Tale End: Snookered - The Fisherman

Tale End: Snookered

dove-creek
Aerial view of Dove Creek Resort and Marina in Key Largo.

I had never heard of a “snook” – but then I never heard of a bergall either until I caught one.  Trust me, snook are definitely more fun.

We were hunkered down in the Florida Keys, where it was not particularly comforting to hear a 25-knot wind whistling upon a 0530 awakening and see palm trees doubled over, rather than gently shaking their friendly fronds in “welcome tourista” tropical breezes.

It was still better than being back home in the middle of a Northeast winter.  But watching your fishing guides pulling on foul-weather gear is about as encouraging as hearing the word “oops” in an operating room.  I envisioned a wet, teeth rattling ride with some serious thumping that could re-arrange the position of vital internal organs.  Like the stories go, “It was the last day” of fill in the blanks: “fishing, hunting, zip-lining or life on earth.”

In this case it was a next-morning plane ride back to the Northeast from the then newly opened, and still spectacular Dove Creek Lodge in Key Largo. Key Largo is one of those places I’d drive down Route 1 going someplace else, Islamorada and Key West come to mind.  Like Jersey guys who motor on by the chock-full-of-fish Delaware River, passing it up for the imagined honey hole elsewhere.

But here we were being wind and wave bashed with an occasional mouthful of saltwater and bouncing our brittle bones in search of a snook.

Does that sound like whining?  No doubt. I had to tell myself, “You’re heading out to fish in a saltwater aquarium where the only thing to concern yourself with is catching something and making it back for cocktail hour in Margaritaville.”  I adjusted my attitude.

Having caught the Keys “Big Three” – tarpon, bonefish and permit…the “grand slam” of Keys Fishing supposedly, I considered myself somewhat of an “old salt” – the cocky seafaring version of “this ain’t my first rodeo.”  However, I do believe you’re supposed to accomplish that feat on the same day. It took me three separate trips.

Like the NYC Marathon, the only people behind me at the Central Park finish line were NY sanitation workings cleaning up the 26.2-mile course of water bottles and paper cups.  I do get there, and catch my fish, eventually.

And on this last day, with the wind howling and references being made to kite fishing, we find sea trout and have fun with these silvery beauties, but I’m hot for a snook and we sit, and sit.

The pinfish baits get nervous from time to time, but no luck.

Finally, like after the tedious pain of sitting through a half hour of movie trailers waiting for the main attraction, the rod bends in half and the game was on.  The boat driver, aka captain, says “don’t reel against the drag” which I’ve only heard 5,364 times. They must teach that in boat captain school. But I was intent on not screwing this up and boated a 29-incher, inside a slot limit, and destined to be fried up for appetizers at that night’s dinner.

It’s not quite the record 53-plus pounder that is supposedly the world record, nor are snook listed in the saltwater record fish back home.  But I was snookless no more, and I could care less about records.

It was, as mentioned, our last night out. A one-man band, make that acoustic guitar, is strumming Jimmy Buffet tunes at the tiki bar, I’m on my third margarita. The table of French Canadians next to us is in its collective cups and having the time of their lives.

There’s a silver moon over the Gulf and its reflection paints a shimmering path on the black night waters.

There is peace in the harbor.

And I don’t want to go home.

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