Fishing is expensive. However, I’ve learned from experience and observation that dedicated anglers will gladly fork over their hard-earned greenbacks for quality tackle. Inherently, fishing has its own set of unwritten rules of which the most significant and far-reaching is the respect and appreciation of another fisherman’s bait, boat and tackle.
When I first moved to Florida in the 1990s, I immediately fell in love with offshore fishing. I had been exposed to some decent freshwater action as a kid, but nothing compared to catching my first dolphin, a stud 35-pounder.
I’ve since purchased a center console and recently ordered a set of custom rods. They weren’t cheap, but I wanted to have the best. Upon delivery of my new arsenal I set out for a quick afternoon, but was abruptly chased home by a booming thunderstorm. After safely reaching the dock, I ran for cover and waited for the storm to pass before cleaning the boat and unloading my gear. I took a seat on the back porch, cracked open a cold one and watched the rain fall.
I sat down thinking the weather would clear in a few minutes, but woke up four hours later only to realize that the sun had set and I still had a ton of work to do. Groggy and a little upset with myself, I walked down to the dock and immediately realized that my brand new rods were gone.
They say that “you live and you learn,” and that evening I learned an expensive lesson. I wasn’t going to let a thief keep me from fishing, so the next day I ordered a new set of custom rods.
A few weeks later, my replacements were ready. Itching to get back on the water, I quickly arranged a fishing trip with my brother-in-law Ryan, who selfishly invited his own guest…another unwritten rule of boating and major pet peeve of mine. When Ryan and Will showed up at the dock they loaded a cooler and a few rods before we set out amid the early morning darkness. It wasn’t until we were halfway offshore when I glanced back at the motors and saw my stolen rods resting along the transom. I quietly asked Ryan where the rods came from and he quickly confirmed they were Will’s. After bringing Ryan up to speed, he wholeheartedly agreed that some sort of punishment was in order.
The ocean was calm and before we knew it we had ventured 30 miles offshore. As I scanned the horizon, something caught my eye and we immediately made our way to the floating debris. It turned out to be an abandoned Cuban raft.
Though my first reaction was to get baits in the water, Will yelled, “Somebody get a picture of me on the raft for my Facebook profile.” I normally would’ve squashed the idea, but I agreed thinking this was my chance. Ryan quickly caught on to the plan and we pulled alongside the raft. Now that Will was all alone barely afloat in the middle of the ocean, it was time for him to pay the fine for doing the crime.
“Here’s the deal,” I said sarcastically. “I know you stole my rods, so if you don’t play by my rules I will leave you in the open ocean and notify the authorities of the theft!” With a terrified demeanor, Will pleaded to be let back on the boat. Meanwhile, on a box of squid I wrote out a contract for Will to sign, stating that he would wax my boat twice a week for an entire year. It just so happens Ryan was a licensed notary, and as crude as the soggy document appeared, it was official. Will thought I was kidding about leaving him stranded in the ocean, but now I’m the one laughing as I watch the brazen thief wax my boat under the heat of the summer sun!