Fishy Stories

The other day, one of my friends at work came back from a fishing trip. He was bragging about how big a fish he caught. Well, we all have heard of those “fishy” stories, where a 1-foot fish that was captured was exaggerated into a whale-of-a-story.

But my friend has a photo to prove his claim. It was not a whale, but I have to agree, it was big.

And what did he do with his prized catch? He released it back. What? All the trouble of catching it, then just setting it free?

That’s what many people do, especially here in the US, who fish for pastime or sports. They sit (on docks or in boats) or stand (as in fly fishing) for long hours, waiting for a fish to bite. And when they reeled in a fish, they release it back.

I don’t get it.

Why go through all the hassles of catching fish, only to let them go? But maybe that’s the Filipino in me speaking. In our culture, we don’t fish for pure leisure. We catch the fish, to eat the fish!

I have been invited to go to recreational fishing trips before, but many times I declined. I am not a fan of fishing. Though it’s not that I have not gone fishing before.

When we were still In New York, we joined some Filipino friends, where we went fishing in Long Island, but not the conventional way of using reel and rod. We waded in the shallow ocean waters and used a long net. With several of us holding on the net we tried to enclosed and catch schools of anchovies (dilis). Of course we ate those dilis.

Then when we moved to Florida, a family visited us from Canada who like to go fishing. So we took them to St. Petersburg pier. It was during that time that my wife said “I hate fishing.” Her sentiment was not hating fishing as much as the waking up so early. We had to get up at 3 in the morning, so we can be at the pier at 5, because they say it was better to go fishing when it was still dark.

Now whenever we have to wake up early for a trip, she would blurt out: I hate fishing!

Here in Iowa, a couple of years ago, another family and ours went camping. It was near a lake. So we rented canoes and tried fishing on the lake. After a couple of hours canoeing, and fishing, we did not catch anything. Not even a small dinky fish. But it was a fun experience though.


my son during our last fishing trip

Back in the Philippines, do you know that I can claim that we were fishermen? We catch fish for a living, at least for a couple of years.

My father besides being an accountant, dabbed into entrepreneurship, like poultry, mushroom farming, and cassava cake bakery. All of them were not successful, but he tried. His biggest business endeavor was owning a fish pen.

I was in high school at that time when my father rented an area in the middle of Laguna de Bay. There we erected a fish pen with bamboo poles and enclosed it with net. This is where we farmed bangus (milkfish). We put thousands of fingerlings, smaller than my pinky, into the pen, and then raised them for several months, until they were as long as my forearm. Milkfish by the way is the national fish of the Philippines.

We even built a small nipa hut on stilts next to the fish pen, in the middle of Laguna de Bay, which is about 15-minutes boat ride from the shores of Alabang. So every Sunday, my family would visit the fish pen, and spent hours swimming and canoeing around the pen. But most of the time we just watched the bangus grow.

We don’t even have to feed the bangus, for they eat the “lumot” and plankton in the lake. Though at times we bought sacks of stale pan de sal from Mang Godoy, who owns a local bakery shop in Sampaloc. We would throw these pan de sals inside the pen, just to watch the bangus devour them like hungry piranhas.

In fact the easiest way to fish that I learned was to throw a pan de sal inside the fish pen and when they gather around the bread, just scoop them out of the water with a net. Voila! We had bangus for lunch.

When it was time to harvest the bangus, it was so neat to watch as workers closed them all in a large net. It may take hours. But after all the labor we would have boatloads of flapping fish ready to sell in the market.


fish pen in Laguna de Bay with Mt. Makiling in the backdrop (photo from the web)

Unfortunately, our fish business did not last that long. With typhoons, personnel problems and other setbacks, we did not profit from it, but barely broke even. So after two harvest seasons, my father sold the fish pen.

I think we were not meant to be fishermen.

Nowadays, the only fishing that I do is inside the market or a store. And I don’t need a pole, or a line, or a bait.




Autumn Camping

Summer is gone and autumn is upon us. Though last weekend our family and our friends still went out for a camping trip. Maybe this will be the last hurrah for this season before our temperature dips down to bitterly cold range.

We drove down to Lacey-Keosauqua State Park which is about 2 hours from Des Moines. This state park is one of the biggest and most picturesque in Iowa. “Keosauqua” is a Native American term meaning “the stream bearing a floating mass of snow, slush or ice.” Though no snow yet when we were there.

Autumn camping has a different appeal due to the awesome color of the surrounding nature.

fall foliage with its peak color

You may argue that it was not a true camping since we did not sleep in tents. Instead we stayed in small rustic cabins. The cabins were complete with a toilet, shower, heater/air conditioner, refrigerator, stove, microwave and sofa beds. What else can you ask for? A jacuzzi maybe?

our comfy cabin

camping is not complete without a campfire

When I went out for my morning jog, I can hear a lot of movement and rustling in the woods. I know I was not alone. But before you think that there were fairies and supernatural creatures in this forest, it was not that. What I mean were forest animals. In this case, there were deers.

can you spot the three deer?

more deer crossing

There was a lot of hiking trails in this park. And I believe the best way to enjoy nature is by hiking through the woods. And that’s what we did.

hiking trail

We encountered these ghostly creatures in this enchanted forest. OK they were just our kids in a “jumping” photo.

stony path

Our hike led us to the lake. The water was so serene. With the fall-colored foliage reflecting on the water, it was really beautiful. There was even a beach. Alright, alright, it’s probably not a beach that you picture in your mind just like in Hawaii. But still, it is a beach with a sandy shore.


downward pathway leading to the lake


fall colors reflection in the water

my son and his friend in the beach

The following day, we headed down to a nearby bigger lake. This time we did not just stay on the banks of the lake, we went into the waters. No, not swimming. We went canoeing.

my son and I in one canoe

we even did some fishing

flock of geese flying over the lake

our friends in the other canoe

our friends in the other canoe

my daughter and her friends in another canoe

After almost two hours paddling and fishing, how much fish do you think we caught? A big fat zero! And we thought we can have a freshly caught grilled fish for lunch. O well, we settled for egg-salad sandwich instead.

our canoes side by side

It was a great camping trip and it sure was fun. We may have not caught any fish, but we still do have a lot of stories to tell. (And pictures to show too.) Until the next adventure.

(*all photos taken with iPhone)