The clouds were teasing us with sunshine and threats of rain. With sweatshirt and a jacket, I was prepared for the shady, cool wind and also had the sun and bug lotion close at hand. Tom was at the wheel as I shoved the boat off from the dock at the public access.
"Let's try right here this time," he said. We'd taken our fishing poles out on Lake Wabedo four times this year, and so far had seen nothing but 5-inch perch and a few rock bass. "Maybe we'll have better luck."
"Wheeeee!" went the reel on Tom's first cast. "I got one!" followed almost immediately. He worked the largemouth toward the boat, and we knew it was a keeper before we even saw it. He "high-fived" me as I flicked on the live well's aerator switch.
He adjusted his spinning rig and cast again. Then on his third cast he caught another keeper. "I guess we're having a bass dinner tonight, aren't we!" I said. The largemouth leaped out of the water in protest, but his fate was already sealed.
Tom didn't keep that pace up all night, and I had no luck with panfish. However, we tried out another new spot, and Tom caught three smaller bass to round out our meal. It was the first meal caught in our new-used boat. It was the first time we'd used the live well. It was a very successful outing.
We stayed on the lake awhile longer, and then we checked the live well. Uh, oh! "They're almost dead," Tom said. "Guess we'll have to go in."
We'd certainly had a successful evening and had caught plenty to make our dinner. We even saw a doe come quietly down to the water to drink -- just as we have every other fishing trip this summer.
We were sorry to see, though, that the crowded live well hadn't kept our keepers kicking very long. It looked like we had one piece of equipment on the boat left to master.
"Next time we'll have to keep bringing fresh water in," Tom suggested, "to make sure they're getting enough oxygen.
"And make sure we have a stringer as a backup," I offered.
I inspected for weeds after we trailered the boat. "No weeds again!" I confirmed. It was less than two miles home, but the dirt road seemed bumpier than it did on the way out. Maybe it was just knowing those fish were getting knocked around behind us.
Tom took the filet knife from its dusty sheath and prepared to filet the bass on my new stainless-topped kitchen island. The now slimy fish slipped off the clear acrylic cutting board and stuck to the newspapers as he carefully cut into the meat.
"Better watch for bones," he apologized, "I'm butchering these filets."
Blackie the cat sniffed the air with hopeful whiskers and a watchful eye.
"You just need more practice," I explained. "You'll just have to keep catching them!"
I poured too much milk into my egg mixture. "Guess I'm out of practice, too," I said.
I stretched the Louisiana Fish Fry by adding some corn meal and readied my fry pan with olive oil. We complemented our meal with a little bit of leftover potato and macaroni salads and added a slice of bread to help with any bones.
We sat to enjoy our long-awaited dinner. The two dogs drooled and hoped for a few dropped morsels. The plastic bag full of fish guts sat on my pine and stainless table. And the thick smell of fried fish hung heavy in the air.
Without a bone in sight, the season's first fried fish filets went down just fine.
(Diane McCormack is a correspondent for The Brainerd Dispatch and a freelance writer living in north central Minnesota. Send comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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