'Tis the Season

I’m writing this just before our holiday break. It’s always a bustling time of year, and shipping a magazine right before the holidays provides an exciting couple of weeks before the much-needed end-of-year vacation.

Fishing plays a big part in my Christmas routine. I gather up the family, head up to the Florida Panhandle and stay with my parents for a couple of weeks, fattening up on my mom’s wonderful cooking. It’s also a time to spend a few days on the water with my brother, Mark.

Since we live over six hours away from each other, I don’t get to see him very often, and we always say that we should get together more — the same promise that most folks who live apart from their families make, I imagine. Family life (my brother has two boys, and I have two boys and a girl) keeps us pretty busy. What with all the ballgames, dance classes and Boy Scout camp outs, there are precious few weekends for my brother and I to get away and spend some time together, either catching fish or shooting something.

This past Thanksgiving, we decided the boys were big enough to start shooting the 22s, and we had a big time down by the lake making targets out of driftwood and whatever we could find. The boys literally had a blast — almost as much fun as my brother and I!

Mark just picked up a semiautomatic 22 that looks more like a machine gun than a target plinker, so I can already smell the burnt powder of a repeat shoot’em-up down by the lake — and I fear it’s going to get expensive this time; that gun holds 28 rounds and dumps them as fast as you can pull the trigger.

After we get all that shooting out of the way, it will be time to head out into the clear blue water of the Gulf of Mexico. My brother likes to slow-troll live baits around the inlet, so there’s no telling what we may end up catching over the course of a day’s fishing. We’ve caught everything from cobia to kings to sailfish within two miles of Destin’s beautiful white-sand beaches, and if it’s too rough outside, there’s always a place out of the wind in the Choctawhatchee Bay, where we can target redfish and trout.

My brother and I are almost exact opposites; he’s tall, good-looking and very quiet, and I’m...well, you should be able to figure the rest out. With all my tongue wagging growing up, my brother didn’t get a chance to say much, so I guess he got used to only saying something when it really mattered, and the habit stuck.

However, once he gets out on the water, he becomes a veritable chatterbox, sometimes answering questions with an entire sentence — sometimes even two! Fishing is one of those great things that brings us together in more than just a spatial sense — it helps bond our friendship.

Even through all the distance and years spent apart, it’s good to get back into your family’s arms, so I hope that all of you enjoyed your holiday season this year and had a chance to get out on the water and reconnect with old friends and family.

As a reader of this magazine, you already know that there’s something magical about the sea. It can make strong men cry in awe of its power and beauty, and, at the same time, provide courage and conviction to the more timid who surrender to its charms.

I’m about ready to surrender to a little saltwater spirit!

P.S. If someone makes a bumper sticker out of “saltwater spirit,” I plan on getting a cut!