Until my brother in-law Dennis came to visit, we thought of the Oconto River as a recreational vehicle, transporting us via kayak, canoe, or inner tube from drop in point to cabin on frothy summer waves.
It formed a scenic, babbling backdrop to the view from our front porch swing.
Then Dennis arrived with his green lures and earthworms, license and reels, and we learned our charming river could be an excellent food source as well.
Dennis is a fisherman, the kind of guy who can land a small mouth bass, clean, filet, pan fry and serve it faster than you can say, “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills.”
He once fished an entire weekend with a wire hook embedded in his lower lip.
“It was a brand new hook so I knew it was clean,” he said. “It hurt a lot, but I got six beautiful trout that weekend, including the biggest Steelhead I’ve ever caught.”
This weekend, he and his son, our nephew Ryan, taught us a little something about how to eat food so fresh it melts in your mouth, and so delicious you want to chew anyway.
I took notes, but there’s no way we’ll be able to recreate that meal.
Norman McLean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “If our father had had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”
Ryan and Dennis, two very skilled fishermen, honored their catch.
We’re grateful for every bite our family fishermen provided us, and for every moment they spent with us.
Dennis is the best kind of fisherman. He can spin a good yarn at the same time he untangles a 40-year old snarl of fishing lines in my dad’s old tackle box.
Here he is showing us all how it’s done on the river.
Though, I have to be honest, Ryan caught the biggest fish.
Here is Ryan casting on the river. He picked up a wood tick or two, but he found an excellent spot.
Dennis with a couple of his catch.
Here is Dennis in action in the kitchen. Pan fried bass.
My sister in-law Donna, Vinnie, my sister in-law Sharon, the family historian, and Ryan.
My plate. Be jealous. Be very jealous. That’s fresh, smoked (by Dennis) salmon, which he caught the day before in Lake Michigan, fruit salad, and the flakiest pan friend fish I’ve ever tasted.