Jake had been on a Foundation fishing trip before. What did he think of it?
His words say it best; “It was the trip of a lifetime, that’s for sure. It made all of my dreams come true, lifted my spirits and helped me through all that was going on. It made me forget that I was even sick. The people that I met were amazing and they hold a special place in my heart providing this experience for me. The best moment for me was being out on the water and catching awesome fish.”
Jake had come down a few months prior to this trip. So why did we bring Jake back? Well, he needed it. When you have an unfortunate diagnosis like Jake’s we felt it would be another chance to make him smile.
I talked to Jake and his mother and we scheduled something soon, since he was doing pretty well, all things considered. He also had time between his treatments and doctor visits. We set a date, but unfortunately I forgot I had him coming down for lobster mini season. Hotel, and home accommodations were impossible to find.
I asked him if he wanted to reschedule so we could find him a place? He hesitated with a response…he was doing well now so he didn’t want to wait. He asked “Can I stay with y’all?” That’s what we ended up doing, and we were glad we did.
Weather is always a factor, and we had to work around it. This was a very low key trip. Since he had been down here before we kept costs down. Plus on his first trip he did offshore, and bridge fishing so we wanted to do something new. My husband, Dave Moloney, took him fishing on the flats, and we dove one day for lobster since it was mini season. Jake’s casting is on point, and on the flats you do a lot of sight casting.
One of the many reasons it was nice having him at the house was when they had to run in, eat lunch, wait for the weather to clear, or if Jake needed an extra couple of z’s it was easy to work around it. Dave can dock the boat right at our house. There was a lot of rain, and warm waters (fish aren’t as active when the water is hot).
The first day we went to Cudjoe Sales to get Jake a mini season lobster license. We fished close to home. On our way down the dock we saw a baby triple tail. Not a good sign for the fish, but cool to see one so small. Dave and Jake tried, broke off some sharks, and landed a catfish. Jake gave Dave a hard time saying “I can catch catfish in my backyard. Can’t you do better than that Dave?”
They came home and we fried some snapper Dave had gotten the day before. Mini season opened on July 29 at 12:01am. Mini season was created as a way to boost tourism in the Keys when the season slows down. Dave asked Jake if he wanted to go bully netting that night? Bully netting is the best technique for catching lobsters at night in 1-4 ft of water while the lobsters are out feeding.
A bully net can be purchased or made. Typically the hoop at the end should be just large enough to circle the lobster. A small hoop and thin tubing make for easy movement in the water. The pole needs to be long enough for you to stand in the boat and be able to drop the hoop to the sea floor 1-4 feet below the water surface.
Some people walk around in the flats looking for lobsters and using their nets. The difficulty is being still and quiet enough to not disturb the lobsters before you catch them.
If you choose to use a boat to go lobstering, the other tool that you will need is proper lighting on the boat to see the lobsters crawling on the sea floor. Some lights are supposed to be mounted above the water line and some below. Often it depends on the type of boat you are using, however underwater lights are better designed to reduce glare.
No matter whether you are walking the flats or free floating in a boat, the technique for using a bully net to catch lobsters at night is the same.
Steps to Using a Bully Net:
- Spot the lobster
- Hold the pole and the net string, to ensure the net stays above the metal ring
- Position the net directly over the lobster and just above the water
- Quickly plunge the bully net straight down to the sea floor to trap the lobster
- Drop the net string, releasing the net
- Drag the bully net along the sea floor toward the handle causing the lobster to swim into the net
- Scoop the lobster out of the water
- Measure the lobster immediately to determine size and throw it back gently if it is too small or has eggs.
Jake and Dave went out around 12:30 AM and came back around 3 AM after they caught their limit. A few fellow guides went with. They slept in late, but were ready to go again around noon.
On day two Jake hooked a bull shark on fly. It gave him a good fight for 20 minutes or so until it broke off. While Jake was catching some cudas I got in the water to take some underwater photos. Jake and Dave had fun messing with me bringing the cuda close to me. Fishing was slow but Jake managed to catch a few sharks before calling it a day.
Day three we went lobstering, this time while snorkeling. We went to friend and guide Gabe’s house where he was loading up the boat. Jake was a great help. Jake had never been snorkeling before, so we got in the water and taught him the basics. He caught one keeper and a few shorts. He started to get tired. I asked him if he was having a hard time getting down the concept of breathing out of his mouth? Because of his heart condition it makes breathing difficult for Jake at times. When I asked he said “I have a hard time breathing in general. My hearts failing…duh!”
If you were to meet Jake you would have no idea that he was sick, and I had completely forgotten. It was a quick reminder of what this young man deals with every day.
Jake ended up fishing off the side of the boat, and caught some snapper while we grabbed a couple lobsters before we headed in for dinner. Bacon+lobster…… need I say more.
The next day it was time for Jake to head home. We drove him to the airport. Saying goodbye to all our fishing trip recipients is always my least favorite part. Jake was like the little brother I never had. He thinks it funny to call me and Dave “mom and dad”. We would stay up late… talk about life, girls, family, and of course fishing. Dave and him would banter back and forth. Jake liked to tease Dave about how he could grow more facial hair than him.
Jake is a very old soul. His outlook on life is so different than typical 19 year olds. He is grateful for the extra time he has gotten with his heart transplant, even though his new one isn’t working out. Dave and I still talk to him frequently. I talk to his mom too to get updates on him. We can talk, and try our best to understand what he’s going through. The thing is, that unless you go through something you will never truly understand.
Another young man that we did a trip for ,Scott, had been in remission, but his cancer recently came back. He has been going through some heavy chemo, and all the other side effects that come with that. He’s been in and out of the hospital a lot. He is waiting on a bone marrow transplant. I asked both of the guys if they would be interested in connecting? They can understand what its like to be in their shoes like no one else that they know. They text frequently, and they say how good it feels to talk to someone that gets it.
Fishing has a special way of bringing people together. I will always strive to keep the personal touch as part of every trip we do. My hope is that we can get Scott and Jake back here so they can meet in person and fish together. Even though my dad is gone his memory is continuing to bring people together.