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Lake life

A good day with George and Harry

This time of year, when you can go to the lake catch fish, have fun and stay warm, it’s a great day.

So, two out of three ain’t bad, right? You can always warm up later.

A few days back, it was bone-chilling cold and we went fishing, staring straight into a 23 mph north wind. But we caught a load of good crappie and had fun. Plus, we helped with a worthy cause.

It was the first fishing trip of the year for me and my buddy, George. Ya’ll remember George. Can’t say too much because he’s in the Witness Protection Program. He’s not supposed to have his picture taken, but he wanted to show off one of his fish above.

The fish were about 30 feet deep and hanging on structure. We actually went with a friend you acted as a guide to do all the hard work, since little George wasn’t available. To keep him from feeling any pressure about keeping George’s identity secret, we’ll just call him Wild Harry.

It was George’s first time to use live sonar where you can see the fish, the structure and your bait. He was amazed. So much so that he often didn’t notice that little orange “fish” on the screen swim over and actually eat his bait.

“He’s got it. He’s got it,” Harry would say emphatically. George said, “Oh”, and then waited a few more seconds before setting the hook. George is notorious for getting a bite while bass fishing and trying to see how long a fish will swim around with it before he sets the hook.

Finally, George set the hook with similar force that he would on a 10-pound bass, if he ever got one nearly that big to bite. The mighty swooping hook set with the $100 12-foot sturdy green crappie rod would bring the fish up about six feet from where it originally bit. George would have to reel up slack for a few seconds to finally feel the fish actually pull back. Then he reeled as fast as possible to get the fish in the boat. Several times Wild Harry would mumble something about one we threw back missing it’s upper lip.

Several times, George’s fish came off a couple of feet below the surface. Then we noticed in a couple of seconds, the “missed” fish floated up to the surface with the “Bends” and we would net them and put them in the ice chest. Amazing technique. Catch and release and catch. Maybe George did know what he was doing.

The “Bends” occurs when a fish’s swim bladder that helps him stay buoyant actually swells up and makes him float when he comes to the surface too fast.

Oh, and that worthy cause I mentioned? We were trying to help Harry get started up as a fishing guide and gave him all the tips we could to help him catch more fish. He did say over and over again he’d never seen anything like the way we fished. I think he really appreciated it. And he even helped us clean our fish. I think he’s going to make it!

When fishing with the live sonar, only one person can sit up front and drop a bait in front of the target fish. It was George’s birthday, so he got to sit up front most of the day. He finally let me get up front the last 30 minutes, when I immediately caught the biggest one of the day. I even got to chase a roaming school of crappie down and catch one about 20 feet deep on my Zebco and a Road Runner. I’ve tried to do that several times while helping train Harry, but it is the first time I’ve caught one doing it. It was a big moment. Even Harry was happy. And it was just under a pound, perfect for whole frying and not for having to filet.

On the way home, George was really happy. I was, too. We finally thawed out enough to stop on the trip home at King Burger for a snack and a drink. When George paid at the drive-in window, the young lady accidentally dropped a dime from his change. No problem. George pulled up, signaled the car behind us to hold up and he found the dime and two unused ketchup packets. Then he found three quarters, six nickels and nine pennies. He might have found more had the young lady behind us not started honking her horn. We left. George doesn’t like to call attention to himself for reasons mentioned above.

“That’s $1.24,” he exclaimed. “This is my lucky day,!”

Indeed, it was.

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