Doc was standing beside the swimming pool in his back yard when we drove up. He was peering into the water below, his hands in his pockets; dejected.
“Hi Doc, what’s up?” I asked.
“What’s up guys?” he said, repeating me and not taking his eyes off the deep end.
Wrong Willie, Woodrow and I joined him beside the pool. I was surprised at how murky the water was. I hadn’t seen the pool in quite a while, but it wasn’t up to Doc’s usual standards.
“Dang, that water’s cloudy,” I said.
Doc sighed. “Yeah, I haven’t messed with it much because the kids are grown up and gone. Then the ground shifted. There’s a crack down there somewhere and the water leaks out.”
“It doesn’t look too low or too bad,” Wrong Willie said, standing at the edge and looking down. “You can still use it. Why don’t you just Shock it?”
Doc shook his head. “That’ll kill the fish.”
We tried not to stare at him. “Funniest thing,” Woodrow said. “It sounded like you said it would kill the fish.”
I looked into the swimming pool. “There are fish in there? I thought evolution took a lot longer.”
Doc nodded. “Remember when we caught all those crappie last spring and y’all left them with me that night?”
I thought back. The crappie fishing was wonderful in April and we’d all caught our limits one night after work. It was nearly twelve when we got back to Doc’s house and everyone was too tired to clean them. Doc offered to keep them in his live-well and clean them the next morning.
“Well, after y’all left I started thinking about all those fish stacked up in the live-well all night. I didn’t think they’d make it, so before I went to bed I dumped them into the pool, knowing they’d have a better chance to survive. I’ve just never gotten around to getting them out.”
“What do they eat?” Wrong Willie asked.
“I’ve been feeding them a few dozen minnows every week, and they’re fine.”
“So how are you gonna get them out?” I asked.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to decide. I don’t want to completely drain the water until the pool company takes a look at it like this, and it’s too deep to seine.”
“We could try,” I suggested. “I have the Old Man’s minnow seine in my garage.”
“You have all the outdoor gear in the world in that garage,” Woodrow commented. “The last time I was in there I kicked up a rabbit in that old gold colored shag carpet of yours.”
Everyone looked at me, and not because I had gold shag on my garage floor.
“That’s the only one,” I defended. “The coyotes usually keep them under control.”
“It probably wouldn’t work anyway,” Doc said. “I think the catfish are too big now. They’d probably tear a hole in your net.”
We looked at Doc for a moment. He shrugged. “I had some catfish I didn’t want to clean back in May, so…well…I dumped them in, too. I drop in a few crawdads every so often for them to eat.”
The surface of the water suddenly boiled in the shallow end. “What the heck was that?” Woodrow asked.
“Shad,” Doc said. “About this time every day the sandies push them into that end near the steps. You can usually catch them on silver Rattle Traps when they do that.”
“Something tells me we’re going to need a special fishing license here before we’re through,” Wrong Willie mused.
“Bass?” I asked Doc.
“Yup. They’re doing all right. They’re keeping the bream under control. The stripers couldn’t seem to do the job.”
Two kids appeared carrying cane poles. They looked annoyed that we were there.
The youngest glared at me. “This is our fishing hole.”
Doc raised his eyebrows. “Catch a big ‘un,” he said and we left for Doreen’s Cafe. We’re not ones to stand in the way of dedicated fishermen and their favorite fishing spot.