I’ve tried meditation on a few occasions, each time with varying results. My natural state is not stasis; I prefer to be moving, doing something– anything. I must have a project. I must be doing something. Being still is not my jam. Even though I work from home and could easily work from the couch all day everyday, generally I change positions throughout the day (and the house!). Sitting in a chair, standing at my (standing) desk, standing in my basement music studio, sitting on the porch, working from the backyard…
Being motionless and clearing my mind do not come easily to me. Yet every few years I give meditation another try. I enjoy trying new things, or trying old things again.
My newest version of mediation seems to be night fishing. There is something at once relaxing and invigorating about sitting quietly in the almost-complete darkness, ears combing through sounds looking for the jingle of bells affixed to my three fishing rods.
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Of course the periods of relaxed sitting and waiting are never very long. My new top secret fishing spot generally provides consistent action!

Bait
Bait

Case in point: a bowfin took my bait after it had been in the water only about five minutes. I had arrived at the waters edge around 7:45pm, brought my gear to the bank in two short trips, and had three lines in the water by 7:55pm. I’d barely a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts before one of my rods went wild and I knew I’d hooked a bowfin.
A handful of onlookers watched while I battled the large fish for (what felt like) fifteen minutes. As soon as it realized it was hooked, it charged the shore! This is the modus operandi for these daring fish. Intellectually I know I am perfectly safe, but there is something unsettling having a large mouth full of teeth swim in my direction at such a speed. After stealing great lengths of line from my reel and splashing buckets-worth of water everywhere, I had the beast in a net. I measured it: 28 inches.
My biggest bowfin yet! A Master Angler fish!
I attempted to take a picture but my phone refused to cooperate. “Out of space! You can manage your settings…” Dammit! Quickly I tried to delete pictures so I could document this specimen (and maybe get a fancy “Master Angler: Bowfin” patch from the DNR)… no dice.
A motorcyclist who watched the fight walked over to see the fish. Like most folks, he’d never heard of bowfin or dogfish and was impressed by the size and mean look of the fish I’d caught. Chris Beckstrom: Bowfin Evangelist.
Not the biggun
Not the biggun

We talked for a while, he admired the fish, then I returned it to the water where it nonchalantly swam away.
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As the sun set my bells kept jingling. Per usual in this spot– at least during this time of year– the most action happened between 9pm and 11pm. Once the sun set the air temperature quickly dropped from 70° to 52° and the fishing picked up. Thankfully there were some slow periods when I could sit and drink beer.
Night fishing mise en plas
Night fishing mise en plas

This sort of fishing– casting out bait from the shore and waiting– is in many ways the opposite of my usual style of fishing. Shore fishing for bowfin at night could be seen as the inverse of wading a river with a fly rod looking for small trout.
But I like extremes. I like both kinds. (Country AND western.)
I drank beer, ate snacks, pondered the deeper meaning of life (or lack thereof) in between bouts of fish battles. Turns out my location (top secret), bait (bluegill carcasses), and method (toss and wait) are a working combination: by the end of the night I’d caught five bowfin, one pike, and three bullheads.
Pike!
Pike!

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Male bowfin with gorgeous green spawning colors

24" bowfin
24″ bowfin

As I drove home, exhausted, I counted on my fingers the hours I’d spent fishing: five. On a weeknight (to avoid the crowds that, I recently learned, congregate on this spot on Saturday nights).
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In my belly were a couple beers. In my cooler were three bullheads. In my phone were some great pictures, in my head some exciting memories. These memories would inspire me, the flesh of these fish would sustain me. I was ready to go home, rinse off the toxic bug spray, and slide into bed.


4 responses

  1. Very cool! Thanks for taking us along. Bullhead is some of the finest flesh I have ever eaten. It is so firm & tasty! I always skin them, but I hear that the skin is really good fried. Next time I get some bullies, the skin will stay-on! IDK why, but bullheads sure do like to swallow the hook!

    • I’ve only had a few bullheads but I enjoyed them! I did fry a small one– skin-on– and found the skin fantastic. The not-quite-cooked meat below, not so much. Now that I can catch them I need to improve my skills cooking them!

  2. Very cool…..dogfish fight like hell. Meaner than a junkyard dog…..fish. Lol. Where abouts are you catching them?

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