"My First True Blue"
My Dad was the Earl Woods of fishing. Alright, he didn’t name
me Tiger (although "Tigress" would have been more gender
appropriate) but he did put a fishing pole in my chubby little
hands when I turned two. It may have been made of red plastic
with yellow trim but it was a fishing pole nonetheless and since
we were standing on a pier together I believe it qualified as my
first fishing trip.
But it took almost another two years before I caught my own
fish, on my own pole and reeled her in all by myself. She was a
I named her "Charlie" (short for Charlotte) and we called my
Mom from the dock’s payphone as soon as she flopped into
our fishing bucket. I announced proudly that I planned on
bringing Charlie home to live happily ever-after in the glass bowl
that sat on the dresser next to my night light.
Then Dad proceeded with what must have been for him, the
a difficult fishing lecture;
"Sweetie, some fish we’ll end up throwing back into the ocean
and other fish we might fillet for dinner but none of the fish can
come home to live with us".
That’s when I threw Charlie back in the water (after a teeny pat
on her back) and gave up fishing for good. After all, it seemed
really dumb and boring. You put a pole in the water andthen
stare at it. Every so often your Dad tells you to jiggle it up
and down and every so often after that you reel it in to check
on your bait (which usually is never there because whoever
snacked on it to begin with steered the rest of their family away
from the dangerous hook gleaming above them).
Most days you just came home with a whole lot of sunburn
on your nose.
So I left the sport of fishing behind and returned to playing with
Barbie and Ken, Legos and Playdoh and buckets full of water with
all the other little kids on the dock who were dragged along
with their parents to experience the supposed joys of fishing.
And then around the age of thirteen something happened.
Dad had called me over to watch his fishing pole a moment.
Carefully closing my secret diary I joined him at water’s edge as
he gingerly passed his fishing pole over to me.
It was like a rite-of passage. I felt an almost imperceptible tug
on the line, then an imperceptible tug on my heart. I was excited,
not at the prospect that there would definitely be a fish at the
end of that tug but that there might be and that each future tug
held that same promise.
All of a sudden I was willing to sit the entire rest of the day
just for the chance to feel that feeling one more time. I guess this
was the reason my Dad went fishing and what he had been trying
to get me to feel all along. It was kind of spiritual actually as silly
as that sounds.
My Dad and I fished that same dock together for the next seven
years before I graduated to charter boat fishing. On a slightly
overcast September evening the boat prepared to leave the dock
for a night of blue fishing. I quickly learned that I was the only
young lady on board.
Immediately everyone staked out their turf.
The boat left at 7:00 pm sharp and by 7:05 pm every man on deck
had a beer in one hand and 7 cards in the other. With a
couple hours of travel time ahead of us, poker and pepperoni
became the tasks at hand.
Since I was not invited to join the game I stood on deck
getting wind-tousled and dreaming about "my first true blue".
Everything I needed to know about blue fishing I had heard
from my Dad. I knew that when they hit they ran and that
pound for pound they were one of the fiercest fighting fish
in the sea.
The captain sounded a horn and the boat took on the electricity
of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Thirty fishing lines hit the
water all at once.
Nobody spoke except every now and then the silence was
broken by a raucous "Ooh whee baby!" (fish talk for a big fish).
The first blue was coming aboard and someone said he was a
beauty. I didn’t see much in the way of good looks but I had to
admit being excited.
Suddenly blues were to the left of me, right of me, in front of me
and every space in between.
Everyone was talking about what would be the "pool" fish
(the biggest catch of the night) which according
to the writing on the chalkboard would be worth $270.00 to the
My pole then took a nosedive and the fishing version
of "Ali-Frazier" began.
He swam to freedom.
I took a nap.
And then at 2:30 in the morning my pole actually bent in half (not a
When he broke the surface again (for about the 5th
time) a crew member gaffed him and pulled him up in a
huge green net.
Disappointment surged right through me. Gaffing felt like
But then my disappointed faded as they weighed in this beautiful
He was a whopping 17 pounds!
At 4:00 am "Charlie II" was named the pool fish and became
"my first true blue".
There was no fanfare, no congratulations, and no pat on the
back from anyone anywhere except of course from my Dad who
was filled with uncontained pride.
The poker game resumed and we made our way back to
My Dad had always treated me like an equal fishing partner so
I knew no differently untiIthat night.
Maybe I was not perceived by the men as an independent
fisherperson because I had to rely upon crew assistance to
bring my catch on board.
At least that's what I told myself.
But then how am I to explain that all future charter boat
excursions over the past 25 years have followed
a similar pattern.
I’m certainly always welcomed on every boat and am no longer
(ever) the only woman on board.
But in the eyes of the fishermen I’m still a woman to them
and somehow that makes me less desirable as a fisherperson.
I have not caught another pool fish since that first time nor
would it matter to me if I ever did again as long as the promise of
that possibility remains.
What might matter more though is if the men on board could
somehow accept me as their equal (pound for pound that is)
and realize that in the end, size really doesn’t
matter at all.