A friend and I were talking about fishing, which I love, when he told me about a fishing festival that takes place in southern Minnesota in June. It is called “Bullhead Days”. For those who may be unfamiliar, the bullhead is a species of catfish. The brown bullhead is also widely known as the “mud pout” or simply “mud cat.” It is not a thing of beauty, and although they are fun to catch, they are not generally a sought-after fish. In fact, bullheads are considered a nuisance by many anglers. I think it is a great idea to have a festival to celebrate the undervalued, under-appreciated and unlovely bullhead. Why not allow this fish to have a day in which to reap laurels? And I wish the many fisher-folk attending Bullhead Days in Watertown, MN all the best.
Thinking of Bullhead Days brought back memories of fishing in my own hometown one warm June evening many years ago. It was a Saturday night and I was fishing alone on the shores of Lake Fremont. I was fishing solo because my husband, John, had decided to go fishing with his boss, Bill, instead of me. I was miffed at John because I was told that this was a ‘guys only’ fishing trip in a well-appointed fishing boat on a big lake, Lake Mille Lacs, some fifty miles north. I did a slow burn as John packed his things and drove away.
“Fine!” I thought defiantly.”I will simply get my rod and tackle box and go fishing by myself!” And I did.
I was very new to fishing at the time, but I gathered a few supplies, bought some bait, put them all in a clean five-gallon paint bucket and drove to little Lake Fremont, about 3 miles from home. I had heard that sunfish – a lovely, tasty little pan fish – were plentiful in Lake Fremont. I longed for quick success so that I could bring a some sunnies home to cook-up for a meal, but after an hour of bobber fishing, I had caught nothing but bullheads. I tried a few maneuvers to see if I could attract the enchanting and delectable sunfish instead of the ugly bullhead. I changed bait. I changed hooks. I also tried a couple of different locations along the lake’s edge, but nothing seemed to make any difference – I caught only bullheads. I had moved about 100 feet south along the lake once again when a little white truck pulled up close to where I was standing. In the back of the little truck was a little green rowboat. A Native American guy got out of the little truck and slid the little boat from the truck bed and onto the shore in one smooth motion that seemed magical to me. He must have been watching me fish as he got ready to launch the boat because when I pulled in another bullhead he asked quietly,
“You fishing for bullheads?”
I shook my head “no” as I carefully took the bullhead off my hook. “Sunnies,” was all I said.
“Your hook is set too deep for sunnies – you are in the mud,” he offered, almost speaking to himself.
I tried to make eye contact with him, but he was concentrating on throwing gear into the little green boat.
“Thank you,” I said to the back of his head.
He raised his hand absently, then got into his little boat, stretched out and pulled away. I didn’t see him again that night, or any other night that I went fishing on Lake Fremont. But he was right. I got my sinker and hook off the bottom, up out of the mud, and started pulling in lots of sunnies. I had a great time, bringing in several good-sized sunnies and releasing many others.
I also enjoyed showing John my catch the next morning, and I tried not to gloat – much – when I learned that he and Bill had gotten skunked in their efforts to bring home trophy walleye from the large and beautiful Lake Mille Lacs. I never did fess up to the good advice I’d received from the Native American guy, the advice that turned a frustrating, miserable fishing outing into a fun and profitable evening. But in my happy fishing heart, I blessed that quiet, generous man, and asked God to give him many successful fishing trips in his little green boat.
It wasn’t until much, much later that the broader application of the kind man’s words dawned on me. I wonder if you caught it? I believe that wise fisherman deserves to be called King Solomon, don’t you?
“And He causes me to come up from a pit of desolation — from the mire of mud, And He raises my feet up on a rock, He is establishing my steps.” Ps 40:2