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Does fishing count as a full-body workout?

For the record, I cover adult sports here at the Chronicle. Fishing isn’t usually seen as an athletic pursuit.  In terms of “sports”, it’s usually on par with golf or bowling.  Considering the physique of many fishermen, it’s hard to argue with this assessment.  With that in mind I set out on my Hobie Kayak yesterday to try to hook on to a bluefish or two.  This is something I used to do with some regularity, but missed out on all of 2013 and, till now all of the summer of 2014.  I was ready for a relaxed time on the water.  Boy was I wrong. 

First off, for those not familiar with the Hobie, it’s a kayak, but instead of getting your propulsion from a paddle, it has what they call the “mirage drive system”.  This is a set of flippers under the boat that are moved by a pedal system.  Instead of a rotary system like a bicycle this is a push push type of apparatus.  The pedals swish the fins back and forth like underwater windshield wipers.  It’s shocking how fast you can go like this, considerably faster than I can paddle, but the big bonus for those looking to fish is your hands are free.  A small lever controls the rudder in the back and the wide, sit-on-top boat is very stable with pockets and rod holders for all your gear. 

I missed last year because my boat was broken.  The drive system has some moving parts that do indeed wear out.  On those perfect days where the wind is down, the surf is tame and my time is free, the broken boat made it a no-go.  Last winter I finally motivated to hunt down the parts, replace them and be ready when that perfect moment presented itself.  I was ready and yesterday the moment was here.

To get the boat out into the open water, the waves need to be very calm.  While it’s never truly flat here, low waves are a must.  Often I go off of Miacomet and work the rip off the sewer beds but the waves can be daunting.  This time, I chose the relatively calm waters off Sankaty.  The access by the beach club is easy (ish), the waves are usually tame and the bluefish are usually plentiful.  I got everything loaded up and around 4 pm pushed off.  In moments the waves breaking on the shore were behind me, the drive system was engaged (you have to paddle out to avoid damaging the drive system under the boat) and the relaxation was near.  A gentle pedaling effort puts the boat into quick motion.

When you are out in the water you soon realize what a disadvantage surf casters have.  In a boat you have access to a wide swath of the ocean where the surfcasters, no matter how far they can huck it, have access to only a tiny slice of the ocean.  A few hundred yards offshore you can see big fish lazing around, splashing when startled by the oncoming boat, and by the size of the swirls they leave in their wake, you can get an idea of their size and power. 

The very first cast was grabbed by a big boy.  This is the moment where a round of golf turns to a pushup contest.  These guys can tug and on a small boat, they can drag you through the ocean.  Since you are sitting on the water, it takes some effort to keep the rod up and it takes some strategy to keep the fish form getting under the boat, entangling in the drive system or tugging your rod on the wrong side of the boat.

It’s to your benefit to wear out a fish, with teeth who you will be putting across your lap.  These guys are all muscle and mouth, lots of thrashing and panicked fury.  By the time I got it along side of me and grabbed the leader, I realized my rod had been broken on the struggle.  The top two eyelets of my uglystick were sheared off.  As this took my attention, one more thrash of my nearly landed fish gave him back his freedom.  I was relieved because he was bigger than I was going to keep, had given me the excitement I was looking for and now I didn’t’ have to lay him across my lap.  He was in the neighborhood of two and a half feet and in a bad mood.  I reset the line, removed the broken section of rod and went back to it.  By now my arms were sore and I had drifted with the tide a bit farther than expected.  I pedaled back and took another cast.  In moments I was at it again, another fish darting around, breaking the surface one moment, diving deep the next.  The fish again seemed to try to get under the boat, a very awkward spot for the fishermen, but I realized that with him towing me every closer, we must have been meeting each other in the middle.  After more than two minutes, as our struggle seemed to mellow, the line suddenly went slack.  As I reeled in, my lure was still attached.  As it got closer I could see that the hook on the business end of the ballistic missile I’d been using was gone. My equipment was taking a beating today but my joy was well stocked.

Blues are tough on the equipment and out here they are ready to chomp on anything they see.  Out here you feel like you are in their world.  They are fast and nimble and you are slow and shaky.  The water is right there and it’s easy to imagine being in it, at their mercy.  A random wave, a tug by a big fish and a slight lean in the wrong direction and you could go over, all of your gear either floating to the top or flashing into the deep.  This makes things a bit more real than standing on the shore of standing atop a big boat.  This is a solo experience that is like no other, and as it turns out a total body workout at the same time. 

Over the next few hours I hooked up with several more fighters, keeping one for dinner, pedaled from slick to slick and both with and against the wind and tide and saw my gear continue to take a beating.  Eventually, as is common for me, I just used my crappiest lures.  Rusted hooks, the wrong size or just one that never seemed to work, all are fair game for hangry bluefish.  They will bite at anything.  By the end of the day, the excitement of another bite is eclipsed by the wariness of having another fight on your hands.  The tank of joy is now full. The final full body session is dragging the boat and all the gear back up the hill and onto the car.  After several hours of fishing this is no small feat to get to the finish (fishnish?) line.

I can’t find anyone renting this equipment on island but these boats come up for sale from time to time.  If you are into fishing, boating or just looking for a new way to spice up your upper body workouts try to make this happen. 

Apologies for the lifted photos.  I was out alone and didn’t’ want to risk donating my phone or camera to the deep so these are internet photos.  Next time maybe.