Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Good Old Days, Really?

By Lt. Bill Hempel
United States Power Squadrons

We were getting ready to head into the harbor for a day’s fishing. We plugged in the way points on the chart plotter, turned on the depth warning device and fish finder, fired up the four-stroke, and quickly put the boat up on plane. I had my ugly stick rod at hand, along with the anti-backlash reel fully loaded with monofilament.

I was sorting through the tackle box to select the proper lure for the light and water clarity conditions when it happened. FLASH BACK! Suddenly, I was teenager fishing for pan fish on Big Bear Lake in Lewiston, Michigan. Do you remember the simpler days? Getting up at 5 AM to scour the front lawn with a flashlight looking for night crawlers, and then looking under every rock or log for earth worms so we could scoop them up and place them in our tackle box, which was an empty tin can.

Our cooler: a galvanized floor pail with ice from the corner store, cut in blocks from the lake last winter, and stored in the “ice house.” Our anchor: an empty paint can filled with ready mix concrete and a rope just long enough to reach the bottom tied to the wire handle. Our fish finder: me, looking into the water until a bed of “perch weeds” rose near the surface.

Our fishing boat was a wooden 12-footer, and for “motor power,” I cranked away at the oars. Later in life, we were able to afford a 10-horse Johnson. Somebody always had to sit in the rear and steer by turning the motor. I liked the responsibility, but to this day, I still smell that awful odor of the gas and oil mixture as it burned

Our only safety gear: the flat cushion I sat on, whose label said it was a flotation device. It had two circular handles, and I was told that if we sunk to put it on my back and insert my arms through the handles, wearing it like a back pack. The boat leaked water, but we always carried a bailing can and learned how to put our feet up on the oar locks in order to keep our shoes dry

My fishing rod was an eight-foot bamboo pool with a line tied to the end that had a hook and bobber attached. When the bobber went down you quickly jerked the pole up vertically and a six-inch beauty swung towards you. It was a wild scramble to catch the fish wriggling on the end of an eight-foot pendulum before it hit the boat and fell back in the water or slapped your fishing mate in the face.

And we call those “THE GOOD OLD DAYS!”

To enjoy the good “new days” become a confident boater. The United States Power Squadrons has a course for you. To learn more contact your local power squadron unit Marco Island Sail &Power Squadron at 239-393-0150, visit it on the web at or go to As its members remind us: “Boating is fun…we’ll show you how!”

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