Awhile back I got lured into going fishing. “It’ll be fun,” chirped my wife’s brother, Ted, late one afternoon. My wife comes from a long line of Swedish hunters and fishers. A remote cabin in northern Minnesota stands as testament to their affection for taking the lives of Bambi’s, Yogi’s, and Nemo’s extended families. This summer vacation found me at the Swedes’ base camp, otherwise known as “the cabin.”
“Yeah, I guess we could give it a go,” I told Ted as I swatted another mosquito. Not a huge fishing fan (I’m actually quite skinny), I figured going fishing was better than sitting around feeding the local insect population. I hoped to die of old age, not fall off my camp stool later that night a victim of West Nile virus.
Knowing there would be no relief in sight once we left shore, I headed for the Swedes’ restroom. That’s when I remembered there wasn’t one. So I plodded across the dirt road to the outhouse, where several squadrons of needle-nosed bloodsuckers hailed my arrival, knives and forks in hand.
Soon we were on the lake. Ted glanced upward. “Plenty of cloud cover. Fishing should be pretty good.”
Why he thought there would be fish in the sky I didn’t know. Later he told me that fish love to hang out in the shadows, kinda like I used to do on report card day.
At the far side of the lake Ted cut the throttle and opened the tackle box. “OK, which spoon do you want to use?”
“I don’t need a spoon—I brought a sandwich.”
Ted’s eyes rolled upward, which I’ve noticed happens a lot when he’s with me. He should probably see a doctor soon.
“A spoon is what attracts fish to the hook,” he explained. I chose a stylish blue “spoon,” attached it to my line, and waited for the action to begin.
Later I was awakened by some commotion on Ted’s end of the boat.
“Looks like I’ve got a pretty good-sized northern pike here,” Ted said, expertly reeling in his victim. A nothern pike, by the way, should not be confused with an attractive-looking fish. Think of a trout that’s been sucked through a vacuum cleaner hose and has retained that shape. Slap a coat of thinned-down green Army jeep paint on it, and you’ve got yourself a standard issue northern pike.
By now Ted had hauled his big catch into the boat. Glancing down at the flopping specimen, he let out a groan.“Oh, man, the fish swallowed the spoon!”
I’d always thought it was “The cow jumped over the moon,” but what do I know?
“Well, hand me that pair of pliers from the tackle box,” Ted instructed.
Somehow I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.
“OK, now you hold its mouth open, and I’ll work the spoon out.”
Strange as it may seem, I had never been trained in how to hold a fish’s mouth open while someone stuffed pliers down its throat.
Nor did I know that northern pike have really, really sharp teeth. But now I do. I am told that my ear-piercing scream may have set a new world record for pitch, volume, and distance.
Grabbing a towel to staunch the flow of blood from my fingers, I stared with eyes narrowed at the repulsive creature now writhing on the bottom of the boat.
“Get off the bottom of the boat,” I told Ted. A brother-in-law convulsed in a fit of hysteria is good for practically nothing when it comes to rendering first aid.
There are several lessons from this fish tale that I wish to share with you teens:
1. Before going fishing, consider whether there might be a safer activity, such as bungee jumping off the Space Needle or diving headfirst into nuclear waste.
2. Talk to a teacher or your principal about adding Fish Spoon Extraction and Other Repugnant Techniques for the Sportsperson as a course elective for next year.
3. Try Jesus’ method of fishing. It may not always be safe, but it promises to be an eternally satisfying experience: “Come along with me and I will show you how to fish for the souls of men!” (Matthew 4:19, TLB).*
Now I’m pumped. Let’s go fishing!
*Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.