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Not letting minnows become whale of a problem

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Dear Pete,

I know I haven’t seen or talked to you in many years, but I just returned home from our annual northwest Ontario fishing trip to Sandy Beach Lodge and just wanted to thank you for a fishing lesson you taught me nearly two decades ago.

It’s a lesson I have continued to digest every single August with our family shore lunches of pan-fried walleyes and northern pike. I can honestly say that there has not been a fishing trip that’s gone by that your sermon hasn’t popped to the surface like those Indiana childhood red-and-white bobbers that signaled a hooked bluegill. A lesson I am still attempting to apply to my life.

Motoring up to 25 years of marriage (and fishing together), Steve and I brought the girls (who are now young women and still love fishing) and our new son- in-law of four months.

After the 21-hour drive and flying in on the early-morning floatplane, we divided up into three boats and headed out to catch lunch. My beloved and I always fish together the first day as we have for the past quarter of a century. We happily jig for walleyes as Steve guides our aluminum carriage to the honey holes.

This year the lake for the first two days was a reflective calm sheet of glass — lovely weather that I prefer to the rolling 4-foot whitecaps that hurt when your bum goes airborne and slams you back down onto the hard seats. And yes, I do know that many fishermen and women like rainy, cold cloudy days; I personally am not one of them.

Of course, I have fished in sleet and snow and eaten lunch during a squall. I’ve worn winter gloves, thermals/Under Armor layered with warm clothes under raincoats while fishing, but I personally do not favor the fishing conditions of an arctic penguin.

So why, after 25 years, was I sulking on the first (and part of the second) beautiful day of vacation? We ate a hearty breakfast, so I ruled hunger out. All three daughters and our Tillman son were with us — great family time. We even had the delight of being in Sandy Beach’s Fishing Lodge when Steve’s parents’ friends, the Chicago Dierking brothers, were here.

Why was I grumpy? Because I got skunked the first day. I didn’t catch one stinking fish! Not one.

I blamed it on the fact that there were no minnows for bait — I ALWAYS catch walleyes with minnows. Yes, we had worms, yes we had twisters, but I wanted minnows. I ALWAYS catch fish.

Some days are more plentiful than others, but, darn it, I didn’t even get a nibble. By the morning of the second day, I was kind of unbearable and wouldn’t have blamed the man I said “till death do we part” at all for accidentally shoving me out of his boat. Everyone else was catching fish, but not this momma.

I went down the checklist of potential causes:

No minnows

Faulty rod and reel (it couldn’t be me!)

A guide, who also doubles as my spouse, obviously trolling the boat over the honey holes to his fishing advantage and not mine.

The book I defiantly grabbed to read when I threw down my fishing rod.

On the second morning of “Janet’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fishing day,” I remembered the gist of your sermon: “If we’re not fishing, we’re grumbling.” It’s been 20 years, but I remembered you saying that in life and in church, if we aren’t doing what we’re purposed to do, what God created us to do, we begin to bicker among ourselves.

Kind of like if the body of the church isn’t truly sharing God’s message with her neighbors, they begin to bicker about the color of the carpet. If I’m not doing what I set out to do, I get frustrated and can easily get taken off track.

I just wanted you to know I eventually apologized to my beloved Steven after I remembered once again life isn’t about me but the steadfast act of fishing. My guide found a walleye honey hole the third day, where I pulled up lunch and 11 over-sized walleye before 10 a.m.

P.S. We had minnows on the third day.

Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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