Yesterday Florida Cracker had a great picture at his place- him and a nurse shark just before he tossed her back overboard. And then I posted the picture below of Abby and the shark. Yes, that’s my fearless child and there are plenty more where that came from. (pictures. not daughters.)
Fish stories are fun. I left a comment at FC’s place about the time I caught an enormous blue fish and threw it back and it sounds like a lot of malarkey but, like all fish stories, it’s absolutely true.
Basically, I don’t fish. When I do, it’s fly fishing and I tie better flies than I cast (mostly nymphs and of course I like tying flies because I like feathers and sparkles and I’m 1/4 magpie) and it’s on our tiny inland lake for bass and blue gill and it’s all catch and release. I cast only slightly better than I drive a golf ball and that’s not saying much. Rich likes to fly fish and watching him cast- just gently laying out his line in slow motion in the late afternoon sun- is a thing of beauty.
But one time I went FISHING. I was with this Cuban lawyer who had several homes on Block Island and a spectacular deep sea fishing boat and we went out for blue fish. Me and seven guys, smoking cigars. This boat was the man’s pride and joy -it was, as Charlotte might say, “some boat.” It was set up with lounge chairs on the back deck and it had several kinds of sonar and sounding devices and so forth and all sorts of luxurious fittings. And it was a glorious day on the North Atlantic.
The fishing rods were parked in a bank of holders along either side of the boat and had massive 4 pronged hooks that dragged along in the water until something bit and then we would take turns getting up to reel in that line. (You can already tell from reading this post that I don’t know much about boats or deep sea fishing and I didn’t know anything about blue fish except that I don’t like the taste.) But I quickly learned that blue fish are tough, strong, dense fish that don’t want to join you onboard. They range in size from a few pounds to a maximum of about 30#, averaging about 9 or 10#. That day in particular the schools and the fish were running large.
When Jose called, “Who’s up?” and it was me, I reached for the rod and in the first instant almost went overboard. He grabbed the rod and waited while I braced my feet in these leather braces on the deck and then he helped me get the rod into a thick wide leather belt around my waist. There’s a notch for the end of the rod and you get it situated and then you- ah- fish. With blue fish you pull for a bit and then relax and then tug and wind a couple times and then try to relax a bit and then wind some more and then let him swim further away than he was in the first place and then you tug some more and so forth. In other words, you play Old Man and the Sea with him until he gets too tired, or you do, and then one of you calls it quits.
After about fifteen minutes of this I was sort of thinking about calling it quits, not because I was already so tired (I was) but because he just didn’t want to come aboard and that seemed like his prerogative, given that I wasn’t going to eat him anyway. But all the cigar smoking guys were excited and urged me on and one of them put his arms around my waist to help me balance and that seemed okay so I stuck with it. After another fifteen minutes a second guy was helping to brace my elbows in towards my body and everyone else was hanging over the edge of the boat watching for a sighting of my fish. It took me between 45 minutes and an hour before someone yelled, “He’s huge! I’ll get him!” and grabbed a giant gaffing spear. I squealed, “No,no,no,no! Don’t stab him!” and so two guys got a big net and I worked on reeling him in for a bit longer and finally they got him in the net just above the water’s surface and long enough for someone to snap a picture.
And Jose asked, “You sure? He’s trophy material!” and I said, “I’m sure” and he leaned over and snapped the barb with pruners big enough to do your apple tree. And then he was gone. Or she.
I had not an ounce of sugar in any muscle- I would subsequently be sore for several days. The rest of the afternoon the men fished and by day’s end they had about 2 dozen mostly very large blue fish. Jose had a wicked knife and the whole back bench of the boat was glistening white Corian and each fish was filleted and on ice under the bench before you could bat an eye. The guts went overboard and no one but me seemed particularly fascinated with the sharks that were following the boat for the chum. Two of the fish exceeded 20# and my fish had been bigger still. Jose declared with authority that he was sure it was 27# and I took it. In any case, the fish was between 20 and 27 pounds and that’s a VERY big blue fish.
Back at the dock, the men stood around and drank a toast to a successful afternoon and Jose cleaned the boat and I sat on the dock. He had kept the last several head-spine-tail pieces of the cleaned fish and encouraged me to hang them over the dock on a line and wait. After about 10 minutes each one had a good dozen large crabs clinging to them and that was my delicious dinner.
Later that week we traveled up to Gloucester where they were holding the annual tuna fishing contest. The winning sushi-grade tuna weighed 1019# and was caught by a 120# woman. Like bluefish, they have to be cleaned immediately or the taste is spoiled. That tuna was already gutted and sold to a NYC restaurant before they ever reached dock where a large crowd had already gathered on the basis or radio reports. They hoisted the tuna on a boat winch and then weighed the guts in buckets and posted the results on the giant chalkboard, dockside.
And that’s my fish story for today.