Something for Nothing

The Midnight Rambler

By John Papciak
Something for Nothing

Years ago I talked a work associate into a party boat trip.

A great guy, but not a fisherman. He was a nerdy computer programmer type, highly educated and exceptionally witty, which is probably why I enjoyed his company. He always had an irreverent and brutally honest one-liner to capture whatever situation.

His idea of the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning might have involved a trip to a museum, I suppose. But he wanted to do something “different” with his grade-school aged son, preferably some sort of a male bonding type thing.

Maybe fishing.

I reasoned that a trip on a party boat was a great way to give “deep sea fishing” a try. All you needed was money. They would supply the rods, and the bait, and even the know-how. I showed him where these boats could be found, and I even gave him a few names of boats that were thought to be “first-timer friendly.” Then I gave a little crash course on fishing etiquette – I told him about fares, and the pool, and tips, and to get there early to get a good spot at the rails.

The following Monday I got a full report on the half-day fluke trip that they decided on. I was told that they didn’t get any keeper fluke, but that they caught fish of much greater significance. They ended up catching dogfish, and “these very cool fish called sea robins.” To them, these fish were far more interesting than the “flounder” that others on the boat got to take home.

“My son went to school this morning telling his classmates that he went fishing with his dad, and that he caught a shark,” he beamed. “How cool is that?”

“And you know, this whole fishing thing is a very interesting concept.” he continued. “You catch a fish, and it’s like you’re getting something for nothing.”

He wasn’t factoring in the size limit regulations that prevented him from taking home a keeper, or about the price of gas, or the fare for his trip.

I suspect he would have spent about the same taking his son to a museum in New York City. But fishing offered the ability to interact directly with live animals, and potentially taking some home, if they so wanted.

Bob moved on, and his son is probably in college today, but his comment about fishing representing “something for nothing” is still with me.

I wish more people saw it this way.

I have to resist the temptation to get all kinds of righteous on you.

I don’t want to preach you into joining a conservation group – or take it to the other extreme – and join a “fisherman’s rights” association. At least not today anyway.

But it is interesting to note that for many people who fish recreationally, the more they fish, often the more they want or expect to be compensated for their effort. They want “point fish” or a “30” or maybe even a “50.” Only the rare bird can come off the beach after a skunk and honestly stick with the positives. Even if they were able to escape the daily grind for at least those few hours of casting it’s a big plus (and I am not sure I count my blessings after a skunk either).

If I learned something new about how the tide created some interesting seams about two hours down at a certain new spot, or that a worm hatch was going off despite it being a quarter moon, I am not sure why the night must be classified as a bust – just because I didn’t land a large striped bass.

I do understand the virtue of being “hungry,” and relentlessly hunting for big fish. It can be argued that you will never become really good at it unless you push yourself. And this is where competition, rewards and chest thumping helps.

But if I look back at those memorable trips, the ones that were off the charts fun, most started with very limited or zero expectations…Like my first 30, on a night when I was just killing time with a light stick and a couple of bucktails in my pocket. Or the days when I zipped over to the beach “just for a look” and found all hell breaking loose, or the night I decided to put on a wetsuit one month before the fish were supposed to arrive, mainly because there was nothing better to do, and nothing much good on TV.

Something for nothing.

18 comments on “Something for Nothing

  1. Steve M

    No doubt….just thinking about being away from the desk and hearing the water is a calming thought

  2. Barry D Thomas Sr

    looking for nothing when I go, If I catch more better! But just being there ,soaking in the quiet peaceful feeling while fishing is the Shit! got my 30,40 and 50. they were always there in my mind as goals but never was it FISH,FISH untill I caught them. Do not ever remember feeling the urge to fish 24 hours straight or drive 100 miles because they were “CATCHING” To my it is just another part of the life I live

  3. Gene

    Great story about sharing. You shared with your friend and he shared with his son. Good feelings all around.

  4. Staktup

    I agree, this article was one of the best short prose on any topic that I’ve read in a while. I remember a Father’s Day bottom party boat trip a number of years back. One of the mates would bring up the dogfish, place it on a bench, and literally punch it’s skull in with everyone watching, including children. Then tossed them overboard. He did this to around 3-4 sharks.

    I complained to the mate and Captain but they really didn’t care. Bad message, bad circumstance, bad mate. Bad tip (at least from me- $0). Happy Independence Day and thanks to all of the service men and women of our country!

  5. James Jewkes

    That was a great article I can really relate to something for nothing. I fish when I can, with middle school aged kids and a 60 hour a week job I don’t get much time on the water so when I do get out it maybe for a short hour and a half or a little longer 4 hour session but every time I find the positive it maybe a sand dollar or a sunrise or last week I was coming off the beach after 12 hour workday and only 2 hours fishing and I stop to talk to this young couple she was sitting in a chair just holding a rod while I was talking to her man and low and behold she was into a fish so I stayed until she got it in. it was her first fish ever just seeing the excitement was Something for Nothing

  6. bob jones

    Nice read. Thanks.
    As you well know; I’ve caught a few decent fish over the years.
    But, the trips that stick in my mind are the one’s that I made with my daughter or with my grand daughter; weather we caught fish or not. To be able to share something that I love with the ones that I love, is what it’s all about for me.
    However, I do have this ‘sick need’ to occasionally ‘smoke’ the competition. BJ

  7. DonR

    After coming home a couple of weeks ago with yet another new Lami, my wife would disagree about the “Nothing”, I certainly understand. Thanks, John, for sharing–well done!

  8. csralumni

    Great piece. As soon as I’m geared up, hear the waves crashing, and smell the salt, I know it’s going to be a good day. Just wish someone could get rid of the doggone mosquitoes!


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