Fishing recollection

Susan Manzke, Correspondent

I love to speak to groups about saving family stories. It never fails that afterward, members of the audience come up to me with their own memories that my stories triggered. I’m always honored they want to share them with me, and I encourage them to write them down.

Last week, I met with a group of writer friends to critique manuscripts. When I got to Mary’s story about going fishing with her father, memories of my parents sprang into my thoughts. Today I’m going to share my stories with a tip of my hat to Mary.

My parents loved to go fishing. Dad would rather take a trip to Maple Lake than fly to California. Dad worked for United Airlines and could have flown for free; yet after traveling a lot during WWII, he didn’t want to go. He wanted to fish.

My dad would never buy bait. He figured that since we lived in the country we’d harvest our own.

Dad preferred night crawlers to worms. After a thunderstorm, he’d get me and my sister outside to hunt down our bait. Of course this had to be done at night, ergo the bait’s name, night crawler.

Flashlights were a must. We hunters tiptoed around the yard, trying to avoid stepping on the crawlers. Karen was the best at capturing worms and crawlers. She never thought them icky or disgusting. For Karen, worms could have been pets.

I didn’t mind going worm hunting either. It was a fun adventure mucking around our backyard. Since it was night, we didn’t have to worry about our chickens, ducks or geese beating us to the worms and gobbling them up.

When Dad was in a hurry to get bait, he had a contraption that encouraged the worms out of the ground. He made an electric probe using an extension cord, some kind of handle and a long piece of metal.

Dad would jam the metal end into wet soil, and then plug in the cord. The electricity would hurry the worms out of the ground. Dad didn’t like to use his electric gizmo much because he said the worms didn’t live long.

This electric probe was a hazard. We found this out fast, if in an effort to catch a crawler, we got close to the electric rod. ZAP! I didn’t touch the metal, but the worm did and we both got zapped.

I googled "electric worm rod" and found that others have used this method of catching worms. All these years, I thought it was an invention of my dad’s and that no one else would be crazy enough to do this. My friend Mary’s father made a similar gadget, and that’s how writing about fishing came to me.

In an Internet search for the electric worm rod, I found a video that started with a disclaimer, “This video is for entertainment purposes … if you try any of this at home you understand that you are working with electricity and that it can hurt you and that you need to use common sense. This tutorial should not be attempted by anyone under the age of 18.” In other words, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! YOU COULD END UP DEAD!

Karen and I learned to thread a worm on a hook at an early age. We’d fish right along with our parents, until we got bored. Mom and Dad then allowed us to go frog hunting and exploring. My sister and I always came back filthy and happy. If we did catch a frog, we released it. The fun was in the hunt.

So that’s my remembrance for today. I thank Mary for jogging this from the cobwebs of my mind. I hope I can do the same for others in the future. It’s fun saving and sharing family stories.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;

Susan's Dad, Chuck Paska, loved fishing all his life.
Susan's Mom, Isabelle Paska, enjoyed fishing, even after her stroke.