Friday, June 26, 2009

by Robin

Can we stop for a moment, put the pictures aside, and talk? Can we talk about all the fearful things that go with fishing? Through the years, I've had numerous questions about fishing that involve people's fears.

For example, one of them was, "Do you fear losing sight of land?" Nope, never think about it. My kids never consider it. It happens with such frequency that it is normal for us to think that we have to lose sight of land BEFORE we can go fishing. And on the way home, we look for miniscule Kennedy Space Center buildings to let us know that land is coming in the near future.

Another question is, "Isn't that a really far distance to be offshore in water?" Yes. Yes it is and it should be a reality check before heading offshore. We tend to play just inside the Gulf Stream but there's nothing that guarantees that if we lost engine power, we wouldn't drift into the GS and head north very quickly. It makes rescue that much harder. Distance means more safety equipment. Distances means more food & water. Distances means more precautions. Oddly enough, we're rarely alone when we're 27 miles offshore. There are always multiple boats (commercial & recreational) on Pelican Flats, 21F and 27 F reefs. We usually know when we're approaching a good fishing area because we're heading towards other boats who have already arrived.

A very common question is "Do you see sharks and are you afraid of them?" Yes, we see sharks all the time. I'm not talking about the ones we catch off the bottom. There is something about calm summer day that equates to seeing a shark pass by the boat. Right now, there are Greater Hammerheads passing through the area. We've also see gray or brown basic 5 ft sharks skimming the surface. We don't tend to swim in the ocean unless we make a quick jump to cool off. Jack's last clients took a jump in the water for a 5 min swim. Upon stepping back onto the boat, a hammerhead swims right by them. He was probably attracted to the noise and came by to see what it was. We solved this issue for the kids and I by putting a hose & salt-water pump on the boat. We can cool off w/o attracting sharks. LOL

Less common question but fairly common occurance offshore is the fear of hooking yourself or another person on-board. When fishing for big fish, we use some big hooks. I've seen pics of hooks through fingers and feet. SHOES are essential. I quit wearing flip-flops to some degree because I tend to take them off or they provide no protection. If the cockpit floor is wet, I slide. Crocs are better but I hate the polka-dot tan. Jack wears old sneakers. Many commercial guys wear rubber boots. Fish get gaffed & dropped on the boat floor and they're dancing w/ a big hook flying around. It's dangerous. We carry a 1st Aid box on board. Jack is an ex-EMT. I have some CPR training too. Still, nobody wants to be like our friend, Mike, who had to cut his trip early to sit in the ER for 2 hrs to have a hook removed from his finger.

Oh, before I leave this topic, Jack has cast to cobia and caught our bimini top of the boat. A couple times, he almost caught the kids and I. Once, he caught his German Shepherd while bass fishing. When Jack casts, we MOVE. I'm thankful for a big enough boat that provides safety for us in another area.

"Have you gotten bit?" comes up once in a while. YES and it hurt for hours. Thank goodness it was a tripletail and not a barracuda or kingfish. Fish will bite if given a chance. I read a recent story of a man who was bit by an American Red Snapper. Yes, that's why they're called snappers. LOL. Sometimes I am awed by God's ability to design all sorts of teeth on fish. Sheepshead have sheep teeth for cracking clams & oysters. Mackeral have long pointy teeth for piercing prey had high speeds. Many other species have thousands of short spikey needle teeth meant for grasping & crushing. Very few fish, like tarpon & snook have no teeth. The key is to ALWAYS be on guard with that mouth, use pliars or gloves to handle your fish.

"Have you ever gotten hurt?" Yes. Every time we fish, I bruise on my thighs from the end of the rods & fighting fish. We cannot find our fighting belts anywhere. We've gotten cut from the line on our fingers. I've been spiked endless times by a snapper or blk sea bass's fins... oh and shrimp - live & frozen. Those stinkin' sabiki hooks make even Job's patience disappear. I've been tail-whipped in the face by a 60 lb cobia. Ouch. Fortunately, I don't think I've ever gotten seriously injured on a boat. Jack got his finger cut when a heavy cooler slide over and pinned it against the rough edge of a gunnel. I thought it was going to be broke. Things will happen because there are so many variables thrown in with a rocking boat.

"Do you have any fears when fishing?" Of course, I do. I'm human, right? Once in a while, we'll get far, far offshore and nobody will be around since we usually fish week days. I look at our depth, no land, lots of sun and my faith is in God to keep that boat afloat. There's something eerie about looking around and not seeing anything but water for miles around you. Other times, I never give it a 2nd thought.

My 2nd fear the creeps up from time to time is that gaff. It's designed to pierce flesh quickly. Nothing more lethal that having that thing uncapped and trying to bring a fighting mad, big fish overboard with a dagger point slightly out of control for a few seconds. Jack and I watched a video of a guy gaffing a dolphin and the dolphin controlled the situation. The guy went left and then right, actually putting his back onto the gunnel (slightly falling) when bringing the fish over the side of the boat. Ummmm, DUDE, you have a lethal weapon in your hands!! Do you mind being a bit more careful with that thing? Jack is our designated gaffer. He's good at it, so why fix what ain't broke.

"What is your biggest fear?" I'm always slightly apprehensive the day before a trip. I think of all those things that could go wrong from hitting floating concrete, piercing the hull to the engine dying. I could easily talk myself out of fishing if I let myself. My prayers get more and more focused on mentioning safety first and fish second. We want to come home alive. I don't want to float in salt water against my will. I REALLY don't want that for my children. I may pack something extra in the survival bag that wasn't there the trip before. But, then the alarm clock goes off at 4 am and I'm ready to go. Stepping onto the boat and seeing the sun rise seems to erase everything I feared the day before. We're in a race w/ other boats to exit the port and head off to new grounds for new adventures and putting fish in the box. It is no different than many other sports. Does a race car driver fear crashing? Does a quarterback fear getting sacked? Does a mountain climber fear falling off the mountain? Sure, we all do. But, we can't focus on that.

Here's some food for thought..... Jack is on a private fishing forum and recently a fisherman passed away. The same guy that gave us the tip about the manta rays & cobia on the tip of the Cape a month or so ago. Great guy. Had a big boat and fish very frequently offshore. He had numerous opportunities for fears to become realities. He was also a veteran pilot and still flew missions for the space center and the local Air Force. My point being, the guy did not live in his cozy recliner. He did not let fears rule his life. He left this world cast-netting for baitfish on the beach. He was found on soft sand.

Nobody knows how our lives will end and many of our fears never come to fruition. Fear can be seen as a healthy thing. I fear God because I respect His great power. I fear being lower on the food chain when bobbing around in the ocean. But, we pray, we have faith, we prepare and we go. Jesus came so that we could have life more abundantly (John 10:10). For us, fishing is one part of our abundant life and we're thankful for it.

Happy Fishing without Fear!

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