George Spaulding caught a 5.5 flounder today. He is an avid angler with unparalleled local fishing knowledge. George’s dad manned a coast guard tower in Stone Harbor long before all the million dollar beach homes were built. From the tower he could see the red drum, stripers and trout enter Hereford inlet in the fall and the black drum in the spring. I admire George and his wife for the passion they have retained for fishing and the outdoors. I have seen many of my friends lose the passion, whether it was for fishing, hunting, surfing, travel, golf, or mountain climbing.
Around 4:30 am on a very cold December morning in 1977, six hunters from Cape May county had just arrived at Stokes State forest in Sussex County, New Jersey. Bob,Larry,Tony,Nick,Greg, and myself had traveled all night in a small pick up to make it in time for first light. Greg was slow getting ready so he traveled in the bed of the pick up, a very cold ride to say the least. It was 21 degrees and snowing! We parked the truck, grabbed our gear and at a low whisper, planned to meet back at the truck at 11 am. We spread out on the ridge, all of us jockeying for the best position. At about 9:00 I heard a shot close by. At 10:30 everybody was back at the truck shivering and all asking the same question, “Who shot?” . We heard a rustling of the leaves and there was silence as everybody stopped talking. Moments later an old guy with a muzzle loader rifle appears from the woods. Muzzle loaders were a rare sight in 1977 during shot gun season. The old guy asked “Can you boys help me drag my deer up the mountain?” We dragged the the six point buck up the mountain and were excited about doing it! As we closed the tail gate on the old dairy farm truck, a conversation ensued that was burned into my memory. He said, “My name is Bill andI have been hunting here all my life. I am 88 years old. I am the last one from my hunting crew to make it to deer camp. I asked Bill why his friends stopped hunting and he replied “They lost the passion one by one. Half of them lost it by the time they were 40. If you do not make time for what you love to do, you will lose it! When you get to my age if you do not have something you love to do, you wind up drooling on yourself in a nursing home.” As he closed the door to his pick up he hollered, “Keep the passion boys, keep the passion!” Obviously, like everybody I have family and job responsibilities, but so far in my life I have made time for what I love. I can tell you I still do not sleep the night before an offshore tuna trip or the first day of a November bow hunt. On that cold December morning in 1977, all six of us were avid fishermen and hunters. In 2009, only Larry and myself continue to do so.
Do yourself a favor, if you fish, get off the couch and grab your fishing gear and go fishing! If you surf, turn off the computer and hit the beach! Whatever you had a passion for in the past, make the time for it today!