Chum, Puke, and Bluefish: A First-Time Angler's Tale

A guest post by Field & Stream Editorial Assistant Ashley Day.

As a Floridian, former high school crew coxswain, and daughter of a serious fisherman, I feel completely at home on the water. This isn't to be mistaken for any familiarity with fishing. Despite consistent, lifelong proximity to fishing, I have ultimately opted to sunbathe at every given opportunity. But when Joe Cermele invited me shark fishing last Friday, I simply couldn't resist the offer. I only Tweet, forego make up, or wake up at 5 a.m. in circumstances as extreme as this.

On the way out of New Jersey's Barnegat Inlet, I relished in all NYC living has deprived me of: seagulls, lighthouses, fresh air, the sunrise… Joe warned me we'd be out so far we wouldn't see land, so I watched the shore disappear in anticipation. For a split second I panicked at the thought, but Joe and his friend Rick who joined us both had fishing tattoos, which was inexplicably comforting and somehow gave them credibility.

We reached our spot 17 miles offshore, dropped in a chum bucket, and set up three baited lines. Pretty close to immediately, I felt my insides turn and with a casual, "Um, I think I'm seasick…" promptly keeled over the boat and personally contributed to the slick. I hadn't wavered at the sight of bait or the smell of the chum, but my body couldn't conquer the constant motion of the boat.

No matter how fervently I stared at the horizon, my stomach aggressively demanded solid ground. Joe took pity and headed in early and sharkless as my chum contributions transitioned from humiliating to habitual. That's right, I threw up all morning. Joe sped towards land right about the time I expected to faint, but killed the engine abruptly, gesturing to acres of bluefish erupting through the surface as consistently as boiling water; Joe had to capitalize on it and figured catching a fish would make me feel better.

He hooked up instantly, urging me to grab the rod. I plunged one end into my empty gut and felt the pull of a fish on the other for the first time in my life. It took all of my strength to endure the fight with two 15-pound bluefish hooked on the same lure. Joe gaffed one and the other pulled free, but this monster wasn't going down without a fight. As it flailed relentlessly, blood spewed in every direction, and I involuntarily screamed. The fish was snapping its teeth so confidently I was afraid to touch it, but my stomach intervened and had me heaved back over the side before I had the chance.

I was in bad shape, but I insisted on holding my catch. I composed myself, stifled my panic when the fish looked me directly in the eye, and overcame my fear long enough to hold it with my bare hands and get my trophy shot. No, it wasn't a shark, but I got my picture, have finally caught a fish, and--aside from a lot of puking--loved the trip. It was exactly what I imagined fishing to be: gross fun.

I've since received plenty of advice from everyone who can't believe I gambled with my equilibrium. I'm determined to try for sharks again after feeling the intensity of catching a big bluefish, but definitely need a foolproof game plan next time. What works best for you? I've heard of wristbands, patches, pills, and even medicated candy. I'll take all of the above if it helps me last all day, but I need advice from true fishermen! - Ashley Day