TOM NEUHOFF: A brief history of fishing

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There are two types of people in this world: Those who lack imagination and those who love to fish. If youíve never lied about how big the one that got away was, you havenít been fishing long enough. (I think men learned to exaggerate about size with fishing.)

I have to admit I donít have much patience when theyíre not biting. If I wanted that kind of frustration I would take up golf. I know absolutely nothing about golf. I just canít see the point of chasing my small balls for hours when they almost never end up where I want them. Thatís not a sport. Thatís college.

Sport fishing has been around for at least 40,000 years, which is also how long weíve had beer. A coincidence? I donít think so.

The oldest known painting of an angler using a rod or staff comes from Egypt circa 2000 B.C. If you look close enough, you can see a six-pack of empty beer jugs on the beach. Pharaohs were buried in their pyramids with huge jugs of beer for fishing in the afterlife. Those people planned ahead.

Fish have been around for 510 million years. Thatís long enough for them to learn that a worm on a hook isnít always an easy meal, so donít feel bad the next time you go home empty-handed. If youíre looking for real excitement, try shark fishing. Once you get a feeding frenzy going, you could put Cheetos on your hook and catch something.

I had a friend, Marcos from Guatemala, who had never fished from a boat before so I took him shark fishing. My neighbor had a 20-foot boat powered by a small air-cooled Briggs and Stratton motor, which is why it took us all night to get to Catalina, only 47 miles away. We poured a 5-gallon bucket of tuna guts from the Star-Kist factory into the water and it wasnít long before we were surrounded by sharks half the size of our boat. In order to avoid crossing lines, my neighbor and I kept walking around the edge of the boat, which rocked it quite a bit. Marcos started screaming and waving his arms frantically, certain the boat was about to capsize. Thatís the first time I heard Spanish profanity. I donít speak the language, but when they swear, it really gets your attention.

It was a year before we could convince Marcos to go fishing again. I bought a 40-foot converted Navy personnel carrier and planned an overnight fishing trip. At one point, I went down below to nap. Around 3 a.m., Marcos was screaming Spanish profanities in my ear. Once on deck, I lifted the hatch above the engine and saw the bilge was filled halfway with water. We were sinking. Then the electrical system shorted out and we were left in total darkness. Thatís when I heard the Lordís Prayer in Spanish from near the transom. We were at the mercy of the currents until we could pump out the bilge and complete repairs. Marcos never set foot on a boat again.

Some of my fondest memories growing up are of fishing after dusk on Big Island Lake in Wisconsin. My grandparents had a lakefront home there. Take away the hordes of mosquitoes the size of baby sparrows and youíve got Heaven in a row boat. Whenever I feel stressed out at home, I close my eyes and recall memories of those wonderfully serene nights. Then my wife pounds on the door because she needs to use the paper shredder. Thatís marriage in a nutshell.

My grandfather put a lid on an old clothes washer drum and dropped it next to the dock. One day I caught a huge northern and after putting it in the washer drum, ran to get my cousin so I could show off my prize catch. When we got back and opened the lid that northern jumped out, bounced off my chest and was gone forever. He never gave up wanting to be free. We can learn a lot from fish.

Who doesnít love a good fish story? James Price of Locust Grove, Ark., once claimed he accidentally dropped his dentures into Bull Shoals Lake, but 10 days later got them back when he caught the 20-pound catfish that had swallowed them. Iím guessing some of you fishing in Lake Coeur díAlene have even better stories to tell. Iíd love to hear them. Donít worry about sticking to the facts. I never do.

• ē ē

Tom Neuhoff is an 8-foot tall former Coeur díAlene resident who has caught 429,683 fish while writing comedy in Hollywood.

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