A Fishing Lesson with King Solomon

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.” bigbullheadwagontrain[1] 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

The Catch of the Day

My favorite vacation memory is of the week I spent at Aunt Thelma’s farm, close to Mt Vernon, WA. We had a family reunion at the same time – must have been close to a hundred people at Aunt Thelma’s house. Several of us younger kids (I was about 8 years old) got the bright idea to go fishing.  We all had to find our own  fishing poles, which we scrounged up from the barn, and we had all taken part in a group dig for night crawlers, too. The worms we found were stuffed into an old can, and we were ready to head out.

We  walked for about a mile on a little path through the woods to a small creek. After about an hour of tangled line, hooks stuck in trees and lost bait, I was the only one who caught a fish! Me – the youngest of the bunch and a city slicker at that! Of course the fish was only about 6 inches long, but I was so happy and proud.

Eventually we wandered back to the house where I had the temerity to ask Aunt Thelma, who was in the midst of organizing a huge picnic lunch for the reunion, “Would you cook my fish, please?” And she did. She fried it up and put it on a plate with some potato salad and baked beans. She also  made a place for me at the kitchen table, which I recall being crammed with desserts for the  picnic;  there I got  to sit and enjoy the ‘catch of the day’. It was a very happy moment, and remains a wonderful memory.

Thanks, Aunt Thelma!


A friend of mine, a non-fisher person known as Miss Debbie because she was reared in the south, worked for an engineering company which won the contract to construct a section of four-lane highway just north of the metro. One of the many aspects of Miss Debbie’s job was to meet the public and listen to the various concerns of the folks living close to the construction site.
At one memorable public meeting, which was attended by the construction company’s legal representatives from New York, citizen after citizen stood to express concerns about ‘d’opener’, and how road construction was going to be a horrible barricade to ‘d’opener’, and ‘d’opener’ traffic was going to slow down to a trickle, etc.
As people were speaking Miss Debbie watched the faces of the lawyers from NY, which were growing more and more concerned about what they were hearing. Miss Debbie began listening to the lawyers’ whispered conversations , and realized that she was witnessing panic rising from  misunderstanding of the word, ‘d’opener’. The legal guys were wondering what kind of dope trade was being done in the small towns of the Midwest, and did their company want to be considered as aiding and abetting criminal activity by building a four-lane highway which would eventually help speed the criminal activity!
At that point Miss Debbie addressed the meeting to explain that ‘d’opener’ should be translated as ‘the fishing opener’ and had to do with the spring ritual of thousands of Minnesotans driving north in their vehicles to begin the very legal walleye fishing season.
The lawyers relaxed, the citizenry at the meeting laughed, and Miss Debbie had a fish-tale to tell about ‘d’opener’.