Dear Fish Diary; Cat Splat Fever

Nobody likes getting skunked. A lot of time and effort is put into each fishing trip in anticipation of making that special creel limit haul. Did you ever think, as you’re motoring back to the boat launch with your tail between your legs and a sad, defeated look on your face that getting skunked might be a blessing in disguise? We are not programmed to think that way but I’m guessing Tim Ewald, of Caro, is reprogramming his thought process right now.

On a beautiful, warm summer morning, Tim was anticipating a perfect walleye day. He was on board his 22-foot SeaRay with his wife Janine and 8-year-old daughter Caitlyn. Ahhhh, the perfect family outing, who could ask for anything more?

Except a few fish of course, that isn’t asking so much. What is a perfect family daytrip without catching some fish? Do you really think it’s all about spending quality time together? Do you really believe that “it doesn’t matter if we catch fish or not as long as we’re out here together” speech?

Now let’s quit the sappy stuff and get real. If it was all about cuddly family time you wouldn’t be trolling six lines behind you working your rear end off to find the magic lure of the day. If it was just about quality time, you would leave the rods and lures on shore and just take a pleasure cruise. No, you’re out to make memories and everyone will remember that 10-pound walleye. Everyone one remembers the day when they couldn’t keep their lines in the water because the fish were biting so fast and furious.

Nobody from my household wants to remember days of getting skunked.


Because all they remember is me getting grumpier and grumpier by the hour. Soon, that quality family time is all about who can get out of the boat first. Instead of bonding, we’re separating. Those smiles quickly turn to frowns as my jovial optimism spasms into a firecracker with a short fuse. I’m not like that anymore because I’ve become accustomed to not catching any fish. But there was a day I’ll tell you.

All of that preparation doesn’t make for a memorable day unless you are catching fish by the boat load. Well…unless you are Tim. Tim found a way, or a way found Tim, to make one crummy fishing day unforgettable.

It all started while he and his wife and daughter were getting skunked. It started as he was ready to call it quits and surrender this particular fishing excursion as a loss. As talk of heading back to shore surfaced, somebody decided to give it a little while longer.

That somebody was probably Tim. But that decision was quickly rewarded with a strike. Tim grabbed the rod and began reeling…Do you see what I’m saying here about why fishing isn’t exactly quality family time? “Tim” grabbed the rod and started reeling. After spending an entire day on the water not catching a thing, wouldn’t you give the first fish of the day to the 8-year-old girl? Wouldn’t you give every fish of the day to the 8-year-old girl?

I’m not blaming you Tim and I’m not trying to throw you under the boat. Your actions are perfectly justified by a common disease among fishermen called “skunk syndrome.” The longer we go without catching anything the more our brain becomes dysfunctional. Before long we actually become delusional and all common sense gets thrown overboard. No matter how pouty our cute little 8-year-old girl appears, as she’s staring at you with that “daddy, why didn’t you let me catch the fish” sad puppy dog look in her eyes, all you’re thinking about is landing a fish that will take the skunking off of your statistical chart. To some it may sound extremely selfish, but as I said, it’s a disease that we have absolutely no control over. Instead of being upset by our actions, please, try and understand. And for Pete’s sake, quit whining as I’m reeling in this one and only fish of the day. Because once I land this fish it means one thing… you got skunked, not me. Ha… And that is how this under researched disease makes us think.

Tim lands the fish, but to his dismay, it is not a walleye. It’s a catfish. Whiskers were not on the trolling menu, but either way, it’s a fish and at least the day wasn’t a total bust. As Tim was wrestling to get the catfish off the hook, it did what catfish do, use their upper body strength, powerful tail, and slippery skin, to slither away from its captor. This is why you never, never, ever, try to hold a catfish in your hands, while standing up to unhook it. Tim probably knows that, but with “skunk syndrome” setting in, he’s not thinking too straight.

The cat wiggles free of Tim’s grip and plummets to the deck. But between the cat and deck is Tim’s bare foot. What are the chances that the catfish would not only land on Tim’s foot, but land in such a way that it would drive its bony pectoral fin deep into it? One would think the chance of that happening would be impossible, but in Tim’s case, I guess the odds are pretty good. This is why you never try to unhook a catfish standing up while barefoot. Tim probably knows this but…well, you know, he’s not thinking straight.

So what exactly do you do when a catfish has impaled its bony fin into the top of your foot and is frantically wiggling around? Well…you grab the slimy thing and pull it out. But what do you do when a catfish has impaled its bony fin into the top of your foot and you can’t pull it out? Well…you incorporate all hands on deck to help you pull it out. And when the catfish’s bony fin was finally removed from the top of Tim’s foot, a three-foot fountain of blood followed, turning the inside of his boat into a forensic crime scene. The catfish had punctured an artery. Tim hurled the attacker back into Saginaw Bay.

Thanks Tim, God help the next person who catches that fish.

Now he is about to pass out. His wife is frantic. His 8-year-old girl who was snubbed because of his “skunk syndrome,” who gets sick at the sight of blood, is now in charge of driving the SeaRay back to shore. Who can blame the child for nearly whipping out several fishermen on frenzied drive back? Now this is what I call memorable, quality family time. To add to the drama, as Tim was putting pressure on his open wound, the rods, which were still being trolled behind the boat began getting action. Janine landed two nice walleye in the middle of a medical catfish impalement emergency. Just for the record, neither of those walleye attacked Tim.

Although Tim survived the slithery catfish ambush with only a scar as a reminder, he most likely learned some valuable lessons that we can all learn from.

Lesson 1) Fishing is not considered quality family time.

Lesson 2) Always wear shoes while fishing. In Tim’s case, wear steel toed boots.

Lesson 3) Never unhook a fish that has teeth or bony fins while holding it and standing up. Always put the fish on the deck or ground to unhook it.

Lesson 4) Always let the 8-year-old girl have the first fish. Better yet, let the kids catch all the fish.

Lesson 5) If Tim has been skunked for more than three hours, do not allow him to handle any fish with teeth or bony fins.

Lesson 6) Teach your children to drive the boat at a young age, just in case.

Lesson 7) Never take Tim marlin or swordfish fishing.

Now Tim, and many others, are probably wondering about the after-effects of the poison that was injected into his body from the spine of the catfish. I have good news Tim. Any time you survive a fish related injury, whether it’s a bite, sting or puncture, the venom injected into your system is the only anti-venom known to man to cure “skunk syndrome.” You should be feeling calmer now when going long periods of time without catching anything. You should be wondering why you are taking more pleasure boat rides with your family and leaving the rods on shore. If you decide to take the rods, you should be more willing to give up the first fish of the day to your daughter with the sad puppy dog eyes. Congratulations Tim, I think you’ve made a full recovery.

Attack Cat Alert: Since Tim released the attack cat, fishermen should be cautious when landing any catfish in Saginaw Bay. Please report any catfish attacks to me. It is quite possible that this particular catfish might be training other catfish this potentially dangerous, ninja-like, human assassin, kamikaze, reckless escape maneuver. This catfish is black, has whiskers, is about eight to ten pounds and is considered “armored” and dangerous.

Worst Fishing Day Ever?

Best Fishing Day Ever?

Send a short description of your “best or worst fishing day, or worst fishing-related adventure to me. You don’t have to write the entire story, just a brief outline of what happened. If it has some humor to it I’ll be getting in touch with you and we’ll work on the completed story together. Fishing isn’t always fun you know.

Have a fun or interesting fishing related story? Woods-n-Water News columnist Ron St. Germain can be reached by calling (517) 626-2814, e-mailing Visit the author’s online photo gallery at