The Big One that Got Away – I Didn’t Land the Fish, But What a Memory! (Part 2 of 3)

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II


“Lightning never strikes twice!” Literally speaking, that’s not very sound advice. Lightning has been known to strike the exact same spot multiple times, sometimes even more than once during the course of the same storm. Take for instance the Empire State Building. The tower at its peak is struck by lightning 23-times a year, on average. Figuratively speaking, fishermen know that “lightning” sometimes does strike more than once in the form of a big fish. If you miss a fish, there are times it will strike again on a subsequent cast or possibly later, if you return to the same spot and try again. Also, there are certain factors that make specific underwater lairs conducive to attracting and holding the biggest fish present. So often times, you can go back to the exact same spot, time and time again, and catch a large fi sh there. That’s exactly what I was hoping would happen when I was fishing with my dad on Sunday morning, July 14, 2019. The previous evening, I had played chauffeur and driven my parents back to their home in Allentown, PA. My mom elected to stay home on Day #2 of our family reunion, so Dad and I were on the road by 5 AM. The 90-minute drive back down to the Susquehanna River was uneventful and we were on the water by 6:45 AM. I had somewhat of a plan for our fishing excursion. The previous time that I had fished with my dad at a family reunion, I was able to put him onto a massive 23-inch smallmouth bass. I estimated it went about 4-pounds and Dad beamed that it was the biggest smallmouth he had ever caught from the Susquehanna River, after fishing those waters his entire life. He had hooked that beautiful fish about 200-yards below our boat launch, where there are two massive boulders sitting out in the river, each the size of a mini-van. My game plan for the day was that we would just push out about 30-yards from shore at the boat launch and then anchor. Subsequently, every 15 minutes or so, I would pick up the anchor and let us drift down about 20 yards, drop the anchor and repeat the process. It was a beautiful morning with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Like here in Western PA, the Susquehanna River drainage received a significant amount of rainfall in June and early July, so while the river had fallen a few inches over the course of the weekend, it was still well above normal Summer flow and more disappointingly, it was still running somewhat muddy. The bass didn’t seem to mind the opaque water conditions and had no problem finding our lures. Dad landed several smallmouths ranging from 9 to 12-inches, tossing either white or yellow small Mister Twister jigs. For the most part, Dad was casting out towards open water, while I was plying the shoreline, both of us knowing that a strike could come at any moment, since smallies lurked throughout the river amongst the ever-present rocks on the bottom. Since I knew I would have limited time to fish at our family reunion, I had brought only two-dozen lures in a small case and had left my large landing net at home. After about two hours on the water and halfway down to the two big boulders, I happened to be looking when a massive swirl erupted about 5-feet off the bank and about 10-yards downstream from where I had just cast. Based on my conversation with my uncle the previous day, I immediately thought “muskie”, since the PF&BC has been stocking them in the Susquehanna River in limited numbers for decades. I told Dad about the huge swirl and immediately switched lures from my trusty Gitzit tube lure to the largest smallmouth bass lure I had brought with me, a 6-inch Rebel jointed minnow with a black top and silver sides. Designed to look like an injured minnow moving through the water, I made a cast within a foot of the shoreline, right where I had seen the swirl less than 2-minutes prior. I made only two cranks of the reel handle when something big solidly hit my lure. Fish On! (I apologize, but to thoroughly tell this entire story, I realized I had to expand this series from two-parts to threeparts; so, I’ll finish up next week.) Reminder: The 1st round of unsold PA 2019-20 resident antlerless license applications will be accepted by county treasurers on Monday, August 5, 2019. While a few WMUs have already sold out, most are still available, so it’s time to put another pink envelope in the mail! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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