I admit it: I'm a landlubber. Born in Iowa. While I've been to both coasts, I've never lingered long on either. And I've been to 'sea', so to speak, all of twice. Once, on the daily boat from LA to Catalina Island and back.
The other...on something akin to the SS Minnow, but with no one quite like Mary Ann aboard, and it was no three hour cruise that turned into a really corny series with two equally bad movie adaptations thereafter.
It lasted more like six hours. And the primary theme, from launch to return, was fishing. The subplots will reveal themselves in the telling.
For my first 'sea' fishing experience, we launched out of Long Beach, aboard a boat what's name I can no longer recall. It wasn't as modern as the SS Minnow; in some respects, it more closely resembled the Orca, but without any ominous music. It appeared that the crew was well-versed in both what we were after, fishing-wise, and where we had to go to find it, as their frequent shifts of location and navigation, indicated.
I suppose I didn't necessarily endear myself to the captain, when I asked if Mary Ann was along on this cruise...all I got was a look and something akin to "arrrrrrr", and told where I could go....to get my fishing rod.
Going out from the pier into "open" water, I was reminded why I usually carried Dramamine for such occasions. And why, starting right NOW, I was an idiot to not bring it.
After about 25 or so minutes of the crew making sure they could sort out those with "sea legs", versus those without (aka, moi), we stopped about 4 or 5 miles off shore. I was handed a fully-rigged pole by a crewman I dubbed Gilligan, on which I hooked a live six inch-long shiner (I was haughtily informed by Gilligan that it was an anchovy), I plunked it over the side, letting it sink to however deep the bottom was thereabouts.
My decision to be macho and forego motion sickness medication caught up to me quick; as anyone who's been on the ocean can tell you, the smaller the boat, the more the ocean's motion is a factor. I found the best way to deny what the swells were doing to my pallor was (a) deny that green tint to my face was anything other than sunlight reflecting off the sea (b) look straight ahead at all times (c) brace myself against the side of the boat and (d) not throw up with folks downwind of me. I kept telling myself that I was out here for fun and fishing.
So when one of the few females aboard -- no Mary Ann, but not bad as "lookers" go -- after seeking my help to bait her hook, conversationally asked me where I was from, I was already well-schooled in my "I'm here for fun and fishing", followed by a bit of breakfast going over the side.
Needless to say, I didn't get her phone number.
Now, I was an inland fisherman. I'd fished in lakes, rivers, creeks and farm ponds. Being on the biggest lake the world has to offer, I had never seen any kind of fish the likes our boat began to find. One fellow three positions to my left -- and happy to be upwind of me when I'd chum the water with breakfast -- caught what Gilligan called a "calico bass". Another one, also gleefully upwind of me, hooked into a three-foot shark of some kind, which the crew didn't allow him to boat. Other folks along the railing were hooking some incredibly ugly fish that the crew was ginger in handling (see what I just did there, green-face and all?), and what they referred to as a "rock cod", but a kind they brought aboard in plentiful amounts.
Finally, something *tugged* on my line. Using the tried and true methods of my lake and river bottom fishing from Iowa and Minnesota, I waited until I was sure *it* had my hook; I set it and began reeling in. Curiously, the *tugging* stopped, and it felt as if I was bringing in little more than a snag, if even that.
And then I saw *it*: something off-white in color, looking absolutely NOTHING like a fish. More like a giant centipede, about 18-20" long, and clinging stubbornly to my hook, even though it appeared it could fall off at any moment. As I was about to 'boat' the thing, Gilligan shouted a warning, and immediately stepped up and cut my line, and I watched "it" disappear back into the sea.
Gilligan took my pole and immediately began re-rigging it, his patented scowl (which disappeared in the presence of the females) creasing his mug, but my green-mugged curiosity had to be satisfied, and I asked what was that thing?
"A mantis shrimp", he replied brusquely, shoving my re-rigged pole back into my hands, and hurrying off to continue hitting on one of the three female passengers aboard. I would learn later that a mantis shrimp was nothing to screw with, and used it's forward scaly plating to open oysters and such, hitting them with the force of a .22 caliber bullet.
Intent on catching something more conventional, I'd have to wait: just as I was about to drop hook again, the crew began yelling for everyone to reel in, and the boat began moving: fishing hooks were being emptied of anchovies by a meandering pack of seals, including one who barked disapprovingly at me as I pulled my freshly-baited hook away from his/her lunge for it. This happened several times during our expedition, and not once did any of these seals do parlor tricks in return for a reward. They were, in essence, "welfare" seals, expecting something for nothing.
Finally, we arrived at a spot that Gilligan said in passing -- he was escorting one of the females to the boat's "outhouse" -- produced halibut. I was first to cast out, and patiently awaited my sinking hook to settle, now that my latest 'breakfast chum' had nothing left to deposit.
But before my baited hook hit bottom, something hit my line with a *BWANG*, and took off. It was all I could do to hang on to the pole, as it took line faster than a tornado eats double-wides. I was hanging on for dear life, forgetting my green gills, trying to maintain both my control of the pole AND stay in the boat, when someone to my right shouted and pointed.
Speaking for me, I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing on our port side, as it happened fast: a giant something, rising out of the sea about 100 yards away, before as quickly disappearing beneath the surface of very roiled waters, and severing my line abruptly.
One of my fellow fisherman insisted I had hooked into a submarine. Oh yeah, right: I'm a landlubber, but I knew the difference between water and beer vomit. Whatever it was, I told him with a straight face that it was just as well I didn't land it, since Gilligan wouldn't have let me boat it, anyway.
Since Gilligan heard that, I had to get another pole from another crewman, to resume fishing.
At any rate, not ten minutes after dropping my newly-rigged, baited hook over the side, I boated my first of three halibut, which resembled misshapen door mats with eyes and fins, kind of. And after a couple more "welfare seal" interruptions, in another location we hit into a school....no, a university...of rock cod, and I started feeling like a salty sea fishing veteran, since I no longer had any breakfast left to chum with, and was catching rock cod at a rate slightly better than that of others on my side of the boat.
The earlier female even returned -- seeing I was done chumming -- and again asked me to bait her hook, which got me an 'evil eye' from Gilligan, who apparently was trying to set his own hook thereabouts.
About the time I was no longer noticing the motion of the ocean, it was time to head ashore. Inbound, while Gilligan and another sullen crewman (he obviously didn't get any female phone numbers, either) were cleaning the multitude of rock cod and other assorted fish the dozen of us had caught, I witnessed the largest seabird convention I'd ever seen, assembled just astern of the boat, pacing us. Air traffic control was non-existent, but I saw not one mid-air collision. In fact, as fish guts and other remnants were tossed over the side, little of it actually hit the water: the gulls and terns were like shoppers as the doors opened at a Walmart on the day after Christmas.
Just a whole lot more precise about it.
Finally the boat docked, and I walked with an almost-jaunty stride to the dock. And almost collapsed thereon, as I found that just as my 'land legs' before had not ready for the sea, my newly-acquired 'sea legs' were now not ready for unmoving, solid ground. Even the sullen, no-score Gilligan grinned.
Thus, the official tally for my one and only sea-going fishing story: 3 halibut, 17 rock cod, 1 mantis shrimp, and 1 possible submarine, nationality and class unknown*. Add to it, no female phone numbers obtained (since none of the three looked like Mary Ann, eh), and no breakfast left over.
Oh...and one aggrieved welfare seal.
* actually, I did hook something that took off and snapped my line like Jaws, but between ocean motion, angle of sun, reflection, affects of two prior concussions (the third was still pending), a few cervezas that took the place of the lost breakfast, and with a bit of embellishment, I can't really say what anyone, including me, saw that I hooked. Since the US Navy wasn't waiting to talk to me upon our return, I reckon it wasn't one of OUR subs, if it was anything akin...*wink*
Labels: fishing stories, Gilligan's Isle, humor, Long Beach fishing boats, mantis shrimp, rock cod, seal humor