Reeling in the Perfect Present

Long ago figured out that the best gift I’ve ever received is the time and effort of those who introduced me to fishing. The first, to the best of my recollection, was a tiny Japanese lady by the name of Jeannie.

Being a Navy brat, I grew up on military bases and Jeannie had married a sailor who was my Dad’s best friend. I think I was around seven when she put me to the task of gathering a sack full of hermit crabs. We were stationed in Puerto Rico and hermits were as plentiful there as fiddlers are here in the Lowcountry.

She took me by the hand to the Navy pier, where she pulled out her hammer and cracked the shells, exposing the crab’s tail used to anchor itself into the shell. Turns out, crab tail is caviar to fish and we were soon cranking them in left and right. I remember very little of my early youth, but that memory has always remained clear.

Fast forward six years and another gentleman entered my life, embracing the role of Dad, as if I were his own blood. Being an avid fisherman and hunter, it was not long before he had me on the banks of the Columbia River fishing and catching steelhead and trout. The whole ritual of gathering the rods and tackle boxes coupled with the anticipation of a foray into the wild was euphoric.

Blessed now with a son and a daughter, I have tried to pass this gift on to my kids. My teenage son Caleb has finally come full stride in his passion. This past summer he was up at 5:30 every morning, assuming the role of first mate and did not miss one trip. The spark is definitely glowing in his eyes and his latest aspiration has changed to marine biology, as opposed to an NBA star. My little Sarah also has many trips under her belt and can tell you every fish she has ever caught, albeit not a long list.

Some of my favorite charter trips involve youngsters who have never fished. I get a lot of gratification watching the fire light up when they catch their first one. In these days of technology, where young ones’ attention seems to be dominated by cell phones or video games, getting them in touch with nature and a bent rod, is fantastic, I think.

Caleb wants to go to Florida this Christmas and catch sailfish. He has many fish over 40 pounds—redfish, cobia and mahi—and wants to add more billfish to the list. While we have them here, they are some 60 miles offshore, making it a long and costly journey locally. However, when the cold fronts of December roll through southern Florida, they congregate within a mile of shore.

I can’t think of a better gift. Merry Christmas and God bless!

By Capt. Miles Altman, Bayrunner Fishing Charters

Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new Finatic boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.