I watched an episode of the Simpsons the other night that reminded me of something I had planned on writing about. In the episode, Homer and Marge go on a marriage retreat; however Homer sees it as more of an opportunity to go fishing than to work on his marriage. While there’s an entire novel’s worth of material right there, and I’m sorely tempted to espouse several humorous anecdotal references, I will refrain and stay on target.
While Homer is out and about, he stops in a local store for bait. There, he hears tale of a monster catfish named General Sherman – so large and so mean it killed the last guy that tried to catch him. According to the clerk, “They say he’s five hundred pounds of bottom-dwelling fury, don’t you know. No one knows how old he is, but if you ask me (and most people do), he’s hundred years if he’s a day.” Homer, of course, declares he intends to catch General Sherman and the rest is, well, ‘Simpson-y.’
While the premise is funny, I’d bet most of you – like me – have a tale of a monster fish. The one GIANT fish in the lake, pond or river that no one can catch. One so wily, strong and elusive that men share tales over a free cup of coffee at the bait store – “Got a hook in him once, but danged if I know where. He drug me out to the middle of the lake and tore off all my line.”
I’ve heard quite a few tales from others. Alan – owner and operator of the charter boat ‘The Rookie’ down in Orange Beach – told tale of one trip. He had taken a well-to-do guy out and asked what he wanted to catch. The guy said, “Shark. And big ones.” Alan takes him out and, as the story goes, after about hours of fishing they hadn’t caught a thing. Eventually he gets a bite and the fight is on. Two hours into the fight the fish begins swimming up to the boat, and Alan climbed to the crow’s nest to take a picture. The shark came up behind the boat and turned sideways, as if to check out who was messing with him. Alan’s snapped the shot, and screamed like a girl…
His shot shows the shark stretching well starboard and port of his boat. HUGE. After apparently declining a treat, or simply tired of messing with them, the shark sounded, stripping off all the line. I’ve seen the pic. I don’t ever want to see that fish again…
To this day, there are tales in Mobile of catfish so large they could eat a man. Seems divers were down there working on the bottom of the dam for Big Creek Lake. After some time they shot to the surface, scared and vowing they’d never return.
I’ve even got a tale or two of my own – encounters with giant fish that I either lost right at the boat or never saw. I’ve hooked alligator gar running upward of 100 lbs that attacked the side of the boat, spitting my line back at me in disgust. I’ve hooked numerous fish in both fresh and salt water that either slowly swam off or blasted out immediately, leaving a wake behind the size of a jet ski. The ones that still make me mad are the ones where the fish grabs the line, then slowly swims off, taking line as if they’re so big they don’t even notice they’ve been hooked.
Man oh man, to see those fish…
My latest encounter with a monster fish actually came with my son on a kayak trip down the Flint. The Flint is pretty shallow for most of the way, but it occasionally gets deep for good stretches at a time. Christian and I had fished our way down to a spot we refer to as ‘White Perch Central.’ WPC is just past the base of very fast moving water, rampaging through giant rocks. The river opens wide at the base, and deep water winds around a slow curve to the left, looking downstream. Beaching to the right, or simply floating just offshore, and casting back into the deepest part of the hole is dynamite. Armed with a black and chartreuse beetle grub, you can catch crappie after crappie from this one little hole.
On the day in question, we had hooked probably six slab crappie, floating just offshore. I was paddling, holding the kayak in place so Christian could get a couple more before moving on. He cast out and, somehow, the line got tangled coming off the spinning reel. As his grub sank to the bottom, he started untangling it. That’s when I noticed his line moving upstream.
I told him to forget about untangling and to just reel. As soon as the slack came out of the line, the fish put on a burst of speed, jerking the kayak out into the river. Christian’s drag apparently jammed and, as soon as the knot in the line was reached, it snapped. When he reeled it end, the end of the line was just covered in slime.
I know where he’s at. I know he’s big. And I know we can catch him. Christian and I will be back to battle The General again. And this time, we’ll have the drag set right.