Dateline: July 23, 2011 – Duck, North Carolina
I’m asking a lot of you all to even read these posts. So I am probably pushing my luck by asking you to help me with a family situation, but by the end of this article, I am going to do exactly that. It will take just a moment of your time, and I promise that it will help me develop a closer relationship with my niece and nephew AND help me mess with my younger sister. So it’s a win/win. (Unless you’re my sister, and you’re probably not, so don’t change the subject.)
Looking back over this blog, I have not mentioned my sister very often. Her name is Laura Germain, she is two years younger than I am, and we don’t have much in common, because she is normal. She is married to a kind and patient IT Executive named Dan, and they have a stable, suburban life with two children – Charlie, who is currently 12 and hence at my emotional level, and Elizabeth, a particularly stubborn little girl who is 10.
The Germains – my sister and her family. Going diagonally up from bottom left and then straight down and up diagonally back to the left, we have Charlie, Laura, Elizabeth, and Dan.
Laura and I are, at times, comically different. She is a professional worrier, I charge into things with no advance planning. She is concerned about countertop germs, I believe in the 2 day rule. She plans a healthy diet for a family of four; I can survive on Burger King and Red Bull. We do both enjoy travel, history, odd humor, watching Charlie play soccer, and watching Elizabeth plot world domination.
The Germains go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week every summer. I joined them for a few years – 2004-2006, I believe – but then got caught up in other stuff and had not been back until this year. Which is a shame, because we have some wonderful memories there, including the first fish for both Charlie and Elizabeth – sacred moments I will never forget.
Charlie, who is somewhere up under that hat, and his first fish – an Atlantic Croaker. July 2005.
Elizabeth and her first catch, also an Atlantic Croaker.
Most of the time, people look very forward to visiting the Outer Banks. The endless beaches and dunes, the lighthouses, the great restaurants, vacation homes, and historical sites such as Kitty Hawk, where the first powered flight took place. (And probably had bad food and was late.)
But I was dreading this visit.
Bodie Island Lighthouse.
The beach at sunset. That’s when all those pesky swimmers go away and the serious fishing can start.
When my Mom passed away on July 9, my sister and her family were just a week away from their annual trip to the Outer Banks. Once we decided that the memorial would be on the 27th, they decided that they should still go on their trip, just to keep up a beloved tradition for the kids. So much had changed for them – it would be nice to keep something the same. Speaking to Laura from Europe, I decided that I would join them there for a few days before we all went to Michigan.
So it was a very sad trip to a place that has a lot of very good memories, and to tell the truth, I didn’t know how I would really react. Sure, it would be nice to be on the beach and with my family, but being with a group of people who were as miserable as I was for the same reason I was couldn’t be a good thing. We were joined by the El-Hindi family, dear friends of my sister’s – Jamal and Jeannie, and their kids Jamal Jr. and the adorable but evil Leigh. In the grand tradition of little sisters, Leigh will scream like she tore an earlobe if Jamal Jr. so much as looks at her sideways. (Much like my sister did when we were kids. As you likely guessed, I was an innocent and peaceful child and was always unfairly accused of wrongdoing, much like I am unfairly accused of being competitive with Jaime Hamamoto.)
The Outer Banks also holds a lot of golden fishing memories for me. With the assistance of ace guide Caine Livesay (http://finelinecharters.com/ – (252) 305-2683), I added 16 new species to my list in 2004-2006, including some beastly Redfish and a very athletic Spinner Shark. Charlie and Elizabeth also caught their first fish with Caine.
A beastly Redfish. July 2006.
That’s Caine Livesay on the left – ace Outer Banks guide and all-around good guy.
These trips also gave me one of my most treasured fishing photos of all time – the shot of my brutally seasick brother-in-law Dan bent helplessly over the rail, throwing up things he ate in 4th grade. Naturally, I was supportive and ran for the camera before he could finish being sick. Not that I needed to hurry, as he was full-on rail bunny from the time we left the dock until we tied up at the end of the day.
I never get tired of posting this one. I hope I wasn’t too busy taking photos to stop the weight from hitting him in the head.
A rare, never-before-published photo from that fateful day on the water. Look lower left. I think Dan was whispering “Kill me. Kill me please.”
There was a lot of time on the beach, a lot of quiet time around the house, and of course, a whole lot of eating. Laura is a tremendous cook and I eat a lot, so it’s a good match. (I feel obligated to point out that Laura has had one major failure as a chef – a 2004 attempt at a Christmas Cake that went horribly wrong. Even the woodland animals in the back yard wouldn’t touch it – I think it is still in the house someplace as an emergency doorstop.)
We sat around and were sad a lot, but we also had some fun and it was a world of comfort to be together.
Sharing a moment with my sister in the Outer Banks, July 2011. For the record, I crushed everyone in the Germain Family Mini-Golf Open. And yes, those are whales embroidered on my shorts.
I did set up one day with Caine to see if we could scrape up some interesting fish. We didn’t. It was blowing hard from the minute we launched, and the further out we went, the rougher it got – by the time we were a couple of miles offshore, it was unfishable. But I tried anyway, and actually managed to add a few miniscule but new species onto the list.
The highlight of these small critters was a Menhaden – a common east coast baitfish that is notoriously difficult to catch on hook and line because they are filter feeders and dine primarily on plankton. Just outside the sound, we found a huge school of them and I began casting a sabiki rig, against the advice of Caine, who suggested that we would all be old and gray before they actually bit a hook. But I persisted, because that is what I do. After 45 minutes of this, I hooked a Menhaden. Then I got another – and finally, a third that was bitten in half by a shark. And so it was that I caught “Two and a half Menhaden.” I am not clever enough to make this up.
40% of the Menhaden I caught that day.
Heading more offshore, we gave shark fishing a try, but the drift was fast enough to pull up a water-skier. Wisely, we gave up fishing before I gave up my breakfast. My sole reward – the vastly underappreciated Rough Scad, which really are wonderful creatures, because I had never caught one.
The Rough Scad. It’s somewhere in the Horse Mackerel family, a group well-known to us from the Turkey adventure – see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/istavrit-not-constantinople-a-k-a-the-trojan-horse-mackerel/
Back in the harbor, I tossed around Sabikis and various baits, and in between all the Croakers and Silver Perch, I got a solitary Anchovy, which Dr. Alfredo Carvalho indicated was the Elongate Anchovy – rather a fancy name for something so tiny. So it was that we caught a couple of decent species and called it a day – it was great to see Caine and hopefully we’ll get better weather next year and I will finally get that elusive White Marlin.
I have NO pride when it comes to this.
I had hoped to get Charlie and Elizabeth out on the boat with me, but my sister was somewhat skittish about the concept. I have no idea why Laura would be so worried about me taking care of her kids. For example, the photo below was taken on the first day I ever took Charlie out on the water without his parents.
Being fair-skinned myself, I always make sure the kids are well-protected from the sun.
For this trip, however, the extent of fishing with the kids would be an evening on the beach. The kids were very pumped up about this, and of course, they were all asking whether we would catch a shark. My first job was to deal with the parents and assure them that their children would not poke their eyes out or inadvertently amputate something. This is harder than you think, especially with my sister. So before the mothers started saying stuff like “You’re not going to use anything sharp, right?” I decided to hold a safety briefing.
I explain to the parents exactly why their children will survive fishing without infection or permanent blindness. The shorter persons in the group are probably the kids. Laura, shame on you for making Charlie wear that swimsuit.
I took a cast just to make sure everything was OK with the gear, and the Fish Gods rewarded me for having pure intentions. I got a tiny strike and reeled in a silvery creature that I immediately knew was a Butterfish, and this was tremendously exciting because I had never caught one before. These are supposed to be excellent bait, but there was no time for this. There were 4 kids who wanted to catch fish, 5 if you include me.
The elusive Butterfish.
Since Charlie was a gentleman and let all the other kids go first, I thought I would include one of his better fish photos. He got this 12# Redfish all by himself in 2006.
Next up with the rod, my niece, Elizabeth. Cast, reel, bite bite bite bite bite. Mind you, these were not mighty fish, but they were fish, and this represented a challenge, and she was not about to back down from a challenge. Despite a rod roughly 2.5 times her height, and the unfamiliar action of reeling in a batch of Croakers and Spot, she refused help and got a mass of small fish onto the beach.
My niece Elizabeth – also known as “Ebbet.” This nickname comes from Charlie’s early mispronunciation of her name – much in the same way my sister knew me as “Teeb” early in life.
Now she’ll think we always catch 5 fish at once.
Next up, Jamal Jr. He had not been fishing before and was something of a quiet kid – of course, everyone seems that way around me – but he was an enthusiastic student and reeled in a group of Croaker and Spot almost immediately.
Jamal reeling in his load of croakers. I think he may have been enjoying himself. Just a guess. Until Leigh, 30 feet away, screamed “Jamal is stabbing me in the spine with a pitchfork! Please ground him before I am paralyzed for life!!”
I was really enjoying this until the croaker smacked me in the forehead.
Next, the cute but sinister Leigh. We made sure she was nowhere near Jamal, so she could not claim he was pointing a flamethrower at her or whatever it is that little sisters claim to get their innocent older brothers in trouble. She then took the setup and reeled in a nice little batch of fish.
Leigh and her 4 fish. She is smiling because she had just figured out a novel way to falsely accuse Jamal of some terrible deed.
Charlie and his catch – the largest Croaker of the evening.
As I sat there on the beach, I wondered to myself why it had taken me so long to come back to this place. I talked to Laura that night, and we arranged for me to come back with them in 2012. I will go every time I can. Family is too precious.
But in order to really enjoy the time, I must ask some help from you, the 1000Fish readers. One of the things I treasure the most about these vacations is the chance to take the kids fishing. It’s unlikely at this stage I will have kids of my own to pass this all along to, so spending time on the water with Charlie and Elizabeth is important to me. My sister, understandably, gets a bit nervous about kids and boats and sharp objects and fish with teeth, etc. – but I have tried to explain to her that there are rarely fatalities. And so, I would appreciate help from all of you to convince her to let the kids go out on a charter this coming August. Her name is Laura, and her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I have even provided a template below. Oh, but don’t tell her I put you up to this. She’ll never guess.
POSSIBLE TEMPLATE FOR YOU CUT AND PASTERS –
I happened to notice the plight of your children on line, and I wanted to take a moment to urge you to allow them to go fishing – on a boat – in the ocean – all day – with their Uncle Steve next summer. To do otherwise would be clear cruelty bordering on abuse.
Your name goes here