Some kids go to camp to play games and swim, but not the boy in my husband’s cabin at camp last week. He wanted to do one thing – he wanted to go fishing in the camp fishing pond.
The camp keeps a supply of used fishing poles for campers, but the lad brought his own fishing pole – a pink Barbie fishing pole. It was short with an eye at one end and another about a foot down the length.
“He was tinkering with it, putting weights and a bobber on in the cabin. He wanted to cast it in the cabin to test it, but I told him he couldn’t do that,” my husband said. Instead, they hooked it up on one side of the room and dragged it across to the other and back. The little pole only had about 20 feet of 6-pound test line, quite enough for the imagination and interest of the camper.
Together, camper and counselor rewound the line back onto the pole and gathered gear to go fishing.
The camper came with his own supply of bait – a bucket of worms and mussels, his tackle box and a fishing rod. They stopped by the camp supply office to pick up a fishing rod for my husband and headed to the fishing pond.
“Can you carry this?” the child asked, holding out everything.
“No. You want to go fishing, you can carry things. We can share the carrying,” and the counselor took the tackle box.
At the pond, the avid fisherman baited his own hook with a worm and threw it out repeatedly to tempt the fish.
With no response, he picked up a mussel, broke the shell and tore it apart to use as bait. The two stood on the edge of the pond casting. The camp’s rod and reel with its twisted string did not cast as far as the toy rod, but the two were having fun. They were fishing.
Any time the bobber moved, the kid jerked it around and yelled, “I got one. I got one!” But when he yanked it out of the water, he had nothing.
“Let’em pull the bobber under,” watchers advised.
But he could not wait that long, for the fish did not bite. He began digging in the dirt to find worms to toss into the pond, hoping to get some action.
The kid asked to switch rods. They did, and my husband recalls, “I got one on this line.”
“You better take this,” he said to the kid, who reeled in an 9-inch blue gill.
It was a fish big enough to satisfy that afternoon’s quest, but not big enough for the week. They returned to the pond every day.
Again the next day, his counselor made him carry his share of the load to the fishing pond and again they caught a fish, a 6-inch fish. The next day it was a 5-inch fish and a 7-inch fish.
But the score of the week came when the child reeled in a 12-inch largemouth bass.
With no way to cook or keep the fish, everything had to be tossed back into the pond. The camp photographer only caught a picture of him holding an 8-inch blue gill.
He did not catch the large alligator snapping turtle that took his bait, but he certainly did go home with the story of the one that got away.
The turtle took the hook on his 6-pound test line. He tugged on the line to pull it to shore. It took the hook and left. He tried again, this time with a treble hook and caught the turtle again. The turtle continued to hang around, so the kid went to the swimming pond and excitedly urged everyone to come and look.
Back with his pole, he bounced up and down with excitement on the log. “He bounced so much, I thought he might fall in,” my husband said.
With the treble hook, the young fisherman managed to pull the turtle – the size of a large frying pan – in close enough for its picture to be made.
It was the biggest turtle that an older fisherman, who had come to watch, had ever seen on a hook. It was too big to be caught on the small fishing line. The snapper fought until he escaped the hook.
Undaunted, the young fisherman put a small fish on the hook and dragged it back and forth in the area where he had caught the turtle. The turtle refused the bait, but bystanders saw the largemouth bass swimming near the surface, chasing the little fish on the hook.
Everyone saw the bass neatly snag that fish for its supper, leaving the fisherman with only his hook to show for his afternoon’s efforts.
At the end of the week of camp, the kid who just wanted to go fishing received an award for catching the most fish that week, another award for hooking the largest turtle and one for catching the biggest bass of the week.
Not a bad week for a kid with a Barbie fishing pole.