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The Occasional Fisherman: The first time Leon Jones caught an eel, and other stories
Ernie Mitchell
Ernie Mitchell writes about fishing for the Bryan County News

This is fun! Every time I approach somebody and ask them “Can you remember the first time you went fishing?” a grin forms on their face, the wheels begin to turn in their head, and the, “Oh yeah, let me tell you …” follows.

Kevin’s dad was stationed with the Air Force in Statesboro. When he was around 8 years old, he walked through the woods and found a pond, which is now on the Georgia Southern campus.

He took a stick, had some string and a hook. Found some bait, and as soon as it hit the water, blam — a big bite. Setting the hook he struggled to get a huge catfish to shore. He took it home and cleaned it. His mom cooked a wonderful meal with it. Kevin returned to this spot many times after that successful trip.

A couple years later his dad was transferred to Patrick Air Force Base near Kennedy Space Center.

Within wading distance on the beach are coral formations. He caught some sand fleas on shore. All saltwater fish love those little crustaceans.

And they did — he loaded his stringer tied to his waste with a variety of whiting, sheephead and croakers. Kevin had a long rope tied to his stringer, because when he got to shore sharks had eaten all his fish.

Leon Jones’s first fishing trip was when he was around 8 years old. His family went to Bear Mountain in upstate New York. He hooked something that fought hard. When he reeled it near the shore, he thought it was a snake. It scared him so much he threw his rod and reel out into the lake. Later, he found out it was one of the lake’s abundant eels.

Leon recovered from that scare and has loved fishing since then.

As I was prepping my kayak to go bass fishing, I met a fellow fisherman. Mark Oliver grew up in the beautiful area of Murphy, North Carolina. Up the hill from their house was a trout farm. One day its earthen dam collapsed, sending thousands of trout into the creek behind their house.

Mark’s grandpa was immediately aware of what happened. He got the 4-year-old Mark and they caught their limit — that day and many others for the next few weeks.

Seems to me the bass aren’t moving until the sun is really low in the horizon.

At least it’s already September, October has always been a good fishing for me. You, too?

Mitchell writes an occasional column. He can be reached at

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