Time on the Water
The lure lowered into the water, my thumb controlling the pace of the bait’s decent, as the line ran beneath the finger I sucked on as a child. With both hands on the fishing pole, I felt the weight zip through the water until it finally met the rocky floor of the ocean. I bounced the bait off the bottom, moving the rod up and down in hopes of attracting a nearby fish. The bouncing was usually persistent, but every now and then I gave a large tug and my hands, firmly grasping the pole, moved from my waist toward my face. The wind swept over the water and I took a deep breath as the salty fresh air hit my cheeks and spread through my lungs. As I lowered my hands back down, and the lure once again struck the bottom, I felt movement on the other end of the line.
It was a fish.
My heart skipped a beat but I remained calm, continually bobbing the bait up and down, ready to stick the fish as soon as it began to nibble and tug again. My dad’s voice echoed in my head, “You have to let them eat some of the bait, then stick ‘em hard. But you gotta tease ‘em first.” A few more up and down motions and the fish was back. I let it eat at the bait for a second or two and then I drew the pole up fast, in a large sweeping motion and began to reel as I brought my hands back down again.
I got him.
As he flopped around on the deck of the boat, I could not help but stare at his mesmerizing blue color. The sea bass we usually catch were smaller, and not mature enough to have the same shiny blue found on this one’s head. It was a great fish; my dad and his friends were impressed with its size and the little amount of time it took to catch. After off-shore fishing the two days before, it was nice to catch a fish every few minutes, rather than every few hours, and it was nice to see Montauk and Block Island in the distance, as opposed to no land at all.
Three days before, we were preparing to fish against 80 other boats in the Tri-State Canyon Shootout Fishing Tournament. The first two days we would be ninety miles off-shore, southeast of Long Island, New York, trying to catch the biggest mahi-mahi, big eye tuna, albacore tuna and yellow fin tuna. We were going to be on the water from 5am on Monday, until 3pm on Tuesday – this meant 24 hours without seeing any hint of civilization. The only contact with human life was going to be with the five men on the boat: my Dad, my brother Charlie, and my Dad’s three friends, Steve, Nick, and Joe.
The four men on the boat were an interesting group. They have different personalities, but all share one thing in common: they love to fish. Nick and Steve are brothers. My father met Nick when he became a client of my dad’s pool company, Binder Pools. Nick has two young children – both are adorable and love my dad. Nick is thin, average height, with grey hair mixed in with the brown. He’s a very nice man, patient, and softer-spoken than the others. My dad met Steve through Nick. Steve is a little less patient. He’s shorter than Nick, has dark brown hair, and is always wearing aviator sunglasses. I think he misses being in his twenties. Joe Lavin also met my dad when he bought a pool from him. He is the funniest of the bunch, even though he might not mean to be. He’s also the oldest – in his early fifties, I think. He’s retired, but decided to become a salesman and now sells organic shampoo. Just for the heck of it. If that doesn’t speak for the type of guy Joe is, I don’t know what will. My brother Charlie and I constantly crack up at the crazy and random things he says. Boy, can that man talk. On top of being a constant stand-up comedy act, Joe is also the most caring man. On the boat he often checks on Charlie and me to make sure we are happy, eating the food packed in the cooler he brought, and not seasick.
The Sunday before our fishing extravaganza, the six of us sat underneath a large tent on Block Island, where the tournament was hosted, sizing up the competition of the other boats. There were prizes for the largest fish, and then a trifecta prize; a boat’s largest yellow fin, albacore, and mahi-mahi added together. Each boat had at least five team members. It seemed as though we were the only boat without matching t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even haircuts. The t-shirts usually had their boat’s name and a picture of the boat on it. Some even had a “clever” quote that had to do with fishing and being better than the next guy like “a reel expert can tackle anything” or “mine’s so big I have to use both hands.” I never said these fishermen were classy.
As I sat at the plastic fold up table, in a plastic fold up chair, with the beer my father had placed in front of me without an exchange of words, I noticed a few things
about the type of people found at a four day long fishing tournament; they were mostly men, at least one person on each boat had a large beard that probably had not been washed in a few days, and they all owned boats quite larger than the one we had.
My dad’s boat, the “Buddy B”, is a thirty-six foot long, custom-made Northern Bay fishing boat. It’s beautiful. With a deep maroon hull, and an off-white body, along with wood and gold accents, it’s breathtaking. “Buddy B” can be read clearly above “Shelter Island, NY” on the back in a gold font – named after my dad’s short-tempered father. The boat is as beautiful as was the man’s love for fishing. My grandfather’s name is Joseph Binder, but everyone called him Bud, or Buddy (my cousins and I called him Pop-Pop Bud). He was a superb fisherman. He moved to Shelter Island with his family when my father was an infant in the 1960’s so that he could be by the water and fish whenever he pleased. His love for fishing was passed down to my father, which has now been passed down to my brothers and me. When my Pop-Pop Bud passed away I was young enough that I did not know him well, but old enough to feel guilty about it. I do not recall ever thinking about my grandfather while on this fishing trip, although I’m sure he crossed my father’s mind a few times.
Two months later, I’m in a small college dorm – landlocked. There’s no place I would rather be than on the Buddy B, fishing with my dad and his weird friends, losing my balance to each wave as the boat climbed its glistening wall, and rolled over the top to do nothing but climb up yet again. The waves were larger than usual that day I caught the sea bass, but they were not scary – they were peaceful. The wall of water came barreling towards us, and the Buddy B swiftly rose with the surf and easily drifted down the other side of the ten-foot swell.
We caught so many fish on the third day, though my first sea bass stuck out to me. The blue on the fish’s head was vibrant and there was a gooey substance on the scales from being on ice all morning, which would make most people look away, but I could not stop staring at the blue. At that moment, the tournament did not matter, the large dirty beards did not matter, and the faster, newer boats did not matter.
I snapped picture upon picture of that fish so that even when I felt trapped at my desk in a suburb of Philadelphia, 206 miles from home, I could always look at that beautiful fish and remember that beautiful day, and those beautiful waves, and that beautiful boat.
Katy Binder is currently a sophomore at Villanova University from the East End of
Long Island. Although she has not declared a major, she has declared that she will
be fishing all summer long.