On the way home, one of my classmates, Jeff, decided to see if he could find our childhood fishing hole, Black Lake, a small pond about 3 or 4 miles out of town just past the city sewer ponds.
Try as he might, Jeff couldn’t find Black Lake and almost got stuck in the mud trying but failing to find it. Jeff sent me an email, and I spent the better part of an hour poring over Google Earth aerial photos trying to pin it down.
Had our childhood fishing hole vanished, like Owens Lake or Tulare Lake?
While searching for Black Lake, I was inundated by memories of all the town’s kids who had fished there.
I remember Brad Bayassee, Dell Bassi, Butch Cooper, Jim Corso, Jack Cramer and a host of other kids who fished and swam there.
Over time, I began to notice that my rod was a lot longer than that of any of the other kids. To make matters worse, my darned old long fly rod had a funny reel and wouldn’t cast a bobber and a worm worth a darn.
All the other kids could cast their bobbers way out in the middle of the lake, and all I could reach was the sunken trees right next to the shore. It never dawned on me that the other guys never caught any fish out there in the middle, but that they caught their fish right next to the brush, just like I did.
We caught bluegills, crappie, baby stripers, and once in awhile, some lucky stiff would catch a bass.
One day, I was fishing next to shore, as always, when I got a hefty bite. I reared back to set the hook, and suddenly, the battle was on.
I was in seventh heaven, and kids began to come from all around the lake to see what kind of monster “Old Long Rod” had caught.
When I finally brought the monster to shore, I had no idea what kind of fish this long, ugly creature was. Everybody looked at everybody else, and no one knew the answer.
Finally, someone called Jim Corso over to take a look. Everyone knew that Jim knew just everything about fishing.
“That’s a sturgeon,” he exclaimed. “My dad caught one before. That’s great, Don! Nobody ever caught a sturgeon at Black Lake before.”
My monster sturgeon must have been every bit of 2 feet long.
I don’t really know if Black Lake is still around or if it got filled in and is now an alfalfa field. I suspect maybe it might be something like the mythical town Brigadoon that only appeared every hundred years.
It may not be in the satellite photos, but Black Lake will live forever in the collective memory of a bunch of kids who somehow became old codgers.
• Don Moyer is an author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.