this is a story my husband wrote and I thought I'd share it with you all since it's quite a story. A Fish Tail A 'mostly' true story by Jim Lasswell My health is not good, blood pressure etc., and my dear wife, Janeen wants me to get back into getting out and doing something that will relax me some. So she bought me one of those big, long, deep sea fishing rod and reels they use on the beach for surf fishing. Now I haven't fished in years because I have been afraid that I might accidentally fall in the water and drown but, after observing everyone else fishing I decide it would be relatively safe. So, she bought me my Texas fishing license which covers everything from fishing in salt water and fresh water, to crabbing for $65. She even bought me a small tackle box and I got the basics for fishing and loaded it up. Every since then, my life has went down hill ha, ha. I decided for my first fishing trip to walk out on this long fishing pier into the gulf that is probably 300-400 feet long and probably at least 7 feet wide. I see there are a lot of people fishing as I walk by but I don't see anyone catching fish so I find me a good place and set up my lawn chair. I bait up my hook with the shrimp that I have had for weeks. I take the shrimp out of the freezer and let them thaw out and then, when I don't use all of them, I put them back in the freezer to freeze back up. Well, after a while they have become just a little rank to say the least. So, when I went fishing this time I took them out of the freezer and thawed them in the microwave and that only intensified the smell and I was warned by Janeen not to do that again. I see her breaking out the scented candles as I walk out the door. Once I get both of my hooks all baited up with this shrimp I notice people near me moving away. Of course since I have no sense of smell it doesn't affect me and I actually didn't realize its odor was that bad. I asked one man, as he was moving away, "Catch anything"Â? He kept moving away as he responded, "No one is catching anything".Â I sent my line and bait flying out into the gulf just as far as I could get it to go and tightened the line down when it had completely sank to the bottom just as I have done in a farm pond at home when fishing. I had no more than got my line set than I started getting this strong jerking on the line and the end of my pole starts jumping up and down just like when the catfish bite at home. I picked up my pole from its holder and with all my strength I lay into it as if I was setting a hook into a 12 foot marlin! Almost instantly I knew that I had something on my line. I begin to reel it in and then I got to thinking I didn't have a net. What if it was too big? What if I couldn't lift it out of the water? As the top of the water was at least 15 feet below the fishing pier! Boy, now I am embarrassed. I see all the other fishermen watching me as I struggle to land this fish all the while thinking that this fish reminds me of catching a catfish at home. I must have had my line out a good seventy feet as it was taking forever to get him in but just then, he topped the water thrashing and going back and fourth but I kept reeling and pulling. Finally I saw him. It was a catfish about 15 inches long. At least it looked like the channel catfish I would catch at home, but it was all white. Other than that it looked like a catfish, whiskers and all. I brought him up and over the railing. I reached out carefully and grabbed him and removed the hook. I then walked over to the fisherman next to me and ask what kind of fish I had just caught. He told me it was a hard-head. I told him, "Sure looks like a catfish where I come from". He said, "It is a hard-head catfish, but they aren/t good to eat"Â. I walked back and tossed him over the side and baited my hook back up and threw my line back in with the same velocity as before. Once again I had no more got the line set than I'm getting another bite. Just as I had before I laid into it again and when I brought it in and looked at it, it is another hard-head. I can still see people watching me as they look at their bait, their hooks, their weights, and they know it is the same as mine but I'm the only one catching fish, even if they are not worth keeping. I begin to snicker to myself as it appears I have become the great white fisherman, ha ha. I throw my line in time after time with the same results and after about 17 fish caught and the sun is setting I decided to head on home for supper but, first I will catch this one last fish and get rid of the stinky bait because I'm sure Janeen won't let me put it back in the freezer again. Just as that thought flutters from my mind I get another bite and this guy is mean! He dives down bends the tip of my pole over and now I can tell I have an audience. I thought I'm going to leave now while I'm ahead. When I get this guy over the rail he is spinning around and around and the tip of my pole is bending from the weight. I snicker again under my breath and wonder when I drop this fish back in and leave how many people will vie for my fishing spot? I reach out as if I have all the experience in the world as a great fisherman and grab this thrashing fish. All of a sudden I feel a sting! Lo and behold this sucker has stuck its left fin into the middle of the palm of my left hand! "No problem".Â I thought to myself, I have had this type of thing happen with catfish before. It doesn't feel good and stings a little but, I will live. Then I notice something is different. The sting is getting stronger and I began to feel queasy and pain rushes up my left arm and I think that I'm having a heart attack! Then I remember my "audience". I don't want the other fishermen see my pain so I tighten my grip on the fish with my right hand while all the time trying to hold my fishing rod. Then that's when I see I'm in trouble. The fish fin won't come out of my hand and when I pull it only hurts worse. I can see the blood flowing from the wound down my arm. When I pull on the fish fin I can see parts of my flesh trying to pull out also! The pain is only getting worse and with 2 hooks on this line I'm afraid I'm going to get caught on one of them, then what would I do I thought? I realize that I have to get the pole laid down so I will have my right hand free to deal with my situation. I get down on my knees which only puts me in greater pain as my right knee is bad and goes in and out of socket and now I have this fish thrashing around stuck in my palm and pain shooting up my arm and my knee killing me and all these fishermen looking at me as I try not to look concerned. I struggle with getting my pliers out of the case on my belt loop and decide the only logical thing to do is try and cut the fin of the fish with my pliers and throw that bugger over the side and drive home and have Janeen help me or go to the hospital and have the fin removed. "God, this hurts"Â! I'm thinking but, I'm an ex-marine and have had worse pain in my life I think. So, I will just suck it up and grin and bare it. As the fish thrashes I try and get my pliers into a position as to cut the fin and I can not get the pliers in place between where it is stuck in my palm and the body of the fish. "This fish must be on steroids"Â! I think. He just won't quit thrashing and each time he thrashes it sends more pain up my arm. I'm literally getting deathly sick to my stomach. I think, "Crap, I will have to be careful. What if he lodges his other fin in my right hand? Then what will I do"Â! "Crap, crap, crap"Â. I mutter under my breath. I wish I had my friends 44 caliber I would make this fishes day! I have to do something and soon, as I feel faint as if I may pass out and fall on the pier and I don't want all these macho fishermen seeing me laying flat on my back passed out with my palm facing up with this catfish thrashing around in the palm of hand trying to get loose. I can just see the EMT workers rushing the stretcher down the pier now to load me up and rush me to the hospital. I'm thinking, "I wonder if they could give me some morphine maybe as we drove to the hospital so I couldn't feel this monster stuck in my hand". But instead I decided I have to end this now! I decided I would have to get a hold of myself and take charge of this situation. So, I grabbed my needle-nose pliers, which my son had, given me for Christmas. It is one that does it all. It has scissors, it has pliers, it has cutters, it has a file, it has a saw, it has it all but, it doesn't have a 44 caliber! "Dang"Â! I cuss some more and clamp my needle-nose down on that fish fin and start to pull. Tears stream down from my eyes, and drop from my cheeks as I tug. To my dismay, it will not budge. Only white flesh appears (mine!) and more blood. I release the pressure some and try again. My whole body is in pain now and I believe I'm going to actually die! "IT HAS TO COME OUT"Â! I scream silently to myself! I summarize that the fishes fin must have opened up while under the skin and won't allow it to come out. "The hell with this"Â! I gritted my teeth and began to pull steady and hard as I see the flesh stretching upwards from the palm and the blood that is streaming, only accentuates the white of the flesh from my hand. Then it cuts through my skin and finally frees me of its nasty grip and comes out! I drop the fish to the wooded deck of the pier with the hook still in its lip and raise my foot to stomp the life out of this little S.O.B.! Out of the corner of my eye I see all these 'catch and release' guys eyeing me with confusion not really knowing what I was going through. I didn't want to pick this guy up again and with the rim of wood coming up along side of the pier it would be impossible to kick him over the side. "What was I to do"Â? I grabbed a roll of paper towels and tore off a couple sheets and began to wipe the wound clean and I tried to suck on it to relieve some pain but since I don't have that ability anymore because of the throat cancer, I couldn't do that. I'm writhing in pain as I fold the paper towel and reach down and pick up that white tornado and shakily remove the hook and tossed him over the side, cussing him until I see him disappear below the water. I fall calmly into my lawn chair and try to regain my composure. As quickly as possible I start to close my tackle box and gather everything up. I'm in so much pain I can't hold a single, solitary, thing with my left hand so, for me to get off this 400 foot pier and back to my truck I'm going to have to nonchalantly carry my fishing pole to my lawn chair and everything else under my right arm. I considered throwing the rod into the ocean but, I would have to make it look like it had just fell over, and that would just be more of an embarrassment. I force a smile on my face as I walked past the other people fishing as I made my way down the pier they all smiled back at me with a look as if they had just witnessed a great fisherman first hand and they still had not caught their first fish. As I near the end of the pier I glance back over my shoulder I see the first fisherman headed for my spot. I prayed that he didn't catch that evil hard-head fish. The six mile drive home hadn't seemed that far on the way to the fishing pier. I was able to glance around and look at the palms swaying in the breeze and the white sandy beaches. But now, I was hitting all the stop lights and now this scenic drive had turned into the road from hell. It now seemed 20 miles long as tears streamed down my cheeks as if someone was pouring water over my head. I kept my eyes peeled for that sign on the side of the road that indicated the route to the nearest hospital. "Where is that sign when you need it I thought"? Then I see I'm now closer to home than the hospital. I pull into our campsite and reaching over with my right hand I gently pull the handle on the door and carefully push it open with my foot and I cautiously slide out of the truck. I now discover that I don't have my trailer keys and Janeen turns out to be talking a bath and I'm locked out of the house! "Oh God"! I thought, "What next"! I stumbled to the back door in the darkness of our campground and forced my good hand to knock lightly on the door. When Janeen realizes it is me and opens the door to see why I'm knocking. She is wrapped in her towel dripping wet and since the steps on the back door is not down she sees I'm in pain and goes running through the trailer and hits the linoleum floor and goes sliding across the kitchen grabbing at the kitchen counter, the T.V., the table, anything that would break her fall. The towel is flying and I hear a dull thud inside the trailer. I hear the click of the door and it opens slowly as Janeen tries to compose herself on the floor grasping to cover her with the fallen towel. We both made our way into the side by side love seat recliners with her half-naked body dripping wet and crying from her pain and my hand still bleeding and tears still dripping from my eyes. We just sit there, each one of us in our own special misery until we could regain our senses, enough to ask each other what had happened. It took awhile before Janeen could recover from her pain and begin to help me by cleaning the wound and heating up wet wash rags in the microwave and putting them in a zip lock bags to make an improvised heating pad. After the second heating of the wash rag and taking a Tylenol P.M. we both drifted off to sleep in pain. I was some what happy but, just as surprised when I awoke the following morning and a lot of the pain was now gone but my hand felt swelled and numb now. We were both too sore to cook breakfast so we decided to get dressed and eat out. After my second cup of tea we were both beginning to feel much better and now we discussed the next time I go fishing I would need to buy some gloves. So off to Wally World we went with our big red diesel engine roaring all the way as if sympathizing with us feeling its own 107,000 miles plus of long hard use. At Wally World we made our way directly to the fishing and sporting department where I started looking for fishing gloves, which Janeen found while I was looking at some lures for trout. A young man in his mid-twenties stopped beside me with his father also looking for a new lure as he had lost his yesterday evening trolling from his boat when he had hooked into a big fish that had snapped his line. I began to question him about which lure was the best to use for speckled trout, once I determined they were locals and I then begin to relate my past evenings encounter with the hard-head catfish. I turned my hand over to show him my wound and when I did he says, "Is that what is causing that red streak going up your arm"? I looked down and although I hadn't noticed it earlier, sure enough I had this red streak coming from my wound that went almost to my elbow and was almost a half inch wide! He continued, "Yeah, those hard-heads are tough and when they stick you they have venom that they release into your system"Â. "WHAT"Â! I asked? "Yep, they have venom. Not enough to kill you but enough to make you sick. Everyone reacts differently"Â. He said, "Some people swell up and some just have a lot of pain"Â. He went on to tell me the best thing to do when you get stuck by one is rub the fishes belly on the wound and try and get as much of the slime of the fish as possible into the wound as this works as a natural antibiotic. I thought to myself this guy is pulling my leg. Later I had several more people tell me the same thing. After I had finished my conversation with the two men Janeen pulled me off to the side at the end of the isle and tells me that it looks like blood poison to her and maybe we need to go to the hospital for some antibiotics and have it looked at. Then she reaches into her purse and drags out this ink pen from her check book and takes my arm and starts to mark this line at the top of the red line and I said what is that for? Haven't I been through enough already without you marking on me? She looks at me as if I'm a real dummy and tells me if she marks it we can go home and watch it and if it continues to spread farther we will be able to tell if it's still spreading. Once we are safe back home she insists I take a Claritin, just in case. It is for allergies. That is when I start in on her. I said it is all too clear to me now. You insisted that I buy a rod and reel and go fishing because you knew about these venom spitting hard-headed fish and this was an elaborate plan of yours to collect my life insurance! "Sure"Â, I said "you insisted on me having fun and sure you said go ahead and get a fishing license even though it was $65, in fact, you insisted! Sure you wanted me to have fun"! The rest of the day we sat around in the recliners watching T.V. and every now then I glanced down to see if my red line had inched even closer to my heart and closer to Janeen getting my life insurance but as the day wore on the red line begin to widen out onto my arm and dissipated. I thought to myself that the next time she wants me to go fishing I'm headed for the local grocery store and Mrs. Paul's fish sticks!