Can you remember your own first catch?

I am a daydreamer, prone to let my attention wander as I ponder impossibly huge topics like the infinity of our universe, the origin of life and the number of fish I have reeled in during my decades as an angler.

Virtually everything we experience has a beginning and an end, so the boundless expanse of galaxies and black holes is pretty much incomprehensible for most of us, as is the thought that at some unfathomably distant point in time there was no life.

And for us anglers, as unthinkable as it might seem, there was a time when we had never experienced the joy of a cast, the satisfaction of a bite and the thrill of reeling in a fish.

I was reminded of this recently when the host of a national radio show asked me about the first fish I’d ever caught. I hadn’t been expecting the question, so I had no answer on the tip of my tongue.

We who fish certainly had moments when we caught our first-ever fish. For most of us, however, our introduction to the pleasure of fishing — that first catch — has faded into the cacophony of experiences that became the foundation of our love of fishing. It happened, though we can’t exactly put our finger on it.

But the radio show host had asked a question and his audience of listeners would be waiting for my answer. My brain clicked the “think fast” button.

I have given that question a considerable amount of thought. But many years have passed since Dad took me fishing at beaver-dammed ponds off Leffingwell Road in Canfield, the railroad trestle at Berlin Reservoir, the strip mine lake at New Middletown Farmers & Sportsmen Club, trolling Junebug spinners and nightcrawlers for Milton walleye, and various other who-knows-where adventures.

The scenes are still recognizable, even after many years. I see visions of darting schools of bluegills. I see the glare and hear the hiss of an old Coleman lantern hanging over the water to attract baitfish during a nighttime crappie outing. I see a lazy largemouth bass on the prowl between the shoreline and inside edge of aquatic vegetation in the crystal water of an old East Fairfield Coal strip pit.

Yes, a lot of history there, but the radio listeners were waiting. My mind raced — bluegills, crappie, white bass, creek chub, bullhead …

Who knows? So I picked one and delivered a soliloquy about bouncing bobbers and spunky panfish and the first sparks that ignited the ember that glows in my soul and fans to flames every time I answer the call to go to the water to fish.

I believe I gave a very good answer. At least it seemed the radio host was satisfied with the description of my first taste most anglers here in our corner of Ohio sample on the road to our fishing addiction.

So again the question, do I recall the first fish I ever caught? It’s not complicated. It’s not like describing the concept of infinity in time and space.

Mine was a bluegill.

Do you remember yours?

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released in May. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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