It was a small rainbow trout. As I held her, her iridescent skin glistened in the light. She was cold, slimy and beautiful. I looked up at my father, knowing that this was a moment I should be proud of. He pulled the hook out of her bleeding lip, so that my small fingers would be spared the chance of catching on the hook’s barb. I remember wanting to throw her back… perhaps I’ve added that detail to my memory as wishful thinking. Either way, although smaller than we would normally keep, she was too badly hurt to return to the water.
Even then she was still fighting as she suffocated in the air so we brought her life to an end, unceremoniously, her head against a nearby rock. We added her body onto the string we were carrying with a number of other fish that had been caught and killed. The string was threaded through her mouth and out one of her gills, now motionless. As we began to walk back to the car my cousin held the line of fish, swinging it as she went. It was all part of the “game”. But the gills of my small fish could not handle the motion and tore open, sending her flying from the line back into the water, where her body quickly disappeared with the current. I was saved from eating her.
I hated eating the fish we caught. I hated the sight of my father slitting their bellies open and watching their organs spill out. Hated their eyes looking up at me from my plate. These and the crabs that we played with and then boiled alive are the only animals I ever watched die before me.