^ Fishing Retreat Participants, including Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ (Back Row - Third Left), Keith (Back Row - Fifth/Middle) 5/16 - 5/19/2013, Grand Isle, Louisiana
While I have always loved doing outdoor and sporting activities, I never did much fishing or hunting as a kid, as my dad wasn't into that much. But at around that age of 8, I did catch my first fish at an Audubon Park lagoon – right off of St. Charles Avenue and using one of those old-fashioned bamboo poles.
Jeff was a classmate, whose dad took us to the park with some worms we'd dug up from his backyard. It took some doing to get used to putting those wiggle worms securely in place, and it also took a lot of patience to just sit and watch to hope that the bobber would go up and down triggering a hoped-for catch!
Inevitably as we were fishing, I got distracted many times from keeping track of my bobber by bragging to Jeff or his dad about my famous fishing uncles, Arthur and Junior, who got most of the fish on their own that they sold at the old Kleinpeter Grocery Store that was located on the corner of Jeff Davis and Bienville in New Orleans.
As I was expounding a tall tale about my uncles' fishing prowess – probably about the time they supposedly caught over 100 catfish and Redfish! - no sooner would Jeff or his dad yell at me, “You have a fish!” - only to then realize that I had missed a catch. Manually pulling up the line gave me the evidence of a missing worm bait!
Finally, after some convincing to keep my mouth shut for a little bit, I actually saw my first fish nab my line, and what a thrill it was to feel something making the line tight – unlike multiple previous false alarms that entailed my line having gotten stuck on something like a branch and having to get Jeff's dad to put on a new hook and bobber for me.
It is indescribable how it feels like to know you've hooked one – especially for the first time ever! Next, as I pulled up my line and saw what Jeff's dad said was a perch fish, I was astounded but admittedly anxious as to how I would get that big 12 inch fish off the line!
Why am I starting to move my head back further to look over what appears to be a longer nose that I have? Okay, so it wasn't a foot long but anyway, Jeff's dad got the fish off for me and I proudly beheld it for a long time. I let it go back into the lagoon just in time for it to stay alive and swim briskly away to freedom.
Fast-forward to that Fishing Retreat to Grand Isle. Well, Hans, a fellow novice fishing participant with me on this retreat, and I were out on an excursion with Roy and others when Hans landed a big Redfish. So, after Roy helped Hans with a net to bring in the prized catch, Hans, of course, wanted a pic to share with his family and friends.
So as I'm getting ready to take the pic and Hans is doing his best to keep the slimy fish from wiggling away, the Redfish makes a jolt and almost gets back to freedom in the Gulf outlet area. But, lo and behold, it was SOOOOO big of a redfish that it couldn't fit between the boat and its rails!
Next, a pic was duly done and later, after the breaking of the bread by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, our Fishing Retreat Master, that fish and others caught by retreat participants were joyfully consumed! Now if I only had a pic to offer proof - yes, it is forever etched in my fish tail/tale memories; Hans does actually have a copy of it, I think, right?
One other “catch” to my fishing tales & tails is that during that Fishing Retreat, I caught a moving violation early one morning, as some of us were going from our separate lodging to Jimmy's Fishing Camp, where we had meals and the spiritual instructions by Fr. Pacwa, including on John 21. This main driving strip of Grand Isle is like the infamous speed traps at Golden Meadow nearby – the speed abruptly drops from 45 to 25 without much warning!
Would you believe that I actually caught a fish that same day that related to Mt. 17:27: “However, we don't want to offend them (Grand Isle Police), so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin ($ 85.00). Take it and pay the tax (fine) for both of us."