The elusive, invasive goldfish

By: 
Lisa Ingebrand, Montgomery Messenger

About every four weeks, my sixth grader, Anna, has to report to her class on a current event. She needs to report on one local, one state, one national, and one world headline throughout the school year. The students present their findings on a rotating basis, so the classroom gets a few “top news stories” each week. After the presentations, students can ask the presenter a few questions and discuss the topic. It’s a pretty cool project. I like knowing 11 and 12 year olds are keeping their eyes and ears open for interesting news items and need to research the topics in order to provide a solid report. That said, I wasn’t a big fan of it last week. Anna wanted to inform her class of a local issue that she remembers me talking about—specifically, a local pond that is filled with goldfish. The city-owned pond will soon be drained to eradicate the invasive goldfish. The draining will ideally take place prior to a good, hard freeze to (hopefully) reduce the smell. Anna gathered the information she needed and wrote her report, but it wasn’t enough. Just a few days prior to her reporting day, she informed me that she wanted to go catch one of the goldfish and bring it to school to show her class. Instantly, my mom brain flipped to, “What? Why would you want to do that?” Then, it went to, “Yeah, that would make the report more interesting. It’s always good to have a visual… I should support her and her ideas.” Then: “How are we going to do that? and WHEN are we going to find time to go catch a goldfish in a city pond?” After hashing out all my concerns with my husband and Anna, our family of four—there was no way our 8-year-old Ellen was going to miss this—loaded up our kayak, a lifejacket, mud boots, four nets, and a big bucket and headed to town. We were going goldfish hunting. (Part of me still can’t believe we did it.) Thankfully, a friend’s property abuts the pond in question, so we had easy access to the water. Anna donned the lifejacket and got in the kayak. Dad handed her a big net. She paddled out and scooped with the net a few times, hoping to catch something… and got nothing. She paddled around a little more and tried again. Nothing. Meanwhile, John, Ellen, and I were rounding the shore on foot, hunting for goldfish with nets of our own. (I like to think it was the murky water that made the process difficult, but maybe, we’re just not good goldfish hunters.) The kicker was that we had exactly one hour to land a fish, as we had to fit the escapade in between homework and dinner and the girls’ 6 p.m. tennis practice. Thirty minutes into the hunt, our bucket was still empty. Anna was beginning to stress and Ellen was getting muddier. So, dad took a turn on the kayak—if anyone can do it, dad can, right? Nope. Still no goldfish. Then—just as I was going to announce we had to get going—a shout of surprised erupted from the far side of the pond. A goldfish had been spotted! Anna and Ellen eagerly watched the golden fish swim near the shore, desperate to not lose it, and John paddled over with a net at the ready. I walked over to the excitement, lugging the pail with me. Anna and Ellen were shouting directions to dad, who was trying hard to steady himself in the kayak and make quick scoops in the indicated areas… but it wasn’t going well. So, I trudged into the water as high as my rubber boots would allow and attempted to help my husband land an evasive goldfish. Ten minutes beyond the time we were supposed to leave the pond, we were still failing at our fishing. I began to resign to the fact that we might not get a fish and said so. The look on Anna’s face was heartbreaking, and Ellen looked ready to dive into the darn pond and swim after the coveted fish. “Okay, we’ll try for just a few more minutes. Then, we HAVE to go,” I stated. So, we focused. I lowered the pail into the water in hopes John and the girls would be able to corral at least one fish into the bucket. Still no luck, and the clock was ticking. Finally, John called it. It was time to go. There were sighs of defeat and frustration as I pulled up the submerged bucket in preparation for my climb out of the pond… and that is when I saw it. There was a little gold glimmer in the bottom of the bucket. “WE HAVE A FISH!” I jubilantly announced. The girls rushed over and checked the bucket. A big, bright-orange goldfish circled the bottom of the pail. That Friday, the fish went to school with Anna, and her classmates gave her a standing ovation after she delivered her report. We resurrected the big, old aquarium I had as a child, and now my family has a pet goldfish. Anna named him “Chase” in honor of our family’s epic goldfish hunt in which we chased that darn goldfish all over the pond.

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