My best fishing spot was left in smoldering embers

Published 5:24 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Back in my boyhood days spent in Pensacola, Fla., I fished in a lake across the road from the church we attended, which was appropriately named Lakeview Baptist Church.

Not only did I fish in that lake, I was baptized in that lake. As far as I was concerned back then, that lake was “holy water.”

A cove was located in the northwest quadrant of the lake. A wooden bridge, wide enough for one vehicle to drive on, crossed the neck of the cove. Few vehicles used that bridge, but plenty of fishermen did. It was a great place to catch catfish and alligator gar. One is good eating. The other, in my opinion, is a nuisance. Any fish (it’s the alligator gar) with the word “spatula” in its scientific name is a nuisance fish.

In my early days as an angler, I used a cane pole. Cane poles are great for catching a two-pound catfish and making it seem like a 6-year-old boy is landing a whale. Eventually, I moved up to a rod and reel, a Zebco, if my memory serves me correctly.

With my rod and reel, I would cast far out into the lake — as far out as a 6-year-old boy could cast the line, hook and bait (worms or crickets mostly). I was going after bass, crappie or whatever wanted to nibble on my baited hook. The little bridge made a great place from which to cast. The added feature associated with fishing from the bridge was I could sit on the edge and dangle my bare feet over the side of the bridge and cool them in the water — ever keeping an open eye for those pesky snakes taking a swim.

Many others also enjoyed fishing from the bridge — until it burned. And I mean burned, as in destroyed.

Seems as if some boys on an overnight camping trip along the lake decided that building a fire in the middle of the bridge was the right thing to do if they were going to cook their late-night meal. With all the dirt on the bridge, perhaps they were thinking the bridge was made from metal. Trouble is they were not thinking.

About the time they realized it was not a brilliant idea to have started a fire on the bridge, it was too late. The campfire became a blaze. Considering the bridge was constructed partially with old creosote-covered railroad ties, it’s no wonder the bridge burned quickly.

By the way, I was not one of the boys on the camping trip.

Alas, the burned bridge was never replaced, at least not while I was a boy. I lost my favorite fishing spot — until my father bought an aluminum boat and we could paddle — yes, paddle — to the remains of the burned bridge and cast our lines among its burned pilings.

There’s more than one way to catch a catfish — and skin it.

Mike Voss is the senior member of the newsroom at the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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