The sunset on this National Hunting and Fishing Day was one of the most spectacular I have experienced. Yes, there were stunning shades of pink, orange, red, blue, and purple sinking into the harbor behind the swaying Spartina, but there was more to this sunset. I felt that as an angler and sportsman, I was compelled to participate in one of those activities on this day. So, I grabbed one of my boys and headed to the Old Bridge to cast a few times. I was hopeful that we would see some action, but I was prepared to just enjoy the sights, sounds, and feeling of being surrounded by saltwater and cool breezes on the first day of fall. My young one got frustrated with his artificial lure and did not last long but he is getting more experience each time. He decided to head home with his grandmother but I stayed…alone. I was fishing alone. Alone. Oh, there were numerous people enjoying the evening, but everyone was busy doing their own thing…picnicking, taking photos, jumping off the platform (which horrifies me), swinging in hammocks, and just walking along the bridge. And I was fishing…hard. I
worked the grass up and down the walkway watching it explode with menhaden here and there. I tried to think like a fish…what makes them jump out and skim across the water? Predators make them jump. As the ball of sun kept sinking lower and lower on the horizon across the Charleston Harbor, the more menhaden I saw skimming the water’s surface. I continued to work the grass farther onto the bridge. As I cast amidst the exploding baitfish, I felt a strike but could not set the hook. Upon inspection, that
artificial had been bitten in half.
That was a sure sign of extremely sharp teeth and I knew it was a bluefish. I quickly replaced the soft plastic with another color hoping for continued interest from my scaly friends. After a few more casts, I felt more strikes. The adrenaline was pumping and my excitement was apparent. I said to myself, ͞slow down and enjoy the experience͟. I calmed down and slowed my retrieve and the strike finally turned into a hook up. I reeled some and let it run some and slowly worked the fish up to the bridge. Without a net, I was hopeful that I would be able to land the fish and document it (as any good angler would) before releasing it. I never spoke but a small group gathered to watch me fight the fish when they heard the telltale signs of the screaming drag. I got the nice bluefish onto the bridge just before it threw the hook.
Whew. Now to take a photo. I can honestly say that catching a fish today is just as thrilling as catching a fish when I was 5 years old. I was trembling with excitement while trying to turn off my flashlight on my phone and take a photo with it. As the small crowd began asking questions (What kind is it? Can you eat it? Will you release it?) I fumbled around and got a photo before releasing the fish. What…a…rush. Whether you are 5, 45, or 95, fishing is fun. It just is. And just being outside in nature is fun. I heard passers by ͞ooh and ahh͟ when they would see the school of menhaden rushing across the shallow water. Others were commenting on the prehistoric sounding calls of the birds in the marsh. And others yet were amazed by the gorgeous flaming ball sinking down into the horizon over the harbor.
Slow down and enjoy the outdoors. Soak in the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the marsh and cherish the experience every moment. It was a glorious night celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day alone…but not really alone.