February 14th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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The Sunfish of My Youth On Lake Pokegama

By Steven H. McGarthwaite (aka Parnelli)

When I was young, I would be packed off with my brother to spend every summer weekend at Lake Pokegama. My Grandmother has a cabin on the lake, and my father and his younger brother grew up in that cabin during the Depression Years. It was nothing more than a garage that had been lifted off the ground onto a platform, with an added on porch that became the kitchen. The foundation for the house, that was to have been built, was covered over with earth. The only thing to show where the house would have been was a well that went down over 200 feet into the ground and gave us the purest of ice cold water.

To my brother and me, Lake Pokegama was a paradise for us to enjoy. We were free of all adult supervision and enjoyed our summer days in the sun. Some days we would tramp the great wilderness of the river low land, tracking animal trails and just marveling at every little new discovery we came upon. We would be gone from after breakfast, till the sun started going down in the evening, when we would return to the cabin for supper.

The Lake Pokegama of that era, had something I will never see again, Giant Sunfish. My brother and I, and some other boys would go dig in the Worm Hole. This was where all the waste water from the sink would drain out for from the kitchen, and where the coffee grounds, egg shells, and vegetable wastes were mixed into the soil. We always had a bumper crop of jumbo sized Angleworms, and would fill an old rusted three pound coffee can full of worms. Then grabbing the two cane poles we were allowed to use, we headed for the old wood boat, to go rowing out on Lake Pokegama.

This old boat, was past its prime, matter of fact, it was a leaky old scow. Someone had to constantly be bailing the bottom of the boat. That meant we had to take turns fishing with two poles, and bail when we were not fishing. But no matter who was fishing, we all enjoyed every Sunny caught. And they were big!

I don't know now, if it was because we were small, and the whole world around us seemed large, or if with time, all memories get bigger and sweeter. To us boys, those Sunfish were world record breakers. When the action was the heaviest, we would find ourselves in great peril - because those who were not fishing were also not bailing. In the excitement, all thoughts were with the Sunfish and how big they were. It never crossed our minds, until someone would yell "BAIL," that we were in danger of sinking.

We would always come back into shore with a stringer full of Sunfish, maybe fifty or more. Alas, we never had an Angleworm make a return trip to shore, because we always ran out of worms.

It took all of us to carry the stringer of fish up the bank of the shore to the old tin wash basin under the hand pump. Then we would take turns pumping the handle until the cold water would gush out of the pump spigot into the tub filled with the Sunfish.

Grandma would come out of the cabin and make such a fuss over the fish we caught, and then tells us we better start cleaning them if we wanted a fish dinner that night. To this day, I still think Sunfish are the best fish to catch and to eat. Specially if they are Giants! ~ Steven H. McGarthwaite (aka Parnelli)

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