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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

By: Mark Romanack

Clearly in our path to catch more desirable species we often overlook the fact that catching fish, any fish, is fun and a worthwhile experience.

One of the things I’ve always admired about sport fishing is there is something for everyone. Fishing can be as simple as a cane pole, line and worm or as complex as mounting multiple forward viewing sonar units on a boat that has a base cost exceeding 100K!

​Most of us of course start with the cane pole and eventually our passion for sport fishing lands us somewhere in between those extremes. Seemingly fishing has something for every budget, every social class, and every age group. The beauty of fishing is you can enjoy the pleasure of a bent rod and tight line throughout your entire life.

​ However, the modern sport fisherman has become a specialist of sorts. I’m amazed how many people I meet who only fish for one or two species. Forsaking all other species while being completely focused on targeting just one or two is something I can’t get my mind wrapped around.

​ The advent of tournaments and fish for cash derbies has had a profound impact on focusing sport fishing pressure on select species such as walleye, bass, crappie, catfish or salmon. It’s interesting to note that in the middle of everyone racing to target their favorite species, a lot of fish somehow become collateral damage.

With a face only a momma could love, the many species of catfish are often looked down on as less desirable fish species. Isn’t the real value in fishing found in the experience? Go fishing and have fun. Who cares what bites?

​The guy who is fishing for a chance to win a fully rigged fishing boat or six figures in cash, becomes annoyed when a big fish is hooked and turns out to be not the right species. Clearly, sport fishermen consider some species to be more desirable than others. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

​I believe this fact is because somewhere along the way we lost track of what attracted usto fishing in the first place. My earliest memories of fishing date back to the days before I owned even a cane pole. A creek near my home flowed under the road. A culvert big enough for a young man to stand up in was the scene for my earliest fishing adventures.

​ All I needed to catch creek chubs was a few feet of fishing line a tiny split shot, a hook and worms dug from the family garden. Current washed away an opening beneath the culvert, providing a safe haven for creek chubs to hide from predators and country kids.

​ The joy I experienced catching creek chubs has stuck with me my whole life. It was years later before my first rod and reel was purchased from a small bait shop in Pentwater, Michigan. It wasn’t long before I realized I could catch creek chubs and then use those same modest little fish and my new rod and reel to catch bigger fish like bullheads and rock bass. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge and skill to catch even bigger fish like largemouth bass and the occasional northern pike!

​ I was probably in middle school before I enjoyed the luxury of fishing from a boat. On family vacations, my dad would rent a row boat and let me fish to my hearts content while he read the daily newspaper. Between those family vacations I fished from shore anywhere I could find water and the promise of having something tug on the end of my fishing line.

Most of us have a fishing mentor who took the time to take someone fishing. For me that person was my brother Mike Romanack who didn’t mind dragging his little brother along on fishing adventures.

​ Clearly in those days I did not care what I caught. Truth be told, on many of those early fishing adventures I didn’t catch anything. Still the desire to learn more, explore further and hopefully catch more and bigger fish pushed my ambitions to more lofty achievements.

​ So my point to all this rambling is that the art of fishing is naturally fun. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t burst out into a big smile when a fish bites and the line comes tight. Fishing is fun, pure and simple.

​ Does it really matter if that fish falls into the category of good, bad or ugly? Who cares, so long as the experience brings joy to the person holding the rod and those others who might be there just to enjoy the moment.


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