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Vol 48 | Num 4 | May 24, 2023

Offshore Report Ocean City Report Delaware Report Virginia Report Chum Lines Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Chum Lines

Article by Capt. Mark Sampson

Last week I was going through some ancient photos and found one of an old fishing and hunting friend of mine. "Bobby" was standing in a corn field holding a couple geese we'd just shot. He's been gone for about a decade or so but the image sent me on a trip down Memory Lane that had me remembering and reliving the times we spent chasing critters with fur, fins, and feathers offshore, inshore, in thick woods and open marshes. I cherish those memories just as I miss my friend.

A life-long resident of Ocean City, Bobby was around for the opening bell of at least six decades of fishing seasons, more than half of which I knew him as a friend and part-time first mate on my charter boat. Bobby was an ex “surfer-dude” who turned fisherman, hunter, and barbeque guy extraordinaire, who, like so many that depart so unexpectedly, left those of us who knew him with a definite void in our world. Bobby was a real character of life and even though we would not cross paths for weeks or even months at a time I could always figure that if it was hunting season he’d be hunting, and in fishing season he’d be fishing, and when we managed to get together stories of his exploits would always dominate the conversation.

It’s interesting that as I think about all the times Bobby and I fished together that I can hardly remember any of the fish we caught. I remember the fried chicken from Food-Rite that he used to bring along for his breakfast and lunch every day, I remember him being aboard when we experienced two of the worst storms I’ve ever encountered offshore, I remember how well he got along with all of our clients and that he always wore a pair of ratty old Sperry Topsider shoes, and that there didn’t have to be much spray coming over the side before he’d don his rain gear and probably wear it the rest of the day. If we were fishing he’d be talking about hunting, and if we were hunting he’d be talking about fishing.

I can flip through old pages from my logbook and see that Bobby and I caught a lot of fish together, but I’ll be darn if I can remember much about them, finally bringing me to the point I’m trying to make... we fishermen too often seem to put way too much importance on what we catch or don’t catch. No matter how good an angler we are, every time we go fishing we start out knowing that there is a chance that we won’t catch a darn thing. Sure, when things are “right” success could be as close to a slam-dunk as it comes, but there are always enough variables involved to keep a little uncertainty in the outcome of every outing. Sometimes the fishing is downright “lousy” and yet we still go out just to give it a try day-after-day-after-day. Heck, I have customers all the time who ask to go fishing even when I warn them that the bite is off and we’ll be lucky to catch anything at all – they just want to go.

Pondering this, it’s easy to conclude that there is so much more to fishing than actually catching fish. No doubt that there’s a certain level of satisfaction when our day ends with us bellied up to the cleaning table proudly carving away at tomorrow night's dinner. But just the same, even when we return home without the smell of fish on our hands it’s not likely we’ll consider the day a loss. It’s far better to “go” and not catch than not to go and miss everything else that tags along with our time on the water. The tackle shop small-talk as we grab a few extra items before heading out, our morning coffee from a thermos, clearing the inlet just as the sun peeks over the horizon, the sight of a skimmer plowing glassy-calm water along the edge of a marsh, waking to the sound of the engines throttling back after a long ride offshore, it’s a day of fishing, anything can happen or nothing can happen, ether way - success is guaranteed.

For even the most ardent fishermen, days spent on the water are far fewer than those spent away from it. The season might be many months long, but most days out of the year we have only memories of past trips to keep us energized until we have the chance to go again. These days too many folks get so caught up in the drama that hovers around fishing that they lose track of what our sport is really all about. And extra inch or two of size limit or a smaller creel limit might make it tougher to put a fish dinner on the table, but it will never diminish the opportunity for anglers to go out and create fishing memories that will last them a lifetime, because when you flesh it all out it’s really not the “fish”, it’s the “fishing” that provides us with something to take home.

My friend Bobby and I caught a lot of fish together, and though I don’t remember a single one I sure remember the good (and the bad) times we spent on the water. Now that he’s gone, memories and a few old photos are all I have left of him. As this new season unfolds and we fishermen can finally get back to doing what we’ve been looking so forward to all winter, I wish everyone the best of luck at catching a few pounds of fish for dinner and tons of memories for the future. §

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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