2017-04-20 / Opinion

Teach a man to fish and you might get a Pompano for dinner

My friend, Lynn, caught 13 pompano last Friday, which killed me because I couldn’t go with her. She went home with her limit of six nice ones while the juveniles got to swim another day. She only had two poles in the water, but they kept her busy. Pompano fishing has become one of my favorite pastimes since I moved to paradise. Friday was an epic day on the beach for Lynn and I couldn’t wait to go try for myself on Monday.

The Monday after Easter is a gift to pastors and church staff. It’s a day of recovery from weeks of preparation and focus. It’s a day to unwind and “chillax.” I was determined to spend my gift day at the beach reeling in a limit of pomp. I had the beach cart and fishing poles loaded on the back of the Jeep by 8 a.m. Having dropped my oldest off at Gulf Breeze High School, I headed to Fort Pickens to re-enact Lynn’s Friday. I found my spot but was a little frustrated that someone was already on it. I moved farther East and began to set up for a three pole sit.

Braving the crashing waves and ridiculous current to get my lines out as far as I could, but within minutes they were tangled and washing up on the Eastern beach. I went up to 8 oz and dropped down to two poles.

Within minutes, I was reeling in the first fish of the day. A few people gathered around and were as disappointed as I was when we saw the catfish attached to my line. (Note for the unfamiliar: For surf fisherman, catfish are considered negative points and take away any cool points you had earned.) After my fourth catfish I did some personal reflection on that whole “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work” mantra. That’s when I got interrupted by those durn squatters who took my spot before I got there.

“Can you tell us how to fish out here?” She asked as she explained that they were from Louisiana and weren’t experienced at surf fishing. They were hoping for a slot redfish, but were really just enjoying the beach. They only had one rod and not nearly enough weight. They didn’t have the right kind of rig and were using the wrong kind of bait. My darker side wanted to use this as an opportunity to get my spot back, but kindness won. I gave them what they needed and told them their best chance for the red was closer to sunset, but to give it a try and that they might even catch a premier pomp.

An hour later, I was releasing a double hook up with catfish #5 and #6, when the Louisiana lady walked up with a pompano in her hand. “Here you go. Thanks for tackle. It really works! We’re heading into town for lunch and we don’t really want him.”

She handed me a 14” pompano and all I could say was “thank you!” By the end of the day, I had successfully landed eight catfish and nothing else. Even so, I was going home with a fresh pompano to feed my family.

These were two exchanges in kindness that some might call karma: I shared my tackle and knowledge and then they shared their catch. It was a rare moment of grace and kindness and of mutuality and solidarity. These moments don’t come often enough in our world. There was no requirement or law that motivated us. Instead, an internal compass pointed each of us toward truth and love. That afternoon I went home with more than a tasty meal; I went home with a restored hope in humanity. There is still room for grace, compassion, and sharing. The good in people can still shine through the darkness when we “do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31).

Love one. Love another.

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