Tuesday, May 20, 2008

THE PRIDE OF THE POINTER PEOPLE – FISH TALES

Rumor has it a few disgruntled readers question why I can write about Coltons Point when I didn’t grow up in Coltons Point or some such complaint. A most interesting question when the questionnaire didn’t grow up in Coltons Point either and I guess part of the answer is that some people learn how to learn about people, places and things.

I mean Einstein didn’t grow up in the nucleus of an atom with electrons, protons and neutrons but seemed quite capable of pioneering the physics of the atom. Most historians certainly didn’t grow up back in the past yet they seem to have no problem writing about it. Still, the question is worth discussing because there are other ways one can relate to a place such as the Point besides growing up in it, which probably doesn’t mean a lot since it has changed dramatically since then.

There are two reasons I am comfortable writing about the rather odd things in Coltons Point. First I was a trained researcher and journalist and our job was to find out things. Second, since one of the primary features of the Point is the Potomac, meaning being a River Man, then my previous fishing adventures should be of value.

So I thought back and decided the high school fishing experiences probably didn’t count since the only worm that got caught was the one in the bottom of the bottle of Mescal and we never even bothered to bait our hooks.

But there was one early fishing adventure when I was fishing at the Mississippi River locks and caught a prehistoric monster. There was also the time I caught three buckets of lobster at Prince Edward Island in Canada. A tuna adventure in an old tuna boat far off the coast of Nova Scotia also adds to my credibility along with catching one of the largest striped rainbow trout in Colorado that season.

I tried my hand off the Florida Keys in search of Marlin but caught nothing then came face-to-face with a barracuda while snorkeling because the fishing was too boring. Rest assured those 600 teeth were gigantic through the magnification of goggles. Finally there was the 24-pound lobster my friend and I caught and ate to solidify my credentials.


Down on the mighty Mississippi about 60 miles north of where Mark Twain grew up I was fishing from a lock with my friends Diamond Jim the ancient riverboat captain and the Indian Chief, probably a survivor of Little Big Horn. I used to entertain them when I could get away to the river. Suddenly my pole nearly flew out of my hands as some monster snatched my bait and made a run for it and an epic struggle took place before I could bring the creature close to the locks where I could pull him out of the water and see what I caught. As I pulled in the line something more ugly than sin emerged from the churning surf with a long snout and sharp spikes all around it. I screamed, the Indian Chief and Diamond Jim roared, and before I knew it what they called a Garfish was released back in the water to terrorize another kid.

The buckets of lobster were caught from a pier on the coast of Prince Edward Island up by Nova Scotia but the catch came to a rapid halt when a Canadian Royal Mounted Policeman came up and said he could arrest us for catching lobster from shore. I tried to explain that growing up in Iowa surrounded by cornfields did not help us learn the Canadian lobster laws but we certainly were sorry and could we please keep the ones we had for dinner. I do not think he wanted to spend the night at the jail with us as I had this propensity to talk non-stop asking questions and articulating theories so we got a lecture and the lobsters and were sent on our way.




The tuna adventure was a good idea gone badly as I challenged an old French captain to take on my two brothers and me as crew on his tuna boat. Reluctantly he agreed and we were to meet at 5 am at the wharf. Now this was to be a real adventure as I heard the tuna were huge, we go to go out on the Atlantic Ocean a long ways, and after fishing for Marlin and failing in Florida finally I might catch a deep sea fish. When we arrived at the wharf in the dark our hearts sank as the boat was so old it should have been in a museum and the way the smoke belched out of it there was no way we could make it out and back.

However the captain insisted a deal was a deal and off we chugged for England I think as we went straight out to sea for at least two hours before slowing. Long ago the land had disappeared. When I asked the captain if we could survive if the boat capsized he said we didn’t need to worry, if the hypothermia didn’t get us fast the sharks would. I could sense a growing hatred from my brothers.

Finally in the early morning hours the old salt spotted a school of tuna and told us to drop the lines. I looked around for the poles like in Florida and he laughed. “The wire coiled at your feet and all around the deck, drop those lines,” he yelled and thank goodness they were already baited. We tossed the steel cables over the side and in minutes the old boat started groaning from the weight of a thousand tuna pulling at the cables.

“Now what” I yelled and he responded, “pull the damn cables in!” Before the first tuna was on board our hands were bloody pulps but the minute the tuna broke the surface our pain vanished as we spent the next few hours catching what seemed like an endless supply of giant tuna. Exhausted, bloody and smelling like tuna, we finally made it triumphantly back to shore where he offered us tuna steaks to take home but we passed.


The 26-pound rainbow trout caught in the Rockies was a little easier. We drove to a mountain stream I had read about and the spring runoff was over, there was barely a trickle of water left coming down the mountain. Persistent, I walked the riverbed until I found a small amount of water and there in the water was the giant trout that I promptly caught with my hands and we ate for the next three days. The result far overshadowed the catch.

I already mentioned the Florida Keys and the deep-sea adventure that caught nothing so the only story I have left is the 24-pound lobster. That happened in lower Manhattan when I won a bet with my boss and let me tell you it was the biggest lobster I ever imagined though not the biggest on the menu. I suspect they chopped it up with a chain saw and served it to us in big bowls and it proved the most delicious meal I ever ate.


So there you have it, my diverse and dramatic credentials to be an honorary Water Man and be able to tell the story of the Pointer people. Did I mention when I worked for the Governor of New Jersey and we were trying to get a ban on oysters from New York Bay lifted and the Fish people walked in with oysters the size of watermelons? They said they were delicious and could serve a family but I questioned whether the world was ready for giant mutant oysters that required a sledgehammer to open.

1 comment:

Phyllis--Las Vegas said...

"...rather odd things in Colton's Point." Imagine!!!