Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm off to the wilds of...New Jersey?

The problem with success is, that's never the end of it. You can’t just leave well enough alone when you do something right. Can’t just enjoy the moment. You have to go and muck it all up by trying to do it again. Success just breeds success, and then pretty soon you have all those damn expectations. Then when your expectations aren’t met you get disappointed, which makes you work harder to succeed, and then when you don’t...well, you get the picture.

Luckily I don't have that problem. Failure’s always been one of my options. In my world, you always have the choice to not succeed. In fact, if I was in the business of creating jingles for losers, I start with something like "Failure: just keep the option open" or perhaps "Failure: is it really that bad?" or maybe "Without losers there would be no winners!"
I've had some spectacular failures in my life, but nowhere have I been as consistent a failure as in my attempt to catch a fish- any fish - with saltwater coursing through its gills.

My epic failures in this endeavor are sustained by a potent combination of geography (landlocked), funding ('aint got none) and general incompetence (got plenty).

Oh, I've tried. My first attempt came on a college road trip to Galveston with a couple non-fishing buddies. I brought a rod and had every intention of fishing, but we decided to "grab a quick beer" when we arrived and from that point - with the exception of a few lingering nightmares involving motel cockroaches - my memory fails, but I'm fairly confident I didn't catch anything. At least from fishing.

I tried again last year when my wife and I spent a week in Key West drinking, eating and watching drag queens. I also spent the entire week attempting to catch a fish without resorting to either a guide or plunking bait off the side of a bridge. Because I'm a purist, you see. And a dumbass. After a few days even the bums were feeling sorry for me. And when a guy who - literally - lives under a bridge tells you to keep your chin up, you know things aren't going well.

So I kept trying, and after one week, countless casts, numerous hook-ups that didn't stay hooked up and a some truly interesting conversations with the local color, I caught...this starfish. I named him Patrick and let him go.

After that trip I pretty much resigned myself to forget saltwater and go find other windmills at which to tilt, but a combination of ultra-cheap airfares and the pity shown me by Field & Stream assistant on-line editor, saltwater fiend and all-around good guy Joe Cermele has once again given me an opportunity to break the curse.

I called him up one day a few months ago and said "hey, Southwest has some really cheap tickets right now. Any suggestions on a quick weekend trip I can make to sit on a pier somewhere and catch tourist fish?"

He replied "Give me a couple hours, I'll get back to you." By that afternoon my humble plans to drop a bobber off a pier had been transformed into an epic overnight offshore fishing trip off the coast of New Jersey in a boat bigger than the town I was born in, chasing fish I've only read about in magazines.

Joe's good.

So I'm off once again. Pride goeth before the fall, so pride's sitting this one out. Expectations, too. All I'm taking with me is the saltwater monkey on my back. We're going to see just how powerful my saltwater fishing curse is. Can it triumph over a 65-foot boat, a crew of grizzled, experienced saltwater anglers and an entire ocean of fish? Or will it finally be vanquished?

We'll see. I get back early next week. Until then, I'd look for news stories with a New Jersey dateline that read something like this: "Freak waterspout accident sweeps Oklahoma man from local fishing vessel as he attempts to land first tuna. The boat's crew says the man's last words before being swept off deck were "I'm gonna do it! I'm finally gonna do it! Hey, what's that cloud?"


  1. Good luck on the trip, Chad! Keep an eye on, if you're up to really tempting fate.

    Seriously, hope you break that salt water jinx, but be aware... a couple tuna will ruin you for freshwater fishing.

  2. I think fish are like men: If you want them too much, they avoid you like the plague. I think if you go sit on a pier with nothing but a beer in your hand, they'll be leaping from the water straight into your ice chest...

  3. Do NOT look at NOAA Chad! NOAA is the fastest way to stomach ulcers. I'm done looking at it this week. We're fishing come hell or literal high water at this point...

    And to Philip's point about tuna et al. making largemouth lame...God, ain't that the truth.

  4. Yeah, you'll find that as a general rule saltwater fish are faster, stronger, and hit harder than their freshwater kin. Sort of like bonefishing for the first time, this may turn into a very expensive experience in terms of future trips. Have a great time!

  5. Of course, being from Oklahoma, your nightmare scenario involves a tornado.

    If you can't catch anything back East in the salt, come out West here and I can show you how to not catch anything in the Pacific.