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Gigging produced surprises

From a very early age, I was able to go everywhere with my dad.

We were real good buddies. In the spring, we would pick a dark night, sharpen our fish gigs—which were a little larger than frog gigs—clean our carbide light and wade the creeks and rivers to gig fish.

Now, if you are not familiar with a carbide light, allow me to introduce you. It was a two-part light. The bottom half would be partially filled with carbide (course granules), and the top half was filled with water with a small drip.

All this was attached to a shiny reflector. You put the carbide in, spit in the carbide to start the chemical reaction, fill the top with water, screw the two together, and this mixture makes a very flammable gas and makes a flame very much like a welder’s torch. So, now all we need is a spark, and it’s on the reflector.

Why would you go to this much trouble with this light when you have battery lights? Well, the rays of the carbide light penetrate the water for several feet, whereas the electric light would just reflect back. You might have seen these in the old movies, where the miners wore them on their heads until someone figured out that they would ignite the trapped gases in the mines and cause explosions.

Sometimes we just went to Buck Creek, back before the days of pollution and the water was clear. It had a soft bottom, and we saw catfish, eels, (what happened to the eels?) and a few small game fish. Dad gigged a very large eel, and the fight was on. The eel wrapped around the handle of the gig and snapped the handle off!

Our favorite place to go was the Cahaba River, “Half- Mile Shoals.” It was a beautiful spot with a rock bottom so the visibility was perfect. We saw catfish, “Red Hoss Sucker” bass, large bream and mullet! Yes, mullet, and a strange looking species called a “gringel”—like a catfish with scales!

There was always something new and, of course, snakes—lots of snakes! One night, we had a big snake on the surface coming toward us. Dad was ready to gig this monster, and I dropped the light!

We were in complete darkness. Always calm, Dad whispered, “It OK, just don’t move.” What!?

Note: If this sounds like it would “push your button,” you better check with the Fish and Game Regulations first. Lots of things have changed since then.