Thursday, July 21, 2011
It's a Keeper
I came upon a pond in a housing development where a few people were fishing. Of course, I always like to watch for a while first to make sure I know who was fishing and who wasn't. There looked to be a father/son team fishing on one side of the pond. Dad was baiting the hook and helping the boy cast. It wasn't long before the bobber took a dive and the boy reeled in a really (and I mean really) small bluegill. Dad removed the fish and tossed it back into the water. Definitely not a keeper.
My attention shifted to the other side of the pond where an elderly man was sitting in a lawn chair holding onto a rod- line in the water. He was a "cute" old guy- kind of round, with a baseball cap smooshed onto his head. I hate to say it, but he was even sporting some plaid shorts. It felt like I was watching a Norman Rockwell painting.
Suddenly the old boy's bobber disappeared, he set the hook and pulled up a fish that rivaled the size of the one caught by the young boy on the other side of the pond. Tiny. But, instead of throwing it back, he threw it into a five gallon pail next to his chair. I watched him do this about three more times- the fish never bigger than a child's hand. Now, there is nothing illegal about what he was doing, I just thought it was strange that he was keeping such small bluegills. It looked like an awful lot of cleaning for such tiny fillets.
The sun broke over the rooftops of the houses and the air heated quickly. The old guy was calling it quits. He packed up his stuff and started walking around the sidewalk that surrounds the pond. He was walking in my direction, so I decided to wait until he got closer before getting out to check his license (no need to sweat if it can be helped right?)
Just as he came up to where my truck was parked I got out and started chatting with him. He was a friendly guy- reminded me of my own grandpa. When I asked for his fishing license, he set down the bucket, and a cloth grocery bag he was carrying. I noticed that inside the bag was a half a loaf of Wonder bread. He dug out his lifetime fishing license from his pocket and handed it to me.
"So, did you catch some keepers?" I asked, nodding in the direction of his bucket.
"Oh, no. I'm not keeping those," he said.
"Ummm. Can I ask why you have them in your bucket then?" I asked, trying not to sound like an idiot.
"Well, I'm going to dump them out over there," he said, pointing toward a house on the other side of the pond, "I want to make sure there are fish in front of my house."
"Oh," I said (because what the hell are you supposed to say to that?). I didn't want to sound rude by asking him if he really thought the fish would stay where he dumped them. They do swim, you know.
I gave his license back and watched him continue to his house. Sure enough, he reached the house he was talking about, and dumped his bucket of teeny tiny panfish into the water. Then he sat on the bank and proceeded to rip the remaining half of the Wonder bread loaf into teeny tiny pieces and throw them in the water after the fish. When the loaf was gone, he stood up, brushed the dirt from the back of his green plaid shorts, walked up to his house and went inside.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But I decided to laugh-just a teeny tiny bit.