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Back on the horse again


When you get tossed off a horse, the best thing to do is to get back in the saddle again. That's how the theory goes, anyway. Could be just an Internet rumor. It probably showed up in an e-mail from one of my aunts with a subject line that began with "Fw: Fw: Fw:"  

Of course, there could be some truth to it.

After my first (and I hoped, last) experience with boat fishing, I was ready to call it a career and assign myself to land duty. (See “Go fish.”) My wife Sherill thought it was just a bad carton of milk I'd had. My seasickness wasn't as severe as it may have appeared. But what did she know? She only saw a few minutes of my discomfort. She was busy having a blast fishing off the deck while I was busy being a hurling dervish! A different place with a different boat and a different environment would probably generate a different experience for me, she felt.  

Sure. I could drown. That would be totally different than cookie-tossing!  

After our experience around Fort Lauderdale, we made our way further south on our honeymoon. The really good fishing, Sherill assured me, was in the Keys. That stuff further north was an aberration. True aquatic tranquility and satisfaction was in the Keys. She was pretty confident.  

I was looking for something from the good folks at Hershey with Dramamine already blended into it. Oh, and I wanted it to be a King Size bar, too! Those dinky little tablets of Dramamine couldn't possibly settle the stomach of a full-sized aquatic neurotic like me. If I couldn't get my Dramamine masked in a chocolate infusion, I'd settle for an IV drip. Besides, Sherill's a nurse. She's good at getting IVs into patients.  

A decision was made. While we were in Key West, we'd take another crack at deep sea fishing. I don't think I'd call the vote unanimous. It wasn't so much a 2-0 vote as a 1.25-0.25 kind of a vote. She was solidly in favor of another attempt. I was barely half into it. Wishy-washy seemed like serious commitment to me. I was what could be called "less than opposed."  

When we arrived in Key West, we made our way down the dock and came to the boat we were looking for. A lady in her late 50s or early 60s greeted us as we got to the plank to board. We asked how the fishing looked and how soon they were planning to leave.  

"Not today. It's way too windy," the seafaring maid told us.  

I secretly and internally high-fived myself. It was all I could do not to break into a Marv Albert "YES!!!" at that moment.         

Sherill and I both expressed disappointment. One of us may have been sincere. One of us, not so much.  

Huh. Darn. Too windy. Yep, can't be out there on the high seas if it's windy, ya know. Makes for a rough ride. No, wait! It makes for poor fishing. Yeah, that's it! Poor fishing. Obviously.  

Thinking I was off the hook and could return to my land-based tourist mode, I was planning the agenda for the rest of the day when Captain Roseanne Barr chimed in with a gem.  

"Of course, you could probably go north and get on a boat up there. Islamorada. Key Largo. Up that way you can get on and go, because they got totally different weather than we do," Roseanne said. “The Keys curve around,” she explained as she began to wave her hands around to plot some geography-meteorology time-space continuum for us. "We've got 26, maybe 28 knots right now, but they might not have much wind at all up there."

Yeah, hey, thanks, Roseanne! I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, mainly because my jaw is clenched so tightly right now I can't speak! This nice breeze had me totally in the clear today, but noooooooo . . . you had to go all Mr. Wizard on us and explain away my whole excuse for taking it easy today.  

Then, like that wasn't enough, Roseanne became the Chamber of Commerce director for the middle portion of the Keys.  

"You want to go to Robbie's in Islamorada. It's at Mile Marker 77 on the left. Captain Michael is the place you want. They'll probably go out later today. Tell 'em I sent you."  

Nice. I especially like the specifics with the mile marker and everything. Yeah, thanks for not letting me get lost, Roseanne. I owe you one, big-time. But don't worry; I'm making a note in my mental ledger. Your name will be the one with skull and crossbones next to it.  

So we headed north in search of totally different weather. One thing that caught my eye along the way was that an awful lot of people seemed to be fishing from the bridge. Since insulin wasn't knocking my blood sugar down as fast as I'd like, I thought a leisurely stroll along the bridge might not be a bad idea.  

After getting a ways down the bridge, we decided to stop and watch some people fish. One couple was busy with their poles as we came upon them. They seemed chatty, so we stopped to visit. Turns out they were a married couple from Gainesville by the name of Steve & Linda. It didn't take long while we stood there before Linda was reeling in a fish. As luck would have it, Linda had herself a puffer fish on the end of her line. She got the fish on the dock and then showed us how the puffer fish strikes a unique pose when caught. It turns into a Jiffy-Pop fish! The thing swelled up to about three or four times its normal size in a matter of seconds!  

We eventually parted ways with Steve & Linda and made our way to Islamorada. Had to get to Mile Marker 77, because that's where Roseanne told me our fish success was lying in wait.  

We found the marina and the adjoining flea market. A quick stop at Robbie's led us to the "office" where they lined up the fishing charters. Sure enough, the weather was just fine, so they'd be taking another boat out at 1:00 or so.  

It was time to rethink my personal peptic armor. I took two Dramamine tablets with my lunch as a bracer. Now it was time to consider the hardware approach. The wrist bracelets I'd worn on my previous excursion didn't seem like they had done much, but I read through the literature contained in the box with them and made a scientific decision in full Guy Mode. It was a two-parter. Part A: Go big or go home. Part B: If some is good, more is better.   

The literature said to place the bracelets on the wrist approximately three finger widths away from the last crease at the base of the palm. Off the top of my head, I was pretty sure I had worn the bracelets a lot closer to my palm the last time. Of course, I was in Guy Mode at the moment, so that led to the other part of the decision. Why wear just one bracelet if you have two? And really, if you have two, wouldn't four be twice as good, if not four times as good? I couldn't remember if the difference was linear or exponential. All I knew was that more is better and way more is way more betterer. With an electron microscope, you can see that etched on my Y-chromosome. It's standard guy DNA stuff. Doubling down is always a good idea. Ask anyone in Vegas.

I coughed up the admission fee and Sherill and I got on the boat. I think both of us were skeptical, but I knew how much she liked to fish, so I was willing to give it another shot. If it turned out to be as bad as the last time, I'd probably get a lifetime pass for terra firma.

Our boat cohabitants were a somewhat larger group this time. There were about 20 of us altogether. I didn't spend a whole lot of time sizing up the crowd. I was looking off toward the horizon, trying to convince myself that the horizon was more stable than my last trip. My skepticism was not greeted by inner turmoil near my midsection. Quite the opposite. This boat trip was feeling pretty good! First of all, we were heading straight from the dock to the sea. There was none of this zigging and zagging through a maze of sea streets to get to the main thoroughfare. It was pretty much a straight shot to the sea.  

It didn't take long before we were out to sea and ready to fish. The crew gave us a review of how to work our reels, what to do if we caught a fish, and what we may catch while we were out there. My brain stayed level the whole time. My stomach did, too. This was starting to look like an entirely different adventure than that last boat mess.  

It only took a few minutes with our lines in the water before the other key difference between this outfit and our other one became apparent. We started catching fish! Sherill caught one. I caught one moments later. Another guy caught one. This was completely different than the other outfit.

When we moved to a different location toward the end of our expedition, Sherill decided to help me. The two of us had caught a few fish by then, and we were having a great time. I reeled in another fish as Sherill was re-baiting her hook. She grabbed mine and started to re-bait it as she handed me her pole. "Here, you fish and I'll get you set up again," she said.  

Not only had I married a professional fisherman, but I married one who baits not only her own hook, but MINE, TOO! And she bakes pies, too!  

I proceeded to drop Sherill's line in the water as she tended to my line. In a matter of seconds, I had a fish on her line! I reeled it in and plopped it on the deck in front of Sherill right as she handed me my pole again. She laughed and started taking my fish off as I dropped the other line in the water again. It was only a matter of a few seconds when I felt another strong tug on the line. I yanked it and started to crank the reel again. Another fish!  

I got that one out of the water as Sherill handed me the other pole with fresh bait. That one was dropped in the water as Sherill began to get the hook removed from my latest catch. Then just as she got it free and got the hook re-baited again, I hooked another fish!  

We were in the zone. Seasickness? What seasickness?               

By the time we were done with our tour, Sherill and I had caught around 20 or 25 fish. We tossed a few of them back, but we did save about a dozen or more for filleting. The boat's crew made short work of them with their filet knives when we got back to the marina. Unlike the previous crew, these guys had been quite helpful and kind to us. I made sure there was a generous tip left for them as well as multiple business cards. (They went over quite well.)  

We stopped at a Publix grocery store and found an insulated lunch box to store our fish. We bought some dry ice, packed it around the fish that Sunday, and tossed the box in our checked baggage on Tuesday. The fish were still frozen solid when we unpacked them in Iowa Tuesday night.

The next time we go to Florida, Sherill wants to go sport fishing. It's a smaller boat and more money, but we can catch some sailfish worthy of hanging on a wall.  

I'll be the one in the cover photo of Sport Fishing magazine with 18 seasickness bracelets all the way to his elbows.  

You can never be too prepared. It's a guy thing. 

Guy No. 2 

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