We had gone on a school trip to a nature preserve last week. One of the highlights of the experience was for the kids to fish in the lovely lake, stocked with bass, bluegill and other types of sunfish.
M looked dubiously at the bamboo fishing rod she was handed. The sharp hook at the end gleamed in the sun. "Do I have to put the worm on?"
"I will", said her gym teacher, fishing out a fat nightcrawler from the bucket she held. She dextrously maneuvered it on to the hook, still wriggling a little. (Ouch, wouldn't that hurt? The internet is not much use in resolving the question of whether they feel pain- one site suggests no, because no organs associated with pain sensing are located in the very simple nervous system, another site suggests yes, because the worms are known to produce opioid substances which would serve no purpose other than pain relief. Well, at least this site offers a more reasoned discussion.)
Anyway, the worm was on the hook, and M trotted off to the dock, which was getting crowded with other kids trying to fish. A few minutes later, heeding the suggestion of a friend, M decided to move to another location, less congested, but requiring a mini-hike through the bushes, brambles and rocks. I followed, the better to keep an eye on the group.
At the slightly rickety dock, dipping in the middle, M wandered from point to point aimlessly, casting the rod again and again, in a sort of rotation with her friends doing the same thing. It's going to be a long hour, I concluded after 10 minutes of this. One of the other kid's moms also arrived at the dock around this time. Her daughter raised up her pole: "A big fish just came by and took the worm off my hook!", she complained. M was in the vicinity, and I could see the big fish slithering around in the shallows. "Do you want to try and see if it will come to your bait?"
Not a few seconds later, M shrieked in surprise and lifted the rod out the water, struggling with the weight. "I caught him, I caught him!". The other mother came running to help her, while I struggled with the camera, trying to snap a shot of the moment. The fish was a good-sized one, with dark back and white belly, about 8-10 inches long at least, thrashing frantically. In no time, it dislodged from the hook and lay on the dock, continuing to thrash, while I caught a photo of a disbelieving M staring at the now vanished worm from the hook.
"I think the fish scratched me!", pointing to a tiny red mark on the wrist,"Something on the spine may have done this."
"You may want to get an antiseptic cream to put on that", I suggested. She looked dubious and decided to lick it instead. "Saliva will do just fine."
M, meanwhile, hopped around screaming at her highest pitch "It was a demon fish, a demon fish. I tell ya!".
Back at the shed where we handed back the rods, we heard another similar story from another girl. Only, her mother hadn't been able to get a photo of the fish before that one got away.
'There's a moral in all this, girls', opined the teacher."You won't understand it now, but when you're older. Remember that men are like fish, they always get away."