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April Fool’s Day is an angler’s friend

March 27, 2010 at 08:24 AM

SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER

As Mark Twain, the famous Mississippi River fisherman, once said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”

April Fool’s Day is Thursday. If there were a day dedicated to fishermen and fish tales, April 1 would be a good candidate.

On April 1, all bets are off. The truth is on a 24-hour hiatus. The minnows we catch can become hawgs, and the battle to bring one into the boat can become a riveting piece of oral interpretation. The better the story, the firmer we can set the hook.

For one day at least, there is no burden of proof. Enhanced pictures of your prize catch, along with a doctored photo of scales you claim to be certified, will bolster your claim.

The fish can be caught on a lure no one has ever heard of. Even better, the lure doesn’t have to exist at all, as long as it has a catchy name. You can even make one out of a pair of toenail clippers and a treble hook and take it along as a visual aid. The more unlikely it looks, the better.

Catch and release takes on a whole new meaning when the punch line is “April Fool.”

No one can pin down for sure when, or even why, April 1 became a day to play pranks and perpetrate hoaxes. Some say All Fools’ Day was a celebration of the New Year when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in 1582. In Scotland, the practice goes on for two days, not just one. Here, that might cause a riot. One day of foolishness stretches most people’s tolerance. Nobody likes to be sucked in two days in a row.

Keeping things on the edge of believability is important. It pays to err on the side of caution.

In 2000, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced plans to sabotage a bass tournament at Lake Palestine in Texas. Their stated intention was to release tranquilizers into the lake before the tournament. PETA’s press release stated “this year the fish will be napping, not nibbling.”

Before PETA shouted “April Fool,” Texas officials, who apparently did not consider the practicality of such a plan, took the bait and assigned rangers to protect the lake. Texas taxpayers were not amused.

I once made the huge mistake of not realizing that the best part of an April Fool’s joke is finding the right person to reel in. Dad didn’t see the humor when I tacked an April Fool’s sign to the hayrack I told him I had loaded just before I grabbed a rod and reel and took off to fish Ed Jones’s pond.

The greatest fish story ever told didn’t get me off the hook. I served a week’s detention cleaning stalls in the barn with that sign tacked to the barn door — along with a piece of my hide.

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