The two women had not fished for a number of years. They wondered if they would still be able to cast with the push button Zebco reels.
The two were my wife of 60 years, Bonnie, and her younger sister, Betty.
I bought plenty of red worms, drove them to the edge of the pond in the four-wheel-drive pickup, unloaded their gear, and set a chair up for each of them. One for me, too, but I don’t think I got a chance to sit down in it.
I made Bonnie’s first cast for her. As she was starting to sit down the bobber went under.
My, what a magnificent fight this bluegill put on as she battled it in. The hybrid reached from my wrist watch to the tips of my fingers and was so broad I couldn’t get my hand around it.
I put it in the live basket as I heard Betty shouting with glee. She added one of similar size to the basket.
These feisty bluegills, a powerful fighter, and one of the very best for eating purposes, kept them both busy as they watched their bobbers zip across the surface and disappear into the clear depths.
The fish, all of them big bluegill, were hungry. Some of them swallowed the long-shank hook so deep down that, after trying unsuccessfully with the needle-nose plyers to work it free, I wound up cutting the line and leaving the hook in.
Into the basket they went. It’s doubtful if they would have survived if tossed back.
Thankfully I had brought plenty of hooks, bobbers, splitshot sinkers and swivel snaps.
A small problem was encountered by the fact that I need new glasses. Tying the knots that used to take 15 seconds or so now required much more time.
I baited their hooks for them a few times, but finally they remembered how to thread the red worm on the hook, leaving a little tip to wiggle.
The women were on their own now with baiting and casting, both doing very well at it. I got a chance to cast the small jig and curly-tailed grub in hopes of catching one of the big largemouth that I knew were in this pond.
I finally nailed a fat ‘gill. That was my limit. Wherever I go fishing these days, one seems to be my limit.
The live basket was getting heavy as I lifted it to put more fish in. I knew who was going to have to fillet these fish. I knew the pond owner wanted to thin the population a bit, but I didn’t know by how many.
I managed to get a count. There were 12 big bluegill in the basket.
There was a bit of a discussion between the two sisters over who had caught the most.
I called it a 6-6 tie and they seemed satisfied.
“That’s it, girls,” I said. “What you catch from now on you throw back.”
“You mean we can’t keep what we catch?” asked Bonnie as she reeled in another.
“Nope. Throw it back,” I said.
Reluctantly, she threw the fish back, then stood up and said,
“Let’s go home. I quit.”
And so we did.
I filleted the fish on the tailgate and tossed their remains back into the pond for the fish to feed on, though I suspect a big snapping turtle I had spotted got the most of them.
And then came the best part of bluegill fishing. I rolled the fillets in one of the two plastic bags in egg batter, shook them in a bag of flour and meal, and fried them to a golden brown, which required about three minutes on each side.
Then just the three of sat down to eat them, with coleslaw and fried potatoes on the side.
BIG BROOD BASS
Four fishermen this spring have donated four huge largemouth bass, still alive and healthy, to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for its Trophy Bass Propagation Program.
The fish will be used as brood stock at the state hatchery near Frankfort to produce offspring to be stocked across the state.
“The goal is to increase the potential for anglers to catch more trophy fish and maybe even a new state record,” said Jeff Ross, biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The four fish now swimming in the rearing ponds at the hatchery weighed from about 6 pounds to just over 9 pounds.
The biggest one was caught in Greenbo Lake. The other three all came from Fishpond Lake.
One of the fish spawned successfully at Pfeiffer Hatchery. The other three were received too late in the year to spawn. All four bass will be well fed in a hatchery pond this year and will be ready to spawn next spring.
Eventually, the bass that survive the three-or-so years in the rearing ponds will be returned to their original lakes.
The state has decided not to accept any more fish for the program until October. Ross said summer’s higher water temperatures place additional stress on bass, decreasing their chances of survival while being held and then transported to the hatchery.
“Waiting until the water cools will ensure that the fish have the best possible chance of making it to the hatchery in good health,” he said.
Offspring of the bass will be stocked this fall at Greenbo and Fishpond lakes, in addition to other locations to be determined.
Anglers who donate bass to the program receive a replica mount of their fish in return.
To qualify for the program, male bass must weigh at least 6 pounds. Female bass must weigh at least 8 pounds.
Anglers who donated their catch this spring include Bobby Webb, Darrick Sexton, Paul Collins and Michael Carter.