The Family of Landron and Jessie Boney

Fishing with Granddad

by Jeff Soo

Landron with a mighty large bass

Granddad loved to fish. My mother remembers from her childhood that there was fresh fish for supper at least once a week, invariably served with corn bread and cole slaw. (Granddad once ordered fish at a fancy resaurant, and was sorely disappointed that there wasn't any corn bread to go with it.)

With granddaughter Ingrid on Bogue Banks, 1969

Fishing with Granddad was a special treat for us. I’m sure it was for him too—sharing something he loved with his grandchildren. In Clinton he would take us to various ponds to fish for smallmouth bass. The youngest of us he would equip with a bamboo pole to fish for panfish. My sister Cathy once had a memorable run with this rig when she was about six, catching twenty or so fish one afternoon.

My great fishing success came when I was nine. I was not then, nor am I now, even remotely competent as a fisherman, but by dumb luck I snagged a big smallmouth bass on a day when the fish weren't really biting. The fish was way out of my league, and Granddad was the one who actually reeled it in and landed it, but I got all the credit anyway. We went to a market to weigh it (it was a little over seven pounds), and then around town for Grandad to show off what an accomplished fisherman his grandson was.

He was always patient with his grandchildren, whether showing us how to fish, teaching us to play bridge, or driving us around to visit the relatives. He was a very patient man. He once kept a fish on a line for a good ten hours or so.

This was at Bald Head Island in 1980. Back then Bald Head had only a few houses and was mostly wild. We may have been the only family staying on the island at the time. We had to bring all our food for the week when we came over on the ferry, so fishing wasn’t just for fun, it was the only way we were going to get fish to eat.

With grandson Ken on Bald Head Island, 1980. I’m pretty sure this is “the fish”.

One afternoon Granddad hooked something big. He was fishing in the surf with light tackle, so he played the fish conservatively, trying to tire it out. It was a funny sort of fish. It didn’t really fight much, and it never came near the surface, but it was still very determined not to get caught.

After a while he sent the older boys out with the seine net to try to herd it in to the shore. As Ken tells it, they were making their way out into pretty deep water, when they saw the line suddenly angling toward them. They high-tailed it back to shore as well as they could, bobbing along through the deep water. We still didn't know what kind of fish it was, and were beginning to suspect some kind of shark. Not a big shark, obviously, but then again not such a small one either.

Granddad walked his fish up the beach for a good ways, and then back. Sometimes he would work the fish closer in, but it always ran back out again. With evening coming on Granddad settled in a chair to carry the fight on into the night. He wasn't about to hand off the rod to anyone else, so I think it was Mom and Rosemary who came down to the beach with his supper and fed it to him. They tried to convince him to call it quits, but in the end they just draped a sweater over his shoulders and left him to his fish.

He never caught the fish. Long after dark, the fish finally ran off all the line and broke free.

I sometimes wonder what Granddad thought about all this. Did he ever think about giving up and going to bed? I doubt it; I think he liked to see things through. In a way, I think he was just as hooked as that fish. He couldn't let the fish go, because that’s just not something a fisherman does. Of course, one reason fishermen can afford to think that way is because fish don’t generally take ten hours deciding whether or not to be caught.

How did he react when he lost the fish, sitting alone on the beach in the dark? Maybe he muttered “Pshaw” to himself; I never heard him use a harsher word than that. I reckon he was disappointed not to land the fish, maybe for five minutes or so after the line broke. Can’t catch ’em all.