Remembering those days of summers past

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2017

From time to time, I just like to take a drive around our lakes and take in the beauty of the area. I have been pleasantly pleased with the number of our youth I have seen fishing our lakes. This is something that is encouraging to me whenever I think about the future of this great sport in our state.

As a youth, I would spend many hours of the summer fishing Fountain Lake, and this only fueled my love of the sport and my desire to visit many more unknown (to me) bodies of water.

Each spring, as the ice turned to water and the crick that ran under Bridge Avenue was flowing fast and high, I would be at the bridge looking for signs of fish. This time of year meant a fresh start of a summer that lie ahead. As I watched the tadpoles turn to frogs and many schools of minnows pass through on the way to Goose Lake, I kept a keen eye out for bigger fish. There were schools of bullhead, some small crappie and sunfish, carp and, every occasionally, a northern would be spotted — which really caused the adrenaline to flow.

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As summer settled in and the water slowly subsided, there was less activity in that little creek. These were the times when my thoughts of fishing turned to Fountain Lake and what was swimming below the surface of that larger body of water. I would get up early or as early as a kid in summertime would. I’d eat some breakfast, grab my fishing pole, a can of worms and a few extra hooks and sinkers and be off on a new adventure.

I would usually start my day by fishing below the Bridge Avenue dam. After a couple of hours, I would decide to move on — sometimes because of the fishing and sometimes because a group of city kids would show up and take away my peace and quiet. We always got along. I’d guess this was because we had a common interest and that was fishing. I would eventually move on because, even to this day, I prefer not to fish in a crowd.

Next, I would work my way to Katherine Island fishing from the bridge and eventually working my way along the shore of the island. You could always catch these little blueish-green sunfish we called rubber tails and they never seemed to have any size to them. Bullheads were abundant in those days and you would occasionally latch onto a big one. As the day started to heat up, the fishing would be cooling down so I would decide to call it a day. On my way home, I would usually stop at the Northside Creamery for a chocolate marshmallow sundae. This was my favorite ice cream treat and, to this day, my mouth will begin to water whenever I think about it.

My friends in the neighborhood and I would sometimes want a little different adventure, so we would hop on our bikes and ride to the mink farm, which sat where Bancroft Bay Park is today.

Now, my fishing gear consisted of an old tin box that aspirin or fuses came in — the box contained a couple of hooks, some sinkers or if no sinkers you could use a nut off a bolt. I would wrap my fishing line around the box and stuff a cork in my pocket and be off. Once we arrived at the mink farm, we would find Paul Schneider, a schoolmate who lived by the farm. We would then go to the locker where Willie Schneider, Paul’s uncle, would cut some horse meat into small chunks for us and this is what we would use for bait. I believe he charged us a quarter for a little package of bait.

I would make a throw line with just a hook tipped with a chunk of horse meat a sinker and bobber. We would catch some huge sunfish and some dandy yellow-bellied bullheads. Those fish loved that meat and it was tough so it hung on the hook through quite a few fish. Once in a while, I’d get creative and break a branch off the willow tree we fished by and make a fishing pole. 

Those were the days of our youth when life was simple and uncomplicated — we were kids without a care in the world. Oh, there were consequences to pay if you didn’t tell mom where you were going or if you didn’t get home when you were supposed to but those were minor hiccups.    

Until next time, take the time to encourage our youth to get outdoors and enjoy all the natural wonders nature has to offer. Fishing is a great sport anyone can enjoy without much expense. If you introduce a kid to fishing, he or she will be hooked for life.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.