Dateline: August 12, 2012 – Duck, North Carolina
My nephew has made bad choices, and I was forced to de-nephew him. It’s not like he did any of the semi-forgivable normal teenager stupid stuff, like drink the last Pepsi. It was worse.
Against all good sense and family love, he caught a fish species that I have not.
This is my ex-nephew, back when he was cute. We call this one “The Boo-Boo Face.” He will not be pleased to see this in print.
It all started on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These endless stretches of narrow sand islands are a magical place, a summer getaway for much of the east coast. My sister’s family has been going there every summer since 2004. I have joined them several times, most recently last year in the aftermath of my Mom passing away. https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/two-and-a-half-menhaden/
My sister and her family. From left to right, that’s my ex-nephew Charlie, brother-in-law Dan, sister Laura, and niece Elizabeth. I was so proud of Laura for going ahead with their Christmas photo even after she lost a tooth in an unfortunate misunderstanding at a local tavern. Elizabeth was just recovering from Polish measles, a rare condition caused by an uncle discovering Microsoft Paint.
Much of the time at the beach is spent busily doing absolutely nothing. This is not something I do well, and so I occupied many hours – and you’ll have a hard time believing this – fishing. There are only so many things to catch in this area, but there were still a few I had not caught, and so dutifully, each morning and evening, I was down there with a light surf rod and a tub of squid, fishing for whatever would bite. As a kind uncle, I brought Charlie along and helped him with the basics – he’s developing into a fairly solid angler. Much of the catch was three species – spot, southern kingfish, or Atlantic croaker. But once in a while, something odd would turn up.
And let’s face it, it’s never a bad thing to be out on the beach, cold beverages at hand, and bait in the water. Except when your nephew, with whom you have been pretty much the best uncle EVER, turns on you and does something very bad. But we’ll get to that later.
During the course of these pleasant hours, two odd somethings showed up for me. One was the gulf kingfish, a less common relative of the southern kingfish we catch all the time here.
The gulf kingfish. Now, can someone tell me where to catch a northern kingfish so that I can complete the elusive “kingfish hat trick?” That’s Elizabeth on the left, and Leigh El-Hindi on the right – her family joins my sister’s each year at the beach. As you may recall from last year’s blog, she and her brother have sworn to destroy each other.
That’s her brother, Jamal, on the far right. He ducked out of most photos, apparently hoping to create an alibi. “No, that couldn’t have been me who put the hair remover in her shampoo bottle – I was at the beach, and your photos can not prove otherwise.”
The other fish was more work and far more shame – the Atlantic silverside, which does in fact have a silver side when viewed under a microscope. I spent most of an afternoon groveling in a backwater area with a #24 hook and a fleck of bait, trying to hook one of these remarkably skittish little things.
Insert small fish punchline here. Go ahead. I can take it. Except from you, Jaime.
It is really cool when I get new stuff, but when my bratty nephew tried to get into the act, it wasn’t as amusing. Late one afternoon, he went all Jaime Hamamoto on me and caught an unusual little beast called a leopard searobin. I was displeased with him. You see, I have never caught a leopard searobin. This one was clearly intended for my hook, and he jumped in and stole it.
Charlie – the child formerly known as “Steve’s nephew” – and his leopard searobin. I hope he’s happy. Snot.
It’s not like he even gloated, but the fact he chose to do this instantly took him from beloved nephew to being as welcome as Michael Vick at a dog park. To make certain he was aware of this, I maturely poured cold water on him in the shower and added Tabasco to his lemonade. Leigh took careful notes – some of these ideas could come in handy against her brother.
The one break from the beach routine was on Friday the 10th. As a treat for the kids, I set up a day on a charter boat, with old friend Caine Livesay. (Call him at 252-305-2683 if you’re in the area.) We hoped to get a nice day on the sound, catch a bunch of the local bottom fish, then cruise outside and see if we could get a few sharks. Of course, my sister, being stricken with maternal sun paranoia, insisted that the children take the utmost in UV protection.
The only sun outfit that would make my sister feel at ease.
I hoped it would be a great bonding day with Charlie and Elizabeth, and that the water would be relatively calm, as my brother-in-law Dan tends to go rail bunny at the slightest provocation.
Dan goes rail bunny, July 2004. One more heave and he would have brought up his shoes. My sister hates this photo. Consequently, this photo has appeared in more of my blog posts than any other.
Earlier in the week, I had defied the Fish Gods to get my white marlin, so they were foul and vindictive. The weather was therefore rotten when we got up. It stayed rotten for the whole drive down to Oregon Inlet, and it got worse when we got on the boat. It’s one thing when I am subjecting myself to nasty conditions, and it’s just plain fun to take bets on what Dan will egress, but when kids are involved we have to be reasonable. Caine decided to make a quick run outside, in the lee of the strong west wind, and see if we could find a few fish. Dan immediately collapsed in the cabin and made noises like a failing garbage disposal. (For a more in-depth look at seasickness, see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/im-a-sole-man/ .)
The children show kindness and compassion toward their stricken father.
We set up just off the beach and began trolling. Dan stayed inside the cabin, wrestling with his breakfast. Charlie answered the bell just long enough to catch one bluefish before the threat of rail-bunnyism overtook him. Elizabeth showed none of this moral weakness and gleefully caught a number of bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
Elizabeth, who for some reason is nicknamed “Ebbitt” in the family, shows off one of her bluefish.
This didn’t last long, because father and son were so very sick that it even tugged at my heartstrings. It was that wretched pre-barf part of seasickness, where all they could do is sit there and compare shades of green.
Charlie contemplates the age-old question – over the rail or in the lap?
My ex-nephew was heartbroken that he felt so bad, but this was apparently the judgment of the Fish Gods for his catching the leopard searobin. So there. We raced back in, a few steps ahead of an intimidating thunderstorm.
Inclement weather follows us back into port.
Back at the harbor. Elizabeth is smiling because she caught the bigger fish. Charlie is smiling because he can stand again. For the record, he did not barf, but he sure wanted to.
Dan and the kids headed back home, with Charlie mumbling “I love dry land” over and over. I wanted to get back out after sharks, but no chance. The sky turned midnight black in the south and the weather radar showed solid red. I stuck it out and tried to catch a mullet in the harbor, which I did not, because mullet hate me. It was time to go back to the beach house. And there we stayed for the next few days, except for occasional runs to the bait store. The whole experience was a pleasant and relaxing break from the office. Even though I did not get any more new species, I caught a bunch of stuff, got to hang out with family and friends, and I got to enjoy the water, the food, and the wildlife. Almost everyone took a turn with the fishing rods, and the week left us with a series of lifetime memories, many of them positive.
The surfers in this photo were about 60 yards offshore. I can just hear them saying “Gee, I hope that’s a dolphin. That has to be a dolphin, right?”
Even my sister got into the act, catching a pair of Atlantic croakers. Her new tooth was safely installed the week after we got back.
As Steve unhooks a fish for immediate release, the family looks on. I had never seen Jamal Sr. with his shirt off, so imagine my surprise*.
The girls claimed they were digging for sand crabs, but their smiles indicate a more sinister purpose. Little Jamal stayed far away.
Steve and Charlie pound the surf. Note that the girls have rejected Charlie, likely because he caught my leopard searobin.
It was fun watching the kids all have a great time together. The El-Hindi children were not as in to the fishing thing this year – as they grow up, they are spending almost full time plotting against each other. I tried to stay out of their way, because I didn’t want to catch a crossbow bolt or batch of napalm in the back. (The kind of thing little Jamal chillingly calls “collateral damage.”) Charlie and Elizabeth don’t tend to fight so much, which disappoints me. Laura and I battled constantly through our childhoods, and this left us both with skills that relate to real life. For example, Laura learned to falsely rat someone out, and I learned how to push that someone down the stairs.
Now, some of you liberal types – notably my sister – have already complained that my treatment of Charlie, e.g. de-nephewing him, was too harsh for a first offense. Bear in mind that I am a proponent of “one strike” laws and also feel that hanging is an appropriate penalty for double parking. (Except when I do it.) So I will let the readership decide if Charlie gets a second chance. You know where to find me. I leave his fate in your hands.
*Of course, Jamal Sr. will be just as surprised to see this tattoo – nice Photoshop work, Chris Stickle!