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Best of 2013: Sunday Favorites: A Belated Mother's Day

A conch found in Tampa Bay

My mom and I have a tradition: on Mother’s Day, we go fishing. It’s a tradition we started when I was about five years old and it was the subject of my very first column in the Bradenton Times. But sometimes things in life, work schedules and obligations, tend to spoil long-standing traditions; and so, this year, our Mother’s Day was a little belated.


The day before Mother’s Day, I called my mom, Bonne’, to see when we were going out in the boat. But the Dock Holiday was having some mechanical issues that needed to be fixed and Terra Ceia Bay was “too crowded” on holidays anyway, according to the boss.


“Let’s go next Sunday,” she said. “By then the boat will be ready and we can go specimen collecting.”


The following week I received updates via text about the boat's status, what she hoped to net and eat and where she wanted to go.


Sometimes traditions have a way of adapting. 


What used to be a fishing trip reserved for Bonne and I now included my brother, his fiancé and my boyfriend. When there are five people on a 19-foot boat, fishing isn’t really practical, (lines are certain to be tangled together and relatives would surely be hooked by some uninhabited cast).


That’s why Bonne’ suggested specimen collecting, because our little family had grown since our last outing.


Specimen collecting is basically wading on the grass flats and running a dip net through the seaweed to see what kind of animals you can find. Not only is it fun, but it gets everyone in the water and off the boat so it’s not too crowded.


Me, Bonne' and Carla out in the boat

We go specimen collecting to find things for my mother’s aquarium. She has one large saltwater aquarium of tropical fish and corals in her bedroom and one “quarantine tank” filled with specimens she collected in Terra Ceia Bay. Despite the warnings of others, she sometimes mixes store-bought tropical fish with fish she catches in her net. Usually, to the astonishment of the salesmen at the fish store, almost everything she collects coexists in the aquarium (after a period of quarantine of course).


Bonne’ formulated a “list of presents” she wanted for Mother’s Day, which included sea hares, pipefish, seahorses, starfish, sea snails and an orange sponge.


So, that Saturday, May 18, we met at the boat ramp, loaded up the boat with supplies (chicken, snacks and beer) and headed out into Terra Ceia Bay, to see if we could recapture some of that old Mother's Day magic, even if the particulars were a little different this time around.  


Bonne’ wanted to be waited on. So my brother, Elan, took the helm and the rest of us offered her sunscreen, drinks and snacks while we idled out into the bay.



May is Bonne’s favorite month to be on out the boat. It’s the season where the weather isn’t too hot, the Gulf temperature is still cool and the water is at it’s clearest, before the summer rains can move in and murk it up.


The wildlife is also amazing. During our trip we found conchs, starfish, sand dollars and pipefish. Bonne’ had plenty of specimens to take back to her aquarium, including a rare orange sponge that Elan had spotted from a distance. 


When it was time to come in we loaded the car with all the supplies and a bucket of specimens we had collected throughout the day. 


We didn’t even realize what was in our collection until we got it home. Over the next few hours, the tiny bodies of various specimens began to appear; one of our “accidental” finds was a brittle sea start that was hidden in an algae-covered rock. 


That night we didn’t dine on fresh fish we had caught like our other Mother’s Day outings, but instead ate meatloaf prepared by my boyfriend, Drew.


When he was serving up the hearty helpings Elan said, “They say you are only supposed to eat your mother’s meatloaf, but since our mother never made meatloaf when we were growing up, I guess this is the next best thing.”


Sometimes old traditions have a way of incorporating some new ones too. 


Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!


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