What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Share your fishing adventures, especially ones using antique tackle!
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Bill Sonnett
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Bill Sonnett »

A Memorable Fishing Trip

Recently my brother in law passed away. He was a lifelong bachelor as well as a hoarder of the first order. While attempting to clean out some of his “collection” my wife came across an “outdoor magazine” that she thought might be of interest to me. I use the term magazine loosely as it was a free publication printed on very cheap paper and consisted of 95% advertising. I leafed through it quickly, intending to drop it in the wastebasket as soon as I was finished. It was dated September 1983 and had aged to a dirty brown color in keeping with the newsprint on which it was published. I had only reached page 5 when I was stopped cold by a photo of a fellow who resembled Grizzly Adams on a bad hair day. He was displaying an impressive catch of Channel Catfish that he had recently taken in Saginaw Bay. I was immediately transported back to a memorable fishing trip that I had, a trip that with time I had managed to forget. The fellow in the photo had a son in the local Little League at that time and as my two boys (now 45 and 46) were on the same team we made conversation. When he found out I was a duck hunter he immediately felt we were kindred souls.
Sometime later he stopped by my house and opened the trunk of his car to show me the most impressive pile of catfish I have ever seen, the largest weighing 16 pounds. He told me he had caught one of 26 pounds a few days before. I was very impressed, so when he asked me if I would like to go along on his next trip I jumped at the chance. He assured me over and over that my tackle was far too light to handle the big ones. No problem I headed to the local Kmart and as salmon snagging was in its heyday in Michigan at that time, they stocked heavy saltwater tackle that was used in snagging. I purchased a 6 ft, solid glass boat rod that was the same diameter as a pool cue, an appropriate saltwater reel and a large spool of 60 lb test monofilament line. Along with the heavy, tinned saltwater hooks I had left over from my days as a surf caster in Florida, I was ready to land the biggest catfish in the State.

It was with anticipation that I waited to be picked up at the agreed upon time. That hour came and went and no one showed. An hour later, the phone rang and my host wondered why I had not been by to pick him up.
Confused, I told him that he had asked me to go along and I naturally assumed he was driving, furthermore I could not take my car as this was an overnight trip and I could not leave my wife alone with our children and no car. He agreed to come to get me but then told me I would need to bring my outboard. When he arrived I was surprised to find out that there would be another guest going along. He did not think I would mind. The other fellow looked like he just got out of prison and had a personality to match. As we left town for the two-hour drive to Saginaw Bay, I hunkered down in the back seat and was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Soon a new bottle of Yukon Jack whiskey was produced and the two front seat occupants polished off the entire bottle. Driving soon became much faster and somewhat erratic. Many scenarios as to how this trip might end passed through my mind and none of them ended well. Eventually, we arrived and after renting a large iron boat and purchasing a bag of frozen Smelt for bait, we headed out into Saginaw Bay, my 3 hp outboard struggling to slowly push the combined weight of the heavy boat and its three occupants. We eventually reached the end of a long seawall and turned around its end to make our way up a long, narrow channel, known locally as the “hot pond”. In fact, it was warm as it was the route to the Bay that cooling water from a nuclear generation facility traveled after doing its job. Did I mention that my “friend’ did not eat the fish caught here but rather sold them. He said he thought that coming from water flowing out of a nuclear plant, they would probably in time give you “glow belly”. It was in this heated water that, when conditions were right, huge numbers of catfish made their way. The power company was none too happy about this and had many restrictions on boats entering the hot pond. One was not allowed to tie a boat to shore or go beyond certain markers in the channel. The area was patrolled by security guards who had no intention of making our stay pleasant.

As darkness descended we anchored close to shore and prepared for some great fishing using the Smelt for bait. It was not long before a nice 7 pounder was landed, then things stopped cold. As the hours went by we did not have another bite. By 3 am I sat alone and miserable in one end of the boat. Whiskey and boredom had combined to one effect. My two boat mates were curled up and snoring loudly in the wide bottom of our boat. Just about the time that all hope of rescue from my situation seemed out of reach my line gave a small twitch. I actually had a bite! As we were fishing in a narrow channel I had less than 10 feet of line out with the Smelt laying on the bottom. I threw my reel into gear and slowly reeled in slack as whatever had my bait was heading toward me. With no more than 6ft of line out, I rared back hard to set the hook. To my surprise, the fish pulled straight down with incredible strength. I pulled upward with all my strength and the thick boat rod bent double. An enormous shape catapulted out of the water and arched from a height of 4 or 5 ft directly into the boat, landing between the two sleeping forms. I feel safe saying that at no time in the history of angling had a 23-pound carp been landed in such a short time. The entire fight was over in about four seconds. However, the excitement in the bottom of the boat was just beginning. The picture of two sleeping drunks waking up and finding themselves bunkmates with a fresh and very active large carp is one that no description of mine will ever do justice too. Arms and legs were flailing in all directions, mixed in with screams of terror and confusion in the pitch back night.

A short time later the first blush of daylight appeared we pulled anchor and headed back to the car. There was not much conversation between my hungover companions on the long drive home. After dropping off the other “guest” we arrived at my house and that’s when the host asked if he could have the carp. I said yes and after weighing it, he asked to borrow my bow and shot an arrow into the fish as it lay on the grass. He told me he was going to enter it into the local bowfishing contest in hopes of winning something. This last revelation of dishonesty seemed to cap off what had been a most memorable fishing trip and one I never cared to repeat. Someday I will tell of my one and only duck hunting trip with this same gentleman. I was a slow learner.

Older and Wiser Wild Bill
I love to get old reels, work on them until they run as smooth as silk and the take them fishing using pre-1960 plugs, mostly surface fishing for Largemouths after dark.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by kyreels »

Great story, Bill, better than Field and Stream.
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David Lehmann
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by David Lehmann »

I've had a lot of them. My top ten:
1) Ripping off the tip of my finger as I was absent-mindedly tying up my boat on a windy day. I was comparing fishing notes with others on the dock and left my finger in a knot loop. (It took me 30 minutes, but I did find the tip of my finger. But then the hospital lost it before it could be reattached. Go figure.)
2) Wondering if I could get an 6' alligator to follow my surface lure to shore. I could, but the gator was faster than I thought. I hooked and landed him, but getting the hook out was a bit stressful.
3) Taking an aluminum jon boat out on a very windy day, just after ice out. (Flipped the boat in 100' of water. Adrenaline and floatation got me to shore, but I lost everything in the boat.)
4) Losing all my line and a lure to a king salmon, that I saw and decided to cast to while trout fishing using a small ultralight outfit. It took the fish less than 10 seconds to clear my spool.
5) Forgetting to put the boat plug in before backing the boat into the water.
6) Forgetting to bring the boat keys.
7) Not putting a lock on the boat trailer latch on a bumpy road and subsequently grinding pavement after the latch worked open and the boat and trailer jumped off the hitch. (Thank goodness for safety chains!)
8) Not paying attention to the tide in Florida Bay and getting stuck on a flat for 6 hours, while I waited for the water to rise a bit.
9) Forgetting to empty the bait well of shrimp at the end of the day and noticing a nasty smell in my garage a few days later.
10) Hooking my finger while releasing a bass at a farm pond. The bass was still on the lure and each time it flopped, it hurt like hell. I couldn't make a sound because it had taken me nearly a year to convince the owner, who was worried about liability, to let me fish there.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Maru »

David I can relate to #9. My dad worked a little under a half day every Wednesday and so like any day that he was off it would be spent fishing. We could usually catch 2 tides which of course was awesome for drift fishing over oyster beds. Since it was a short day we wouldn't go as far as the Bay Bridge but would rather run straight across the bay to Tolly Point or Hacketts. Plenty of perch, spot, croaker and an occasional rock.

My brother and I used to row over to the grass beds with a big roller net to get grass shrimp. My dad would get the boat ready while we caught bait. One day we got about a gallon and laid them out on newspaper in beer flats. Well, a storm came up so we never went out. Forgot about them in the cooler, put up the canvas, and went home. Well, that next Sunday I was first on the boat and when i pulled the flap up I nearly passed out. 4 days cooking in 90 plus heat. I had to wash my clothes 3 times to get the smell out....it permeated everything and I swore i could smell it on my skin that long too.

The only smell worse than that was the main drain at the veterinary hospital where I worked.

Another dumb mistake was part mine and part my dad's (we made quite a team...better and worse). IRRC it was 1977. He and I had a big day and filled the cooler with rock. One of those big, long igloo boat coolers. Well, we were unloading onto the finger pier and, uh, neither of us set the spring line. I was up on the pier, he was on the boat. One end of the cooler was a few inches on the pier, the other end on the washboard.

Yup, the boat pulled away from the pier and *dunk* went the cooler. It opened and a couple hundred pounds of rock went back into the water. People were running around netting the floaters. Kinda reminded me of gulls. They had a good day fishing without leaving the dock. But we saved the cooler.

Still have that cooler, it's out on my deck.

Another time, I was in a hurry to get out to the jetty and fish for perch and flounder. I was 13 or 14? Late October, warm water cold air. I was wearing a down jacket. In one hand 2 rods, in the other a bag of dead peelers from the sloughing box. I walked briskly along the bulkhead and I guess I stepped into a hole behind the bulkhead because the next thing I new I was underwater in the channel. I was able to climb out up the side of the bulkhead. I saved my rods but a dropped my peelers. That was bad because I didn't have another $1.50.

Down coats are heavy when they get wet. There could have been a worse outcome. I think about that day when I see my kids running close to the edge.
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Wayne B.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Wayne B. »

I have many but I am just going to relate a couple. Both of these were on Lake Nebagamon in Wisconsin near Superior.

My wife’s family had 4 cabins on the lake sharing the same dock. Whenever we traveled there, we had free room and board....and I had full access to a great boat. It was said that I put more hours on that boat than all the local relatives combined, and I lived 500 to 1000 miles away during those years.

When we were graciously invited to the “compound”, I was able to learn how to fish on a very large, deep, cold water lake. And I was always successful in executing “Wayne’s Fishfry” on the Thursday night before we left that upcoming weekend. Walleye, pike, crappie, bluegill, bass. It was all good!

Oh, I forgot my mistakes. The good memories tended to make me forget them.

#1 The best fishing spot on the lake I talked about earlier was 100 to 200 feet off of the dock from the Compound. Many, many years ago, railroad ties\bridge pilings were dumped in 60 +/- feet of water in front the dock. Absolutely the best fishing spot on the huge lake. Bass Pro Shops could start another store if they recovered all the lost tackle on the pilings.

My fishing mistake involves all the anchors that are down there as well. One morning there was a strong east wind. Only way to stay near the pilings was to use the anchor. Objective achieved. When I decided to leave, I couldn’t pull the anchor up. MISTAKE COMING... I must have had too much coffee that morning, but I chose to power up the motor to pull the anchor. When I saw water coming over the rear gunnels, my engineering mind said...big mistake. I cut the rope, lost an anchor, and maybe saved a life...mine!

#2 Same lake, same boat. If you are trying to eat in a healthy way, almonds fit some of those plans. I was in the mode of using almonds as a great nutritional snack. EXCEPT...when you are motoring a 40 hp stern drive boat full speed into a strong wind. The almonds travel to your throat quicker with a strong head wind. Bottom line, I got one lodged in my throat. I don’t know how I knew at the time to stop the boat and to calmly breathe through my nose to build up enough air in my lungs to COUGH this nut out of my throat. Someone was on that boat with me!
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by g,h. block »

We get to do dumb things on the ice up here,in the late 50's early 60's not much for law or regulations on the lake here.

one of the winters was really cold and no snow, nice smooth thick black ice,we put out a couple of tipups for pike and the 4 of us took turns ice skating behind the car on a long bunge cord, no action on the tip ups so we all had cold feet by then and picked up to drive the 2 miles home.

didn't bother to take off the skates,and almost had an accident at a stop sign and left turn 2 blocks from the house,car was a 56 plymouth with clutch and brake pedals seems at how one of the pedals got between the skate runner and the sole of the skate.

always wondered what the cop would have said if i would have had an accident and got out of the car with ice skates on???
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Shellbelly »

Aside from dragging anchors, running out of gas, and forgetting plugs as a teenager I lost a huge fish on my own accord. I had been on the East Matagorda Peninsula all afternoon working sandbars and holes with no real luck. Decided to stay out till dark-thirty or so and see what would come in. Now it's dark. As I'm driving, my lights would sweep across the shallows and bait would spray all over the place. Not so uncommon. BUT these weren't just little glass minnows, these were 6" mullet and larger. Lots and lots of em. I get my cast net, and bring in a heavy load. Picked out two 6-8" mullet, cut up one more and gave the rest back. Rigged 5' of steel on a 10' solid glass, wood butt rod that has long lost its tags before I got it and a maroon 309 full of 40, we go to work. Not sure if you understand how urgently this opportunity is approached. I was in a hurry to get a bait out there. Something(s) was pushing and holding this amount of bait into the shallows. I finally get to sit down with the rod in a pvc pipe and my hand on the reel. I'm fishing in the star-light dark. Phosphorus levels are high in the summer and all that bait was putting on a show in the shallows. The green flashes in the water were amazing. I look up at the stars and fall asleep. Bliss. That beach will wear you out. Yep, deep throated 309 clicker starts screaming like a cat fight. Goes straight to your spine, doesn't it? Try being asleep and only 2 feet away. I'm freaking. He's peeling line straight out. This ain't no redfish. Clocks ticking on my spool capacity and my brain is just catching up to this event. I turn the handle, nothing. I'm in free spool. Turn OFF that screaming noise, I'm backlashed in a second. I didn't set the drag. I have to let the rod go down or something's gonna break. I pat my pocket, my Big Chief ain't there. It's sitting on the cutting board, all nasty, next to cut mullet. Can't get to it, I'm getting pulled, got no way to cut the line and the fish turns. Dark, no moon, pretty calm surf. I hear the splash and see the green. He felt the hook and I felt his head shake. The 40lb gives up and I land square on my butt with my heels in the water. I just laid there with the rig across my chest and went back to sleep, completely useless. I let a bunch of jumping bait get to me. Such is the stuff of fun.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Ray Hencken »

When I was about 15 or 16 living in Trenton, NJ, I decided that I wanted to go trout fishing in Stoney Brook which is about a mile from Princeton, NJ. I awoke at 4 AM, put on my hip waders, gathered my rod, fishing vest, net, etc. hopped on my bike and peddled the 11 miles to the brook. Once I arrived and prepared to fish I discovered that I had forgotten the worms that I would use for bait. At that stage in my early fishing career I was a bait fisherman. I was totally dismayed, I tried fishing with spinners but had no luck. After fishing all morning with no luck, I decided to pedal home. It was hot going home, I was disappointed with the day and I was totally exhausted by the time I got there. I vowed on that day, that in the future, I would double check to make sure that I had everything that I needed for fishing trips.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by 1badf350 »

Forgetting to open the bail when jigging for Spanish, resulting in loss of my last Gotcha plug

Forgetting to flip the freespool lever when casting conventional surf rod resulting in loss of 8oz pyramid, 8/0 circle hook, and usually the only Spot head I was able to catch
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Shellbelly »

How loud was the pop when that line snapped?! Too funny.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by Paul Roberts »

Nick in NY wrote: Tue Oct 30, 2018 3:59 pm Ok about 10 years ago while still on the Island I decided to do some off shore shark fishing in a 16 Bayliner! Bad idea! 50* miles out of Massapequa NY in boat without bilge pump, radio and a 30 gallon fuel tank I opted to also tow a 8' skiff along with a 55 gallon drum of fuel! Again bad idea especially with a 80 hp Force outboard! I did however have a compass, .38, bang stick and my phone. What could go wrong? Haha easier said than done with the fuel then wound up in the Jersey shore! Not good! I did however hookup with 2 nice blues about 150* and a third that was lost on a run. On the way in found a bunch of skids tied up with dolphin upto 20lbs so not to bad. Anything could of happened! Tight Lines Nick in NY Holzman reels collector
Been there, Nick. But at a smaller scale. Been involved in 3 "nautical disasters" on Lake Ontario, out too far in boats too small, with motors too unreliable. Let's just say that sand -terra firma- never tasted so good!

Leaving the harbor on one such adventure, in a 10ft inflatable, voices shouted out, "You're crazy. What are you stupid?" A couple weeks later my buddy and I watched a guy in a 10ft jonboat, powered by an electric trolling motor, leaving the same harbor. We called out, "You're crazy. What are you stupid?" A couple days later, in the tackle shop I worked at, the news came in. Some guy in a jonboat got fishing line tangled in his electric motor and blew out toward Canada. He was located by coast guard helicopter 15miles out at 1am. Lucky he had a calm night.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake


I was fishing for steelhead at the mouth of a stream flowing into Lake Erie during ice out. Standing about fifteen or twenty out in the lake when a hugh slab of ice hit me from behind and started to push me out into deeper water. Happened quick and I thought I was done for. Fortunately the stream, off to my left side, was causing a whirlpool and pushed the ice sideways along the lake and away from me. I quit fishing for the day.
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Re: What was your dumbest fishing mistake

Post by don309 »

I was fishing Manasquan Inlet NJ. I had a spare rig leaning on a chair behind me. Made a cast and hooked the guide of said rig, and sent it into the Inlet. Had about 40 people trying to hook it as the handle boobed out to sea, lost that rig.
Same inlet not paying attention, I hooked a boat that ripped the rod right out of my hand, and into the inlet. As I was stomping around bitching about losing 2 rigs in two weeks. The guy fishing next to me says " I got you" I say I have another rig with me. He says " NO I GOT YOU!" he caught the rig. I went right to the store and bought a gallon of water and flushed the reel inside and out. Came home and cleaned it up, That rig still fishes today!!
Retired so I'm out fishing or building a rodI :fished
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