When I saw the title of Janet Messineo’s book, Casting Into The Light, subtitled Tales Of A Fishing Life, I assumed it was all fishing stories. But it’s much more than that.
Messineo suffered a very difficult childhood which carried into adulthood. And then she discovered a love for ocean fishing from the beach. She didn’t say this, but it was obvious to me that fishing turned her life around.
For years, she was the only woman fishing the beach among a lot of men. And some of those men were happy to help her. I enjoyed her stories about those men. She would often fish all night, even though, sometimes, she was terrified by the dark.
She caught many different species of ocean fish, and fished in some stunningly beautiful places. She never fished out of a boat but always from the beach. And sometimes she fished in very harsh winds and torrential rains. But that didn’t stop her.
I particularly enjoyed her stories of catching striped bass, something my dad and I enjoyed on the Kennebec River until they disappeared.
To support her fishing, she took a variety of jobs including waitressing, and she acknowledges it took a long time to learn everything she needed to know to be a successful ocean angler.
She fished along the Atlantic Ocean in Massachusetts, including Chappaquiddick. And eventually she became a marine taxidermist.
Eventually she married to a singer and poet and they adopted a son with Asperger’s. And of course, she taught her son to fish.
This is a powerful story of the transformative power of fishing that helped her to shake off drugs, alcohol, and other problems, and her profound respect for fish as a magnificent animal. She even includes in the book 18 of her favorite fish recipes.
Messineo is a former president of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association and has written about fishing for many publications. She lives in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. Her book was published by Pantheon Books.