Dateline: April 16, 2011 – Tiburon, California.
There are a number of constants in the universe. The speed of light in a vaccuum, the Detroit Lions losing at least 10 games every year, and the amount of hair on the male human body. Yes, the overall amount of hair on a male human never changes – it just stops growing on the head and starts showing up in noses, ears, and backs. (And in Cousin Chuck’s case, palms.) This fact will become an important point later in this post. So read on … I dare you.
On Saturday, April 16, I took a kid fishing. We’re not talking about just any kid. Martini Arostegui, age 18 and a freshman at Stanford, holds 131 fishing records and got an IGFA lifetime achievement award before most guys go on their first date. His father, Martin, who you may remember from the blog entries https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/a-tale-of-two-trophies/ and https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/cavorting-with-exotic-swamp-creatures/, has 386 world records and guided me to five new species in a single morning and actually reads my blog. I was humbled. So this was no ordinary kid – he can tie his own knots, bait his own hook, travels everywhere with a certified scale and a package of world record applications, and is the only other person I know who will say Epinephelus itajara instead of Goliath Grouper.
It gets worse. First off, he calls me “sir.” He called me “sir” when I picked him up at the train station in San Francisco, and I told him not to do that, and he said “Sorry, sir.” This is not something I am accustomed to, and besides, it makes me feel old. Reasoning with him didn’t work, so I went straight to threats. And even though I outweigh him by a substantial margin and I play hockey, I was still on shaky ground because the kid is some kind of martial arts expert, and the worst I have EVER been beaten up was by someone about 70 pounds lighter than me who happened to be a blackbelt. (How you doing, Doug?) Additionally, Martini has perfect hair and don’t think this doesn’t piss me off. Because, as mentioned above, I am past the perfect hair stage, unless ears count, and they don’t in my culture.
I figured the best thing to do was to take him over to Elephant Rock in Tiburon, as it has a good combination of species, comfort, and view. On the drive over, we talked about his studies at Stanford, which sounded fairly intense – but next year, he gets to hang out at the Hopkins Marine Lab in Monterey. Is that cool or what?
The fog rolls in past the Golden Gate as two rich kids head for their Dad’s yacht in Tiburon.
We set up shop, did a quick review of targets and basic technique, and he was off to the races. It didn’t take very long for him to start catching fish, and he starting knocking off some of the standard San Francisco Bay critters quickly – the Crevice Kelpfish started things off – see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/countdown-to-1000-miracle-at-aquatic-park/ – followed by a Kelp Greenling. I knew I had found a kindred spirit in Martini when I saw his utter, unrestrained joy at a six-inch fish.
Then he caught quite a nice Black Surfperch, mercifully not large enough to break my record.
Martini with a nice Black Surfperch. Not as nice as some of the ones I’ve caught, but nice. I forced him to wear a hat in all these photos to hide his Ricky Martin-like hairdo, of which I am secretly jealous.
Martini and a solid Striped Surfperch.
I was mostly just enjoying watching what Martini caught, but I did keep a rod in the water, and I was stunned when I pulled up a strange critter on some small sabikis. It was a sculpin, no doubt, but it just didn’t look like the other common critters we get there like the Cabezone and the Bullhead. And so I took a bunch of photos and called Dr. Love. (A sentence which, if taken out of context, could sound fairly creepy.) Hours later, the word came – Smoothhead Sculpin, Artedius lineatus. A new one! I remember the joy at being able to come out to the bay so long ago when everything was still new. Now I can go to Mozambique and catch stuff I already have. But I never question the Fish Gods – capricious thought they may be, they occasionally reward good intentions and hard work, usually by throwing poop on Spellman.
Yes, I was totally psyched about catching this, the Smoothead Sculpin
Late in the afternoon, the bite really got going. After a few more solid Striped Perch, Martini hooked up on something serious that bolted for the rocks and had to be wrestled out of the structure. After he finally got it to the surface, it was a beautiful Rubberlip, quite possibly dangerously close to my 1.5# record from earlier in the year. As soon as it hit the Boga Grip, my heart sank – it was 1.5#. He had tied my record.
He immediately went into world record machine mode, and it was amazing how quickly he took care of weights, measurements, photographs, and other documentation. I should have taken notes – he had everything done and the fish safely back in the water before it probably realized it was hooked, and I am sure the last thing it thought before it splashed back into safety was “Will you look at that hair?”
Martini ties my world record for Rubberlip Surfperch. He was so excited his hair mousse reactivated.
Watching him handle the fish, I thought to myself “Gosh, this kid is good.” It took me dozens of trips to hook and land a Rubberlip, and here he lands one on his first trip and it’s a @#$% world record? I don’t like sharing, but I decided to take a break from being competitive for just a minute, because Martini was so jazzed, so absolutely thrilled, and I couldn’t help but break a smile. Briefly. There is a fine line between talented young fisherman and smartass, and like Jaime Hamamoto, he had crossed it forever.
He even caught a Striped Bass. Nobody catches Striped Bass from here in April. Jaime probably would.
We fished the rest of the afternoon in glorious spring weather, enjoying the view and talking about future trips we could make, and about the amazing travel he had planned with his family for the summer – Spain, the Bahamas, and Brazil. Here and there, he would add a new critter – a Dwarf Surfperch here, a Cabezone there – and I would smile, partly because I remembered getting them the first time myself, but mostly because I had caught bigger ones.
Yes, I got a Rubberlip too. But it wasn’t a pound and a half.
Just before we packed up, I looked over and saw him staring intently at the rod tip, looking down occasionally at his digital camera and smiling. Truly his father’s son, a kindred spirit, and a fishing partner whenever we can set it up.
Martini Arostegui manning the rods at Elephant Rock.
I recognize the passion – because it is my own. I recognize the drive – because it is my own. I recognize the perfect hair, because, well, I have seen perfect hair on television. This kid is at 275 species and he is 18 years old. He just added 8 more on this trip. He travels quite a bit and is studying marine biology, and has parents who are sportfishing legends. I got my 100th species when I was 36 years old. He should shatter the 1000 species mark fairly early in his life – I hit it when I was 47. I may not be around when he catches me, but he should easily surpass whatever number I may have set. I have a lot of years fishing left, I thought, but I have also seen the future, and his name is Martini.
And I was stirred, not shaken.