I really started hitting the local waters – and piling up the stories –during my college years at Fresno State.
I would take several of my track buddies – who were also avid anglers – and we would pile into my old, white Cadillac Coupe de Ville, one I got from my grandpa. It was officially known as the USS Poseidon. It had lots of room and a big trunk for poles and tackle boxes. It was our ticket to freedom and perfect for a bunch of athletes to trash at the lake!
We even brought fish back to the Fresno State dorms – and the cafeteria staff would put them in the Commons refrigerator. One time I got a 12-pound striper at Millerton. I went to the Commons food area and told them I needed to freeze a big striper. Excited about my catch, they agreed, and carefully put it in the dorm freezer. It became a sensation.
I would overhear guys on campus talking about this huge 20-pound striper some guy in the dorms had caught – and he kept frozen in Commons! One guy swore to some of his friends, while I was standing nearby, that he had snuck back to the freezer and actually seen “the fish” – and it was a monster! I had to cough to keep from laughing. I didn’t say anything; why burst their bubble? This was more fun! That fish took on a life of its own and it gradually became a true Fresno State dorms urban legend.
Later in my Fresno State career I began fishing the day before home track meets. Places like Ball Ranch down Friant Road and Lost Lake were easy places to fish, and I got some nice bass there. I usually would do some wading, too, because the cold water helped my legs.
Dutch Warmerdam, my legendary track coach, knew I would go fishing pre-meet and many times he would casually ask me where I was going. He was an old farm boy, too, and he thought it was great I was relaxing and icing my legs this way right before a competition. My kinda coach!
One time a buddy and I went to Don Pedro lake to bass fish with my grandpa a day before a big meet. The fishing was incredible and I got burned and wiped out from the hot day, but we caught over 50 bass to 5 pounds on topwater! Epic! What track meet?
The next day I was so exhausted I couldn’t make my opening height in the pole vault. Funny, the other vaulters were so fired-up about our huge catch they didn’t even care about vaulting, either. It was fun until Dutch took me aside and in his usual manner casually asked me how many fish we had caught the day before. He made his point…ouch! I never did that again!
It was a time of discovery, excitement and dreams, one I wouldn’t trade for the world! I always wondered what happened to my frozen striper in the dorm freezer. I left it there. I think it just kept growing – from what I heard! Legends happen that way.
Never give up!