I suppose all of us are shaped and influenced by our experiences, and I’m no different. As I reflect on my own life one of the fondest and most poignant memories is of the time Daddy took his three boys on our first saltwater fishing trip. It was a life-changing encounter with nature and with the frailties of human beings. I not only enjoyed it but also learned a fair number of lessons on that first trip out onto the deep blue sea.
The trip took place aboard a big charter boat with 50 or more people onboard, many of whom looked as if they had never hoisted a hook and line in their lives. We were fishing out of a Florida town that ended with two “E’s” or two “O’s” or something like that, and thus, I learned that Florida has a funny way of naming its cities.
As we climbed aboard, our hearts were pounding with excitement, and why not? It was a big nice boat, a captain and mates that looked like Ahab and his band of cutthroats, as well as the prospect of catching some big old fish. That will get your juices flowing even if you are only 12 years old.
I had always viewed the ocean from a beach perspective and it looked pretty cool to me. Vast and mysterious with a few harmless looking waves that we could ride on with our little surfboards. I had always dreamed of venturing out on its immense surface and trying my luck. That said, I had never heard the terms “sea sickness,” “ear patches” or “seasick pills” and was not in the least intimidated by the big blue water.
Once on the charter we discovered that it had a large, comfortable inside cabin where all of us customers could lounge until the time came to haul in some lunkers. So we settled in.
One of the first things I noticed was a group of guys sitting around drinking something out of silver cans that had red and white stripes. This turned out to be my introduction to beer drinkers. Since I didn’t know anything about beer and beer drinkers, my first impression was that it must have tasted really good because the boys were doing a lot of guzzling and loud laughing. I asked Daddy if I could have some of whatever they were drinking, and he said no without further explanation.
I continued looking around the cabin and there was a lot of interesting stuff in there including boxes of bait labeled “squid.” Not yet having taken marine biology in school I wasn’t sure what that was. Daddy told me it was an ocean-going animal that big fish feasted on, so that was good enough for me. I didn’t get to actually touch it or smell of it right then, but it would make an impression on me later in the day after the hot sun had warmed the squid up a bit. The other thing I noticed in the cabin was a goodly supply of crusted five-gallon buckets that looked and smelled like they hadn’t been washed recently. Daddy wouldn’t tell me what the buckets were for but I would find out later that they were the airline equivalent of a barf bag.
So off we went into the wild blue yonder and I was thoroughly enjoying the ride as well as the anticipation of going deep sea fishing. The guys in the cabin must have been excited too because their laughter kept getting louder and louder. All was right with the world.
It was then the wind began to blow and I heard a maniacal laugh from Captain Ahab.
What began as a gentle breeze soon turned into a 20-knot Northeaster and the big craft began rocking. It didn’t really bother me because I didn’t realize that rookies were supposed to get seasick when caught in a 20-knot wind. I was oblivious. I did notice, however, that the beer drinking/laughing boys had quieted down to a great degree and that their skin color had changed to a greenish hue.
A short time later one of them hustled over to a five-gallon bucket and heaved — and it wasn’t the anchor he heaved up. To that point my stomach had not lurched but by the time three or four of their gang had started a symphony over the buckets I was getting ready to lose my breakfast.
About that time a fog horn sounded on the boat indicating that it was time to drop our lines to the bottom and begin catching fish. I gamely fought the crowd, my newly discovered gastric difficulties and the stench of ripened squid to find a position along the rail and actually was able to boat a small, ugly fish that did not look particularly tasty. Pretty much everyone began to have some success except for those who had been drinking out of those striped cans. They were languishing around in the floor of the cabin groaning and pleading to go back to shore.
The grand finale was when the boat ran aground on the way back. That was just another cool thing to me but it did further complicate the pain of our little beer drinking crowd.
So, as you can see, it was a great experience and helped set me on fire to go back. As I indicated earlier there were several useful lessons learned on my maiden voyage.
When going deep sea fishing:
- Always take along plenty of ear patches and seasick pills.
- Never fail to bring your own private five-gallon bucket.
- Do not, under any circumstances, bring beer or beer drinkers aboard.
- Do not leave the shore if the wind is blowing.
- Never go out on a charter boat whose captain looks like a maniacal version of Ahab.
Follow these simple guidelines and you too can experience the thrill of a lifetime. You can also avoid sea sickness and get hooked on saltwater fishing.
—Email your salt water fishing tips to email@example.com.