Jo-Ann Boepple: Teach a man (or woman) to fish …

Published 3:33 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

In a local newspaper last week was an article about fishing in Edwardsburg. The article lamented the fact that there aren’t many places in this area surrounded by lakes for people to go fishing. Yes, there are sites at some of the lakes but parking is limited.

Now I am not a fisherman but I have fished in my past life. I grew up on Pleasant Lake and it was definitely a fishing lake in my growing up years. My dad and mother were sometime fishermen.

My mom loved to fish off the end of the pier. We had a pier that had seats on both sides of a platform on the end and my mom loved to sit on the end of the pier and fish. I learned to fish from her.

My dad insisted that if I was going to fish, that I learn how to clean them and he taught me how but I never learned to filet the fish.

Growing up on the lake after World War II, we had only a wooden row boat. The row boat was powered by sweat and muscles. That was one way we all got our upper body workout.

On the lakes all of the boats were wooden row boats with maybe an outboard motor. No speed boats. The outboard was only cranked up if you were out fishing and it started to rain and you needed to get to shore in a hurry. Most of the time they were used to putt-putt out to a favorite fishing spot. During the war gasoline was scarce you had to use muscle power.

Going out on to the lake was a good place for thinking and relaxing.  There were no jet skis, speed boats or water skiers. It was quiet and peaceful.

Our row boat had only three seats, one across the back, one in the middle for the rower and one in the point. It had oar locks and an anchor. The anchor was a cement block on the end of a cotton rope or a bucket filled with cement. Whatever could be found that was heavy enough to stop the boat was used.

Most lakes in the area had a boat livery. A place where you could rent a boat for the day. No one had a boat on a trailer so there was no need for a big parking lot. All you needed was two bits for the boat, a can of worms and a cane pole.

My dad had a John boat long before they were invented. After we were able to buy an aluminum boat, he took the seats out of the wooden boat and put two armed desk chairs in it. That was his fishing boat for him and my uncle. They didn’t catch any more fish but now they could sit in comfort waiting for the fish to bite.

One of my chores was to keep the boat water free. Since the boat was pulled up on shore and had no cover, my job was to keep the inside of the boat water free. That meant bailing the water out with a cup or a bucket, depending how much rain had fallen.

In the spring the boat needed scraping and painting and when it was placed in the water, it took a while for the boards to swell and the leaks to close up. Some leaks didn’t disappear and the boards needed to be caulked.

Sometimes my friends and I would row out to the middle of the lake and just sit. We could suntan, read or sleep on the bottom of the boat. We could tie up several boats together and sit and talk. Life was much slower and easier than it is today.

One of the fishing solutions mentioned in the newspaper article was the thought that the DNR could buy the dock property at the east end of Eagle Lake and make it a boat launch into two lakes. That would provide plenty of parking space for cars and boat trailers.

I’m not sure that is a good solution but it would be nice if there were boat rentals available again for fishermen. After all, our small lakes are perfect for fishing and they provide a great pastime as well as a delicious meal.