Fishing for a cure for post political stress disorder

Tapping into those raw inner feelings to allay stress
...although we don’t expressly forbid political yakkety-yak in the clubhouse, it is discouraged by consensus.

I was diagnosed last month with post-political stress disorder, so here I am, complying with doctor’s orders, in the friendly confines of the Fish or Cut Bait Society. I feel better already.

Our ramshackle clubhouse isn’t licensed as a sanitarium, but it functions as one informally, soothing the troubled minds of worried men in times of crisis — international, national, local or just personal. One reason it’s so calming is that although we don’t expressly forbid political yakkety-yak in the clubhouse, it is discouraged by consensus.

My syndrome isn’t covered by insurance. That’s okay because I was diagnosed for free by Cabeza, who might have earned an advanced psychology degree and a license if he hadn’t quit college to be a fishing bum. Only he doesn’t think of it that way.

“The plan was to see how long I could do nothing but fishing before I got tired of it and returned to whatever the real world is,” Cabeza says. “It was going to be the topic of my thesis, except that was 20 years ago and I never got tired of fishing so I missed the deadline.”

Cabeza — we can call him doctor but not Dr. — prescribed informally that I join the stress therapy circle he leads whenever enough members of Fish or Cut Bait need emotional support.

Most of us currently suffer from political overdoses, and mostly we talk about fishing in our therapy sessions. I know you’re thinking “hey, isn’t that what people usually talk about at a fishing club anyhow?”

Right, but in our stress groups, Cabeza interrupts by asking “How does that make you feel?” Some of the answers get mighty deep and rather raw. I’d love to report the most lurid stuff here, but privacy concerns restrain me.

We began our latest session sitting around an imaginary round table, which will make sense a little further down. Cabeza began by telling us that Florida FWC, the Fish and Wildlife outfit, just approved a 78-day sport fishing for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It begins on May 6 and ends on Sept. 4,” the doc said. “How does that make you feel?”

I said it makes my head hurt because I’m not good at numbers.

“It makes me feel like Cabeza’s no good at numbers either,” said Headwind, who likes doing things the hard way. He’d been counting on his fingers and declared that May 6 to Sept. 4 is 122 days, not 78 days like the doc said.

“I’m trying to elicit emotional responses, not technical ones,” Cabeza answered, but he clarified by explaining that the Gulf red snapper season, if you can call it a season, is broken into segments as follows: In the month of May, every Saturday and Sunday plus Memorial Day Monday.

Then every day through the last week of May, on through June and the first nine days of July.

After July 9, the season closes until Friday, Sept. 1 when it will be opened every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through September, plus Labor Day (Monday Sept. 4) and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October.

“How does that make you feel?” Cabeza asked again, very earnestly.

Some of us simulated banging our heads where the table would have been. That’s why Cabeza, who’s clever, substituted the imaginary one. He knew our clubhouse insurance policy wouldn’t cover self-inflicted skull fractures.

Even though such piecemeal red snapper seasons have been in use for a couple of years now, fishingdoers still haven’t gotten over being able to fish for snapper wherever and whenever they want.

“It makes me feel like blowing off the Gulf and doing all my snapper fishing in the Atlantic,” said Enorme Barrigón. “I would, but I’m worried how that would affect the Gulf coast’s bait and beer economy, especially beer. Some of the smaller retailers might go under without my patronage.”

Bob Windward, who’s retired, enjoys being able to fish during the week when marinas are crowdless. “It makes me feel bad because the only places I can launch my boat are in public parks, which are zoos on weekends,” he said.

Our dockmaster, Cleat Bollard, said he wished Bob and others like him could launch during the week and leave their boats here for the weekend, but our insurance company won’t cover that either unless we hire 24-hour security.

After all of us blurted and vented our emotions about the state snapper season, Cabeza reported on the new federal regulations governing king mackerel fishing in both the Gulf and the Atlantic. He wanted to remind us that bad news sometimes is offset by good news, as this news is.

“They’re raising the recreational bag limit for kingfish in the Gulf from two fish a day to three as of May 1,” he said. “How does that make you feel?”

It made us all feel pretty good. We shouted “Hooray!” but then we remembered that we have to go pretty far offshore to find kingfish in the Gulf, so we asked about the Atlantic limit.

“It’s not being reduced. You can still keep two kings,” Cabeza said, emphasizing the positive. He reckoned that putting it another way — no increase in the Atlantic limit — would have bruised our delicate sensibilities.

So when he asked how that news made us feel, our responses were upbeat. We felt lucky that the daily limit wasn’t being lowered.

With our emotions stabilized, at least for the short term, Cabeza added a few details that otherwise might have felt too dense for us to absorb: “They’ve modified the management boundary between the Gulf and Atlantic migratory groups of kingfish,” he said. Before our eyes could glaze over — administrative details tend to cause that — he explained that we now have a year-round boundary at the county line between Miami-Dade and Monroe, which is where the Florida Keys are.

“How does that make you feel?” Cabeza asked again and again we shouted “Hooray!” We liked the explicit simplicity of it, and it helped us to get over the headaches of the Gulf red snapper season.

Rather than bore us with more administrative words, he gave us a computer link where we can see all the Gulf and Atlantic sub-zones defined. It’s ndex.html.

That made us feel good too. We all chipped in to buy Cabeza beers. He’s on his fourth one now. I’ll stick around to drive him home.