This was a young boy’s opening tag line for his class speech. This boy grew up with opportunities to visit his grandparents in the country, where he and siblings spent their weekends and summer days. The boy would take his pole and transistor radio and hike out to the ponds hoping to bring dinner home to Grandma. Eggs and fried fish were his favored dish combo. There were little concerns back then of mercury or lead contamination.
This boy grew up to be my husband. I joined a family of fisher people. Young and old and boys and girls all fish. We have hundreds of shared fishing tales. Who caught the first fish? Who caught the smallest, the most or the biggest? Grandkids grew up with this family sport. Now days it’s a full-fledged competition. We pass a trophy around each year to the honored annual winner. Award ceremonies are held during our year-end holidays.
While he is now man size, my husband remains a child inside when it comes to fishing. Any opportunity to hike out to a pond or small lake; he is there. His desire to be successful with a catch of the day, has grown into something grander. We have observed over the last few years, that the best part of fishing isn’t necessarily landing fish. We are now acutely aware that we simply love the act of walking in nature.
Our adventure on the trail to the pond can be very rewarding and very different day to day. It is rarely dull for us to stand in the grandeur of nature. The peace and resolve it brings us, provides a freshened energy for life. An added reward of the trill and croaking of frogs, turtles peeking above the water, a glimpse of beaver or muskrat slinking by, our dreamy thoughts while watching the birds soar or clouds pass overhead, the seasonal changing colors of wildflowers, the curiosity of the animal tracks, buzzing and darting multitudes of colorful dragonflies and the birds chorus all will be enjoyed regularly at our favorite honey holes. We expect nothing, but yet we are sometimes treated with bigger surprises such as the hooting of an owl, dashing deer or nibbling rabbit, trotting turkeys and best of all yipping coyotes just about the time of an awe-inspiring brilliant sunset.
Unfortunately now our waters are under threat. Outdoorsmen like us are now understanding that our precious waters and all that need it to survive is under threat of lead contamination. When fishing lures, and weights are ingested by wildlife such as fish, loons, swans, eagles and others up and down the food chain, it is 100% fatal. Once ingested directly or indirectly, the poison causes the animal to become lethargic and paralyzed, prohibiting it from eating. Some states are working to ban lead lures, sinkers and weighted hooks. Anglers are taking it upon themselves to reduce this preventable danger to us all by switching to non-poisonous alternative fishing gear made from tin, bismuth, steel and tungsten-nickel alloy. Some alternatives are more easily available than others at local retailers. Others are found via on-line purchasing.
Yes, the hope and enjoyment of the best catch remains with us. But today, we mostly catch and release as we more than ever respect the enrichment of the circle of life among us. For us, as adults, we now understand it has always been about the childlike wonder of the journey to the pond and our time spent in solitude and observance. What theatrical display of wild will bless our souls? Whatever it is, we will surely talk of it later and reflect for years to come.
By: Amera Wild, an active member of the Missouri Master Naturalist Chert Glades Chapter, Missouri Stream, and Wildcat Glades Friends Group.