Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brian was keen on fishing and a little rough around the gills

I met him when I rented a three-bedroom apartment in southern Sarasota.

He was a 6-year-old whirlwind who had no fear of anything. Bryen loved to get his bicycle up to speed and do a flip into the swimming pool.

Management didn't like Bryen, but he was a cute son of a gun.

He grew up in a rough home. His parents were nice enough, but I never saw them without a beer and cigarette in their hands. Bryen pretty much did what he wanted when he wanted.

One thing he loved to do was fish. And I've always said that a kid who fishes is a good kid. You learn all sorts of life values as an angler.

I was sitting on the couch one afternoon watching television when I heard the doorbell ring. When I opened the door, there was Bryen with a fish in hand.

"Steve, what is this?" he asked.

I quickly took the fish from him. It was a pirahna and its mouth was full of large, sharp teeth. The fish obviously had been released in the pond behind our clubhouse. Bryen was lucky he didn't try to remove the hook from the fish's mouth.

Bryen was about average size for a 6-year-old. Most of the time he was barefooted. He usually wore long pants and a T-shirt. He always looked as if he hadn't had a bath in weeks.

I watched him fish a couple of times at the pond. He was pretty good and caught his share of bass, bluegill and tilapia. Everytime he'd see me, Bryen would ask if I'd been fishing?

One day, my wife, Kathy, said, "Why don't you take Bryen fishing?"

Good idea.

I walked over to his apartment and knocked on the door. A thin, obviously tired woman opened the door. As the door opened, it was if all the smoke from a year's worth of cigarettes had finally found a way out.

"Are you Bryen's mom?" I asked.

She nodded.

I introduced myself and told her I'd like to take Bryen fishing. I figured she'd think I was some weirdo and would slam the door.

She simply smiled and said it was OK.


"Saturday morning. Just send him over to my apartment at 8."

Three days later, Bryen showed up at my place. He was dressed in neatly pressed long pants, a starched dress shirt, white socks and tennis shoes. His hair was slicked and combed.

He was excited.

As we headed east on Clark Road, Bryenn asked, "Where are we going?"

"Myakka," I said. Myakka River State Park is a popular fishing spot located nine miles east of Interstate 75 off State Road 72.

"My mom's taking my brothers fishing today," Bryen said.

"Where?" I said.

"Her akka."

I smiled.

My plan was to let him fish in the boat basin directly in front of the souvernir shop. The basin usually had plenty of bluegill, warmouth perch, stumpknocker, speckled perch and bass. I had about four dozen live worms for bait. I also had a couple of sub sandwiches, drinks and chips for lunch.

You've probably heard a lot of things about children and fishing. Most are simply myths. The most common is that children have short attention spans, so you need to keep things simple and short. Not with Bryen.

He would have fished for 10 hours that day if I had allowed. He was all concentration, and he caught a load of fish.

I told him it was time for lunch. Begrudgingly, he put down his rod and we walked to the car. I grabbed the sandwices and couple of drinks and we sat down at a picnic table.

That's when a rather corpulent woman walked by. She was about 5-foot-5 and 350 pounds.

"God damn she's fat," Bryen blurted.

"Bryen," I said, "that's not nice."

"I know," he said, bowing his head, "but Jesus she's fat."

I don't think the woman heard him, but I'm not sure.

Bryen probably caught and released 100 fish that day. He caught mostly bluegill, stumpknocker and warmouth perch. I think he might have taken a bass or two.

On the way home, I asked if he had fun?

"Yeah," he said. "Do you have any more akkas you can take me to?"

About a year later, I stopped by his home and asked his mom and dad if I could take him fishing. That was when I had my Fishing Paradise show on SNN in Sarasota. They agreed.

The next morning I picked him up and we met Capt. Jack Hartman at the boat ramps at Ken Thompson Park on City Island.

My photographer, Ray Kugler, was already there.

It was Bryen, my stepdaughter, Morgan, Capt. Jack and the photographer.

We were going to do a segment on kids fishing. We headed out into Sarasota Bay and to the Middlegrounds, a large area of grass patches just off the southern tip of Longboat Key. The youngsters caught spotted seatrout, bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle with no difficulty.

Early in the afternoon, a nice cobia began swimming around Bryen's bait. The fish quickly departed.
"Want me to pull the anchor and try to find that fish?" Hartman asked.

"Nah," I said. "It will be back."

Just as I predicted, the cobia returned about 15 minutes later. Hartman grabbed the rod and gave the popping cork a couple of jerks. The noise attracted the cobia. The fish saw the live shrimp and inhaled it.
Hartman then handed the rod to Bryen.

The battle was on.

It was a big fish and I'm not sure who was battle who?

After about 20 minutes, Bryen got a good look at the big, brown fish as he battled it near the boat.

"It's a God-damn shark," he yelled, oblivious to the TV camera.

That expletive was deleted.

We called it a day after Bryen's cobia was subdued. We decided to keep that fish, which weighed about 30 pounds. We planned to have portions of it for dinner that evening.

I dropped Bryen off on the way home and asked his parents if he could come over for dinner?
They had no reservations about it.

A couple of hours later, I picked him up. I had the fish marinating in the refrigerator. When I got home, I fired up the grill.

Doesn't take long to grill fish. It's simply five minutes per side per inch. Turn once.

We sat down and had a great dinner. The cobia was superb. We also had baked potatoes and salad.

Bryen acted as if he hadn't eaten in a month. He inhaled three pieces of cobia.

On the way home, I asked him if he'd had a good day.

"Yeah," he said. "Steve, I wish you were my dad."

I haven't seen Bryen since that day. I lost track of him and often wonder about him. I'd guess he's about 17 now.

I hope he's still fishing.

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