Letter to Santa 2022

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Dear Santa:

Last time I wrote, we were nearing the end of 2020. And, oh my, what a year that was: impeachment proceedings, a global pandemic, Brexit. You must have had your hands full with the annual naughty-nice list. I hope the brownie toffee cookies we left for you provided at least some solace.

Before getting into this year’s wish list, I’d be remiss not to ask you: what happened in 2020? You only granted two of my six wishes. I understand it’s an impossible task, and that you can’t deliver everything people ask for.

But, really, two for six? A .333 success rate is great in baseball, not so much in wish granting.

I, of course, have no problem with Kristal getting whatever she wants. First, she deserves it. And second, better you make the decisions than me.

But, in choosing Dorman for the second wish granted, what were you thinking? Sure, he needed the new jigging reel, and he’s a great guy, but he has extremely questionable judgment. For fishermen, it’s hard to imagine someone being naughtier.

Santa, he brought a banana on the boat this year, ruining what promised to be an epic outing. Then, he had the audacity to claim he had no idea why that was bad.

Just thought you should know, in case Dorman submits his own wish list and it includes, say, a forty-pound striper. You might consider, instead, the gift of better judgment.

Better judgment from my fishing buddies is, in fact, the only thing on my list this year.

Let me elaborate by recounting for you a couple of other events that actually happened in the past few months.

First, you remember Dave Peling, right? At some point, you brought him a kick-butt Turtlebox portable speaker. Ever since, he’s been responsible for making sure we have suitable tunes on the boat. We used to be able to rely on him for a mixture of classics from the Eagles, Steve Miller and Tom Petty. But, for some reason, his taste in music has deteriorated immensely.

Get this. Are you sitting down?

On a recent trip, Peling, after playing a string of unremarkable songs, responded to our requests for improvement by asking: “Are you guys okay with the Pet Shop Boys?” The Pet Shop Boys!!?? Come on, Santa, even your elves, as merry as they are, would revolt over the Pet Shop Boys.

If that’s not enough to convince you that granting my wish is warranted this year, please also consider the recent Tautog tournament debacle. As you probably know, we have entered a charity tournament the last few years —I am, of course, hoping our donations were noted on the “nice” list.

Tournament rules are simple. Teams weigh in their top three biggest fish, with the highest total combined weight winning about $700. All fish have to meet the state’s minimum size and bag limit requirements. So, this year, all fish had to be at least 16 inches long, and because there were three of us on our team, we could keep no more than nine fish.

Tautog are good eating, so Captain Dave and Dorman wanted to keep every fish over 16 inches, and they wanted to immediately bleed each kept fish to help preserve its flavor. I argued against both. I noted, reasonably I think, that bleeding the fish would cause them to weigh less, and that we didn’t want to fill our limit with smaller fish and thereby risk having to release a potential tournament winner.

Dave and Dorman were adamant, though, and they overruled me. Dave said something like: “Come on. It’s us. We aren’t going to catch fish big enough to win the tournament.”

Well, you can probably guess what happened. We found the bite. In less than an hour, we caught more than 20 fish, including seven keepers just over 16 inches. We left ourselves only two spots for fish big enough to compete for the $700 prize.

Then the tide changed, from mostly slack to out-going. The next time we dropped our lines down, I caught an eight-pounder and Dorman caught one over six. Not huge by Tautog standards, but big. Both would have been in the top five of all Tautogs reported at the marina for the entire year, and mine would have been the biggest. One more in the four-to-five-pound range and we would have had a legitimate chance at winning.

But, no. We had reached our limit. Our next biggest fish was no more than two pounds.

Now, Santa, here’s the kicker. Dave’s boat is equipped with a live well. We didn’t even need to debate which fish to keep. We could have kept them all alive, and each time we caught a keeper, released the smallest one already in the live well. That’s exactly what live wells are for.

Hence why all I want this year is for my buddies to have better judgment.

I hope that’s not too much to ask for: decent tunes while we’re fishing, and that we don’t make inexplicable decisions that preclude us from winning tournaments we enter.

Respectfully yours,

Mark Fiorentino

P.S. On a completely unrelated matter, I plan to double the number of cookies we leave out this year. Hope you enjoy them.

Two thirds of what could have been, with better judgment, a tournament-winning bag of tautogs. Submitted photo