By Mike Steely

I don’t fish very often, not as much as I’d like to. I’ve fished deep sea, from ocean beaches and piers, with my kids and wife or by myself, and caught just about every variety of fish.

Nowadays I fish occasionally and usually from the banks of the Tennessee River or in city or county parks. I’ve driven to Northshore and fished those banks but mostly I fish near my home either at Victor Ashe Park or Fountain City Park.

One Saturday morning I took an hour or two and drove to nearby Fountain City Lake, or if you wish, “The Duck Pond.” I know the little lake had been stocked with trout but I wasn’t fishing for trout—I was fishing for anything I could catch. I no longer keep the fish I catch and turn them back into the water.

Long ago I learned that if you don’t eat what you hunt or fish then let the animals remain free.

I chatted with a middle-aged couple who were having their coffee beside the water and then baited up and threw my line the water. I got a few bites but as the sun was beating down, I saw a large tree round the lake and walked over to squat in its shade.

My gear is simple, a collapsible rod, cheap reel, and a tackle box with assorted sized hooks, bobbers, some plastic worms that never draw a bite, a knife, pliers and my bait. I suppose most fishermen and women don’t carry their bait in their tackle box but mine is special.

I was fishing a pond in Florida a few years ago and ran out of “real” bait, live worms. I wasn’t doing much good and started to leave when I remembered I was eating something that might appeal to fish. So I began carrying that with my tackle.

It was a regular, not hot, Slim Jim stick of jerky. I bit off a small piece, hooked in through the skin, and tossed it on a line with a bobber. In that Florida pond I began catching fish after fish, taking photos of each one and then tossing them back. I was so pleased when I went back I showed the photos to my wife who, not surprisingly, was not impressed.  But she humored me.

I sat down on my tackle box beneath the tall tree and found small circle waves in the water. I watched as the huge mulberry tree dropped berries into the calm lake. Each time a berry hit the water there was a flurry of fish waves although I don’t think the fish were eating the mulberries, just excited that something was happening above them.

So I rebaited with my prized bit of Slim Jims and tossed the line in. I had several bites and caught a small brim. That’s brim, not blue gill, there’s a difference. I took him off the hook and let him go.

I tossed the line out again and realized I was fishing in a hole of very small fish near the shore. So after losing most of my bait to the tiny fish I pulled the line in, baited up again, and tossed it out deeper into the lake.

Then I started thinking about the mulberries. I remember them as a child and pies my grandmother would make from them. With my line out I walked over and picked a couple from a low tree limb and walked back through the hundreds of crushed berries along the sidewalk.

When I sat down I saw my bobber was going crazy, bobbing up and down and being pulled this way and that. I took my rod and jerked, realizing whatever was on the other end was not small at all.

The cheap reel I had was skipping as I tried to land the fish. I had to pull the line and then wind it, finally getting the fish to the shore. I had hooked a good sized carp and I’m sad to see that overgrown trash fish in the Fountain City Lake. Carp is related to Koi goldfish.

There’s an old story about how to cook a carp. You scale and gut the carp, place in on a greased cooking board, put it in the oven at 350 degrees for thirty minutes, take it out, throw away the carp and eat the board. That’s how tasty the oily carp is.

Landing the fish was fine and unhooking him I reluctantly put it back in the water.  I took a photo to show my wife and went back fishing briefly.

I hadn’t planned to fish for long and the march of several large geese up the sidewalk toward me, with the leader honking like I was in their way, prompted me to pack up and leave, tossing the bit of Slim Jim from my hook into the water for the fish.

A half stick of Slim Jim remains in my tackle box, in its package, ready for the next time I decide to go fishing again.