(This article was originally published on OceanLines on July 11, 2007.)
Yesterday was one of those increasingly rare days in my life when I get both of my daughters to myself for a whole day and we get to spend it on the water. Allie and Emily gave me a fishing charter day for Father’s Day and we decided to hire a captain I’ve just finished writing about for a regional boating magazine; Capt. Barb Fusco, of Mt. Sinai, NY.
Capt. Barb is also pretty rare. She is one of the very few female charter captains in the area and she has developed, in three short years, a huge and devoted clientele. A large part of that clientele is made up of women and families who appreciate her patient, sensitive approach to customers who may not have spent a lot of time on the water and even less time fishing. She truly enjoys teaching a youngster how to cast with a spinning reel or even just learn how to reel in whatever it is tugging on the other end of that line. Allie and Em have spent a lot of time on the water cruising with us, but not that much time fishing. Before I knew it, though, they were both throwing tins out 60 feet into schools of small blues crashing on baitfish. Amazing sight.
We left Mt. Sinai harbor early in the morning right after the high tide. The sun was already hot but Long Island Sound was flat and Barb’s Grady-White zipped around the head of Setauket and down into Smithtown Bay. As old as I am these days, I’ve finally learned how to start living more consciously, “in the moment,” as Allie would say. So, standing up on the bridge deck, hanging onto the overhead, I closed my eyes and sucked in the salty air, letting it refresh and relax me.
We set up a couple of slow drifts across some structure in the bay and picked a few short fluke, sending them all back to school to grow up and graduate from the 19 1/2th grade. Pretty but short. There were lots of birds diving on baitfish schools, lending some more optimism to the morning. We also starting assembling our own briny flock — sea robins, those toothless, spiny wonders
that make me think “Audobon meets Jurassic Park.” There wasn’t much of a breeze to help the drift and the doormats were apparently too busy imitating. . .uh. . .doormats. So we cranked up the Yamaha and headed back east a bit to a creek emptying into the Sound. The rocks and sandbars made it tricky to get close but Barb set up a couple of drifts across the mouth of the creek, using her favorite bucktail rigs to try to entice some bigger flat ones into our boat. More shorts, several more robins and a couple of calico crabs later, we decided we’d head even farther east to Buoy 11, where the rest of the fleet was already having similar luck. We decided to keep a few more blues for dinner and make a couple of last drifts.
Several crabs and MANY “Deadliest Catch” jokes later, we decided to call it a hot day and head back to the mooring ball in Mt. Sinai harbor. The girls had a blast pulling all manner of creatures, large and (mostly) small, out of the ocean and then putting most of them back. We only kept what we would eat right away. And we had some great conversations about fishing, family and how the ocean works. Oh, and why they call it “fishing” and not “catching.”
Truth is, we had a great day; brought home some dinner and had a father-daughters experience that’s hard to come by these days. Capt. Barb helped make that happen. She’s a good example of the best kind of charter captains, the ones that not only know how to connect you with fish, but also how to help you connect with something even more important.
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