One of the many positive aspects of keeping track of your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope or whatever is that we get to see a glimpse of their fishing exploits, no matter where they are or who they are with. More and more often, it seems, their photos of big-fish catches are punctuated by a furry, four-legged photo bomber of one dog breed or another.
Throughout human history, dogs have played an important role in many aspects of life. Working dogs helped provide meat by assisting during hunts; they provided protection for the family, carried loads during long marches and even became an invaluable mode of transportation in the form of sled dogs in northern climes. But as much as dogs help us through their hard work, perhaps their greatest contribution comes from their companionship and loyalty.
As many of you know, it’s not always easy to find someone to go fishing with. Busy schedules and the hectic carnival of family life can keep your buddies at the dock more often than not. And because fishing is infinitely more fun when you can share the experience, sometimes you wind up staying home instead of going alone. A good fishing dog can put an end to that little dilemma.
I met my first real fishing dog while I was dating my wife, over 23 years ago. Her brother’s good friend owned a boat and a jet-black three-legged Labrador mix named Sharky. I can’t remember how Sharky lost his leg, but by the way he got around on the boat and his love to be in the water, I’m sure he’d forgotten as well. After spending several days with him, I vowed that one day I’d try to find myself a true water dog just like him.
I eventually picked Charlie from a litter of Jack Russell terriers one of my co-workers put up for adoption — she was the fattest of the lot, and I thought she’d make a fine dog. Unfortunately, the breeder felt the same way and picked her out after I’d already chosen. A little heartbroken, I passed on the remaining dogs in the litter. Two weeks later, my friend called and said the breeder had decided one more dog was too much for her household and asked if I still wanted the puppy. I brought her home that day.
Charlie, like all Jack Russells, had no sense of her small size; she’d attack just about any dog on sight, and it almost cost her life on two occasions. Other than that, she was a smart, loving dog that really loved to go fishing. A whisper of the word or a move toward a rod would send her into a spasm of leaps, yelps and howls that could wake the dead. She’d hit the front door running and wouldn’t stop until we got back home. In her later years, I had her up in Destin, Florida, over Easter break, and I took her out fishing with Capt. Pat Dineen, looking for some early cobia on the beach. Charlie hit the boat with her usual enthusiasm, but soon the chilly temps and cold water got to her old bones, and it was clear she wasn’t liking the trip. When we got back to the dock, she sprinted off the boat toward the truck and wouldn’t come back. It was one of the first times she didn’t come to me when I called her. She was pushing 14 years old at the time, so I figured it would be her last trip, and it was; she died in my arms the next spring.
After about a year, my wife decided I was ready for another dog — one of her co-workers just so happened to have a litter of Jack Russell puppies up for adoption. I’m a sucker for little girl dogs, so I picked Skipper out of the bunch. Skipper is 2 years old now, and she’s a bit sweeter version of Charlie. She’s timid around other dogs, and she’s a lot nicer to the fish when they hit the deck — distributing kisses instead of a death grip on the throat. You’ve gotta love a Jack Russell.
See all of the Marlin fans’ photo submissions below of their offshore adventures with man’s best friend riding along.