On Daughters… and Fishing

Guest Post

By Jodi Stemler

It was a blustery day at the Jersey shore. Tomorrow a nor’easter would blow in, but today the surf was just annoyed, not the angry tempest it would be by morning. Though both my sister and I live in Colorado now, every year we head back to this beach for our annual family vacation. The tradition for me hit a milestone of 40 years this year – just like I did.

After many summers at this beach, the pre-storm blow meant one thing to my sister and I – stripers. Years of surf fishing with our dad during these summer trips told us that bass seem to particularly like to eat when the tide is high and the surf is rough. So before our own delicious dinner of Jersey-fresh sweet corn, ripe tomatoes and steaks, we were heading to water’s edge to see if we might tempt a striper to try his own last supper.

Clockwise: Jodi and the fish she caught with her baby on her back, This is my daughter and I with my fish and my dad "the master", Fishing the front end of a nor-easter

Clockwise: Jodi and her fish she caught with her baby on her back in 2006, Jodi’s daughter and Jodi with her fish and dad “the master” in 2006, fishing the front end of a nor-easter in 2012

Dad was fighting a sinus infection that day so my sister and her two daughters (ages 12 and 6) and my own 7-year old daughter and I ventured into the gray afternoon without the master. We must have made an unusual impression – I doubt there were too many other women fishing that day let alone a group made up of only girls with fishing rods. Different, yes, but something that my family has embraced for a long time.

Girls in my family have been raised to love the great outdoors for several generations. We come from a line of farmers and sportsmen. I think my dad and uncles were raising their daughters to be the type of women they would want to marry – the type who is as comfortable baiting her own hook as she is being a lady.

This to me is what being an “outdoorsman” is all about. I love the hours surf-fishing, wading in a trout stream or walking through the prairies bird hunting. Now, I love it even more as I watch my little girl getting out and getting dirty. She hikes with us and fishes with us. She bundled up in 11-degree temperatures to pheasant hunt in western Nebraska with us. She got as excited as her dad and I when our two-year old bird dog bumped a group of ten sage-grouse on a recent walk on BLM lands in western Colorado.

We spent that afternoon on the beach peacefully, watching the littler girls cavort at the edge of the foamy surf finding treasures that the “ocean fairies” left for them. They were watching us cast heavy, weighted rigs far out beyond the crashing waves, waiting for a bite and simply enjoying the roar of the ocean blocking out the noise of everyday life. We didn’t catch a fish that day, but it was more about the fishing then the catching. Isn’t it always? 

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The Girls

The little girls show off the treasures the ocean fairies left them.

I wrote this story in 2012, when our daughter was seven and just months before things on the Jersey shore changed dramatically. In September 2012, the Jersey shore that I love was chewed up and spit out by another storm, Superstorm Sandy. The house that we went to for most of my life, and the one my grandfather owned that filled the first half of my life were both destroyed. The beaches where we went surf fishing looked nothing like normal.  

The year after Sandy, for the first time in my life, we didn’t have our traditional beach vacation, though I was able to make day trips during a visit to my parents to keep the streak going to some degree. We wondered if, perhaps, those times would be over. But we all realized that those precious weeks on the Jersey shore, surf fishing, playing in the sand, and most importantly just being a family were too important. So last year we started a new tradition in a new house. This time it was my nephew who caught his very first keeper striper in the surf. My daughter just read this story and asked if this year she’d be able to fish with us. And the beat goes on….

As owner and President of Jodi Stemler Consulting, Jodi has nearly 20 years experience in the natural resource conservation field. Jodi worked for a state fish and wildlife agency as well as non-profit conservation organizations in Washington, D.C. and has a strong network of colleagues in the sportsmen and conservation community, as well as the outdoor industry. Jodi currently lives in Denver, Colorado. This is Jodi’s third guest post you can see her first post here and her second post here.

 

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