By John Skuce
When I was a boy …..
As board members identifying, discussing and researching the topics for a new marker for Shades Beach, our initial focus grew to include the entire Harborcreek Township shoreline, Lake Erie included. We each chose individual subjects on which to report. Being one of two male board members and a lifelong outdoorsman, I brought up the subject of fishing. Not fishing as we know it today, but fishing for Blue Pike sixty plus years ago. My memories are so vivid, that I forget my age and am surprised when talking with other fishermen who I suspect had the same experiences as me, respond by saying they are too young for that era. On the other hand, I know fishermen who have memories almost identical to mine.
As I look back, I am no longer sure who lived with whom, but it has never mattered. You see, my parents and grandparents always lived together. Although each of the four influenced me greatly, this story is about my grandpa. From a very early age, he instilled in me the love of nature and all things outdoors. As I recall, I was about ten years old when he took me on the first of countless blue pike outings. We took party boat excursions from the public dock and also rented much smaller boats from the local liveries. Sea sickness only laid me flat in the front of a party boat once. We caught lots and lots of fish, occasionally three at once on the same rod. Of course I am a fisherman and even in those early years, so they tell me, I loved to tell fish stories!
One of my treasures is my grandfather’s Coleman Lantern. It was manufactured in the early 1940’s and although I have repaired it many times, it still works as well as new. When we launched from the livery, it accompanied us on every trip. Many boats would collect tightly over the school of pike, each with at least one lantern, giving the impression of a small village when seen from shore. The Coleman was placed over the side of the boat on a hanger inserted in an oar lock. Since it shone exceptionally bright, ours had an accessory to shield our eyes. What was sometimes unpleasantly bright for us was an attraction for minnows – emerald shiners. When they appeared from out of nowhere, my grandfather frantically grabbed the bait net and swung it through the school before they could escape. Our supply of bait would be replenished preventing a fate dread by all fishermen – running out of bait!
Well into the night would come word from my grandpa that it was time to reel up because he was about to extinguish the lantern and head in. Even though we had caught many fish, I never looked forward to the end of fishing and still don’t even to this day!
The Coleman would be carefully inspected, made ready for next time and wait as I did for our next trip.