Hallie’s Bass

Lee Wilbur

The Canadian grandgirls had been visiting us at the lake for their annual summer trip. Weather, for a change, was the best ever. No rain to speak of. Water was warm and great for swimming where they spent a good part of the day. They’d been doing some sailing, tried their hand at waterskiing and enjoyed, as all kids seem to now, “tubing.” On this particular Sunday morning, AJ was taking the oldest, Madison, to a craft show over in Bar Harbor. Hallie, whose interests usually run to other directions and is not the shopper of the two, decided she’d stay with “Grump.” We hadn’t been fishing yet so I suggested we rig the poles and see if there might not be a salmon or bass looking to be the highlight of Sunday dinner.

I got the gear together and boat gassed as she finished breakfast and brought me a fresh mug of green tea. It was a beautiful morning to be out on the lake. Wind was light, blowing up a few “Cats Paws,” just enough to ripple the mountains’ reflections as we pushed away from the dock.

Out on the lake I put the motor in neutral and passed Hallie a rod. She started to pay out line and immediately shot back “I don’t want this lure Grump (a floating alewive minnow) it floats.”

I patiently tried to explain that the lure actually went under water as we started to troll and that it was a hot lure for the lake and that I was giving it up for my granddaughter who might catch many and big fish with it. Nothing I could say would make a difference. She was determined that this floating lure was not to be trolled by her and she wanted it changed.

Surmising a female turn of events, I tied on a white grub with a light lead weight, passed the rod back and let out my own line with a “supposed to look like” alewive wet fly. Within 15 minutes we had hooked and released a few small bass and I had hooked a small salmon which shook loose. Looked like we might have some luck.

Rule #1 in fishing: If it looks promising, it probably won’t be. We trolled for a few miles, taking about an hour or so. Not a nibble. Not one. Now 8-year-olds of today’s variety need action. Boredom comes easily and patter from Grump doesn’t seem to fill the schedule too well, so I suggested we go as far as the next point, turn, and work our way back. We agreed. She reeled in, made herself comfortable on the extra lifejackets when we turned in the direction of camp at the point.

I said to her, “Hallie, pass me your rod. I’m going to tie that lure back on and see if I can’t prove to you that’s a fishin’ lure,” as I reeled my rig in.

No sooner than I had gotten the lure payed out behind the boat than a good-sized salmon nailed it. I played it toward the boat, but for the second time that morning, another one got away. Try again. Hadn’t gone 20 yards when that rod (light spinning) doubled right down. Threw the motor immediately into neutral.

“Grump,” Hallie screamed, ”You’ve got a Big Fish,” and jumped off the life jackets.

“I think I’m hung down, Hallie. I can’t even reel in!!”

The boat lost way almost immediately and started to drift back. I tried to wind the crank and it gained a bit of territory. One crank, then another and another. Felt like I was pulling the boat back. As suddenly as the weight had struck it let go and this fish shot straight up out of the water with a terrific splash as Hallie screamed again, ”Grump... it’s a BIG FISH....Grump it’s HUGE. Don’t lose it. What do we do Grump..HOLD ON!!!” No excitement from this little girl.
“Hallie, grab the net. I’m going to have to play it for awhile to tire him down. You’ve got to work the net. We’ll never get it into the boat otherwise.”

“I can’t Grump. I don’t know what to do. I can’t. I’m scared we’ll lose it. What do I do. Hold on to it”

This was a big Bass. Bigger than anything I’d ever hooked in 64 years of fishing the lake.

I slowly and ever so gently, keeping tension on the fish, worked and guided it toward the boat, giving line as the drag released, retrieving as best I could. Hallie stood at the side of the skiff, net in the water, giving me instructions. “This way Grump... NO, over this way. DON’T LOSE IT.”

We’d get the fish just into the net and out he’d swim before Hallie could lift.

“Hallie, don’t pick that net up until I tell you. We don’t want it flopping out and getting away!!”

Finally, Mr. Bass had tired. I put enough tension on the rod to convince him that net was his only choice. “Lift now, Hallie. Lift now”! She could pick the net up out of the water, but only to the level of the gunnel. There was plenty of life left in this old warrior and he wasn’t giving up yet as Hallie struggled to hang on.

I immediately set the rod down and helped her lift net and fish into the boat. She was wide-eyed and ecstatic. And for good reason. Being without a tape measure or scale, I put my forearm down on this smallmouth Bass and it stretched from the tip of my elbow to the point of my fingers and was heavy to boot.

Wanting to release it, yet wanting to scale this exciting catch and draw it out on a board as well, I dislodged the hook, threw a wet towel over it, and we began pouring water over him. I gunned the motor up and headed for camp as fast as that Johnson 8 would take us. Pulling into the dock, Hallie tied us up while I got a line through its mouth and gill and worked it in the water as he began to absorb oxygen and swim. As luck would have it, I had to drive into town for a scale from son Derek’s restaurant, but when we got back, Mr. Bass was in fine shape. The girls had returned. And we were able to get all the particulars done as well as take pictures. Final count, 18” and 2.5 lbs. Fat and sassy. Cut out on the board and mounted below Dad the Doctor’s two salmon is the latest, labeled “Hallie’s Bass.”

Mr. Bass is now swimming in the lake with an adventure story he can to relate to his grandchildren.

Of the many cooking magazines I’ve subscribed to over the years, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Food and Wine, to name just a few, AJ and I decided a few years ago that other than tearing out the really special and unique recipes, the only one we’d save would be “Saveur.” We trust the proportions and the editors seem to continuely come out with a very readable, well-rounded, and interesting publication that remain readable over time. This comes from James Beard’s “American Food Writing,” November 2007, #106.



James Beard’s Beef Stroganoff

1-1/2 lbs. Filet of beef

1/4 cup White Wine or vermouth

6 T. Butter

A1 or Worcestershire sauce

Olive oil (regular)

1-1/2 cups sour cream

2 T. ch. Green onion, White and Green parts

Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Chopped parsley

Cooked Egg noodles (1 lb.)

Cut the beef into very thin pieces. Melt 4 T of butter in the pan and get it as hot as you can without burning: if you add a bit of olive oil to the butter it helps prevent it from turning brown. Saute the beef slices in the hot fat very quickly. When they are delicately browned on both sides and done (this takes only a minute or two), remove them to a hot platter. Add remaining butter and the chopped green onions and cook for a minute. Then add the wine or vermouth and a dash or two of A.1. sauce or Worcestershire and the sour cream. Stir well and heat through, but do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Salt to taste and pour the sauce over the beef. Top with a sprinkling of fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley. Serve atop the cooked (al dente, of course) egg noodles. Serves 4.


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