It was just me, all alone, at the beach beneath a clear night sky. I cast my bait deep into the abyss of the black surf and sat comfortably in a folding chair with my feet buried below the moist sand. Lapping waves held the dim reflection of a waxing moon in a way that seemed to wash over my soul. Time passed and I settled into the serenity of the scene.
The last time I checked, it was around 11:40pm. I had sat a while and drifted into that state of consciousness where your body is present but your mind is blind to the world around you. I was entranced by the rhythm of an incoming tide; it’s persistence as it climbs the shore, gaining ground grain by grain, reclaiming its own precious sand and shells, as if they were treasure to be held. No thoughts. No doubts. No fears. Just a man, the ocean, and their Creator.
I was close to falling asleep, nearly counting sheep, when something startled me. A large loggerhead sea turtle came crawling out of the water and onto the shore nearly five feet from me! She unhurriedly pulled herself up the beach one flipper at a time, dragging her belly like a truly expecting mother. She scraped away the sandy surface to form a pit where she could deposit a clutch of over one-hundred eggs.
As if this moment were not already perfect, I heard the fisherman’s favorite sound; that exhilarating sound that makes the heart race like it was shot with adrenaline; that screeching sound of a fisherman’s reel as the drag spits out line behind a running monster. I whipped the pole back, setting the hook deep into the jaws of an unknown opponent. Whatever it was on the other end, it was an unhappy thing, and it was running for its life.
The fight was on!
My nine-foot surf rod bent in half, my drag screamed, and I knew my tackle was too light. I was under-prepared for this fight. I was the underdog in this battle. Was it a shark? Large tarpon? Could it be a stingray? My mind could only imagine what the moonlight wasn’t strong enough to reveal. The dark would be another handicap.
It drug me down the shoreline, tugging, pulling, giving a foot then taking ten. I was certain of one thing: my line would break at any moment, possibly my pole. I chased it, trying to get this beast closer to the beach. It ran towards the cover of a nearby pier and played to my weakness by putting my tackle to the test.
Sea turtles continued to nest on the beach as I wrestled the fish down the coast; at least eight of them, and I crossed the tracks of a few more. I was dodging turtles while attempting to land Jaws (or was it Moby Dick?). A truly amazing experience!
I had literally fought this fish for fifty minutes and covered a mile of beach. My back muscles burned and my arms begged for mercy. Fortunately, my catch was worn out as well. Our standoff had come to its end. We were a hundred yards from the pier, and by now we have an audience with phones as flashlights.
It was no more than twenty yards off the shore, but even with the phones we still couldn’t see anything. I felt like I was at a stalemate. I could attempt to tow it on the beach, but I knew my line wouldn’t hold. I wrapped the line around the base of my rod, removing all drag, and slowly walked backwards, hoping it’d hold. It ended with a fisherman’s most dreaded sound; that disheartening sound that line makes when it snaps all hopes of landing a trophy fish.
What was on the other end? Was it a five-hundred pound bull shark? Something else? I’ll never know. And that’s what keeps me coming back; the hope of the next cast.