On The Hook: Sportfishing's rightful place

BILL WALSH

We have seen the sport of soccer run up as the next coming. It is now the thriving activity in schoolyards across this country. But for most of us, the sport is an anomaly, slow action and confusing rules. But when the announcement is made that soccer is now the universal sport?

Oh, really? Might be an initial response from our world of sportfishing. From those of us from three to 95 who live to feel the throb of a fish on the other end of the line, we here with take up the challenge to repudiate that supposition.

We had a chance to do just that on a charter experience in early June, and that’s our focus for this week’s article.

Been fishing with Harry Crossen and his family for years here. Harry and his wife Ann along with their two sons, Jim and Ned are early summer renters here most every year. Reward for the boys, as soon as school is out, has been the two weeks of beach, boating and fishing here on our Paradise Coast away from the early summer mayhem at the Jersey Shore.

This year, they came with a special request. Ned, who would enter senior year in high school in the fall, was challenged to enter an essay contest on the “Most Popular Sport in America” which would be judged upon return to classes in the fall. His special request then was to get input on my experiences to support the axiom that sportfishing is, indeed, the primary sport on the planet.

Never too young

I recall one charter trip where the father wanted his three year old son to experience fishing. Not yet able to handle a regular spinning rod, Dad bought junior a “Spider-Man” tiny push button rod with gossamer line and no drag. We’re fishing Capri Pass on a drift but only lots of lost bait on “Spider-Man” ... but no tears ... the little guy was tough. Then he screams, “have fish.” We both turn to see the rod buckling back and forth and the little guy cranking like crazy. He said “no help” to his dad and kept yanking and cranking. After 10 minutes of parental agony, picturing the little guy being pulled over the side, he brought a two foot bonnethead shark alongside with screams of delight.

Never too old

Jim was just reaching into his mid 90s, a WWII Marine who survived Iwo Jima with a Silver Star, and had a passion for fishing the salt. Diabetes had robbed him of one lower leg but still he persisted on fishing the salt assisted by his son. Wheelchaired to the boat, he commandeered position on one of the coolers and never missed a beat. On one reef trip he latched onto a sizeable grouper on a nearshore reef that would have given an outside linebacker a struggle. He accepted no help and, amazingly, brought this near hundred pound creature alongside without a whimper. Semper Fi.

And the inexperienced

It doesn’t take years of experience or hours of backbreaking training to take up fishing; it just takes the desire. That played out one bright spring day a few years back. Jim, a frequent charter customer, was the ultimate pundit for fishing. Attired in all the Velcro loops and zippers that Orvis offered he would approach these simple half day charters as if preparing for a world class fishing tournament. Strangely, he caught fish but lost twice as many.

Then, on one trip he coaxed his wife, Judy to join him.She had never fished for whatever reason. As usual, Jim was losing more than he was catching and let his displeasure show. Judy suddenly caught the “desire” and asked me to show her the simple procedure of baiting, casting and catching.

You know what ensued don’t you? Judy was landing what Jim was missing; loved the experience and was asking when was the next trip before we finished that day.

Ned and his dad left our coffee klatch that morning with a notebook full of real world experiences that demonstrated sportfishing, with it’s universal appeal, beyond any limitation imposed by age, physical ability, geographics or skill, was the all world sport.

Ned promised to let me know how he made out when his paper was submitted in September my monies on him!

Capt. Bill Walsh owns a Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolcharters@compuserve.com.

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