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To prank or not to prank


A reoccurring theme at Bender’s Fishing Camp is the prank.
Someone, for example, put four big catfish in our live well. The hoax is extra-impressive when one considers that while almost every game or pan fish available in area waters– northern, muskie, bass, walleye, perch, blue gill, crappie– the lowly catfish is not on the list. Did someone actually import the fish just to play a prank?
Perhaps a more ominous trick was uncovered when Bobby went to light the grill. A walleye’s severed head posed with a Marlboro cigarette in its mouth greeted him. At the time it seemed like a good enough joke– Bobby even smoked the cigarette– but it wouldn’t be so funny if his role in my script turns to murder victim. Was it a warning or threat?
Of course Bob and Gonzo are no strangers to fraud.
One caper played out on a previous trip. Just to mix things up Bob went out with the Boyles, and Gonzo with the Tres Amigos. To keep in touch, Gonzo brought along a pair of walkie-talkies and each took one. Before leaving they turned the controls to maximize squelch and then proceeded to spend the session shouting into the contraptions in a fictitious language that was somewhere between German and Klingon with a little English added. “Auctoon krickkkk gusunteit, aheee plopperschnick, over,” Bob dictated while Gonzo listened on the other end through the crackles and snaps of the poorly adjusted receiver. Occasionally Gonzo would translate, “Bob just caught another walleye.”
Needless to say, the experiment in cross-cultural relations was a bomb and never tried again.
The funniest prank– at least I think it was a prank– happened as the sun was setting one beautiful Minnesota evening. Over the years it’s been determined that the best place to be for walleye at dusk is in about 14 feet of water directly in front of the big house, where the Benders’ meals are served. Roughly estimating, this is an area the size of several football fields. Typically, a half dozen boats show up around 7 p.m. and space out quietly so everyone has a maximum of personal space. It’s very much like how men select a urinal in a large restroom.
At 6:50 p.m. Bob announced that it was time to head to the walleye spot, Gonzo gunned the 125hp Mercury and we shot across the lake. As we neared we could see one boat– the Tres Amigos– already parked. “Damn those guys,” Bob announced, “they’re in our spot.” He then directed Gonzo to pull in alongside the claim jumpers, which we did arriving with a wake you could surf.
Some heated talk ensued– thank God no one had a gun– but in the end it was determined that nothing much could be done other than maintain the status quo, each boat anchored a few feet apart.
Luckily, the fish were biting for both boats and things soon settled down until Bob jerked his pole and shouted, “fish on, it’s a whopper, get the net Gonzo.” For the next few minutes Bob fought the fish, speculating the whole time that he had either hooked a record northern or maybe even a muskie, the holy grail of catches. Everyone in both boats stood and watched in anticipation. Finally, he gave his pole one mighty jerk and a rock the size of a bowling ball shot out the water, arced through the air and crashed into our boat.
In stunned silence– perhaps the only silence I heard on the entire trip– everyone just stared for a moment before breaking out into laughter.
Bob claimed the incident was the fluke of all flukes, but later I got to examine the rock. I’m no geologist, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really a rock but a hunk of volcanic tuff. It was in one of the eroded pores of the long ago compressed ash that Bob’s hook managed to snag the once in a million catch.
The thing is, volcanic rock is as rare as catfish in these parts.