My Dad loved deep sea fishing. He lived for that time of year when every Sunday night he kissed us goodbye, packed up his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had spent the last hour making and drove off into the sunset with all his fishing poles.
These fishing trips were overnight trips that last for days. A bunch of his friends would charter a boat and three days later my Dad would return stinky, sunburned and a truck bed full of giant dead fish. There were few things that put that smile on his face and pep into his step and this ladies and gentlemen, was one of them.
My Dad loved fishing so much that he wanted to pass this passion down to his daughters. So my Dad and his friends came up with the idea to do an overnight trip with them and all their kids. I was 7 years old and so very excited about the notion of spending time with my Dad and spending the night on a boat! My Sister was 12 and didn’t share the same excitement.
So Sunday rolls around and I can barely contain my excitement.
I remember getting to the docks and all my Dad’s friend and children were there. There was one girl in particular that my Sister and I did not like. Her name…..Norma Jean. Now Norma Jean was one of “those girls” who was always perfect and super prissy. She was like that mean girl on the Little House On The Prairie. I remember walking down to the dock towards the boat and Norma Jean (she really had to be called by both names) made the fatal decision of trying to talk to us.
Norma Jean “Oh look – Pelicans”. My Sister “Norma Jean did you know that they carry their babies in their mouths and accidentally swallow them all the time?” Well, we (not sure why I was a part of this) got in trouble because sure enough Norma Jean went running to her Dad crying. We were off to a great start.
So with the pelican incident behind us, we got on the boat, claimed a bunk and like any good fishermen getting ready for their journey out to sea, we went to a bar. Yep, you heard me right. In my mind this trip couldn’t get any better, I mean doesn’t every 7 year old go to a dive bar by the docs? I have to say, I learned a couple of things that night.
- Bars are really dark.
- If your Dad is good looking the lady behind the bar will let you eat all the cherries you want.
- Your stomach will hurt if you eat all the cherries you want.
- The Barmaid had really big boobs.
- I figured out why my Dad was in such a hurry to leave on Sunday nights.
After some time we finally made our way back to the boat and tucked ourselves into our bunks. I personally had the very best night sleep ever. Maybe it was my way of coping with pelicans, cherries and big breasted barmaids. Or the overwhelming smell of diesel fuel. But regardless I woke the next morning bright eyed and ready for whatever came our way. I had no idea it was going to turn into a fish massacre. It went something like this.
First stop – get bait. How amazing was that! We got to stop and scoop up thousands of little baby fishes.
Second stop – Start fishing.
Let me stop right here. Now you would think that my Dad in the course of planning this trip might where he was taking this daughters out to the middle of the ocean would sit down and explain to them just a little of what was going to happen. Maybe give me and my Sister a head’s up on what exactly the role of the bait was going to be. Here’s a thought, “Girls, one of the deckhands is going to take a cute baby fish and ram a hook through its head while you stand there in horror.” Just a thought.
Back to the second stop – fishing.
As everyone grabbed their fishing poles and without a blink of the eye, rammed the hook through all the baby fishes that we had just spent the last hour playing with. My Sister and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had to spring into action. So we came up with a full-proof plan. We would rescue the bait and free them back to their natural habitat. At first we started small, we gabbed a fish and threw it overboard. Next we grabbed two and threw them over board. Then we progressed to handfuls at a time. Scoop toss, scoop toss, scoop toss. On and on it went. We only ran into one problem the whole time we were executing our plan….seagulls. Those crafty bastards quickly figured out that they could swoop down and catch about half of what we were tossing back to sea. We knew we were loosing some but it was a chance we had to take for their freedom.
So over a course of the day we kept ourselves busy and oddly enough no one noticed. I’ve asked myself many times, why one of the adults didn’t notice and stop us. Then I remind myself that these were the same adults that let us run wild in a bar and make ourselves sick on old stale bar cherries.
My Sister and I did such a great job of liberating the bait that believe if or not, they had to end the fishing trip early and turn back around for shore. They had run out of bait.
I have to tell you – my Dad was pissed.
He knew, he knew that we had something to do with this but he couldn’t pin it on us and we were not talking. I have to tell you the drive home was not as pleasant as the ride to the boat. I remember sitting in the middle between my Dad and my Sister, the air was thick with tension and all he said was “Girls, I will ask you one more time, what did you do with the bait?” God – I wanted to be anywhere expect right there. I knew I didn’t have the skills to sneak this by him so I just looked straight ahead and didn’t blink. My Sister on the other hand was one cool cucumber. Calmly she replied “Nothing Dad, we have no idea.”
We never came clean to my Dad. I think he would have laughed about it later in life, but neither one of us was ever that brave to test that thought.