Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fishing in Florida

My true love is the ocean.  Away from it, I feel empty.  I spent many happy years in Florida, most of the time as a boat-owner.  I remember the first boat I bought, a 24 foot Grady-White.  I was tied up at the dock, working in the small cuddy cabin and I began to feel seasick.  I was shocked.  I had just bought a new boat and I was seasick at the dock!  Eventually I learned that it's just not a good idea to be in a closed-in, small cabin, in a rocking boat, even at the dock.  I moved up to a 27 foot Grady-White several years later and enjoyed trips to the Bahamas where the water was clear and the fishing was great.  My pleasure in boating changed from a strong desire to catch fish to a desire to have my friends catch fish.  I seldom grabbed a rod that had a fish on it, preferring to watch others have that fun.  The process of keeping the boat in good shape, rigging baits, reading the water, and enjoying the life of the ocean were all I needed.  I'm nowhere near salt water now, but I have my memories and pictures that help.  This is a story I wrote long ago, actually before I was married, and reminds me of the fun I had fishing with my friends.  I actually still have the gold hook on which this story is based, but I don't wear it.  I also have a silver hook necklace which is less prone to snagging things, and I wear it often.  The worst is when I'm in the shower and my hook gets caught in one of those plastic scrubby things.  Almost impossible to get out!  Here's the story:

I blame the whole thing on my wife because she's the one who told me to exchange the tuna pendant I had bought to wear around my neck.  She reminded me that it is bad luck to wear any fish that you have not caught yet. When I bought a belt with embroidered wahoos on it, it subsequently took six years to catch my first wahoo, and that was only after I had burned the cursed belt in a secret, private ceremony.  So I returned the tuna to get a fish I had actually caught, only they didn't have any grouper pendants.  Eventually,  I left the jewelry store happily sporting a gold fishhook around my neck.
The hook had a tendency to get caught on things like my wife's cashmere sweater one time when I gave her a hug,  but I adapted to it and kept it out of trouble most of the time.
Last summer we were camping in the Florida Keys and decided to spend the morning snorkelling on one of the shallow reefs.  We brought a box of glass minnows to feed the fish.  My wife and I were in the water snorkelling with our friend Deb while Deb's husband Jim stayed on the boat.  We were surrounded by yellowtails and grunts eagerly gulping at the cloud of glass minnows we had dished out.  Suddenly one of the yellowtails ate the hook around my neck and was hooked solidly.  Although I was surprised, I had the presence of mind to note that he looked like a keeper and I started swimming to the boat.  I was about ten feet from the boat when the barracuda hit.  I only saw a blurry silver streak and felt a tug on my neck.  I looked down to see a quivering, blood trailing, yellowtail head dangling from my gold hook.  I gasped, inhaling a mouthful of sea water and swam to the boat as fast as I could while looking over my shoulder for the return of the barracuda and trying to remove the remains of the yellowtail from the gold hook around my neck.
I shot out of the water and climbed up the ladder,  sputtering.  Jim looked at me with the bloody fish head dangling from my neck and I recall that he backed up a few steps with a strange look on his face.  As I gathered composure I explained to him what had happened.  We called Deb and my wife back to the boat and baited one of our spinning rods with the yellowtail head. The cuda took the bait and we were hooked up.  After a nice battle we released the four footer after warning it never to scare a human so badly again.  I traded in the gold fishhook and had a nice barracuda pendant made which I now wear proudly and safely.

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