|A redfish: one of my catches with Captain Chuck.|
When I was a baby, my father sang me a lullaby in Spanish about little fishes in the sea.
When I was a toddler, we went bridge fishing. He handed me a yo-yo with a treble hook and smelly squid for bait. I tossed the line into the water and held on strong against the tugging current.
I couldn’t tell if a fish had bit or not. I reeled up the line: no fish, bait gone and I hooked my clumsy little self! Ouch! Dad gently removed the metal from the bleeding wound on my leg.
I didn’t cry.
I wouldn’t fish much in my childhood. My parents signed me up for ballet lessons instead. Being a tomboy wasn’t my fate.
In my twenties, I fell in love with an angler.
One sunrise at Christian Point in the Everglades, where the water typically looks like pea soup, it was flushed clear. A school of juvenile tarpon rushed by our craft. With strong predatory instinct and graceful arm movements I learned from dance, I caught and released my first Megalops Atlanticus on a gold spoon. I was hooked again but this time, I knew fishing would be in my blood.
I casted very well, but I wasn’t talented at tying knots, not even with him. We broke up, like a shriveled leader line. He kept the boat and the truck. I kept the girly things: kitchen pots and linens.
Men I dated later wouldn’t take me out fishing. “It’s a guy thing,” they’d say. I missed the sport that’s not easy to do alone as a woman.
Eventually, I met my mentor Betty Bauman from Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing and I learned techniques from seminars. More fishing adventures ensued.
During a workshop weekend, Betty and her husband Captain Chuck took me out to the Ten Thousand Islands on the journalist boat. The line squealed and after half an hour, I caught and released a 200-pound bull shark.
“Atta girl!” Captain Chuck said. “I’m so proud of you!”
At sunset, the boat sped over the flats to Chokoloskee marina. With my biceps in pain and the wind battering my face, I meditated about my father. He’s got Alzheimer’s. When I sing him the same lullaby about little fishes, he cries -- even though he sang it to keep me from crying when I was a baby.
Thank you father, for being the first person who taught me how to fish and tackle all kinds of other things in life that are bigger than a shark, because I didn’t think I could and I did.