I’d never gone carp spearing, but my friends who had, explained exactly how to do it. I must have been too excited to listen closely. I did some of it right, but I missed their most important information—and that got me into serious trouble.

After my goldfish fiasco, I tried to toe the line. At first, I was careful, but three years have passed, and I must have become careless. And wouldn’t you know, once more, it’s a fish that’s sidetracked me from walking the straight-and-narrow.

After brief stops on farms north of Dodgeville and south of Barneveld, a house in Ridgeway, and many visits to Aunt Anne’s and Uncle Earl’s farm, we landed in a small log home in Monona Village, alongside Lake Monona. It was a delightful place for a ten-year-old boy who loved to fish and explore. A lake channel ran through our backyard, and an African-like Serengeti—wide open, flat, grasslands, the grasses and shrubs as high as my head—stretched as far as the eye could see behind our house.

I attended fifth grade at Nichols School. I’d get on the bus early morning and exit it late afternoon. Usually, I’d race inside the house to our small radio and tune into my favorite action serials: Captain Midnight, Terry and the Pirates, and Sky King. Sometimes when I was in the mood, I’d skip the serials, grab my fishing pole, and head to the channel for a bit of reflection on the day while wetting a worm in the water.

Today, my school friends were excited. Their fathers were taking them to spear carp on the weekend. When I asked them how’d they do that, they told me they possessed barbed trident-like spears with a rope attached to the handle. They could throw the spear into a carp and retrieve it with the rope. I thought, “Neat! I wish I had one of those!” I didn’t know if we had carp in our channel. I knew we had bullheads—tons of bullheads. I caught them all the time, but they didn’t excite me much. I’d been pricked too often by the barbs on their heads. And that stung like Billy-blue-blazes.

I thought about carp again when I got out of bed on Saturday morning, so I dressed rapidly and walked down to the channel to look around. The guys told me that the carp make lots of commotion along the shoreline when they come in to spawn, so that’s where they went to find them. I walked back and forth along our shoreline, but I didn’t see any commotion or fish. There was a small hill overlooking the water a few yards from our property line. I climbed that hill and looked down into the water. And there it was—the biggest fish I’d ever seen. It had to be a carp. My friends said they were big. If I only had one of those barbed spears they had told me about!

And then I remembered. We didn’t have a carp spear, but we had a pitchfork in the basement. Maybe I could use that. So, I raced to the basement to find that spear-like fork. Upon returning to the hilltop, I sneaked to the peak and looked down into the water. That huge carp was still there, making swirls in the water and stirring up mud, just like the guys told me the carp did.

I raised the pitchfork high over my head. Knowing I’d have to lift that monster from the water and up to the hilltop, I made sure the fork’s tines turned outward so the carp wouldn’t slip off when I lifted it. I aimed and plunged the fork toward that fish as fast as the guillotine must have descended on Marie Antoinette’s gorgeous neck. But I doubt that her executioner ended up where I ended up on this day. I hadn’t judged for the water’s depth or the soft muck below the carp. As the pitchfork plunged through the carp and continued downward into the channel’s bottom, I flew outward and downward, ending up stretched between hilltop and pitchfork. My feet dug into the hilltop, and my hands clung for dear life to that pitchfork’s handle.

black bass

It was a while before I knew if I’d catch the fish or she’d catch me. I have no idea how I did it. I suppose it was from desperation that I was able to inch my toes backward while I dropped my weight low enough so the fork followed my feet in that direction. I tell you, though, I was a mighty relieved boy when I felt secure on land once again. Because I had turned the curve of the pitchfork

outward, I was able to slowly bring that carp to the hilltop beside me.

Wow, what a specimen. I’d not seen a carp before, so I didn’t imagine they could be this big. I filled our old washtub half full of water and deposited Ms. Carp into it. Mother was impressed. It was by far the biggest fish I’d ever brought home. She asked if carp were edible. I had no idea, so she said she’d check with our neighbors.

She hadn’t got around to checking yet when the meter man arrived to read the basement’s meters. I’d gone back out to search the shoreline for more carp, so I didn’t hear the conversation. Mother came looking for me in a panic. She said she showed the meter man the big carp that I’d speared. She said that he looked down into the tub and proclaimed, “Lady, that’s no carp. That’s one of the nicest black bass I’ve ever seen. You should know that bass aren’t in season—and you’re never allowed to spear bass like you are carp. You’d better not let anyone catch you with that.”

Here I was, back in trouble with the law. I didn’t think I could possibly be as lucky as before. I knew I was about to face time up the river. But I never heard what happened to that fish. I didn’t ask, and no one said, and that was just fine with me.

I considered myself lucky once more, but I assure you, I wasn’t going to press my luck. I never went carp spearing again.