by Dan Jones
This Saturday marks the most revered, most treasured, most sacrosanct of all Minnesota’s secular high holy days: Fishing Opener. (Cue choir of walleyes singing in the background.)
It’s so important that, since 1948, both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Minnesota are required to fish on that day, under penalty of moral outrage and public indignation from now until the day after eternity.
The Governor and an entourage of hundreds (often including members of both political parties) are shepherded to a specially-chosen lake where professional guides put them on fish that even politicians can catch.
But not always.
More than one Governor has been skunked on Opener (walleye choir again please) but it’s very embarrassing for the entire state--like being beaten by the Packers at a home game.
In the snow.
On Thanksgiving Day.
I know of what I speak on this subject because fishing used to be a very big deal to me. (If I had a therapist, that last sentence would have been considered a “breakthrough.”)
Kinship Announcer Allen Jones wrote some very kind things about me and about this blog in a recent piece in the Kinship Journal, for which I graciously and humbly thank him. The Other Mr. Jones mentioned in those comments that at one time, I had plans to be a fishing journalist.
That is true. But more precisely, I wanted to be a writer for In-Fisherman magazine. At the time (and I believe still to this day) In-Fisherman was and is regarded as the best freshwater fishing magazine in the world. Their focus was on the science of catching fish and they pioneered many breakthroughs in angling. It was the magazine Minnesota fishing legend Al Linder built and it forever changed how people catch fish not just here in the Land of 10,000 lakes, but all around the world.
My efforts to achieve this goal included five years at Mankato State University (Yes, four-year college.) with a major in English, Concentration in Writing, and a minor in Biology, Concentration in Freshwater Ecosystems.
I loved fishing. Even as a poor college student with very limited funds, a part-time job, and no boat, (I think I did get a canoe my junior year…err…fourth year, which I then traded for a leaky 12-footer with an ancient 5hp Johnson in my fifth year) I managed to go fishing 3-6 days a week.
I studied fish. I lived fish. I had a fish-related job. I ate fish. I had a pet fish living in the Biology Lab. I dreamed of fish.
And then, it happened.
Before I had even finished college, In-Fisherman accepted one of my proposals for an article.
I spent two years researching what sunfish ate and, in February of 1992, Dan Jones was published in In-Fisherman magazine with a 12-page article entitled “Bluegills Eat Bugs.” (One more time with the walleye choir, maestro.)
Okay, so the title’s not War and Peace, but it was a big deal back then.
(For those of you who are just dying to know, the primary food of the bluegill sunfish is chironomids, the larval stage of those pesky gnats that bother you at the lake --and I’ll have you know I looked inside a lot of sunfish stomachs to ascertain that information.)
In fact, I was kind of a big deal. I was asked to public places to talk about fishing. Tackle companies sent me so much free tackle to mention in the article I still have a LOT of it to this day. I was on speaking terms with Doug Stange, Editor-In-Chief of In-Fisherman publications. There was even a picture of Al Lindner in the article I wrote holding a massive bluegill.
And, I was paid the princely sum of five hundred green cash American dollars for that article, which I promptly went out and spent on a 1972 Herter’s Yukon boat ($50), a trailer for the boat ($300), and a 9.5hp Johnson motor ($160).
Yes, all was going just according to my little plan. I was going to be rich. I was going to be famous. Doug Stange had already asked me to write another article for the magazine. I was on my way.
But that wasn’t God’s plan.
Through a number of events too long and too painful to go into in a blog this size, I came to realize traveling all over the country and possibly the world catching scads of enormous fish using the newest and the best tackle given to me for free wasn’t the most important thing in the world.
Fishing is not the most important thing in the world.
And today, almost a quarter of a century later, I would not trade the love of Jesus and the love of family with which I have been so richly blessed for all the fame and fortune and riches and fish in the world.
Yes, I gave up a dream I had back then, but it turns out God had a better plan for me when I couldn’t see it or even begin to dream how good it would be. I have learned to love and trust in Him and Him alone and I am confident that wherever He leads me from here is exactly where He wants me to be.
Thank you, Lord. (Cue angel choir.)
So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. John 21:11 NIV