Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite. There is pressure except possibly undercooking or overcooking the bird, and even more important than the vittles is being with family and or friends.
Usually I head off to be with my kids, but this year I am saving that for Christmas. So instead, my wife, Karen, and I are heading to see my sister, Grace, and her husband, Kevin, down in Melbourne, Fla. From what she has told me, they didn’t get nearly the blow we got from Hurricane Matthew, so I am really excited to get away from the sound of chainsaws and all this darn smoke from the fires up in the mountains.
I don’t know about you, but I find it amazing that the smoke can reach this far south. Sitting here thinking about what they are going through up there, it really isn’t much different than what we have just experienced.
Where nature used wind and water to prune our area, she decided fire would be the better choice up there. In both cases, it doesn’t seem possible that either place can recover from this massive pruning but, mark my word, in a year or two, she will use her massive power to create new life that will make both areas more beautiful and lush than they ever were before she went on this monthlong rampage.
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I know my wife is dreading what might happen when we get to Florida because where there is water there are fish and, if there are fish, history has taught her that it’s all I can think about. But this year, I am going to surprise her and leave my fishing rods at home.
Am I finally growing up — you know, maturing? I seriously doubt that will ever happen but, after all the stress from the storm, I am ready to simply chill out and will be quite content to spend time with family.
I’m not saying I won’t “think” about fish because I know the ocean will draw me like a magnet, so I’ll have to “rendezvous” with her on the sly. From experience, it’s when I get up early, make a cup of coffee and while the rest of the house is asleep I sneak along the canals looking for snook under the docks. I don’t always see one, but at least it will scratch my salty itch.
I did make it offshore for the first time in a while. It was last Friday, christening my friend Dan Cornell’s new ride, a 38-foot inboard Pursuit. Along for the ride were Dr. Ben Parker and Bill Sanderson, and the forecast was perfect: Seas of 2-3 feet with winds 5-10 mph.
Here again, Mother Nature must have been laughing watching us slipping and sliding from one end of the boat to the other as both the wind and seas were easily three times the prediction. But you know what? Even in such conditions, we caught fish and lost more big fish than I can remember losing in years.
One of my favorite fish to eat is triggerfish, and every one we caught was huge. Had it been calm or simply calmer, we would have loaded the boat. Also in the mix were big vermillion snapper, big black sea bass, a cobia which we released and, of all things, a mutton snapper. Mutton snapper are extremely rare this far north and I can’t even remember catching one here.
I said last week that fishing a new boat always makes me nervous because some boats simply aren’t lucky. If the result of that trip in such snotty conditions is any indication of what’s to come for that Pursuit, it will be one fish catching machine! Whew.
By the time you read this, the Collin Stokes Memorial Inshore Tournament will be history. All I can do is hope the fundraiser for the Waddell Mariculture Centerwe has a good turnout since it was postponed because of Matthew.
Regardless of how much money we raise, Thanksgiving came early for Al Stokes and the Waddell Mariculture Center thanks to the Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina. Delivered on Thursday were two massive generators that the CCA bought for Waddell. Had they been purchased new, these would have cost more than $40,000.
Now, thanks to the CCA, if another storm hits, the pumps that support the fish, shrimp and other basic services at the center will be kept up and running.
There is no way on earth that the center could have afforded this backup system, so kudos to CCA director Scott Whitaker and all those involved for this amazing contribution. Heck, the way I see it, these generators are Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one.
Lastly, when you sit down for that Thanksgiving feast, you might want say a prayer for a true local icon, George Moody, who sadly passed away this week.
If you never met George, he was a gentle soul and never once did I bump into him when he didn’t have a smile plastered on his face. If his new journey is anything like his journey throughout this life, I am absolutely sure it will be happy and peaceful. Love you, buddy.