You might think that fishing is pretty simple. You tie a hook on the end of your line, stick some bait on the hook, throw it in the water and just wait for a hungry fish to come by so you can make it your dinner. But as any experienced angler will tell you, there’s a little bit more to it than that. Actually, a whole lot more!
Fishing is a science, and it’s different in every part of the country. It’s different from freshwater to saltwater, it’s different depending on the seasons, the weather, and even the time of day. And though both my buddy Jim Lewis and I did a lot of fishing when we lived in the White Mountains of Arizona years ago, it’s a whole new ballgame here on Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway. Back there, trout was the name of the game, with an occasional bass thrown into the mix. Here we are fishing in saltwater and might pull in anything from a black drum or mangrove snapper to a redfish, or even a skate, which looks very much like a stingray.
The other day we were at Walmart and Jim wanted to look for a fishing pole. But neither of us had any idea what was the best choice for these waters. When I saw another customer stocking up on tackle, he seemed like he knew what he was doing so I asked him for some advice. He showed us a couple of rods and reels, but then suggested that before we bought anything, we go to a small store called The Fisher-Man, in Deland, which is about 25 miles west of us. He said the owner, Mike, was a very nice guy, he had both new and used equipment, and that even on new stuff his prices were better than Walmart. And he added that Mike was always happy to give advice to newbies like us.
So yesterday we drove to Deland to check it out. This is indeed a small store, not much better than a hole in the wall at first glance, but it is filled with all kinds of fishing equipment and accessories. Even though he had some other customers when we arrived, Mike welcomed us and asked how he could help. We gave them a quick rundown on what we’re looking for and he showed us where some very nice new and used rods and reels were on display.
And the fellow at Walmart had been right. Even on new equipment, Mike’s prices were at least 10% lower than Walmart! So much for getting mega savings at the big box stores. If a little guy like Mike can stay in business with those prices, and he has for eight years now, so can the big box stores. And the small guys like Mike offer something else the big chain stores never will be able to – personalized, expert service. The guy behind the sporting goods counter at Walmart or one of those big places might be working in automotive or the garden department next week. Or he may have moved on to another job, where his main duty is to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”
Mike set Jim up with an excellent rod and reel combination, then helped him select fishing line, some lures, and other equipment. Terry and I have one fishing rod each, but we found a couple more that are better than what we have, so we get some goodies, too. And I even picked up an extra anchor for my boat for just $5.
Mike also gave us some good advice on how to fish the local waters, and added that with the cool front we have coming through now, the fishing should be pretty good.
Of course, the only thing better than catching fish is eating fresh fish. And because it was too late in the day to hit the water and try our luck, on the way home we stopped at Oak Hill Seafood, which is just around the corner from our house. This is another small mom and pop place, in fact, the owners live just three or four doors down from us. They sell fresh local seafood, never frozen, and the quality is excellent. And just like with Mike at The Fisher-Man, you get excellent advice on what is best and how to prepare it.
Terry bought some huge fresh shrimp which will find their way into shrimp and grits, and while she was looking at the different fish available, the owner suggested some large golden tilefish filets. We had never heard of tilefish until we moved to this area, and had not tried it yet. She told us that in her opinion it was better than grouper, and that says a lot because we love grouper. So Terry bought some of that too, and served it blackened for dinner. All three of us agreed that it was absolutely delicious, and indeed, just as good as grouper, if not better.
They also have a small bait and tackle shop inside the store, and Al, the owner, gave us even more tips on the local fishing scene right here, since he talks to the local fishermen every day and knows what is biting and the best techniques. We will definitely be going back to Oak Hill Seafood a lot!
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Thought For The Day – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll spend the rest of his life sitting in a boat drinking beer and eating beef jerky.