Trials and Tribulations

WAAAAVE!” For several panic-stricken moments, Jeremy must have thought this would be the last word he’d ever hear. At the very least, he had to have second-guessed our foolish undertaking of that afternoon. I surely did. But you see, there is something about the annual fall mullet run that makes both fish and angler do crazy, death-defying things. And this blustery day was no different.


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Photo: Chris Armstrong

The fish were doing their part…mullet frothing the water and showering upward, as a variety of predators chased and exploded from below. Pelicans kamikazeed from the sky, momentarily disappearing into the raging battle, only to emerge with a hard-earned gulp. Even Mother Nature herself contributed to the madness, whirling up a strong northeast wind and further frenzying the already hostile waters.

It was coming at us hard and fast, and tsunami was too difficult to say with the needed urgency.

Leaving behind a small cooler, my cousin Jeremy and I approached cautiously, armed only with light-tackle outfits. Each was equipped with a flashy silver spoon and we paused for a moment at the water’s edge as we watched nature’s unfolding scene. Each ominous wave seemed to carry with it more mullet than water, and its ultimate crash would wildly spray both in every direction. After a few seconds, I shed my shoes, waded ankle deep, flipped the bail and unleashed a mighty cast. The glimmering lure whizzed through the salty air and hung high for a brief second before falling well short of its intended destination.

Jeremy whipped back and fired off a cast. Same result. Beyond the increasingly violent surf, the frenzy continued and beckoned us forward. Mullet fled, mackerel chased and blues ravaged. Jeremy and I hesitantly stepped further from the safety of shore and slung another cast. Short again.

This pattern repeated itself several times, with our sanity and safety slowly being swallowed by the surf. Soon Jeremy and I were waist deep, desperately launching casts while simultaneously getting smashed by waves. But yet again our casts fell tantalizingly short. Our frustration level reached a height equal to the massive waves when Jeremy made his declaration.

“Let’s go. We are getting to those fish.”

With that, we plowed forward, going over, under, but mostly through huge walls of water.

“I think we can reach them from here,” I wearily said a few moments later.

As Jeremy tended to a reel tangle, I paused to catch my breath. I lifted my head, gazed seaward and saw an approaching wave that looked like a tsunami. It was coming at us hard and fast, and tsunami was too difficult to say with the needed urgency. I braced myself and screamed with all of the power my lungs and larynx could muster.


Jeremy looked up, but it was too late. Way too late. He was hit with the ferocity of a watery freight train and for the next several seconds was ushered shoreward on the most wild and unpleasant of rides. Having ducked under the wave, I emerged to see Jeremy rapidly and violently tumbling with the raging water. Actually, I did not see him per say, but rather just his leg…then an arm…then the fishing rod…and a leg again. He tumbled and crashed back to shore, with appendages sporadically breaking through the angry surface to reveal his location.

Finally, Jeremy hit land, both literally and metaphorically. He defiantly stood up, still clinging to his fishing rod, rubbed his eyes and straightened his shorts. All of his limbs were still intact, and the only loss seemed to be his eyeglasses. I would have been tempted to laugh but I knew my time was coming.

“Hey, are you O…”

WHAM! “This is insane,” I thought to myself as I tumbled along the ocean floor. Like Jeremy’s, my hellacious ride stopped at the beach where he was awaiting my arrival.

“I’m fine,” Jeremy replied to the question I was unable to finish.

“Me too,” I stammered as I regained my balance, uncoiled myself from fishing line and removed the spoon embedded in my shorts.

“Let’s go get those fish,” he responded.

An hour or so later we collapsed back on the soft sandy shore, only this time it was not courtesy of the ocean spitting us out at that locale. We were absolutely exhausted from battling waves and slinging casts, but even more fatigued from fighting feisty bluefish, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

As we trudged back to the car, dragging a cooler of hard-earned fish, the mullet mayhem continued in the background.

“This was great. Same time tomorrow?” Jeremy asked.

“The weather is supposed to be pretty bad, but yeah…let’s do it!” I replied.

You see, there’s just something about this massive migration that draws anglers to the brink of sanity. And I can’t seem to get enough!