Article for post in June 2020 Woods and Water Magazine
Written by Brian E. Smith, Captain, Big Bend Charters
An entourage of four men slowly moved down the dock. Mrs. Ginny held on to two of them by their arms. One of the men jumped in the boat at the finger-dock juncture. The floating finger-dock can wobble when extra people are standing on it. I stayed back somewhat nervously. “How you want to do this Aunt Ginny?” She said she was to sit on the gunnel and to swing her legs around. All went well. She was seated on the captains bench, portable oxygen tank and cannula in place.
Ginny has fished with me for some time. It is impressive to listen to her fishing stories. Men are more apt to tell stories, even if blurting into another persons conversation, that have nothing to do with the outdoors in the least. She has fished in many different places, for all kinds of fish, using techniques which aren’t seen anymore. What is very impressive is she did many saltwater trips solo in her boat at a time when it was uncommon for women to do so. She earned the entourage.
Chit-chat on the idle out was about previous trips, catching up with one another and the menus brought onboard. The young men–~thirty–were talking of tangling with the amberjack as saltwater fishing isn’t that popular in Ohio. On the outside, I was lightly participating but on the inside I knew a secret that the sea forecast had changed for the worst overnight with easterly winds projected > 15 knots and seas 2-4. For east-coasters it may sound like we’re sissified but the Gulf is a different animal where the waves are tight and have two backs. Dropping off a four footer can bring one to their knees for a quick prayer.
My game plan was to keep Ginny safe and comfortable regardless if a fish was caught or not. Thankfully, Spanish mackerel and sand trout, as well as, speckle trout were biting well five miles off number one, a quick boat ride. The east winds wouldn’t have enough distance to fetch the waves. If the seas became a little snotty, I could move the boat a half mile on the west side of Little Bank where it would be relatively calm. Safety, Fun and Fish, always in that order.
The winds were steady 15-20 knots, seas 2-3 foot, fishing was doable with bite active enough to hold interest. Ginny bounced a jig on the windward side as we drifted over the deep grass. Folks were picking up a sandy or speck at descent intervals and the pesky Atlantic blowfish filled in the gaps. However, I could sense this wasn’t what they had been looking forward to. The splashy-splash of a trout is a far cry from the body slamming battle provided by a pissed-off reef donkey. Nonetheless, my game plan would not change unless conditions improved dramatically. To offer hope, I said, “When the air and water temperature equilibrate the winds should die down.” I was secretly hoping more than they that we would have that opportunity. As an analogy, my fishing addiction is not a glass of wine with diner rather a binge drinking frat boy on homecoming weekend.
At noon-thirty, the winds slacked up, the seas laid down and we quickly re-rigged to hair-hooks and split shot to catch at many pinfish, pigfish and blue runner as possible in shortest amount of time at Little Bank. We turned into Team pinfish. By 1:15 we had collected four dozen bait fish and headed out. Forty-five minutes later we were anchored up properly. Before I could set out the second bait the first one was hit. It broke off. The second one broke-off. A couple of amberjack were swallowed by Jewfish—I don’t do PC because of the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America; many folks need to read it and grow a backbone– (not sorry, couldn’t resist) and, off course, they busted off at their leisure. And the sixth one broke off. I was so happy a two foot baby amberjack allowed us to hold it, photo it and release it from the boat. By then the Jewfish were well fed, and the bruisers rushed in to cramp up forearms.
A pandemic (pardon, I’ve heard the word used so often lately I couldn’t help but use it) of fishing exploded on the boat. Double and triple hook-ups were taking place so fast people were being necessary ignored with the statement, “yell, when you see color.” Over and under improv fish dances were being conducted by a cast of white men who couldn’t do a simple two step if a gun was held to their heads. It was impressive! Some of the fish were released before capture. By the tone of the thud hitting the deck, the mate, Little B or I, could determine if the fish was a keeper; > 34 inches at the fork of the tail. It was a two hour period of crazy fish for all. The limit was met with some degree of relief from the fishermen.
At the fifty yard line, Mrs. Ginny sat on the bench enjoying the game before her. A game not to long ago, she would have said something to the effect, “Put me in the game Capt for one play.”
On the ride in, Ginny and I causally conversed between individually savoring riding the open water. She referred it to therapy. I feel likewise but am fortunately blessed to do it more often and make a living at it. I don’t know how much therapy cost per hour nowadays; I think, in the long run, fishing is cheaper. Issues and problems are forgotten and/or resolved while fishing.
Ginny expressed her satisfaction in the ‘boys’ having such a great time battling the amberjacks and thanked me. I thought of how many times fishing had delighted her whether alone or with others. She was selflessly giving back happiness. A mark of strong character developed over a lifetime. I believe the boys noticed.
I believe Mrs. Ginny has more fishing adventures left. For her and me and others.
“It’s a popular pastime among adults, when the hair begins to gray and the aches of middle age grow more steadily persistent, to look back on the prodigious deeds of their youth…” That is half the opening line of Robert Ruark’s book titled Old Mans Boy Grows Older published in 1957. It is the sequel to the Old Man and the Boy. Both books are so well written, must reads, you need to read them and to your children. They give back to everyone with an outdoor spirit.