"Lesson: Never try and beat the big-budget papers

The other newsweekly in town, you know, the one owned by a predatory billionaire out-of-state corporation, had a story last week about pay fishing lakes, where dumbasses go and fork out cash to catch farm-raised fish.

The story made me jealous. I’ve been employed as a reporter and columnist for close to 20 years and nobody’s ever paid me to go fishing. So I asked my bosses for some money to take a scenic cruise of Michigan’s fishing spots.

They laughed at me. Even when I scaled down my request, and wanted to do a bed-and-breakfast tour of Sheridan, Ind., they told me to STFU and get back to work.

So I did what I often have to do: improvise. I’ve made fun of my apartment complex before, like when they refused to fix my AC for a few years and then said the place was too trashed for repairmen to enter.

But one of the good things about where I live is the free “stocked lake” right outside my patio. The brochures for the place boast about how they release fish into it every year; in fact, the brochure makes it sound like you could hold a freakin’ bass tournament there.

Actually, it’s more like a drainage ditch or retention pond than it is a lake. I see plenty of ducks and geese, the occasional turtle and even some mean-looking fish.

It isn’t any bigtime Beech Grove pay lake, but if I was going to take a fishing trip on my limited budget, it would have to be here.

There once was a big aerator in my part of the lake that kept the algae growth to a minimum. But since my landlords cut the maintenance budget to zero, the lake has gotten pretty green and dank, like a glass of Midori mixed with a few shots of Log Cabin syrup.

Despite this fact, people fish in the thing all the time. The other day, I watched a 40ish woman spend a few hours at the bank of the lake, dividing her time between watching her line and yelling at her children.

She looked like a younger version of John Madden and wore a fire-red tube top that strained and struggled to cover her ample belly. I don’t know which was more entertaining: listening to her tell her kids not to wade in the lake, watching her pull a few carp out of it or seeing her roll up the bottom of her tube top and slather Coppertone across her stomach.

In an attempt to become an expert fisherman, I bought a cube of 30 Pabst Blue Ribbons, made a few baloney sandwiches and took them down to the lake. I was in luck. The woman with the tube top was out there and gladly let me use her fishing rod in exchange for a few cold cans of Pabst.

“You gotta know the secrets of fishing this spot,” she said as she helped herself to one of my sandwiches. In between furious chews, she explained that the carp required a special kind of bait. Regular worms wouldn’t work. She used Wonder Bread, she said.

“It’s gotta be Wonder Bread,” she told me. “The FMV or Wal-Mart bread just don’t seem to work. Damn, this is some good baloney. I bet it’s Oscar Mayer. You look like the kind of guy who’d spend a little extra for some quality.”

“Damn straight,” I said, giving her a big smile. “I appreciate quality, whether it’s in baloney or in my women. I couldn’t help but notice that you like to wear Faded Glory clothes. You know, Faded Glory represents the best that Wal-Mart has to offer. There’s something special about you.”

You could drive a double-wide trailer through the gap between her front teeth, so wide was her smile. Not only was I getting a paid fishing vacation, I was making a new friend.

But any thoughts of seduction I might have had were rudely interrupted by a tug on the line. “You’re getting lucky today,” she said seductively. A half-chewed wedge of baloney had adhered itself to the corner of her mouth, making her even more alluring.

For a few minutes, I was engaged in a Moby Dick-style battle to the death. This monstrous fish was testing the limits both of the fishing line and my strength. It was man versus fish in a World Series of fishing.

My trophy eventually surfaced. I had succeeded in snaring one of the rarest of water animals: a blue shopping cart from the nearby Osco. Slime and mud dripped from its panels.

My new friend laughed. “Looks like you aren’t so lucky after all,” she said. “A shopping cart. Hell, you don’t need to go fishin’ for one a-them. I got three in my living room you can have. They’re free if you walk fast enough.”

For some reason, this made me angry. “Looks like you ain’t so lucky yourself,” I said. “I’m married,” I lied. “Your next baloney and Pabst are comin’ from some other sucker.”

I picked up my styrofoam cooler and walked back upstairs to my apartment.

The lesson learned? Leave the big-budget fishing vacation stories to the corporate papers. Give me a snot-colored lake, a cube of Pabst and a 300-pound fishing companion anytime.





Recommended for you