Great fishing expectations- Less is more

Susanna Pope- Island Jane Magazine

Something that is done routinely by a person can become familiar, second nature, or monotonous; it can even start to feel uneventful. For me, something that seems to never feel uneventful and never grows old, is fishing. Luckily for me, I married a fisherman, so I feel confident I’ll have endless opportunities to fish throughout my life. My husband Jerry and I are blessed to be able to fish together quite often. Therefore, we are generally able to predict what we might catch at a certain time of day and year, in certain conditions, with certain tackle, at a certain spot. We usually know what to expect. But this last year, 2016, was not what anyone expected (offshore) fishing-wise.

Late this fall, we went out fishing for snapper in Bow Channel off of Sugarloaf Key, with our two boxer mix dogs (who are very skilled fisherdogs). They don’t always get to come with us because of room on the boat, rough seas, or the possibility of catching a big and or dangerous fish; but because we were only going to be catching snapper, they came along. We anchored on the edge of the channel, and started to chum up the water with chunks of cut up ballyhoo. After putting a chunk on each of our circle hooks, we both opened our bales and threw our lines in the water, right in the area of the rest of the bait/chum and let them drift in the current. A few minutes later we hadn’t had any bites, so we brought our lines back in, baited them with fresh bait and threw them out again. This time, as soon as my drifted to the bottom, I felt a huge bite!

Susanna Pope- Island Jane MagazineThe fish was definitely on my line, but didn’t start quickly pulling off any line and stayed close to the bottom. I could tell it was a fairly big fish because the rod was so bent over; it felt like a VW was on the other end of the line. Jerry brought his line in and started to pull up the anchor because it was clear that we were going to have to start fighting this fish. After half an hour of me fighting the fish (and fending the dogs off) with Jerry driving the boat trying to wear him out, I was not gaining on the fish. We decided to switch- I drove, Jerry fought. He realized how big and powerful this fish was right away; we started to speculate what it was because it hadn’t surfaced. It felt like a big nurse shark because it was sticking to the bottom but we also thought it could be a ray or a baby hammerhead. As we fought and talked, boats kept driving by and stopping asking what we had on the line, which we had to yell back, “We don’t know, but its big!!!” All of them watched for a bit, said ‘Good Luck’ and drove off. It had been an hour and a half but we were not giving up, we were getting this fish to the surface to see what it was!

At the 1 hour 45 minute mark, the fish was finally so tired that it turned its head up and started to come to the surface. What came out of the water shocked us both. It was a long bill with little spikes coming out of it! It was absolutely amazing… we caught an extremely rare sawfish!! We were in awe! Sawfish are a relative of the ray family and are a critically endangered species. I had never caught or even seen one and Jerry had only once before caught one, and it wasn’t in the Keys. We got some excellent video and pictures (while controlling the dogs from jumping in to play with their new friend) and cut the line and she swam back down to the bottom.

Neither of us expected to see that kind of fish surface after such a long fight. The fact that we had low expectations of just catching some snapper probably made it an even better experience when we ultimately caught a once in a lifetime fish! So, headed into the new year, I am going to lower my expectations and go with the flow. Hopefully there will be greater things than I’ve ever even imagined, in place of my expectations, on the horizon in 2017!!

Susanna Pope grew up spending a lot of time on the Chesapeake Bay where she developed a love for the water. She’s lived in the Lower Keys for four years and loves exploring, fishing, photographing, and living the Keys lifestyle.

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