Fishing With Granddaddy
Summertime is a wonderful time for any kid. No school. No getting up early. No problems. Just a good time for about twelve weeks in my day. I always looked forward to these three months of freedom because I knew that my Granddaddy Harrell would get me to come to Moultrie, GA where he and Grandmother Harrell lived and go fishing with him every day during his two week vacation from work. Every day means every day except those days when it might be raining.
My Granddaddy Harrell was an excellent fisherman. He even had a "worm bed" in his back yard where he grew red wigglers. I remember that after every meal he would take the scraps and turn them into the ground in his worm bed so the worms would have a lot to eat. It was not trouble to find one's fishing bait at Granddaddy's. The turn of a pitch fork would reveal globs of red wigglers. Easy pickings. I remember that we would get up very early every morning, pack us a lunch, load up the boat and head out to some lake or farm pond that he wanted to fish. I remember so well the times that I would be walking along the shoreline of a farm pond or small lake and dig my toes into the sand. I was always looking for mole crickets burrowing around in that sand because the fish seemed to really like that kind of cricket.
Granddaddy caught a lot of fish. I caught my share but he always caught a lot. One thing about his fish string that was always interesting is that he never threw anything back. No matter how small a fish was, he kept it. I later found out why. You see, those little fish about two fingers wide were very good when cooked and eaten the way he liked them. He would scale them, pluck out their eyes, gut them and then he would fry the whole fish head and all. When he finished cooking them, they were crisp like a potato chip. Then, Granddaddy would toss the whole little fish into his mouth, head and all and crunch away. I learned to like them like that too. In fact, I would fix my fishing line with a little "red-eye" hook and try to catch those little ones around the edge because we liked the "potato chip" fish a lot.
But, what we were really after were the big Bluegills or Crappies. I remember that there was one "pond" called Brice's Pond. It was located between Moultrie and Quitman, GA. B rice's Pond was a large natural water pond with thousands of dead trees and stumps in it. One had to know exactly where they wanted to go and how to get there. It was like navigating a maze. Right across the middle of that pond was an old canal which had been dug by slave labor back in the middle 1800's. It was covered over by water when we were there and had been for many years. I remember that the water in Brice's Pond was crystal clear. Where we always went to fish was way out in the middle of that vast natural pond at a place where three trees had fallen over and formed a triangle on the pond floor. The water was so clear that one could see the fish swimming around in their "bed" eight or ten feet below. Granddaddy would always take an ice chest to keep the day's catch cold. I went to this fishing spot several times with my grandfather and we always caught an ice chest full of the nicest fish you ever saw. We would stay out there all day usually leaving about five in the afternoon. Man was I tired when we got home! But, it was wonderful to be able to spend that time with my grandfather. I will never forget those days.
The only thing about catching all those fish is that they had to be cleaned and that was a real task. It usually took us a couple of hours to get the job done but the reward was that Grandmother Harrell would take some of those fresh fish and fry them to perfection for supper that evening. Fresh fried fish, little pan fritters, grits and iced tea. Now, man, that's fittin'. After we finished cleaning the fish it was time to make a trip to the red wiggler bed and feed the worms. Get the pitchfork, turn up the sod, pour in the fish innards, and cover it all up. Those worms were well fed!
We went and fished small farm ponds around Moultrie, GA. To this day, I much prefer fishing in a good farm pond that a large lake. There is just something about farm ponds. Most of them have been stocked with good fish by the farmer and they yield a great fishing experience. I love to walk the edge of a pond and pitch around for a big bass. Exciting and fun. I suppose that I love that kind of fishing because that is what I was trained to like when I was a young fellow fishing with my Granddaddy.
I remember one time when we went to Brice's Pond and granddaddy located us right above a large Shellcracker bed in the triangle formed by the three fallen pine trees. It was his favorite spot in all that vast natural pond. Shading my eyes and looking down into the crystal clear water, I could see hundreds of Shellcrackers swimming around on a large bed where they mated and laid their eggs. We were using crickets as bait with an occasional worm mixed into the menu. You could see the fish swim up to the bait and take it in their mouths. It was quite interesting. Anyway, we caught fish that day until we were tired and our large ice chest was full. It was fun but I dreaded going home and having to clean all those fish. But, granddaddy was a purist. Not one fish was thrown back. Not one went without being cleaned no matter how tired we were. But they sure were good!
There was one fishing trip to Brice's Pond that was quite interesting and eventful. On that particular day, my Aunt Judy, grandaddy's youngest child and my father's sister, went with us. She is only about fifteen months older than me. We grew up more as siblings rather than Aunt and nephew. Well, she was with us that day. I didn't like it that a girl had come along. This was always a "guy" fishing trip. Anyway, she was sitting in the back of the boat and I was in the middle. Somehow, my line got tangled in an old tree top that was sticking up and I snatched it out. I was aggravated! So, I baited my hook again and, with a heated attitude, I swung it around to throw it back into the water. Suddenly, it was hung again. I could just see it in that pine top again so I snatched it, and snatched it again only to hear my Aunt Judy scream at me to stop. Granddaddy also quickly shouted for me to stop. My hook had grabbed Judy in the eye lid. Worm and all was hanging right in her eye. We quickly assessed the damage and found that the hook was stuck in her upper lid. We worked with it for a few minutes and removed it successfully. Needless to say the fishing trip was quickly ended. Granddaddy was mad. Judy was stunned and hurt and I felt very guilty for hurting my Aunt Judy. Anyway, it turned out o.k. since we had already caught a large number of Shellcrackers and Judy was all right after all.
I look back on those days with my Granddaddy Harrell and the good times we had fishing and doing other stuff. Every boy should have that kind of experience. As I think on the good times we had together, I am thankful to the Lord that, as a young boy, I was able to Go Fishing With Granddaddy.
William F. Harrell