’t tried canning these,” Stan said. “With this crew, we generally just eat them. If that isn’t going to happen, we might stick some in the freezer for a couple of weeks, but that’s all.”
“Well, thanks again,” I said as I loaded the kids into the car. “I will check with you sometime next week.”
Photo by Mateusz Feliksik from Pexels.