The One That Didn't Get Away - December 13, 2007
A couple months ago, I lost my fishing mentor, Steve. Steve was sick for a few years, and
I hadn’t seen him in a while, but I know he was still on the water every chance he got.
He was a no-nonsense guy and a consummate outdoorsman/conservationist. He also had a
wicked sense of humor that never failed to make an appearance if you were fishing with
him. After his memorial service, I heard a story that was never told before.
Steve’s brother-in-law, Doug had kept it to himself for years, and apparently,
so had Steve…
Doug had owned boats for as long as Steve had known him. They fished together
on his very first little sixteen footer, and on every one in between, up to
and including Doug’s current vessel a sixty foot fishing boat. Years ago, Doug
and Steve were on Doug’s second boat, a twenty-two footer, off New Jersey. They
had fished from early that morning and hadn’t had much luck. On their way back,
Steve was trolling and landed a huge 38” bluefish. Not a bad keeper to end an
almost shut-out day. They got back to the boat ramp, pulled the boat on the
trailer, packed up and headed home to Pennsylvania. It was summer, and they
weren’t looking forward to the traffic, but they figured everyone was coming
the opposite way so they would be fine. Steve was teasing Doug the whole way;
“Man my arms hurt, I don’t know if I can fish for a while”. Doug laughed it off,
mumbling curses under his breath.
After a three hour drive they finally got home to Doug’s house. Their wives were away
for the weekend, so they figured they would get cleaned up and have dinner. Doug
reminded Steve that they would need to clean all the salt off the boat before they did
anything. After a few beers, Steve suggested they take the boat to a nearby lake. It
would be a lot easier than the usual hose-down and maybe they could fish a little more.
Doug was up for it, so they finished their beers and hit the road for the half hour
It was early evening when they got to the lake. They got the boat in the water with
no problem, and ran her through her paces. There weren’t many people on the water, so
they were able to open her up and clean her out. This took about an hour, after which
they tossed the anchor, cracked a couple beers and dropped the lines in. Not much of a
bite, but they didn’t care. They fished until dark and were going to head in when Doug
realized his running lights weren’t working. He was familiar with this lake, but there
were shallow parts where you could take out your prop in a second. Steve suggested they
just sleep on the boat for the night, pull her out of the water at first light, and
head for home. That’s what they did.
Doug and Steve were awakened by the drone of outboard motors. When they popped their
heads out of the little sleeping cabin, they saw fishermen everywhere. They were
definitely the biggest boat on the water. A little out of place, but they only got
the occasional glance from passers by. Steve immediately said “Doug, follow my lead”.
Steve headed for the well, and got the bluefish. He hooked it on the end of the line
and threw it in the water, where it made a huge splash. “Doug, get the gaff!!!!!!”
Steve yelled. “I’ve got something huge!!!!” Doug, who by this time couldn’t even
stand up straight from laughing, scrambled around like he was looking for a
gaff(which he didn’t even have on board). “Oh man, this thing is giant!!!!” yelled
Steve again. They could see all the fisherman around them start to turn their heads.
Pretty soon they had an audience. Fishermen were yelling out “What kind of fish is
that?” and “What are you using for bait?”. Steve just yelled back ”It’s a bluefish!!!!
A really big one!!!!”. As he held up the fish after pulling it in the boat, he
looked at all the boats. The fishermen all had puzzled looks on their faces:
“A bluefish?? Here? I didn’t know this lake had any bluefish in it!!!”
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