I grew up in North Reading, MA. We lived on the east side of town, basically on the Lynnfield line, and always within walking distance of the Ipswich River. I think we started fishing as soon as we were old enough to dig for worms. I remember when I was perhaps 9 or 10, we made our own fishing poles and hiked through the woods behind our house, through what is now Keenen Conservation Land, all the way to the Ipswich as it runs along Elm Street/Route 62.
Free to wander on our own
Amazingly enough, we were allowed to wander through those woods alone, with no adult. I was 10 at most, my sister was 9 and my brother was 8. My mother had taken us through those woods to the river many times, so she was certain we wouldn’t get lost. What a different world it was in the 60s. Thankfully, we never caught any fish on those journeys. It’d be a long walk home through the woods, over railroad beds, and past fields of milkweed, carrying a couple smelly perch on a string. Not something any of us would have wanted to do anyway.
Somewhere I have a picture of us heading out on one of those adventures; me, my sister, Lorraine, my brother, Mo, and two of our friends from up the road, Susan and David. That morning, we each picked out our tree branch, cleared it of random twigs, tied a string with a cork and hook to the end, and stomped our way through the woods armed for a day of fishing. We were no doubt carrying a container of freshly dug nightcrawlers, and a tub of fish roe, oh, and a lot of hope. Since it was usually a full day for us, we’d also bring lunch. With sandwich bread doubling as bait, once we ran out of worms. But it was no doubt a beautiful day, the woods were cool and damp, and we were on our own to wander.
Fishing at dawn – A brother/sister adventure
A few years later, my brother Mo got into making custom fishing rods. He wrapped them in amazing designs with different colored threads. We also started using real rods to fish, and got up at the crack of dawn to catch bass if we could. We mostly caught yellow perch, bluegill, and green sunfish. But one morning, my brother and I got up around 4 am. We walked the mile or so in the dim light of predawn to a friend’s house. Once there we crept silently through their yard and through the hedge at the back to a small dirt path. It led to a deeper section of the Ipswich that you couldn’t get to from the road.
We wandered along the side of the river, whispering so we didn’t scare the fish. The sun was just starting to come up and the bugs were starting to skitter into the water. We heard frogs, and an occasional turtle plop into the marshy shallows. It was going to be a hot day, but for that moment it was still cool and very quiet. My brother was a bit ahead of me and I was just looking around when my left foot caught a bit of wet grass and I slipped into the river. Thankfully, it was shallow at that point, only one leg went in. But I’d dropped the tackle box onto the ground, and all its contents dumped onto the grass. My rod landed in at the edge of the river, caught up in the reeds and muck. My brother came back and helped me up, putting the floats, flies, and little bags of hooks back into the box.
I reached down to grab my rod and noticed it was caught on something. I pulled and suddenly the line ran out. Boom! I had a fish on the end. When I finally pulled it in, with the help of a net, I’d caught the first bass of the morning! I didn’t catch another fish that day and left that guy swimming on a chain in the river until we were ready to go home. Maybe he was down there warning all his friends?
I don’t think we had many sister/brother fishing trips after that morning. I had hit my teens that Fall and hanging with your brother just wasn’t what you did. Plus he was still in Elementary School and I was in Junior High. Life changes.
Deep-Sea Fishing off Miami Beach
Years later, when both my brothers were living in Miami Beach, FL, Mo was first chair tuba for the New World Symphony, a new orchestra made up of college grads who passed some pretty steep competition to win a spot. On one long weekend visit, we went deep water fishing with a bunch of those musicians, some of whom had never been fishing in their life.
That night the chop was high and several people got sick, but a few of us enjoyed the evening anyway. We caught baby barracuda (at least the guy told us that’s what they were) and dozens of other fish. The next day we had a fish BBQ by the pool at the old art deco hotel where everyone lived. It was a fun weekend escape to stay at their hotel just a few blocks from the beach. That was in the late 80s, way before gentrification stepped in and turned all those places into high-end hotels.
Today I’m remembering those fishing trips as I prepare to make Broiled Haddock with a simple brown butter sauce.
Baked Lemon Haddock with Brown Butter
This recipe is for two people, but you can easily increase to as many as you require)
- 2 skinless haddock filets
- lemon olive oil
- a squirt or two of lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- smoked paprika
- fresh chives
- 2 TB butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- line a baking sheet with foil lightly coated with cooking spray
- place fish on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice
- season with salt and pepper
- sprinkle lightly with paprika
- scatter chives
- Bake for 15 minutes until fish is flaky
- Drizzle with brown butter sauce and serve.
Instructions for Brown Butter:
- Heat butter over medium-high heat in a small saucepan
- Use a whisk to keep butter moving
- When the butter starts to foam and you see small bits of browned butter rising, remove from heat. Whish for 10 seconds more, then allow to sit for a minute.
- Drizzle over fish.
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