A Big Fish Story


Over the years, I have done some scientific work for Dr. Wayne (Dingbat) Shell.  In a long and intensive study, I have concluded that there are very few fish in Yellow Creek; or, I am a very poor fisherman.

I’ve tried every method this side of calling the fish up on a telephone. I have fished with a safety pin and string and willow pole; with my new Bronson reel and rod from Sears and Roebuck; and I have done some set-hook fishing, which will be our main lesson today.

Soemetimes there’d be a large assault – me’n brother Jack and all of Uncle Kent’s young’uns, including Charlie. He kept us all entertained. Instead of going around a slough, he’d wade straight across, like an amphibious landing craft. Or he’d tear open a rotting tree with his bare hands, looking for bait. We would, of course, build a fire, then bait and set out some hooks all along the creek bank.

Did you ever notice how the circle of firelight from a campfire  seems kind of like a cozy room … and outside that circle of light seems mysterious and a little scary?

Sometimes, just Ross and I would go. One time we took along a copy of “Forever Amber,” which in those ancient times was supposed to be extremely sexy … We’d sit and read and drink terrible coffee from an old tin can, just getting up now and then to check the hooks.

We were ostensibly fishing for catfish, but what we caught, mainly, were eels. You know the incredible eel story … don’t you? Fantastic. They’re born in the Sargasso Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean. Then they start moving into fresh water, in our case, Mobile Bay. Then up the Mobile River and the Tombigbee and the Luxapilia and finally  Yellow Creek and its tributaries, having overcome dams and locks and predators and all to get there. They’re tiny little things at first, but they grow and grow.

Most people in Frontier Country don’t eat eels. Our loss. In some places they are considered delicacies. Clyde, our hired man, liked them, so Mother would cook him up a mess. I could never develop a craving for them. When caught on a hook, they will squirm and twist and make an awful, slippery mess of the line.

There is a certain amount of danger associated with eel fishing. Once in a while you’ll catch one with legs, and it is a well known fact that an eel with legs is almost as dangerous as a hoop snake.

That “Forever Amber” night, we were sitting by the fire. There was some splashing down right at the edge of the firelight, just enough light to barely see. I pulled up what I expected to be an eel. And that’s when I saw them. Legs! Just instant reaction. I threw pole, line, hook, bait, sinker and … eel with legs … clean on the other side of the creek, into the undergrowth there.

So, don’t tell me about eels with legs. I have been there, just …that … close. We closed down for the night. We were so upset that we got lost on the way home. Wound up right where we had started from.

I’m here to say that we finally made it home, without seeing or hearing any hoop snakes or panthers.

Sorry, Clyde, we didn’t bring home any eels this time; just a scary story.

Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@netscape.com 


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