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Editor’s note: The column was first published in The Beacon on June 11, 2009.
Do I have a fish story for you.
Last weekend I was flounder fishing on foot around the Sunset Beach Bridge. If you know the old bridge area, you know it’s beside the new bridge they are building, where a lot of old pilings are on their sides. I was on the island side, on the opposite shore from the new bridge construction.
It was high tide and I wasn’t getting many bites. I set one of my rods, which had a flounder rig and a strip of cut pinfish on it, leaning up against one of the long pilings so only the top third of the rod was showing and the rest was securely behind the piling.
So here I go, diving into my cooler for a cold refreshing beverage on a hot day, when—blam—my rod went flying. And I don’t mean leaving quickly, I mean flying, as in weather people were suddenly tracking it on Doppler radar.
Something hit my flounder rig and headed toward Wilmington, and my rod and reel went with it. The rod completely cleared the piling and went totally airborne, flying right by my stunned face (at face level, no less) as I frantically made a grab for it.
If you have ever looked up to see your rod and reel flying past you…wait, who am I kidding, no one else has ever done that. Just trust me, it’s a bad feeling.
Now, I know I have a bad habit of sometimes leaving my rods unattended, and I have had to chased gears down the beach before when big fish have struck and started to carry them off. Due to the fact this causes great damage to a reel suddenly filled with sand and gunk, I don’t do it anymore unless I am sure the rod is secure and won’t get dragged off.
So, flush against the piling, I was sure the rod would not be dragged off. I was not, however, prepared for the rod to go flying off. That thing went airborne quicker than the Wicked Witches’ broom.
I must have looked funny trying to catch it as it sailed past me. Catching a flying fishing rod is much harder than it sounds—and it doesn’t sound easy. Probably I looked like Terrell Owens trying to catch a pass last year for the Cowboys (as in, I missed).
After losing my one attempt to catch the rod it flew past me and landed in the water about 4 feet from shore, and then submarined at high speed down into the waterway and zoomed out of sight.
The entire event lasted about two seconds. The rod did not reappear. Although in my long fishing career I have lost plenty of fish, that is the first time I can ever remember losing a fish, a rod and a reel.
By the way, if you are fishing in the Sunset Beach area and catch a fish with a rod and reel attached to it, please e-mail me. I am pretty sure it’s mine. You can tell because it has dark blue line on it, and also because I’ll wager I am the only idiot who lost an entire rod and reel to a fish recently.
Luckily, I keep a good store of rod and reels handy and I don’t buy the really, really expensive kinds, since I do a lot of surf and shore fishing and my gear takes a beating. As for what kind of fish took the rod, I can only hope it was a big sting ray. The idea that it was a huge cobia or trophy red drum is too painful to consider.
In fishing reports that don’t involve flying rods, I did get in some time this weekend on the Ocean Isle Fishing pier.
The conditions were far from ideal, with strong wind and muddy, stirred up water. However, even though it was a mini-gale, the rain stayed away and the sun was out, and I actually thought it was comfortable. I really love “unwinding” on a fishing pier, especially if you are mourning the loss of a favorite rod and reel.
I ended up catching about 30 little dogfish, which are the little sharks that aren’t much use other than to keep you occupied. However, I also caught half a dozen nice-sized sea mullet I took home and fried up in a seafood lunch for the girls and me. Fresh fried sea mullet are delicious.
The fishing is settling into its summer pattern now, so you’ll have the best luck in the morning and night, and you’ll have to deal with varying winds that change intensity and direction daily, and sometimes by the minute.
Wherever you fish, remember, if you pull up a trophy red drum (or a string ray) with a rod attached, it’s mine. You can keep the rod and reel, which I doubt will be in any condition to use again, but I would love to know the identity of the one that got away…with everything.