Sitting on the side of the dock, her feet dangling in the water, my daughter gazed down at her submerged feet and said, "Maybe the fish will mistake my toes for worms and we'll get a bite."
I couldn't help but laugh and feel sorry for Alia at the same time. She had spent the last two hours fishing on that warm, sunny evening at the Port of Brookings Harbor without getting a nibble.
Still, the time spent was not a waste.
The idea of fishing for smelt or sardines at the port came to Alia the day before during a family kayak outing that included Mom. We took a break from paddling, stopping at public fishing dock next to the inside jetty. There, we found two young girls with poles in their hands, hoping to catch a fish from the schools roving the waters. Alia looked in the girls' bucket to see four, 4-inch-long sardines.
"Can we go fishing after kayaking?" she asked. "I know where the fishing poles are at home."
I smiled and said, "Sure, but tomorrow evening, after I get off work."
The next day, with the sun still hanging high in the western sky, Alia and I packed up our fishing poles and tackle box and headed for the same dock (Mom stayed behind to teach guitar lessons).
We had the dock to ourselves as I rigged up our lines with the five-hook setups given to us an hour earlier by Granddad. Unfamiliar with exactly how to catch sardines, we cast our lines and let them drift or slowly reeled them in. Then we sat down for the long wait.
Fortunately, the local wildlife kept us entertained. There were plenty of birds: Cormorants skittered across the water's surface, pelicans dive-bombed for fish, seagulls glided past, and a pair of osprey circled overhead for a moment before heading off.
In the water, sea lions flashed by, breaking the surface with big splashes, and occasionally with fish flopping in their mouths.
Meanwhile, two humans waved to us as they paddled by in their kayaks. Recreational fishing vessels motored past, looking like tiny, toy boats against the towering Yaquina dredge that slowly motored in and out of the port all evening.
At one point, a family of four joined us on the dock. The father of the group tossed out a crab ring, while a young boy and girl took turns casting and reeling in a shiny lure. Their luck was no different than ours. They left an hour later.
Alia and I were alone again. She complained about the lack of bites. "I wish I could catch just one," she said.
I distracted her by laying back on the sun-drenched wood planks and pointing out how warm it felt. She lay down next to me, her feet in the water, and we watched as several wispy clouds floated by.
"You know," I said. "We're lucky to live in such a beautiful place."
"Yep," Alia replied. "But it still would be nice to catch a fish."
"Yep," I said.
I sat up, shucked off my flip-flops and stuck my feet into the water and wiggled my toes.
"Let's give the fish some more worms to bite on."