And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shark Week! And How Much You Really Love Someone

Boys' Weekend's only requirement is that you have a Y chromosome.  This is quite obvious when you see the diversity of characters that we are.  Short, tall, fat, skinny, and everything in-between.  Self-proclaimed "preppy financial types", like myself, Lee, and one of the original BW'ers, Michael F., (a.k.a. "Finny") are not the norm.  Through the years B.W. has had boys with the following occupations:  Attorney (in case we get in trouble), Banker (should we need a loan for the bail after we've gotten in trouble), Carpet Cleaning Business Owner (well, because we WILL mess up a carpet or two), Commercial Real Estate Agent (I'm still not sure what he's good for...), Fireman  (In case our beach fire got out of hand), Food Wholesaler (my favorite guy of all that weekend.  I LOVE Food Show leftovers!),  General Contractor (my brother, but he hasn't built me a house, yet), Nurse (in case we get hurt, or need to get cleaned up...) Wildlife Biologist (to identify what we catch, including the various seabirds -- yes, we sometimes catch herring gulls, cormorants or laughing gulls), and last but not least, FBI agent (I guess in case we're ever accused of kidnapping somebody.)

Anyway, about 8 years ago, there were 8 of us that went.  One of the guys I haven't yet described is Johnny, the FBI agent.  (But he may have only been a cop back then.)  Johnny is "Mini-Macho" Mike's brother in law.  In fact, Johnny is the twin of Mike's wife.  "He's Janie with a penis", Mike likes to say.  Johnny and Mike were best friends growing up, so I guess he married Janie because he loved Johnny so much.  (I kid, because I love.)   But if ever two twins were more alike personality-wise, I have yet to meet them.

This was one of Johnny's first years of attending BW, and while the boy grew up fishing around Lake Erie and Ohio, he hadn't had a whole lot of experience saltwater fishing.  Steelhead and other freshwater fish don't tend to have big sharp teeth.  And you typically don't have to wonder if the fish on the other end of the line is a potential maneater.

We were down on the Point at Buxton, and we were all lined up fishing.   When we are fishing the Point, usually we are fishing for large red "bull" drum, but we've caught stripers there, in addition to bluefish of all sizes.  And of course, there are sharks.  Sometimes dogfish and skates are overwhelming, other times you get "biters" -- ones with real teeth.  There are some fishermen down there who target sharks, and have the large rigs and metal leaders to withstand them.  We fish with 17 lb. test line, drum rigs, and about 24 feet of a 50lb. leader.
Early in the day... ready for the big one.  Johnny is second on the left.

Well Johnny hooks up, and is fighting a nice fish.  We don't know what it is, but it definitely has some girth to it, as it is working him up and down the point of the Point.  Other fishermen get out of his way, as he is moving, and the fish is making his rod bow so much, I'm convinced he isn't going to be able to land the fish.  The line will break, if the rod doesn't.  Finally we see the fin of the fish in the waves and wash ahead of him.  It's a shark.  Once again, I go running towards it (why do I keep doing this, I don't know.)  I see that it is a sand tiger shark, an extremely ugly looking shark with "snaggletooth" teeth sticking out of its mouth all over the place.  But what I also know is that sand tigers, even though they have a vicious name and appearance, are quite docile.  Still, you don't want to be stupid.  And this one was big.  It was a good five feet long.  Then I see something that impressed me:  Johnny had fought and landed this fish, and he only had about 18 inches of a leader attached.  How that fish didn't break the line, I have no idea.  But there was no way Johnny was going to be able to beach it with no leader.
The last thing Johnny's bait ever saw underwater was this smiling, pretty face....

I get behind the fish, and grab it by the tail, to help Johnny get it up the beach.  While everyone around me was convinced I was about to lose my hand, or my arm, I knew I was going to be okay.  Once up on the beach, we all stood around it, took our obligatory photos, and then revived and released it to live another day, none the worse for wear.  That's when I realized ol' Johnny knew how to fight a fish.  To this day it is the largest shark any of us have caught on  Boys' Weekend.  (The basking shark doesn't count.)  But shark week wasn't over yet.
You have to appreciate the fact that this is not a 4 foot long shark next to a normal-sized guy; no this is a 6'5" guy with a 5' long shark.  And a pair of chest waders that are still clean....  Keep reading....

Later in the afternoon, we were standing around our trucks on the inland facing side of the Point.  Mike was fishing that side, somewhat lazily, when something took his line.  He fought it for about two seconds, before whatever it was snapped his line.  (Cue "Jaws" theme music with horns.... Da dump.  Da dump.)  Oh well, we don't think anything more of it.  Just, "that was odd...."   (Da dump, Da dump, da dump...  doodle dee).

We're back at the truck, while Mike is rerigging, right by the water when we see a small wave coming in....(dadumpdadumpdadump)...When suddenly, in the middle of the wave a huge red cloud erupts, about three feet in diameter.  Something hit something in the wave.  The wave breaks on the short shore line, and we all look in amazement as a large, nine foot bull shark has beached itself, and starts squirming on the sand.  It looks at us, wriggles slowly around, and reenters the sea, like the Orcas that have learned to catch baby seals down off the coast of Argentina.  I'm just glad none of us were the baby seals....

"That was a bull shark!"  I exclaim.  "Holy $#!%."
"Dan, how do you know all these things about sharks?", they ask.  "Jacques Cousteau, baby, Jacques Cousteau."
The bull shark, swimming away with a mouthful of something tasty....

What the aggressive, vicious bull actually hit in the wave, we don't know.  it could have been a large drum or a bluefish, but whatever it was,...  it was (past tense).... That's for sure.  To be that close to a true maneater, and know what just happened, was awesome to behold.  Something none of us will forget.  But did we learn from it, and think twice before we went and waded into the water again, later.  Naaah.

In fact, we even are worse than that.  When we wade into the ocean in our chestwaders, we wade up to our waist.  And on our side, we each have a "bait holder", a slotted plastic lidded tub, attached to our wader belt.  We put several pieces of cut bait in it, so we don't have to walk back to our bait table when we have walked out into the ocean.  So, while we are out there, in the sunset (prime shark feeding time), up to our waist in churning ocean, I look down, and realize that our bait is nothing but a chumline in the ocean, leading a shark to the motherlode of middle-aged human flesh, if they bite through the rubber lining.  If there was a Darwin Award given out that day, it would have been given to all of us.  And truth is, it should have been.  But I guess the bull shark was, fortunately, full for the day.
Getting ready to be human chum trails at sunset.... "Here, sharky, sharky."

(From that point forward, we now put our bait in a ziploc bag in our bait carrier, so that it doesn't leave a chum trail like before.)  So at least we did learn.

Fast forward several hours.  It's dark.  We now have a nice fire burning on the beach, and we are all sitting around it passing a bottle of Yukon Jack in a circle, swapping fish stories and razzing each other.  This is truly one of the highlights of BW.  the laughter never ends as we enjoy each other's company and look up at the endless stars above us.

Well, Johnny disappears, and is gone for an unusually long amount of time.  "We know he is p----whipped, and has to call his wife every hour, but this is ridiculous," we kid.  But Mike gets up to make sure he's okay, and disappears into the dark.

Then Mike is gone for a long, long time, too.  So Randy now gets up to investigate.  (If this were a teen slasher movie, this would be how many of us would "disappear" due to the escaped axe-murdering psycho  One by one, in the dark, as everyone else is oblivious to what's going on.)  But it's not.  If anything, this was a male-bonding, "The Hangover"-type comedy flick.

Suddenly, Randy comes back in hysterics, with Mike and Johnny laughing behind him, and we hear the story.

After Johnny had spoken to his wife (yes, he really did, again) he had to go to the bathroom.  And not "Number 1".  Going to the bathroom is never an easy task when you are in chestwaders, and it is only more difficult when you have to do the other....  Especially in the dark.

Johnny got some toilet paper from Mike's truck (we're always prepared for anything), and went around it, to have some privacy in the dark.  There, he undid his waders and lowered them.  Without getting into the toileting details, let's just say he dug a hole, squatted, took care of business, cleaned up, and then stood up to get his waders back on.  Twisting around he grabbed one of the wader suspenders, and whipping his body forward to get some momentum, pulled the waders up against his back, flipping the suspenders over his shoulders.


In the dark, unable to see what he was doing, he had "missed the dropzone" and dropped his bombs on his own bomb bay doors.  When he flicked the waders back up, he was pelted in the back by his own, er, by his own undooing, so to speak.  And there wasn't anything he could do about it at the moment.  Then, when Mike came up, he called to him for help.  He needed someone to clean his back, since he couldn't even come close to reaching it, and didn't want to pull his sweatshirt over his head for obvious reasons.  Mike, being the excellent nurse that he is -- and an even better brother in law, I would add -- got some paper towels, and cleaned up Johnny's back, while trying to wipe away his own tears (of laughter, or disgust, I'm not sure.)  But that's when Randy showed up, and the rest is history.

After a heck of a good laugh by all of us, Mike was asked why he was truly willing to take so much time and clean up Johnny's,, um, mess.  His answer was honest, and straight forward, filled with the heartfelt emotion we would only expect Mike to say about his brother in law -- this man who is his best friend from his youth, and twin brother to his beautiful wife whom he loves so dearly; a man who has dedicated his life to protect and to serve....

"That's easy," he said.  "I knew Johnny was riding home in my truck." 

You know what?.... Now that I think about it, Johnny hasn't come back to Boys' Weekend in several years.  Was it the sharks or the sh--.?  Maybe he's afraid of putting his waders back on....

Until next time,

Fish on,


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