Captain Hook

I’m not sure what hurt my son more: The fact that his sister caught a fish before him, or the hook in his hand.

Oh, wait. Yes, I do. It was the hook. Definitely the hook.

It happened while surf fishing recently. Both of the kids had their fishing poles rigged up and baited with some delicious mullet. I had a blanket spread out on the beach and was prepared to enjoy the sunset and read a book because, let’s face it, the only time we’ve ever come close to catching our limit would be if the limit was zero.

After about five minutes, I heard my daughter yell. “DAAAAAADDDDD!!!!!”

I looked up and saw her rod bending, way more than just the usual pull of the surf. My son saw that she had a fish, and he quickly reeled his line in so he could go check out his sister’s catch. As she was reeling it in, I said to my son, “When she finishes reeling it in, maybe she can teach you how to catch one.” He didn’t think this was very funny.

After a few minutes, her catch broke the surface. It was a bluefish, maybe a foot long. She reeled a few more times, and it was soon flopping on the beach.

At this point, my daughter was happy to have her brother there. She loves to fish, but has absolutely no desire to touch a fish unless it has just come out of a restaurant’s kitchen.

My son was more than happy to help. He reached down for the fish. And he proceeded to let out a wail that I am fairly certain could be heard by our friends across the ocean.

I looked down and saw him holding his right hand up. At the webbing between his thumb and forefinger was the hook, neatly piercing him.

I’m not quite sure what happened, but it appeared that the hook had slipped through the fish’s gill and snagged my son’s hand. Whatever the case, there was a hook in his hand, and the fish was still attached to the line. And you can imagine how cooperative a fish out of water is during an attempted hook extraction from a human.

I sent my daughter to our tackle box to get a multi-tool that has pliers, a knife, etc. “Are you going to cut my hand open!?!?!?” My son asked.

“Not to start with,” I said. I think I was joking.

My first move was to use the knife to cut the line and get the fish clear. I grabbed the fish and tried to hand it to my daughter. “Eww. No.” she said.

I pitched the fish as far as I could (I think to the ocean) and went back to the patient. I tried to back the hook out, but it was not cooperating. To my son’s credit, he was being very patient, although he was informing me every few seconds that it hurt. Bad.

I realized I was going to have to straighten the hook out in order to get it back through its original point of entry. Unfortunately, I was not going to be able to do that by myself. About 100 yards away was another fisherman. I turned to my daughter. “Allie — go. Run to that fisherman. Ask him if he’s got pliers and can help. Go. Now.”

Surprisingly, she sprung into action mode. It’s surprising because (a) she normally has 43,000 follow-up questions and (b) I’m pretty sure she was in the middle of Snapchatting something when I gave her the command.

It short order, the other fisherman was at my son’s side, pliers in hand. Working together we had the hook straightened out in a few seconds. It slid right out of my son’s hand. My son stood up and shook his hand. He then looked in the surf and saw the fin of a shark that was about four feet long. “DAD! SHARK!” And he sprinted to the surf to watch. I thanked the other fisherman for his help. He responded by shaking his head and saying, “That’s one tough dude.”

I offered to pack up and call it a day, but my son said he was fine. We cleaned him up and got the lines back in the water. We fished for another hour or so, with my daughter catching one more fish, and Parker eventually catching up, with two snagged. But the tiebreaker ultimately went to my daughter, since she also caught a little brother.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at scmgibbons@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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