If 90-year-old Jake Teague is not fishing, he’s thinking about it. And he says if he’s not thinking fishing, he’s asleep.
“I’m sure not out chasing women,” he said. “I’m afraid I might catch one.”
Fishing rituals are an intricate part of the life of this Alamance County native.
“I used to go every day before daylight,” he said. “But now I get wore out and need a day to rest and think; I love trying to out figure the fish.”
Teague’s favorite fishing spot is the Graham-Mebane Reservoir, where his many friends gather. They are known as a jovial group.
“We don’t hold much back,” he said. “But they’re a good bunch. On my 90th birthday, the last day of March, they took me out to eat and gave me a year’s fishing pass.”
When Teague’s on the lake in his 14-foot johnboat, he usually stays until at least 5 o’clock. Not so long ago he was on the lake eight or nine hours a day.
“Can’t find anybody much to go with me now,” he said. “‘They think I might drop dead, but I tell ’em to push me over the side and keep fishing.”
Putting it in perspective
Although fishing has consumed much of his life, there is another side to Teague. He and his late wife raised three sons, and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII and then in the Korean War.
“On Christmas Eve of 1944, I heard my first enemy gunfire,” he said.
Teague was one of 200 reconnaissance scouts who he says “went to, on and behind” enemy lines.
“I remember seven or eight trips behind German lines,” he said. “I got frost bite a couple of times, but it was nothing compared to the wounded and the dead I’ve seen. That’s why death don’t bother me today; I’ve seen so much of it.”
Military duty earned Teague two bronze stars, three battle medals and a battlefield commission from staff sergeant to second lieutenant.
Back home, Teague earned a living as a farm manager and cow trading in livestock yards up and down the Eastern Seaboard .
“It was just like the stock market,” his son Glenn said. Buy ’em low and sell ’em high.”
Started fishing at 5
Jake Teague got his first taste of fishing when he was 5 years old on the South Fork Creek in Southern Alamance County. His gear was tobacco twine, a cork from a vanilla extract bottle and earthworms.
“I lived on that creek fishing for anything that would bite – mostly cats, some pan fish and an occasional bass,” he said. “We used to seine that creek and have a fish fry once in a while. People don’t do that any more.”
Teague has fished from Maine to Florida in farm ponds, lakes, rivers and sounds.
“We’d go to the Pamlico Sound every weekend or two and fish for bass with flyrods,” he said. The guide spent most of the time in the bottom of the boat afraid we’d catch him with our flies.”
Teague recalls paying the guide $20 per trip, which included a place to sleep and cold egg biscuits for lunch.
Today Teague throws spinning and bait casting roads with his favorite baits a Japanese Sinko and Whacka. He claims to have more gear than he can use.
“I throw most of my fish back,” he said. “I’ll occasionally bring a couple home to cook for supper. Crappie are the best to eat. Another good one is the ole Jack, if you’ve got time; there’s a lot of bones but good meat.”
One of Teague’s favorite memories is a bass fishing trip to Hyco Lake with long-time friend Bill Poe.
“Bill caught a 5-pound bass before I got rigged up,” he said. “We caught 40 bass that day, the most I’ve ever caught.”
Teague’s largest catch to date is a 9-pound, 14-ounce bass. He also has landed a 3-pound crappie. He revels in watching 12- and 13-year-olds fish.
“I try to teach them to appreciate fishing. I like to see ’em catch ’em. I don’t care whether I do or not,” he said.
Teague has owned five boats. He’s satisfied with his current johnboat customized as a comfortable fishing machine, powered by 15-horsepower motor plus an electric motor over the bow. He marvels at the ends some go to fish.
“These boys today tow a $50,000 boat behind a $50,000 pickup,” he said. “I don’t see how they make it.”
The only other pastime for Teague is writing. He has created a sizeable volume of poems, including a touching verse about his late wife.
Teague says he plans to fish forever.
“It means so much to me,” he said. “It’s something I love to do. Everything else goes away. Fishing clears my mind.”