While some tales are true, others are only embellishments of the facts or figments of the imagination. The very best stories are repeated over time until the listeners believe (almost) that the tale really occurred the way it was told.
Many people have watched the epic movies "Moby Dick," "The Old Man and the Sea,""20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Jaws" more than once. While these tales are embedded forever in our minds, the most cherished ones spout from the mouths of children.
They are the ones that may begin something like this:
"I caught twenty-twelve fish on bread balls this morning."
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"I lost a catfish bigger than my dog."
"I had a fish so big that it took my friend Spider-Man to help me get it into the boat."
What makes the tales of kids so great is their smiles and the enthusiasm with which they tell them. The smile gives validity to the tale.
Fish tales are like Polaroid pictures. The image begins to develop as the print comes out of the camera. Likewise, some of the best fish stories take a long time to fully develop, and they get better each time they are told.
An early recollection of mine is flounder fishing in a wooden rental boat. I was with my dad; I don't recall where or when. I remember the boat was very small and the waves were really high. The fish bit all day, and we caught so many that we ran out of bait.
As it turned out, that was a good thing because it took both of us half the night to clean them. The next day, it was my job to dig a big hole in the yard and bury the heads and entrails.
Other tales that are vivid in my mind come from fishing with my son, Toby. A standout was the day he was wading up to his arm pits in Biscayne Bay from one fishing hole to another, when a giant sea turtle surfaced a few feet in front of him. It made a loud noise as it gulped air, and Toby screamed as if he had been bitten by a shark. They were eye to eye for a moment before the huge creature sounded and swam away.
Another time, our boat broke down in a storm off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There was so much electricity in the air that our hair was standing on end and the compass was spinning wildly. As I was preparing to radio the Coast Guard for assistance, Toby said, "Tell them to hurry because we aren't dead yet." The engine eventually started, and we made it through the storm.
Some of the best stories are those told about the big one that got away, or the funny ones, like when someone falls overboard and comes back aboard sputtering and blubbering. These stories bring back the memories that keep people fishing.
So go fishing a lot, because each time you return from a trip, you can add another chapter to the tales in your mind.
According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, "Fish length is determined by measuring a straight line (not along the curvature of the body) from the tip of the closed mouth to the tip of the compressed caudal (tailfin)."
A free seminar, "How to Safely Navigate Lake Norman Using Sonar and GPS," will be 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 19 at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road, Mooresville. I will teach the basics of sonar and GPS. Bring your questions and instruction books to this new boating safety session. Call 704-799-1994 for more information.
Jake Bussolini and I will conduct a free, all-new seminar, "How to Catch Fish Using Sonar and GPS," will be 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 27 at Gander Mountain, off I-77 at Exit 36 in Mooresville. Bring your questions and equipment instruction books. For more information call 704-658-0822.
Stripers, bass and perch are in the deeper water of the Catawba River channel and in Davidson, Reed and Ramsey creeks. Bank fishermen are catching perch, bass and a few stripers in the hot holes of the McGuire and Marshall power stations.
The surface water temperature is in the 40s, and the lake level is about 2.6 feet below full pond.