The Young Boy and the Sea

Mom had never caught a fish.  Well, that’s not true.  She’d caught a few freshwater cats back home on the lake with Dad.  He’d even insisted that she be beside him when the picture was snapped of him and his personal best 41 lb. channel catfish.  He said she’d helped him reel it in, but I didn’t much believe that, though I knew she was there.  When I say she had never caught a fish I mean that every time we’ve chartered a boat and crew to take us deep sea fishing off the Atlantic coast of south Florida, she’s never reeled one in.  It became a family tradition years before I knew or cared much for fishing.  Dad would wake us early in the morning and we’d drive up A1A to the Sea Mist III, docked just off East Ocean Blvd. in Boynton Beach.  They’d take us and a few other families on a short four hour sail.  This was no prize fish excursion, just catching yellow tailed snapper, some remora and maybe a flounder every other year.

So when Mom cried out that she’d hooked a big one, I didn’t believe that she was unable of reeling him in.  But then she yelled “Help!” and turned towards me with a look of apprehension and fear.  I secured my own rod and reached for hers to help her readjust and get ready to bring him in by herself.  When she let go, I felt the true weight of her fish and wondered if even I’d have the strength for this fight.  Her face insisted I must.  I jammed the end of the rod into my hip and prepared to start cranking, but there was a sudden jerk and a drastic bend in the pole.  A member of the crew—young, tanned, tattooed—jumped over the bench behind me and grabbed high on the pole near the bend.

“You got it?” he said.

I shook my head yes.

“Everybody listen up,” he shouted to the other moms and dads and children with their lines hanging over the side of the ship.  “I need you to reel those lines in as fast as you can.”  A pause.  “Right now!” he shouted.

He looked down at me.  “Alright, hold on tight,” he said.  “We’ve got to make it to the front.”

We were at the back of the boat.  Twelve to fifteen other rods stood between me and the front of the boat.  I could feel the fish continuing to swim and pull on the line with slow, steady bursts of energy and I wondered when we’d start reeling.

“Now, everybody sit down on the bench behind you,” the deck hand ordered, “and lift your poles above us.  We’ve got to walk under you.”

With a firm grip on the top of my pole he started forward and together we ducked under the poles that draped over us like palm branches.  All eyes were on me.  He led me to the front of the boat, dragging the taut line beside us.  At the front of the boat there was a slender plank that reached out over the top of the sea.  He instructed me to lead the fish around that by walking up with the pole on the left side and down with the pole on the right.  He let go of the pole and again I felt the mighty strength of the fish.

No one was fishing on the other side of the boat and when I arrived he told me I had all the room I needed to reel the hell outta that fish.  I started reeling and for several minutes my forearms burned under the strain of reeling and pulling.  At times the line came easily.  Other times the reel screamed as the fish fought hard.  I tried to rest from reeling and pull with the rod like I’d seen Dad do, but the deckhand would say, “Keep reeling.”

The line went slack and I was certain it had snapped and the fish, though wounded, had won.  In a furious moment that is remembered only as a rapid blur, the deckhand shouted, “DON’T STOP!” and reached for the end of my pole.  The line felt dead though and in my confusion I saw a giant purple, blue and silver fish splash from below the surface, no farther than four feet from the side of the Sea Mist III.

“Hold on!” he yelled.

The shining fish, at least three or four feet in length jumped.  Behind him sprang the open jaws of a brown shark with a head the size of a ten gallon bucket.  He clamped onto the side of the fish and they went down together.  There was a final tug on the line and bend in the pole and then the line snapped.

I turned to the deck hand in giddy disbelief and he slapped me on the back.

“That was at least an eight foot tiger shark, my man!”

There was no disappointment in me, for what I’d witnessed sufficiently replaced the loss of the giant fish.

“He was running,” he said.

I looked up at him.

“When the shark started chasing that fish, he darted in towards the boat to hide.  That’s why you felt the loose line and thought he was gone.  That’s the only time fish will swim towards the boat.”

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Adam on April 21, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Holy Crap! I can’t believe you saw a shark gobble up a huge fish! Man

  2. That is so freaking cool!

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