Adventures for FoodFishing

Fishing with Baby on Board

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Fish Sliders & Piña Noladas 

Winter hit early and hard on the plains this year. By the second weekend of our deer season in November we had the first 20+” blizzard and the snow only continued to pile from then on out. But I refused to let it stop me from continuing to upland hunt and ice fish even at 7-9 months pregnant. Albeit, it did mean I often took the easier route on the outside of the cattails and let my husband plow a path ahead of me.  

I naively thought this same vigor and persistence would make me at least somewhat immune to the difficulties of my quickly approaching new role as a mom. But boy was I wrong. 

Fischer came into our lives almost two weeks early, just days after a weekend spent darkhouse spearing. Both him and I were healthy and we headed home to temperatures well below zero. Of course, those first few weeks are a huge adjustment and a foggy repetition of feeding and sleeping. But around three weeks in, things started to get a little dark. 

My husband, Scott, went back to work, the strings of family visits slowed, the blizzards kept coming and Fisch seemed to occupy all of his awake time by crying. I was exhausted, depressed, lost and very concerned that motherhood wasn’t for me. It was so difficult to not have a moment to yourself but even more so to endure the culture shock of going from spending every spare moment in the outdoors to so much time confined in our house. It was exacerbating the already common post-partum depression and anxiety. And things carried on like this for weeks, as did the cold and snow. 

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Spring finally made a brief appearance in May and I felt myself slowly crawl from the darkness as if emerging from hibernation. I got to go on a few abbreviated turkey hunts and started to find a rhythm with Fisch. As quickly as spring came, so did summer. Temperatures went from 50s to 90s, I transitioned back to work and open water fishing season was in full swing.

We had a pretty terrible first outing on the boat with Fischer. We made the mistake of trying somewhere we have little experience with, we wasted our happiest hour deciding where to fish, we argued, tears were shed and we left early. 

But we didn’t give up. 

My husband and good friend had a phenomenal day on the water for smallmouth bass while I stayed home with Fischer. We all celebrated with a perfect summer evening at a riverside restaurant patio, them with refreshing Coors on tap, me with a delicious piña nolada mocktail. Our friend left early the next day and with another calm, sunny forecast, it didn’t take but a minute after he left for us to start loading things for a day on the boat. We laughed, we smiled, we caught a bunch of bass and for the first time in a long time, I entered Monday the way I used to feel every Monday – refreshed and gratified. 

That week at work the halls echoed with the same story – the walleye bite was heating up. I impatiently drug through the week hoping things wouldn’t slow down by Saturday. By now, we had a pretty good boat launch system down. Then we’d fish for a while, try our hardest to get a nap out of the little guy to buy ourselves another hour on the water, then head out. Scott and I managed to catch a handful of walleyes Saturday and I was grateful to restock our cache of fish. 

Sunday we invited a friend to join, in some ways selfishly to have an extra set of hands. It was another gorgeous day to be on the water, almost too sunny and warm for Fischer. We struggled to find fish all morning and we were running out of time. Fischer fell asleep in my arms on the way to our final spot of the day but our friend insisted on taking him so I could fish. I dropped down and immediately hooked up with a nice walleye. We traded back so she could fish but the second swap woke the beast. I sat on the floor feeding him while Scott and her continued to reel in fish after fish in what I can only describe as the joyful chaos of success on the water. We got dripped on as they passed walleyes to go to the livewell and I did my best to hand pliers back and forth and the boat often spun in circles. I didn’t even care that I wasn’t the one catching fish. I sat there on the bottom of the boat with Fisch in my lap so happy we were all out there together.    

Back at home we savored fresh fish sliders on the deck (a copycat of Kimi Werner’s – beer battered fish with dill sauce on Hawaiian rolls). I soaked in all the literal and figurative sunshine I’d been craving for so many months and I finally felt like me again, just a way different, better version, more than certain that motherhood was for me. 

Cayla Bendel

Cayla is a conservation professional that resides in North Dakota with her husband and pudelpointer, Finley. Together they enjoy avidly hunting, fishing, and otherwise frolicking their way through the seasons.

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