Mother Ocean can be a huge provider of lessons you can file away in your mind to be be pulled out when a similar opportunity presents itself in the future. There is no skill that compares to good ol’ experience. The ocean can really stir up your emotions and adrenaline and get those endorphins flowing!
It’s difficult to describe the feelings--some high, some low- -that we can go through in just a few minutes on the water. Here’s an example:
I’m pulling the anchor after topping off the live wells with some fresh ballyhoos and cigar minnows, blue runners and a few sardines. The sun is getting a little higher and there’s enough light to see that there’s some royal blue, turquoise water moving pretty good to the northeast; everything just looks and feels right. (As fishermen, you know those times when it just feels fishy.) The breeze is chilly and a little spray in the face, and you smell fish. Sure enough, as the mate is going through his seminar on live bait, light tackle fishing with our anglers, I see a frigate bird nose dive out of the sky like a fighter jet whose target is the spraying ballyhoo he sees from way up high. There is a good spray of ballyhoo moving in multiple directions making me believe there are multiple fish chasing them around, and now the frigates are bombing them from above--these guys are really in a tough spot. I throttle up and climb in the tower to try and have the height advantage of looking down on the fish. There are no need for words; the mate knows that when we accelerate riding down or inside the reef ’s edge, I have seen something and to have a bait hooked up and ready to cast. As I make that last step into the tower, I can see in the distance two sailfish with their sails halfway out of the water trying to coral the baits into their striking distance. I yell down, “I got ‘em!” letting the mate know I have a visual on the fish and to really get ready.
Now back to those feelings and emotions Mother Ocean can bestow upon us. In just a matter of minutes, after catching plenty of live baits to be well equipped for anything we encounter on the day’s charter, we’ve got a chance to cast at a pair of sailfish. I don’t care how much experience you have, if coming upon a couple sailfish floating with their sails up like sitting ducks on the water doesn’t get the ‘ole ticker to speed up a little bit, you may want to consider retirement or another pastime.
There’s thousands of different styles of fishing for different species around the world, going back to the beginning of man and ocean. They all have their purpose, and to each his own. I, personally, love sight fishing for any fish; particularly sailfish swimming in packs, tailing down sea over a sandy bottom where they stand out, while aggressively gobbling up anything they can catch.
As I am coming up on this pair of sailfish, I get the boat positioned, point at the fish and tell the mate how far to throw the line. He makes a perfect cast so the fish chases the frisky-hooked ballyhoo around for a split second, then piles on the ‘hoo like a Labrador retriever catching a wounded duck, thrashing its head back and forth for the kill. As the mate passes off the rod to the angler, I see the ballyhoo disappear as the sailfish swallows it down. The mate counts to 4 and tells the angler to go for it. The angler shuts his bail and the rod instantly doubles over, drag screaming, and the fish starts tailwalking offshore. I don’t even have to say anything and the mate has another bait hooked and casts at the second fish in hopes of a double. Once again, he makes a great shot, three feet in front of his nose and, as he hands off the rod, the sail inhales the ballyhoo in slow motion. After a quick drop back, the angler gets tight on his sail, and we’re hooked up to a doubleheader. We are all satisfied and things are going in the right direction this particular morning, but like I said, sometimes you get all the highs, and sometimes all the lows, out there.
The second sailfish is just lying there so it looks like I will be able to back right up to her for a quick release and then go after the first fish. As the double line is about 3’ from the rod tip and we’re about to reach out for the leader touch, the sail comes alive and starts jumping erratically offshore. This fish jumps over the other angler’s line and the 2 lines instantly chaff through each other. Just like that, an awesome start just turned into being 0 for 2. Hero to zero; dog to hydrant. However, you want to look at it, a huge high followed by an extreme low.
That’s just one of thousands of examples where, in what seems like the blink of an eye, the ocean will put you through a roller coaster of raw emotions. You can compare the events of a fishing trip with what goes on in life sometimes. Everything can be going perfectly executed, and then it unravels right at the last second for an extreme let down. But, hey that’s fishing. And that’s just bad luck. How you bounce back is what makes or breaks us out on the water, or in life. It’s a mental game in which I try and stay positive and keep swinging for the fence. We’ll get the next one. A very wise older captain once told me that “wisdom is the sum of mistakes”. Social media with Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, allows you to instantly see everyone’s highlight reel--you don’t see too many pictures or posts of blunders, or just slow days, knowing everyone has them.
So, hang in there during the tides of fishing knowing Mother Ocean has a plan for all of us. We’ll see you out there!
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