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Fish Tales #3: the big one

Fishing was a big deal in our house as I was growing up. You might say my childhood was punctuated by photographs of dead fish. Some catches were near legendary in the family, and the story of how my father caught a large sturgeon on a fly rod was told to me I don’t know how many times over the years. Dad would point at my brother Joe, who was a boy when it happened, and say: it was bigger than him and better lookin’ too.

My dad liked to tell the same stories over and over, and he felt free to change them up to fit the audience. He didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story either, so I sometimes I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. One thing for sure – he did catch a whopping big sturgeon and we have the dead fish pictures to prove it.

This was back before I was born. My guess would be around 1955. My dad liked to fish at Montgomery’s Rapids on the Nottawasaga River – for walleye, which we called pickerel, and for migratory rainbow trout, which these days everyone calls steelhead. The rapids formed a deep whirlpool on one side. Somehow, my father discovered that there were huge sturgeon living in that whirlpool, and he was determined to catch one.

In the evening, just before he was ready to quit fishing for the day and drive home, Dad would rig up a long fly rod with a bait hook, heavy leader and a sliding bell sinker rig. He baited his hook with what he described as a big gob of dew worms. He’s just flip the bait into the water and with the help of the long rod, he could drift his bait around and around and around the whirlpool. I believed him when he told me it wasn’t unusual to hook a sturgeon that way. Landing the fish was another thing altogether – he only ever landed one.

Dad bragged the sturgeon was 57 pounds and 57 inches. He brought it home and had the meat smoked, and gave away chunks of smoked sturgeon to friends. I guess the photo was taken in the yard of their home, which was on Methuen Avenue in the Jane and Annette area of the City.

The old photo of Dad with the sturgeon triggered my childhood imagination. It seems impossible, exotic even. I couldn’t wait to go with them and take part in their adventures.

1 Comment so far

  1. vox kadavergehorsamkeit

    Wonderful story well told. The second sentence in and of itself is a thing of beauty.

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