It's what every offshore fisherman dreams about. Especially when you're sitting on the boat 60 miles offshore, nodding in and out of awakeness with the rhythm of the waves. You met at the dock at 3:30am after rigging baits till midnight. The sun just rose and the lines are in the water. The warm morning sunrise feels so nice under closed eyelids with the hum of the engines and faint whiffs of diesel that you almost feel drunk with sleep and motion. And that's when it happens. The roaring zing of the drag being taken out on one of the rods. And in a fraction of an instant, the boat is alive and everyone is on their feet and moving, pulling in the other lines that might get in the way, someone grabbing for their camera, another climbing the ladder to stay out of the way and relay orders between the captain in the tower and the anglers on the deck below. And somewhere amid the mayhem, in that half-second that you wiggle into the fighting belt and grab that singing rod, somebody yells it. "FISH ON!"
That's the greatest feeling in the world. Even greater when you finally pull in the fish that you fight for 5 minutes if it's a little peanut dolphin. Sometimes an hour or more if it's a beast of a tuna. And you can't even feel your arms or your abs because the muscles are burning too much. I love the nature and the knowledge that comes with knowing the ocean. Which fish will follow the grass lines and pallets, finding that sea turtle whose shell is bigger than your coffee table...and the dolphins that follow in his shadow, and seeing the occasional small bird, flying for who knows how long, who lands on your boat and thanks you for the ride with a flutter of his wing.
12 hours after that first fish, when you finally get back to the dock with the fishbox full, a sunburn and salt-cured skin, cleaning the boat and the fish is more of a blur as you try to regain balance on the dock. It is a long, long day. But just another one of those great things I love about the Lowcountry. We've got enough fish to freeze for months and to share with friends and family as well. What a trip.