I hadn’t started writing SUMMER ON LOVERS’ ISLAND when I went fishing on the ocean for the first time. I don’t even think I’d started writing the Jewell Cove series, to be honest. But when you’re a writer, any and all experiences count as research, and I just KNEW that one day that morning of fishing for Pollock was going to make it into a book.
In the book, Josh takes Lizzie fishing. It’s a beautiful morning, the fish are biting, and all goes well, at least for a while. She learns how to jig a line, what it feels like to have more than one fish on the line at a time, and later on she even attends a fish and chip fry.
The morning my family went fishing was much the same. We were in a pretty small boat for open water, really – I think it was a 17 footer though I could be slightly off. There were six of us – the four in our family as well as our friend Owen who owned the boat, and another friend, Fred, who lived on the water and near whose place we launched. I have to admit, going out over the waves was a bit scary for me. There was lots of bouncing and I had this unholy fear of one of us bouncing out – either me or one of the kids, who were a lot smaller than they are now.
But then we stopped, killed the engine, and got the lines ready to cast.
The two fish we were looking for during the day were mackerel and Pollock. The boys wanted mackerel to use to make their own chum – they were planning an upcoming shark fishing trip (release only, of course). The Pollock was for eating…and it was soon clear that lots of fish were biting! An ocean perch found its way on my line. Those things are UGLY, by the way. And one of the girls caught a cod. After a while, though, I noticed one of the girls looking a little green. And what happens to Lizzie in the book? Yeah, it happened to us too. Being a good girl, our youngest hung her head over the boat, poor thing! We gave her some water and a granola bar, but the fun part of the trip was over for the two kids, I think. We had the wife of our friend pick them up at the dock, and they went to spend a fun few hours with her (she’s lovely and fun!) and the adults went back out on the water for another few hours of fishing.
We decided to try a different spot, and boy did we hit it big! At one point, I think I was bringing up 4 and 5 fish at a time. The biggest ones we put in the live well; the others went back into the ocean. After about 4 hours on the water, both my husband and I were started to get a little queasy too – it’s the drifting and rocking that does it. So we quit fishing and instead went on a tour along the coast. It was gorgeous, and we soon felt better. Mid-afternoon we docked, sat on Fred and Patsy’s deck and munched on nachos, and the boys took care of the disgusting job of cleaning the fish.
When we left, we had a few baggies of lovely, fresh Pollock fillets for our supper. Patsy let me in on her secret for beer batter – pancake mix and beer – and that night we had fresh fish and chips that were DELICIOUS.
It was such a memorable day that it seemed perfect for SUMMER ON LOVERS’ ISLAND. Of course modifications had to be made but the best parts are there. Our friend has since sold his boat, and we haven’t gone out again, but it’s one of those days I remember as being a highlight of that summer.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Her first cast only went about thirty feet, but Josh said that was okay and to carry on. She didn’t catch anything but got familiar with the rhythm of lifting the rod and reeling in the slack.
“Try again,” he suggested. “Fishing isn’t something done in a rush. It’s like you have all the time in the world.”
This time her cast went out a little farther and before long she felt a pull and jerk.
“I think I’ve got something!”
Josh’s grin was wide. “Awesome. Don’t rush. Just be smooth, lift, and reel.”
She reeled in the line, the weight of something on the other end terribly exciting and foreign. When she lifted for the last time, she saw the fish on the hook. “I got one! He’s still there! What do I do now?”
Josh chuckled. “Just bring it over the side. I’ll do the dirty work.”
Thank God. She liked fish, but generally it came from the market, all nice and clean and, well, dead. She held the line and waited for Josh, but she had to wait a little longer as he pulled his phone out of his pocket and snapped a picture first. “Come on, you need a picture of you with your first fish,” he said, then took the line and gently removed the hook from the fish’s mouth.
“Are we keeping him?”
Josh laughed. “He’s only about eight inches. I promise, we’ll get more. This time we can both cast.”
They carried on that way for a half hour, and Lizzie managed to bring up three good-sized pollock as well as a darker, thinner mackerel, which Josh threw back. On her last catch, she insisted on handling the slippery fish herself, removing the hook from its mouth and slipping it into the water of the live well.
Josh’s line brought up an ugly, spinier fish, which he identified as an ocean perch and threw back also. Lizzie cast in once more but got a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. God, she wasn’t getting seasick, was she? She swallowed, but her mouth seemed full of saliva. “Uh, Josh?”
“Yeah?” He turned around, took one look at her, and reeled in his line.
“Look at the horizon,” he suggested. “Bring in your line, and I’ll get us moving. The problem with drifting is that you ride the swells.”
He took the lines and secured them and then started the engine again. Lizzie swallowed repeatedly, not wanting to be sick. How humiliating! And Josh looking as fresh as ever. Of course he’d grown up on the water and probably never got sick. She took desperate gulps of fresh air as he sped up, skimming the swells rather than rocking on them. “Better?” he called over to her.
She didn’t answer. The sick feeling also made her head feel funny and she wasn’t at all sure she was going to be able to hold out.
He slowed as they approached an inlet of the island, and Lizzie knew. She stood up and put her hand on his arm. “Stop,” she said, gulping. And before she could say anything more, she rushed to the side of the boat and heaved.
What a great date she was turning out to be.
Here’s a picture of me with MY first fish that day! I’m giving away a kindle copy of SUMMER ON LOVERS’ ISLAND (US only). All you have to do is answer the following question in the comments (and fill out the Rafflecopter): Have you ever been fishing on the ocean?
Bio: Donna Alward is the author of over 40 heartwarming, small-town romances featuring ordinary heroes and heroines finding extraordinary love! You can find her online at www.donnaalward.com, or visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DonnaAlwardAuthor and on twitter @DonnaAlward.