I know that Father’s Day isn’t until next weekend, but my son, Garrett, is already talking about it. Grandpa is coming to visit, and Garrett gets to go fishing.
An annual Father’s Day fishing trip has become a bit of a tradition in the eight years I’ve lived in Rhinelander. Well, I wouldn’t so much call it a trip as an excursion. My dad travels here from Peshtigo every Father’s Day to spend the weekend fishing. We don’t go far, usually choosing a small lake in this area where I hear they’re biting. This excursion isn’t about fishing for trophies. Instead, what it’s really about is spending some time on the water, talking about life and enjoying the day. No pressure; just a few poles and a boat.
Last year our annual tradition took on additional significance, as my son, Garrett, joined us for the first time. I didn’t know how my little 2-year-old would do out on the water, but he actually surprised me. I had a small fishing pole rigged up with a pink jig that he picked out special out of my tackle box. He even had a very good reason why he chose that particular jig: “The fishies like pink, Dad…not the orange and green ones you and Grandpa have,” he told me as I got his pole ready. “Don’t worry, you and Grandpa can have some of my fish.”
Who was I to argue with that logic?
Of course, anyone who has ever taken a 2-year-old fishing knows that their concentration lasts about 71/2 seconds. Fortunately, Garrett soon became a pro at scooping minnows out of the bait bucket for us, and he loved when we handed him fish to put in the livewell. In fact, it was hard to keep him out of there, as watching the fish swim in the livewell was certainly a spectacle of amazement for a 2-year-old.
As we drifted through a prime weed bed, though, Garrett’s little pole started bouncing. He picked it up and jerked, and was soon fighting a fish on the other end of the line. “I got one…it’s HUGE!” he shouted as he reeled. After a little help reeling, I reached over and pulled Garrett’s first fish into the boat. Garrett struggled to hang onto the little northern pike as it wriggled and struggled to get free. After taking the jig out and snapping a photo, I explained to Garrett that he “had to put his fish back in the lake so it could grow bigger.”
“But Daddy, my fishy should go swim with your fishies,” he said, pointing to the livewell.
“No, he needs to go back to his family,” I answered. “He’s too little for us to keep.”
As I carefully leaned Garrett over the side of the boat, he gently set the little pike back in the water. After a second or two, the fish livened up and leisurely swam away. “Bye-bye Garrett fishy,” said my boy, waving as his first catch swam away.
Later on that day, Garrett sat with Dad and I as we cleaned our catch from the day-a nice little haul of panfish. He was still very excited about his fishing trip, and couldn’t wait to tell Mommy about his trophy fish once we got home. He was even sure to add that he put the fish back in the lake so it could get bigger.
This week I’ve been preparing the boat, making sure the batteries are charged and my tackle is ready to go for our Father’s Day Weekend excursion. What was once a two-generation tradition has expanded to three generations, and the memory of my son’s first fish last year will always be etched vividly into my memory.
Part of our weekend tradition is cooking up a fresh fish fry with our catch. Fish is never tough to find in our house, though, as Dad always keeps us supplied with plenty of walleye fillets. Saying he’s an avid walleye angler would be an understatement. A few months back, looking for a different way to prepare a walleye dinner, I came across a great baked fish recipe that we tried and loved. I’m including that recipe here, along with a few of our family’s favorite fish fry side-dishes. Enjoy…and go make your own Father’s Day memories.
Butter Herb Baked Fish
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup crushed saltines
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. basil leaves
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 lb. frozen or fresh walleye or perch fillets (thawed and drained)
In 9×13 inch pan, melt butter in preheated oven 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile in 9 inch pie pan combine cracker crumbs, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and garlic powder. Dip fish fillets in butter and then in crumb mixture. Arrange fish fillets in baking pan. Bake near center of oven for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until fish is tender and flakes with a fork. Serve immediately.
Dad’s Baked Beans
1 lg. can baked beans
3 Tbs. ketchup
1 Tbs. mustard
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 lb. bacon
Combine baked beans, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar in a casserole dish. Cover with bacon strips. Cook at 350 degrees, or medium heat on the grill or in the stove, covered for 1 hour. Uncover and cook an additional 10 minutes.
German Potato Salad
4 slices bacon
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped green onions
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and chop. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside. Reserve bacon fat. Add the flour, sugar, water and vinegar to skillet and cook in reserved bacon fat over medium heat until dressing is thick. Add bacon, potatoes and green onions to skillet and stir until coated. Cook until heated and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Cape Cod Coleslaw
1 head green cabbage, shredded
11/4 cups real mayonnaise
3 carrots, slivered
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 Tbs. Gold’s horseradish, grated
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. celery seed
Cut or shave carrots into strips. Combine all ingredients in a large plastic container and mix well. Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving.