The term waterman is used quite a bit. In the tightly controlled clique that is the surf media it means someone they really like. In the group of men and women who may be the subject of such lore it means seniority and guts. In the group of men and woman who are watermen it means nothing. Just some made-up term so that us folks can have something to write and we can have a model for product companies. Still, we know it when we see it. Men and women salted, crows lines at the corners of eyes from squinting against the sun and glare, a range of ability on or in the water, which along the east coast is a necessity as much as a convenience of the west coast.
Let’s face it, there just ain’t all that much surf over here from day-to-day. Still, there is plenty of ocean and plenty of fish. Ask the Hobgoods or Malloys or Currens or… In taking a note from the pages of those in the stories or those we know locally, A few guys I know have been in and on the water while we wait out the flat spells.
April and May have been quiet for surf. Though there has been some decent groundswell and clean winds, there have been far more days of nothing. When it has been there my youngest brother has been on it, making up for lost time.
When it hasn’t been there he has still been on it-fishing. My other brother has been out in his own boat, drifting the rock walls and steering with his feet or skimming over sandbars and fishing low tide drum holes. And we’ve gone together, chasing Spanish Mackerel, slaying Bluefish, and recently hoisting a few flatfish.
We put all this water time together and all three brothers and our father entered the Fisherman’s Post Spring Inshore Challenge. Normally a flounder and trout tournament, this year’s dead period for trout chased out the division and ushered in the Drum division. While we were in it for the flatties, some of our same spots hold good sized drum. We ponied up the dough and entered, made things interesting on the boat with a friendly wager among us, and made ready.
Tournament fishing is tense. As any captain will tell you, there is always the pressure to put your boat on the fish. And, as any captain will tell you, there is the very real possibility of getting nothing, which is why the call it fishing, not “catching”. Add in the limited time frame, 80 some odd boats all hunting the same thing you are, plus the money and you can be certain that words spoken on the boat are few. This year the dawn greeted the fleet with an east wind, late rising tide, uncooperative bait and a slow bite. Three years ago The Sonny Days placed third with a 4 lb fish. The same weight won this year as well with 1st and third being separated by 1/100th of a pound. At the captains party Dennis Durham, a local waterman and world-class flounder fisherman, barely made the board with a 2.77lb fish.
This year The Sonny Days came in with a 2.34lb fish which fell for a peanut pogie 50 minutes before the deadline to weigh-in. While the fish didn’t make the board, we did make the weigh-in and the party. In fact, Sunday afternoon beer on the beach was courtesy of the boat wager for biggest fish. Ryan took home the winnings for first fish and Chris took home the prize for most fish (2). Ryan and Chris are timely, experienced and certain on the boat. I am lucky to go to sea with them. My father is as patient a teacher and soul as I could know. I will always go to sea with him (he also knows a wide array of singing material; 1950’s television ads, folk songs, ballads, rock classics). Though I couldn’t put them on the fish as well as I would have liked, I can say with certainty that they are all fine watermen. Next year fellas.
Now, how about some damn surf. sheesh.