Gone Fishin' : Fishing sources rely on anonymity
Fishermen are often stoic in the face of adversity. They are secretive. They are stealthy. And they like to talk about the fish they catch. But they don't like to talk about the fish they don't catch or let others know either.
These seeming contradictions place demands on a fishing columnist. After all, some of the best column material is about other people screwing up or losing a big fish.
I recently received an email from a fisherman who asked me to observe the journalistic practice of protecting a source. I also recently received a telephone call from a fisherman who asked me to observe the journalistic practice of looking out for one's own skin. "If I read about me in your column I'm going to kill you," I think was the way he put it.
In both cases reputation were at stake. The latter involved a friend who joined me fluke fishing Friday.
On our way out, the anonymous fisherman N (I will refer to him only by one letter of his first name to maintain my assurance I would protect his identity) scoffed when I told him I was the fluke king. I proposed a boat tournament.
Well, sometimes the stars align even for wise guys like me. Now my buddy (shall we call him E?) is a very good fisherman. I knew that and was simply kidding around. But he could not catch a fish in the deep waters of Vineyard Sound off Seven Gates, and I couldn't not catch a fish.
I took full advantage of the situation. About my third big fish I told my fishless friend (let's refer to him as D), "I am the fluke king and these are my subjects."
I know he was getting irritated. Whenever I needed him to hand me the net, I called out for "net boy."
I have promised him a rematch. Until then I must respect my promise of confidentiality.
I received the email on June 10 from Rob, a lawyer from Connecticut. The email began, "I hope you may help me with the return of a lost custom surf rod and reel that I lost Sunday morning June 8th at 3 am. I was surf fishing on the beach directly out from Dike Bridge. The Rod is a 10-foot Lamiglas model 1120L with red wraps that has the name "Rob" painted on it, and the reel is a Penn 560 Slammer.
"How I lost it would make for a fine article on what not to do while landing a 30-pound bass. I am a little too embarrassed about it to let my fellow surfcasters know what a dope I am."
Those three paragraphs illustrate much about the sport and the people who engage in it. He was out at 3 am. Who else but a fisherman does anything with friends at 3 am that is legal? And he was unwilling to tell his friends what happened because it was too embarrassing, but he emailed his story to a fishing writer likely to share it with the world. That is trust.
Rob asked me to treat him as I would a confidential informant. Normally I would have referred to the location where he caught his fish as East Beach - but what the heck.
He said that normally if he catches a small bass, he pulls it up on dry sand. But after "an epic fight" he said the fish was still in the wash. He reached down into the water and grabbed the fish under its gill plate.
After a few steps the huge fish shook its head. He wrote, "I then felt a pain in my hand. So now I have a situation. I figured I better turn on my red head lamp and see what happened."
The "situation" was that one of the front treble hooks on his Bomber lure was buried in the bass, and one of the back treble hooks was buried in his pinkie finger. Ouch.
"Instead of just calling for help from the eight guys I was fishing with, I decided to fix the problem on my own. Luckily the barb was still in my pinky and did not go through. I yanked out the hook from my finger and applied pressure to the bleeding. It slowed down fairly quickly and I then proceeded to free the fish from the Bomber."
Now I know friends who would have looked at the glass as half empty based on the fact that they were bleeding. Rob saw it as half full - the bleeding had stopped. Fishermen do tend to look on the bright side.
Rob measured the fish at 40 inches, the largest he had caught in three years of surf fishing. Filled with pride, he brought the striper back to the water, revived it and let it go.
Then he went to pick up the custom rod his wife gave as a surprise for Christmas 2006. It was gone. He figured a wave came in and washed it into the water while he was reviving the fish.
"It is probably buried in the sand off the beach or maybe ended up at Wasque Rip or somewhere," he wrote. "But maybe it will wash up or a boater will snag it." There is that glass half full again.
He left me his telephone number and asked me to alert readers. For Father's Day he asked his wife for a fishing gadget that secures fish by the lip "so I don't have to use my pinky."
Fluke are biting in Vineyard Sound. Popular drifts include Middle Ground, Lucas Shoal, off Cape Higgon, and the area southeast of Robinsons Hole. The key to fluke fishing is a good drift and enough weight to hold bottom in a strong current.
After a brief lull Coop at Coop's said the striped bass fishing is starting to heat up. Bass are chasing squid in the rip at Middle Ground, and Lobsterville Beach is starting to produce more fish.
Coop said the abundance of bait had made it difficult to interest bass. He thinks the bait has pulled off the beach, making the fish more aggressive.
At Larry's, new owner Steve Purcell said he has heard mixed reports from Chappy. One highlight was big bluefish from the beach on Tuesday. He said some fishermen were complaining about slow bass fishing, but a group of visiting fishermen said they had been having good luck at night.
Steve reported lots of squid in the inner and outer harbor. The squid jiggers on Memorial Wharf do well one night and poorly the next, he said.
At Dick's, Steve said the fluke fishing has been good, "but you have to wade through the dogfish." He weighed in a doormat 12.4-pound fish caught by John Lee of Rhode Island.
Shark reports continue to dribble in. The big question seems to be whether people are seeing a great white shark or the more common basking shark.To the right is a handy comparison provided by the Division of Marine Fisheries. More on the subject next week.