You don’t look like a librarian

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The catch is a mix of perch, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

I set out for another fishing expedition Friday morning, determined to avoid any more misfortune. I picked up my boat in good time and was on my way to the W.A. Taylor Conservation Area for some pan fishing on the Rideau River. The plan was to stop at Manotick Bait & Tackle to pick up worms, minnows and a couple of slip bobbers on the way to the river. Manotick Bait & Tackle opens at 7:00 am. I got to the bait shop at about 7:45 am and was greeted by a man seated in a pickup truck. He told me the bait shop was closed; that the owner would be there at 8:30. “So much for avoiding misfortune,” I thought. I noticed the pickup truck had logos for various fishing tackle and boat companies. While I waited for the owner of the bait shop to arrive, the man seated in his pickup truck told me he is friends with the owner and had come up from Seeley’s Bay to see him. As we waited for the bait shop owner to arrive, we chatted about fishing, life and the vagaries of fortune.

The man seated in the pickup truck told me he was from Ottawa, that he attended Lisgar high school. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of fishing and showed me a photo of the two record bluegills he caught. We talked about fishing on Colonel By Lake outside Kingston. I remember bass fishing on Colonel By Lake with my dad back in the mid-1970s. He mentioned the time he caught a muskie by the Bronson Avenue Bridge in Ottawa, next to Carleton University. I told him I work at Carleton University. He asked what I do at Carleton, and I told him “I am a librarian.” He laughed out loud and said, “you don’t look like a librarian.” He continued our discussion, telling me how he beat cancer 12 years ago and since then took a more significant interest in his health. He said he lost 80 lbs and continued to exercise and watch his diet.

The bait shop owner arrived at about 8:15 and said to the man in the pickup truck, “Hi Jim.” I realized then that it was “Big” Jim McLaughlin with whom I had a nice chat. I asked if he were “Big” Jim and he replied that he was. I told him I remembered seeing him many years ago at the Ottawa Boat Show. I told him how happy I am he beat cancer and that he is still with us. He said he enjoyed meeting me, wished me well and a good fishing trip. The bait shop owner proved quite generous too. He gave me extra minnows, and the two slip bobbers I selected, on the house. He was bothered about keeping me waiting.

With my bait secured, I continued to the boat launch at the W.A. Conservation Area. I waited my turn to launch when I got there. It was busier than the last time I launched. This time I made sure my boat was securely tied to the dock before leaving it to park the Jeep and boat trailer. I set out for my pan fishing honey hole off the tip of James Island and got there in short order. I had a general idea where to drop anchor and cast a line, but had to shift position with the boat a couple of times before I found just the right spot. I took note of landmarks for the next time I try this spot. I have hunting buddies who have young children. The pan fishing is, and I am sure the children will have fun catching perch and sunfish here.

As I hoped, the fish were biting. This time there must have been a school of perch in the area. I caught several perch, most being too small to keep. I found lots of pumpkin seeds and a few bluegills. I kept the pumpkinseed and bluegill if they were more than 7″ long. This time I brought a cooler and a fish whacker. I decided if a fish is a keeper I would stun it with a blow to the head, then put it in the cooler. I hoped this way the fish would die quickly without regaining consciousness. The cooler would keep the fish chilled, and the meat would not spoil. I caught far more fish than I kept; most of the fish were too small. I had a couple of snags with the fishing line. It is true; this cannot be avoided. This time, however, it was not on the reel that the line snagged. It was when the hook and sinker got tangled with the slip bobber and rod. I had to cut off the bobber, sinker and hook once and retie the line.

I saw other men in boats casting nearby as I fished for bluegill, pumpkinseed and perch. I saw lots of casting, but no fish caught. By about 1:30 pm I had 14 bluegills and pumpkinseed and one perch in the cooler. The line snagged once more, so I decided to call it a day. I pulled up the anchors and motored back to shore. I had to wait again to recover my boat. There were more people out the Friday before the holiday weekend. It was a good day on the river, though by the end of the day I was drained. Who knew fishing could be so much fun and yet exhausting at the same time? That said, I look forward to my next fishing expedition.

Posted by Geoffrey

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