Stillwater News Press

Sports Columns

August 20, 2010

Saltwater fishing a different experience

STILLWATER, Okla. — It was between 5 and 6 on a Saturday morning at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and my wife and I were standing in line at the Delta ticket counter.

“Honey, don’t worry, I’ll check us i., You can go on ahead and sit down,” I said.

I told her this not out of some virtuous spirit within me, but because I needed to buy just enough time to pay $25 to check my fly rod and reel all the way to Tampa without her knowing.

My wife had been telling me in the weeks preceding how she looked forward to us getting some much needed rest. I was also looking forward to getting rest — but that was definitely second on my list of priorities.

This would be my first time venturing outside the world of freshwater fishing in the South and, let me tell you, it’s a whole different ball game.

First of all, after fishing structure and topography my whole life, it’s very intimidating standing on the shore and casting straight out into the open ocean. My thoughts shifted from “Will I catch anything casting into seemingly nothingness” to “what the heck am I going to do if I hook into something bigger than me?”

Another thought I had after pulling in my first fish was the disparity among the species inhabiting their respective water types. A 2-pound bass is a good catch that’ll put up a decent fight and be worthy of a kiss before you throw her back, but a 2-pound jack in the Gulf will pull out all of your line, jump five to 10 times and require determination to get him in without pulling the hook.

 One can literally feel the difference. The firmness of a bass is slightly more than that of Jell-O but the saltwater fish feels as if it has armor. They’re simply built for different environments.

By the end of the week I had caught several fish, various jacks and mackerel, and wished I had caught several more. I’ll have to admit, I was disappointed that I was still carrying my rod and reel case at the Delta counter in Tampa, waiting to get our tickets home.

I had subliminally hoped that I would have had some “Old Man and the Sea” experience where I hooked into a fish weighing several times more than me and had to battle it for hours until it broke my rod. That would have made for a story I could have told my grandkids.

Nevertheless, as I returned home a loaded question came to mind, “Why would anyone choose freshwater over saltwater fishing?”  I once asked myself a similar question upon visiting the Rocky Mountains for the first time.

Having grown up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, I wasn’t used to seeing bare mountain tops covered in snow even in the summer months. On the million-hour drive from Colorado to Tennessee, I pondered the question, “Why would anyone visit the hills of Southern Appalachia when one could see the peaks of the Rocky Mountains?”

Years later, I know the answer — one is no better than the other. They are, as cliché as it sounds, simply different.

Sure, if you want 14,000-foot peaks and ski slopes covered with fresh powder, then you will probably prefer the Rockies. But, if you want to see how the hills turn vibrant shades of orange, yellow and red come late October, then visit the Smokies.

It’s the same with fishing in fresh or salt water — they’re simply different. Saltwater fishing has more of a harsh edge to it.

You can catch incredibly large fish in the ocean, but you may have to wear it down for three hours before you can reel it in.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen anyone noodle on the beach or set a trotline across the mouth of a harbor. They each have unique cultures that appeal to different people. 

 Michael Dees lives in Stillwater.

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