Our family loves to fish. Maybe it's because there are 250,000 lakes and 100,000 kilometers of rivers in Ontario, where we live. Maybe it's because fishing is a great excuse to sit in a boat drinking beer and eating artery-clogging sandwiches. Whatever the reason, every male member of the Fuhringer family goes fishing at every available opportunity.
My cousin Leilani nearly tore the family apart when she held her wedding on the opening day of pickerel season. My cousin Karl stayed right to the end of the reception Saturday night in Hamilton and was standing in hip waders in the Moira river in Belleville before dawn on Sunday.
I think they're all nuts. To prove it, I will now share with you the "The Top Five Fuhringer Family Fishing Trip Disasters". After reviewing the evidence, you will understand why no one in my family should ever go fishing again.
5) The One That Got Away
I'm not talking about the fish we lost when dad threw the fish stringer back in the water before remembering to attach the stringer to the boat. I'm not even talking about the fish we lost the time the stringer got caught in the propeller (it was spectacularly messy). I'm talking about the classic fishing story about the 'big one', the one that was almost caught but got away. "It was THIS big!" That story.
I hold the dubious honour of having lost "The Best Pickerel Ever(Tm)".
I was standing on the edge of the Moira River in Belleville during the height of the pickerel run. There were fisherman EVERYWHERE. We were shoulder to shoulder from the dam all the way to the mouth of the river. Most of the guys there that day were serious sport fisherman. I was the guy who least wanted to be there. So of course, I got a bite from Jaws.
I have never seen a fishing line run out so fast. Everyone on the banks lowered their lines and reeled in out of respect when they saw my line snap tight over the river. Karl ran down the river in hip waders calling out instructions. When I locked the reel, the fish pulled me so hard I actually slid along the rocks at the river's edge. The guys on the bridge started shouting and pointing. When I started reeling in, my rod bent over from tip to handle. The fish turned and darted upstream, creating slack. I reeled for all I was worth. The line got higher and higher in the water.
A fish the size of a sofa broke the surface, flashing in the sunlight. Everyone stared in awed silence. Forget Jaws, I'd hooked Moby Dick.
The fish changed direction so fast I didn't have time to unlock my reel. The line went tight, then snapped like it was thread. A huge groan went up from the fishermen. One really old French guy said, "Dat dere were da biggest Pickerel I ever seen in my whole lifes dat one eh? Mon Dieu!"
My family never forgave me for losing it. I haven't been invited fishing again since.
4) Boat 1, Dad 0
Loading a small fishing boat is not rocket science. All you have to do is balance the boat. One time Dad was loading the boat, while standing in it. The boat was still tied to the dock. There was no danger. There were no obvious threats. No one knows exactly why he started to panic, but we do know it involved saving the lunch cooler. The boat tipped slightly to the left. Dad compensated, so it tipped to the right. He compensated again, it tipped even farther to the left. Then to the right. This went on until Dad lost control of the boat, which flung him bodily out into the water.
The boat settled. Dad came up sputtering. A little kid who'd watched the entire debacle from the dock looked down and asked him, "What are you doing down there?"
We were sure the kid was going to die.
3) Even the Fish Couldn't Stand the Smell
One time on a trip to Lake Temagami, my cousin James, my Dad and I were joined by our friend Dan. Dan is lactose intolerant and suffers from heinously bad gas. Dan's food supply that week consisted of one case of Diet Coke, one box of Melba Toast and a very large chub of dry salami. We listed to Weird Al Yankovic on the car stereo while Dan happily filled his intestines with chemical warfare agents, until dad had had enough of "Dis crazy Yugoslavian and his crazy music!" and switched to a good German station playing waltzes and polkas.
We got to the cabin on the lake and settled in for the night. We had no idea what was coming. We were lying in our beds when Dan started farting. "It stinks like da Devil's rectum in here!" my Dad said, sending us into fits of giggles and starting Dan on a new round of lethal flatulence. We settled down and figured that was the end of it.
We were wrong. A few minutes later he started passing gas in earnest. It just kept coming and coming. And it smelled hideous. Dad said, "Are you dying? Do we need to take you to da hospital?" This triggered more laughter and even more gas.
Everything settled down and it got quiet, the kind of quiet you can only get when you're on a lake in the wilderness. We relaxed. Dan suddenly shattered the tranquil night with a staccato barrage that went on longer than a German Opera. James and I lost it. Every time we thought it was finally over he'd come up with more.
Dad had had enough. He shouted, "Stop da farting! Stop it now. No farting, no laughing, we have to get up early in da morning for fishing. NO MORE FARTING! STOP LAUGHING."
The trip was ruined. Dad was miserable. I don't think we caught a thing the whole trip.
2) Water Snakes and Waterfalls
My mom has a serious, full-blown phobia of snakes. So of course, the last time she went fishing with us on The French River, we encountered a water snake.
Dad had this brilliant idea that there would be more fish above the waterfall, so we maneuvered the boat to the start of the rapids and dropped anchor. It was a great spot, until a curious water snake decided to visit our boat and check out what we'd brought for lunch. Mom panicked and started screaming and flailing an oar to keep it at bay. Dad pulled up the anchor. We began moving with the current. Dad couldn't get the engine started. The current got faster. The snake followed us down the river, staying just out of reach of Mom's oar.
Eventually Dad got the engine started and the snake realized he wasn't welcome so he swam off. We never did end up going over the falls, but it got dicey for a few minutes.
Mom hasn't been fishing since.
1) "I got shot."
My dad can end any conversation about fishing with this story. It trumps all other fishing stories. It's also not funny but I have to include it on this list because disasters just don't get worse than this one.
My Dad was born in Hungary during WWII. He managed to not get shot, despite the war. He escaped from behind the Iron Curtain in 1956 and managed to not get shot, despite the revolution, the Russians, etc. So it seems odd that when the bullets finally caught up with Dad, it was while he was fishing in New Brunswick.
Dad and his buddies had a limited grasp of conservation law when he first came to Canada, so to him it was nothing to illegally fish for salmon out of season. They caught a ton of fish, so they stopped for lunch. They sat together against a large tree, eating sandwiches and drinking beer.
That's when the two off-season deer hunters shot them. All three of them got hit. Dad ended up with two holes in one leg and three in the other.
(Recently, when Dad had his knee surgery the surgeon said, "Hey, you know you have a bullet in your leg? They left it in since it's right on the nerve and it's not causing him any problems.)
When they realized what they'd done, the two mighty hunters did the responsible thing. They ran, right into the arms of a ranger. They confessed and Dad and his buddies were transported to a local hospital for treatment. Since nobody died and everyone was technically guilty of a crime, no charges were laid.
My father survived the war only to be shot by morons while fishing. If that's not a clear sign to stay away from the water, I don't know what is.
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