Fish for breakfast was not uncommon in my family. For that matter, my father (and I) liked salted herring and scrambled eggs for breakfast.
By the time I was in high school, I had perfected the art of preparing fresh fish for breakfast. It was late summer/early fall of 1961. The first day of school was still two weeks away, but football practice had just started. I had to travel twenty miles to school for football practice that started at 9:00.
One morning, before practice I was up before sunrise. I dressed and drove my car to the boat landing on the pond. (My first car was a 1952 4-door Plymouth Cranbrook.) I had all of my fishing and camping stuff packed in that car. I dug into the trunk of the car to get my small tackle box with my two or three favorite lures, and laid it on the seat in the boat next to my spinning rod and the paddle. I untied the boat from the tree on the bank and used the paddle to push the boat offshore into the water.
The ball of the sun was low on the horizon, just showing through the trees. The water was smooth and clear. Looking straight down through the clear water, I could see the bottom, three or feet below. I paddled quietly across the glass smooth surface of the pond. You could just barely hear the water ripple against the hull. I let the boat drift toward an old stump that had a bush growing out of it. It made a nice shady spot for fish, and insects would occasionally fall off the bush into the water, so fish tended to hang out there.
I had a silver “spoon” lure that was one of my favorites. There were lots of plants and stuff in the water, and a shiny spoon seemed to stand out against those dark backgrounds—at least that was my reasoning, as if I were a fish.
I cast the lure out away from the stump and worked it back to the boat with no immediate luck.
I repeated the cast several times, each time tossing the lure a little closer to the stump. On about the fifth cast, I had a strike. I flipped the pole up to set the hook, and the fight was on. I used ten-pound test line, so was not worried about breaking the line as long as the fish and line did not get caught on an underwater snag. After a couple of minutes, I had the fish up to the boat. It was a largemouth bass. I reached down and lifted the fish into the boat, unhooked the lure from the bass, and laid the fish on the floor of the boat. I took the lure off the line and put it back in the tackle box, secured the line on my fishing pole and paddled back to the boat landing.
I went to the car and pulled out a small portable charcoal grill and some charcoal, set that up on the bank above the landing, and lighted the charcoal. I retrieved the fish scaler and fillet knife from the bottom of my tackle box and went to work cleaning the fish. By the time I had it scaled and filleted, the coals were ready. I put salt and pepper on the fillets and laid them on the hot grill. There was a slight “hiss” as the cool, white meat of the fillets hit the hot grill. While they cooked, I fetched a plastic plate and a real knife and fork from my camp pack and picked a spot to eat.
By then, the world was really waking up around me. A muskrat was swimming across the pond. He seemed to be on a mission, traveling straight to his destination. A fish hawk (osprey) circled above, squawking loudly. The fish hawks had a nest in a tall dead tree in the middle of the pond and were undoubtedly more dedicated to fishing than I was. Turtle heads began to pop up across the pond and one or two turtles crawled out on logs to catch the early morning sun.
Soon the fish was a nice golden brown on both sides and flaked nicely. Bass have a very distinct, and very pleasant flavor, and it is best when absolutely fresh. This was the best! I finished off the meal in a few minutes, washed it down with water from my canteen that I had filled before leaving the house, and packed all of my stuff back in the car.
Well before time to leave for practice, I was back at the house. My father was just getting ready to go to work. “How did it go,” he asked.
“One nice bass, about two pounds…just right for breakfast,” I replied.
He had a way of shaking his head that expressed a combination of disbelief and positive acknowledgement of something I did (or sometimes not so positive—thinking of the shotgun hole in the corn crib roof). That morning it was off to a positive start.