Trading High Heels for Fishing Reels

Fishing is just one of those verbs that normally do not precede my name in a sentence. So when I decided to go out on a fishing boat for five hours, I got an eyebrow lift from my editor and assistant editor.

Yes, I, the fashion columnist who uses the word fisherman as an adjective for a pea coat or cable-knit sweater, would be channeling the ferocity of Captain Ahab in search of my great whale while ignoring the outside chance that I could be hanging my head over the side of the boat heaving and inundating in self-condemnation.

Running fashionably late, I lacquer an extra coat of nail hardener and I am out the door. Waterproof mascara: check. SPF 70: check. Sunglasses: check. 100 mg of Gravol: Check.

The boat is called Providence II and while it reminds me of the Orca in the movie Jaws, I smile at my captain, Chris, as I recall the tensely-paced film’s tagline: “Don’t go in the water.” First mate, Brucey, looks at me with an air of concern, already knowing that I am a fish out of water today.

“We’re waiting on a couple of more people,” affirms Captain Chris.

And just like the cue to a fashion show opening our couple of more people strut down the dock; four to be exact. They’re manly, they’re burly, and they look awfully excited to be fishing today. Coolers filled with beer, the men pile into the boat.

Introducing myself to each one of them with a hand shake and a double-cheek-nice-to-meet-you air kiss, I come to the conclusion that these guys are alright. Today is their day to let it all out while vacationing from Pittsburg with their wives.

We pass through the Rudee Inlet, which is bustling with fishing hopefuls in pursuit of croaker and blue fish. The plan is to find a school of fish to catch for bait. I thought all you needed was a worm, but I guess the fish out in the big blue have higher expectations.

Now going at top speed, I am getting tossed around on the boat. Ab contractions aren’t working to keep my body still; there’s no looking cute while cutting through submarine wakes that rock the boat like a bathtub toy.
Putting along in search of that school of fish, the combined scent of diesel fumes, cigar and cigarette smoke are now making me nauseous. Along with not so gentle lulling from the boat, I am questioning how much longer I can take this. I can feel my stomach acids bubbling in the pit of my stomach, getting ready to erupt anything in close range. The Gravol is doing absolutely nothing.
“We’re fishing now,” Brucey announces.

“Okay, how do I know if there’s a fish on?” I ask.

“The tip of your rod starts going crazy,” Brucey explains in layman’s terms.

Easy enough I say to myself. It’s a good thing there’s a rod holder. Growing more and more impatient, I’m a little bit baffled at the fact that I’m in the middle of the ocean, completely surrounded by fish and other edible aquatic life and nothing. Not even a nibble.

“That’s why they call it fishing, and not catching,” laughs Bart, one of the brawny vacationers.

And then it happened as I was applying my lip gloss. Brucey told me to grab the rod and to reel slowly. As I reeled, I contracted every muscle possible to multitask a bit of a workout. The fishing rod dipped further, and I was afraid that I would be forced to let go. I tightened my grip and felt my nails dig into my palm—thank goodness for that extra coat of nail hardener.

I lift my line to reveal the beast that has been bearing arms, the monster of the deep that has now accepted defeat. As its body thrashes its way to the surface the suspense is over. It is a shark no larger than 5 lbs.
This baby shark would be my one and only catch of the day and one that I would not keep because of its size—far too small. Another shark would be caught by one of the Pittsburgians—a keeper. After a group photo, Brucey proceeded with decapitation post haste. Apparently sharks when nervous urinate through their skin. It brings a whole different meaning to “I peed myself.”

Now at the end of the trip, with the chum bags cut open, everyone drops their line in the middle of the floating chum in desperation of one last catch, but the attempt is fruitless.
One lucky gull swoops down for a fish head that was thrown overboard and is chased by two other larger gulls. He drops what would have been a luxurious meal and the two large gulls are now fighting over the lifeless head.
“That’s Mother Nature right there,” proclaims Captain Chris.

“Sometimes she’s just not fair,” I answered back.

So much for that giant catch I was anticipating; I was told that we would be lucky to catch anything at all today. But that’s just Mother Nature. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. The rawness of the day is what I shall remember. The acceptance that I made of having no control whatsoever of what would happen once I would be off land is exhilarating to a certain degree.

Would I do it again? I hear that fishing picks back up after Thanksgiving. Maybe. The waiting, the anticipation, the suspense—I get it. The camaraderie and certain reliance on one another—I see why men do this and not women.

Let’s just call today one of those things to be appreciated.

Special thanks to Captain Nolan Agner and his crew.

AquaMan Sportfishing Charters
Year-round fishing charters offering: Near-shore, In-shore, off-shore and dolphin watching tours. Full-day and half-day trips offered.

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