I knew my daughter wanted to bait her own hook.
It’s our girl Brooke’s birthday this weekend, and she’s everything you want your daughter to be. Intelligent, witty, a great student (going into her junior year at Washington State University), beautiful inside and out… and fiercely independent.
That was in evidence as we got out to sea two weeks ago, between the Ventura coast and the Channel Islands, and it came time to bait our hooks. Brooke and I went out on a three-quarter-day boat, a father-daughter excursion that was her Father’s Day present to me.
The deck hands told us our best bet was going to be live bait, because we were going not for the super-deep, easy-to-catch rockfish that we’ve fished for on previous trips. This time, we were going for shallower waters, targeting Calico sea bass, barracuda and whitefish.
It takes a little more finesse to catch those types. But we were up for it.
I didn’t have to ask her because I knew: Brooke was baiting her own hook. She walked right up to the live bait well, grabbed a bait fish and hooked it right through the snout before tossing the little sacrificial swimmer into the water.
We were confident, especially when we saw the more experienced anglers on the boat start hauling in some rather large fish.
We figured our turn was next. We had visions of going home with bags full of fresh fish filets, enough to provide massive feasts of fish tacos for days, weeks, months ahead.
One small detail:
We got skunked.
Turns out, the ones catching all the fish on this day were the people who actually knew what they were doing — guys who go fishing a LOT, and have their own deep sea gear and lures — not the newbies like us who go deep sea fishing once a year with rental equipment.
Brooke reeled in one fish pretty early, but it was too small and had to be thrown back. I didn’t get so much as a nibble until near the end of the day, when I reeled in a sea bass of my own — but, natch, it, too, was too small and had to be thrown back.
We had a great time — catching fish is not a prerequisite for enjoying a beautiful day on the water — but, by the end of the day, we had caught exactly zero keepers.
I was the mayor of Skunksville.
Yet there we were, in the car, on the way home, laughing about the cooler in the trunk filled with two giant plastic bags filled to the gills with fresh-caught sea bass and barracuda filets.
So how do you go fishing, catch nothing, yet still go home with a massive bounty?
Short answer: It pays to have a pretty, blonde, college-aged daughter on deck with you.
“Want to catch one from the captain’s hook?” the handsome young deck hand — a kid, really — asked Brooke after we’d been fishing for a couple hours and caught nothing.
Brooke looked at me. I could read her face. Her expression said it all: “Doesn’t this guy know I’m perfectly capable of catching my own $%$^# fish and I don’t need some GUY to rescue me?”
But, she obliged. The kid cast the line out, got one on the hook and handed the rod to Brooke, and she reeled in a large Calico sea bass that was promptly deposited in her gunny sack.
“You caught one,” I said when she got back, knowing exactly what she was thinking.
“Doesn’t count. Wasn’t my hook.”
And so it went. Throughout the rest of the trip, one deck hand or another would say, “Hey, we got an extra fish over here. Want it?”
At the end of the day, as the boat was heading back to shore and the deck hands were cleaning the fish, I went into the galley to pay the tab for our food and drinks.
As I was counting out the cash, the guy behind the counter asked me, “Hey, did your daughter get that barracuda I put in the bag for her?”
Maybe it’s just me. But I don’t think, if I had been fishing solo, my gunny sack would have been so magically filled with mystery fish as Brooke’s was by the end of the day.
Moral of the story? Guys, if you’ve got a college-aged daughter, my advice is simple:
Take her fishing.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal.