Caught Ovgard: Interstate lifer
HAMPTON, New. Hampshire — I tossed my fishing rod over the 5-foot fence, looped my small gear bag (not a purse) over my shoulder and then arced the spinning rod over and into the wet, roadside vegetation opposite my chain-link hurdle.
My flip-flops weren't the best footwear with which to climb the fence, but I'd waited for a break in the downpour, and it was now only raining, so I had to make the most of my window.
The car sat in the parking lot of a rest area where a bank of port-a-potties stood guarding the permanent facilities. The same permanent facilities had been closed due to sanitary concerns in light of COVID, but apparently rest areas still needed bathrooms, so portables were subbed in.
The logic eluded me, but I hoped a new species wouldn't.
I made use of the green pee-ceptacle before crossing over the fence. A few steps after dismounting on the other side, the sky unleashed its full fury, causing me to sprint the quarter mile or so to the water before I was completely soaked.
The divided interstate crossed the river below a small dam, the pair of bridges providing welcome shelter from the deluge. Unfortunately, the rains had muddied the water, and I failed to see any fish.
Disheartened but also too stubborn to give up so soon, I soaked a worm while using my Tenkara rod (a telescoping, ultralight fly rod with no reel) to attract the attention of a resident micro (any fish that won't break 6 inches at maturity).
Allowing the dusty rocks below me to sop up the excess water from my shorts, I looked at my position from every angle — the real reason fishermen are also called anglers, I bet.
Time was kind, and I caught a micro in minutes. It was a mummichog, a small, hardy fish popular as live bait in fresh and saltwater. I'd caught them before, but not many times.
I released it.
Then I caught another.
My good fortune didn't feel like good fortune until curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to climb the small dam. I surveyed the pond above it and found an ideal habitat for bass, pike and pickerel. I wasn't sure if pike swam in New Hampshire, but I knew pickerel did.
And I'd never caught a pickerel before …
This trip, like the trips before it, was about catching as many species of fish as I could. While new species was the primary goal, catching a fish in every state and catching a new fish in every state were also on the agenda.
The little mummichogs meant I added New Hampshire to my list of successful fishing states, but it wasn't new. A pickerel would be.
I hooked my next catch to a small hook, climbed the dam, cut through the woods and found a submerged log that looked like a great ambush point. I let my maimed mummichog swim around for all of three seconds before it was crushed by a green missile that didn't stay pinned.
This repeated twice more, and on the third hit, I briefly hooked and positively identified a pickerel only to watch in horror as it wriggled free.
Without another bait and a long, wet walk to the car for a bucket, my mind ran full steam. Actually, in the relatively warm rains, my whole adrenaline-fueled body ran full steam, radiating slightly when the rains relented.
Revelation shone on me then. I had a Ziploc bag with me, so I filled it with water and proceeded to catch three or four more live baits with which to fill it. My ingenuity paid off, and I was able to get a solid hookup on a feisty pickerel.
I reeled in a chain pickerel just over 20 inches long. It had inhaled the mummichog, and I was forced to cut the line — forfeiting my small, single hook — in order to avoid harming the fish. In the darkly tannic waters, the hook would rust out in a few days, and the fish would be left to terrorize whatever hapless fish swam its way.
Without an appropriate replacement hook in my small gear bag, I decided to continue on my way, pausing to take pictures of my first chain pickerel, my first new species in the state of New Hampshire and first fish caught from the shoulder of an interstate.
Pickerel are often called "slime darts," and I desperately wished the rest area had a sink instead of just hand sanitizer, but I'd rather reek of pickerel than be picky.
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