There’s a jukebox and votes in every tackle shop

President Obama shopped for books Friday at Bunch of Grapes. Fishing columnist Nelson Sigelman, in the left hand corner of the frame, did not cowboy up and ask Mr. Obama to listen to country western music.
Photo by Jeff McAdams

President Obama shopped for books Friday at Bunch of Grapes. Fishing columnist Nelson Sigelman, in the left hand corner of the frame, did not cowboy up and ask Mr. Obama to listen to country western music.

The annual Ag Fair provides a beacon for many Island young people home for a summer visit. It was fun for Norma and I to watch our daughter Marlan, home from New York City for one week, reconnect with friends as we walked among the fair’s many attractions.

Marlan used most of her Island time to visit friends, eat ice cream, and sleep.

“Want to go fishing for fluke?” I asked as she sat on the couch furiously emailing (is that old-fashioned?), tweeting, texting, or doing what ever the hell people now do to communicate in place of telephone calls.

“No,” she said with a roll of the eyes.

“You sure?” I said, knowing what the answer would be but wanting to prove to myself that I could still get under her skin the way dads like to do because they are unwilling to admit that their little girls are not little girls who exist to be teased.

“No.”

“It’ll be fun,” I said. She ignored me.

On our refrigerator is a photo of Marlan. She is holding a fluke. She is probably about eight.

My memory is not completely accurate but as I recall Marlan did not really care much about holding a fluke up so I could take a photo for posterity and was a somewhat difficult subject as I pressed her to pose the fish at a good angle. She really did not care much if the world knew she had caught a fish, and did not really care much about fishing.

But there she is on the white refrigerator door holding a fluke and looking for the entire world like a proud fisherman.

It is the kind of photo that makes dads nostalgic and inspires them to write country western songs. Country western star Trace Adkins wrote a song about fishing with his youngest daughter Trinity at the family farm soon after a fire destroyed the family home.

The song title is “Just Fishin’.” Trace Adkins’ distinctive baritone adds an element of authenticity to words that every father who has ever held a fishing rod knows are heartfelt.

“I’m lost in her there holdin’ that pink rod and reel

She’s doin’ almost everything but sittin’ still

Talkin’ ’bout her ballet shoes and training wheels

And her kittens

And she thinks we’re just fishin’

“I say, “Daddy loves you, baby” one more time

She says, “I know. I think I got a bite.”

And all this laughin’, cryin, smilin’ dyin’ here inside’s

What I call, livin’

“And she thinks we’re just fishin’ on the riverside

Throwin’ back what we could fry

Drownin’ worms and killin’ time

Nothin’ too ambitious

She ain’t even thinkin’ ’bout

What’s really goin’ on right now

But I guarantee this memory’s a big’in

And she thinks we’re just fishin’

“She’s already pretty, like her mama is

Gonna drive the boys all crazy

Give her daddy fits

And I better do this every chance I get

‘Cause time is tickin’”

I bring up country western because the press has reported on what books Barack Obama is reading while on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, but they have shared nothing about his taste in music.

Barack Obama should have dinner with Trace Adkins, a genuine country western star born and raised in Sarepta in Webster Parish in north Louisiana. He is an American success story, a former oilrig worker and honky-tonk entertainer, and his songs encapsulate much of the American experience outside the Washington beltway and that includes fishing with his kids.

Last week, I recommended the president take time to go fishing with his daughters. I said Americans could relate more to a man who goes fishing with his family than one who plays golf with movers and shakers. I recently received some statistics to back up that view.

The 2011 Special Report on Fishing and Boating by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and The Outdoor Foundation, revealed that in 2010, 3.36 million people participated in fishing for the first time — an increase of two percent since 2008.

The third annual report provides detailed information on boating and fishing participation by gender, age, ethnicity, income, education, and geographic region.

Among the key findings: In 2010, 45.4 million Americans participated in fishing (down from 48 million in 2009); fishing continues to be recognized as a top “gateway” activity, spurring involvement in other outdoor interests; adults 18 and older with children in their households participate in fishing at higher levels than adults without children; 3.4 million Hispanics participated in fishing in 2010 — up from 2.1 million in 2007; females and youth make up the highest proportion of new participants, representing a good long-term growth target.

A photo of Barack Obama riding a bicycle with his daughters in the state forest appears in today’s issue of The Times. Bike riding is fun I suppose but have you ever heard a song about bike riding?

I think a lot of Americans would be better able to relate to Mr. Obama and he to them if he said he listened to country. Of course, those country singers are clever guys.

Singer Craig Campbell‘s life story reads like a country western song on a jukebox. His bio says Campbell, from Georgia, has “a masculine, no-nonsense vocal style with solid, salt-of-the-earth songs about America’s working class and a classic sense of wordplay.”

I recently heard a “fishing” song by Craig Campbell titled “Fish.”

“The first time we did it I was scared to death

She snuck out in that cotton dress

Jumped on in and we drove to the lake

Put her hand on my knee and said I can’t wait

I had everything we needed in the bed of my truck

Turns out my baby loves to…

“[chorus] Fish, she wants to do it all the time

Early in the morning, in the middle of the night

She’s hooked and now she can’t get enough

Man, that girl sure loves to fish

“After that that’s all she wanted to do

But that was okay ’cause I did too

She always wants to go down by the dam

And I love how she looks with that rod in her hand

If they ain’t bitin’ she don’t give up

Turns out my baby loves to…”

Well, you get the drift. Country is all about real living.

Speaking of

Speaking of fishing, a quick survey of Island tackle shops reveals not much news.

“Thank God for tuna,” Steve Morris at Dick’s in Oak Bluffs said. Steve said fishermen who are wiling to pound the shore at night are finding striped bass but they have to work for their catch. One bright note he said was the presence of small bluefish in Menemsha Harbor.

Ron Domurat was minding the store at Larry’s in Edgartown. He described a mixed bag. Good shore bass fishing Monday night and slow fishing Tuesday night. The Hooter had been strong he said, the south shore was quiet from the beach and there was talk about good fishing at Lobsterville Beach in Aquinnah.

Justin Pribanic was behind the counter at Coop’s. He said they have been busy helping people gear up for tuna. Other than that, Justin said fishing has been slow from the beach and on the water. The experienced captains are finding bass and bluefish he said, “but they are definitely working for them.”

The 66th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby begins on Sunday, September 11.