Stale bread and old memories

Published 11:32 am Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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Standing in the shade of a covered dock, I watched small, round shadows appear from the deep. About the size of a saucer for a teacup, these shadows were bluegill expecting a meal. With a loaf of stale bread in tow and small hooks tied to a light fishing line, my family was about to teach these bluegills the truth we all know too well: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

You have heard talk about how much fun our family has fishing with worms or crickets, but bread has personally provided more hours of bent rods and numbers of fish than any other bait method. Growing up in a neighborhood, we always visited the neighborhood lake. The neighborhood lake has ducks. People fed the ducks bread (which you are not supposed to do). Underneath the duck feeding frenzy stalked bluegill to aggressively eat the spoils that sank.

Around the age where I could go off on my own, but not yet old enough to drive a car, I spent many afternoons at my grandmother’s place in a retirement village. This specific one had multiple ponds with many ducks. Being the nineties, you could still feed bread to ducks without being publicly shamed on social media. So some of these retirees would make it a habit of feeding the ducks bread from the dining hall.

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I would find the places that were most likely to be easy feeding spots. When the ducks had their fill, I would creep over, bait my hook with some stale bread, and drop a line in the target rich environment.

My technique took some time to hone. I learned early on that walking down to the water with a loaf of bread would attract the ducks and geese. I consider geese to be feathered bears. If geese are accustomed to being fed by humans, they lose all manners and will end up getting in trouble. Multiple times I could be seen sprinting along a grassy bank with an angry hissing honker nipping at my heels.

I learned, much to my mother’s displeasure, to keep the bread in my pocket. I could discretely bait my hook without getting the attention of an entitled goose. I could also forget half a slice in my pocket and make a huge mess in the washing machine.

Baiting stale bread on a hook is an art. Some rely on the crust, but the most effective way is to smush the smallest amount of bread around the entirety of the hook. Depending on how stale the bread is, you may need some, um, masticatory help. A dab of saliva is all you need to attach the bread like duct tape to the hook.

Back at the covered dock, my son and I started to catch the bluegill faster than we could take them off the hook. Thankfully no geese showed up on this neighborhood pond. 

I was happy that two things did show up that I could pass on: stale bread and old memories.


Baiting hooks with stale bread is a surefire way to attract bluegill.