So April 24 was a big deal around the Wollitz house for several years.
Most years, on April 24th, northeast Ohio weather begins to settle into a reliable springtime pattern of warm temperatures and enough rain to wet the roots of the flowers we expect to enjoy in May. . On April 24, the tree buds burst and the bass are in the flooded bushes to eat heartily as the spawning season approaches.
Everything that happens outside accelerates at the end of April.
One more thing about April 24: it’s also Barb Woods’ wedding anniversary to this writer. Thank goodness she said yes before realizing I was hurtling on a collision course toward a passion for fishing that approached how I felt about her.
There were clues, but she ignored them. My early infatuation with fishing seemed pretty innocent in 1976.
I had heard of the spring walleye run from Lake Milton to the Mahoning River, past Shillings Mill to the sills below the Berlin Dam. I knew the crappie were active when the dogwood trees were blooming. I knew the largemouth bass were biting for anglers who paid for their day and rented a johnboat in Evans Lake. I had heard that Lake Erie miraculously produced a limited catch of walleyes and Dad had just purchased a 22ft Starcraft that could handle most anything the big lake could throw.
Barb knew I had a few rods and a green pewter tackle box given to me by my grandfather. She knew that I occasionally talked about fishing projects here and there. Everything seemed pretty normal. I guess she took all the little clues and decided, “What the heck. I’m going to take my chances with this guy.
April 24, 1976 was a beautiful spring day perfect for a wedding. The ceremony went off without a hitch. I didn’t trip or step on her flowing wedding dress skirt. The reception was one big party where everyone was beaming and drinking and even my polyester pals managed to pull it off.
We drove off to start our honeymoon, Barb still unaware of her new husband’s tangled relationship with fishing. But somewhere on the Pennsylvania Turnpike east of the Donegal exit, I let the cat out of the bag when I mumbled a line that still echoes in Barb’s head to this day. She quotes me verbatim in conversations with friends about silly things their husbands have done.
“What a day! I bet the crappie are biting at Pine Lake.
Whoops. I had blown my cover. I was a fisherman in her husband’s clothes.
“What did you say?”
To Barb’s credit, she quit. She actually had a fondness for fishing herself, as she went with her mother, father and grandparents to Port Rowan in Canada on Lake Erie in the late 1950s and early 1960s to fish for smallmouth bass. So she understood why fishing is fun.
Fishing became quite important to both of us, although it took a year after we got married before buying a boat. Of course, each year’s Christmas shopping included another rod and reel for her. We have planned summer vacations to fish Burt Lake and Indian River in Michigan, Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.
Barb certainly recognized that my passion for fishing had grown, but she didn’t get in the way. How cool is she!
Fishing can be overwhelming for those who dive headfirst into the sport. This can put a strain on a marriage.
I believe a fisherman’s spouse is really quite a special person if he and she are able to make it work. At least that’s true in my case. We’ve been running it for 46 years. Happy birthday, Beard!
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