So, I have a fish tale to tell.
It’s about a fish we didn’t catch. But it was out of this world. A sign posted at the end of our crickety fishing pier in an alcove of Lake Wylie featured the image of a largemouth bass, the likes of which trolled deeper waters that we’d angle in.
We cast lines amid schools of bluegill and green sunfish and an occasional striped bass in the shallow waters before us.
The sign warned of mercury levels found in the larger bass found in the lake.
“What’s the sign say, daddy?” Grace asked.
Somewhere, as the dragonflies flitted and the lake waters beckoned and an 8-year-old’s attention turned to fish that begged to be hooked, my explanation took on the tone of Charlie Brown’s teacher and muddled into nonsense.
Wah wah wah.
All three girls reeled in sunfish of all sizes and colors. I even nabbed a small striper. It was a good day on a dilapidated pier. The worms and the fish didn’t stand a chance.
Days later, Grace was the one caught, hook, line, and sinker.
“Dad, Mikaela didn’t believe me about the largemouth bass!”
What’s not to believe? Some fish species contain high enough mercury levels in their blood that they’re toxic for people to eat very often. Pregnant women and children should avoid them all together. Grown-ups shouldn’t eat it more than once a week in most cases.
Water pollution is to blame, and the longer a fish is in the lake, and the higher he is on the food chain, the more mercury he’s likely to contain.
How does a rising third-grader deliver those facts, and make it compelling?
“I told her they found bass on Mercury,” my littlest accidental ichthyologist/astronomer said, “and she didn’t believe me!”
I explained that a bass on Mercury would be already broiled, grilled and fried before he could even get a start. The story about old big fish becoming toxic in an old big lake was far less compelling.
“Ohhhhhhh,” she said.
I liked your story better, Grace.
*After a short period of embarrassment, Grace gave me express written consent to tell her fish tale on my blog.