Having no options for watercraft other than canoes, when the grandkids want to fish, we head to our neighbor’s docks and it works out well.
Baiting, unhooking fish, untangling lines and sometimes helping them cast, being all on the same dock, I’m never more than a few steps away from the action. And I was the only one who never let go of a line from a dock. Until last month. But after an appointment with a heart surgeon, I was told not to do anything that involved putting pressure on my chest injury. That meant no paddle. And since my canoe was my fishing boat, if I was going to fish, it would have to be from a wharf.
As a small child with no access to watercraft, I did much of my fishing on wooden platforms. Stepping out onto the dock last month, cane in hand, I realized I had come full circle.
I knew where the fish were. The grandchildren had already captured and released most of the resident fish population.
Settling into a lounge chair, I threaded a worm onto the hook, pulled the bobber into place, and threw it at the edge of the water lilies. The bobber bounced once and disappeared from sight. A sharp hook and seconds later I swung a large sunfish onto the dock. For the next hour, I could barely keep up with the action. When I left I had caught and released a dozen large bluegills and bluegills – a pretty good catch considering I was a short walk from home. However, what I wanted most was to go out and fish in a canoe.
“Don’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk,” I was told.
For doctors, this meant a taboo on the paddle.
I begged to disagree and brought a carbon fiber paddle to my next meeting with my doctor. I pointed out that a 12 ounce carbon fiber paddle was much easier to use than a 2½ pound wooden or plastic paddle.
Astride a bench, I showed them that the correct technique was to use the upper back rather than pulling on the chest and abs when pulling the paddle through the water.
I had to be convincing because they gave me an OK to get a canoe out.
However, there were a few limits to my paddle outings.
Since the canoe weighed over a gallon of milk, I had to rely on Cyndy to launch the boat. And the 10-pound anchor also remained on the beach. He also dictated how I would fish.
Normally at this time of year I’m ripping spinner baits through weed beds or dropping wacky worms in open spaces between patches of aquatic vegetation.
Not this year.
Trying to carry a bass or northern pike into battle would definitely put undue stress on my healing chest. So for the first time in my life, I’m fishing and hoping not to get hooked on a big fish. This summer, the target species is sunfish.
After spending so much time indoors, it was absolutely liberating to be out on the water with a paddle in hand.
Fishing, however, presented some challenges.
Without an anchor, all fishing I’ve done was from a drift canoe, which isn’t always a good plan if you’re bobber fishing for panfish.
If there was the slightest breeze, the boat drifted and the fishing became frustrating.
My solution was to stay near the shore near my home where the woods and cabins would block the wind.
I found myself looking for panfish in places I had paddled thousands of times but never fished.
Some of these spots were productive. One night I grabbed a bunch of edible sized gills and sunglasses from a little patch of weeds just down from my house.
It was definitely more fun than the low yield I used to fish for pike or bass on summer nights.
I found that August, widely known as the low point of angling season for trying to catch fish, was a good time to try panfish, because those fish-sized finny swimmers a pint always had a good appetite for pieces of live bait. And I don’t have to go far to find them. Who would have thought that heart surgery would help improve my fishing. But this summer will be remembered as one where following doctor’s orders proved to be a prescription for fishing success.