Old joke: What’s the difference between a bedtime story and a fishing story?
A bedtime story starts, “Once upon a time …”
A fishing story starts, “No shit, this really happened!”
OK, so here we go.
No shit, this really happened!
It was a Pandemic Friday morning. Much like this morning, gray and dreary, and nothing on my calendar (imagine that), so I grabbed a cooler, a water bottle, the latest issues of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, a lawn chair, a box of nightcrawlers that had been in the basement fridge for a couple of weeks and threw them in the back of the Jeep beside my fishing rods and tackle box and headed for Crown Butte Dam west of Mandan, N.D.
My intention was to drop a couple of bare hooks with night crawlers attached about 4 feet under a couple of bobbers, and sit back and read my magazines, hoping to not get interrupted for a couple of hours.
It took me about 20 minutes to get there, another 10 to get everything hauled from the Jeep to the bank and a few minutes to get baited up and settled in my chair. It took another 10 minutes to figure out which way the wind was going to blow the bobbers.
Got that done, got the bobbers floating about 40 yards out in front of me and headed back to the Jeep for my magazines. Got ‘em. When I got back to the chair, I looked up and I could only see one bobber. I figured out which one was missing, grabbed the rod, set the hook, and pulled in a nice 16-inch rainbow trout. That’s a big trout for me. I had been there once before this spring and caught a 10-incher, which I took home for Lillian for breakfast.
This one was no breakfast trout. This was supper.
I got some water in a bucket threw him (or her) in, rebaited the hook, sent it out into the lake and sat back in my chair. I never got around to the magazines. I decided that I better keep an eye on the bobbers. There’s not much more fun than watching a bobber disappear below the water.
I saw it happen twice in the next half hour or so. Both times I pulled in similar sized trout. After the third one, I baited the hook back up and casted it back out and then thought maybe I should check and see what the limit is on trout. I had assumed it was five, like most other game fish, but I hadn’t fished for trout in many years and thought I better check. So I took out my phone and Googled up the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website.
And it’s a good thing I did because I found out the limit is three. Which is how many I had in the bucket. Wow! I caught a limit of trout in just an hour or so! It’s time to quit!
So I put my phone back in my pocket and stood up to pull in my lines. But there was only one bobber visible.
Uh-oh. Steinwand, we’ve got a problem. Sheesh. How’s that for timing?
I grabbed the rod with the missing bobber and pretty gently started reeling. Sure enough, there was a fish on the other end of the line. My fourth fish. And the limit is three. Aside from momentarily feeling like the best fisherman west of North Dakota Highway 25, I started trying to figure out how to deal with this. There wasn’t another human being fishing on the whole lake, so I wasn’t worried about getting arrested, but I sure wasn’t going to put that fourth fish in the bucket. Fact is, there shouldn’t even have been a fourth fish — I should have quit after three, except that I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
So I didn’t set the hook. I just reeled in slowly. But I was too late. The fish was hooked. Well, I thought to myself as I reeled in, maybe it’s a smallmouth, or a crappie or anything but a rainbow trout.
Nope. The biggest rainbow trout of the morning came sliding right up on the bank. I got down to it, saw that it wasn’t hooked badly, grabbed my needle nose pliers and managed to get it unhooked without touching it and pushed it back into the water, with not much damage. It was only out of the water about 30 seconds. It hesitated for a few seconds, then headed back home to deep water. I breathed a sigh of relief and waved goodbye.
I quickly pulled in the other line. Folded up my lawn chair, grabbed the rods, the chair, the cooler, my tackle box and the bucket with three trout in it and headed for the car. Not, I’ll admit, without doing one more look around to see if anyone else might have seen my big mistake. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
Next time I’ll check the limit before I go. Actually, I wish I could say that it’s been a problem very often in the past. It hasn’t. Rarely do I catch a limit of anything sitting on the bank of a lake or river. Usually I get my magazines read.
Boy, was that a good supper.
No shit, that really happened!