Category Archives: Fishing

You think this is fun?

If my kids were writing this blog, it would probably go something like this:

Dad is so nuts.  Every Saturday, I’m talking about every one, he’s all like “we’ve got to get up
at the butt crack of dawn and go do something.  It’s like he’s got this crazy lens for looking at “fun” and it’s all about hunting and fishing and Bass Pro shops and taking boat rides.  He’s out of his mind.

Yeah.  I mean, he’s always pointing things out to us, like the whistle that a wood duck makes, or how to tell when a snook strikes, that distinct “pop” sound . . .

How to tell which way a gobbler is going, and whether he’s already on hens.  The right time to take the ducks as they’re dropping into the decoys.  How to set the decoys out so that the ducks will want to land inside them, not outside.  How to let a shrimp drift just right, so it doesn’t appear to be hooked at all, but still be able to detect the bite . . .

I’m saying, he’s so bananas that he holds classes on the boat to teach us how to tie a knot, or bait a hook, or how to get more distance out of a cast.  I mean, who does that?

What high school freshman girl needs to know the difference between a full choke and improved cylinder?  What 8 year old boy needs to be able to identify every shark indigenous to Florida?

He’s even gotten us hooked on bird dogs!  Do you know how awful a wet Brittany Spaniel smells?  Like soured fertilizer baked on oysters . . . but my room doesn’t feel the same without that faint odor . . .

His latest thing is the smell of rubber boots – like some tire factory has captured their essence into a perfume . . . we get to the snipe field and he’s like “smell that – the dew? And the grass? The dogs and those boots?  Doesn’t it smell magical?”

He thinks this is fun?!?!?!?

We’re seriously thinking about having him committed . . . we just can’t find the time to do it . . . maybe after turkey season . . . no, then it’s tarpon time . . . then redfish . . . then dove . . . then ducks . . . deer . . . small game . . . oh well, maybe it is kinda fun . . .

At least, I hope that’s what they’re thinking . . .

 

Mailboxes and catalogs . . .

When I was little, getting the mail was a big deal.  And I’m a little sad that that’s coming to an end.

This is probably a foreign concept to my kids, but, back in those days, you rushed to the mailbox.  The mailbox was a Pandora’s box of dreams come true.  You never knew when you’d receive a letter, or a postcard from a more adventurous relative.  Maybe birthday money.  Or the hopes that were contained inside the Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope, the one promising you 6 million dollars.

Magazines were big for me, too.  Field and Stream and Florida Wildlife and Sports Illustrated* and Florida Sportsman all showed up on some sort of interval, bringing a sort of mini-Christmas with them.

*It was very important, come February, to beat your Southern Baptist mother to the mailbox for your date with Kathy Ireland, otherwise the swimsuit issue would land in the garbage.

But, for me, the highlight of the mail run was the catalogs.  Remember, this is 10 plus years before Amazon would become a mainstream word.  There was just something so thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing the latest from JC Penney, or Sears.  Or, the greatest of all, the outdoor companies . . .

Cabela’s and Gander Mountain were standard affairs . . . I’d circle and fold all of the things I knew a 13 year old Florida boy needed – an 8 person tent, a sleeping bag that would warm to -60 below, knee high snake boots.  Canada goose decoys and pronghorn antelope calls and snow colored camo and bear repellant.  Dog training aids and lamps with bobwhites mounted under glass and pheasant pelts were must haves.

Clicking it into a higher gear were Orvis, and LL Bean, and Dunn’s.  Only a true gentleman would hunt woodcock with a side by side Greener, while wearing a wool vest over a houndstooth shirt.  Sure, that Browning Citori would cost more than my college degree, but the knowing looks from the gentlemen I hunted with would surely be worth more in social currency.  A Billy Pate fly reel would surely catch handsomer fish . . .

I’d sing from the heaven’s, if, come Christmas morning I unwrapped a watch with a greenhead on it, or a vintage ammo sign, or a plaid shirt color matched to a grouse . . . anything that came from those tattered pages . . .

I only think about this now, in this age of 24/7 online availability.  In fact, I can buy 3 or 4 Greener’s right now on Gunbroker, and have them before the end of quail season.  I debate about whether I need a different shade of camoflauge on my jacket, or whether or not the 7 1/2’s pattern better in one of my guns than the 8’s do . . . about which hats to wear duck hunting vs dove hunting vs turkey hunting . . . about sealed bearing drags vs traditional drag systems . . . lures that walk in circles vs hooks sharpened by moon rocks and lasers . . . I can guarantee, that at this very moment, I have carts with items waiting to be bought at Bass Pro, and Cabelas, and Mack’s Prairie Wings, just begging for the “checkout” button to be clicked.

And it makes me think about the simplicity of a boy that just wanted to be outside, circling dreams in a catalog as place holders for ducks he’d one day shoot, and fish he’d one day chase . . .

on Yeti Coolers . . .

In the history of the world, only 3 things have been Roto-moulded. All 3 are insanely cool.

Apollo 11. You think Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon in some sissy-ass metal contraption? Think again. Marked top-secret, NASA plans actually show that Apollo 11 was bear proof as well as awesome.

The Bat suit. Boom. Thought Apollo 11 was cool? Think again. Bruce Wayne was cruising around with a jet engine strapped to his car, a butler, and crushing chicks like Catwoman. Think that’s because of his schmuck sidekick, Robin? No. His secret? Roto-moulded pecs.

Yeti coolers. Hits just keep coming.  That’s why fisherman love Roto-moulded coolers.

Roto-moulding: conquering other planets, Michelle Pfeiffer, and keeping your beer cold.

Since 1963.

Accounting for Fishermen

“Babe – we could leave at 6 am Saturday morning; we’ll be home by 3, 3:30.  All it’ll cost is gas to and from the boat ramp . . . maybe $40, and that’s high . . . ”

What follows is a map to get you to the point where your Saturday adventures really only cost you $40.  Think of this as a helpful guide.  Please note that numbers are approximate, to be used only for reference . . .

To go fishing, you really need a boat.  Not just any boat, either mind you.  I mean, you only get to go so often, so, when you do, it makes sense for it to be on a vessel that you enjoy.  Think names like Maverick/Hell’s Bay/Pathfinder.  Let’s say you can find a really nice one, used, for $20k

Now – no self respecting angler is going to roll out his new boat with a bunch of pickle poles from the bargain bin at K-mart, am I right?  No sir – you’ll need the latest Shimano creation with 84 ball bearings and liquid filled nitrogen drag washers.  Of course, it’ll need to be spooled with a space age polymer line that is used to hold the doors closed on the shuttle, and mounted on a rod made with a special carbonite/kryptonite/kevlar blend, and invisible guides.  This combo will run you about $500.

But wait – you can’t just have one combo – what if some googan fishing partner steps on it or drops it overboard.  Safest bet is to have 3 or 4, exactly the same, just in case.  Plus, that allows you to have them rigged differently – top water, live bait, soft plastic . . . your arsenal is ready . . . $1500 (call it 2k, and add in the original combo, too)

Wait a second – you only get to fish, maybe, what, two weekends a month?  What if a tarpon crashes the party?  Are you supposed to miss out on the fish of a lifetime because you limited your combos to only those targeting inshore species?  That, boys, is what we’ll call a “rookie move” – go ahead and get a couple of combos, both larger and smaller than the ones above.  Keep them top of the line, though.  $2k

What are you going to catch these fish with?  Mirrolures?  Zara Spooks? Live Targets? Gulps?  Honestly, you need 10-12 of everything – hard baits, topwaters, divers, soft baits, suspenders, plastic shrimp, plastic fish, plastic eels, plastic crabs, plastic octopi – plus, and this is key, you need at least a duplicate of every one.  Lord knows that if a snook breaks off your only bone colored spook, you can’t very well leave the water and go buy another one.  Gotta have a spare.  $500

Plus you need a tackle bag to keep these things in – $100

I shudder a little, when I think what happens when that tarpon leaps, you fight him for 20 minutes or so, then he throws the hook.  You were going to release him anyway, but you didn’t get the picture.  Enter the GoPro, complete with all the mounts.  That’s an easy $750.  You should also look into a drone, because those pictures will definitely trump your buddy’s.  $3k

Also, you should get a water proof submersible case for your phone.  $80

Have any of you thought “but wait – fishing isn’t fishing without beer?”  Not to worry – pick up a Yeti (must be tan) – Yeti’s are space age engineered bear proof roto-moulded boxes of magic that will keep a 6 pack of Ultra cold for up to 7 years without any ice.  $300 +$30 for beer

Throw a few sandwiches in the Yeti ($30) and you’re good to go for the day.  But what if the fishing is really hard.  Sometimes, it’s best to get off the water for a little while, regroup, strategize, and figure out the rest of the day.  This should be done in a dive bar/restaurant over a frosty beverage and grouper sandwich.  Also a slice of Key Lime Pie.  You can do the same thing if you’re slaying the fish, as a celebration of your awesomeness.  $50

Push Pole – $400.  Power Poles (dual – duh) – $2500.  Remote controlled trolling motor with GPS and Xbox attachment – $1500.  New batteries that weigh less than a ham sandwich – $800.  Fly rods – $75,000*.  Fish finder (even though you’re in 5 inches of water) – $800.  GPS (even though you can see the Skyway bridge) – $800.  Non ethanol fuel for the boat – $160.  Bait (not that you’d ever use bait, but just in case) $40.

*Attention wives – most fly rods didn’t actually cost $75k – nope – I bought all of mine at a garage sale to benefit homeless puppies.  I think I got them out the door for $40 bucks or so.  Amazing deal, right?

Which leaves us, I think, with the tow vehicle.  Lord knows you can’t roll up to the ramp with this rig behind the Windstar – you need a man’s truck.  Preferably one with mud tires and black rims.  Nothing too egregious, we’ll keep it under – $40k.

Hmmmm . . . $40k plus $40 plus $160 plus $800 plus $800 plus $75k . . . let’s see, carry the 2, carry the 3 . . .

So, since all the above money is accounted for, all the trip really costs is $40 or so.

Right?

Make sure to tune in soon – we’ll teach you how to duck hunt 3 times a week, all season, for a grand total of $75.00, including ammo and decoys.

Lawnmower stories . . .

My sister, who is awesome, said I should tell you guys about the time I set the lawnmower on fire.

That right there, folks, is called a tease.  Because what ensues are my greatest lawnmowing stories.  Enjoy.


Once, my dad bought a riding lawnmower,  It was a John Deere.  I was probably 14 or so.Kumquat tree

My mom had a kumquat tree that grew in the field between our house and the Swart’s.  That field has seen a lot of things over the years.

The tree was adult height, maybe 6 feet tall or so.  She loved it.  It was loaded in fruit.

Anyway – I’m mowing along, minding my own business, when the kumquat tree is gone.  Leaves and kumquats littered the field.  Also the mower made a loud noise.


The same thing happened to our gardenia bushes.  Yes.  Bushes, plural.  I mowed down three of them, each the size of a 5th grader, planted along the back of the house.  Each time I’d run over one, I was like “crap, now what do I do” and before I could solve the problem, I hit another one.  This chain was broken, ironically, by a chain link fence I ran into.  I hooked (ironically) a chain to the lawnmower and my truck to extract it.


Also, I did the same thing to our lamp post.  And maybe a dogwood tree.


I once forgot to change the oil, or check the oil, in the mower for, you know, a couple of years.  It caught on fire.  Pretty aggressively. While I was turning around in the cul-de-sac.  My mom was screaming at me, yelling for me to stop.  I waved back.  I thought she was just happy I was mowing the yard. Until I got really hot.  Then I stopped.  My shirt had caught on fire from the flames leaping off the engine.  Yes.


That also happened to the John Deere.  The fire catching part, not the part about my shirt or my mom.  Flames were creeping out of the little shifter thing where you raised and lowered the blade.  I shut it off and put the fire out with a water hose.  Then I finished mowing.  Crisis averted.


Once, I went through a phase of mowing in different patterns.  My history teacher at school had told me that, by mowing in different patterns, the grass would grow better.  So I tried all different sorts of patterns – diagonals, and straights and boxes and circles, and some weird herringbone thing.  It started raining during that one, so I left and went home.  The old lady from church had a perfect swastika in her yard.  It was unfortunate.


As a 30 year old adult, I pressed the clutch instead of the brake and dropped the front two tires into our pond.  Only the mowing deck, catching on a root, kept me from sinking it.


While in high school, I worked for a very large mowing company.  I was partnered up with a guy named Kenchan, who was nuts, but that’s a different story entirely.  Anyhow, one day, I hit the water main with a Toro and knocked out the water to the Pepperidge farms bakery in Lakeland.  I also flooded their parking lot.  The bad part was I really had to pee, but couldn’t, because they didn’t have any water.  I grabbed a complementary bag of goldfish, left and went to the 7-11 and then went home.  300 workers in hair nets and white aprons stood around in the parking lot wondering what had happened.


I think that’s everything.  The chamber is empty.  I now pay a guy to mow my yard.  It’s better for everyone.

14

Dear Liv,

It seems like yesterday I was rocking you in the middle of the night, playing Madden 64.

You were a tough sleeper – you hated it.  So I’d sit downstairs with you, all night, every night.  I’d rock you.  I’d lay you on a pallet on the floor.  I cranked that stupid hand-me-down swing so many times that it finally gave out, at 5:30 one Thanksgiving morning.  I loaded you up and headed off to the K-mart for an emergency replacement.

I remember taking you to your first doctor’s appointment.  Me and you.  I was a terrified 23 year old dad, with no concept of well rooms and co-payments.  I remember cradling you in my arms after you shrieked because that crazy nurse tried to weigh you.  I couldn’t believe it either.

I remember you playing in the bathtub with Coleman, when neither of you were big enough to get out.

I remember working day and night building you a swingset, doing everything I could to make it by Christmas morning, and barely squeaking it in under the wire.

I remember dance recitals, and basketball games.  Soccer matches and hunting trips.  I remember you catching your first redfish, off a dock at Little Gasparilla – you were wearing pajamas with pumpkins on them, and you were barely big enough to hold the pole and reel at the same time.

I remember you cussing at the tv over a Halo match when you were 3.  I remember every Saturday, every single one . . . I’d get up at the crack of dawn with you, and I’d lay on the couch, and you’d sit on my back and we’d watch cartoons.

I remember trips to Andy’s, and school field trips.  Taking you to Space Camp.  Having to get you to school early for “Good Morning Lake Shipp.”  Did I ever tell you how much I love taking you to school?  I wrote a blog post about it one time, remembering when I’d sing the Longhorn Song for you . . .

I remember our Harry Potter trip (if you’ve never read this post, you really should – I wrote it about you and Harry Potter years ago).  One of my proudest days as a dad, from the sense of being able to do something for my daughter that I knew she wanted.  I remember every fish you’ve ever caught, almost always followed by the question . . . “can we keep it?”

I remember boat rides, and birthday parties, and trick-or-treating and church . . . bunk beds and room makeovers . . . school dances and radio sing-a-longs . . . Horse drawn carriage rides to look at Christmas lights . . . running around DC with your $2 flip-flops . . . shrimp boils and peanut boils and frying more chicken than should be allowed, just to see your face light up . . . making you clean your room and do yard work and wash cars and load the dishwasher and say “yes ma’am” . . . teaching you to swim, and feigning disapproval at your bathing suit choices . . . taking you for a ride in a convertible . . . sleeping on the floor in the living room so you could have my bed . . . coaching you on Fantasy Football, only to have you leave me high and dry as the season progressed . . . eating oysters and sushi . . .

It’s all happened in about 15 minutes.  I blinked and you were grown.  No longer a little girl.  A young lady.  A young woman.

And now Dad gets to become more of a spectator, albeit one screaming and cheering and holding up signs from the sidelines . . . hooting and hollering and wishing and praying for my girl . . .

I remember looking down into that clear little bassinet thing they have you in at the hospital.  I remember loving you so much that it physically hurt, and wondering how that could be, since you were only a few minutes old.  And I remember you wrapping your little fingers around my big finger, and I knew I was yours, and you were mine . . .

Happy Birthday Liv . . .

Love,

Dad

Cheese! and Crackers . . .

redinrain

This is one of my favorite pictures . . . of anything ever. That’s Liv with a keeper redfish she caught on a recent fishing trip.

Redfish are one of our favorite fish. They taste great, they fight like a bull, and they’re just challenging enough to make them difficult quarry. Except for LIv. Some days, I swear, you could be sitting in a Walmart parking lot in a heavy rainstorm and she could catch a red. It’s more than a little maddening to the people accompanying her in the boat.

This picture is special because of the conditions. Me, Gilly and Liv ran to one of our favorite creeks in between rain showers. We knew we’d get a little wet, and, honestly, I kept waiting for one of them to give the sign that it was time to go home. That sign never came. We fished and fished, and caught snapper and snook and redfish (just Liv – the rest of us caught snapper and snook). I loved that my girls, who look killer in dresses, who know every line of every Gilmore Girls, who definitely enjoy the occasional mall trip, that they were out in these elements and loving. Every. Second.

I’m pretty happy to be one of his girls. And…you know..that he baits my hook so I don’t have to touch the shrimp. #truelove