Cast & Blast

Women and fishing: When a man loves a Lowcountry woman, the big ones can’t be far behind

Karen Doughtie is a whiz on land and sea.
Karen Doughtie is a whiz on land and sea. Collins Doughtie

Seeing husbands and wives fishing together on any sort of regular basis is a rarity.

Thinking back, one local couple in particular stands out front and center, the Wannamakers. I knew that if one of them was on the boat, the spouse was almost always there too.

Kit, now deceased, and her husband, Frank, were one of the only married couples I have ever known that spent most of their free time together out on the water fishing.

For decades I would almost always run into the two of them in their boat, the “Wanna Go,” and trade information on where the fish were biting or where the shrimp were stacked up. I don’t give up my fishing spots often but Kit and Frank were one of only a handful of exceptions to this rule.

Kit could outcast most men, and no matter what the sea threw at her, she always took it with a smile. To this day, I still miss our encounters, drifting along, side by side, trading information and just chatting more than I can ever put into words.

Speaking of women and fishing, I lost more girlfriends growing up because of my passion for fishing than for any other reason that I know of. And the line “you like fishing more than you like me” was usually the last thing I heard in many relationships.

But when I found my wife, Karen, she was a dream come true. She actually encourages me to go fishing! If I were the suspicious type, I might wonder why she is always so fired up to get rid of me.

Knowing that I am always hooking or cutting myself, is she playing the percentages by taking out a large insurance policy on me? Is there, uh, another man?

The Cuisinart

But after all these years together, I think she is one of the few women that I have ever met who realizes that I am a better person after a day on the water. I am more relaxed, easier to be around. Plus, since I do all the cooking, she gets to sample some mighty fine vittles after a day of me foraging in and around our waters.

Karen is no stranger to water, having lived and worked on Daufuskie Island for many years. Back when she had her tour company called Daufuskie Seafaris, and later while running Freeport Marina on Daufuskie, she commuted to work every day by herself on some of the lamest excuses for a boat imaginable.

If it rained, she drove through it. If the wind howled and the seas were rough, it didn’t stop her from making the run all the way from Broad Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island to Freeport Marina on Daufuskie. And on the nights when she would host a large group function on Daufuskie, she would make the run back to Hilton Head by herself, very late at night, with no running lights simply because they never worked. Now that is my kind of gal.

It has been some time since she has done any type of fishing with me, so not long ago I decided to ask her to accompany me for an “easy day” of fishing.

One thing I do know about most women and fishing is this: for some reason they feel the need to spend at least an hour getting ready to simply hop on a boat. Clarifying that statement a tad, I don’t mean helping with the bait, rods, etc., but rather putting on makeup. I have never figured out why women feel the need to put on makeup and meticulously style their hair when they are going fishing. Maybe I’m wrong but I seriously doubt that fish look up and say, “Wow, what a knock out, I think I’ll bite on her hook!” I guess it’s just a girl thing.

Finally, in the boat and on our way, it was a bit cramped with all the towels, bottles of lotions, bags of this and bags of that she felt the need to bring along, but practically speaking, I reckon it might have an upside. If by chance a nuclear war erupted while we were out, we could have survived for months on all the things she brought along. Heck, I would have never thought to bring along a Cuisinart. Them women think of everything!

Ready to go offshore

Arriving at one of my super-secret fishing spots, we baited up and began fishing. Karen can throw a cast net as well as any man and is pretty darn good with a spinning rod. But it had been a while since we had fished together so, understandably, she was a tad rusty.

Because of my back issues, a backrest is a must. With that said, I sat on the seat fishing behind the boat while she fished from the front. Can you guess where I am going with this?

Suddenly I heard a whoosh! and sensed something fly inches from the right side of my head. All I can say is if it was one of those giant, blood-sucking horse flies we have around here, this one was Day-Glo orange and I’ll be damned if it didn’t also have a sinker and hook hanging off its leg.

I didn’t say anything but I prayed for eyes in the back of my head while hugging the deck from that point on when I heard her click the bail open.

We had to move a couple of times before we found fish, but once we did she and I had a blast.

We caught and released a number of redfish, a few trout and a hodgepodge of the other species, and she really got into it. She even said she was ready to go offshore, something she has never done because of a fear of getting seasick.

I see the same couples fishing together time after time when I go down to the Ogeechee River in Georgia and it always makes me wish my wife would join me more often, like Kit Wannamaker did with her husband, Frank.

But then again, the saying, “If wishes were horses beggars would ride” is probably more suitable for this pipe dream of mine. But then again, you just never know.