The saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure" applies pretty well to fishing.
The trend among anglers in recent years has been more away from the generalists who preceded us on the lakes and rivers, fishermen who were content to catch whatever was biting. Magazines and clubs foster the trend by glamorizing certain species and catering to anglers' special interests.
So there are fans of walleyes who disdain other species. Likewise many anglers turn up their noses at any fish other than bass. Some prefer crappies, while others have no passion for anything but muskies.
Indeed, the father of modern fishing, Izaak Walton, also had a special place in his soul for a certain fish. His "The Compleat Angler" celebrates the joy he experienced in flyfishing for trout in England's countryside streams.
Something about fishing for a favorite species reaches out and bites anglers at a certain point in their development. As a youngster, I thrilled at any fish that took my bait -- the little chubs and suckers in Yellow Creek, the bluegills at a nearby pond, the crappies under the lantern hanging from the boat anchored below Berlin's railroad trestle.
But then I got the walleye bug when my family spent summer vacations way up in northern Michigan. When my father bought a boat suitable for Lake Erie, my fascination with walleyes grew stronger. And when I got a boat of my own, my fishing attention was riveted on the 'eyes at Mosquito and Berlin.
Feelin' the bass bug
Twenty-five years ago, the bass bug bit me. I guess it got into my blood because I've got bass on my brain whenever I'm within eyesight of water.
The symptoms are severe.
Earlier this summer, I was working a crankbait around a weed point when a 3-foot-long northern pike grabbed the lure and thrashed around the lake. Instead of enjoying the fight, I muttered about my bad luck.
Just last Sunday, I was ripping a spinnerbait across an Ohio River shoal with hopes for a nice smallmouth bass. One perfect cast put the lure on a path to tumble enticingly into an eddy behind two boulders and produced a jarring strike. The fish surged out of the slack water, dove under the boat and battled stubbornly.
When I finally pulled the fish to the surface, I groaned in despair at the sight of the whiskered face. It was a 4-pound channel cat, a nice fish but not the bronzeback I wanted.
While pitching my tube to a particularly good-looking laydown one day in April at Mosquito, I felt a solid thud that reverberated up the line and down the rod to my palm. Sensing a nice largemouth had sucked in the lure, I snapped the rod up sharply and the water boiled over a heavy fish.
After a few seconds, the fish finally popped out of the snaggy lair, but it was olive and white rather than green. That big white spot on the bottom of the tail might mean dinner to a walleye fisherman, but it was a telltale sign to me that I'd snatched the wrong species.
We fishermen are a particular bunch, aren't we?
The walleye guys grumble when all they can pull from the weed edges are bass. The bass boys complain when the muskies get to their lures.
And everybody loves to hate the sheephead that seem to prefer Lake Erie anglers‚ lures 10-to-1 over their more favored smallmouth bass and walleyes.
In this era when catch-and-release is more common than not, what does it matter if the fish on the end of your line is the one you had hoped to catch?
We should sit back and enjoy the action. The next bite will come soon enough.