Why I Sometimes Carp About Fishing

Dads LuresCropped

Vintage lures from my father’s tackle box on display in my workshop.

Our blog post about fish would not be complete without saying something about my father.   Fishing was his all-consuming passion.  He was was what you might call an equal opportunity angler:  all fish were fair game regardless of the color of their scales or the classification of their species  (did you know that there are almost 28,000 known fish species?).   Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of hanging out with my father fishing.

Big Bear Lake, where our family vacationed every year, was the furthest he would travel from our Chino home to fish (I think it was about a two hour drive).  We would rent a rustic cabin and every morning before sunup he would take my older sister, Helen, and me to rent a row boat.  He would attach his prized Johnson Sea-Horse 5 outboard motor, crank it up, and head off across the glassy early morning water to a location where he assured us the fish were biting.  We’d be on the water until after lunch and often bring back enough trout, crappie, and blue gill for my mother to fry up for the evening meal.  I truly loved our vacations at Big Bear.

Johnson Outboard bigbear

My sister and her friend, my father, and I heading out.  Note the  Johnson 5 Seahorse outboard engine.

 

lookout4

My dad, sister, and I, circa 1952 on the way to Big Bear. We took a family photo by this sign each year. Note my dad’s shirt pocket.

When not on vacation, however,  my father often took me fishing to Puddingstone Lake which in those days was quite undeveloped and, in my mind, a poor substitute for the splendor of Big Bear Lake.  There were no towering pines along the banks and the water always seemed muddy brown.  Worse, we often fished from the shore.  I spent (seemingly) endless hours  sitting on the bank looking out over the murky water,  bored stiff while waiting for a tug at my inert fishing pole.  My dad’s repeated claim that anticipation was half of the excitement of fishing held little water in my preadolescent brain.

But it gets even more grim.  The below image helps explain why.    It was sent to me recently by my younger brother, Dan, who found this in one our father’s little black notebooks  (which he always carried in his shirt pocket along with his assortment of pencils — see the photo above).

Bait recipe

Excerpt from one of my father’s little black notebooks.  I have no idea of when this was written.

This is not a 1950’s Good Housekeeping dessert recipe calling for strawberry gelatin, flour, corn meal, and vanilla, among other things.   It is a recipe for making carp bait, which  I assume he found in one of the fishing magazines lying around the house.  Out of curiosity I Googled “carp bait” and was astounded at the number of sites that popped up. It is clear that today there is a demand for information about carp and their dietary preferences.  The on-line suggestions for bait range from chickpeas and corn to complicated concoctions similar to my dad’s. Even the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife web page offers recipes for carp bait.  Of the many sites I perused, my personal favorite is the “critically balanced maggot rig” (not a pretty mental picture, but evidently carp love maggots).

Carp Illustratio

What does this have to do with my pre-adolescent aversion to fishing?  Even greater than my boredom was my sense of mortification whenever my dad rigged my pole for carp.   In those days most fishermen who frequented the lake banks found carp to be “junk” fish and immediately tossed them back if they accidentally hooked one (see this for more about that).  My dad, on the contrary, found great satisfaction in catching them and went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that he did.  In addition to the homemade bait, I recall fishing with Velveeta cheese mixed with cotton (so it would stay on the hook).  Of course, in my young mind I was sure that the sideways glances from the other anglers’ around us were looks of disdain.  I yearned for a sign saying “I’m not with him. ”

As I moved toward my teen years I gradually quit fishing with my father and moved on to other pursuits (although there were a couple of periods in my adult life when fishing resurfaced for me, albeit not carp fishing).   My father’s fishing passion, however, remained unabated up until his last years (I am struggling here to avoid a pun about “unabaited”).

Dad holding fish in liv room

My dad with a stringer of fish he caught while visiting us in Colorado in 1972.

 

As it turns out, my father may have been some sort of fishing visionary.  Who knew that carp would become a popular game fish in the U.S.?  So, in retrospect my preadolescent pique regarding fishing from the bank for “junk” fish has turned to admiration for a man who knew what he loved and pursued it passionately.  To hell with the “sideways glances” of disapproval.

Plus, it is kind of cool to have a visionary for a dad.

 

4 Comments

  1. Great story!! I grew up on the waters of the Severn River in Maryland and of course crabbing and fishing was our agenda everyday. Your piece takes me back to those days. I do have to say that the only way we fixed fish was on the grill with some butter, Old Bay seasoning, and maybe a dash of lemon. Marylanders really don’t eat Carp much because it’s so gritty. Love your blog!!

    Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for the comment. I have not been to the Severn River area but it sounds like a great place to grow up. We didn’t discover crabbing until we ended up in Louisiana in the 1970’s and we would go after blue crab. Crab boils were a major social activity down there. I suppose the equivalent of carp in the South were the “alligator gar” which we never ate but the local folks made gar balls from them. I agree with your grilling fish… just some butter and lemon – nothing better.

      Liked by 1 person

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