Other people’s fish

It’s been all fishing, all the time around here lately, and I know that those of you who are interested in the garden, the chickens, the turkeys, the pigs, the recipes, or current events can barely stifle your yawns. But, hey, that’s the nature of seasonality! Each month I get to bore a different segment of my constituency witless.

Those of you in this past month’s segment will be happy to know that striped bass season is winding down. The weather is warming up and the fish will be moving on to cooler waters – a striper’s version of greener pastures. Of course, the bluefish season is just heating up, so we won’t be abandoning fishing entirely, but we’ll be a little less one-note.

I appreciate that not everyone gets as excited about fishing as I do, but I have a theory that everyone gets at least a little excited about fishing. One of the reasons I like having a boat is that Kevin and I can take non-fishermen out on fishing evangelism trips. Last week, we took two.

First was Leo. Leo is five. Leo, to his credit, has been fishing before. He even caught a fish, but it was very small. We took him out for bluefish and we were lucky enough to hook a nice four-pounder almost instantly, because seasickness curtailed our trip. I’d always thought that the green seasickness victims turned was metaphorical, but Leo’s father, our friend Rafe, turned the color of pea soup right before my eyes. Leo seems to have inherited his father’s tendency, and followed suit – but not until after we had the fish in the boat.

Once he was back on solid ground, Leo was very excited about that fish. He watched carefully as I filleted it, and was absolutely ready to eat it for dinner, which we would have done if the previous day’s fish hadn’t been on the menu.

Second was my mother. My mother is seventy-two, and hadn’t fished since her childhood, so we were very glad the striped bass hung around long enough to be here when my parents came up from Florida this past weekend.

Fishing with my mother presented a problem that fishing with Leo did not. By law, children have to wear PFDs (personal flotation devices, formerly known as life jackets), but I didn’t have that excuse with my mother. And, although my mother is an extremely competent person and a good swimmer, I wanted her to wear a PFD because she is perhaps the clumsiest person ever to set foot on a boat.

The list of my mother’s good qualities is enviably long. She is one of the smartest people I know. She writes way better than I do. She is kind and generous and circumspect. She is modest and easy-going and forgiving. But she will be the first to tell you that, physically, she is challenged.

She went to Smith College back when they were still doing naked posture pictures and basic motor skills testing. When she arrived in Northampton one late summer day in 1956, they put her through their standard battery of tests and assigned her a phys-ed section.

On the appointed day she showed up for the first class. It took her a while to notice, but eventually she figured out that everyone else in the class had an obvious physical disability. Club foot. One arm. Blind. She was the only one who seemed to have a full complement of functioning body parts. That’s how uncoordinated my mother is.

Our boat has high gunwales, and falling overboard is no mean feat. You’d have to lose your balance in a very spectacular way. And, even if you did that, you’d only risk drowning if you hit your head on the way in; the water is warm enough to pose no threat of hypothermia.

The risk that my mother would lose her balance in that spectacular way, hit her head on the way down, and drown is diminishingly small. Miniscule. Almost non-existent. And the chance that we’d irritate her by requiring her to wear a PFD when we weren’t wearing them is pretty much 100%. A sure thing. But we did it anyway. Because my mother is easy-going and forgiving, she limited her protest to a few wry remarks about geezerdom as we sat her down in the special, stable chair and made sure she knew where all the hand-holds were.

But all was forgiven (I think) because Mom caught a 32-inch striped bass.

It’s always a pleasure to have experienced fishermen like Bob or Gus aboard. And Kevin and I also love being on the boat alone. But there is a particular satisfaction in taking someone who doesn’t fish fishing.

I understand that reading about fishing is not nearly as interesting as actually fishing, and I feel the pain of those of you who never made it to the end of this piece because you clicked on someone else’s much more interesting blog post. And fishing itself isn’t always exciting; not catching fish is pretty damn dull. But I firmly believe every non-fisherman is one big fish away from being a fishing enthusiast, and Kevin and I like to think we’re doing our part.

14 people are having a conversation about “Other people’s fish

  1. Your mother is adorable! And although I am not a fisherman, I am still enjoying your fishing posts. It’s a lovely image to visit in my head! Enjoy the rest of Striper season! And I suppose perhaps Leo was destined to be a king on land, not on sea! But I’m sure he would take comfort knowing that I have spent countless hours since I was his age trying, aspiring to catch a fish even half that big to no avail. Nowadays, my brother does the fishing and I do the fine art of filleting and cooking. That is one of the grestest things about fishing–it seems to work better as a team effort.

  2. Stephen — There are lots of days when I’d love for someone to take those fish off my hands and do the filleting and cooking, so I’m sure your brother values your contribution. Our version of the team effort is that I process the fish and Kevin cleans the boat.

    Aaron — You’re right on both counts.

  3. You also hooked Zak and Hope through your evangelism– they can’t wait to try your filleting method on a fish they catch. They have gone out twice since your filleting lesson, but so far have only seaweed to practice on.

  4. PS I will never tire of your fishing stories, nor those well-posed pictures that show the fish to it’s best and biggest advantage.

  5. Marge, we’ll do our best to help Zak and Hope discover the difference between ‘fishing’ and ‘catching.’ And, when we do, we’ll show them just how to hold those fish for the camera.

  6. Your mom is beautiful! I love to hear stories about people’s parents. What is this filleting method Marge speaks of?

  7. Margaret Vaughn says:

    I am ho hum about fishing, although I love to eat someone else’s catch. Loved this piece, though, because ’twas such fun to see photos of your Mom and of Leo, showing off their bass. And, i share a link with each: I get seasick sitting at the dock, and have always been secretly grateful because it has kept me from having to go on the bane of the elderly, a cruise ship. And, I am physically challenged, and more so as I age. Actually, I’m just plain clumsy but like the sound of physically challenged. I would need a life jacket while sitting at the dock. As always, a good story well told, Tamar.

  8. Brooke — I keep meaning to get around to doing a video of my super-secret striped bass fileting method, but when Kevin and I finally had it all ready to go, the camera battery died. But I’ll do it, I will. Basically, it’s one extra cut along the shoulder of the bass, and it makes things a bit easier.

    Jocelyn and Margaret, thanks for two votes of confidence. Margaret, I’m not immune from seasickness (my tuna adventure was non-stop green), so I understand how miserable it is. It would trump all the fun of fishing, so the dock is probably a good place for you, life jacket or no life jacket.

  9. Next time, Scopolamine. I say it like it rhymes to help me remember. Still, a great day out. Thanks, Tamar and Kevin!

  10. Yeah Mom! Yeah Leo!

    Yeah Tamar and Kevin for taking them out fishing!

    I never get tired of your stories, regardless of subject.

  11. Love the pic’s of your Mom!

    Enjoy the fishing stories … note to those who don’t: skip reading the blog that day. (duh)

  12. Love to hear all your stories Tamar. They all have little bits for everyone. Totally jealous of your fishing stories. Love to fish, but don’t get to go very often. Hooray for your mom and Leo for getting out there.

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