Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The one that got away....

This one didn't get away!
Fessie and Beck with a monster fish

Continuing with the theme from yesterday's post about Fessie and his trotlines, here is a real, true-to-life story, as told by Fessie to my husband, Mike. Honest.

A young Fessie Pennington was working his lines in the Tombigbee River, hoping to find a big flathead. The line seemed particularly heavy this morning, and Fessie thought it might be caught on a limb since there was very little give to the line. He kept pulling and pulling on that line, but it wasn't budging. Since this particular trotline had been a very good one, producing lots of fish for Beck to fry, Fessie didn't want to cut the line. Without thinking twice, he stripped off his overalls and dove into the murky river, which was about eight feet deep or so, to unhook his line from the limb.

A surprise met Fessie at the bottom of the river. A monster fish was on his line. When Fessie tugged the line, the fish exploded into action, thrashing about in the water and trying to get free. The flathead shot up from the bottom of the hole, and as it came up so did Fessie and the trotline, with the next hook on the trotline catching Fessie in his hand. Up to the surface Fessie and the fish came, long enough for Fessie to catch some air, then down they went again. Fessie went up and down with that fish, the hook tearing at his hand with each pull of the line, but he was not about to let that fish go, even if he wasn't hooked to the trotline with it!

After several battles, and Fessie nearly drowning, the giant catfish got loose and swam off, its tail fin splashing goodbye at Fessie. Completely worn out by the encounter, Fessie managed to pull himself and the line, still attached by the hook embedded in his hand, back to the boat where he fished around in his discarded overalls to find his pocketknife. Opening the knife with his teeth, Fessie cut the hook out of his hand and released the trotline back into the river.

Fessie spent the next fifty years trying to catch that monster catfish, which he claimed was as big as he was. His son-in-law, and my father, PeeWee Robinson, claimed to have seen the fish himself, and he also spent many years trying to catch it. Needless to say, the fish has not been caught.

The scar on Fessie's hand was a source for much discussion and conversation. Fessie told his tale to all that would listen, including my husband who remembers both the scar and the story to this day. Mike spent many hours on the middle seat of Fessie's boat, having the honor of handing Fessie the bait. Fessie didn't trust him to bait the line! Thankfully for us, Mike remembers the story of the one that got away.

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