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Memories of Fishing the Cape May Jetties
by Tim Hallbauer

t's funny how our memories are jolted into recalling events of the past. For some it may be a sound, a picture or something else. For me it was organizing my tackle and finding the reel given to me by an Uncle who has since passed.

Every year, a few families would pack up and make the trek from North Jersey to the shore. As costs of renting houses rose, several of those families opted for camping at one of the many campgrounds nearby. My Uncle was one of those. Somehow, I either was invited or invited myself to go with them. I can't recall which, but they we happy to have me. I spent the next week and a half, thunder storms and all, living in a jungle hammock.

Since there were several families present there were obviously some diverse personalities. One of those, I will refer to him as the ‘Shadow’, is the object of my rambling memory. There used to be a television show, ‘The White Shadow’, about a basketball coach in an inner city school who tried to instill self confidence and value in his students. With all he did and the effort he gave, he just didn’t seem to fit in. It is for the latter reason we referred to this individual as the ‘Shadow’.

I could list so many examples which illustrate why we referred to him, in private of course, by that name. Once we took my friends truck into town and proceeded to almost burn it to the ground because of a pinched wire in the fire wall. The whole time the Shadow was sitting in the bed of the truck reading some sort of Sci-Fi book, totally oblivious to the fact that smoke was billowing out of the engine compartment. We were running around like maniacs trying desperately to disconnect the battery cables but he seemed wrapped up in his own world.

A few days into the vacation my Uncle announced that tomorrow was the day for the fishing road trip! We would rise early and drive to Cape May to fish the jetties. To our dismay, the Shadow wanted in. We all rose early in anticipation of the trip. I don’t think anyone expected to really catch anything, even though it was possible. At the time, we were not very sophisticated in our approach, but we had fun anyway.

At first everyone started fishing pretty close together. This is not a really good idea when novices are present. Soon we drifted apart and some of us clambered our way onto a jetty. There were three of us there, myself, a friend and …the Shadow. We soon learned the error of our ways. A few times his Hopkins whizzed past our heads or dropped right next to us as a result of a nearly vertical cast. After about 10 minutes my friend and I beat a hasty retreat to the beach. He remained on the rocks. No skill, but plenty of persistence.

It was now about an hour later and no one had caught anything or had so much as a hit. We were on the backside of the jetty that the Shadow was fishing. He had actually gotten the hang of casting and retrieving the Hopkins. He had made several decent looking casts when he laid the rod down after a particularly good looking effort. I thought he might have left the bail closed and launched the lure into oblivion. A few minutes later he bent down, lifted the rod and began reeling. After three or four turns he let out a whoop that might have been heard back at the campground near Sea Isle City. Everyone spun in unison, looking at him from the beach, as he turned around to look at us from the far side of the rocks. I don’t think he heard many of the instructions we yelled because we were all yelling at once. He just kept pumping and reeling while looking over his shoulder, back at us. The only instruction I think he heard was the ‘Get off of the jetty’ let out by my Uncle.

He had worked his way almost to the beach, bent rod, pumping and reeling, constantly looking back at us, as we reached the jetty. He was still on the rocks and we were close enough to look over the rocks towards the water on the far side. Anticipating seeing a fish in the wash, we then heard a stream of expletives I never heard before and haven’t heard since. Glancing around we noticed a man hopping towards the beach, one leg pointed towards the rocks, spewing foul words one after the other. He kept reaching for his leg when one of us noticed that shiny Hopkins hanging from it. We all ducked behind the rocks and although it wasn’t funny, began to laugh.

Turns out, Shadow cast the lure out, let it sit on the bottom and roll around on the incoming tide with the bail open. This caused a big bow in the line because of the wind and tide. This gentleman, rod in hand, waded out between the jetty and the lure. The rest is self explanatory. Needless to say, we returned to the campground empty handed, but we have the memories.

Remember to always pay attention to what you are doing when fishing. Face forward when casting and retrieving and ….don’t worry, the Shadow hasn’t gone fishing since.

Copyright 2000 - 2011 T. Hallbauer, All Rights Reserved
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