72. Catch and Release

72. Catch and Release

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Catch and Release

I’m a guy with a passion for the outdoors. I spend most of my free time fishing. I have waders, both hip and chest neoprenes for stream fishing, two small fishing boats, and two Honda trolling motors to go with them. Of course one can’t fish during winter without the appropriate ice fishing gear — ice fishing tent, propane heater and lantern, ice auger, micro-light fishing poles, ice fishing tackle box to sit on, extreme Artic cold weather gear, mittens, the works.

About ten years ago, my next door neighbor invited me over for Christmas Eve dinner. He happened to mention that his single, twenty-eight-year-old niece might be there. At the appointed time I arrived at his home, was introduced to his niece and her family, and we had a pleasant chat and turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

This girl seemed very nice, and the following day I asked my neighbor for her phone number. I called her and asked if she would like to go out.

“I would love to,” she replied to my offer of dinner and a movie.

Dinner was pleasant, and she was easy to talk with. She even asked what I liked to do. I replied that I was an avid outdoorsman. I suggested for our next date we visit my comfort zone. I invited her ice fishing.

The following Saturday arrived, and I picked her up in my old ’75 Dodge Ram Charger, four-wheel drive with a pop-up camper. When we arrived at the frozen reservoir, I broke out the snow shoes and strapped them on both of us, filled the sled with all the gear, and off we went trudging through four feet of snow for probably a third of a mile.

We found an abandoned hole, so I didn’t even have to drill a new one with the auger. I set up the tent, lit the lantern, set out a folding chair for her and pulled out a fat, juicy night crawler to place on the hook. I suspected she had never fished before when she grimaced as I impaled the night crawler with all three barbs on my size-14 treble hook.

From this point on events happened very fast. I flipped open the wire bail on my reel to allow the night crawler to sink to the bottom. As soon as the bait hit the bottom, my little micro-light bent at a ninety degree angle right at the rod handle, straight down the hole. I had never before had a hit like this. The fish was pulling so hard that I was sure the six-pound test would not stand the strain. “Quick, adjust the drag for me!” I pleaded.

“What’s a drag?” she replied.

“That little wheel at the back of my reel,” I said. “Can you turn it counterclockwise, please?” She found it very quickly, and immediately the line peeled off the reel. I thought I had a nuclear submarine by the tail. About five minutes later, I was pulling a rainbow trout through an eight-inch-diameter ice hole with less than a quarter-inch clearance. I reached down and grabbed the fish by the bottom lip and assisted it out of the hole, opened my tackle box and obtained my needle-nose pliers to remove the hook.

Just then my date became hysterical. “Don’t hurt ’em! Don’t hurt ’em!” she pleaded.

I watched her eyes well up with tears. She started to sob, “Let’s throw him back! He’s gonna die! He’s gonna die!” Her reaction surprised me. In my family, everyone would have been doing the “high-five” thing, sharpening up the fillet knife, heating up the skillet or preparing brine for the smoker. That trout was a minimum of six-and-a-half pounds. His shadow probably weighed a half-pound. I couldn’t wait to show all my fishing buddies this lunker.

I looked at this attractive young girl and then down at the fish, and I did what any true fisherman would do. I kept the fish and let her off the hook.


~Vic Dollar
Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul

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