When in Florida…

Three Musketeers

Florida, being what it is geographically speaking, lends itself to all things water-related. So when visiting, one of the things you might be tempted to do is fish. I actually quite enjoy fishing. It’s a peaceful process infused with moments of sudden anticipation and excitement. Plus there’s usually a fish story at the end of the day and you know I love a good story.

Gpa and the Second Mates
Captain Gpa with Second Mates Fred and George by his side.

As you learned in the first installment of our Florida Chronicles, Jester and I grew up very near each other in South Florida. The funny thing is that, in terms of our childhood fishing experiences, we might as well have been worlds apart. I grew up bass fishing on Florida’s rivers, Jester spent his time in the ocean. Totally different beasts in terms of outdoor experience. I guess that’s the great thing about Florida. There are a variety of ways to get your rod and reel on.

Fred and George, being a hybrid of our wildly different fishing backgrounds, have the best of both worlds. At home in North Georgia, they’re exposed to the freshwater fishing options but when we make the Naples run, they have the chance to get a hefty dose of saltwater fishing.

First Mate - Gma
First Mate Gma. The Captain's right-hand gal.

Here’s why I consider fishing of any flavor to be a parenting gold mine:

  1. The kids are outside. All sorts of awesome in the digital age.
  2. They gain understanding of the origins of their food without a heavy-handed “lesson” from us.
  3. They’re challenged to touch and smell fish, which is no small ordeal for some kids. Let them do it enough and it becomes natural, not gross.
  4. It’s a practical, hands-on lesson in patience. In fact, fishing may be the antithesis of instant gratification.
  5. It’s a big test of motor skills. Handling a rod and reel comes naturally to some kids. Mine…not so much.
  6. They get to identify different fish and take note of the physical differences in each species they bring in.
  7. There’s a whole lot of teamwork needed to help everyone have a good trip.
  8. Their sportsmanship is put to the test.

In all of these aspects, they are pushing their comfort zones. Fishing, my friends, is a real-world learning extravaganza. And they don’t even realize it because, in the midst of all the learning, they’re having fun. It’s a natural learning that fuels their curiosity and lets them connect the dots all on their own. If that isn’t Granola, I don’t know what is. Ok, I’ll set my granola mom pom-poms down for now and move on to our actual Florida fishing adventure.

Jester in action?
Crewman Jester not working hard.

Fishing with Sue

So for our fishing excursion aboard the Runaround Sue, Captain Gpa took us to a few spots just off the Marco Island coast. Not too far, just enough for the boys to get a feel for the expanse of the ocean.

To put it mildly, there was very little action. Lots of broken lines and missed opportunities. Fred bagged a nice snapper but most of what we brought in was too small. They had to be thrown back to live out their little fishy lives and make more little fishies. Gotta let the circle of life make a full circle right?

Fred and George, being the geeks-in-training that they are, were fascinated by the electronic gadgetry on Sue. The fish finder was quite a hit. Being the slow day that it was, even one cartoon fish appearing on screen was a remarkable event. Gpa moved the boat a few times to better our position but it was a good while before a string of happy orange fish paraded across the screen. Much to the boys’ delight of course.

What you need to understand is that during our fishing dry spell, we noticed an extremely large boat off in the distance spewing heavy clouds of black smoke. With nary more than a quizzical glance, we continued on with our fishing.

Fred working for his dinner
Fred hard at work, reeling in his dinner.
Jester working the rod
Crewman Jester finally working hard.
Safety Sance
The fine men of the Coast Guard coming to bugger up our fishing...I mean, make sure we're all safe and sound.
Big Fish
Fred finding a way to cool off.

But in the moments leading up to the fabulous fish offerings as promised by the fish finder, we realized that “Hey, that big, smoking boat is headed right for us.” Go fig right? Not really. That big steaming hunk was the Coast Guard. Apparently it was a slow day on the water and they had nobody else to visit. Indeed we were nearly alone in the big, blue sea and it seems it was the Runaround Sue’s turn for a safety check. Yes, you put it together…the Coast Guard decided to board us just when the fishing was finally getting good. Insert explicative here.

Bedside Manner
George practicing his bedside manner with a slightly seasick First Mate.

So we had our fun with the Coast Guard, giving them all sorts of grief about their timing, lots of polite chit-chat about fishing all the while. If only I’d gotten off that easy though. Because, sure enough, the discussion devolved into talk of boats, motor-size, and so forth. I felt myself being sucked into the bizarre man vortex where it’s plain that boat motors are a measure of the male um…ego.

I knew if I glanced at Gma, being my only female counterpart aboard the boat, I’d lose my grip and slip into a fit of laughter that could in no way whatsoever be construed as anything but mocking. So I tried my hardest to listen intently and politely. You’ll be pleased to know that I succeeded…but it was close. I did have to turn away at one point to hide a burgeoning laughing fit. You’ll also be very impressed because what they were saying was “Yamaha, twin 360s…blah, blah, blah” but what I heard in my female mind was nothing short of a priceless Saturday Night Live parody.

Boys Club
The Boy's Club fishing off the dock. (Photo courtesy of Gma)

All kidding aside, the fine gentlemen of the Coast Guard were perfectly nice. And, the Runaround Sue being Gpa’s boat, we passed safety inspection with flying colors. You’d think Fred and George would have been mesmerized by the scene unfolding before them….the massive Coast Guard boat, the flashy little orange boat racing toward us, the insane amount of weaponry lashed to each man, etc. But no, they were glued to the fish-finder, thoroughly unimpressed with the Coast Guard. Sorry fellas.

An Oscar Mayer Moment
How could I resist including this Oscar Mayer moment? (Photo courtesy of Gma)

And yes, by the time the safety inspection was complete, so was the bounty of fish beneath us. We ended the day with only two fish in the hold, Fred being the major contributor in that regard. Chalk this one up to quality family time. The glass is half-full right?

There’s always the dock…

When going out on a big excursion fails, there’s always simple dock-fishing to keep little ones engaged and outside. And with dock fishing, even the littlest cousins can join in. And, at least here, George got to be the one to bring home the goods. It’s nice when things balance out among siblings. Keeps the peace you know.

Been fishing in Florida? Got any fish tales to share?

And now for your moment of green…

Pel I. Can
Wonder if this master fisher would give us some lessons. Clearly we have a thing or two to learn.