Fishing’s Better Half
Published: Thursday, April 11, 2019
By: Dan Armitage
While she remains my favorite fishing partner, with whom I’ve shared countless hours of angling enjoyment, my wife has her limits. For example, Maria refuses to board our boat if she sees a downrigger atop the transom. Early in our quarter-century relationship, Maria recognized the threat the device represents to maintaining peace on deck. Her aversion was possibly spawned by an unfortunate incident early in my own relationship with the wire-spooled, deep-probing, fishing contraption aptly named “Cannon” for the sound it makes when you drag an eight-pound ball of lead down 50 feet of braided stainless steel across a 20 foot-deep-rock pile. The first time that happened, I explained that someone had to “man” the downrigger’s crank while I deftly reversed the boat back over the reef to salvage the $5 spoons, offering suggestions to my bride that she later claimed were “barked” in her direction. Subsequent epic fails at controlled-depth angling finally conspired to force her “downrigger or me” dictate.
On the other hand, an enclosed head with running water will beckon my mate aboard most any craft, even as I question the ratio of rod holders to cup holders and the baitwell capacities of the vessel before I commit to a cruise.
To her credit, she offered a sign of her love of boating and her associated foibles concerning same early in our courtship. Maria admitted to, in her late teens, hitchhiking to the local lake on hot summer days with a female friend while holding a 12-pack of Bud Light between them as bait. Once lakeside, the Sirens would relax on the beach, catching rays, quaffing brews, and waiting for owners of nearby beached and anchored craft to invite them for a cruise.
Maria said it was during those summer weekends that she learned to appreciate the boating lifestyle, noting that it took only one such accepted invite for a voyage on a sailboat to cure her of blow-boating.
“It took forever to get back to the beach when we had to use the restroom,” she explained. “You can’t go straight where you need to in a sailboat and if the wind’s not blowing, you’re stuck!”
So no more rides aboard sailboats. Ditto outboards.
“The boats usually smelled like fish,” she generalized of the outboard-powered craft the pair had boarded, “didn’t have lounge seats and had bad stereos if they had a sound system at all.”
The girls eventually got to discerning what brands of boats they would accept invites aboard, with Sea Rays, Crownlines, and Four Winns models topping the list. By mid-summer, to successfully lure the beer-laden ladies aboard for a boat ride, said vessel “had to have a bathroom” and preferably an aft sunning pad, she explained.
When we met a decade later, at the local library where she worked, I owned an 18 foot Glaspar cabin cruiser boasting the base amenities my new girlfriend required. Maria overlooked the outboard power once I cranked-up the custom stereo and showed her the vee berth below where she could sleep off the mid-day suds while I fished. When the bite was really “on”, she would angle too, and often out-catch me when using finesse tactics on bass and walleye that required a light touch.
We eloped and married on a remote islet in the Florida Keys, where I once lived, and that night she dozed off under moonlight in the fighting chair aboard our boat while drifting a live mullet off Little Palm Island. A screaming reel and the crash of a tarpon leaping to throw her bait awakened the bride, who fought and lost the fish before saying “can we go to bed now?”
As with most women who have a sensitive touch, she’s still a better soft-plastic angler than I am, and Maria will often net more sea trout than her mate when we share the deck of our center console boat on fishing vacations in southwest Florida. She also has the right touch when landing soft mouthed crappies or lip-hooked Lake Erie walleyes that would pull free from a rougher hand. Maria detects light walleye bites on the swing while drifting and casting and often has to tell me when an in-line planer board is dipping slightly to the take of a fish or fouling. As such, she’s helped me boat more Great Lakes fish than I would have otherwise.
But the best part of fishing with my favorite mate is having someone aboard who shares an appreciation for how special it is, simply to be messing about aboard a boat.
About the Author
Dan Armitage is a popular Great Lakes-based outdoor writer and host of the Buckeye Sportsman show (buckeyesportsman.net), syndicated weekly on 30 radio stations across Ohio. Dan is a certified Passport to Fishing instructor and leads kids fishing programs at Midwest boat and sport shows, and is a licensed Captain with a Master rating from the US Coast Guard.
This article first appeared in the Spring Issue (Mar/Apr) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.