My father, Harry Turner, has always loved to fish. He taught all four of us kids and we usually dragged along with him whenever he headed out to drop a line in the water. We lived in the country in southern Ohio and had lots of places and opportunities to fish.
This wasn’t fishing with high tech rods and reels or on a tricked-out bass boat with a fish finder. This was down and dirty, man-against-nature sport, usually with a simple rod/reel combo or, for us kids, a bamboo fishing pole. We did have a “johnboat”, a flat bottomed aluminum boat with three seats. It did not have a motor so oars were the method of propulsion. We most often used the johnboat when trot lining.
Trot lining is a method of fishing with a line strung across a creek, attached to small trees or limbs on opposite sides. Along the length of the line at intervals are short sections of string that hang down into the creek. Each section of string has a hook and weight to keep the bait submerged at a level designed to catch bottom feeders, in our case, catfish or carp. The hook was baited with some smelly bait like chicken livers. Catfish and carp love that kind of thing. Most of the time we trot lined a few miles from our home, on Paint Creek. That’s where we caught the “monster”.
On that morning my sister, my two brothers and I jumped into the boat in back of the truck, Mom and Dad in the front, and headed to Paint Creek to check on trotlines we set the evening before. Anticipation was high – would we find anything on our lines? My dad set the boat on the bank. Mom and us kids piled in, Dad pushed us off and jumped in too. Six in the boat, but we were little kids at the time. We floated off down the creek a ways to where our first trot line was set. All of us got real excited when we saw the line bobbing up and down in the water. How many fish were on? Were they big ones? We got a little closer and saw the line was jumping up and down in the water. That’s when us kids got quiet. As we pulled alongside the line a huge fin-like appendage rose up out of the water. I was sure we had caught a huge carp or maybe even a shark! My dad pulled on the line and flopped our catch into the center of the boat. It was the biggest, maddest snapping turtle we had ever seen! All four of us kids backed up as close to the edges of the 4 x 8 foot boat as we could get as the turtle snapped and hissed. I can still hear the sound of its claws on the bottom of the aluminum boat bottom as it scrambled around trying to escape. My dad dropped the oars and sprang into action, cutting the line and bagging the turtle so it wouldn’t hurt us or the boat. Or get away. Eventually we all started breathing again. Later, my Mom said she thought us kids were going to jump out of the boat. The only thing that kept us in the boat was the fear that there were more of those monster turtles in the creek.
We caught some catfish that day, and more turtles, but nothing compared to the one that made me think Paint Creek was full of sharks!
Thanks for the memories, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!