Fishing on the Delaware 1950s

Daddy was an avid hunter (pheasants and deer mostly) and an eager fisherman. The outdoors took him away from the stresses of his business, Longenecker Farm Supply, and helped him literally recharge his batteries. I never went hunting with him, but he invited me once or twice on deep-sea fishing trips in my early teens.

Many summers ago, friends from Bosslers’ along with a few relatives chartered a boat and went deep sea fishing in the Atlantic south of the Delaware Bay. Unlike the New Testament disciples who fished with empty nets all night long until they followed the wisdom of Jesus, we PA Dutch fishermen hauled “em in right and left”– starboard and port. And unlike the disciples who had to cast their “nets” on the other side, we had a great catch without switching to a different strategy. Unbelievably, we novice fishermen were rewarded with a net-breaking haul of bass or trout. Somehow the figure of the number 68 (or maybe it was just 65) sticks in my mind as the amount of fish I caught single-handedly that day. Others easily topped my number. No fish tale here!

FishingDelaware

(I’m the one with the bandanna and sweater on the left side of the boat; Daddy is grinning behind Uncle Paul whose hand is raised.)

Ray holding fish_final_4x4_300 (1)

Generally, I had a strained relationship with Daddy. The stories of the ill-begotten bike and his unannounced violin purchase on earlier posts underscored his lack of knowledge of relating to me as his oldest daughter and subsequently my resistance to his overtures toward making a satisfactory connection.

But outside the walls of our house, taking walks or catching fish together, such barriers disappeared. These photographs evoke these pleasant memories, times when we were in tune with nature and with each other as father and daughter.

Childhood that place where purity of feeling reigns, was merging into adolescence, where ambiguity begins.

Mary Peacock in The Paper Garden  

And that is where I was, the age of ambiguity and change.

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Comments? A question? An anecdote from your own experience growing up. 
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39 thoughts on “Fishing on the Delaware 1950s

    1. Yes, sometimes we brought the fish home and scaled/cleaned them at the pump in the back yard, but it seems to me that this time we had them cleaned dockside and then brought them home to pack in the freezer. And yes, that is quite a haul and obviously we had fish dinners for months, Georgette. 🙂

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  1. Marian, I’ve seen a similar picture among my Dad’s pictures. I guess this is where they all would go fishing, on Indian River. Thanks for pointing out Helen Stonesifer. She was my mother’s nurse at our house when my younger sister, Doris, was born. You have some great pictures from your childhood.

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  2. A lovely, reflective post, Marian. It’s nice that you and your father could connect outside in nature, even if you could not always do so at other times.
    I’ve never been fishing, and I can’t imagine catching so many fish. I guess you did have fish dinners for many months! I love the photos.

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    1. Going through Mother’s albums, I found another fish picture of Dad; it must have been taken later. Glad you like the glimpse into our past via photos. Honestly, I don’t remember Mother holding a camera so often, but based on her collection she must have.

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  3. I remember on one of my visits to mom’s, Dad came home from fishing and brought quite a few fish home. Mom was in the kitchen getting ready to clean the fish. It was my first time ever seeing such thing, so I was fascinated. I’m sure my eyes were wide open because mom and dad were puzzled with me that I had never seen this before. Oh, the great things I learned. I wonder now which I never did before, if mom and dad ever thought how sad that I never had the richness of life prior to being with them. And that is why they made my time with them great memories. Oh, how I miss them. So grateful to God for loving me enough to put them in my life. Thank you so much for inviting to your blog. I so look forward to it.
    Gloria

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  4. That’s a lot of people on that boat! We’re you all fishing at one time?

    A Wisconsin fish story…lots of those. Not much of a fisherperson myself, but it’s real popular with the male relatives and some of the women and I’d go along just for the camaraderie.

    First of all, the sturgeon spearing experience and it is an experience. It’s super cold, you sit on a box on the ice on Lake Winnebago for hours at a time staring down into a 3’x 3′ hole cut into the ice never daring to take your eyes away because if you do the monster of a fish will silently glide past at that moment and your chance is gone. So sit on the ice some more, stare some more and patiently wait. You do this for one, two, three days or for ever how long it takes for the quota to be reached and the whole experience comes to an end for the year. Did I tell you that you had about a 1% chance of even spearing one? But it’s the experience!

    There is always just plain old ice fishing….seen the movie GRUMPY OLD MEN? Enough said. Any frozen over lake will do.

    Ooh smelt runs! This was back when I was much younger and visiting relatives anywhere along Lake Michigan, Wisconsin side. It’d be late March, early April and word spread like wildfire….the smelt are running! Race down by the shoreline, pier, jetty with buckets and nets…scoop up as much as you can, hundreds of the tiny silver blade-like fish.
    Get them back home and the assembly line started of cleaners/dryers/flourers/friers/salters. Just pan fry in hot oil and eat them by the plateful with cold soda pop. An adult size serving is about thirty or so. Of course you want to make sure you fill bags up too for the freezer for later, because they come and go in a flash.

    Now we’re older and its nice to just walk over by our (family’s) pond, sit on the pier , fish or not, listen to all the chirps and croaks and squeaks and hootsof Wisconsin wildlife. Watch the younger generation having fun. I saw a white heron, not a usual sight, the other eve, dipping for fish. The pond used to be the source of the ice for our ice houses in years past….now in winter it’s just for skating , and ice fishing if you want.

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    1. You have enough material here for a chapter (a long one) in a book. Your sturgeon-spearing experience and the ice-fishing, all from an upper Mid-Western experience, are so entertaining and informative. It did not escape my notice that an adult-size serving of smelt was about thirty or so. They must have been small. Yes, you say the fish are tiny, and blade-like.

      I wonder if your childhood skating experience was similar to mine. Thank you for adding enlightenment to our conversation, Athanasia.

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  5. In light of your mention here of a strained relationship with your father, I went back and read your previous posts related to your father and the disconnects. Undoubtedly he took great joy in surprising you–especially the violin. I can imagine he was super excited to present you with a violin and very proud of having enough money to splurge on it, perhaps he wished to play one when he was younger, and would have given his “eye teeth” for one. But as children, we have trouble understanding where they are coming from. I know you know all this. Glad for this post evoking your pleasant memories.

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    1. Thank you for pondering the puzzle of my relationship with Dad. He was very musical and played the piano and guitar. At one time, I think he also had a banjo but I’m not sure what has happened to it. One impetus for writing my memoir will be to probe (excavate?) the motivations for his behavior.

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      1. I read the tomato stories 1 & 2 and enjoyed them. I see you imagined the bicycle you wanted…but you didn’t relay to your Dad what you had in mind? Was that part of the problem, the “disconnect”? Did the bike eventually grow on you anyways?

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        1. The bicycle was a surprise although I suspected I would get one eventually. As a child, I guess I imagined my Dad would know I wanted a nice, new bike. I wouldn’t say the bike “grew” on me. I did ride it, but I can’t say I was ever proud of it. Contentment with what I have is a lesson about life I have been learning every since.

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  6. Marian — Goodness, gracious, sakes alive! Other than commercial fishing, I’ve never heard of catching so fish in one fell swoop! That’s impressive! The face-splitting smiles in the photograph clearly reflect that a great time was had by all!

    I have’t fished in years, but my favorite part is sitting on the bank, watching the bobber and waiting. There’s something hypnotically therapeutic about the whole zen-like process.

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    1. The fish were biting so well that day we didn’t have a chance to experience the hypnotic, zen-like experience you are referring to. However, it was therapeutic to reel ’em in so fast! Generally, though you’re right about the quiet waiting while fishing. I’ve never heard of an avid fisherman being carted off to the funny farm. 😉

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  7. The only fishing I recall doing is when Mr. Musser, an elderly gent who was a boarder at my Grammy’s home, took me to the lake. He’d put a corn kernel on the hook. When I caught a fish, he cleaned it and cooked it. Great bonding experience. Marian, I’m glad that you had that experience with your Dad.

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    1. Wow, catching a fish with a corn kernel, I’ve never seen that before. I never liked the worm/impale/hook business so I would use bits of summer sausage.

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      1. They were ‘sunnies’ – sunfish. Small and I’m not sure how many it would take to make a meal. But Mr. Musser made my day when I didn’t have to put a worm on the hook. Now, I’D be eating the summer sausage. I wouldn’t give it up to the fishies. 😉

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          1. I’m not sure what his background was. He was 86 when he had an apartment in my Grammy’s home. He was 105 when he died and he lived with our family up until they thought it was better for him to be cared for in a nursing home. I always considered him to be family.

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  8. Wonderful that you had those moments of connection with your father to balance the difficulties. My dad was tuned into me, but died when I was 14. I cherish every memory, especially spending time at “the farm,” my grandparent’s place 10 miles from town, where he’d been raised. Great photos, as usual. Thanks, Marian.

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    1. I wonder if you have ever blogged about your grandparent’s place, possibly before we had a connection in blog-world.

      I would guess that one of your dad’s qualities was tenacity, one of your most admirable traits. Thanks you for the compliment and for stopping by, Elaine.

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  9. What!!!! 60 something fish??? Extraordinary!
    Our parents were the children of Victorian parents and as such quite different to those of today. All I’m saying is that our relationships with our fathers were never ‘perfect’ – which is grist to the mill in our finding our own truth…This reminds me of a dream from many years ago when he was long dead whose image I still see clearly – of my father teaching me how to fish (in the dark and on a bridge) which never happened in real life. But from that I take the necessity of going fishing … casting the net or the rod and seeing what nibbles, bites or strikes may happen or not .. but fishing, psychologically, in unknown waters to see what treasures may be found.
    Thanks Marian!

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    1. Your dream appears to foretell that you had all the resources you needed to unlock the treasures of your life. From where I sit, you have taken full advantage of it all. I just love when readers add their own anecdotes to the theme of a post. I would say your fishing dream is an extraordinary addition to our discussion. Thank you!

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  10. Marian I did write a bit about some cold weather memories, as you requested, on your ICE AND SNOW AGLOW post. Not sure if it will show up.

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