Skunked with Friends

I don't play around when catfishing.
     It all started out as a simple fishing trip idea with my buddy Richard and my son Tsion.  Soon it kind of took on a life of it's own.  We were going to head up to Lake Columbia and try to land a flathead catfish.  I imagined sitting on the bank eating a bag of Doritos and lazily watching the steam come off the water.  Then hearing the click of my reel, my heart would pound as I raced towards the water for my fishing rod.  Pulling back hard on the line I would set the hook and battle with a 30 pound monster.  Finally it would all end as I triumphantly hoisted him into the air, took some quick pictures, and then released him back into the darkness.  At least that's what I pictured in my mind.  Suffice it to say, it didn't work out exactly I had imagined, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
A trusted family relic that I am told is not allowed to ever be sold.
     Wednesday night at work I mentioned to Richard that the conditions seemed perfect to chase some catfish on Friday night.  He said he was free and we made some quick plans to meet up at my place around 6pm so we could get to the lake in time to catch some bait and set our lines.  Then on Thursday night while bored at league I mentioned the catfishing trip to JJ.  I knew he wouldn't be interested since he is a "musky fishing only" (imagine the air quotes) kind of guy.  Still he is a great friend and I wanted to offer to have him and his girlfriend stop out and join us.  He said, "It might be cool and he would let me know."  Going off of past experience I knew it was a no and we continued the long and boring process of trolling for muskies.  Imagine my surprise when Friday afternoon I get a text saying he was coming and that he needed to know what to bring.  "This was gonna be great!" I thought to myself.  I was just about finished rigging up my rods when my wife arrived at home and threw me a curve ball.  She said, "I would like to come fishing with you tonight."  Once I came to, (she has never, ever, wanted to fish before) I said that would be great.  "Also I think we should take the canoe so that the kids and I don't just have to sit around waiting for a fish to bite."  Okay, this changed things a bit.  The canoe is buried beneath 3 other paddle driven watercraft in the garage and would take a while to dig out.  Still she wanted to come along, and I love getting the rare chance to hang out with her.  I got the canoe out and the family loaded up just as Richard was pulling into the driveway.  I pulled him aside and explained how everything had changed and that we were about to have a bit of an adventure.  He was fired up and said he was willing to help out with whatever I needed so everybody would stay entertained.  With that we tossed his rods and backpack into the storage container on the back of my Silverado and headed for Portage, WI.
Wife and kiddos on the water.
  We arrived at the shores of Lake Columbia just as the sun was setting and I immediately unloaded the canoe for the wife and kiddos.  Soon they were headed out across the warm little lake.  You see Lake Columbia is a warming pond for a coal run power plant.  It never drops below 72 degrees, even in winter.  It's an eerie kind of place to paddle since your paddle and watercraft actually heat up as you go.  Add to that the crazy steam that comes off the water as the sunsets and it's like something out of horror movie.  It can be a little unnerving, something my wife reaffirmed when she later returned to shore.  "I don't like this place" she said, "It's really kind of spooky out on the water."  I just laughed, although I knew exactly what she meant.  By this time JJ and Andrea had arrived, and Richard was landing the last of the bait we needed to get all of our lines out in the water.
JJ inspecting the bait.
     I showed everybody the slider rig we would be using and explained how to prep the bait for a predatory catfish.  Most people are only familiar with channel cats around here and aren't used to using live or injured fish as bait.  "Isn't it supposed to be dead?" JJ asked me as I was cutting the tail fin off a bluegill.  "Nope, these fish hunt and aren't normally caught on dead baits" I told him.  A quick explanation of where to hook the bait and how to set a circle hook and we had our lines in the water.  Now we just needed to settle into our chairs and wait for a bite.  Of course that's not what happened because despite my warning that it gets kind of cold on the shore at night, nobody bothered to bring along a jacket.
Scouts on fire duty.
     We needed a fire if we were gonna enjoy ourselves.  If I only learned one thing from being a scout leader, it's that kids have more fun and will want to do something again if they're comfortable.  So Richard, JJ, and myself set about rounding up scrap pieces of wood and my lovely wife got a nice fire going.  Once everybody warmed up a bit the stories and laughter started.  We were having so much fun that for awhile I don't think anybody noticed that we hadn't caught a fish.  In fact, we never even got a sniff from a catfish, or any other fish for that matter.  We just ended up having a good time by the water together.
     Soon it was getting late and we all had things to do in the morning and one by one everybody started to pack it in.  We had nothing to show for our trip besides some dead bluegills and a couple empty bags of nacho cheese Doritos.  Now I readily admit to hating getting skunked when on the water.  I don't like coming home with my tail between my legs.  This time however it was okay, in fact I was perfectly fine with getting skunked.  The next morning my kids told the neighbors about how much fun they had catfishing.  At work the following night Richard talked about catching the bait and helping to start the fire with a big smile on his face.  I bet even JJ would have to admit he that he had a good time.  So I leave you with nothing more than the obligatory, didn't catch anything beautiful sunset picture.  Until next time...
Because I had to show you something cool.
     Tight Lines.

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