To Catch a Fish

I have named nearly a thousand fish in my day.

I am about to go fishing. Don’t ask me why. You don’t need a reason to go fishing. That’s one of the great things about it. It is reasonless work.

My late father-in-law taught me that.

Certainly, some men fish like they are on a mission for the U.S. government. These men are either constipated, or they drink Coke Zero.

But for most of us, fishing is just sitting on a boat and fighting off dehydration. It is a beautiful waste of time. And it is even more wasteful when you throw fish back, like I do.

I haven’t always released fish. I used to keep them, and I would even pay to get the big ones mounted.

In my office, for example, there are five fish on the wall. In my den, six.

There is a nice redfish I had mounted by an old man in Choctaw Beach, long ago. He would mount fish for twenty-five bucks. He was a little senile, and he screwed up one of my fish by painting it green.

When people see this fish, they often say, “What kinda fish is that?”

“A very jealous one,” I say.

And nobody laughs because that is the worst joke you will ever hear.

But somewhere along the way, I started releasing fish. I would drag them into the boat and I couldn’t bring myself to gut them. So I would remove the hook, name the fish, and let them go.

I have named nearly a thousand fish in my day.

The first one I ever named was while fishing with my father-in-law, Brother Jim—I never referred to my father-in-law any other way.

I caught a speckled trout on a number-six hook, and I felt bad for the fish. I kept thinking about what it must be like to be a speckled trout. I wondered if the fish missed his mama. I don’t know what came over me.

Then, Brother Jim and I got to talking about how the fish probably had a nice life underwater, and a happy family, and belonged to a good school. Brother Jim even started crying about it because at the time he was suffering severe heat exhaustion.

So my father-in-law and I agreed to name the fish.

“James Martin is the perfect name for this little guy,” said Brother Jim, wiping his eyes. “Since that’s my name.”

And he was right, the Martins have a very specific list of unique traits. They all have intense eyes, and wild personalities, just like fish. Plus, they are primarily Baptist. And it is a well-known fact that all fish believe in full immersion.

So we settled on the name James Martin Delacroix III. We set the trout free. And I’ve been releasing fish ever since.

So fishing isn’t all about catching fish. It’s about something else for me.

In fact, my wife doesn’t even expect me to arrive home with fish anymore. Whenever she wants fish, she drives to the seafood market and pays $16.99 per pound for it.

Usually, when she goes I tell her to bring back some smoked tuna dip because our seafood market has tuna dip that is good enough to blow your hair back.

Don’t get me started on tuna dip. For a man who releases fish, I eat lots of them.

Anyway, my friend Matthew has just arrived in my driveway. He honks the horn, and I’d better get going. Matthew is a good fishing buddy, and a nice guy.

Nice people are everywhere. That’s one thing about life which has always intrigued me.

You grow up learning the exact opposite about the world. Teachers, preachers, and folks in the bleachers often spread the idea that all people are selfish. I won’t believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know unkind people are out there. But they are a minority. I’ve met too many saints to believe otherwise.

Like the stranger who once changed my mother’s tire on a dark, two-lane highway.

Or the woman who rescued a runaway teenager, then managed to adopt the boy, then sent him to med school several years later.

The man in the wheelchair, who raced ahead of the girls in a parking lot to hold the door for them. He even tipped his cap when they passed.

And the man who insisted that I call him “Brother” even though we weren’t kin. Who had a heart so tender it was practically purple.

I forgot what I was talking about.

Oh, yes. Fishing. I’m looking forward to saying hello to James Martin Delacroix III today.

You are missed, Brother Jim.


  1. Sandi in FL. - May 16, 2019 7:43 am

    Sean, nice remembrance of your late father-in-law. I’m sure he enjoyed fishing with you as much as you did with him. Thanks for taking us readers on the boat with you.
    My paternal grandfather was an avid fisherman, but he didn’t toss them back in the water. He could fry the best tasting fish in the county, and his hushpuppies were second to none..

  2. Luis - May 16, 2019 8:22 am

    Hey, thanks.

  3. Karen - May 16, 2019 8:24 am

    Fishing is a great way to relax, and just be still. I once bought my husband a bunch of fishing gear for Valentine’s Day, including bright lures in shades of pink and red. He laughed so hard. I don’t think he ever used any of them. He throws all of his back, too. How lovely that you shared this with your father in law. Thank you, Sean.

  4. Cathi Russell - May 16, 2019 10:14 am

    Fishin’ is visitin’…for memories, feelings & fish. Especially Jim Martin Delacroix. Thanks for the smile, Sean!

  5. Clark - May 16, 2019 12:04 pm

    My father in law would drive to my house, get out, hand me his car keys, and we’d go fishin. He didn’t care where we went as long as I took back roads to get there. He would slowly scratch his hands and look out the window not saying anything. He once told me I could catch a big carp with cotton balls doused in loud perfume. When I told him it didn’t work but left me smelling like a French tart, he laughed himself into a tizzy. That’s when I realized I’d been had. I loved that old man.

    • Jannie Bug - May 16, 2019 5:14 pm

      I love this story! That humorous side of someone we hold in such high esteem…it endears them so much more to us.

  6. Nell Thomas - May 16, 2019 12:05 pm

    While watching a fishing tournament on TV not long ago- I heard the contestant was penalized for not properly bringing the fish out of the water and onto the boat. I ask my husband about that and he explained: it damages the fish that are caught and thrown back into the water. I was glad to hear that this much consideration was given to the fish so all the Jim Martin Delacroixs can continue on having a good life.

  7. Joe Patterson - May 16, 2019 12:35 pm

    Thanks again I turn them loose too

  8. Connie Havard Ryland - May 16, 2019 1:15 pm

    I love to fish. And I throw them all back. Fishing is the best relaxation in the world. No phones or computers, no radios or loud music. Hopefully not much talking but certainly no loud talking. Just peace and quiet.

  9. Shelton A. - May 16, 2019 1:25 pm

    Catch and release isn’t unusual, but naming them is. Unkind people are a minority but a very vocal one (so they get noticed…they like being noticed).

  10. Phillip Saunders. - May 16, 2019 2:26 pm

    Great one, Sean. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din, to release all the fish you catch. My friends and I release quite a few, too, but I sure as Heddon ain’t throwin’ back no legal-size speckled trout. Them things sweeten the grease all too well.
    There are some fishermen/fisherwomen from my earlier years that I sure would like to wet a hook with again just like you and your dad and dad-in-law. They taught me a lot about fishing, but also about life. You know, the two just seem to go together somehow. One day, on the heavenly waters, I hope to share a boat with them again. Right now, though, I am thinking of heading for a pond this afternoon to search for the elusive Largemoutheous Basseus Americanicus. And I ain’t throwing the little ones back; you can bet your bottom rig on that.

  11. Sandy Hutchinson - May 16, 2019 3:01 pm

    You do such a good job of honoring people

  12. jim morris - May 16, 2019 3:23 pm

    Read you every day…we are going to see you tonight in Florence, Al…if you have never been here, you probably don’t know the best places to eat…Ricatoni’s Italian grill is downtown, and fabulous…shrimp speidino is awesome…they have the best bleu cheese dressing in the known universe…enjoy!!!…See you tonight, Jim Morris

  13. Mary T. - May 16, 2019 3:51 pm

    It’s good to see in-laws honored. Mine were the best!

  14. Jannie Bug - May 16, 2019 5:26 pm

    My favorite aunt on the planet was a fisher woman. At one point, she lived on a creek in the Panhandle and fished as often as she could. She was the person that I sought out for advice and solace when the world had me down for the count. I remember one day driving out to talk with her and finding her loading her little jon boat with tackle and a can of earthworms. If I was going to talk with her, I was going fishing with her.

    My aunt smoked filtered cigarettes, and I discovered that day why she tore an opening in the bottom of the pack rather than the top. That way she wouldn’t get worm juice on the filter when she removed a cigarette.

  15. Rebecca - May 16, 2019 9:02 pm

    … a nice tribute! It made me miss my dad, who taught me to fish.

  16. Edna B. - May 16, 2019 11:56 pm

    I have a thing about catching fish that one isn’t going to eat. That hook must hurt wicked when it is pulled out of the fish’s mouth before throwing it back in the water. But that’s just my way of thihking. Enjoy your fishing trip. Hugs, Edna B.

  17. Charaleen Wright - May 17, 2019 6:05 am

  18. Jack Darnell - May 17, 2019 3:24 pm

    I didn’t know people did that until a few years ago. Sherry and I came in from out daily ‘trolling’ with a good string. An OLD man came in on a boat beside us and I asked how he picked up? He said I caught 15. Where are they? I threw them back? WHAT? I haven’t caught that many yet!!
    We always eat our catch! Favorite is the Crappie or as you Florida boys call them, “Specks”.
    But it makes you feel better, release them! If I catch a big Bass it will go back, I don’t eat bass! 😉

    I never caught Bro. Jim!

  19. Linda Moon - May 18, 2019 6:43 pm

    Brother Jim, the primarily Baptist one, undoubtedly sang all the verses very slowly to “JUST AS I AM” in church over the years pleading for those aisle-walkers to become immersed as one of them. As a former primarily Baptist, I’m happy to hear that JMDIII was immersed, in spite of not hearing the pleading song. By the way – Florence, Alabama was FULL of nice people this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to meet two of them, and more!

  20. Laura - May 21, 2019 3:34 pm

    I live in Bartlett, TN an island city in the middle of Memphis. I went to high school in the north. Lake Michigan was my stomping grounds. I wonder how you felt about bi-national people? The Yankees I met were beautiful, of course it was the seventies. Lol.

  21. Virginia Carroll - June 16, 2019 1:25 pm

    I remember fishing with my Mother. We children always called her Mother because she was the epidomy of motherhood. My daddy cared nothing about fishing, but my mother, a descendant of native Americans, was raised on the Choctawhatchee. Daddy would take her to the river to put out bait for red horse sucker fish. Later, we would go back and fish for them. The way to catch a red horse sucker is much like fishing for a mullet, pull him just before he bites. My mother would clean the mullet, gash them on each side in about quarter of an inch gashes to the backbone to render the tiny little bones harmless. Fry them up with huspuppies was a real treat for our family. I feel sorry for folks who never had the opportunity to eat these good Southern foods.


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