The Fishes That Got Away

This Labor Day weekend, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity take our Mako 211CC out fishing. We left at sunrise and had a pleasant trip out to the inlet, which is about 10 miles from sleepy BoaterRated Central. There were some unexpected breakers at the St. Lucie Inlet, where the ocean swells met with a feisty outgoing tide, but once we were past the breakwater, it was a glorious day. We had an early bite on our way out to deeper water, but whatever it was, it bit the ballyhoo in half and went merrily on its way. For the next two hours or so, we trolled a couple of baits East then North, over reef formations and scattered clumps of weed that would entice any dolphin. But we didn’t get any bites.

We turned back West towards the inlet and had about resigned ourselves to a less than eventful outing. Unexpectedly, we were greeted by that most wonderful of sounds, the “zing!” of the line unspooling off of the reel. I grabbed the rod and got a few turns on it when a huge dolphin broke through into the air. It was a bull, Carl said, evidenced by its large square head, and probably a 30lb fish or so. It spit the hook, or somehow wriggled free, on the second jump. As disappointing as it was to lose the dolphin, it was a wonderful sight to behold. The thrill of seeing the fish, and knowing that we were so close to having brought it into the boat and enjoying it for many dinners, was enough to make the whole adventure worth it.

Not long after the dolphin strike, as we were moseying back into shallower water, there was a noise on one of the reels and Carl pulled it up. As he reeled in the line, I could plainly see the bait and could tell that there was nothing on it. But the next thing I knew, a larger than life sailfish, probably only 25 feet from the boat, leapt up through the water once, then again, then broke free and was gone. Just seeing such a beautiful fish, and having it on the hook, if only for an instant, was a huge rush.

There is so much about boating that I love. Just being out on the water, whether trimming the sails of a sailboat or slicing through the waves on a powerboat, is a joy to savor. Offshore fishing is a special treat. Boats cost money to maintain, and fuel is precious and costly. Fishing gear and bait and all the other necessities of a day out on the ocean add up too. But as the old credit card commercial says, when you see the big ones break through the water, the experience is priceless—even for the fishes that got away!

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