Just when I think I might have a handle on nature or, in this case fishing, some event comes along that blows any theory I might have right out the window. This past week perfectly illustrates just how little I understand about the ways of nature.
With temperatures hovering in the mid 90s and the humidity near 100 percent, I would have put all my chips down on the bet that fishing would be, at best, marginal. Oh how wrong I was.
Starting at the beginning, my great friend, Dan Cornell, whom I fish with regularly, called and asked if I wanted to go bottom fishing. Having just done a presentation on this very type of fishing to the Hilton Head Fishing Club, I said yes very quickly.
Since my dad first took me bottom fishing when I was around 6 years old, it has been in my blood. So many of my friends who fish with regularity snub their noses at bottom fishing, choosing trolling or live baiting instead. But if variety is indeed the spice of life, bottom fishing is, without a doubt, the epitome for this famous saying: No matter what species you are aiming to conquer, you had better expect the unexpected because, almost without exception, the unexpected will rear its head at some point during the day.
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But before I tell you about the unexpected, this week was also about some amazing young’uns getting wet behind the ears on not just one, but two, offshore trips. The first was last Saturday when Brian Larson brought his 8-year-old son, Carter, along and, on the second trip, Dan brought his daughter, Carlyle, 13 and her pal, Jimmy Sewell, 15.
I will say that all three have had experience fishing offshore, Carter mostly with his dad, while Carlyle and Jimmy have both fished with Dan and me for years. What is really amazing is even when the ocean decides to get sloppy, all three of these kids can weather it better than most adults. They remind me so much of my own childhood and fishing with my dad.
Starting on Saturday, the ocean wasn’t all what the weatherman had predicted. Hefty swells and hit and miss thunder boomers dogged us all day. But even with these obstacles, the fishing was great. Triggerfish by the dozens, vermillion snapper, red snapper and even a couple of grouper helped make up our final tally.
But to me, at least, the best part of the day was watching Carter. That boy has salt water in his veins. He could pitch baits on a spinning rod further than many adults I guide and he never took his
eye off not just his rod tip, but also the rod tips of everyone else on board.
I pretty much was behind the wheel all day, constantly repositioning us over fish. Bjust as soon as I would stop and tell everyone to “drop ‘em down,” he would scare the pants off of me by yelling, “It’s biting!” whenever any rod had a fish hitting. All day long he did this and by day’s end my nerves were rattled enough to wish for a stiff rum drink.
I swear that boy would have fished until midnight had the chance been offered. I love it!
Trip number two was unbelievable. With only Dan, Carlyle, Jimmy Sewell and me, the ocean was picture perfect. But with me behind the wheel, it was all up to three kids. At times I regard Dan as a child, and this was one of those times.
Anyway, the bite was phenomenal. Talk about expect the unexpected — all day long fish popped up behind the boat. Having rigged a “pitch rod” before heading out, it got a workout.
So that you know, a pitch rod is nothing more than a spinning rod with a long leader and a hook. When an opportunity arises like a cobia swimming up behind the boat, quickly grab the rod, hook on a live bait, pitch it to the fish and hold on for dear life.
The bottom rods were constantly bent double with trigger fish, big vermillion snapper, really big red snapper and a variety of other fish while the pitch rod accounted for five cobia, a 36-pound king mackerel, one of the biggest bonitos I have seen in years and two or three large amberjacks.
In addition, as one red snapper was reeled to the surface, a barracuda blasted straight through it not five feet from the boat. The bite was insane and, with only three anglers, it was non-stop bedlam.
Totally spent, I plopped down in a beanbag chair for the ride home and reflected on my life.
Every child has mixed feelings about their dad and I am no exception. In a sort of half-sleep, I realized that I am my dad.
Having the guts to move five kids to Hilton Head in 1961 and forgoing a highly lucrative job in advertising on Madison Avenue in New York for a better lifestyle was one gutsy move. I, too, chose lifestyle over money and, reflecting back it, was worth every red cent.
Thanks, Dad, you really did define my life, a life that I will never regret.