017-Fishing Adventures with Mark

Do you need a good laugh today (or at least a big smile)? Stay tuned for a fun song and some funny fishing stories. 

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Back in the mid 80s I had a friend at college named Reed who loved to fish as much as I did.  One day he told me about catfishing on the St. Croix River and how people were catching big ones all the time. He called it brainless fishing and he was so excited and he got me all pumped up for it. He closed out the conversation saying, “hurry man, they’re bitin.’”  I was so excited! 

Big catfish aren’t good for eating but they are really really fun for catching because they’re super strong. The best time is in the evening after dark. Now being from the south, catfish was something that we caught all the time. Smaller catfish, 2 pounds or so, are pretty good to eat but this was strictly big catfish fishing we’re talking about now and we were gonna come back with some real tales. 

Reed and I bought some chicken livers and gizzards, because that’s what catfish like, and got to our fishing spot around 830pm. We were practically running from the car to the river to catch these big catfish. We were so excited and we were almost screaming with excitement like little kids on Christmas morning. 

We got down there and Baited our hooks and cast them as far as we could under this bridge on the Saint Croix, the perfect spot for big catfish. And we waited. 

Now, The stories that we had heard about these big catfish were pretty incredible. I can’t even remember where he heard the stories or read about them but we knew that they were coming. We talked and laughed and waited. We glanced at our rods that were propped up against our tackle boxes so that we could see the end of the rod tip move when we got a bite. And we talk some more and then we reeled in our lines because we knew that somehow the fish had taken off our bait. 

We were ready to bait our hooks again but when we had reeled all the way in, our liver and other chicken parts were still there. So we cast out again and put our rods up against the tackle boxes so the rod tip was high so we could see that rod tip move when the big fish hit. And we talked some more and glanced some more in reeled in  again to make sure the fish hadn’t taken our bait. The bait was still there so we cast out again and talked and glanced and reeled in to check our bait. Two hours or so had past and we realized there were no fish to be caught tonight. We’d been skunked but at least no one was around to see us tuck our tails and go back home. 

#2 

Fast forward several months and we are in Puerto Rico doing our internship together. Reed found a fishing charter somewhere off the East Coast which was only about 45 minutes away. He told me this charter catches the most and the biggest fish on this side of the island. It didn’t cost very much and all you had to do was bring your own rod. And then he said, “let’s hurry man, they’re bitin.’” 

We got everything lined up. I grabbed my rod and a little bit of tackle. I asked Reed if we needed to bring sinkers. He said they provided everything but the pole. I said “are you sure” and he said “Yep. Let’s go!” 

So off we went along with 2 other friends who were fluent in Spanish to the east side of the island. Seven guys were waiting for us there. One of our Spanish-speaking friends started talking with them in Spanish working out the details. We agreed on a price, gathered what little bit of stuff that we had brought and started walking to the boat. As we walked away, we heard these guys mumbling a little bit but Reed and I didn’t know what they were saying. We get down to the boat and now it’s just the Spanish-speaking captain of the boat and us 4. And off we went. And Reed and I were giggling like two elementary school kids on the last day of school. 

We drove for about 30 minutes. When we arrived at the spot, the captain brought the bait to us and we baited our hooks. And I said to Reed, “Can you ask the captain for the sinkers?” Reed turned to our Spanish-speaking friend Nichas and asked him to ask the captain and so he did. And the captain looked at us and he said words that I will never forget, “Sin Plomo? No Lead? Impossible!” 

I think he realized he was basically ending the trip by saying “impossible” and quickly backtracked saying “possible, maybe possible”. Well, it wasn’t. We cast our line but the bait just floated on top of the water. We were in about 100 feet of water and, of course, the fish were down at the bottom. I looked at Reed and he gulped and said he was sorry. We tell the captain we want to go back to the dock. As we are traveling, I’m sitting on the side of the boat staring at the water and I said, “those guys are gonna crack up laughing when they see us coming back in so early”. I said to Reed, “I’m not even gonna look at them. I’m just gonna look the other way.” 

We started pulling into the small marina and one of the guys in the group yells out, “Que Paso?” (What’s happening?) And our captain yells back to them that dreaded phrase, “Sin Plomo.” And these seven guys crack up laughing. They are beside themselves with laughter and our captain starts laughing and I and my buddy and our other two friends were as embarrassed as we could be. 

Getting off the boat, we have to walk right by these seven guys and they are still laughing and I remember turning my head the opposite direction as I walked by them because I was so embarrassed. I was practically running to the car. One of our friends negotiated a reduced price because of our inability to bring what we needed. And we got in the car and left the area as quickly as we could. We were so embarrassed that we could hardly talk to each other. 

As we’re driving home, we go around the curve in a little run-down neighborhood only going about 20 miles an hour or so and right then we had to stop quickly because there was this little old lady, I’m going to put her around 90 years old, crossing the street, this dirt road really, right in front of us and she was smoking the biggest cigar I have ever seen in my life. And it struck all of us in such a funny way that we started laughing harder and harder. It was exactly what we needed that particular moment. I’m sure she didn’t know but man that was hilarious. 

Ever have those kind of stories? I’m sure you do. We all do. 

#3 

Despite fishing disappointments and embarrassment, I still love it and learn valuable lessons along the way! Back in 1988, my friend Paul and I decided to take our two 6-year-old boys fishing up north for a few days. We had found an article in a fishing magazine talking about Pelican Lake in Orr Minnesota. That’s about 50 miles south of Canada up in an area of Minnesota called the Iron Range. It’s absolutely stunning up there. And it’s a good long drive, about 4 1/2 hours or so. It was an area that we had never been to and we’re pretty excited about it. We borrowed a 14 foot fishing boat with a six horse motor, packed up all of our fishing gear and off we went. We also borrowed a small pop-up camper as we were going to be up there for three days. 

We soon realized that Pelican Lake’s Orr Bay was bigger than most lakes close to where we lived even though it was a very small part of Pelican Lake itself. We never really got out of that little bay the whole time because the boat and motor were too small for 4 people on such a big lake. But we had an incredible time. 

We were fishing one morning and  my son was doing something and he accidentally bumped his rod and it fell into the water. Inside I was so mad but I remember getting down on one knee and looking at him and saying, “Steve, you just need to be more careful.” I said it very calmly and lovingly and he felt bad and I didn’t want him to feel bad. Stuff happens,right? 

Fast forward another year and we decide to go fishing again. We had so much fun the year before but we also thought that maybe we could take a little bigger boat and get out on the lake a little bit more. So we borrowed a larger boat which was a 16 foot with a 20 horse motor. Since the boys had such a great time the year before, it was quite exciting to do this again. 

The bigger boat was certainly the ticket. We went up to the north side of Orr Bay (where we had fished the previous year), turned left and went out into the big part of the lake. Pelican lake is about 10 miles wide and about 6 miles north to south. It’s a very large lake. As we turned the corner to go into the bigger part of the lake away from Orr Bay, we saw an island on the right and decided to fish right there. We were in about 15 feet of water and I had a swivel seat as I was driving the boat. The motor was a tiller style so it had a long handle coming off the motor and that’s how you steered. 

Steve came and asked me for some help with something. I put my rod down beside me and I swiveled my seat to face him. Steve said, “dad something fell in the water”. I looked back and realized that I knocked my rod into the water as I swiveled in the seat. 15 feet of water. This was in May. Ice was out about two weeks before and the water was somewhere around 55°. I wasn’t going in after the rod. But instantly, my mind went back to the year before when Steve had dropped his rod in the water and I tried to remember my reaction and I just remember taking a deep breath and being grateful that I didn’t act like a jerk to my six-year-old son over him dropping his rod in the water when I turned around and did the same thing in essence the next year. 

And we’ve had some good laughs over that. As a matter of fact, we even changed the name of the island. The island had a name, Bailey Island. We re-named it Berkeley Island because Berkeley was the manufacturer of the rod I lost there, right in front of the island. 

Steve and I have been doing this fishing trip every year now for the last 34 years and we still call the island Berkeley Island. Good memories. 

Funny or not so funny…that’s not the only island that’s been re-named due to a lost rod or two over the years! Stuff happens but we can make good memories anyway, right? 

Why am I telling you these stories? I love to laugh and make others laugh. Fish and fishing are mentioned quite a bit in the Bible as well.  Jonah and the Whale is one of the most famous fish stories of all time. I’m telling you fishing Stories while listening to a instrumental of a song about Jonah and the whale. Makes sense to me :-) 

If you haven’t read the book of Jonah in a while, I highly recommend you open up the Old Testament in the Bible and read it. It’s only four chapters but it’s quite gripping! It’s a favorite with kids but also has a powerful message for us all! The instrumental you’re hearing in the background is from a song I co-wrote for a sermon series on the book of Jonah called Belly of the Beast. It’s a fun song with an important message. The chorus says: 

When we say no, we say no to God’s best 

We gotta know, that this life is just a test 

When we call out for refuge, He give us His hand 

He’ll never leave us; He’ll take us to dry land 

In a nutshell, Jonah was a prophet who was sent to warn the people of Nineveh of their impending doom. Instead of doing as he was told by God, Jonah ran away and boarded a ship headed the opposite direction. The ship was caught in a storm and Jonah was thrown overboard. He was swallowed by a whale and spent three days and nights inside its stomach. After he prayed for forgiveness, the whale vomited him out on the shore and he completed the work God told him to do. 

Can you imagine. You know the things that we’ve seen in cartoons and otherwise, someone being swallowed by a whale and they’re in like this big cave and they can talk and move around inside there. Obviously that’s not a true representation. Can you imagine being that confined with all the slime and everything else that’s going on inside a whales belly? How Scary would that be? But it says, “in deep trouble I prayed to God and he answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, help! You heard my cry!” You can read the rest of that prayer in Jonah chapter 2. It’s absolutely beautiful. 

So it makes me think, how have I been running from what God wants me to do in my life? That’s a good question for all of us I think. 

I was in a conversation with someone last evening about the experiences that we’ve had throughout our lifetime and the mistakes we’ve made along the way. Some of the experiences and consequences were really really rough but we learned from them and grew as a result. How we wish we could explain this to the younger generation so that they wouldn’t have to go through the same things that we went through. It seems like most everybody has to have their experiences however. 

Do I think God is going to cause a whale to swallow us? I don’t know. As for Myself, I do want to learn from the story of Jonah. I do want to listen and obey and I want to do that with all my heart and energy. How bout you? 

Music makes stuff stick so I encourage you to listen to Belly of the Beast at markalewinemusic.com, Spotify, YouTube or most any other streaming platform. 

Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope it made you smile today. Peace

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