On The Hook: The fishing equivalent of the movie ‘Vacation’

Capt. Bill Walsh

It’s been a trying time at best, around these parts for the last few weeks. Irma sure took its toll on our collective spirit. The urge to restart recreational activities while so many are struggling to recover has slapped a damper on heading out to the briny for a fishing adventure.

So, with that downturn of business, the experiences that have fueled these articles over the past years, all of a sudden are in short supply. But the “show must go on.”

This week then, we searched back through the melange of articles written over the past years and found one that depicts some light-hearted experiences on the water with a focus on humor that might be just the thing to bring a smile about fishing as we collectively creep toward recovery. It’s been totally rewritten but the theme remains the same. Hope you enjoy!

The Griswold family leaves Walley World in a scene from the 1983 movie "National Lampoon's Vacation."

Remember the classic movie “Vacation” starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold who takes his family on a ill-fated trip to fictional “Wally World” only to find the amusement park closed?

Well, we ran a couple fishing charter trips some time ago that could give that movie some serious competition.

The customers those days were a family of five from rural Ohio who were vacationing for the first time anywhere near the salt water. There was mom and dad, Jim and Maryanne,  two daughters and a son. Their first trip that mid-summer day was rather routine -- caught fish, saw dolphins, spent some time shelling -- but the most compelling issue was their fascination with rental boats.

They were dumbfounded with the number of rental boats on the water and asked all types of questions. Do you need to be experienced to rent one of those pontoon boats? Is it dangerous? And on and on. Bottom line they wanted to take a boat trip on their own but you could sense the hesitancy.

Then addressing the kids, I asked “What are you guys afraid of?” Simultaneous reply from all three, “Clark.” They then explained that was the nickname they had given their dad named after the Clark Griswold in “Vacation.”

They then recited several hair-raising events that “Clark” engineered on prior vacations like the day they rented canoes on a local lake and almost went over a treacherous dam.

I, again, assured them that the rental pontoon boats here were as safe as you can get and even went so far as to introduce them to the renting agent at the marina.

Two days later the phone rang, it was one of the daughters.

“Surprised to hear from you; thought you were renting a pontoon boat?”

“We did. That’s why we’re calling you”

“What happened?”

“We’ll tell you when we see you. Do you have any openings later this week?”

I did and we booked a trip for the next day. As they piled aboard that morning, “Clark” just sat there in a catatonic state as the wife and kids went through a litany of events of their fateful day before.

They had rented the pontoon boat as suggested and were given a detailed briefing of all the dos and don’ts. Jim would be the captain and eagerly nodded understanding. They shoved off and headed into Factory Bay.

Once on the water, the family explained, he became an entirely different person. Like one possessed by water devils and the Ancient Mariner.


His first trick was high tailing it through the no-wake zone and then at flank speed heading due west out Capri Channel looking for Keewaydin beach, which unfortunately, was due north. The kids said that as he roared past the sea buoy other boats were waving at him to infer his wayward course, he just waved back with a, “sure are friendly folks ‘round these parts.”

He was at least four miles offshore heading west with pleading from the family as the shoreline melted from view. Finally “Clark” turned around and headed back inside. Maryanne said he had a glazed look on his face like he imagined being the captain of an ocean liner. Scary!

He found the Intercoastal Waterway and headed north. And true to form, ignoring all the channel markers. It was only a matter of time before he ran the pontoon boat aground at a breakneck speed sending his crew tumbling from their seats.

Then, unapologetic, he had them all in the water pushing off the sandbar with a, “heave to, me hearties” unti they were soaking wet and the boat afloat again.

First planned stop was Keewaydin for a little shelling. As they neared the beach, now crowded with other boats, “Clark” seemingly recalled that mornings instruction to put the boat firmly on the beach lest it drift off in the higher tide and strong current.

His approach to the beach must have reminded those watching of an amphibious invasion. He hit the beach with all hanging on tight but still being tumbled from their seats. His son, who was standing by with the forward anchor was tumbled over the bow and into a gathering of folks in the beach alongside. Fortunately, no one was hurt; just apologies.

Maryanne and the girls went shelling and “Clark” and his son broke out the fishing rods. Most folks fishing off Keewaydin beach fish close into shore where the bait is holding. Not “Clark. He had to try out his long-range casting with his new 8’ spinning rod. He was thrilled with long range casting efforts that is until he hooked the Bimini top of a passing boat and watched the line melt off the reel. His frantic calls to stop were met with friendly waves back.

The kids were exhausted from laughing at the stories but they had to tell one more.

On the way home “Clark” wanted some “dinner” fish, so they stopped in Capri Pass (aka Catfish Heaven). And they were there that morning big time. “Clark” prided himself of being able to dispatch a catfish with one flip of the release tool. That is until he flipped a big sail cat right into his daughter’s open purse.

Kid’s wouldn't even tell me what ensued; they were laughing too much.

Wondrously, we arrived back safely on our second trip, had caught some nice fish for dinner and the kids were still laughing.

“Clark” finally had reached Wally World and it was open.

Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.