In the late afternoon, when the tide was high, and the wind was starting to drop, we would catch mullet in the shallows of the river. My bother and I would carry a throw net over our shoulders, walking the river bank, looking for the silvery glint and shadows of mullet. The hardest part was hauling the water-filled bait bucket, so the bucket was close by if we hit pay dirt with a good throw.
After a long walk in the soft sand with a heavy bucket full of fish, we rigged up the rods and baited up the mullet. The mullet became the live bait. We’d use a fishing needle to thread the fishing line down the back of the mullet and then weigh it down with a sinker on the one end and float on the other. Once the mullet was hooked up, I’d hop into a paddle ski and paddle to the middle of the river to drop the float, mullet, and sinker. My brother would stand on the bank holding the rod with the drag off slowly releasing the line. Once I was back on the bank, we would look out to the middle of the river and watching the float bobbing up and down. The live bait would attract a larger fish, the fish would eat the mullet and swallow the hook. Once hooked, it would try to swim away, but the float prevented the fish from diving and escaping.
The sun would set, and we’d head back up to the house for dinner. After dinner at around 8 pm, we’d bundle back into the car and head back down to the river to see if we’d caught anything. The first thing we checked was the position of the rods. Had they moved or been knocked down? The next thing we checked was the floats. If a float had moved or was under water, then it was game on. But had we hooked a catfish or was it a Leervis or a Kabeljou? Leervis or a Kabeljou meant we were eating fish for breakfast. Reeling in a large fish could take hours, but at that point, it was just adrenalin and patience. Reel in too fast and the line snaps. Reel in too slow and the fish never sees the bank or gets tired.
It was a long day. We’d caught the live bait, lugged around the bait bucket, rigged up the rods and reels and paddled out the floats. Looking back, the best part of the whole day was bundling into the car on a cold night and driving down to the river in the dark, not knowing what to expect.
The reward of checking the floats at night is very much like laying the groundwork for most things in life. The joy is in the doing, and then the anticipation of waiting to see what comes after the sun goes down.