Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

Fishing with Dad

David and Larry with fish

In ’65 or ‘66 Dad bought a 17 foot fiberglass canoe which would we used mostly for fishing.  One of the more memorial fishing trips was on Newnans Lake which is a short distance east of Gainesville.  Such fishing trips started with loading the canoe on top of our station wagon. A 17 foot fiberglass canoe is quite heavy, and we would struggle getting it from the backyard where it was stored, to our station wagon that was in the front of the house in the driveway.  Dad would carry the rear while David and I would carry the front, with Dad encouraging us along and to not drop the canoe.  Arriving at the car, I would help Dad put the canoe onto the top the station wagon, (David was too short) and then Dad would lash it down to the car.   After loading up the fishing gear in the back of the wagon and we set off traveling up University Avenue from our house on the west side of town, past the Chemistry Building where Dad worked, though old downtown, then stopping at the Tackle Box for bait and fishing supplies. 

The Tackle Box was a popular fishing store on the east side of town located where the Hawthorne road splits off from University Avenue.  I really liked The Tackle Box with its rows of fishing gear, rods, reels, nets, hooks, line, sinkers, bobbers, lures, bins of different colored plastic worms looking like they were slithering together, little white paper cartons of live worms, tanks of live bait fish and all sorts of other things which I didn’t know what they were.  Upon entering the store Dad would stop and talk to the man at the counter about what fish were biting, what people were using for bait and then we would set off down the aisles. I could spend an hour looking at all the fishing gear, but Dad was focused and headed to the hooks section where there were hundreds of hooks in little plastic boxes.  Hooks of every size, some big as my hand some smaller than a dime, three prong hooks, barbed hooks, hundreds of hooks.  Dad had been fishing since a small boy, so he quickly found the right size hook.  Then to the bobber section that had a hundred different bobbers of different sizes and colors.  As a boy Dad used corks for a bobber but here, he bought the modern round red and white plastic bobbers which to attach to your fishing line you press the button on top, thread the line through the hook at the bottom, and then release the button.  Next was the sinker section where Dad bought the little round lead sinkers that had a slit in them so that they could be crimped on the fishing line.   Dad also knew he was going bass fishing with his fishing buddy the following week, so he bought several different sizes of plastic worms in various colors, red, purple and yellow.  But today we were fishing for Bluegill, so he picked up a couple cartons of worms.  After paying for it all we were on our way.

Upon arriving at Newnans Lake I helped Dad take the canoe off the car and with David’s help carry it down to the water where we loaded up our fishing gear and paddled out into the lake.  Dad was quite exited as he had heard the Blue’s were bedding and you could catch them in as fast as you could pull them in, or so he was told.  After paddling for fifteen minutes or so Dad started looking into the water looking for white sandy spots on the bottom which he explained were made by the fish clearing spots to make their nests to lay eggs.  The water was only five or six feet deep and soon we spotted some of the sandy spots, so we stop, get our poles out and Dad puts the appropriate size hook, sinker and bobber on the lines.  David and I then get a worm from the little white paper carton  and put them on our hooks, something we learned from fishing with Grandma. [span class="auto-style2">link] The fish were hitting and, in an hour, we got a dozen which Dad put on a fish stringer and put in the water to keep them alive.  I always thought this cruel, poking the metal barbed on the end of the fish stringer though the fish’s mouth and out its gill and then seeing them struggle when placed back in the water.  But it was all part of fishing.

After catching a couple dozen, we headed back to the dock and when, pulling into the dock, we saw  giant tadpoles in the water near shore.  I had seen little back tadpoles smaller than a dime which I would sometimes catch and bring back put them in an aquarium and watch them turn into frogs. But these were giant tadpoles, the size of a large dill pickle, bullfrog tadpoles Dad explained.  While Dad was tying  down the canoe on top of the car, David and I went down to the water and caught several of the giant tadpoles which we brought home in a bucket of water and watched turn into frogs.

CampingMe on the left, david at table and Dad next to our popup camper at Juniper Srings

On several occasions our family went on camping trips at Alexander and Juniper Springs where Dad would take David and I on the spring’s creeks and fish.  I would sit in the front, David would sit in the middle, and Dad would take the rear seat and we would set off down the creek.  Both Alexander and Juniper have small creeks flowing from the main spring, which at the start are only a dozen feet across and almost completely covered under the canopy of ancient cypress, oak, and magnolia trees.  The crystal clear, cool spring water and shaded canopy overhead, was a nice change to the hot summer day.  The only problem with this seemly idyllic place was that the narrow creek twisted and turned like slithering snake with half fallen trees hanging over the creek which we had to duck to get under and old sunken tree logs just under the surface which we would get stuck on.  With Dad in the rear doing most of the steering, David in the middle paddling and me in the front paddling but I also had the responsibility of looking out for obstacles in the water of which there were plenty.   For upcoming turns or obstacles that I pointed out, Dad would direct David and me, “Paddle left, paddle right, harder. No, the other side.”, he would say.  

Gar fishThen there was the wildlife, an alligator, or two, or three sunning themselves on the bank of the creek.  If we were quiet, we could drift a dozen feet from them as we passed but with any sound or movement, they would slip into the crystal clear water and we could see them swim away, sometimes right under the canoe.  The turtles were plentiful, ranging in size from a few inches to over a foot, sunning themselves on logs that stuck up out of the water, sometimes over dozen or more on larger logs. If they were startled you could hear the plop, plop, plop as each slipped off the log into the water sometimes with only the largest remaining on the log, perhaps being older and wiser he knew we meant no harm.  On one occasion in the as I looked into the water alongside the canoe there seem to be moving logs which when I looked closer, saw it was giant gar fish over three feet long. 

After navigating past the narrow and more treacherous, part of the creek it emerges from the shaded canopy part of the creek into a hundred or more yard wide open marsh area with four or five foot high marsh grass with the creek flowing though it. Here the creek curves less, widens out and is mostly in the hot sun except when it occasionally gets close to shore.  This is where Dad would usually start fishing, taking his rod and reel and casting a pink or blue plastic worm out into the water.  On later trips Dad let me use his older rod and reel and he taught me how to cast.  On good days we might get one or two fish which we would bring back to camp and Mom would cook for dinner.   

The Tackle Box closed in 2011 after 58 years of business

Updated: 10-07-2023

Swannee River