Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pocket Pliers and Unexpected Catfish



I've carried a Gerber Clutch pocket tool most of the past year. It's got a knife, pliers, and a few other gadgets. I'm a father now, and it seems like a father should always have a knife and a screwdriver.

Last Sunday, at the New Community Church fall festival at the Hart's farm, I got a chance to justify the pliers. We had a nice cookout and played some music. The Harts have two small ponds where folks fish. Several from our church were making use with rod and reel. The evening autumn sun set slowly, and the cooler air revealed a mist over the water.

Hayden, Oren and I jumped on the last hay ride of the day. Oren sat in my lap most of the trip -- I didn't have my jacket, and he helped me stay warm. Mr Hart drove at a moderate speed all around the lake.

As we neared the picnic area, we spotted comotion. A boy fishing with his Mom had something on his line. He couldn't see it yet, but we all knew it was bigger than the hand-sized bream he had been catching!

Finally, we saw it emerge: a catfish roughly twelve inches long. It was too big for us to eat; the meat would have tasted bad. But it was a great fish to have caught.

The 60-something Mr Hart stopped the tractor and went to help. "I didn't know there were any more of these in here!" he said. The fisherman's mom said, "we just wanted to release it -- but I don't have any pliers to get the hook out of its mouth!"

I needed no more invitation. I handed off Oren to Hayden, jumped over the side of the hay wagon to the ground. Unfolding my Gerber Clutch (tm), I was unsure whether I wanted to remove the hook.

My only other hook-removal experience was in 2001. Chris Vaughan and I were fishing at the Whatleys' pond in Cook County, Georgia. Chris caught a nice big bass -- but the hook was deep inside. The bass had swallowed deeply before the hook set. So removing that hook was something like surgery. We struggled with the needle-nose pliers for what seemed like an hour. The poor bass was out of the water a long time -- though we did see it revive a bit after the successful operation.

Fortunately, the Hart's catfish had been more careful when it took the bate. Mr Hart delicately handled the fish with the expertise of a man who has clumsily handled a catfish in the past, and now finds himself handling another. The hook was in the fish's lip -- if fish do have lips, and my pocket tool was up to the task, and within a minute, the catfish was free to return to its bottom-feeding duties.

So carrying a small pair of pliers did turn out to be smart.

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