Angela Henery

Bullets & Bobbers 

There’s nothing quite like fishing in the dark.

One of my husband’s favorite pastimes on cool summer evenings is to head to the lake in search of catfish.

The bottom-feeding fish typically are more active at night, and Led would be out pursuing them until the wee hours of the morning if you’d let him.

I’ve gone on a number of his nocturnal excursions, but typically I start getting sleepy just after midnight.

His tactics for tempting the whiskered swimmers are always the same. He starts by baiting a large treble hook with a hunk of stinky chicken liver. The slippery stuff can easily fall off when casting, so he’s sure to wrap it good and tight. He carefully throws the line into the water, sets his pole into a holder and attaches a little bell to the tip of the rod.

In the dark, it is difficult to see when you are getting a bite, which is where the bell comes in handy. Catfish are notorious for putting up a fight. When they take the bait and yank on it, the pole bends, sounding the alarm. That simple jingle is enough to wake a snoring fisherman 10 yards away in the dead of night.

On those trips, we would pass the time by talking and laughing by the light of a summer moon. He would tell me stories about long-ago fishing trips with his dad and brothers, the fish he caught and the ones that got away. Most of the time we would wind up with more mosquito bites than fish, but that’s often how the best memories are made.

Our most recent experience was this spring at an area lake in an undisclosed location (Led wouldn’t let me reveal his secret fishing hole). We arrived in the early evening and decided to fish from a dock. For the first few hours, we didn’t have much luck, but as the sun began to sink, the night grew colder and the fish got hungrier.

Finally, a tinkling bell punctuated the chilly air and a catfish was on the line. From then on, it was all we could do to keep bait on the hooks. No sooner than he’d get one reeled in and another bell would sound. Several times, he would have to hand me one pole so he could grab another.

I started the night huddled underneath my winter coat on a lawn chair. By the end, I was jumping from pole to pole pulling in catfish and grinning from ear to ear.

We caught 10 catfish that night, the largest of which was a modest 15 inches. Even though we decided against taking any home for dinner, the experience was a rewarding one.

I would encourage anyone who hasn’t been night fishing to give it a go. There’s nothing quite like sitting lakeside, listening to the sounds of bullfrogs croaking in the dark and waiting for the ring of that tiny bell.

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