Thursday, April 20, 2006
Posting my articles here and the forums until the website gets fully up-and-running:
El Pez Bonito on Your Shoe
I recently went deep sea fishing on the idea that deep-sea fishing is fishing, just like any old canoe trip. I’ve been fishing. I catch gobies in the Chicago River on a consistent basis. I’ve fished from a canoe or two in my day, which, if you’ve never been, involves balancing yourself on a craft about the size of my keyboard. When you’re balanced, you may finally have a shot at catching fish, once they stop laughing at you. One time, I even caught something: a good-sized small-mouthed bass in the Kankakee River. Actually, it leapt into the canoe on its own, and I incapacitated it with my paddle. I have pictures.
I discovered that deep-sea fishing is nothing like this. It is a fast-paced sport, full of hooks the size of dinosaur teeth, bait bigger than that bass I once caught, and a boat much bigger than your average keyboard. It also involves the sea, which is a nasty, rough place, full of animals that would prefer your arm over your relatively puny bait. It is open to only the most fearless of anglers who can pay the $35 fee.
My crew and I, made up of Sam, Dan, Danny, and myself, picked Blue Heron Drift Fishing for our trip, getting up at an ungodly 7 a.m., Spring Break Time. We sat on the bench encircling the cabin area, toward the middle section of the vessel. We looked on as more fellow fishing enthusiasts got on, dodging the herds of pelicans eyeing the bait buckets. Most of them sat down more toward the back, so there was plenty of room to stretch out.
You learn quickly who the out-of-towners are on deep-sea boat rides. I wondered why the crew had strapped on raincoats, as well as why there were so many empty seats towards the bow (the boat’s front, to those unacquainted with nautical terms). There were a few people sitting slightly more toward the bow than us, but besides them and us, most passengers looked like there would be a hurricane up there. Unfortunately, there would be one.
You also learn on deep-sea boat rides that waves splash a lot. I received a drenching, but I held onto my stuff due to the lack of room in the back and the cabin. I, however, shouted how nice it was as I was splashed by salt water, live flying fish, and marlin sperm. My glasses were cloudy.
The waves were unusually rough. I knew I could handle it though. I’ve been on plenty of watercraft before in Lake Michigan, including the Odyssey II and the Seadog, a gigantic yacht and a small yellow powerboat, respectively. It’s not like I could ever get sea-sick.
By two hours in, I was yakking off the other side of the mighty vessel, where few people dared (besides the out-of-towners). I think this side was the sea-sickness side. Sam had puked before me, and eventually Danny would, too, though more nonchalantly than Sam and me. He had to tell us later that he did though our lack of noticing may have just been the dizziness and unconsciousness Sam and I experienced.
Dan, the self-proclaimed couch potato, was the only one not to enjoy the pleasures of sea sickness. He also would end up being the only successful angler in our crew. Of course, as we were told, successful is relative. The fish Dan caught was in fact inedible (meaning he could not keep it, according to some odd contract of the sea we hadn’t heard of). The fish was a “bonito,” named after the Spanish word for “in the process of gushing blood” (masculine). And bonito it did, all over the deck, our bags, and my white angling hat. It was a kind of pretty thing, silvery white with a bit of dark gray lining it in certain places. It was actually bigger than I expected. The only remains of it are part of a dumpster in Miami and a somewhat low-quality picture of it on my now very wet and bonitoed camera.
By the end of the four-hour trip, Sam and I were stuck in the cabin, attempting to not dry-heave up our lungs. Every time the boat rocked, if you don’t understand simple biology, the stomach feels a bit better due to a complex series of gaseous releases that I did not need to know to take the any biology tests. So, every time the boat sped on to a different fishing hotspot, there would be a gaseous sigh of relief issuing from the cabin.
Our trip was called “unsuccessful.” Only one person was allowed to keep a catch, a kingfish. The four of us, along with a large crew of other cabin-dwellers, hobbled off the boat, shooing away pelicans from the pier. After the ride, I was feeling sick.
“Hello, doctor. I’m having cramps, mood swings, and I’m throwing up regularly.”
“Let’s have a look.”
“Um… congratulations… you’re pregnant with a marlin.”