Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Frog days of summer


On a hot, muggy day in the middle of the summer of 1982 my oldest son, David, could almost always be found around the small lake that was situated outside the back door of our home in Union, Ky.
As a family, we had been fishing in lakes and farm ponds from Canada to southern Kentucky and at 12-years-old, David was a pretty fair fisherman.

A fishing trip in 1977 to Rice Lake in Canada had given all four of us "fishing fever." It was like fishing in a barrel when we took the small Jon boat out on the lake. The fish were biting as fast as we could bait a hook and get it in the water. Our evenings were spent cleaning the fish, eating them and preparing them for a trip home. We brought a large cooler of fish back to Ohio when our vacation was over and we were "hooked."

We took up camping as a family hobby and always had our canoe and fishing poles ready for action. I dubbed us the "adventure people." We caught bass, cat fish, blue gill, walleyes, crappie and even an occasional carp. We fished in state parks, large lakes and small farm ponds. If there was a body of water that smelled like fish, we gave it a try.

If we ran out of bait, no problem, the kids learned how to find bait along the banks of lakes and ponds by turning over rocks and catching bugs. Japanese beetles make good bait in a pinch.

There's a lot more to fishing than just dropping a line in the water and waiting for the fish to bite. It's a process and it often requires teamwork. For my husband, it required lots of patience as he untangled lines caught in limbs overhead or unsnagged hooks caught in the moss underwater. Retying hooks, readjusting sinkers and fixing reels that "somehow" got tangled really put his love for his sons to the test. Tempers flared occasionally, but fishing, for the most part, was an enjoyable and relaxing family hobby.

The weather is always a factor in fishing.

My husband, Don, and youngest son, Aaron, took the canoe out on Cowan Lake on a beautiful spring morning. I had opted to wait on the shore during this excursion. About an hour after they paddled out of sight, the clouds started rolling in and the temperature dropped. A snow squall blew in from the northwest and dumped blowing snow everywhere. As I saw the canoe coming toward me, I had to laugh because both of them were literally half covered with snow (their bodies facing the west were white). I don't think the fish were biting that day.

When we had an opportunity to build a house on a small lake in Union, Ky., we jumped at the chance. Having a fishing lake just a few steps away is every fisherman's dream. It just doesn't get any better than that.

David had been catching some good-sized fish out of the lake, but his focus was different this year. He had discovered some large frogs around the banks of the lake and was determined to catch as many of them as possible. He baited his pole and dangled the bait along the edge of the pond tempting the frogs to jump and grab the big, fat, juicy worm.

It took lots of patience and a quick, accurate snap of the wrist to snag a frog and he became an expert. As he caught frogs big enough to keep, he and his dad skinned them and prepared them for the freezer. It took quite a few frogs to get enough to fry so we stockpiled them.

By the end of the summer of 1982, he'd kept a running log on the number of frogs he caught and announced that he had snagged 60 frogs. The fish in the lake got a reprieve that year, but it was considerably quieter around the lake on a summer evening.

We eventually moved from the house on the lake, but family memories of fishing, camping and canoeing still keep resurfacing. The canoe was sold, but it has been replaced with a Jon boat. The poles and tackle box aren't used as often as before, but now our grandchildren are on their way to becoming "hooked". It has become a generational hobby.

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