I’ve loved going out on boats my entire life, and I love fishing.
But I could never touch the suckers I reeled in, flipping and flopping in my hands, slippery as all get out, and basically dying to get out. Or back in, I should say. I couldn’t when I was a kid fishing off the Sea Wall in Morris Cove, and not as an adult on a fishing trip with my son, when I chartered a boat in Rhode Island.
Fact is, I can’t even eat fish. I’m not saying I don’t like to eat fish; I am saying that I cannot. The taste is abhorrent to me. I actually wish this was not the case, as it is so good for you but, alas, we are who we are. I can do clams, but that’s about it.
My childhood was one full of clamming, fishing and even joining my late father for a few early mornings on his friend’s lobster boat. My father had no such qualms with any of this, though I would never describe him as a fisherman. But he could do it.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched him drop one of those live lobsters into a pot of boiling water when I wasn’t even yet into double digits. The beast’s claws were flailing, even catching one of his fingers at one point, and the noise it made upon being plunged into the water was like a teenage girl being chased in a horror movie.
At least, that’s how I remember it.
To this day, taking a voyage out beyond the breakers, on a boat of any size, is simply exhilarating. Heck, catching fish is exhilarating. Just don’t expect me to touch it or eat it. And I’m not about throwing them back in either — seeing the big hole in their face torn by the hook. You may think “catch and release” makes some sort of sense — going to home to microwave your dinner feeling good about yourself while a one-eyed trout is banging into rocks at the bottom of Long Island Sound.
But I love to fish.
The day I chartered a boat in Narragansett for my son and me to go fishing a few years back was one of those perfect New England summer days. The sky was blue, the water calm, and there was barely a wind. He was about 10 at the time, donned a cap of his late grandfather’s (who was born and raised in Providence), and off we went. The gentleman who took us out couldn’t have been a better seaman or nicer guy. Also a taxidermist, he spoke of everything from “fly rod” to “offshore big game” as we looked at him with completely blank expressions and weren’t remotely capable of absorbing what he was saying.
So he pulled out the big gun. What every fisherman always has at the ready. A photo.
His was of a shark. And I mean a very real shark. As my son’s eyes widened he was quick to point out that this was a Long Island proper catch. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But the sheer size of it begged the question, “How did you get this into the boat?”
The answer involved something about either four people or four hours. Neither my son nor I can recall what the number four pertained to. It definitely was more than a one-man job, and it simply had to take more than, say, 20 minutes!
This all begged the question, “What did you do with it once you got it into the boat?” He softly replied that they had to “finish him” courtesy of a handgun. While that answer somewhat surprised me, my son would later reveal that his takeaway was that we were on a boat with a shark-killing man who was armed.
Be that as it may, he remained a gentleman throughout our day, even taking us to an area far away from his standard destination for dropping anchor, because they just weren’t biting there that day. And when my son felt that tug on his fishing rod, after maybe two hours in Narragansett sun, only to plant his feet and alert our captain to the development, I did what my father would have done and his father before him. I whipped out my phone and started filming, helping in no way, shape or form.
Captain, oh my captain, was there for Luke, though. He told him to “give a little” when he felt it was appropriate to give a little, and to crank when it was time to crank. Luke hauled that good-sized blue in and it was the moment you all know it was. It flipped and flopped on the floor of the boat and our guy removed the hook from the catch o’ the day’s face, lifted it up, shoved it towards Luke while craning his neck to look over at me and ask, “Still filming?”
I wasn’t. But it’s just as well. For Luke, like his father before him, just looked at the wily fish inches from his face, and announced, “I’m not touching that.”