He slid along the lake bottom
nearly a hundred feet beneath the surface.
The shimmering depths
Sometimes he’d lie silent, nothing moving
except his nervous gills
that stirred up the muck and debris
He knew nothing
but hunger and fullness and pain.
His lips and his jaws were scarred
from battles and from hooks.
Far above him,
as unaware of him as he was of her,
A woman in a rowboat
cast her line out with a singing whir.
The reel clicked precisely
and the nightcrawler flipped
It spun downwards, impaled on the hook.
The dog fish smelled it first.
Living in the mud, his vision had grown dim.
He never saw the tiny shining spoon
or the lime green, monofilament line.
He sucked in the bait and lay there realizing
Something was wrong.
She jerked the pole
and set the hook.
The big fish tasted blood
and he flipped onto his back.
The pain in his mouth scared him
and he tried to get away.
Up on the boat,
The pole bent slowly.
“Snagged,” she thought.
She leaned back, reeling in the line.
With a wild burst of speed,
He tried to break the line.
He swam under a sunken tree limb
That had fallen into the lake.
The line pulled tight. It stretched.
The woman cranked on the reel.
With a cloud of mud, the branch rolled free
of the slime and the mud.
The old fish fought in vain.
He was pulled, already accepting,
to the top of the lake.
She gave him no slack.
Finally, she saw him rise to the surface,
Exhausted and dying.
She hammered the gaff into him
and flipped him expertly into the pail.