Yes, folks, I'm taking a break from my usually history oriented postings to talk about fishin'. We all need a break sometimes, so here goes...
Two weeks ago I was invited to spend some time at Kure Beach, near Fort Fisher with some college friends who were housesitting for someone they knew. They invited our entire friend group from the UNCW days to come down and get reacquainted with each other. Over the years we've kept in touch, but have gotten to see each other only rarely. In fact, I hadn't seen the housesitting couple (Ted and Ashley) in eight years or more, so I was really looking forward to it. I knew that at some point during my stay, there would be some fishing involved, as Ted is an avid fisherman.
Fishing was a huge part of my life when I was growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania. We lived across the road from a lake and in the summer we and the neighbor kids spent inordinate amounts of time on the shore of that lake, fishing. During the day, when my brother and I stayed with our grandmother, we would walk to the creek below her house and fish as well. Then there was the old farm pond that my grandfather would take us to on the weekends, that was so secluded only we knew about it. We bought as much fishing tackle as we could con our parents and grandparents into and watched all the fishing shows, hoping that one day we'd be able to catch those elusive largemouth bass and fiesty rainbow trout. In reality, our fishing wasn't nearly so grand. We specialized in reeling in bluegills (or as we call them here in the South, bream) and occassionally their more colorful sunfish cousin, the pumpkinseed. We also fished late into the night for bullhead catfish (not the variety you want to eat, by the way). Our favorite were the yellow perch which we caught with regularity in the 7-9 inch range, but at least once a summer one of us would catch one that measured 12 or 13 inches (an event that caused so much excitement our parents thought someone had fallen into the lake). But the aforementioned largemouth bass were always elusive and rarely caught. In Pennsylvania, the legal size for a largemouth was 12 inches. Even when we caught them, they were usually a bit smaller. The larger ones lived in areas of the lake we could not get to. I only remember catching two or three legal bass in all my years, and all those were caught on grandpa's farm pond using a Hula Popper lure around the grass in the shallow end of the pond (I remember it well).
When we moved back to North Carolina in 1985 my dad took us fishing in the ocean and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, but we were not used to this kind of fishing. All we ever caught were pinfish (the southern equivalent of our old bluegill friends) and an occassional skate. My love for fishing tapered quickly because of this limited success....until I went to college and met Ted. The only times I'd gone fishing since I was about 14 years old had all been with Ted. Ted was an experienced and skilled fisherman and I trusted him to not steer me wrong. He liked to fish at night and I usually ended up sleeping in the back of his Jeep or on the peer. But I also enjoyed some modicum of success when fishing with him, like the time I caught a fairly nice size red drum in the surf. I was really proud of that fish. After Ted moved to Delaware I began fishing with my friend Charlie, but it was never the same. Charlie and I had minimal luck, catching only the usual pinfish, a few small bluefish, and the occassional black sea bass (nothing to write home about). It was fun hanging out with Charlie, but I didn't go for the fishing, more for the relaxation and comaraderie.
So, two weeks ago, I looked forward to fishing with Ted again. Along with our friend Karen and her husband Jason, we headed out in the dark at 5 a.m. to hit the surf. It was the most I've enjoyed fishing in a long time, but it wasn't because I caught anything spectacular. It was because I was spending quality time with friends from long ago that I hadn't seen in years. Ashley said it best, when she observed that even though we hadn't seen each other in years, its like none of us had ever been apart. It is a testament to the bonds of our friendship, forged during our college years, that its like we never skipped a beat and none of us feels like it was ten years or more since we graduated from college. We had a lot of good times together, and those good times are not over by a long shot. We are already planning to try to do this next year and not let ten more years slip away from us. As for the fishin' I didn't catch anything worth bringing home. Ted managed to reel in a nice bluefish and Jason, a first-time surf fisherman, landed one of the largest pompano I've ever seen (pictured below). Beginner's luck? Maybe. Or maybe it was Ted's luck rubbing off on a novice fisherman, like when I caught that red drum years ago.