Sheri and I headed down to Assateague Island this past weekend to meet up with a young boy named who’s wish was to touch a shark. Our new team member, Chet asked us if we could help in trying to make this little boy’s wish come true. Liam has Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma. Please take a moment to learn more about this incredible young boy by reading his story here:
We showed up at Buck’s Bait & Tackle Friday evening to snag some bunker for the weekend fish. He had a bunch, so I picked out the best smelly ones I could find! I called up Big Mike to tell him we were on our way. He told me that he and Kim would be working and wouldn’t be able to make it out Saturday. Kim had to work the whole weekend but Mike said he would be willing to help out with the shark touching task on Sunday.
We met Chet, his cousin Bill and his girlfriend, Khris early Saturday to test the waters for the next days events. There was a west wind around 10 mph. The sea was calm and the water was warm; perfect conditions to blast bait for big sharks! We both started blasting, catching a few nice Dusky’s and as usual showing off the Sand Blaster to the nearby fishermen. Chet and I agreed that this was a great sign for the following day and we all figured it would be no problem getting this little guy a shark!
A guy pulled in next to us with a ton of gear and some kayacks. I’m usually a little concerned when I see a kayacker. They have a tendency to run through our lines. We were just getting ready to blast out two fresh baits when this guy and his kids came over to see the Sand Blaster in action. Needless to say they were blown away by the distance and smiled as they walked back to their spot. I thought that’s cool he loved it and and I figured there would be no problems fishing next to them. It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that I saw his son Drew sliding his Kyack into the sea with a fishing rod in the rod holder. My first though was, he will go out and drop his line when he clears our lines. Nope! This kid oars out right in line with our baits and starts trolling! I looked over to see Chet saying what the hell is this kid doing? He was hooked into Chet’s lines and on his way to snag mine. I waved to him to stop trolling. He started to panic when he realized he had snagged both of our lines. We drug him into the surf with our rods . He was making excuses as he started pulling his craft out of the surf. I said, “I don’t want to hear it dude! You just saw us cast out there. What made you think it was o.k. to start trolling?” I told him our line was very expensive and “sorry” wasn’t going to cut it if I had to cut it! I knew his father was standing behind me but it didn’t matter. This boy needed to learn a lesson in beach etiquette. We unraveled the line and everyone went back to their spots. It was a short time later when his father and youngest boy, Sam came over to apologize. They said Drew felt really bad about what he had just done. I told Sam to tell Drew when I got another shark on I’ll let him real it in. His father and son thanked me and again apologized for not paying attention. As they were walking away BAM!..there WENT my rod. I called Drew over to take the rod. He took it and pulled in a nice Dusky but more importantly it washed away all the drama that has just happened. His little brother Sam said “I want to launch a bait.” I said, “No problem. But after you launch it you have to real it in.” He smiled and agreed. Again it was only seconds and we had one on the rod he had just blasted. This one was a little bigger so his dad had to step in to help. I have to give it to Sam. He reeled it all the way in and took a picture with his first shark from shore like a pro! I remember thinking after it was over, wow this started out so bad and ended up so great! They thanked me for the opportunity and I returned the thanks with a handshake and a couple BUF hats to let them know they are now part of the team. The Sand Blaster does so many things to improve your fishing experience and this was another example of how it not only caught a shark, but also brought two fishermen together. Awesome!
The next morning everyone was excited to catch a shark for Liam! We started fishing around 8:00 a.m.. Liam and his family were running late so we decided to test the waters to see how the bite was. Chet blasted one way out there and I followed up with a blast beyond the thunder dome (as we call it). Then Big Mike blasted another one even further. The conditions were perfect and it only took a few minutes and we were hooked into a large Sand Bar shark. This shark was coming in funny. It didn’t fight much but was very heavy. When we pulled it out of the surf we noticed it was tangled up in a heavy steel long line rig! The rig was cutting the shark to pieces. Chet called for his pliers. Big Mike and I kept the shark calm while Chet removed the rig. We were all pissed about the tackle that was used on him but relieved he was going back to the sea free of that mess. A few minutes later Big Mike banged a nice Dusky so we all felt like it was going to be easy to get a shark for Liam.
After releasing the Dusky I blasted out two more fresh baits and Chet did the same. Now we had three fresh baits in the water waiting for Liam to show up. It was the ideal situation for a guide, fresh bait with fish in the water! Shortly after doing our high 5’s we all noticed a huge school of between 50-70 very large dolphins very close to our lines. The school was probably 150 yards wide and 300 yards long. I turned my head for a second and I heard Chet’s reel ripping out drag like a freight train was on the other end. He was dug in like a Sand Flea with his rod tip straight towards the ocean. He said I think I hooked a Dolphin! Everyone watched as the dolphin on his line launched out of the water 15-20′ ripping out full drag as it launched again nearly the same height. By the third launch the mammal must have sent out a clicking noise to warn the others. I’ve never seen anything like what was about to happen. Every dolphin did an about face and blasted out of there like they were running from a fire! If anything or anybody was in that surf they would have been killed. They erupted so hard and fast they actually slowed the waves from breaking. It literally looked like an explosion. Anyone that thinks Dolphins don’t talk with their own language is nuts. The hooked Dolphin rang the fire alarm and believe me they all responded in a millisecond. It was an awesome sight. Meanwhile, the hooked dolphin spit the hook out and caught up with his friends I’m sure. We were all glad it was over so we blasted three more baits and waited for Liam and his family to show up. About an hour went by until we got the call that Liam was on his way! I remember thinking that we hadn’t had a bite in an hour I hoped this didn’t continue. Liam got out of the truck with his family, and we were all excited to meet him and let him know that was the day he would touch a shark. I shook his hand and was taken with his energy. He is a very engaging young man to say the least and his smile just lit everyone up.
He had only just seen the ocean and the beach for the first time the previous day so everyone was having a great time. He rolled in the sand like it was the best thing he ever felt. We walked down to the Sand Blaster to show him how it works and wanted him to shoot the bait that would possibly catch the shark he was supposed to touch. I explained the process and he listened very intently. I told his father to give him a hand so Liam and his Dad blasted their first bait together. It went out a mile! Awesome! Before we let him launch the bait we presented Liam with his own Sharks tooth necklace and team BUF t-shirt. He loved it all. I told him to rub the tooth and we’ll get a bite. He started rubbing and BAM there went the rod! I said this boy is awesome. Big Mike grabbed the rod only to have the fish spit the bait out. We were all a little disappointed but we were sure we would have another chance. Bait after bait we blasted with nothing but small bites and fish that wouldn’t stay on the hook. Then I got to thinking about the Dolphins. What if they signaled a warning to all the big fish to get out the area. It seemed like the only person who wasn’t worried about if we caught one or not was Liam! He was so engaging. He sat next to me in the sand and said, “you sit on one side of the rod Dan and I’ll sit in the other.” Together our energy would make the fish bite. I almost cried but I asked myself what I had to cry about. I was fishing with an awesome kid who gets it when it comes to fishing. I told him to rub that tooth again and I silently said a little prayer for God to let us have a bite. A second after that BAM went the rod again! I got up to grab the rod and the fish was gone. I guess I should have prayed for a landed fish not just a bite!
Liam and his family were on a schedule and we had run out of time. I couldn’t help but feel I had let him down. We all had to say our goodbyes. I wanted to get a picture with him but he said no pictures but he’d give me a hug. He searched out everyone to give them a hug. As he was walking back to his family he forgot he didn’t hug Bike Mike. Liam did an about face and ran over to Mike and said, “I almost forgot to hug you.” What a cool kid and a great family. I watched him walk away and hoped I would get to fish with him again. I saw tears in every ones eyes and it was at that moment that I realized that day wasn’t all about catching a shark. It was also about teaching us all a lesson that you don’t always get what you want just because you want it. Sometimes in life you meet someone that changes yours. These are rare people and somehow their energy washes away the negative, so all you see in the end is goodness. That is the light. Believe me I know I speak for everyone there that day when I say Liam’s light is awe inspiring and made us all take a good look at what’s truly important. He is a true fisher of men and he caught us all that day! Way to flip the script Liam!
We may have not caught the shark but we all caught a piece of his light! Thanks my little brother. You will always be a part of the BUF Team. I will fish with you anytime!
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