I told my wife Janet that this year I was not going to bring my fishing rods and tackle to the beach because I have not had much luck fishing at the South Jersey shore in recent years. I don’t have the patience that my friend Dean Denmead has who is an experienced fisherman and has learned to wait for the catch. Most years I buy at least four different types of bait from old man Moran at Moran’s Dockside in Avalon and when I ask him why I am not catching anything, he always says that this is not a good time of the year to catch fish. So why sell me the bait? I guess a sucker is born every minute. I brought the rods and tackle again this year. I should have known that the same luck would happen when ten minutes into our first beach day, a seagull zeroed in on me at 60 MPH and launched a fecal torpedo at me which blew through the mesh in my hat, splattered my hair, my shirt and dislodged itself on my beach chair. Bad omen for the trip and a definite “Welcome to New Jersey” from the real fishermen- the gulls.
I have had more successful outings with my grandfather and his buddies in my early years who were all real good anglers. I drove them to Oregon Inlet in North Carolina, fished with them in the Everglades, and at a fishing camp several times in northern Canada above North Bay. There is nothing like being with experienced fishermen and eating a fresh fish dinner on the shores of a crystal clear lake or landing a state record snub nosed dolphin in the Carolinas. The alligators floating in the canals in Florida provided adventure for the young guy and the veterans. I still use my grandfather’s tackle and rods and although I have been marginally successful expecially when I have taken my son Jack, I am sure that he has a smile on his face in that great fishing hole in the sky.
A couple of years ago, I took matters a little more seriously and went on line to find a fishing service in South Carolina off the coast of Hilton Head. I found a site by Captain Dave Fleming http://www.mightymako.com When we booked the morning and arrived at the dock, Dave told me that the fishing was really not that good. Imagine that? But, he added, if we wanted to catch shark, we could do that. I jumped at the chance and my wife and son reluctantly boarded the Mighty Mako with wide eyed wonder as to how this was going to go. Dave used mackerel heads and instantly Janet’s line tugged ferociously as she hooked a shark and Captain Dave helped her bring it ot the side of the boat. Janet was not at all thrilled at the prospect of touching the sand shark and Dave brought it up for her to see and then cut it loose. The next snap of the line was Jack’s and the same protocol was observed by bringing the beast in view and then cutting it loose. My grandfather spoke in my ear when my line snapped and he wanted me to land it myself. After all those years with Judge Miller, Bill Marcus and George Beran, and my grandpap, I better net and land the shark myself. Dave sensed that I had some experience and let me net the small shark and instructed me to grab it firmly by the back of the head and he would take a picture. I had never held a shark before and was amazed at the sandpaper feel of sharkskin. After the picture, I cut it loose and we continued to land shark after shark until a bull shark snapped Janet’s steel leader and Dave smiled and said, ” That was one we would not have wanted to be in the vicinity of the boat.” As I gazed off into the sound, I remarked to my son that we were only about 800 yards from where he and I were sitting on a sandbar the previous day. Little did we know that we were surrounded by sharks curiously looking at us from the depths of the sound. Needless to say, my fifteen year old at the time never went back in the water.
An interesting sidebar to fishing is that you can have the opportunity to have some good family time and conversations that will be remembered for a lifetime. Even when I fish with my friend Dean, we laugh about our time at the beach and the friendship of dropping a line in the water to see what happens is intoxicating. Captain Dave told us aboard the Mighty Mako that he was born and raised in the Hilton Head area and that his father is a successful attorney. His siblings were all successful stockbrokers and professional people working in New York and he was the only “black sheep” of the family who chose fishing as a career. He was a little sheepish in his description of himself and his very tightly wound family, but I assured him that in my mind, he was the smart one. People come to a beautiful place and pay him money to take them fishing. He makes a living at what he loves and lives in Paradise. The stressful lives that most people live trying to take that one vacation to where he lives all the time is a testament to Dave’s good judgement. Personally I believe he is the most successful one in his family. What really is important in life? I may not be the most successful fisherman in the world, but the quiet time on the water either by myself or with my family is worth its weight in gold. I need to be more patient. I need to get better at being a fisherman and the sport will teach me what Dave already knows. Slow down and enjoy what life has to offer. Whether you catch a fish or not. Wish me luck. Probably buying some more bait from old man Moran tomorrow. Thanks for reading.