It's not where you fish, it's the Barbie bait you use

By Anthony Buccino

My pal Stinky sliced a bit of liver from a stash in his mom’s old Tupperware container, put it on the hook, cast it out, and, wham, another trout. There were times, I swear that Stinky could put a hook in one of my old G. I. Joe dolls and catch a lunker.


 Nearly 30 years ago, my dad used to drive my buddy, Stinky, and me to fish in the Diamond Mill Pond in the far reaches of the Essex County Park system.

Weekly World News says Barbie used to catch fish!

In those long ago summer days, he could have been driving us to Alaska or Lake Hopatcong. It didn’t matter much, it was a long, far ride. Dad would drop us off before 8 a.m., then pick us up around lunch time.

Diamond Mill Pond in Millburn, was too far to ride our bikes from Belleville, as was the lake in Branch Brook Park where Stinky’s Aunt Flora used to drive us and drop us off, then pick us up later.

Stinky used to catch all the fish. I never got many bites besides the ones from insects.

All I ever wanted to do was catch a fish, then throw it back without getting too much fish slime on me or my clothes.

Stinky was the fisherman among us. He had learned everything he knew from his Uncle Harry.

With what Uncle Harry taught Stinky, he put a kernel of corn on the hook, cast it in the water and caught a trout.

Or Stinky sliced a bit of liver from a stash in his mom’s old Tupperware container, put it on the hook, cast it out, and, wham, another trout.

There were times, I swear that Stinky could put a hook in one of my old G. I. Joe dolls and catch a lunker.

Sometimes we used worms. Stinky and I would both spear the hapless worm on our hooks, cast out and wait. And wait. And wait.

Then Stinky got a strike and pulled in another trout or bass or perch or whatever it was he said it was.

Back then, I didn’t much know one fish from another.

Since I never caught any, it didn’t matter anyhow whether I was catching carp or tarpon or minnows at Diamond Mill Pond or Branch Brook Park or Clark’s Pond or the Mudhole in Nutley.

I always figured if I was lucky enough to catch a fish, at least Stinky would tell me what it was and if it was legal to keep.

Not that I’d keep it, but I figured it was important to know if what I caught was legal or not before I threw it back into the water.

A few times Stinky and I would prepare for our big trip to the distant honeyhole by gathering night crawlers in my dad’s Jersey tomato garden.

We’d meet after it was dark awhile with our flashlights and Stinky would lead the way through the garden, darting down and filling his coffee can.

“It’s easy, Tonoose,” he’d say, “just look for the worms outside where the flashlight shines and grab the worm before he gets back into his hole.”

He was getting all the dumb worms, I was missing all the smart ones. He had his coffee can filled in no time while I turned mine over and used it as a tom-tom and hummed, “Glow little glow worm, glimmer . . .”

Stinky read in one of his Uncle Harry’s outdoors magazines that if you put your used coffee grinds in an old coffee can and mixed in some grass and mud and stuff, then your worms would last a long time.

At first we weren’t going to put any holes in the plastic coffee can lid. We figured worms live underground, so why would they need air holes? But then Stinky used his scientific outdoors-magazine reading mind and thought it best to punch some holes in the lid so the worms could breathe but not get out.

As it turned out, by the time it came the morning for us to go fishing with our used coffee can worms, they had all turned into mush or disappeared in the sour smelling can.

So, we had to dump the can and dig the edge of the garden for some fresh worms to take fishing with us.

In all the years since Stinky and I toured the county looking for the one that got away, I’ve fished the Lackawaxen River and Lake Wallenpaupak in Pennsylvania, Lake Erie in Ohio and Musconetcong, the river and the lake, Lake Hopatcong, Farrington Lake, and Little Swartswood in the Garden State with only slightly more success than when we were teenagers.

I’ve expanded my bag of tricks to include fake worms, fake fish, lures, spoons, spinners, fake frogs, fake mice, fake spiders and funny kind of marshmallow baits that the fish are supposed to find irresistible, with pretty much the same results.

It is only now that I am quickly rowing toward middle age that my pining for the perfect lure has struck a chord of sympathy in the ink-stained hearts of my colleagues here at the newspaper that someone has found the perfect lure that is guaranteed to help me catch a 14-pound bass from the Second River.

Rambling Round-Inside and Outside at the Same Time by Anthony BuccinoYears and years of research has led my colleague, who goes by the initials Paul O’Keefe, to share his recently discovered secret fish-catching recipe from a confidential source at a national weekly newspaper.

After swearing me to secrecy, POK, as we refer to him in shorthand, fished deeply into the pile of very important papers neatly filed on his desk and produced proof of the success of the secret weapon fish-catcher that would change my fishing experiences forever.

I’ve seen the pictures and the story, and I never thought it could be so obvious or simple.

It seems a fellow down in Florida caught a 14-pound bass in Lake Okeechobee using for his bait a Barbie doll with sets of treble hooks in the stomach and neck.

According to the article in Weekly World News, fisherman Bob Morele has used his Barbie lures to catch hundreds of bass.

Now all the worms in my neighborhood have breathed a collective sigh of relief . . . but my daughter has locked up her Barbie collection, even though she hasn’t used the dolls in years, she won’t let me take Barbie fishing.

It’s as if she actually could think that I could be that desperate to catch a lunker. What are they teaching kids today about grown-ups, I can’t figure out.

Maybe when she’s snoozing, I’ll trek into the attic and see what kind of junk might be lying around collecting dust that should be thrown out.

Yep. That's it. Just as soon as everybody's asleep, that's what I'll do.

Meanwhile, I'll just catch a nap and dream of Lunker Lake.


First published in The Independent Press of Bloomfield by Worrall Community Newspapers, August 8, 1996

Adapted from
Rambling Round - Inside and Outside at the Same Time Copyright © 1996-2014 by Anthony Buccino – used by permission.

Summer Time Writings

ANTHONY'S WORLD

Anthony Buccino


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Adapted from

RAMBLING ROUND  Inside and Outside at the Same Time

New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’

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