Cheap rods, foul-smelling bait and one very memorable carpLiving in Nebraska back in the early 1980s my neighborhood on the south-side of Omaha did not lend itself to stringers of cold-water trout and silver chromed steelhead. There were no ducks and there were no deer. We lived in the city and I was just a kid.
By: Darrell Pendergrass, Superior Telegram
Living in Nebraska back in the early 1980s my neighborhood on the south-side of Omaha did not lend itself to stringers of cold-water trout and silver chromed steelhead. There were no ducks and there were no deer. We lived in the city and I was just a kid.
Our home was nestled safely where every dead-end street in Omaha seemingly converged, about two miles from the Interstate and about another mile from the Missouri River. In the summer, as the coolness of night swept over the plains, and as I laid on my bed in the dark dreaming the dreams of a would-be outdoorsman, I often heard the cheers and sounds from nearby Rosenblatt Stadium. Through my window an announcer would call out that Bombo Rivera was up to bat, as in the twilight of his career he played for the minor league Royals. The crowd would grow wild, and you could almost hear the cracking of the bat as Bombo launched another shot over the wall.
Though we were in the city, my friends Larry Nicholson and John Chandler and I were all woodsmen-in-waiting. At night in the summer, we’d sometimes gather on John’s porch, drink iced tea his mother had made, and talk of going deer hunting and pheasant hunting once we were on our own. We bought cheap fishing reels from the hardware store and showed them to one another proudly. We’d wave fishing rods around in the yard in the afternoons and laugh at one another. We were teenagers, but we acted like boys.
And sadly there were neither lakes nor ponds near our homes, so there weren’t any fish to catch, other than the carp and catfish that rolled fat and lazy in the big river. Larry and I once bought a package of expired chicken livers at the grocery store and set them out all afternoon on a 100-degree July sidewalk, to ripen them up, and we used them to try and catch a catfish down by the river. The only thing we caught was a loud tongue lashing from Larry’s mother because we had put the livers out in front of her house.
In October I once went duck hunting with John and his dad in South Dakota. I’m not sure Mr. Chandler knew where we were going or what we were going to do when we got there because we saw very few ducks. We spent two days in the blind on a gray river laughing and talking and drinking sodas. The lone drake wood-duck we managed to tumble from the sky was still alive when John’s dad brought it to the blind inside his coat. We looked it over and the only injury we could find was that a toenail had gotten shot off, so we set the duck in the water and it flew away. And we were happy that it did.
However, my greatest Omaha outdoor experience took place with Larry. I can’t remember the circumstances that took us from our neighborhood but Larry and I ended up near a series of ponds out past the air base near Bellevue. I think his mom was going shopping and she dropped us off. Anyhow, our plans were to catch a carp in one of these ponds.
Larry had brought along a cheap fishing pole and an even cheaper reel that had a broken drag, so there was very little pull to the line. And we had a tub of stink bait. In our minds stink bait was essential for catching carp. Plus, we just liked the idea of having stink bait. Yew!
So, we set up our pole, tossed out our bait and began exploring the ponds. We found frogs and we found mice, we threw rocks in the water and we went swimming, and we generally just wandered around. An hour later we checked the pole, and sure enough we had a carp. And the big fish had pulled out plenty of line.
So Larry took the pole, set the hook, and because the drag was broken he began reeling as fast as humanly possible, with only a little line coming in at a time. The big fish pulled back. Larry’s arm and hand spun crazily like a speeding car tire, and when he tired he handed me the pole, and I began reeling in the same manner. Then I gave the pole back. Taking turns, eventually we managed to gain some ground, and a while later we actually had the carp in hand. A 10-pounder. Larry and I were tired.
Then one of us had the great idea to leave the carp hooked, and we put the fish back in the water and set the pole down, making sure the line was loose. We went exploring again. And we swam again. And an hour later we caught the same carp, in exactly the same manner. In fact, we did it four or five times before we let the carp go.
And today, despite having now caught the trout and steelhead and Canadian walleyes of my Nebraska dreams, that particular carp still stands out above all the fish I’ve ever hooked or ever landed.
Hard to believe – a carp. Funny.
Darrell Pendergrass of Grand View, is a Wisconsin Newspaper Association outdoor writing award winner and director of the Washburn Public Library. His articles have appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Milwaukee Journal. A collection of his stories appears in his new book, “Still Out There: A life afield,” is available for $18 at: Darrell Pendergrass, 52405 Otto Olson Road, Grand View, WI 54839.