The Little Zoologist

We spent much of the day casting out spinner baits and then reeling in huge clumps of green algae. We’d peel it off after a few minutes work, toss it on the bank, and then cast out for another try.

By the time the sun was at it highest and hottest point, we were getting more than a little frustrated, so we decided to call it a day. But as we carried our rods and tackle boxes up to the car, Dad had another idea.

“Let’s head across the street for a few minutes,” he said pointing to the other side of the pond which sat on a farmer’s private land.

We crept onto the property and Dad sent us over to a shady spot between two dense evergreens to get started while he went to ask the owner if we could toss in a few lines. I never found out if Dad really talked to the man or if he just said he had, but I didn’t think about it too much since I was enjoying the new spot in the shade.

Dad and I continued to cast our spinner baits in search of bass. But my brother, the little zoologist, was always seeking the thrill that came by uncovering new wildlife. On top of this he loved being different. It shouldn’t have been all that surprising when the seven-year-old fell head over heels in love with the assortment of weights Dad had packed inside his tackle box.

“I want to use this!” he shouted, holding the heaviest of the weights over his head.

“What are you crazy?” Dad asked with a laugh. “It’s for salt water. You’ll never catch anything with it here.”

“I want to catch a shark,” he responded.

We couldn’t argue with his stone cold logic. So Dad obliged and set up a line that held a weight and a hook with a fat night crawler hanging from its pointed end. You might have thought my brother was fishing for flounder or weakies.

It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes after he heaved the weighted line in the water that he tugged back on his rod and proclaimed, “I got something! I got something!” The rod was bent nearly in half as he struggled to keep it steady.

My dad and I both smirked. “It’s just the weight,” I said. “There’s no fish on that line.”

“I swear! I caught something!” he insisted. “It’s gonna pull me out!”

Dad reached over and supported the line in my brother’s hands, and when he did a sudden look of disbelief washed over his face.

“Uhhh…I uhhhh…think you’re right,” he said. “You might actually have something on here other than bait. Pull it in!”

My brother pulled and tugged and wound his reel with all the might a seven-year-old could muster, and with a little help from Dad he managed to snag what amounted to a brown, slimy creature from the black lagoon. It was a channel cat, and it must have weighed at least five pounds.

My brother inched his face closer to his catch so he could look it in the eyes, and then he couldn’t resist tickling its grandpa-like whiskers.

“It’s a monster,” my brother announced with the air of all the fishing knowledge he’d accumulated in under a decade of life.

We took the catfish off the line and waved goodbye as we watched him descend to the murky depths of the Puppy Pond. I imagine he’s down there right now awaiting a visit from another little zoologist some lazy, Sunday afternoon.

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