BRIAN JOHNSON ON OUTDOORS: The good ol’ days fishing with Mimi, one of the best

Published 12:53 am Sunday, January 28, 2018

My early days of bass fishing the LNVA canals in Port Neches were just the beginning.

I had been bitten by the bug and I was now hooked for life. I would have chances to fish with some great fishermen over the next several years and each one would have an impact on my life.

One of the best fishermen I ever knew was my own great grandmother. I called her “Mimi”.

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Of all the fishermen I have met in my life, to this day she still ranks No. 2 on the list of hardcore.

I can remember her fishing all day long in the Texas heat on Lake Sam Rayburn. Early in the morning, she would load up her car with her own special stink bait formula and head down to the lake.  Once she made it to the lake she would carefully place her bait and poles into the 14-foot john boat with a 9.9 Evinrude that was tied up on the bank waiting.  She would push this boat in the water by herself, give the pull rope a tug and head to her favorite spot for the day.

Mimi was a go-getter. She didn’t need a man to take her fishing or to help her clean her fish. She was completely capable of taking care of herself.

Mimi wasn’t just a lucky fisherman, she was a skilled fisherman. She didn’t just blindly head out to the lake to fish; instead she had several places prepared. You see Mimi knew that anything worth having was worth working for, so she put effort into her fishing spots.

Each spot was baited with soured chicken scratch. She would keep a bucket in the yard getting ready, and one in her designated fishing car (that stunk to high heaven) to chum the area several times a week.

Once on the water, Mimi would motor out to her favorite old tree stump and tie up for the day. She would often spend the day waiting for hours on end with only a straw hat between her and the blazing sun.

Her time was not wasted though because she caught piles of fish. Sometimes crappie, an occasional bass, but mostly catfish.

She caught big fish and she caught small fish. In fact she caught enough fish to keep everyone in the family well stocked for the year. Her moto was: “If it is big enough to bite, it is big enough to eat”. From a bream to a gar … she would cook them all.  It was great having this legendary fisherman as my Mimi, and I can still remember when she started taking me fishing as a young boy.

With her, there was no casting out your line. She fished with a short pole that was about 3 feet long and she would simply drop the line straight down beside the boat.  Once the weight hit the bottom she would reel the line in counting the number of rotations before she stopped reeling.

After she caught a fish or two she would tell me, “they are three cranks off the bottom,” and that’s where I would fish. As different as this was from my usual bass fishing, I thoroughly enjoyed my summer trips fishing with my great grandmother.

One day each summer, she would take me and my brother fishing in her bigger boat. We would load the boat with potatoes, cornmeal, grease, ketchup and drinks.  She had planned on us having a cookout on the bank of the lake under the trees.

I can still remember asking her what would happen if we did not catch any fish. Her answer was simply “We will eat French fries”.  We kept this tradition going for many years and never once had to eat just French fries.

It was memories like this that will be forever in my mind. In fact, if I sit back and close my eyes, I can still see the smile on her face and smell the aroma of the fish frying in the great outdoors.

Mimi would fish six days a week. She never fished on Sunday though because she told me that was “The Lord’s Day” and he gave us six other days to fish. No doubt, as hard as she fished, she needed a day to rest.

As I sit back and ponder these great times with my Mimi, I am aware of the great amount of effort it must have taken.  Remember, she was my great grandmother.  She was well advanced in years yet still took the time to do all of this with me and for me.

I can honestly tell you that I will be forever grateful for the time my Mimi spent fishing with me.  She has been gone for many years now, but her memories will be with me forever. Happy memories, not sad ones. The kind that put a smile on my face each time I recall them.

Remember that none of us is born knowing how to fish. I encourage you to take the time to take a youngster fishing. Teach someone else the art of fishing. Remember the old saying about “Give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat forever.” No doubt it is a lot of effort, but it is worth it.

Use these fishing trips to talk about faith, family, and friendships.  You can make a bigger impact taking someone fishing than you might think.

I bet my Mimi never imagined she would be in the newspaper, twenty plus years after she went to be with the Lord, all because she made a difference by taking me fishing.

Brian Johnson, originally of Port Neches, is pastor of the Outdoorsman’s Church in Winnie, owner of and outdoors writer for The News.