Fish-Stealing Dolphins

Not long ago, I was with my son Greg, fishing for Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. My long time friend, Dave, and Greg’s friend John, were accompanying us. Snapper season had just opened and we were anxious to tie into them. I had been Snapper fishing one other time and I was amazed at how they fought. Therefore, I was really looking forward to catching them.  Not to mention the fact that red snapper make excellent table fare. They are very good eating.

According to my son, who has fished the Gulf extensively, you only find most species of fish where there is bottom structure. Fortunately he has many of these sites programmed into his boat’s GPS, and finding them is not a problem. They all seem to have names, such as the ‘chicken crates’, where a load of chicken crates were lost in a storm. Their owner’s loss has provided some excellent fish structure, to the benefit of many fishermen.

 We got an early start, thinking we would probably limit out by noon. However, no one had told the fish, and they were not cooperating. The first two structure sites did not yield any red snapper. My son had maneuvered the boat over the third site and yelled for us to drop our lines. I hooked a small snapper immediately. It looked like we had found them!

About that time my friend Dave yelled, “Look!  There’s dolphins!”   I love dolphins, as most people do, and was happy to see them.  However, my son and his friend John, experienced Gulf fishermen, had a different reaction. They like to see dolphins, but not while they are fishing. I was soon to learn why.

red snapper

John was the next one to hook a red snapper. He got it half-way to the boat when a dolphin grabbed it. After a short tug of war the dolphin managed to get the fish off. Dave was the next one to hook a snapper, which the dolphin promptly latched onto. After a battle which lasted several minutes, Dave also lost his fish to the fish-stealers. We caught a few more, all of which we lost to the dolphins. It appeared to be a game with them. They would grab the fish and run out a couple hundred yards and then gradually let us battle them back in, only to do it all over again. It was a game that resembled a tug of war between two dogs with a rope.

John hooked the last fish, and it turned out to be a real battle between him and a dolphin. The dolphin would take the fish and run out two or three hundred feet and then surface with the fish in his mouth. Then he would allow John to battle back to within fifty to a hundred feet from the boat. At this point, he would surface with the fish and do another run. This was repeated over and over. Sometimes the dolphin would take the fish and run out a hundred yards or so and then let go of it. When this happened, John would reel as fast as possible, trying to retrieve the fish. Each time, he would get the fish halfway to the boat.  The dolphin would flash forward, grab it, and away he would go, peeling off another couple hundred feet of line. Apparently, this was great fun for the dolphins. However, for John at this point, it was more about trying to save his line and tackle. Eventually the fish came unhooked and John was able to retrieve his line. Then the dolphin did an odd thing. It swam up near the boat, raised it’s head out of the water with the fish still in its mouth, then disappeared into the deep. The message was clear.  He had won.

After that, we moved on to fish other areas. We didn’t catch many fish that day, but I will always remember the fish-stealing dolphins.   They reminded me of how illness, loss, or abuse all steal our joy and happiness.   Just when things are looking up, sometimes the actions or words of other people change our circumstances.  It’s not fair, but it happens.   How do we keep the “dolphins” at bay in our own lives?   We place our trust in God, who promises to deliver us from all of our troubles.  Only when we are secure in who He is and who we are in relation to Him, do we taste real freedom from the joy-stealers in our lives.  

“This poor man called and the Lord heard him; he saved him our of all of his trouble.” – Psalm 34:6

Outdoor Tales (4)

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