We looked at the weather for January 18, the official “Fish for Jose” day. The forecast did not look good. This was my dad’s birthday so it was almost fitting that nasty weather was forecast. He would often joke that rough weather seemed to be his signature. We decided to go early on January 16.
Joining my husband Dave and I was his best friend and best man at our wedding, Angel. He came with his wife Christanne and children Emma and Ian. Ian is Dave’s godson. By agreement with Angel it was Dave’s duty to introduce Ian to fishing. They also brought their dog Brownie. For Ian, Emma, and Brownie being on the water in a boat was going to be a first. Angel and Dave are both vets and were stationed together at NASKW. (Naval Air Station Key West).
Old friends were also going to join us.
Dave and I had lived in the bottom half of a canal home on Summerland years ago. Leah and Matt are a couple that had lived in the house next to us. Lieutenant Commander Matt Peters is a helicopter pilot for the Navy. They moved next to us April 1, 2011 only to find out Matt would be leaving for training April 11 for Afghanistan. Fishing was the whole reason he picked Key West for his duty station, so to say he was bummed is an understatement.
When Matt came back from deployment, there was definitely an adjustment period as there is for many vets. Going from a war zone to the Florida Keys took a little time. We had spent days on the water, and nights for dinner with Leah while Matt was gone, but didn’t really know Matt very well. When he was back Matt and Dave did a lot of fishing together. Matt came back in April of 2012, but then got orders for Bahrain. He left in January of 2015, and recently got home in early April 2016.
I was at the Square Grouper one night with friends, and ran into Matt and Leah. I was a little surprised that they didn’t let us know he was going to be in town on leave. Matt told me it was his first day back and Leah insisted that he had to try “My New Joint” the upstairs portion of the Square Grouper. We talked and invited them to come along fishing with us.
So it was Dave, Leah, Matt, Angel, Christanne, Emma, Ian, Capt. Brandon Cyr, Brownie and myself. We started off the day getting bait. We hit a couple spots where we got a few here and there, but it took awhile to black out the live wells. It didn’t matter for the kids. These fish were the perfect size for them. Emma wanted her own pilchard, but wasn’t down for it to be all wiggly. I ended up grabbing one that had fallen out of the well, and told her he was sleepy. I also put a couple of those “sleepy” ones in Brandon’s pants pocket for later. When I was a kid at the end of a fishing day I used to enjoy picking baitfish out the well, giving them a quick kiss and releasing them. My dad didn’t have the heart to tell me many of them got snatched by sharks or cudas!
We started to head offshore, but the skies kept getting darker and darker, closer and closer. We changed plans and went to a little honey hole my dad had in Key West. It was the same place I hooked up a tarpon on the last show my dad and I did together. So much for catching all that bait because fishing was slow. Angel eventually hooked up his first tarpon. Matt cast his bait out and bam! Something big ate it. Turned out to be a nice mutton AKA dinner. Leah caught a monster yellowtail. The dog Brownie was having a blast with the bait as well. When we got the mutton to the boat he was all over it. A yellow tail was dropped accidentally and he barked and barked at it. It was comical watching Brownie try to figure out this new experience.
It was probably a good thing the weather started to turn, because the kids would have probably gotten seasick. We were planning on taking them in and dropping them off before we went offshore. We were a little worried about Brownie too, but he loved it. Leah gets seasick, but she’s always a trooper. We kept fishing, but no catching. We let the kids set the bait free and headed back in. Brandon found the pilchard we had put in his pocket. After standing up and sitting down it was more mush than fish. We filleted the fish and went home.
On the actual January 18 “Fish for Jose” day the weather was as bad as predicted. Dave and I opted to celebrate at my dad’s favorite restaurant the Square Grouper. We started at lunch, but met up with a bunch of friends upstairs for dinner. Lynn (the owner) sent out a couple extra appetizers for my dad.
Whether on the ocean or on land we celebrated the spirit of what family, friendship and the bounty of the ocean meant to my dad. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget great food.