Some folks find it hard to believe that a big-time, full-time, free-lance outdoor writer like me doesn't own a big, fancy bass boat. Sometimes I wish I did, but usually I don't.
I still love fishing from the bank the way I did when I was just a kid. No muss, no fuss. It's just me, a pole or rod and reel, a bobber or bottom sinker, a hook, some bait or simple lures, the sky and the water, a warm day and fish.
When I think of bankfishing, I remember childhood fishing trips, dunking crickets in a farm pond and thrilling to the pulse of a scrappy sunfish.
I conjure up memories of dogwoods blooming on the lakeshore as calico crappie were pulled one after another from a shallow-water brush pile.
I think back to a star-lit evening spent casting jigs to spawning white bass, or that just-right summer afternoon when the bullheads in our favorite fishing hole ate every worm thrown their way.
Fishing for panfish from a quiet shore clears my mind and soothes my soul. It's a great way to spend some time with my kids. And the panfish I catch provide the makings for many delectable meals.
Maybe it's time for you to recapture that feeling, as well. Leave your boat at home. Go bankfishing again.
These recipes for success will give you some options to consider:
A recipe for crappie
Take a day off. Go to your favorite crappie lake. Invite a friend who enjoys panfishing, small talk and good eats. Take some ultralight spinning outfits and assorted crappie jigs. A few small bobbers, too.
Ice down your favorite drinks. Pack some lemon pepper, salt, cornmeal, peanut oil, a few potatoes and onions, and your Coleman stove. Don't forget a big cast-iron skillet.
Look for some brushy cover near an open bank. Tie a jig on your line 18 inches beneath a small bobber. Sit back in a lawn chair. Think like a crappie. Cast where you think they are.
Reel the rig in slowly. Twitch it now and then, and let it sit. Twitch it again. And so on.
When the bobber disappears, set the hook, but not too hard. They don't call them papermouths for nothing.
Play the fish slowly. Savor the moment.
If it's an eatin'-size crappie, put it on a stringer. Keep just enough for supper. Continue fishing till your stomach starts growling.
Fillet your catch. As the sun sets, cook your supper. The entrée is fresh sac-a-lait what crappie are called in some parts of the South. Taters and onions on the side.
Heat the peanut oil in the skillet. Slice the potatoes, dice an onion and slide them in. Season with salt and pepper. Cook till tender. Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle lemon pepper and salt on each fish fillet. Dredge in cornmeal. Slide the fillets into the hot oil. Listen to them sizzle. Smell the mouth-watering aroma. Don't drool in the skillet.
The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Remove it to a plate covered with paper towels. Continue cooking what's left.
Dig in. Fill your plate. Pop the top on a cold drink. Find a comfortable spot for your lawn chair. Kick back. Relax.
Before you eat, bow your head and say grace. Thank God for such moments.
A recipe for sunfish
Find a farm pond full of sunfish, a pond with clean banks, a pond with lots of bluegills or redears or pumpkinseeds.
Visit the owner. Ask, "Could I bring some kids here to fish?" Sooner or later, the answer will be yes.
Now pick some kids. Your own children, maybe. Or a neighbor's. A youngster from your church, perhaps. Or a friend's child. Maybe a grandchild or niece or nephew.
Tell them your plans: "We're going fishing this Saturday." Then start getting ready.
First, you need some cane poles and some worms, fresh-dug worms, worms dug by giggling kids.
Load 'em up kids and worms and poles. Some drinks, too. And snacks. And a lifejacket for each child. Might want a basket for the fish.
Drive to the pond. Stop by and howdy with the owner. Introduce the kids. Say thank you. Be sure the kids say thanks, too.
Don't plan to fish yourself. You're here to help.
Bait some hooks. Show 'em how it's done. You're sure to hear, "Yuck!"
Teach them how to swing the bait out. Show them where to place it. By that stump. Near that rock. Over there by that tree.
Now, get ready for action. A bobber shoots out of sight. A child squeals. A sunnie comes flying through the air. Nab it. Take it off the hook. Admire it with the child. Make a big deal of it. Then, add the fish to the basket. Or, if the child prefers, release it. Let the youngster dictate the action.
Catch another and another and another. Have fun. Laugh. Praise. Smile.
Be proud. You've done a good thing. Another child's become a fisherman on the bank of a pond.
A recipe for bullheads
Find a good bullhead hole. A small park lake is great. Or that little reservoir at the edge of town. Some creeks are good, too. And little rivers. The best have clean banks. And a place you can build a campfire. Died-in-the-wool bullheaders always fish at night. And always sit by campfires.
You can fish with a cane pole. Or an ultralight outfit. Or your favorite bassing tackle. Bullheads don't care.
Carry plenty of small hooks and sinkers. Chances are you'll lose quite a few.
Bullheads eat everything. Chicken liver. Minnows. Night crawlers. Catalpa worms. Leeches. Smelly stuff like stinkbait and fish guts. Weird things, too, like dog food, Ivory soap and even bubblegum.
Let's make it easy though. Stop at the market. Buy some hot dogs. The cheap kind. Bullheads relish cheap franks.
Now you're there. First things first. Help your buddy build the fire. A fishing buddy is a prerequisite for bullheading. Someone to chew the fat with. Someone to share the fun.
You brought your chairs, right? And a lantern? Set those up. Then cut some forked sticks to prop your rods on. Poke 'em in the dirt on the bank's edge.
Rig up your poles if you haven't. Just a sinker and a hook. Slice a hot dog into little pieces. Thread one on. Toss it out. Let it sink. Prop your rig on a forked stick. Chew the fat. Roast some wieners.
With luck, the bullheads will bite. They usually do. Your rod will bounce. You'll set the hook. You'll savor the fight. Again and again and again.
Nature's music makes it special. Whippoorwills serenade you. Frogs sing. A barred owl takes the stage. Whoo-cooks-for-you? Whooooo-cooks-for-you?
Many fish are more challenging. Bigger. Prettier. "Fancier." But the bullhead remains a top choice for relaxing, good-times fishing.
A final recipe
Take one clean shoreline on one pretty lake or stream. Add one angler or several. Warm them in the sun or beside a campfire. Toss in a few plump panfish. Season with a blue sky or starlit heavens. Stir with a light breeze. Brew as long as possible.
The result will be unforgettable. Try it and see.
To contact Keith Sutton, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.