DUBLIN — Fishing is thirsty work.
Just ask Zachary Smith, 10, of Dublin, who fished with his family last Wednesday at a private pond with his dad Larry, mom Tammy, and little brother Cameron.
“I caught the most fish and the biggest one that day,” he said. “Normally, I beat them all anyway when we go fishing. Everybody in my family likes to fish. I started catching fish like this when I was little.”
When not fishing, the competitive fifth-grader at Tar Heel Middle School also plays church league basketball
Catching more fish than everybody on the boat is enough to make any athlete’s mouth go dry. So Zachary took a well-earned break to get a soft drink. After all, they already had six crappie in the boat for a family fish fry. It was close to dark and they were ready to go home anyway. No big deal, he said.
Still, the experienced angler listened when his dad told him not to leave the rod laying around unattended. After all, something big could bite that minnow and drag the rod off the boat.
Zachary is too good of a fishermen to make that kind of rookie mistake, so to be safe he put his foot on the rod. However, the thirsty lad only chugged a swallow or two down before he noticed his bobber was under water.
“I picked up the rod and set the hook,” he said.
His dad rigged him up right, with an ultra light spinning rod spooled with 4-pound test line and a live minnow on the hook. They fished in less than four feet of water at just the right spot where the depth changed
Larry Smith Jr. began fishing this pond about seven years ago. He knows where the best holes are and how to fish them.
“I set the drags real loose in case something big hit,” he said.
Something big did chomp the minnow on Zachary’s hook. His dad coached him well by telling to keep the line tight, the rod tip up and let the fish wear itself out. Patiently Zachary played the fish to the boat.
“It was taking drag out so I let it fight for a minute,” he said. “That reel was making all kinds of noises.”
The buzzing sound of a straining reel is music to any fisherman’s ear. Skillful anglers know not to reel while a fish is taking drag because the line can twist or break. On such light tackle, all an angler can do is let the fish run until it tires. Along with that, try to keep the line tight and clear of anything that could break it, such as anchor ropes, stumps or logs.
By reeling skillfully and with a little luck, Zachary worked the fish close to the boat until they got the first glimpse of it.
“I was shocked when it first came to the boat,” Larry said. “At first, I thought it was a bass.”
In fact, they had to land it like a bass because someone forgot to bring a landing net. Fortunately, Larry — an experienced bass fisherman — knew exactly what to do.
“I grabbed it by the lip just like a bass,” he said.
They caught a couple of small bass earlier and threw them back. This black crappie easily surpassed the 14-inch keeper limit for largemouth bass. They did not have a scale on the boat, but measured the fish with a tape measure. It came up just shy of 16-inches — a trophy crappie for any lake.
“Zachary is a pretty good little fisherman,” Larry said. “That was his day. I told him to be proud of that fish because very few people will ever see one that big.”
The family celebrated a couple of days later when Zachary’s catch became the guest of honor at a family fish fry.
They filleted the fish, then cut them in small bits, sort of like crappie tenders. After breading them up in a favorite seafood batter, they introduced the fillets to a hot oil bath. Once done, the Smith family enjoyed a fresh fish dinner with fries and baked beans.
According to Larry, family fishing trips mean more than full bellies and happy taste buds.
“I try to take them fishing every chance they get,” Larry said. “Parents need to spend more time with their children. I think all children should be exposed to the outdoors and what the Good Lord provides for us.”
Zachary knows how to take advantage of the Lord’s natural bounty in the woods and on the water. Last deer season he killed a cowhorn buck and a doe.
Even at his tender age, Zachary has already developed a strong thirst for the outdoors ... and soft drinks.
Especially when the fish are biting.