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I’ve always been a big fan of the ocean. I grew up in the heart of the country, and so maybe such grandiose bodies of water held some intrinsic exoticism for me due to the vast distances that separated me from their beaches and shores. Something about a fiery sun setting into a blue horizon really gets to me. Now, I live a mere thirty minutes from saltwater, and am taking full advantage. My most recent venture? Fishing from the top of my stand-up paddleboard.
There’s something a bit more intimate about the whole experience when, instead of casting your line from the deck of a rolling watercraft, you’re perched mere inches above the wave line on what amounts to the floating door at the end of Titanic. Because of the space and weight restrictions associated with this method of fishing (and just staying upright), I don’t have room to bring along a nice cooler to keep my catches frozen. As such, I’ve begin to experience the subtle joys that come along with practicing the time-honored tradition of catch and release.
There’s a unique element of gamesmanship that gets introduced when, after battling with a fish for the better part of an hour, you pull it up only to admire the creature you just conquered and then let it swim back into the depths from whence it came. It’s the ultimate power move. It’s like you’re the emperor in an ancient gladiatorial arena, deciding if the loser should live or die. You stare at the fish, it stares at you, knowing full well it’s been bested, and you bestow the gift of continued life upon it even though it was within your will to end it. Catch and release has given me a new appreciation for the fish that I catch, and has helped me realize how majestic and fleeting some of these creatures are.
And so it can be with dating. You throw on the appropriate gear (a button-down), head to your most reliable spot (the bar), utilize the tools of the trade to increase your odds (alcohol), and cast out your bait to see if anyone wants to take a nibble (your dick? Don’t cast out your dick). If you’re having a good day, you’ll connect with something shiny and feisty. After some putting in work and engaging in a tough mental battle, you may even get lucky enough to land your catch back in the bedroom. You’ll admire her visually, looking her up and down, try to get your bait out of her mouth without encountering too much teeth, and eventually do a little flopping of your own. Might even snag a few photos to commemorate the experience if you can get some cooperation. Ultimately though, with both sides exhausted and a little dehydrated, your catch is free to slip back into the ocean and be with its kin, the way it should be.
But maybe you feel like you’ve finally caught yourself a keeper. After bagging nothing but orange roughies, some interesting yellowtail, and that one weird croaker, you haul up a beautifully fun wahoo. She’s the catch you’ve always wanted; long and thin, great to look at, a universally-respected prize. But just like your previous pulls, you know that the right thing to do is to let her go. In the end, she belongs back out in the sea. She would’ve only satisfied your hunger for a short time before you grew bored and passed it off to a friend.
And that’s the real beauty of catch and release. You’ve proven yourself. You caught the big fish, you beat the beast, you went out into the vast ocean and came back with a great tale. But that should be enough. Your memories are what you’ll keep, your stories are what you’ll share, and you can rest easy at night knowing you have what it takes to catch the big one.
Because for the real fisherman, it’s not about the kill. It’s about the process, the admiration, and the chase. You have to get back in that boat and cast your rod a few more times, always on to the next fish in the sea. It’s a big place out there, and there’s never a bad time for a little more mystery..