After two days of fishing, the clock hit 3pm and we had to admit defeat.
We pulled in our lines, not wanting the day to end, and munched on peanut butter and jelly saltine cracker sandwiches as we made our way back toward the marina. I swear nothing ever tasted so good. I was on the deck of The Ladyfish, with Captain Lee Lavery and first mate Deborah Calhoun. They have been fishing together for nine years and were kind enough to let me join their crew. Our unlikely trio laughed until our abs hurt, ended the first day of the competition in the lead, and gave every bit of ingenuity we could come up with to try to pull out a win against my Co-Director of Toughness, Mark Chase, and fishing legend George Poveromo. The nonexistent current and our lack of familiarity with the area proved to be too much and with the catch of a 32 lb cobia on Day Two, Mark and George pulled out a win. But with the sun on my face heading back to learn my fate, and the anticipation of scrubbing boats until dinner time, it still felt like a win.
Two days earlier I found out that Mark and I would be facing off in a two-day fish-off and that one of the boats would be captained by a woman. I jumped at the opportunity for an all gal fishing squad and Captain Lee, president of the Broward chapter of Ladies Let’s Go Fishing, and Deborah were all I could have hoped for and more.
The minute we waved goodbye to Mark and George and headed out into the ocean, the learning began. “Sail fish can be anywhere between 70ft or so to 1000, so we’re going to go somewhat shallow first. If they’re out here we’ll see them, so keep an eye out for any jumping. We’re going to bridle some gogs first and get a flat line and a balloon in the water.” My blank stare didn’t slow Lee down a minute and Deborah looked amused as Lee said, “pass me those black rubber bands and come grab this net.”
Despite vague memories of fishing with my grandfather as a little kid, I couldn’t remember ever doing more than putting a hook into a lake, but the fishing terms were flying and Captain Lee was smiling widely as she thrust a balloon into my hand and showed me where to tie it on to the line.
Moments later, I was told to flip the bail and let out some line, letting it run through my thumb and forefinger and slightly bobbing the top of the pole as our live bait swam out into the water. Before long we had three lines in and our daylong bustle around the boat had begun.
We kept up like that all day, we fished the shallows, trolled (fishing with artificial lures while on the move) towards frigatebirds in the distance and as I pulled in one line, we got our first bite. I was skeptical at first, thinking maybe my hook had caught the bottom but as I reeled as instructed by Lee, “lift up and reel down, don’t stop reeling, not too high like they do on TV,” I saw a flash of blue. We brought the mahi mahi onto the boat and measured it, legal. One fish in and our first points on the board. Soon after, our shotgun cedar plug had a tug and we reeled in a tuna. I learned that to make sure the meat was in the best shape, tuna need to be bled and the innards should be taken out sooner rather than later, so we plopped the fish into the bucket while we got our lines back into the water asap. An hour later we must have gone through a school of tuna because we had three fish on and three women reeling at once. “Grab the wheel!” Lee yelled to George, who was supposed to be running audio, but we were fishing and this was such a cool moment. I looked to my left and saw both Lee and Deborah reeling expertly, taking their time. Lee yelled over the sounds of the boat, “Look at her reeling like a pro!” and I beamed with pride.
“This is why women are so good at fishing,” Deb laughed, “we have finesse.”
While ultimately my first fishing trip ended with less points on the board than I’d hoped, the excitement of reeling in my first fish is here to stay. I had an incredible time testing out our PFG gear, grilling my catch over a fire while camping at night, and being on the water with such incredible teachers. I’m definitely hooked on fishing and I hope to be back at it very soon.
Faith Briggs is an avid runner and documentary film maker from Brooklyn, New York. She’s passionate about sharing contemporary stories from diverse communities and can always be found with her camera, whether in the photographer’s pit during New York’s fashion week or in the cloud forests in Honduras. She lives by the motto #goodvibesonly and loves to show that women and girls, quite literally, run the world. You can follow Faith’s journey as Director of Toughness here and social channels including: Twitter | Instagram