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The Big Worm

Have a Hoppy Independence Day

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When you run a Bait Shop you here a lot of strange stories from your customers and field lots of of odd phone calls. And many things you would think impossible or unrealistic prove themselves to be all to real and the longer your at it the time between things that actually suprise you become further and further apart....I guess it is possible to become accustom to living in the "twilight zone".

A week ago I got a call from a young woman asking if we had an interest is some free bait...they had some live bait to get rid of. As with people who call with crayfish or shad they caught with cast nets I automatically clicked into the the BaitShop owner legalese about how we can only buy and sell raised bait from approved suppliers and only certain species are allowed and etc.....etc....the old standard thank you but no thanks. She paused and in a somber voice said she didn't have a clue what to do with all these tadpoles she had and the her siblings wanted to just bleach them and just kill em...but it bothered her because she said there were "ALOT"...

Knowing I had just used my best out and aware of the fact that working 80 hours a week slinging bait makes you curious about things that you know will cost you in time.....or money.....something most shop owners don't have any spare. I bit, "How many do you have?", She proceeded to tell my that her parents had passed away recently and their pool which had a new cover had never been open this year and with all the rain we have had now had two feet of water on top and as she put it "Alot, Millions of them". It turned out the house was near by and I agreed to take a look and make a few calls. I was curious to see what she thought "alot" really was and with being in a business that is word of mouth I knew I had to least take a look.

A week passed and I got a return call from her to ask if I had been out or had heard from the DNR.... I guess I had hoped that one of the other people she had said she was going to call including her friends at the county Parks Department would have come through or the friends and family she said were making calls....I was picking up supplies for the shop and had a helper watching the shop...and after a quick call to make sure things were under control and headed over to look at the pool full of tadpoles. On the way the thoughts of you don't have time for this and your a push over came to the surface several times...I arrived. I was met by Karlie and her sister doing yard work and by a for sale sign in the yard. I started to see there was an urgency to get the house ready to sell..... The two sisters walked me around the house to a partially in ground pool with a deck, older but in good shape. As we opened the gate and walked to the edge of the pool and I admit it was one of those few moments when you put your hand to chin and in shock and disbelief you can maybe muster a "Hugh, that's alot of tadpoles.....

I'm pretty sure all I got out was "HUGH!"

TO BE CONTINUED.......

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I have never seen a million tadpoles before and I can best describe what I saw the following way...Picture a snow globe 36 feet long by 14 feet side by 4 feet tall shaken by Atlas himself and I expect it would look the same except for this snow was a black green in color.

No I did not get a picture of the pool at that moment....it always seems like when a 26' sturgeon swims by, an alien spacecraft buzzes the lake , or bigfoot steals the steak I'm cooking on the grill and now Tadpole-Maggedon I was camera free with only my trusty flip phone which I used to call Frank J. at the DNR. After explaining the situation and getting the perameters he said he'd send my a letter to go ahead and move the tadpoles to local/same watershed ponds....but he suggested I look for a swamp as the cover would be better for the tadpoles and they would have a better chance. I told the ladies I would try and round up some help and they said they would as well...and we set a tentative day for the Frog Boat Lift for my only day off in three weeks....Tuesday.

In the mean time I determined the tadpole lot was composed of toad, wood frog, leap or and a few other species. Some where easy to figure out, most were not being less than 1/2"

CONTINUED......

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Go to a PVC website and you can see a pool cover with a dome shape of PVC to allow the cover to drain. Going to do mine in a couple of days.

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So Tuesday came around and and armed with my sucker net, an umbrella net, a butterfly net and my giant Beckman Salmon net with a replacement Gardner mesh and a dozen buckets I set off to wrangle some tadpoles. I wasn't sure which net would work. Being that the cover was sagged there were no clean edges to trap them at and with the tadpoles so small I wasn't sure if any of the nets would work. As luck would have it the mesh on the big net seemed the smallest so I went with it. Now I have landed good carp and big flatheads with it.....but I never spent 5 hours dragging the wholly open net through the water chasing thousands of swimming creatures the size of a pea before.....each scoop managed about a half pound in the beginning for two laps of the pool....which when you consider there the size of a pea....it's alot of tadpoles. Then managed to empty each scoop by grabbing the whole net and placing it in the bucket upside down and giggling it a 1/2" at a time to free all the tadpoles. I learned the hard way that an errant pour and the pain staking task of picking up a couple hundred one at a time off the deck....

Buckets started to fill fast, and 9 of them gained close to three to four pounds each and became solid black in the bottom half of each bucket. When I started the pool looked like a gravel driveway, then it looked like heavily peppered eggs, then a dirty floor. I was making headway but the little demand where fight in me the while time....seems they did - all want to be saved and the scoops got heavier and heavier.

With the 9 buckets loaded I went to make the first "drive for life".

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The smallest minnows I carry at the shop average 35 dozen to a pound and we weighed out over 27 pounds after the water.....over 11,000 tadpoles rescued and moved to their new home. On Google we checked for the closest slow water near the house so there wouldn't be an issue with changing anything. We found a drainage swamp a couple of blocks away and took the first two buckets as we walked up we saw the sale typed oof tadpoles in the water. Great I thought but to small to add all the ones we had . As I scrolled google maps I noticed a parking lot drainage pond behind th local grocery store......but for twenty years I never knew it was there.... had driven around the building tons of times, just assumed there was nothing on the other side of the berm. I asked Scott, the kid who helped out at the shop if he knew about the water....he said yeah its big.....no fish though it's only 2-3' deep "Just turtles and Frogs" he said, perfect I thought and headed out the door to take the other 7 buckets home. Keep in mind this is a busy area, heavily traficed and a congested suburb of Chicago so I figured a hey, at least the ' ll have a chance....a parking lot pond is better than a bleach bath any day....besides it was getting late.

When I climbed to the top of the berm, this is what I found.....unexpected, and beautiful....heck, I'm not a frog but if I where I'd want to live there....and Scott and I released the last 7 buckets.

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Most cultures say that frogs are good luck and if one comes into your house it's a sign of wealth and good fortune to come......I couldn't find out what happens with 11,000 plus.....but I figure it must be an exponential ratio.....so I did go buy some lottery tickets Just in case.....

But to answer the question of why a grown man would stop work, waste his time, money and clean some strangers pool free of tadpoles, I'd tell you it was cause it was the right thing to do.....

But if you look at the smile you'll know the real truth. Even at 50 it's just as fun as when I remember doing it as a kid!!!

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Thanks for the story.

"As fun as when you were a kid"

That must of felt great some of the best moments come unexpectedly

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