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A bad day fishin' beats a good day at work!

[Big blue catfish] Keith loves to fish, though he doesn't get to go nearly so often as he would like. But, at least once or twice a year, he and a couple of buddies pack up their gear and head out for "the great fishing expedition". The destination varies, depending on whims, vacation schedules, rumors, weather, and so on. The small finger lakes in north-eastern Ohio, the Santee Cooper reservoir lakes in South Carolina, rocky shallows off of Canadian islands in Lake Erie, and various points on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan have all been visited multiple times. On our "to do" list is tuna fishing off the coast of Baja, Mexico, and maybe tarpon in the Everglades.

[A nice Chinook salmon] Sometimes, especially on the smaller lakes, the guys rent a cabin and a pontoon boat, and just spend a few days and nights catching panfish, channel cats, and the occasional bass, eating and drinking entirely too much, and recounting tales of ex-girlfriends, fast cars, good books, clueless bosses, new fishing tackle, old friends, and manly adventures. Other times, when in pursuit of specific prey such as, say, monster blue catfish, hybrid stripers, or large salmon, they'll hire a guide and charter a boat for at least one of the days, but the eating, drinking, and story telling typically remain the same. When not engaged in one of those activities, they spend their time nursing hangovers, recovering equipment that's been dropped in the lake, cursing at lines snagged in trees or stumps, removing hooks from fingers or other body parts, fending off mosquitos, turtles, poison ivy, raccoons, and other local flora and fauna, and trying to figure out how to get the lantern ignited or the engine started. (Did you know that it's actually possible to completely submerge the deck of a pontoon boat that's running at full speed in the middle of the night?)

[Lake Erie smallmouth bass] By tradition, dinner after the first day's fishing is the fresh catch. Salmon is marinated with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, and broiled on a grill. Catfish is soaked in buttermilk, dipped in cornmeal, and pan fried in peanut oil. Others are prepared as the mood strikes us. Add some fried or roasted potatoes, cornbread or biscuits, a vegetable or salad, and a couple of cold beers, and you've got one hellava meal. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Additional fish we catch are cleaned, fileted, and packed in plastic bags to be taken home and frozen. Once we have enough for everyone, we go to catch-and-release for the remainder of the trip. Great fun is had by all, and after several days of sun, water, tall tales, and scintillating repartee, the mighty fishermen return home tired, sunburned, and happy.

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