By C.B. Bylander.
Illustrations by Peter GrossHauser
Pssst. Listen up, kids.
Do you want to spend more time fishing this summer? Would you rather kick back in a boat than push a lawn mower? Does frying walleye over a campfire for lunch have more appeal than plopping a Pop-Tart in the toaster?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then keep reading. All you need to do is memorize a few words used by fisheries biologists, those people who catch and study fish for the Department of Natural Resources. Then slip these impressive words into conversations with your parents or another grown-up who could take you fishing. If you take this task seriously, you can be bobbing in a boat faster than a parent can say, "Dang it, I've been bamboozled by that little bozo again!"
So let's get started.
Caudal and peduncle are the first two words you need to know. Caudal and peduncle go together like peanut butter and jelly. The caudal peduncle is the narrow, muscular part of a fish between its body and tail. Caudal means at or near the tail. Peduncle relates to a bundle of fibers that connect to the tail fin. Most parents wouldn't know a fish's caudal peduncle if it slapped them in the face, which oddly enough is something a caudal peduncle could do. But now that you know what a caudal peduncle is, you can impress adults with wisdom beyond your years.
A perfect time to slip caudal peduncle into a sentence is anytime your family is together and you spy a mounted fish. All you have to do is say, "Wow! Look at the caudal peduncle on that fish!" Such a pronouncement will baffle and befuddle your parents. Maybe even embarrass them. And while they are in this bewildered state, try saying, "Aquatic science is my passion in life. Please take me fishing so I can pursue my interest in all things ichthyological."
Your dumbstruck parents will likely consent to a fishing trip because any kid who knows a caudal peduncle from a great uncle is likely bound for college and a good job. By the way, ichthyological means pertaining to ichthyology, which is the study of fish and other fishy things.
Pelagic is another handy fish-related word. Pelagic means that part of a lake or ocean far from shore. Tiny fish, called fry, are often pelagic, meaning they go wherever the waves or current take them.
Why am I telling you this? So you can insert pelagic into a conversation, of course. Here's how: You suggest that a fishing trip would be good because you don't want to become "one of those pelagic souls who are adrift at the mall and vulnerable to waves of negative social influence." That long-winded sentence will likely make sense to your parents, who would prefer to see you perched in a fishing boat, rather than drifting around the shopping mall.
Elephant snot is another term worth knowing. Elephant snot is what some aquatic biologists call spirogyra, the technical name of a genus (or type) of freshwater algae. Algae, often mislabeled as green scum or yucky weeds, come in many forms. Elephant snot, or spirogyra, looks like bright green goo spiraling in water.
You can surprise adults by using the term elephant snot when they least expect it. Say, for example, your mom has whipped up a salad like none you've ever seen. You can take a few bites, look her in the eye and declare, "This salad looks like elephant snot, Mom, but doesn't taste like it at all."
Then, as she hustles you to your room, you can take advantage of this rare one-on-one time by proposing a fishing trip so you can both learn more about algae because, as you recall, ichthyology is your life.
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of how to use biology-based words to your advantage.
But if these words don't work, let me know. Webster's dictionary has a ton of words. I am confident that somewhere between anadromous (going from saltwater to freshwater or upstream to spawn) and zooplankton (small, usually microscopic animals found in lakes and rivers) we can find some words that will soon have you and a grown-up kicking back in a boat or frying walleye on the beach.
C.B. Bylander is outreach section chief for DNR Fish and Wildlife. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org about DNR youth fishing, hunting, and family education programs.