There was a flurry of activity leading up to the first day of fishing season. At that time, the creeks were closed for fishing for a few months prior so the fishermen and fisherwomen were anxious!
The old one room school where my mother once taught was purchased by the community club in 1958 for $1,025. The ‘community club’ then became the place where we gathered for holidays and special gatherings. The first day of fishing season was no exception.
Fishing season began the first Saturday in April precisely at noon. Most of the women in the community spent the days leading up to the event preparing homemade pork BBQ for sandwiches, hotdogs and chili, and a few side dishes to sell at the community club. It was a big fundraiser and well received by the visiting fishermen because the home-cooked food was delicious!
It was a different story for the kids. We were all about waiting until dark and going out with our flashlights to catch nightcrawlers. What is a nightcrawler, you ask? It is easiest to think of them as a large earthworm. They generally stay below ground during the day unless it is a cool day, after a rain or in the cool morning dew. They do not do well above ground in the heat. For us, they were the cheapest and best bait to use.
Anyone planning to fish would then go about readying their poles. I was young and managing a fly rod was out of the question and honestly, with the number of people coming in to fish, casting was not a good idea either. No need to have fish hooks wielded by a child whipping about aimlessly. So, no rod and reel for me. I was left with a jerk pole.
A jerk pole is just as the name implies. It is a lightweight stick or bamboo rod outfitted with a line, a sinker (a weight used to help the hook sink to the bottom of the creek) and a simple hook — usually outfitted with a nightcrawler for bait. When a fish took the bait, you ‘jerked’ the pole to set the hook and pull the fish out of the water.
Once the community club was setup to sell food and everyone had their bait and poles readied, all that was left to do was wait!