It wasn’t supposed to start out this way.
Originally, I believe I was scheduled to fish on a boat with Governor Ted Strickland. But at the last minute, Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland requested an all-female charter for the 32nd Annual Fish Ohio day on Lake Erie.
Although we’ve come a long way, groups of women are commonly seen as shoppers and spa-goers as opposed to outdoors(wo)men. But on July 12, aboard the Blue Diamond Baha cruiser, a group of influential women caught 21 fish for charity and had a lot of fun doing it.
Anyone who has survived middle school knows that girls can be catty and mean. But they can also be unexpectedly compassionate and kind, especially in the face of strangers. Women have the ability to bond instantly. And this proved to be true on the Blue Diamond.
I’m no stranger to the water or boats — I grew up near the Jersey Shore. But I’ve never actually done any kind of deep-water fishing. At any rate, I enjoyed the ride until we stopped and the boat kept rocking. Everyone else on board — all seasoned fishers — leapt up, bated hooks and cast lines. But I couldn’t move. In all my memories on boats, I have never been on a stationary boat in an ocean or a lake, which, of course, is never actually still.
I thought I was holding it together. I tried to make it look like I was just enjoying the view. But everything was rocking and my stomach was lurching, and Mrs. Strickland, with her line cast, looked over at me and calmly asked her security guard (one of only two men on board) to give me some Dramamine. I declined because I didn’t want to fall asleep on my first fishing trip. So I rose, accepted a baited rod from Mark Perkins, the first mate, and let Captain Peg Van Vleet of Blue Sky Charters
, teach me how to fish.
Once I got going, I felt fine. As I was fishing next to Mrs. Strickland, she looked over at me and said, “See, everything’s better once you start fishing. Just look at the horizon if you feel sick again.”
She was right. Everything was better.
Part of it, of course, had to do with the fact that we had an exciting day on the water, where we managed to catch 21 walleye, more than the governor’s boat, with which we had engaged in a lighthearted competition. I caught four (and for those of you who read Richard Osborne’s Editor’s Note in the August issue, he’s right — don’t ask me about the two that got away. But I swear that the second one was the biggest walleye Lake Erie has ever seen.)
Better than the fishing was the camaraderie on our vessel. Not only did the captain, her first mate, the first lady, Vicki Mountz from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the mayor of Port Clinton and another travel writer cheer me on and give me pointers, but we all also supported each other, holding rods and nets as needed and cheering with every catch, even the toss backs.
By the end of the trip, I felt that I had truly gained my sea legs and I was able to enjoy the ride back to shore. As the boat sped forward, I watched the wake and enjoyed the cooling, misty breeze, one of the reasons I have always loved boats.
But my reverie was broken when Debbie Hymore-Tester, the mayor of Port Clinton, started furiously scrubbing my arm with her fish towel.
“You have worm guts all over you,” she said.
Yup, I did. And I could never count on a man to point that out.