The task was to bait the hook, swing the rod so the bait and bobber sailed out from the shore to deeper waters — and then hope that a big one would bite.
Gloria Salavarria, of Middlebury, is a traveler, writer, and retired biochemist and engineer. To read more of her work, visit her community blog for The Elkhart Truth, On the Prowl
That’s what 8-year-old Conner Lantz had been doing, and with remarkable skill and success for a young man his age. But his biggest catch didn’t get recorded in the final tally of the fishing contest during Middlebury Summer Festival last Saturday, Aug. 9.
Conner Lantz is a good fisherman — a dedicated fisherman who caught the most fish in his 6- to 10-year-old age group, but his biggest catch of the day caused folks to wonder just who caught whom.
Eight-year-old Conner Lantz of Middlebury carefully holds one of his earlier (and more typical) catches, a bluegill, with its dorsal fins spiked in self-defense.
As his father, Doug Lantz; Middlebury’s park superintendent Tom Enright; and a small crowd of onlookers stared into the water, the catch stared right back at them.
“Well, it’s not a fish, so it doesn’t fit into any of our winning categories,” Enright said, puzzled as to what had happened here and what he could do about recording it, if anything.
Then there was the question of just who caught whom, because the creature simply released the hook and settled back down into the mud to begin a mutual staring contest at the edge of the Essenhaus Pond.
Down in the water, surrounded by mud, the snapping turtle stared back at us.
“Guess he’s not really caught because he let go of the hook — thank God!” said Conner’s dad, who was glad he didn’t have to extract the hook from a creature with a reputation for having one of the meanest, most cantankerous tempers in the Midwest.
And so everyone just stood there and looked.
It was the snapping turtle who came up from the bottom, took a lung-full of air, turned and swam away into the murky deep of the Essenhaus Pond, thus ending the stand-off between turtle and mankind.
The snapping turtle came up for one last look and a lung-full of air before saying, “Goodbye!”
The Fishing Contest ended less than an hour later, with Conner Lantz joining five other winners for the final photo, but the biggest winner of the day was sitting down at the bottom of the Essenhaus Pond.
The winners of the Middlebury Parks/LECTU Fishing Contest, which took place at the Essenhaus Pond, are (left to right) Chloe Girton, who won largest fish in the 11-15 age group; James Anderson (with his mother Kelly), who caught the most fish in the 0-5 age group; Jeremiah Bernth (with his father Daniel), who came in second in the 0-5 age group; Conner Lantz, who caught the most fish (24) in the 6-10 age group; Aaron Cripe, who caught the most fish (51) in the 11-15 age group; and Ashton Bernth, who caught the biggest fish in the 6-10 age group.