Figuring it Out

I believe that no matter what we are doing that we should always be trying to improve ourselves. Isn’t it better to be more successful today than we were yesterday? The same goes for hunting and fishing. You try new things in search of the right recipe for success in the outdoors. I’ve recently taken two more trips along the Pearl River in Mississippi in search of that recipe for a cooler full of fresh fish. The first trip was not so plentiful in terms of flesh to return home with. The second was more fruitful in that regard. Part of that could be applying different tactics and part of it could be the river stages. I’ll just have to keep going to figure out the true reason for catching fish versus not catching fish.

My first trip of this post was taken with neighbor and friend, Dave Brooks. Dave is a Master Sergeant in the US Army and lives across the street from me. He’s the kind of guy you want close to you. I haven’t figured out much that Dave cannot do yet, aside from telling me that he refuses to stick his hand in a log to catch a fish. Give it time and I’ll have him talked into that too. Our trip began with a trip to a local bait shop in Columbia, MS called DJ’s Bait Shop. I’ve heard that goldfish make for good bait when running lines on the river and I’ve never used them so I wanted to give it a try. The owner of the shop is a rather colorful guy that we find out lives right across the river from the boat launch. The conversation turns to the recent flooding back in the early spring and he shows us pictures of his home, which took on plenty of water during the flood. It was hard to imagine the river getting that high up as his house sits high on the river bluff. It’s a reminder of how ever changing the river can be which provides me with hope that my luck from my previous trip will change as well. Dave and I get our camp site set up and get the poles in the water baited with goldfish. I feel almost overconfident in the positioning of the poles and of the bait we are using. We return to camp to cook dinner when I realize I didn’t bring anything to start a fire. Oops! I make the decision to head back up the river to run into town to get a lighter which turns out to be a good decision. A couple of other local fishermen were taking their boat out of the water and asked if we’d like to have some fish that they caught. Are you kidding? Of course I’ll be happy to take fresh fish off of your hands! It’s a good thing we did given that we didn’t catch but one fish on our poles that night. The bait seemed to work well since they were all missing every time we checked the poles. The problem was they must have been very easy to get off of the hook without the targeted species being hooked. The trip wasn’t a bust though, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dave. He’s been all over the world and has great stories to tell about his adventures. His kindness to others is unparalleled and his enthusiasm for spending time with friends is something I can learn from. He wasn’t nearly as bothered by the lack of fish as I was, which reminded me that trips like these are more about fellowship than they are fishing.

The second trip of this post is one that I have been putting off out of fear of the unknown. My daughters, Mackenzie (8) and Collins (5), have been asking to go on an overnight camping trip for a while now. While I am overwhelmed with joy when they want to go do something outdoors with Dad, I am also a little apprehensive in taking two kids under the age of 10 on the river with no help from their mother, or anyone else. I finally gave in and decided we’d go with thoughts of a disaster in my mind. I figured we’d get out on the river and when nightfall came they’d be begging me to go home. Fortunately, this didn’t happen. For this trip, I also decided to change my approach again when it comes to the bait we’d use. I went to a local pond owned by a friend and caught a few bream that afternoon to use for bait. We arrived at the river and only set out 4 poles. I figured 4 would be plenty to have to check at night with two kids in the boat which was a good call. The bream were also a good decision. The bait did its job and we caught four flathead catfish on the poles ranging in size from 5 pounds to 10 pounds. A very nice haul for so few poles being in the water, especially considering my lack of luck the last couple of trips. We also cut up one bream and did a little tightline fishing from the bank. This was the most exciting portion of the trip. We hooked up to a 16 pound blue cat which provided some much needed excitement right around bedtime when I figured the girls would be begging to go home. As I laid down to sleep, somewhat afraid our tent would spontaneously combust in the South Mississippi heat, I thought about how thankful I am to be able to do this. It took me back to trips when I was a kid with my father and my uncle. I have such fond memories of those trips and hope I can provide some memories for my kids that will last for years to come. I’m not sure when they will want to go back, but I won’t worry nearly as much as I did the first time. This time I’ll gladly be ready to load up the boat and head that way.

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