Posted by: 1000fish | September 7, 2013

Miami’s Real Big Three

Dateline: September 7, 2013 – Miami, Florida

Sports Illustrated will tell you that Miami’s “big three” are basketball players – Bosh, Wade, and LeCramp. But these people have never heard of the REAL big three in that town – Salvin’s Cichlid, the Green Severum, and the true star of the bunch, the Striped Mojarra. And unlike the basketball players, these stars will stay in Miami*.

To be truthful, I didn’t expect to do much fishing in Miami. I was there because the Arosteguis had generously invited me to join them for a few days in the Bahamas, and I wanted to give United Airlines plenty of time to find my luggage. But Martini always has something fishy up his sleeve, or his underpants, and it usually involves incredibly detailed research on obscure species.

In this case, two of the species were old friends of the family. But one of them – Salvin’s cichlid –  took Martini hours rooting through the shadowy world of online fishing chat rooms, until he found a site  - Roughfish.com – that is both reputable and filled with species-hunting kindred spirits. The first time I pulled up the site, the first four posts were for fish I have never caught, from people who get just as excited as I do about creatures that will never be on an LL Bean catalog cover. This is awesome.

In between getting the big boat ready for the trip across to Bimini, we had a free morning to run out and chase these critters. Marty, Martini, and I got into the car and headed north, up to a park somewhere south of Orlando, armed with some light rods, worms, and a bag of Publix enriched white bread. As we arrived, Martini got out his notes and directed us to a very specific 25 feet of shoreline. We cast out some small float rigs, and immediately, we got bites and pulled up some attractive cichlids – Salvin’s cichlids, according to the books. I have no idea who Salvin was or why he cavorted with cichlids, but I was grateful for the species. Thank you Roughfish.com!

Three Salvin S

It is possible that Martini’s tongue is bigger than my fish, but a species is a species.

Three Salvin

They are a good-looking thing.

With that task accomplished, we drove back down to Coral Gables and picked up the Arostegui’s small boat. We launched in one of the many canals that criss-cross the area, and again, headed to a very specific corner of a back channel where they had seen green severum. I set up a light float and bread and waited while Marty and Martini looked for the fish. After a few moments, Marty pointed and said “There he is.”

I cast where I thought Marty had pointed, and asked “There?” Marty looked at me patiently and said “You only missed by about 10 feet.” We were 10 feet from the bank. Once I hit the correct spot, the float went down, but whether it was adrenaline or a lack of caffeine, I missed the bite completely. Then I missed the cast again. The Arosteguis looked at me patiently, as they always do. Finally, I got one. The green severum, another cichlid that has made its way into the canals from some foreign land via the aquarium trade, had joined my species list.

Three Severum

The green severum.

On the way back to the ramp, we cast for some peacock bass, and Marty, unassuming though he may be, but just because he really is that good, landed a seven pound largemouth.

Three Bass

It took me a long time to catch a largemouth this big. 

We had one more species to go after, and Marty had dreamed up this one. The saltwater canals in the area have a number of mojarra species, and I have not gotten a particular one – the striped mojarra. Marty recalled that he had seem some of these in the University of Miami campus canals when he was a student there. This is no mean feat – he graduated many years ago, when their football program was actually honest. We gave it a try, as students streamed by us, crazed with joy over the day’s defeat of rival Florida. We got quite a few small fish – mojarras, tilapia, and others, but we did not find the striped creature we pursued. So we packed it in and went home to prepare for Bimini and enjoy a nice dinner.

After dinner, the canal behind the boathouse called to me. “Steve, Steve.” it called. I knew there would be a few mosquitoes, but I have caught several new species in this canal, and I thought I would give it a try. Martini was watching some TV with his family, but he told me to call if I got anything good and he would be there quickly with a net. I had no idea how quickly.

I set up right by the boathouse and was soon catching solid mangrove snappers and even one of my favorite fish of all time – the lookdown. The evening went on, cooling , pleasant, very few mosquitoes, plenty of fish, no alligators.

Three Lookdown

The Atlantic lookdown. They’re cool.

I had a very light rod – four pound line – out with a #18 hook in case one of the striped mojarras happened by. I viewed these as a micro – something along the lines of the boathouse goby and other smallish creatures. At around 10pm, something that was not a micro got a taste for very small bits of shrimp and took off, peeling line off the reel and heading for the pilings. There is a lot of structure in the area, and I gave myself a Spellman’s chance of landing it, but the fish, which I presumed to be a decent snapper, shot perfectly back between the posts and the rocky wall, and after a few tense minutes, it surfaced.

It was a huge striped mojarra – about a pound and a half. I didn’t know they got that big, and I certainly couldn’t lift it up on the lawn with the gear I had. Holding my rod out as far as possible, I edged over to the cleaning table, and at full extension, I could just reach my phone. I texted Martini a single word – “Net.”

It is approximately 200 feet to go from the house to the garage for the net and then out to where I was fishing. If the speed net grab was an Olympic event, Martini would be the gold medalist. In what seemed like seven seconds, I heard rapid footsteps, and then Martini burst through the bushes at the top of the retaining wall, soared down five feet onto the grass, and scooped up my fish.

Three striped

Who knew they got this big? Next time, I won’t use a #18 hook and one pound – that’s right – one pound leader. 

I had added three unanticipated species in a single day. I know there won’t always be one available when I wander through Miami, but I know the Arosteguis will always give it their best shot, and that’s as good a chance as anyone could have.

Steve

 

1000Fish Reader Update -

Congratulations to Jim Tolonen, long-time 1000fish reader and fishing buddy, on his first IGFA world record. On August 21, 2013, Jim captured this beast of a sand sole off Santa Cruz, California and put his name in the book.

Three Tolonen

Maybe Jim will stop reminding me that he has caught a 40 pound white seabass.

* Obviously, the delay between the trip and publishing dates gave me some additional insight, but I always thought LeCramp would go back to Cleveland – the first person since 1932 to move there voluntarily without being part of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

 

 

Posted by: 1000fish | August 3, 2013

The Road to Orick

Dateline: August 3, 2013 – Orick, California

Road trips have formed the inspiration for countless adventure and “buddy” movies. Who could ever forget the classics – The Road to Rio … Easy Rider … Harold and Kumar … Harold and Maude.

Redtail HM

It was late when I wrote this. It all made sense at the time. 

Martini Arostegui and I are known to jump into the car at the slightest hint of a species within a day’s drive, and obviously, or not, the road trip I am about to recount must have been successful, or I wouldn’t be talking about it. Or would I? Well, partially. To be truthful, our first road trip of 2013 was a disaster, but luckily, this post is about the second one. In the interest of complete disclosure and getting this above 2000 words, there was also a third trip, which rivaled the first for utter futility. We were one for three, which might be good in baseball or venture capital but is not as good when you are 500 miles from clean underwear. Still, Martini knows the rules. There are no guarantees in fishing, or everyone would do it.

There isn’t much constructive to say about the first trip. We ventured ten hours from home into remote parts of the west that don’t have Burger King, and we did not so much as sniff the fish we were after. The highlight of the trip was my discovering that Martini could walk, for some distance, on his hands.

Redtail Gymnasty

Now that’s a talent. 

Redtail BM

Oh, and we saw one of the greatest road signs EVER. 

The second road trip happened in August. Over the past two years, Martini and I had put quite a hurting on the local surfperch species, racking up something like 18 records, which was lucky and a whole lot of fun. (Details HERE) But a couple of species had eluded us. One of these, the redtail surfperch, was a vacant world record and apparently abundant on the north coast, about six hours north of San Francisco.

We researched for hours, and through the kindness of some north coast fishermen, we found some promising spots near the tiny town of Orick. We headed out on a Friday afternoon, full of hope and caffeine. The drive up Highway 101 goes through coastal mountains and redwoods, places full of childhood and adult memories. It was here I saw my first redwood tree, on one of those amazing California summer exploration trips my sister and I used to take with my stepmonster’s parents. They were truly nice people, generous, kind, and mentally stable, which always makes me wonder if you-know-who was adopted.

Of course, once it got dark, my view was reduced to the path of my headlights and occasional glimpses – and smells – of Martini. We should have saved Taco Bell for the last night of the trip. The conversation on these trips leans heavily to fishing, and as the miles rolled by, we consulted on topics ranging from odd species like the silver redhorse, to our upcoming trip to the Bahamas in September, to exotic peacock bass in Suriname, to the Indian Ocean, where we both have a lot of fishing to do. We talked about my chances of an IGFA lifetime achievement award – he thought I would get to 100 records, but he warned me, from his own experience, that the last ten were the hardest. There are very few people in the world who can relate to my level of obsessiveness with fishing, but Martini is not only a kindred spirit, not only someone who can commiserate with me and offer moral support, but who can also teach me a thing or two. Especially about diet. I could have done without that second Burrito Supreme. Even though he’s 22, he is mature and focused well beyond his years – he’s like the older brother I never had.

It was very late when we got to McKinleyville, and even later when we discovered that there were no hotel rooms available there and had to retreat to Eureka, where we did finally find lodging, iffy at best, which required lasting through an awkward moment where the desk clerk and night manager got into a shouting match about whether the room was actually available.

Morning came quickly, and mornings here are cold and foggy. This is a beautiful but desolate place, and as we parked on the windswept beach and walked about a mile south, we wondered if it would all be worth it. As we reached our spot, we pulled out a container of Safeway shrimp. Conventional wisdom calls for digging sand crabs, but Martini has caught numerous records on Safeway shrimp, and I wasn’t worried.

Redtail surf

The rods are set up and we are ready to go.

It is always disquieting to cast into the roaring surf. It never seems like anything could be living in there, let alone feeding, yet surfperch can be there in droves. And this time, our target was there. In less than five minutes, Martini pulled up a beautiful one pounder – a world record for him, adding to his remarkable total. There are only two fishermen in the world with more records than Martini, and one of those is his father. (Marty has over 400 and leads the pack by far.) So even with a huge world record count, every one was important for Martini as he tried to join his father at the very top of the scoreboard – imagine being one and two in the world at something with your father.

Redtail Martini

Martini gets on the scoreboard – one pound and a new world record.

Just as Martini released his catch, I added the species with a smaller fish. I was so thrilled that I didn’t notice my wet feet and the freezing wind.

Redtail First Perch

Steve gets in to the act with species 1227.

Moments later, I landed a larger one that qualified as a record. (Note to the north coast surf fishermen – yes, there are many bigger ones out there. Turn them in!!)

Redtail Steve

A pound and a quarter of payback for a lot of driving. It was so worth it. 14 records to go. Three years ago, I would have a good idea of where the next 14 would come from, but at this stage, I have no idea.

The mission was accomplished, and we fist-bumped in quiet triumph. Normal, well-adjusted people would have enjoyed the rest of the morning catching large perch in the surf, but hey, it’s us. We raced for the car and drove south to Trinidad, fishing the scenic pier there for any of the coastal species that have eluded us, especially the rock greenling which hates me as much as spearfish hates me or possibly more.

Redtail Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Trinidad harbor. Gorgeous, but no rock greenling.

After an hour or so, we realized this wasn’t going to work, so we did something stupid. Calculating that if we drove really fast for six hours and didn’t stop for lunch or bathroom breaks, we could barely make Putah Creek at Davis in time for a shot at a Sacramento sucker. We raced out of Trinidad, zoomed our way through the coastal mountains, and arrived at Putah just in time to see a bunch of suckers race by us and not take any of our baits. A philosopher might wonder who the suckers really were.

If my 2013 road trips with Martini had ended here, this would have been a better story, but unfortunately, they did not. Two weeks after the Orick adventure, I messed up on a level that only United Airlines can approach with consistency. Martini wanted to catch a golden trout. Fair enough, I figured. We could re-enact the Cottonwood Death March – (sordid details HERE) – but bring adequate shoes and provisions. So we made the seven-hour drive to Lone Pine, and then the hour-long, terrifying cliff drive to the hiking area.

Redtail Eastern

The beauty of the Eastern Sierra, which we got to appreciate almost undisturbed by fish.

And then, for reasons I will never fully understand, I missed a detail and screwed up on an epic scale. Not realizing there are two trails with “Cottonwood” in the name, I took us up the wrong one, so we went up 5 miles and 2500 feet to Chicken Springs Lake – which contains no trout. That’s a ten mile round trip.

Redtail Chicken

Chicken Springs Lake. Ironically, it has neither springs nor chickens. And definitely no trout.

Luckily, there was a small creek on the trail that held smaller goldens, and it was here Martini added the species and I avoided permanent idiot status.

Redtail Golden SM

The fish that saved my bacon.

The Fish Gods paid me back big time – I had gotten a root canal done a few days before this hike, and one of my sinuses got infected. This is a bad thing to discover at altitude. Trust me.

Humbled, I took in the scenery on the seven hour trip home, swearing off golden trout for life. Martini was more than gracious and never mentioned the screwup, but it’s only fair to report it, because I surely would have said something if he took us up the wrong trail. Besides, in less than a month, I would be fishing with him again – 3000 miles to the southeast. And I was praying he would read the map correctly, because if he messed up like I did, we could end up in Haiti.

Steve

 

 

Posted by: 1000fish | July 10, 2013

A Semi-Frozen Midlife Crisis

Dateline: July 10, 2013 – Keflavik, Iceland

I had been putting this day off for 50 years, but as Dr. Seuss said “It came. It came just the same.” For this day – Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – was my 50th birthday. Age 50. Middle age. When the doctor starts paying a lot of attention to tests, and the tests get more and more awkward. (You’ll understand when you have your first colonoscopy; my only advice is to stay very close to the bathroom once you drink that gallon of prep solution.) This is when hemorrhoids aren’t something that happens to other people. When men stop getting phone numbers and start getting restraining orders. When AARP mailers start showing up. When those gag gifts like adult diapers stop getting responses like “Very funny, you idiot” and start getting responses like “Wrong size. Is the receipt in the box?”

bday depends

If only they came in bikini briefs. 

For the more philosophical among us, this might be a day of reflection and remembrance, but hey, it’s me. I’m not all that philosophical, and I’m only spiritual when the Red Wings are deep in the playoffs. But still, there is something gigantic about turning 50 … something that makes you question if something is going to suddenly change. Things that are OK when you are 40 might suddenly turn not OK when you are 50, and I was determined that this wouldn’t happen to me.

So I lay awake that night, looking out into the 3am twilight that is summer in Iceland, and I talked to Marta. Eventually, she woke up. The very first thing she said, after the obligatory “It’s 3am, you idiot,” was “Fine – what are the six most important things in your life? Write them down quietly and we can discuss it in the morning.” I blabbered on, outlining a mid-life crisis right there in the middle of the night. Finally, she got up, and with semi-convincing compassion, said “You’re a little old for this.” Ouch. We started the list. To save an awkward moment, she correctly placed herself first. “I’m putting up with this, so you can put me down as committed.” So that’s one down. The other five things we came up with, in no particular order – fish species, my family, my friends, world records, and ice hockey. Would these all be the same? Could I still do the same stuff? Would I still wear the same underwear?

Bday Dep

Whoever thought of this ad should be fired. How about “Guard your khakis?”

In what seemed like three hours but was really 180 minutes, morning came and I was off to Keflavik for one more go at the open Atlantic. I was hopeful that this last day would be nicer and I would finally get my shot at the barn door halibut – or a plaice, because as weird as this is, I would rather catch a plaice than a halibut just so Marta could stop giving me a hard time because she has already caught one. (Read that sad tale HERE.)

The July weather remained uncooperative. The Fish Gods don’t care if it’s your birthday. Not even if it’s a major birthday, like your 50th. The breeze had slacked off to a mere 20 knots, but the seas were tremendous from a week of heavy wind. It was a quiet effort, just me and the guide, not much talking, which is unusual for me, but a lot of holding on and nausea, which is normal for Iceland. We tried every reachable spot a halibut might haunt, and while there were none to be found, I did keep catching some tremendous cod, including my biggest ever.

Bday Cod 2

Hallmark doesn’t have a birthday cod like this. A birthday COD! I crack myself up.

Despite the lack of species, it was still great fun, even if I had to concentrate very hard to retain my breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, Toggi brought me a cake. A real, homemade Icelandic cake, which was sort of like a cheesecake and had fresh blueberries all over it and I ate the whole thing in five minutes. What a nice people – I was reminded of another touching birthday gift in Germany four years ago. (Details HERE.)

Late in the day, the Fish Gods gave a faint nod to my big day. By this stage of the trip, I had caught at least 100 Atlantic dabs, but I still checked every flatfish carefully, hoping not to see the telltale curved lateral line and rough upper surface. Each new fish might, just might, be a juvenile halibut. And late in the afternoon, well after we should have been back at the dock, I pulled up one that looked different. I looked closer – it had a straight lateral line. It had to be something new, and it was. In a cruel irony, it was an American plaice – a type of plaice, but not the one Marta got in Norway. I had gotten my first species as a 50 year-old –  about 13 hours into the day. The second pillar was there.

Bday Plaice

The American plaice. Not the European plaice, which is far more sophisticated but can’t win a war without help.

As I got back to the house, my sister, my Uncle Ted, and the Arosteguis called and wished me a happy birthday. They are pretty much my family, at least until Laura’s kids are old enough to buy me a decent birthday present. But I also thought about all the family that wasn’t there any more. My Mom, who would have been leading the charge to give me a hard time about being 50, had been gone for two years. I miss her.

Marta and I had a lovely dinner in Reykjavik. We found ourselves reflecting, but we also found ourselves planning what we were going to do for the next 50 years. I have so much I haven’t accomplished yet – 2000 species, 100 world records, 100 countries, 50 states, and most of the royal slams. Of course, Marta and I also have a bucket list of trips that aren’t quite as fishing-oriented. (Her destinations always seem to involve climbing up hills.) So if she puts up with all this AND paid for dinner, that’s pretty good. She’s a keeper, as they say, and also as they say, I have outkicked my coverage.

Three travel-filled days later found us back in San Francisco, where Marta had arranged what I thought would be a quiet dinner with a few friends to mark the occasion. She sold me out. What happened was a celebrity roast, with a few dozen friends, in the best tradition of Dean Martin. With an open bar and encouragement to abuse me, this was a recipe for disaster. The presentations ranged in hilarity (Thor Grossen,) good taste (Kelly Porter,) and coherence (Spellman.) Everything that came up, including Kerr’s lunch, was truly from the heart or somewhere nearby. I am blessed with a tremendous group of friends, and a girlfriend, lovely and intelligent, patient and forgiving … who stuck me with the check. So the friends were there, and they will likely be there for life, or I will release the rest of the photographs from the party. Jeff, you know the one I’m talking about.

Bday Hat

Kelly Porter, who designed and produced my birthday helmet. For the record, I did not have a head injury during the party, so it must have worked.

Bday Kerr

On the left is Chris, quite a fisherman in his own right, Jeff Kerr, (the second best center on my hockey team,) Jeff’s Wife Sharon (details HERE,) and Sandra. Sandra has evil powers.

Bday Lee

Lee Sullivan, fellow war history buff, tries to think of something nice to say. 

Bday Martini

Martini tries to think of something nice to say.

Bday Spellman

Lee tries to keep Heather awake during Spellman’s speech. No one was sure what he was getting at, but we love him just the same. 

Bday Perry Vernon

Two very old friends from my days at Macromedia. On the left, Scott Perry, occasional fishing buddy and all-around good guy. On the right, Len Vernon, great friend and my boss at Macromedia. He used to say “Wozniak is a hell of a creative writer. Did you see his expense reports?”

Bday Joy

Joy, one of our dearest friends, who keeps asking us to take her fishing.

Bday Group

The group. Marta, at far left, is smiling fiendishly because she just handed the waiter MY American Express card.

So I had a species, some friends, a family, and a partner after turning 50. What about world records? And what about ice hockey?

Oddly enough, there is a possible world record about an hour from my house. In my old college stomping grounds near UC Davis, Putah Creek has Sacramento suckers, and this is another underrepresented species that no one had turned in to the IGFA. The problem – catching them. When I was in college, they were easy. Put a worm on the bottom. Wait briefly. But now, 30 years later, they have turned into some kind of super-spooky ghost that make permit look positively reckless. I had been going up there at least twice a week all summer, and had yet to get one over that magic one pound mark. But I could see them there, every damn time, and I just knew I could get one.

I decided to give it a try on Tuesday the 16th. Since they only seem to bite in the 38 seconds before dark, this was something I could do after work. Grab a quick dinner, then wait out the rush hour traffic on the way up to Davis and a favorite spot I have been fishing since 1984. I parked where I have parked for 30 years, walked the same half mile along the creek, and set up to wait for sunset. For it is only at sunset that the suckers, for about five minutes, materialize out of nowhere and begin running up a shallow riffle, leaving an unmistakable v-shaped wake as they ignore every possible bait and go someplace else that I can never find.

Bday Sucker

Finally. There may be one born every minute, but there is one caught every 10 years. 

Bday Teejay

None of this would have been possible without the assistance of Teejay O’Rear, Lab Manager at UC Davis, who gave us incredibly detailed advice on where to catch the suckers. 

A quick review at home revealed that this would be my 85th world record. 100 gets you a lifetime achievement award – a little piece of immortality in the IGFA books. It hit me that records were getting awfully hard to come by. Awfully hard. But this was something I have been determined to do since my first record in 2006. I decided then and there I needed to finish out the 100 within a year. I had no idea how I was going to do this, but I wanted that trophy in the worst way.

All that remained was to get on the ice and score a goal. Eight days after my birthday, I laced up the skates for my first hockey game as a 50 year-old.  I had been on the old side of my team for years, and while 40 seemed like a difficult thing, suiting up as a 50 year-old was a little intimidating. Was this finally going to be the year to hang it up? Could I still score despite my advanced age? (Not a word from you, Marta.)

The answer came on my second shift of the evening, courtesy of a talented teammate named Conan Fong. I was parked in the low slot, like I have been since I was a Squirt playing for Barnard Electric in Royal Oak, Michigan. It’s one of my few remaining skills – it’s difficult to move me. (Note from Marta – It’s true. Just try to get him off the couch.) Conan made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, skated down the right side of the ice and cut toward the net. The defenseman covering me inexplicably fell down, perhaps because I cross-checked him in the kidneys, and Conan slid a crossing pass to me. This is the play we practice from the time we learn to skate. It was a carbon copy of the first goal I ever scored, and thankfully, I didn’t miss.

Bday Conan

Conan the defenseman. No relation to Conan the Barbarian. Or Conan the Librarian, who worked at my junior high school.

I had a goal as a 50 year-old, so I was good for another decade. Everything was in order, and I could stop waking Marta up at 3am.

In bed that night – I never sleep that well on hockey nights – I played it over and over in my head. As satisfied as I was with the game, I also knew I wouldn’t be playing when I reach 60. This was something I had always thought I would do forever, and now it had a time limit. Everything does – you learn that around the time you turn 50. But whenever that last game would be, it wasn’t tonight, and that was all that mattered.

To quote the philosopher Toby Keith – “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

Steve

Posted by: 1000fish | July 8, 2013

A Proper Char

Dateline: July 8, 2013 – Selfoss, Iceland

Fine. Marta’s fish was bigger. Are you satisfied now?

After two days of being pounded on the merciless, gray North Atlantic, I wasn’t ready to stop fishing, but I was certainly ready to stop getting the crap beaten out of me. Little did I know that would merely be trading the physical abuse for mental torment, and that it would be coming from none other than Marta, who would have invited Jaime Hamamoto along if it hadn’t been a school day.

With a couple of days respite from the open water, we got to focus on playing tourist and exploring the rich and ancient culture on the island. An anthropologist would need go no further than a doorway to prove that these people are descended from Scandanavians, because most interior entryways feature the diabolical tripping device. (Details here)

Ice slipping

The diabolical tripping device. The traditional Icelandic greeting upon entering a room is “Oh #$&%!! My toe!!”

But this is not all that demonstrates their common heritage – Icelandic is also replete with comically complex words, the pronunciation of which rarely bears any relation to the written form.

Ice Sign

Pronounced “Cleveland.”

Foolishly, I tried to fake my way through a few words, which resulted in us going to the wrong town and in a tragic misorder at a restaurant. This can be serious business – these people think putrefied shark is a delicacy. Other words are just impossible. For example, the name of the volcano that trashed air travel in Europe for the summer of 2010: Eyjafjallajokull. Sure, it looks easy, but see below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSo_ND41-6g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jq-sMZtSww

Char Eyawhatever

Eyjafjallajokull. This picture is on the dart board of every airline in Europe.

We saw all kinds of wonderful things, the two most interesting of which were thermal steam vents and puffins. Steam vents are an amazing thing. They pop up in all sorts of random places, like people’s back yards, and along with the occasional geysers found throughout the country, they made the place seem strangely alive. It is completely primeval, like New Jersey but colder.

Char Vents 2

Steam rises from random spots on a hillside. I was constantly on the lookout for lava, even in the living room, but we didn’t see any.

Char Vent

Vents can hiss out fumes like this …

Ice Gloop

Or they can gurgle like my aunt’s intestine. And these things are EVERYWHERE. For video, see http://youtu.be/yIPx3U5nLCc

We were also determined to see a puffin. These curious, orange-beaked sea birds nest by the millions on certain islands, and we would be unsatisfied unless we visited them. Following the advice of Marta’s guidebook, we drove to a small port in southern Iceland and took a ferry to Heimaey island. And we did see a cute animal almost immediately.

Char critter

Random child on the ferry ride over to Heimaey.

As we sailed into the harbor, the cliffs on either side of us, carved out from countless years of savage weather, were jammed with nesting seabirds. But no one had mentioned that they nested rather high up the cliffs and were not exactly easy to spot.

Char Island

The cliffs of Heimaey. There were thousands and thousands of puffins there, not that we got even remotely close to them. 

Char rookery

Some of those white specks are puffins.

Char Puffin 1

I did not take this picture. These are puffins. They are adorable. But no one ever sees them very close up because they live in cliffs, and sane people do not climb up cliffs just to see a bird.

Char Puffin 3

They always look worried. I didn’t take this picture either, but whoever did had no fear of heights.

Char Town

The harbor at Heimaey.

We wandered the town for an hour or so, then found a local restaurant and sat down for lunch. Marta was just commenting how beautiful the birds were when we noticed they had puffin on the menu. And whale. Of course, I’m sure that many cultures would find our diet disturbing, as I would if I ever actually researched what’s in a Cheese Whopper.

It was also in this town that Marta found her Icelandic sweater, which she insists is more attractive than mine. That’s the sweater just below – we’ll let you be the judge.

Char Sweater

Many of the women looked like this, which shows us that the Vikings were no fools when it came to who they carried off from Ireland.

Nowhere in Iceland is it more evident that the volcanic activity is a part of daily life. The entire port here was nearly wiped out in 1973 when local volcano Eldfell (pronounced “Cleveland”) erupted. The port was saved by pumping millions of gallons of seawater onto the oncoming lava wall, but dozens of homes were destroyed. Walking on the hill above the current port, Marta found what she thought was an old cemetery, but the markers turned out to be for the houses that were destroyed – a graveyard of homes.

Char House

This was someone’s home.

Char flowers

This flower grows surprisingly well out of the lava. 

Char newly

Only a few hundred feet above the town, the landscape makes Iwo Jima look lush.

Of course, there had to be some fishing. Icelandic freshwater has limited species, but they do have Arctic Char, a trout cousin that I had never caught. We found a guide based in southern Iceland, about 90 minutes from Reykjavik. We made the drive early in the morning, passing through patches of dense fog, then areas of bright sunshine where we could see anything from mountains to green valleys to steaming moonscapes.

Our guide was Arni Skulasen, an impossibly-tall 17 year-old who had grown up fishing char, trout, and salmon on the rivers in southern Iceland. We had some trouble finding the village of Selfoss, as it turns out that Selfoss is not a village, it’s a farm.

Char farm 3

A farm quite similar to Arni’s home, taken in a rare moment of sunshine. I got photos of the Selfoss farm, but it was raining then, and I liked this photo a lot better.

Arni suggested that we first try the river right in front of his home, which has a population of both char and salmon.

Char River

How’s that for a front yard?

As you know, Marta lives to catch species that I have not. She takes great pride in this, and has trashed several vacations with this thoughtless behavior. Jordan, where she caught a six-spot grouper on purpose and I did not, was especially painful.

Bday Grouper

The only six-spot grouper ever shown in an article about Iceland.

So it is completely understandable that I forgot to invite her for the morning fishing session. She went hiking while Arni and I cast the river. The location looked like it was out of a travel brochure, but alas, no char were biting. I had one hit from a salmon, but as we have covered, Atlantic salmon and I do not mix well. (Click HERE for the sordid details.)

 

Char River 1

Fishing the falls about a mile from Arni’s house. What a great place to grow up. 

When the morning session didn’t result in a char, Arni was perplexed. “I am perplexed.” he said. “They are not biting. I don’t know where to take you now, unless you want to catch a really small one.” Needless to say, I jumped all over that. A species is a species. His idea was Lake Pingevillir, which apparently is full of smallish char, but as we covered, I have fished in hatcheries when circumstances dictated.

We got into the car for the drive over to the lake. We passed scenic vistas and bewildering road signs.

Char Bjork

The top word means “Men’s Restroom.” The bottom word means “bad music.”

Char Church

I thought about going in here and praying for an Atlantic halibut. 

It was on this journey that Marta and I gained a closer understanding about the close but awkward relationship that the Icelanders have with Denmark. As is often the case where a remote colony has separated from the motherland, there is a bit of friendly abuse thrown back and forth. Arni explained to us that Icelanders can understand Danish, but that the Danes have a strong and comical accent, which sounds like, and I quote, that “They are speaking with a hot potato stuck in their throat.” There are also Danish jokes, just as there are Polish jokes, like “How many Danes does it take to bake a potato?” (Two – one to bake it and one to put it in the back of their throat. I didn’t get it either.)

Char Peng

Lake Pingevillir

The lake was gorgeous, and it managed to not rain for a couple of hours. The rocky beach we walked to was comfortable and shielded from the wind, and I was soon set up and casting. It didn’t take long to hook up – on perhaps my third cast, I connected with a char, and tacked another species onto the list. It certainly wasn’t a huge char, but I was very pleased. I kept casting and got several more.

Char char

Granted, not a beastly char, but a new species nonetheless.

Char Lake

Arni wades out into the lake.

Then Marta just had to say those two awful words – “My turn.” Things had been ideal until then, but if Marta started fishing, there was the possibility she would catch something rare and wonderful. Arni offered to teach her to fly fish, which would make it worse if she actually caught something. (No one likes a smartass, Arni.) So I gave Marta a fishing rod and a spoon. Predictably, on her first cast, she hooked into something. It was immediately obvious that it was larger than the fish I had been catching, and after a minute or two, she landed a char that was roughly twice the size of any char I had gotten.

Char Marta

Marta shows off her char. Well la-dee-da. It’s still a small one, even if it was slightly larger than mine.

Arni couldn’t help himself. “Now that’s a proper char.” he announced. I reminded him again that no one likes a smartass. Marta got in on the act. “Do the juveniles count the same as adult fish?” Ha ha ha. They continued this juvenile abuse all the way back to the farm at Selfoss, but I maturely ignored them, partly because my fish was indeed smaller and I had run out of comebacks, but mostly because I was deep in what passes for thought in my case. In just 24 hours, I would be 50 years old. Would I celebrate with a halibut, or would it be the worst birthday ever?

Steve

 

 

Posted by: 1000fish | July 7, 2013

Battle of the Atlantic

Dateline: July 7, 2013 – Keflavik, Iceland

“Steve, it’s called Iceland. Do you see any hints it might get cold there?” Marta can be so mean-spirited.

Iceland seemed like a great idea when we were planning an adventure for my 50th birthday. It’s exotic, loaded with fish, and has enough culture to keep Marta believing it wasn’t solely a fishing trip. The Atlantic halibut has thus far avoided me, and they are present in Iceland. All I needed was a day of good weather, and I figured that this was JULY, so we had to have decent weather. Right? Right??

Since it was JULY, I had packed for a somewhat moderate climate – no sweaters or industrial underwear. A few days before we left, Marta checked some newfangled, high-tech thing called “Weather.com.”  Turns out the high temperature predicted during our entire trip was a crisp 54 degrees, and several of the days featured freezing rain, if not snow. My packing strategy changed substantially. But Marta didn’t need to be so snotty about it.

Getting there was more difficult than it needed to be. United Airlines, always at the forefront of new and exciting customer service screwups, outdid themselves. We had bought United tickets to JFK to connect with a Delta flight to Iceland. We left ourselves a generous eight hour layover. Yet they botched it. Twice we boarded. Twice we unboarded. We finally did take off, but about 30 minutes into the flight, the crew figured out that the howling noise that sounded like a loose door was in fact a loose door, and we returned to San Francisco for a good old-fashioned emergency landing. So we found ourselves still in San Francisco, dealing with a UAL representative who couldn’t have been less interested if we were selling Amway. When it gets this bad, most airlines will just throw in the towel and arrange for a different connection. But United, with all the compassion and flexibility of the 12th-century papacy, seemed to feel that they could not have made a mistake.

The bad news – Delta had no seats for three days, so we bit the bullet and paid an ungodly amount for tickets on Icelandair’s next flight. (Icelandair is AWESOME, by the way – the even make sure the doors are shut before they take off.) The good news – we got to Reykjavik a mere 12 hours later than the original itinerary, albeit sans baggage. (The better news – after months of me pressing my case, United finally made mostly good, despite the best efforts of customer relations clerk James Sugimaya, who exhibited that rare blend of rudeness and indifference normally seen only in Parisian waiters.)

We arrived late at night and headed over to the charming house we had rented. It was there we caught up with Marta’s friend Laine, who was joining us for part of the trip. A well-known media consultant, Laine is a great deal of fun and always brings out the very worst behavior in Marta.

Ice ML

Troublemakers. And yes, they picked on me.

The next morning, Marta and Laine were somewhat subdued – which may or may not have been related to the quart of Limoncello that went missing the previous evening. (Frankly, Marta had just spent 48 hours listening to me negotiate with (“yell at”) airline people. She deserved a drink.) Slowly and quietly, we poked around Reykjavik. Our house was just up the hill from downtown, and because it was light almost 24 hours a day, we got to play tourist well into the evening. The first thing I bought was a sweater, because, even though it was July, it was cold and windy.

Ice Statue

We examine a statue. Note my really cool Icelandic sweater.

Ice Church

The cathedral up the street. This was the only time we saw it in sunshine, and this was 11pm.

Ice Shadows

Our shadows up the same street. 

Despite United Airlines deliberate attempts to route my baggage to Bulgaria, my gear did show up, likely because the Icelandair people actually cared. I was ready to hit the water.

Ice Tags

So how many tags does it take to get a bag to Reykjavik?

On the morning of the 6th, I started two straight days fishing on the Atlantic. (I would also do a third day on the 10th.) My guide was Toggi Gudmundsson, a local commercial fisherman who had plied these waters since he was a teenager, so he either doesn’t get seasick or he’s really, really stoic.

Ice Toggi

My guide for the week. Look him up if you are ever in Iceland – +354 893-0007. You can also contact Jon Sigurdsson on email – Jon@FishIceland.com, to book fishing anywhere in Iceland. 

Toggi picked me up early in the morning, and we headed back toward Keflavik and out to one of the small harbors that dot the coast. On the drive over, I was struck by how desolate, yet how beautiful the landscape was.

Ice Moon

This part of Iceland looks like Iwo Jima, but with snow. This was the last sunshine I would see for quite some time.

Ice Boat

Toggi’s boat. It has plenty of places to hold onto for dear life, which is important. 

It was a solid, comfortable boat, and we headed out into the morning full of hope. Our first stop was a protected patch just outside the harbor where Toggi thought I might get a plaice, one of the more emotionally charged species for me. (See A Plaice in the Sun for details.)

There were no plaice in this place, but I got several dabs and added Iceland as country # 79 on my list. From time to time, I would lapse into a smiling reverie, imagining the look on Marta’s face if I ever caught a plaice, but the cold would snap me out of it.

Ice Dab2

My first fish in Iceland. Note my July garb.

We moved out to some rocky reefs a bit more offshore. The wind had picked up to a bracing 30 knots, and the seas weren’t what an expert would call “nice.” So we did a bit of fishing and a lot of hanging on, and while I some nice cod and dabs, I was looking for a halibut, which are typically out in deeper water. We gave it an ill-advised try to go out into the open Atlantic. I had thought it was nasty where we had been fishing, but the water outside the Keflavik peninsula was positively foul. See video below.

We ran back into the iffy protection of the peninsula, where it was bumpy but at least fishable, and we continued the species hunt. Toggi was an expert. He knew the water inside and out – every rock, every sandy patch, every place that could hold a fish. He understood my unusual needs, and we had quickly sorted out which fish I needed to catch. It was still windy and in the low 40s, but this was a marvelous improvement over the morning.

We began drifting big clam baits over a rocky bottom in about 100 feet of water. It took more than a pound of weight to hold the bottom – the wind was pushing us fast enough to troll for wahoo. I had a few hits, likely not wahoo, and then the rod lurched down hard and I found myself trying to wrestle something off the bottom. It took a few minutes, but I made progress. Toggi waited on the rail with a gaff, and with perfect timing, he reached down and swung something big and gray onto the boat. I whooped loudly enough to be heard over the wind, because writhing and gnashing and chasing me halfway across the deck was an Atlantic wolffish, and my day was a success.

Ice Wolf

An Atlantic Wolffish, species 1224. 

Ice Mouth

Adorable.

The new species door had been opened, and I hoped to stride right through it. If we could just get a day of decent weather, I knew that the halibut would follow. I went home filled with optimism. After all, this wasn’t January. It was a month that is historically nicer than January. It was July.

For once, my day did not begin and end on the water – there was tourism to do. Toggi dropped me off back in Reykjavik, and Marta and Laine were ready to go. We raced off to a place called “The Blue Lagoon,” which I surely thought must have been creative marketing, like when United calls themselves “The Friendly Skies.”

Ice BL

Brooke Shields was nowhere to be seen.

But it wasn’t marketing. It turns out that the place is a thermal spring, with crab-boil hot water so rich in minerals that it is an opaque, sky blue. We swam and lounged in the baths, had a drink, and drove back to Reykjavik for a late seafood dinner.

Ice Blue

The water in this photo is only a couple of feet deep. It really was this blue. Maybe even bluer. 

In the morning, I awoke with great optimism that this would be my day, but the hail beating against the bathroom window told me that the Fish Gods had other plans. The wind had stiffened and was augmented by freezing rain and, yes, snow flurries. Just to be stubborn, we headed out a few miles, and it was ugly. The open water was not going to an option, so we kept working spots near the coast. I didn’t catch anything new, but the cod were biting like crazy and I didn’t barf, so we’ll call it a moral victory.

Ice Cod

There were solid cod like this on almost every drop. But no halibut. 

Ice Cod 2

That’s me under all that Gore-tex. In July. 

Don’t they know it’s JULY? I would have one more day, so I remained hopeful. And let’s face it, it was fun to catch a bunch of nice cod. But it would be more fun to catch a halibut.

That evening, Laine had arranged for us to take a helicopter tour of the area. In light of the weather, I was uncomfortable going up in anything smaller than a 747, but we got a small time slot where takeoff was considered less risky that it would be if it was more dangerous, and off we went. It was breathtaking.

Ice Chopper 1

With the girls before takeoff. Is that a cool sweater or what?

Ice Aerial

This could just as easily be the moon. Or Iwo Jima. 

Ice Waterfall

Did I mention that the scenery was incredible?

Ice Chopper 2

The girls and our impossibly good-looking pilot. (According to them.) He took off and landed on time, which means he will never work for United.

Still, this was little consolation for no halibut, but I had one more day on the water – July 10 – which would be my 50th birthday. Surely the weather would improve, because, say it with me, it was July. Would the Fish Gods mock me three days in a row? Would they ruin my birthday? Naaaaaaah. Couldn’t be.

Steve

Posted by: 1000fish | June 27, 2013

Boned

Dateline: June 27, 2013 – Kona, Hawaii

By the time this gets posted, ten months will have passed since that bitter day, and yet the memory still burns like a mixup between Preparation H and Tiger Balm. Sometimes I realize I must be too naive and kind, and despite years of vile antics from Jaime Hamamoto, this was a new low. Oh, the pain of giving and giving only to be completely betrayed.

Kona has always been a wonderful stop for me. There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of new species, there are loads of open records, and the food is great.

Boned SPam

Hawaii has spam-flavored EVERYTHING.

Kona has all the joys of Hawaii, but Jaime Hamamoto is still an hour away and isn’t likely to show up unannounced. If any of you are unfamiliar with my teenage arch-nemesis, check http://1000fish.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/getting-my-goat/ for some history or just look up “mean spirited” in the dictionary.

This year, I decided to risk a trip to Kona with my sister’s family. (See “I Have No Nephew” for details.) We haven’t done too much travel together, because I am a dream travel companion and my sister is difficult, but the kids had always been wound up about the idea of going to Hawaii, and as we have covered, I am giving and kind person who will put up with them even thought they might not want to fish 18 hours a day. Kona is well-known for calm sea conditions, so I was hopeful that my sister would relent and allow my niece and nephew to brave the danger of going on a big game fishing boat, a terrible gamble that few have survived.

Boned Germains

My sister and her family. No, Charlie does not have a condition – he just seems to squint for photos. This is the only photograph of Dan in this whole post, as he took most of the pictures. 

I arrived a day and a half before they did, and I started catching fish immediately. I had a hint that the trip was going to be epic when, on my very first cast –  my very first cast – I got a ten pound bluefin trevally.

Boned Blue

Ten pounds is when the Hawaiians stop calling them papio and start calling them ulua. This pleases me.

I also got a record on the viper moray.

Boned Viper

This is why we do not touch moray eels without adult supervision. And even with adult supervision, disasters happen. Read on.

The next morning, I hit the Keauhou rocks, and the species started to come. The first one was a stunning surprise, as flatfish do not generally inhabit rocky reefs, but I followed that with a couple of nice records and new critters.

Boned Flounder

Flowery flounder. I have wanted one of these since 2006, when everyone on the boat in Thailand caught one of these EXCEPT ME.

Boned Squirrel

World record on the Tahitian squirrelfish. Oddly enough, there are more Tahitian squirrelfish in Hawaii than Tahiti. 

Boned Whitemouth

The whitemouth moray. It’s called that because it has spots, or at least that’s what my cousin Chuck now believes. New species and world record.

I had a few hours the next morning before I had to interrupt fishing and go do family stuff which did not involve fishing, but I took advantage of the time with one more species and another record.

Boned Doublebar

The doublebar goatfish – species #1219.

Boned Yellowmargin

A positively beastly yellowmargin moray. Did I mention that these things bite?

As soon as my sister’s family got to the hotel, I raced the kids down to the rocks to do some fishing. We asked for a couple of hours. My sister, who has a severe case of DGI (doesn’t get it) syndrome, offered a more conservative 10 minutes. Who goes fishing for ten minutes?

Boned Hawk

The kids, about an hour later, with a stocky hawkfish. 

At dinner, I raised the topic of bringing the kids on the boat. My sister worried that Charlie might barf. I have tried to explain to my sister that this is a sign of moral weakness, and that vomiting is a small price to pay for the chance to catch a big game trophy, but she would have none of this.

Boned Group

We are smiling because we hadn’t discussed fishing on the boat yet.

I know you 1000fish readers had put some pressure on her a couple of years ago to let the kids go out on a real fishing trip, and it may be time to do this again. My sister feels that charter boat accidents are the leading cause of disfigurement for children ages 12-14, just behind some rare disease carried in new t-shirts that haven’t been washed, and there is no convincing her otherwise. This would make it very difficult for me to have that magical “Uncle moment” when Charlie catches his first big game fish.

Ruefully, I went out on my first trip with Dale and Jack solo, but the fishing was great fun.

Boned Crew1

Dale and Jack Leverone, the captain and crew of the Sea Strike. If you get to Kona, get on the water with these guys - dale@konadeepsea.com or 1-800-264-4595.

I got an enormous sabre squirrelfish on the offshore reefs, a record on a pinktail trigger, and a surprise scorpionfish species back in the harbor. I have not included the pinktail photo because you all must be sick of looking at them.

Boned Saber

Sabre squirrelfish. The largest of the squirrelfish species, these get to over six pounds.

Boned Scorpion

The spotfin scorpionfish. Very poisonous. If you see one, don’t touch it or hold it in front of your face.

The next day was a family adventure, and we roamed the island, snorkeling here and there and enjoying the sights. Just to cover the bases, there was an appropriate amount of sibling bonding and family togetherness, yada yada yada. But to stay focused, we stopped at a couple of my favorite shore-fishing spots, and Elizabeth made a couple of surprising catches.

Boned Humu

Elizabeth with her humahumanukanukaapua’a. It took me years to catch one. 

Boned E Pink

Elizabeth continues her triggerfish rampage, this time with something that matched her outfit.

Boned Yellow M

Charlie got in to the act later in the afternoon. This is a big yellowmargin moray. They bite. I would confirm this about six hours after this photo was taken.

Boned Kon Tiki

Is that Thor Heyerdahl on the left?

Later that evening, my luck with eels ran out. I have been very fortunate over the years to have not lost a finger, nose, or spleen to the many morays I have handled. Sure, there is a lot of experience involved in this, but it just takes one mistake to test how good your health insurance really is. Mercifully, my mistake involved a smaller fish – about 20 inches – but in a split second I was not paying attention, he reached around and sent me to the emergency room.

Boned Wound

Before the ER folks sewed me up. I’ve had better nights, especially after the Xylocaine wore off. 

Boned culprit

The culprit. For the record, I released him in good health – he earned it. 

For those of you who think a bit of eel-driven needlepoint on my hand was going to keep me from fishing the next day, you are obviously new readers. Welcome! My sister still would not permit the children to go on the boat, and I began to worry that the “Uncle moment” was not going to happen. I still headed out with Dale as planned, and am I ever glad I did. In bumpy conditions, we headed south to try the 100-fathom reefs off Keauhou. As with any place I have fished a good deal, most catches were repeat species – snappers and triggerfish.

I had just switched up rigs to some smaller hooks. Dropping all the way to a sandy bottom, I soon felt the familiar tips and taps, and as I waited for that right moment to set the hook, a fish made the decision for me. My rod surged down and the fish sprinted line off the drag. These were not large hooks, but I knew I was in sand, so I backed off the drag and worked the fish delicately. About 15 minutes later, we could see big silver flashes under the boat – I still had no idea what it was. It was not until we netted it that I recognized I had a bonefish. A big bonefish, and whatever of the two Hawaiian species it was, it was going to be new for me. And a record. What stitches?

Boned sharp Jack

The sharpjaw bonefish, a new and exotic species AND a world record. Best day ever. 

I immediately texted Wade. He came back with “Oh, man. Jaime has caught bigger ones than that.” I responded “Well, she hasn’t turned them in.” This was a mistake, not just because I ended a sentence with a preposition, but because this would certainly provoke Jaime, who would pretend to congratulate me but would actually seethe with competitive rage. She may have fooled all of you into thinking she is a helpful and kind person, but I know better.

Boned Blueline

Oh, and I finally caught one of these pesky snappers over a pound and could put it in for a world record.

Jack was so pumped up about the bonefish that he wanted to try for another one in the harbor after we landed. It didn’t take much to talk me in to this. This isn’t delicate, light-tackle flats fishing that you see in magazines. This is bait fishing with a 30 pound class conventional reel and a big lump of squid – no stealth involved. I had my doubts, but this kid knows what he is doing, and it didn’t take long to get a hit. Whatever it was broke me off on the rough bottom. We set up again. I got hit again, and instead of fighting it like a bonefish, I fought it like a grouper – no line given. I thought the rod was going to break, but the fish turned and I got it onto the dock after a few minutes. Yes, it was a roundjaw, and more than big enough for the record.

Boned roundjaw

Two bonefish species and records in one day. Best day ever. 

I was simply on top of the world. Two new species of bonefish in the same day, two world records – world records on real gamefish. These were fish people had actually heard about, not that I would ever bring such a thing up in conversation. (Note from Marta – on a slow day, Steve will approach homeless people to discuss his world records. Often, they will give him money to stop.)

We spent the next day celebrating Charlie’s 14th birthday, and I’m pretty sure we did more bonding and emerged with an even closer relationship. We had a lovely dinner at Roy’s Waikaloa, and some lessons on taking photographs with your brother.

Boned Sis

This is the photo my sister wanted to have.

Boned Sis 2

But this is the one she got.

The trip had one more marvelous day ahead. I gave it one more try to get Charlie and Elizabeth out with Dale, but my sister pointed out that someone in Molvania stubbed their toe on a charter boat in 1952. Charlie, who was by this time convinced that seasickness could be fatal, was not coming. My “Uncle moment” had disappeared.

Boned Bored 2

Charlie got seasick watching the fountain in the lobby.

But Elizabeth was relentless, and well into the evening, something happened, likely extortion of some sort. I was informed that Elizabeth would be allowed to go out for half a day.

In the morning, I think I was was more excited than Elizabeth, even though her Mother gave me roughly nine pages of instructions, along the lines of “Feed often with healthy, high-fiber snacks. Hydrate every 11 minutes. Fully immerse in barrel of sunblock twice an hour. Suggest family-oriented reading. Avoid meteors.” I guess I would be a bad parent, because I pretty much gave Elizabeth a power bar and a tube of chapstick. In my defense, she survived.

On the way out to the reefs in front of Kona Town, Dale put a couple of trolling skirts in the water. As the Fish Gods would have it, the port outrigger snapped off maybe a mile out of the harbor, not 200 yards from the shore. As soon as I was absolutely sure it wasn’t a spearfish, we put Elizabeth on the reel.

Boned Reel

Elizabeth works the Tiagra 80.

It was hard work for her cranking the handle of the coffee-can sized Tiagra 80, but she handled it on her own and dragged the fish to boatside in about ten hard minutes. Jack, just to be a jerk, yelled “Oh my God it’s a spearfish.” I knew better in my heart and my brain, but not in my underwear. Dale reached down with a gaff, and a moment later, 40 pounds of angry wahoo hit the deck.

Boned Wahoo

Now that’s a fish. The Hawaiians call it “Ono,” as in “Ono, another fish Jaime hasn’t caught.”

For whatever reason, likely exposure to my behaviorally-challenged cousins when they were toddlers, I never did have children. But I always knew I would miss big moments like this – that first big fish. This is why it was so cool of my sister to provide me with a niece and a nephew. To be honest, and probably sexist, I always pictured this moment with Charlie, but this was just as cool, and no one barfed. (Barf is another reason I never had kids.)

We celebrated with a fresh-caught fish dinner that evening, and I added another record late that night down on the rocks.

Boned Big Blue

A perfect ending to a perfect day – a bigger snapper – one last record for the trip. 

The final score for the trip was seven new species and ten records. Species were up to 1223, but more interesting to me is that the record count went up to 84. Oh, and there was that family bonding thing and all that. But mostly, there was that big wahoo on the deck and the look of pure awe on Elizabeth’s face.

Steve

 

POSTSCRIPT – You knew this was coming

I have a vivid imagination – like anyone who stays faithful to the Detroit Lions – but even I could not make up the tragic events of the nine days that followed my Hawaii trip. I was still unpacking, late one evening, and I got a text from Wade. It simply said “Sit down.”

Then he texted me photos of the roundjaw bonefish Jaime had caught to break my record. By about five pounds.

Boned Glossodonta

Dear God, I thought – is nothing sacred? Just like that, I had gone from a world record holder on a celebrated gamefish to a former world record holder. My self-esteem plummeted like Miley Cyrus’ would if she was objective. At least I still had the sharpjaw.

Another text arrived. “Still sitting?”

Boned Vergata

She had broken the sharpjaw record as well. As all my friends will vouch if paid well, I am a kind and forgiving person. But I have my limits. Sure, Jaime would tell you she waited to set the records until I had set them first, but that would be kind and gracious, like me, not vicious and competitive, like her. So don’t believe it.

With God and Robert the Platypus as my witnesses, I will reclaim those records. As soon as I finish crying in my pillow.

Posted by: 1000fish | June 18, 2013

Jaime’s Evil Twin

Dateline: June 18, 2013 – Long Beach, California

I always thought Jaime Hamamoto was an only child. If she had siblings, surely she ate them before they could catch any species she had not, because she is just that competitive, a trait I of course do not understand. So imagine my surprise when I was confronted with a child who clearly had to be Jaime’s brother, even if his hair was slightly longer than hers.

 

Twin Cabbie

This is the child in question – eight year-old Tyler. For those of you who have never heard of Jaime Hamamoto, my 15 year-old arch-nemesis, see http://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/the-countdown-to-1000-the-ghost-of-don-ho/

Oddly enough, this whole story started with a great hairdo and a Dean Martin impersonator, and ended with a great hairdo and a Ricky Martin impersonator. Martini Arostegui has some competition in both the angling prodigy and hair superstar departments – read on if you dare.

It was a drizzly night in Los Altos, and Marta and I were heading to one of what would be many 50th birthday parties this year – including my own in July. Whereas the normal 50th birthday party prep is a bottle of scotch and a box of Depends, this one took four cans of hairspray, as it was a “Rat Pack” theme party, and Marta insisted on getting an authentic beehive hairdo.

Twin beehive

She kept her hair this way the entire weekend – including a hike on Sunday morning. 

Twin Deano

Dean Martin once said “You’re not in trouble if you can lie on the floor without hanging on.”

Over the years, I had been fishing with a couple of the partygoers, and one of them introduced me to Joy. Joy was great – pleasant, dynamic – and best of all, she had a fishing-crazed eight year-old son named Tyler. To put it lightly, Joy had done very well for herself, and had the means to make sure her son had gotten to do some exceptional fishing. He had been places like Alaska, Panama, and Tahiti – places I hadn’t even started dreaming of at his age.

A few weeks later, I got to meet Tyler. Long-haired and spooky-smart, he had read my blog – all of it – and he had questions. About three hours of them. A few weeks later, we did a fishing trip up to Oroville so I could see him in action, and the kid is the real deal. He casts well, is super-focused, and has a nose for fish. He loves to cast lures and hook into things that pull back hard. Joy and I spoke and decided that Tyler was ready for the big time. The kid was passionate about fishing, and his Mom was going to make sure he followed his passions.

Our next adventure was a biggie – two days with Ben Florentino (see “Korean Superman“) in Los Angeles, fishing for calico bass on the coast off of Long Beach. These are 12-hour days, but the fishing can be great. I confess I was a bit worried about keeping an eight year-old entertained for a full day, as my previous experiences at quasi-parenthood had not gone well. (Click here for details.) Joy doesn’t mess around with these things – she flew us down to Long Beach in her private plane and put us up right on the water, just down from the Queen Mary. It was marvelous to fly somewhere without having to worry about what sort of awful stunt United Airlines was going to pull.

It was great to see Ben, and his new boat was beautiful and a fast, comfortable ride. We set up in the kelp beds north of Long Beach, and I put down some bait while Ben and Tyler cast lures. They both got a few calico bass while I worked bits of squid on teensy hooks in the structure below us. I got a few small rockfish, and then – bingo. A giant kelpfish. No, it wasn’t that giant, that’s just what they call them to distinguish them from the other kelpfish, which are much smaller, even the big ones.

Twin Kelp

A small giant kelpfish.

Twin Greenling

And a giant painted greenling. Much more colorful than the ones I caught in Monterey – see http://1000fish.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/hedge-witchs-american-cousin/

I was still being thrilled about my kelpfish when the young man, oblivious to my joy, rained on my parade. He reeled up a black croaker, a species I had never caught. While he was businesslike and didn’t gloat, it was clear he was pleased that he had caught something I had not. And no matter how many times I reminded him that I had caught about 1150 species he hadn’t, the grin would not leave his little face.

Twin Croaker

Oh, it still pains me to look at this photo.

Tyler put on quite a show casting swimbaits into the kelp, catching calico after calico. The Fish Gods also smiled on me, and I got both a halibut and a white seabass on plastics. Still, the pain of not getting that croaker was terrible.

Twin Calico

Tyler’s first calico – on his own, throwing a swimbait. Well done. If you are in the LA area, give Ben a call on 310 779-0397. 

Twin calico 2

Tyler and his biggest calico. I don’t know if I’ve gotten one this big, and it certainly wasn’t when I was eight.

Twin WSB

I stumbled into my second white seabass ever. Someday I’ll get a big one, and on that day, Jim Tolonen will stop calling me about the 40 pounders he always gets.

Twin Halibut

My halibut. White swimbaits were working well for me, and this fish ate my last big “Squidgee” bait from Australia. Scotty Lyons, I need some more!!

Then it got worse. We moved the boat to a back channel that Ben thought might contain some “googly-gobs,” as he calls the odd species. Perhaps five minutes later, Tyler’s rod pulled down, and he reeled up … oh no … a Haller’s round stingray. I have never caught a Haller’s round stingray. The grin that had never left his little face increased, and I sure he texted Jaime. This is how he thanks me?

Twin Stingray

He made me hold it for the photos, clearly to rub it in.

Tyler also got a couple of nice guitarfish. It took me 19 years to catch 1.5 guitarfish, and the first .5 led to a divorce. (See http://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/my-guitar-solo/)

Twin Guitar

He caught his guitarfish a lot quicker than I caught mine.

When we returned to port late in the afternoon, neither of us wanted to stop – Tyler because he is eight and has boundless energy, me because I am obsessive and had just sucked down a quart of Red Bull. We kept fishing off the bank for whatever would bite, mostly kingfish. I was starving and cranky, he was starving and cranky, but we couldn’t quite pull ourselves away from the rocks, just in case there was just one more good fish.

Joy was delighted to see that Tyler was having a good time, and it would seem a shame to interrupt all this fun for something as mundane as dinner. Without so much as a word, she went off and got us a pizza, so we wouldn’t have to stop fishing. It’s the kind of thing my Mom would have done. When Joy returned, I sort of stayed to the side so they could talk a little bit. He was very excited about the day and the fish he had caught, and he was already figuring out the next trip, and the trip after that. He had a lot of great ideas – Tahiti, Hawaii, South Africa – and for him, anything is possible. It’s one thing to have a Mom who has done very well, but it’s another thing entirely to have her so dedicated to having her son experience so many amazing things. There is no substitute for time spent with a kid.

My evening was spent largely sleepless, deep in research about the feeding and migratory habits of the black croaker and Haller’s round stingray. I did breathing exercises and feng-shui rituals. But I knew I had to get those two species the next day, because I am not competitive.

On the second day, we continued pounding the kelp beds with large plastics, and we were rewarded with some solid calicos. I relentlessly fished bait but could not drag up a croaker. We then headed back to the “googly gob” spot where young Tyler had humiliated me the day before.

We cast out four rods and waited. We each got a couple of sand bass, and then something happened which doesn’t make me very proud. (But obviously not so ashamed that I won’t recount it here.) The rods, two for me and two for Tyler, had been baited and cast, and one of them started bouncing. To be fair (to me) it hadn’t been formally declared who exactly owned which rod, but since I made it to the rod first, I figured it must have been mine. I can’t help it if Tyler has poor reflexes. And he could have pushed me out of the way if he really wanted to – I only outweigh him by 150 pounds. So stop focusing on the child – he was fine – and let’s focus on what I caught. It was a Haller’s round stingray, and the joy of the moment let me conveniently forget I had body-checked an eight year-old to catch it.

Twin Steve Ray

Tyler calmly reminded me that his stingray was bigger than mine. Again, definitive proof that he must be related to Jaime.

Shortly after I finished taking photos of the ray, the rod closest to me folded over. I snatched it out of the holder before young Tyler could grab it, and I hooked into something small but spirited. It ran directly under the boat, but I wrestled it out and netted it. It was a black croaker, and it was big enough to be a record.

Twin S Croaker

The black croaker. No eight year-olds were harmed in the catching of this species. 

Excitedly, I texted Marta. She responded “Congratulations, Steve. You just tied an eight year-old.” I usually like it when someone puts things in perspective, but I did not appreciate this particular example.

Just to show me he had not lost his exotic species mojo, Tyler went on to catch two rather unusual species before we closed out the day – a California skate and a swell shark.

Twin Skate

A California skate. This one was not quite record size, but it was close.

Twin Swell

A swell shark. They are called that because they swell up like a pufferfish when they are annoyed. This one was just getting annoyed. They are also quite strong – Tyler is putting a lot of muscle into keeping it still for the photo.

Twin Joy

Steve and Joy in front of the “Air Joy” Fishing Express flight.

That evening, we got in the plane and headed home.

Tyler and I talked fishing the whole way back, and he had ideas for a bunch more trips. I think we were both disappointed to land and have to go home. But I was sure we would have plenty more opportunities – and competitive and vicious though he could be, I must admit that I was the slightest bit moved to see that much passion in an eight year-old. It was a bit like looking back almost 42 years at myself, except that Tyler is smarter and better-looking, and has the second-best Mom ever, not because she could fly us to Long Beach, but because she brought us a pizza on the dock.

Steve

Posted by: 1000fish | June 8, 2013

Bohemian Rhapsody

Dateline: June 8, 2013 – Monte Rio, California

I went looking for 1993, but I found 1984 instead.

The day started with an almost certain recipe for disaster – I went fishing with Mark Spellman. (For those of you unfamiliar with fishing’s next big accident waiting to happen, see “A Glass of Milk.”) Most kidding aside, I don’t get to fish with Mark as often as I’d like to. Between my travel and his adult responsibilities, it’s hard to catch up, even when Heather is trying to get him out of the house. Even this trip was set up to be a short one; I promised a morning session for a few hours, lunch, then back home.

But every time Mark and I do catch up, it immediately reverts to those 1993 road trips, Monty Python on the stereo, horrible food, the intestinal consequences thereof, and the boundless enthusiasm of heading out in the morning. That is always the best part of any fishing day – anticipating that THIS is going to be THE day, when the talk is rapid and optimistic despite abbreviated sleep, and there is still the possibility that everything will go right. It can happen, though it rarely does, but it can, and this was our mood as we drove north of San Francisco and off into the wilds of Sonoma county to explore the Russian River.

Russian Kayaks

The Russian river, one of the weekend playgrounds for the San Francisco area.

And why was I going there, you ask? Well, you probably wouldn’t, but play along – this is my blog.

I have caught just about everything that swims in Northern California, but from time to time, some rarities come to my attention that are not yet on “the list.” One of these curiosities is the tule perch, which is actually a member of the surfperch family that apparently didn’t get along with the other surfperches and moved into fresh water. There is no surf in fresh water, and I lay awake at night worrying about such things.

We drove up Highway 101 toward Santa Rosa, then made a left onto the Bohemian Highway that picks up and parallels the river. It’s a beautiful drive, and one that brought back a lot of memories.

Russian Bohemian

Yes, it’s really called that.

My first trip to the Russian river was in 1984, with a college girlfriend named Tania. She was unlike almost anyone I dated back then, because she was sane – AND her father actually owned two fishing supply stores. Tania went on to become a successful optometrist, but she apparently didn’t see too well at the time, because, as we covered, she went out with me. She had set up a day of canoeing on the quiet waters around Guerneville in the summer of ’84 – that magical year the Tigers won the World Series – and I of course turned it into a fishing trip. (And got a pound and a half smallmouth on a gold J-9 rapala. Yes, I remember those things.)

I know you’re all waiting for some ridiculous picture of us from college, with wild hair and period clothing, and believe me, I looked. But in 1984, there was no digital photography, thank goodness, and there was absolutely nothing compromising of Tania I could toss in here. That might be a good thing, as the shortest of her three brothers is something like 6’5″.

As Spellman and I drove up the Bohemian highway toward Guerneville, we began to acknowledge that we had done almost no advance planning. We knew where to find the river – the wet thing on the left – but that was about it. That’s where King’s Sport and Tackle (Click here for details) came in to play. With one quick visit, we had great advice on where to go for the oddball fish, specifically a hard-to-find boat ramp in Monte Rio.

Russian Bridge

The Monte Rio bridge. Little did I know that the boat ramp was right in front of me, just to the right of a sign that said “Boat Ramp.”

Of course, these guys are also the ones who broke the bad news that NO BAIT is allowed in the river. NO BAIT. What have these communists done to us? California makes a lot of things unnecessarily complicated. For example, our budget is deep in the red and yet we still publish our fishing regulations in everything from Esperanto to Ancient Greek. Sigh.

We tried a few spots by the bridge that looked promising. The areas definitely held some small fish, but the no bait thing was tough. We relied on Berkeley Gulp plastics, which are the foulest-smelling artificial substance not found in my hockey bag. We looked around for the boat ramp, but it eluded us for some time.

Russian Bar

We fished the pools on the far bank without result.

About two hours later, we found the boat ramp the bait store guys had been talking about, which was exactly where they said it was, by the sign that said “Boat Ramp.” We were getting hungry, but I promised to make it short. While I probably meant it at the time, no one should ever believe me when I say this.

I tossed out a tiny smelly plastic bit on a #18 hook, and finally, there was some activity. The float dipped, then dipped again, then wandered off. I pulled up a California roach. Casting again, ever wary for the tule perch, I watched my float go and I hooked something a bit more spirited. Pulling it onto the bank, I was surprised – and thrilled – to see I had caught a hitch, species # 1212. I then got a few more hitch – they were everywhere – nothing was going to be close to a pound, so a world record was out, but it was a species on the board. The perch was another matter – I saw nothing that looked remotely like one.

Russian Hitch

The hitch. Spellman casts for shad in the background. 

I tried both sides of the ramp for about an hour, and as the sun got higher, we had to consider calling it a successful day. There was, after all, a marvelous Italian meal awaiting us at Negri’s in Occidental. (Another place I learned about from Tania.) Oh, and as I had sold the trip to Mark as a morning-only thing, so we hadn’t eaten. It was then, in the very shallow water right up against the bank, that my float dipped. I swung back, and for an instant, I had a tule perch up out of the water. It came off in mid-air. I could have thrown up. Spellman could have thrown up too, because he knew that this would mean at least another hour in the same place, even if that had been the only tule perch within 50 miles.

Regardless of both of us being near starvation, I stayed at that spot for another 48 minutes, which must be the exact memory span of a tule perch, because that’s when it bit again, and this time, it stayed hooked. I had gotten two species within three hours, within 100 miles of my home. There was hope yet.

Russian Perch 1

The savage tule perch. Mark is smiling because we could eat now. 

And yes, I paid for lunch. It was the least I could do.

Steve

Russian Monte

Posted by: 1000fish | May 26, 2013

Milestones on the Mexican Riviera

Dateline: May 26, 2013 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Kelly is not one of my typical friends. My friends can generally be divided up into hockey players, fishermen, and Spellman, and Kelly isn’t any of these.

PV Kelly

I dress this way for meetings and the occasional party. Kelly dresses this way on most days, even for trips to Wal-Mart.

Kelly wears matching socks, can’t ice skate, and wouldn’t know a Bimini twist from a colonoscopy. He has been one of Marta’s closest friends for years, and he and I have become good buddies despite the fact he went to USC, a school which never beats my beloved Michigan without some sort of chicanery, like the “phantom touchdown” in 1979 which ruined my childhood. It’s 35 years later, I’m still bitter, and Charles White still hasn’t crossed the goal line.

PV phantom 1

You might notice that Mr. White forgot something on his way to the end zone.

In this year of the 50th birthday parties – including mine coming up in July – Kelly certainly went all out for his. He rented a villa on the coast south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and invited a group of his closest friends, which includes Marta, which means I got to go. It was quite a tradeoff – I would get to go fishing, but I would be surrounded by USC football fans for 3 days.

My first trip to Puerto Vallarta was five years ago, to film a television show, of all things. (Even fishing shows have slow news days.) I dragged up 24 new species on that one, so I figured that there wasn’t much left for me. But still, it was a chance to fish someplace exotic, and I packed gear for every eventuality, hoping I could get at least four species and get across that elusive 1200 mark.

Speaking of gratuitous Trojan jokes, it’s about 1500 miles from San Francisco to PV, but because we had USC people with us, we didn’t have to go the last three yards.

The accommodations were, to put it simply, over the top. A huge villa overlooking the Pacific, every bedroom with a phenomenal ocean view, a crew of cooks and bartenders, and best of all, a gorgeous, rocky shoreline.

PV Shore 1

Now that’s a shoreline.

The walk down was a bit risky, but I got down without breaking my neck and set to fishing. I got to meet the group by yelling back and forth up to the main balcony, and while they relaxed and had Margaritas, I started catching stuff.

PV Blueeye

The bumphead damselfish, species # 1197. Only three short of 1200, so by USC rules … oh never mind. 

The rocks were jammed with damselfish. This is usually bad, as I have a gift for catching ones that are plain brown and impossible to identify, but these had characteristics! I knocked off two new species in an hour, before Marta summoned me up to actually be sociable.

PV Cortez

The Cortez damselfish. I was pretty much beside myself with joy.

This was a fun if eclectic group, mostly USC grads, consisting of some venture capitalist types (eech,) a stage actor, an aerialist, a restaurateur, an Episcopalian priest, Conan O’Brien’s sound guy, a TV producer, and a movie producer. And I thought all that came out of USC was tainted Rose Bowls and one stunning natural history discovery. (USC’s botany department uncovered a rare shrub known as the “Reggie Bush.” It grows a Heisman trophy that wilts after seven years.)

PV Dinner

The group. Apart from the USC connection, they were a lot of fun. Marta suggested that I took the whole Michigan football thing far more seriously than they did, but that is of course ridiculous. 

The next day was the real fishing adventure. I had set up two days on Mr. Marlin charters, (info@mrmarlin.com) with guides Cesar Perez and Giovanni Padilla, for full on species-hunting on the local reefs. I rose at sunup, when most of the group was sound asleep and dreaming of ill-gotten national championships, and I headed off to the dock about 10 minutes north.

PV Sun

The sun rises on what would turn out to be an epic day of fishing. 

The town, which had been vibrant and jammed the afternoon before, was almost completely quiet – just some shopkeepers setting up for their day and a few stray dogs wandering the streets.

I met Cesar and Giovanni and we took a short run, a few miles north and maybe a mile offshore. Oh my goodness were these guys good. Total professionals, better English than your average New York cab driver, and a perfect understanding of my perverse and petulant needs. (Marta made me say petulant.)

The fishing was immediate and surprisingly good. On my first cast, trying to get live bait, I hooked a type of leatherjack which was new for me, and it just got better from there.

PV Leatherjack

The shortjaw leatherjack. Species 1199. Almost there.

PV Conehead

The world record conehead eel. It was very unhappy about being handled, but was released safely before it got really mad. 

PV Eelteeth

Do not put this in your pants.

PV Burrito

Although this burrito grunt was not a new species for me, I had never caught one heavier than four ounces before. We got at least a dozen this size. 

PV Flounder

A chocolate flounder. Yet another open world record, and finally, FINALLY, my 1200th species. This was shaping up into an epic day.

PV Soap

A twice-spotted soapfish. French people are afraid of these. 

PV Weakfish

The business end of a striped weakfish – another new one.

PV Spotted

The equatorial moray. I think a better name would be “That moray where the spots start small but get bigger toward the tail.” 

 

PV Verrugato

A Verrugato croaker. I have no idea who Verrugato was, but the important thing is that Jaime Hamamoto hasn’t caught one. She will likely fly into a competitive rage when she sees this. 

PV Ray

A final surprise on a whole squid - a diamond stingray. Even a relatively small one like this is very difficult to lift off the bottom. 

The good mojo from the New York trip had carried over. While April had been a tough month for species, and it seemed like I was never going to cross the 1200 species goal line, this day alone produced seven new critters – and two world records.

That evening featured a marvelous party back at the villa. I made a point of wearing Michigan gear, to the derision of no one much except Marta, and we all chatted, drank margaritas, and waded in the pool well into the evening.

PV Hats

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. 

PV Pool 2

The pool as viewed from water-balloon throwing height.

I made my joke about the Reggie Bush, and it was immediately pointed out that USC had another relatively recent Heisman – Matt Leinart. Remember him? Me neither. Isn’t he backing up Tampa Bay’s practice squad guy? When was the last time the Westminster “Best in Show” poodle ended up guarding a junkyard? (And then one of them had to trot out the old classic – “Why do Michigan coaches eat their cereal on a plate? Because if it was in a bowl, they would lose it. Ha ha ha. ) I am pretty sure the banter stayed in good humor – but I guess you all can be the judge of that.

The next morning, I had some thought of taking it easy around the house, but the shoreline called.

PV Shore 2

This is the shoreline. I can still hear it calling. 

I raided the kitchen for some prawns (which may have been lunch – oops) and headed down on the rocks with surf rod in hand. After a few damselfish, I pulled in a very attractive wrasse that turned out to be a new species.

PV Wrasse

The banded wrasse. I need a new camera – this one didn’t do the colors any justice here. The bands were a bright aqua color, and Jaime must have been green with envy because she has never caught one. Oh boo hoo. 

Then I got broken off. It wasn’t a violent snatch and grab – something just pulled me into the rocks and would not leave. This means eel. I quickly tied on a heavier leader and cast to the same spot, and sure enough, something started thumping on it again. I set the hook hard, and although the fish dove back into the structure, I slowly wrestled it out. Flipping it up onto the rock, I could see it was a moray of some kind, which means a high stakes game of chicken while the angler tries to get a grip on the eel and the eel tries to get a grip on the angler.

PV Jewel Head

The jewel moray. Another world record no one cared to turn in – until now. 

Even a small moray can do considerable damage, but I finally got the upper fin on the beast and photographed it. It was a beautiful fish – the aptly-named jewel moray, and it was an open world record. The shoreline had been very kind to me, and I released the beast unharmed but deeply annoyed.

PV Jewel Full

Steve carefully handles the jewel moray. The woman in the background is an actress and professional aerialist – how cool is that?

We all went into town for the big official birthday dinner. It was held at an outstanding rooftop restaurant, and we carried on well into the evening. There were many toasts to Kelly’s next 50 years, some of them coherent, and it was marvelous to see a group of lifetime friends be able to spend time together. Several stories regarding Kelly’s college antics were shared, but my attorney has advised me to not repeat them here and, indeed, to burn my notes.

PV Group

The group stops for a photo while we were all still capable of following simple instructions.

PV Girls

Kelly enjoys dinner with two great friends, Marta and Kelly. We call her “the smart Kelly” to tell them apart. In a moment of graciousness, I told them both “I forgive you for Charles White.” They looked at each other and said “Who the hell is Charles White?”

Of course, USC football came up again. What kind of place do you need to kill two people just to tie the school record? Conversation moved to deeper topics, like the meaning of life, which was clearly an attempt to hide their shame about USC football. Marta again suggested that they might not care all that much, but this is preposterous.

PV NasalThe guy on the right is a stage actor and does an awesome one man show on Groucho Marx. The guy on the left is showing exactly how far Charles White’s knee was from the two yard line.

I had one more day booked with the boat, and foolishly, I brought Marta along. There is, of course, always the risk that she will catch something that I have not – one of her great joys in life. I was willing to take this chance just to spend the day with her, because I am kind and good-hearted.

The very first thing she caught was a gulf coney. I have never caught a gulf coney. You have to be kidding me – one drop and she gets a species I don’t have? I had a full day out here and didn’t sniff one, and she gets one on her first drop? Where’s the justice? Moments later, she got another one. The crew understood perfectly that this was very funny, and try as they might to be polite, they kept giggling.

PV Coney

Marta and her gulf coney.

I insisted on staying in the area where Marta had gotten these fish long past when anything else was biting. I stuck with it, and after an hour, I was rewarded with a somewhat unlarge gulf coney. When she was taking the photograph below, Marta kept up a spectacularly unamusing pantomime that she couldn’t see the fish through the viewfinder. Ha ha.

PV Coney 2

I am more experienced at making small fish look big, but there is no hiding that Marta’s fish was a touch larger.

PV Crew

The crew. Look these guys up if you are planning a trip to PV.

We hit a few more reefs and continued to catch a nice variety of species. I still wanted to move and fish the rocky shorelines, but I always have trouble leaving when I’m catching stuff.

PV Snapper

A spotted rose snapper – one of 4 new species on the day. Marta is holding the largest blue bobo I have ever seen in my life. 

PV Bussings

Bussing’s croaker. Another of the new species. I don’t know who Bussing was either. Ask Jaime. 

I have to confess it was Marta who actually insisted that we pull the anchor and try a different area. It shames me to confess this led to the capture of a beautiful new species – the giant hawkfish.

PV Hawk

Mind you – this one wasn’t very giant, but a lovely capture nonetheless. That was species number four for the day and number 15 for the trip. 

PV Porc

How DO these things mate?

PV Trigger

This species of triggerfish travels as much as I do. I have caught them as far afield as Panama and Hawaii. 

At Marta’s urging, I spent the last day of the trip around the villa, enjoying ceviche made from the flounder we caught and perhaps a few margaritas. The fishing gear actually got packed, and unthinkably, I was sociable for the evening. (The tide was wrong anyway.)

I still trotted out a few choice USC barbs, but by and large, I let it go that night. I had to have a moment of maturity here. I couldn’t blame them personally. After all, these people didn’t personally carry the ball across the goal line against Michigan all those years ago.

And neither did Charles White.

Steve

PV phantom

Maybe he tripped on the big white arrow and dropped the football.

Posted by: 1000fish | May 10, 2013

The New York Minute

Dateline: May 10, 2013 – New York, New York

It’s the city that never sleeps. I’m the fisherman who never sleeps. It was a perfect match, and as it turns out, it was also the perfect place to rebuild my species-hunting confidence.

NY Central

Central Park on a hot summer day. A great place, mostly because there is a pond.

NY Empire

The Empire State Building. Still one of the coolest buildings anywhere, and it seems just as tall as it did when I was seven. 

I had been on a bit of a fishing tough streak, with only eight new species in April despite travel to four exotic destinations. Even the last time I was in New York, in November of 2012, I braved rotten seas and got nothing new.

NY Rough

On my November 2012 trip to NYC, I fished in crap like this all day, with nary a new species to show for it. The deckhand barfed.

NY Skate

I did catch a nice clearnose skate, which might have been a record, except idiot me forgot my certified scale.

Still, New York is a favorite destination of mine. The museums, the restaurants, and especially the theater. Yes, I, Steve Wozniak, the hockey player and apprehender of large sharks, enjoy Broadway. As a matter of fact, I have even appeared on a Broadway stage – picked out of the crowd during a Spamalot performance in 2006. I was up there for an entire song, and I got to take a bow, to a smattering of applause and rolled eyes from Marta. As I am a huge Monty Python fan, this remains one of the great moments of my life.

NY Spam

Taking a bow on a Broadway stage – there’s a bucket list item for you. No, your eyesight isn’t going – this is a scan of a Polaroid. 

NY Spam 2

And to think Marta nearly took that seat and would have been the one to go on stage. I’m not sure I could have lived with that.

Marta and I also enjoy the food, although she tends to pick different (i.e. nicer) restaurants than I might.

NY Lupa

Marta in front of her very favorite NY restaurant. Highly recommended. The restaurant I mean. The menu features endless gourmet choices.

NY Poland

This is my favorite restaurant in NYC; some of the best Polish soul food anywhere. You have two choices – boiled or fried.

This time, I was in New York on business – a rather nasty meeting with a customer who won’t be sending me a Christmas card. We finished up (or were tossed out, depending on how you look at it) around noon. My team went to one of Manhattan’s best delis for reubens that must have weighed two pounds, and then I was on my own until an early flight home. If you don’t know how I spent the next few hours, you must be a new reader. Welcome!

Manhattan has a lot of shoreline, but I wasn’t sure where fishing was legal (a concern) or where it would be good (a major concern.) This is where the kindness of strangers comes in to play. Manhattan has one bait and tackle store of note – Capitol Fishing Tackle – http://www.capitolfishing.com/ or call 212-929-6132. These guys are AWESOME. Once I had explained my bizarre needs to them, they huddled up and decided that the 72nd Street pier, on the upper west side, would be the best spot. They weren’t sure what I would catch. They were taken aback that I didn’t want striped bass, but they were sure I would get something small and weird.

So I stopped in to Capitol after lunch, got a tub of clams, and set out for the pier. It’s a short cab ride away from Times Square, and then a short walk through a park down to the water. It was a warm early summer day, and a lot of the locals were out in the sunshine. The pier has a restaurant and bar right at the base – Red Bull and a bathroom close by! (It’s advisable that you never have one without the other.)

NY Pier

The 72nd street pier. Highly recommended, wonderful views of the west side and New Jersey.

I set up about halfway down the pier, casting with the fairly strong current. Before I even got bait in the water, I was fascinated by the items that came floating by – cans, bottles, diapers (no baby attached,) a bunch of bananas, and proof that all that advertising about safe sex is working. I understand that the Hudson is a lot less polluted than it used to be, but it still has room for improvement.

Getting clams onto a hook is a nasty process, and there is no hope to keep yourself from smelling like an old bait cooler, even with a towel from the Marriott and a pint of hand sanitizer. But I embraced this. I had been accosted by some vile-smelling panhandlers in New York throughout the years, and this would be an excellent defense. People might even give me money.

I set up a rig with a hook right on the bottom and one a few feet up, and it didn’t take long for me to get a few hesitant taps. Moments later, I hooked and landed some small white perch, a creature I had captured previously but still great fun.

I then had a hard hit followed by the sickening feeling of a breakoff. I knew it had to be an eel, which pleased me, because I had never caught an American eel. I tied up a much heavier leader and prepared to put a hurting on whatever had just humiliated me. To misquote Bill Murray – “Let’s show this prehistoric fish how we do things downtown.” (It’s from Ghostbusters. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhmJmuxKLIA at :28)

Then came the magic minute. As soon as I dropped the new rig into the water, I got a small hit and a hookup immediately – I swung what I thought was another white perch onto the pier, and was thrilled to see it was something I didn’t recognize. A new species!! I quickly took photos and returned it to the water.

NY Hake

The spotted hake, species #1195.

I then cast again, a touch father, and in seconds, got a much bigger strike. I took me a moment to fight this one to the top, but when I saw it, I whooped for joy. It was an American eel. I swung it up over the rail, and in less than 60 seconds, I had added two new species to my list, for the cost of a cab ride and a tub of clams.

NY Eel

An American eel. I have tried to catch one of these for years.

I was back. Species could be added without spending the equivalent of Canada’s GDP! 2000 seemed possible again.

I gloated briefly, but then set back to fishing in case a third species was willing to visit. It was a pleasant afternoon in a city where I have had nothing but good memories, except for when the Stage Deli ran out of the good hot mustard and I had to put that plain yellow stuff on my reuben.

Despite what you see on television about New York, tourists are NOT routinely killed and eaten in broad daylight. As a matter of fact, the people walking on the pier were friendly and many stopped to chat, especially when I started catching fish. While there were no more new species, I spent the rest of the afternoon catching perch, small striped bass, and more eels, and discussing the early baseball season. Most folks I spoke to still had hope for the Yankees – I of course believe the Tigers will win the World Series each year.

NY Yankees

The hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium. I am a rabid Tigers fan, but I still have to respect the Yankees. Except for Alex Rodriguez.

In order to make my theater time, I packed up around 5:30. Walking back to Times Square, I experienced New York on a pleasant day – a myriad of different cultures and something memorable seemingly on every corner. The clam smell may have made people think I was homeless, or, if I had a home, that the shower was broken, but the three dollars I collected could almost pay for a soda. I was back in the game.

Steve

PS – I’m throwing in this New York picture just because I can.

NY Cowboy

Marta acts shamefully, Times Square, September 2005. And no, that’s not me – I can’t play guitar. For those of you who don’t know about the “Naked Cowboy,” Google it.

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