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The time I hooked Dad
Patty Leon new

My family is nearing the one-year anniversary of Dad’s death. As Feb. 28, approaches, I’m flooded with a bunch of fond memories of Dad.

Here is just one of many. 

There was one fishing spot we frequented often – Card Sound Road Bridge near Homestead, Fla. This road is only one of two thoroughfares that connects the mainland to the Florida Keys, the other being U.S. Highway 1.

When it was first constructed Card Sound Road had a wooden drawbridge. It connects northern section of the Florida Keys to the mainland and is in the middle of Biscayne National Park and bay.

The original drawbridge was destroyed by fire in the mid-1940s. For several years the road was closed. In 1969 construction was completed on a new high-span bridge and the road re-opened. The older section of the bridge, directly under the new span, was set up as a catwalk for the public to fish from.

It was one of Dad’s favorite fishing spots. 

There were many times my Dad, uncle and I would head out to go night fishing there. It was well lit and always jammed packed with other anglers, especially on weekends. My Dad and uncle lugged out all the gear to the catwalk while I walked ahead a little to find our perfect spot.

They would prep their fancy fishing poles, bait the hooks, and cast their lines. I was too young to use any of the fancy rods.

Dad always brought out the Cuban Yo-Yo hand reel for me. (Not sure what that is? Google it, they even have fancy ones now). I would sit on a five-gallon bucket that had a cushion placed on top. Dad would cast out my line and hand me the yoyo. If I felt a nibble or something, I was supposed to call out for him and he would show me what to do next.

Alas, I had yet to catch a fish.

This evening my Dad brought a second yoyo to teach my uncle how to cast the line which required some technique. I turned around to watch them.

My Dad was a pro at it. During one of his demos, he twirled the line above his head. The hook and sinker swinging round and round in a blur. I watched in awe and moved in a little closer to see...a little too close.

OUCH! (I was just a child otherwise it would have been a litany of cuss words right here.)

The fishing hook went through the fleshy part of my hand between the thumb and index finger (scientifically called the Thenar Space…who knew?). I let out a loud squeal and my dad froze (luckily for me or he would have tossed the line thereby pulling the hook). Every angler looked our way (some mad that I was making too much noise…others wondering if my dad was trying to use me as shark bait).

Quick to quiet his squealing daughter and heal the hurt, Dad rushed over with his fishing tool, cut the barbed hook, and pulled it out. 

I let out an even louder squeal!

He ran to his tackle box, got hydrogen peroxide, some aspirin, band aids, and a BEER from the cooler. He did his best to make it all well and gave me that, “please don’t tell mom this happened,” look.

BTW he only gave me a sip of beer to wash down the aspirin. He walked over to the bait and tackle shop and got me a Coke for the rest of the night.

As he handed me the Coke, I looked up at him, whimpered, sipped on my soda, looked down at my hand and whimpered again. I looked up at my Dad, batted my watery eyes and looked at his fishing rod.


That night I got to use the big rod. Learned to cast the line out myself AND caught my first fish EVER. It was the ONLY fish caught that night, an eight-pound Florida pompano.

The next morning, Dad showed Mom the fish I caught (leaving out the other details, of course). Mom was so thrilled she didn’t ask what happened to my hand (which was now slightly swollen and bruised…but I’m willing to bet she didn’t ask because she knew she wouldn’t like the answer).

That night we had baked pompano with plantains and rice. Mom made it with some form of citrus sauce drizzled on top. Still my best fishing trip memory with Dad.

-Patty Leon

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