Sports Column: Fishing. Oh, how I love fishing.

BY MATT VAN WAGENEN

matt fishFishing is an activity which has been around, well, since the early time of mankind. Civilizations have used fishing for thousands of years to feed themselves, and fishing lasts today as a major commercial operation worldwide. The fish sticks that you eat on Fridays in Lent have to come from somewhere, and the big blue oceans are a major source of food for millions, if not billions, of people worldwide.

Fishermen in America are often seen fishing on a much smaller scale, like in the backwoods streams, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, ponds, and any other place where the largemouth, smallmouth, Bluegill, Rock Bass, Pumpkinseed, Rainbow Trout, muskie, etc. reside.

There are two main intents with fishing: catch and release or catch and keep. Catch and release is just what it says. You catch the fish, and once you reel it in, celebrate for a few seconds and snap a picture or two. Then you let it go. The other option is to keep the fish, whether to eat it or stuff it for that awesome display in your living room, den, or the proverbial “man cave”.

Fishing can be done for competition as well as leisure. Organizations such as Bassmaster hold nationwide competitions as well as promote the sport of angling. Competition fishing is a hugely popular sport throughout the country, notably in the southern states. Large store chains, such as Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro Shops supply fishermen with endless aisles, web pages, and catalogs of tackle and gear for sale.

Well, I’m sure someone is thinking that it’s pointless to sit all day outside on a dock, in a boat, or along the riverbank hoping to catch a fish or ten that might never come. Au contraire, mon ami! Fishing has a ton of positives. Not convinced? Well just keep reading.

I was probably 13 years old when I first went fishing. I learned in about 5 minutes that I had been missing out on something incredible all those 13 years! Within a few times fishing, I had caught my first largemouth bass and was hooked (yes, pun intended) on it.

One of the best parts of fishing for me has not been the act of catching the fish-it’s been the time spent doing so. I’ve gotten to spend countless afternoons with my Dad, friends, cousins, and Grandpa casting lines out, swapping stories and making new ones. You can really learn a lot about someone else when fishing with him or her-the extent of patience can be seen quite clearly.

I’ve gotten to fish in quite a few different lakes near home. Northeast Pennsylvania is filled with residential developments tucked in the woods that all seem to have at least two or three lakes apiece. Common fish species include Largemouth and Smallmouth bass, various panfish (Sunfish, rock bass, crappies, etc.), Pickerel, Walleye, and occasionally some catfish or the likes. If you ever have the chance to get out on a lake with a small fishing boat, some friends and an afternoon to kill, it’s totally worth it.

My grandfather and I have spent much of our time together fishing from the shore of the Hudson River and from the lake three blocks from my house. Listening to stories of him and his brothers fishing in the 1940s and ’50s when they were kids is always entertaining. Learning a new angling technique and other little tricks of the trade has helped me in my own fishing pursuits. The quality time spent with my grandfather has been unforgettable, and we’ve learned a great deal about each other. So next time grandpa asks if you want to go fishing, say yes. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about him or fishing or both.

Not to mention, the thrill of that fish tugging on the other end of the line is one-of-a-kind. The way a Largemouth hammers the lure, oftentimes jumping clear out of the water after it, is such a rush. Those suckers fight you the whole way to shore. The proud smile in a photo with the defeated beast will always be worthy of the refrigerator.

Now if it’s raining, it might not be such an enjoyable experience to go. Then again, just the other day Mike Rankin and I decided we’d cast out a few lines in the pouring rain. A few hours later, we were cold, soaked, and didn’t do so hot numbers-wise, but we had a great time. Fishing is a great opportunity to kick back, have a cold whatever it is that you drink, have a cigar with the boys or even take the gal out for a date that might be a little atypical by Franciscan standards.

One last note: there are some people who believe that fishing, especially catch-and-release, is pointless or cruel. Fishing is a great way to not only have fun or learn about the people you’re with, but it’s also a great way to get up close and personal with nature that you normally wouldn’t see. It’s awesome to check out the species that you catch and compare them to other fish that you’ve caught at the same place, for example. As for harming the fish, typically the hook doesn’t do much damage to the fish. If you can just pop it out and let the fish go back into the water, it can live a successful life unharmed. Some fish might not make it-sometimes the hook snags in a rough spot or they get injured in the process. If this happens, it’s ok; there are plenty left, I assure you!

Any questions or comments? Shoot me an email at mattmattvw@yahoo.com.

Thanks and good angling!

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