2020 has been a real big pile of rotten fish. With so much crap and uncertainty coming from all directions, it’s sometimes hard to remember the good stuff. I have a bit too much time on my hands, so I often find myself trying not to dwell on the overwhelming sense of loss I have about Fishin’ Frank’s, and what Frank, Terry, and all of us are going through.
Despite the troubles of this past year, I’m damn lucky because I have a large and wonderful extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins — plus some top-notch chosen family. I have a few very close true friends, and that’s more than most can say. Again, I’m damn lucky.
Every now and then (a bit more often lately), I try to get the cobwebs out of my brain and think of some of the people that I have shared good or even great times with. The stories and memories of those times are what I need to balance my mind and heart.
My Uncle Jim has been on my mind lately. I know I give Frank and my mom a ton of credit for who I am and the fishing nut I turned out to be. But my uncle is a true unsung hero. His brother (my father) was taken away too early. He resembles him physically, from what I remember. But as a person, Uncle Jim is his own man.
My first trip into Fishin’ Frank’s in 1986 or ‘87 was with him. I’ve had a lot of firsts with him — my first snook, trout and shark, plus my largest snook (pushing 30 pounds) and my only 10-pound bass were all caught with him. He hasn’t caught a 10-pounder yet.
Way back then, I lived 2,500 miles away in Arizona and came here to visit each summer. He always made time to take me fishing. He is one of the least selfish people I know. He puts so many others before himself, to the point of fault sometimes. When I caught my 10-pound bass, I think he was as happy as I was. Frank weighed it on his scale and Jim told him the story. It was awesome.
Ten years later, I moved here to stay. For a while, Uncle Jim and I would still get on the water, but we rarely fish together now. Sadly, it’s for no other reason than getting busy with life and not making the time.
After so many firsts with him, I was thrilled to help get Uncle Jim his first cobia about 20 years ago. I had been working at Fishin’ Frank’s a few years already. Jim and I went out with his son Taylor (about 8 or 10 at the time) fishing on his boat. They wanted to catch a shark and were really hoping for a cobia too.
I took the knowledge I had gained over a couple years at Frank’s and played guide for them. We selected a likely spot, anchored, and put out a chum bag and a couple of baits. I took a third rod and hung a bait about two feet under the back corner of the boat.
My uncle thought that was weird. I told him to wait and see, because cobia like to swim up under the boat to hang out (one of the many things I learned from Frank). A little while later, that rod started screaming out line. Jim and Taylor fought the fish and ended up landing a cobia between 36 and 40 inches — a first for them both. The student became the teacher (at least at this moment).
A couple years later Jim and I went out for him to land his first large tarpon, which was about a 120 pounds and caught at the same place where I caught my first. Amazing. So many awesome trips with him. I hope to have more and that we can both keep having some firsts together and keep filling that bucket list.
Most of these tales and stories are told after someone is gone. Not this time. I just want Uncle Jim to know how appreciative I am to have him in my life. I’ll always hold on to our fishing memories, and I’m looking forward to planning future fishing trips. I don’t want to look back 20 years from now and regret not spending enough time with the ones I cherish — the time to make time is now.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle and a co-host of Radio WaterLine every Saturday from 7 to 9 a.m. on KIX 92.9 FM. For more information about the shop or for local fishing tips, call 941-625-3888 or visit FishinFranks.com.