You put the “Spring” in Break.

It is Monday. I am in class. I am reflecting.

My parents got a new puppy. We named her Annie Oakley after THE Annie Oakley who was the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West Show. Annie (the puppy) is a real sharp shooter herself, completely living up to her name. She already knows how to sit on command.

Last Sunday Midnight Mike and I loaded down Ricky Ranger (the name of my truck) with fishing poles, sunflower seeds, sunscreen, and smiles and headed for Jacksonville, FL, which is where we would spend our Spring Break. Nobody told me Jacksonville was 10 hours away. I would say from hours 7 to 8 when we realized that we still had 2 to 3 hours left is when our smiles that we brought with us began to fly out the window.

However our smiles would return once we arrived, unpacked, and put in Wedding Crashers.

The next day we would set out to “catch the big one.” This phrase, “catch the big one,” may take on a completely different meaning for some of you spring breakers out there, but for us, it meant that we wanted to catch a big fish, particularly a hammerhead shark.

Now I will relay to you some of the most exciting fishing stories you have ever heard:

On Monday, Midnight Mike and I piled our over-sized bodies into my undersized truck and headed for the pier. The pier would surely make all our dreams come true (our dreams consisting of mostly us catching a 300 lbs Hammerhead Shark). We get about 3 minutes from the pier and Midnight Mike casually mentions he left all of his fishing stuff at the apartment. I instantly forgive him, realizing he was probably overwhelmed by all the sunlight, and turn the truck around. We then wait for Gregory to get home from class. We read books by the pool. No Hammerhead Sharks in sight, yet.

Gregory wants to fish on the beach. The water is cold. We reluctantly agree. My original plan was to get my ankles a little damp but no more. I take one step into that vast blue wonder and instantly feel impelled to take another step. Before I know it, I am standing out in the ocean, waste deep, yelling as loud as I can, feeling the freezing water splash against my belly, and loving every second of it. Something about the ocean makes me rowdy. I destroy waves like I am destroying the Taliban.

Mike caught a sea trout. It wasn’t hardly a hammerhead shark but boy were we excited. We snapped pictures, packed up, and headed home. The hammerheads live to see another day.

The Jacksonville pier can make all of your dreams come true. I used to say this about Flag World and that still stands, but the pier can make completely different dreams come true. As we marched up to the pier, gear in tow, one thing becomes abundantly clear, fishing in Jacksonville is primarily an African American Sport. Which is of course, cool with us, and only further encourages us to get out there and make some friends. Probably the most notable friend we made on the pier was a man who walked up to Midnight Mike and made the bold statement that his fishing pole was so large “he could bring in Shamu with that thing.” He then told us how he liked to do his fishing trips. Basically he told us his trips involved these key elements.

1. Fish- They did not bring food, only ate what they caught.

2. Beer- Of course

3. Poker- Gotta do something when you ain’t fishing.

4. Girls- Mainly for the nightly strip teases. He told us this part after nervously checking to make sure his wife was not within earshot.

We loved this man. He was from Buffalo, NY.

There was also a large man wearing a green tank claiming that he was a leprechaun. I still believe he was. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

I asked Mike what he would do if he felt a tug on his line, reeled it up, and there was a leprechaun on his hook.

Around hour two of Day two I say my pole begin to twitch, a sure sign there was a hammerhead shark on the line. I run over, begin reeling, and the massive creature takes off under the pier almost taking me with it. Miraculously my line did not break and so I let the mysterious creature hang out for a while so I could rest. Two hours later I came back and was ready for battle number two. Sometime during this battle a little Asian lady took notice and began hollering in broken English tips on how I should reel in this massive creature. This drew a crowd, a crowd of more than two.

Stingrays are the nuisance of Jacksonville pier. They are heavy, and they are annoying. You can’t eat them, and they can kill you (I think). Catching a stingray is like that really annoying dude showing up at your house uninvited and instantly taking over your pleasant conversation with all your other friends.

I had a crowd. I had a stingray. Which to us was awesome, to everyone else it was a huge disappointment. My line broke before I could get it all the way up to the pier. I would say it was about the size of a pillow, except a lot heavier.

Midnight Mike out caught the rest of us big time. He left us embarrassed and broken in his fish catching wake.

We still did not have the hammerhead shark we were all so longing for.

On the last night, Midnight Mike and I headed down to the pier for some night fishing. We were excited and nervous at what might be lurking around the dark murky ocean waters. I hooked up some stinky shrimp and tossed my line into the water, let the line out until I felt it settle nicely on the ocean bottom. I then waited. Mike did the exact same thing in the exact same order.

The bell attached to the top of my pole (to signify a catch) began to ring. Could this be it?! The one we had been waiting for. The bell was ringing loudly. My heart was thumping loudly. In my head hammerhead sharks danced around to the tune of Ludacris’ “Roll Out.” I run over, grab the pole, and begin reeling. I definitely had something. I began sweating, yelling, praying. The line spinning around my reel rapidly, the mysterious creature on the end inching its way to my grasp. Reeling, reeling, hoping, praying, yelling, reeling! At last the fish was brought to the surface. Midnight Mike and I looked at the creature laying at my feet, then looked at each other. Mouths partly open, unable to really speak. We just made noises. Oooohs and aaaahs. What I had, laying at my feet, was the one and the only hammerhead shark. The one we had been longing for basically all our lives on that vacation. We had finally done it! Here is the picture of me proudly holding this wonderful creature.

-Ross Hoss


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