Gator bait

The Okefenokee Swamp

Someone once said that there is a thin line between fishing and doing nothing. I have written of the sport of fishing in the past, and those of you who may have read those pieces no doubt understand that I prefer fishing activities that might be better described as the latter than the former.

Anyway, I have an old wooden fishing bobber sticking up out of the corner of a little cane basket I keep on my side-counter in the kitchen. This basket is basically a back-up to my more traditional junk drawer (more on that another time), except the various odds-and-ends in there are more likely to have some actual utility in the near term – with the exception of that bobber. So, one might wonder, why have I not relegated it to the junk drawer? Funny you should ask. Actually, I am not sure. But I think it might be because it reminds me of a great fishing trip I once took with my son Jay and how much fun we had.

Jay was probably only about 10 years of age at the time, and I had driven the two of us up to the Okefenokee Swamp, a Georgia State Park, leaving at the crack of dawn in order to arrive early enough to rent a boat and outboard motor – first come, first served. (FYI, in addition to the typical landscape/waterscape of a swamp in the Deep South, the Okefenokee also has a large and lengthy expanse of lake where one can angle for shiners, sunfish and other freshwater species.)

One interesting characteristic of the Swamp, though, is that along its edges or shallows (where most of the fish reside, or so goes the myth), one will find lots of cyprus trees which grow right out of the water, and which are famous for their so-called “knees. For those uninitiated, cyprus knees are vertical extensions of the trees’ roots that rise above the waterline and are unique, I think, to the cyprus. Well, on this particular day, there was a fairly stiff breeze blowing across the surface of the lake and I was having difficulty keeping our boat in one place long enough for us to cast our lines (no anchors in the Swamp, too mucky on the bottom, and lots of roots and stuff down there). So, I decided that we could throw a line around one of those knees to keep us in our chosen fishing spot. After about ten minutes of, well, doing nothing, we decided to try another. It was at this time that I dispatched Jay to the bow to retrieve the line while I remained aft to operate the outboard motor. But I was having a little trouble maneuvering, so Jay, while standing on the bow seat, put one foot on the top of an adjacent knee in order to pull off the line””at which time I inadvertently backed up the boat just a tad. Oops.

Okay, now, let me tell you that Jay was in that water barely long enough to get his clothes wet as I immediately snatched him back into the boat by the scruff of his life vest. However, be warned that he will tell the tale differently, suggesting that I didn’t bother to pull him out until I repositioned the boat, or had a sandwich””or something. In any event, it’s probably a good thing that he had not yet taken to use of any expletives at his young age (at least not in my presence)””he was really ticked. Although, I would not have heard them anyway because I was laughing too hard.

By the way, I forgot to mention, the Swamp is also infested with alligators. One cannot use a fish string hanging over the side in those waters, for example, because the gators will come and grab your catch. But Jay, cute as the little guy was as gator bait, was never in any real danger (probably)””the gators were all gathered around that bobber of mine about fifty feet away. They were watching it bounce and cavort on the surface of the water out there, salivating as they waited for me to catch them something to eat.

Clyde’s dale

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    I swear you took 30 seconds to get me out of there! I remember trudging around on the dock with my soaked tennis shoes and blue jeans. I was, indeed, ticked.

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