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The Skinniest Fish I Ever Saw

The Skinniest Fish I Ever Saw

Next to the hilarious conversations and rowdy campfire capers, the next best thing about our "fishing trips" had to be the great food, especially the pan frying of a day's catch. All species tasted the same - excellent! Perch and walleye seemed to be the group's preferred fare but crappies, bluegills, catfish, and even the state's "put and take" trout, all melted on the tongue whether breaded, coated with special sauces or spread over with just a hint of butter, salt and pepper. Wash the palate with some cold beer and there you have it - the ideal camping meal.

To accommodate the quick preparation of such meals in anticipation of frighteningly large appetites, the guys would often clean fish on the boats and ice down the fillets. The carcasses (now resembling those cartoon fish skeletons) slipped quietly over the sides of the boats, sinking to obscurity and the awaiting jaws of crayfish and other underwater scavengers...but I digress...

On this particular day, we opted for an early end to the fishing and a speedy banquet of the several baggies full of fillets. Most of the boats came in at the same time, but Freeman and Father Wisdom stayed out a while, taking advantage of the nice weather conditions and their sole possession of the Tub Run cove.

The fire was roaring, thanks to landlubbing Muskie, keeper of the flame. Puff whipped up some of his famous "sauce" (some combination of ketchup and horseradish); other guys breaded the fish or cut up some potatoes for frying. Things were looking and smelling promising. In the midst of the pre-feast oblivion, Hoppie yelled, "here comes Freeman - he's holding something up in the air, but I can't make out what it is." About the same time, Freeman, as their boat slid into the back, laughingly announced, "You guys are NOT going to believe this. Look what I caught!"

And there it was, suspended from his thumb in the standard grab-the-bass grip - the skinniest fish I had ever seen. Freeman had managed to hook in the mouth and land a filleted smallmouth bass, still "gilling" though lacking all side flesh and skin. The resulting explosion of incredulity stands unmatched by any event ever experienced by our group, before or after the day Freeman made that catch. That topic consumed hours at the campfire that night, especially when Gasser got into the biological improbabilities of this never-before- witnessed phenomenon. Guys accused Freeman of rigging the catch and of all other sorts of chicanery and buffonery. Cappy was regarded as co-conspirator. They both swore the catch was legit.

We often tell the story to others, but we are met always with disdainful rejection and bitter expressions of disbelief, absolute denial of any possibility of such a thing happening. Too bad. It's the truth.

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