This note, this moment, is an adjunct to my last post about my fantastic morning of fishing at Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA. Even if you don’t fish, like the majority of the tourists who observed it, you may like it because it shows how I respect all living things, even those that I “hunt” with my rod and reel. I can only hope that you feel the same way.
When I arrived at the wharf, there was already a man fishing off of it. I said hello, etc. then I went about my business of catching fish. After 20 minutes or so of him seeing me catch one fish after another, he came over and asked if I had any bait he could have. I looked at the SEVEN lines he had out in the ocean and wondered what he was fishing with if he had no bait but I didn’t ask him why he needed any, I just gave him one of the Mackerels I had caught. A few minutes later, after he watched me catch more Mackerels and Calico Bass he asked me if I had a smaller hook that he could use to catch them. I had a Mackerel in hand so I showed him the size of the fish’s mouth compared to the hook he was using while telling him that the hook, the bait, and the fishing outfit had nothing to do with my catching fish. His blank look told me what I had suspected from the first, the man was seemingly Developmentally Disabled. He was high functioning but still at a loss about what I was trying to tell him. I have a degree in Psychology and I worked in the field for over 6 years, so I know of what I speak.
Still, I gave him a pack of hooks since I have hundreds of them. Over the next few hours, I threw a few Mackerel in his bucket so he didn’t have to ask for more bait. Then he caught the Shovelnose Shark I mentioned in my previous post.
After a few moments of hollering about his catch, I went over to see if he needed any help, only to find a TOURIST trying to haul in the fish. The “fisherman” was blathering on about his “bad arm” and asking anyone around to get the crab net he had so they could land the shark. When no one wanted to do anything and the tourist, surely out of his league, was looking stressed I fetched my pier gaff and hauled the fish in.
Before I brought it over the railing, I told the horde of spectators to back off, when they didn’t move, I got ticked off and told them that the fish was harmless but the gaff I was using would go right through their shoes—and foot—if they stepped on it. That got me a lot of space.
After I brought the 20 to 30-pound shark over the railing, I had to work the gaff out of one of the fleshy parts of its head. I have gaffed a lot of these fish, who are properly named Guitar Fish and I knew that I could get it out and that the fish would survive if I did it right, so I took my fishing towel out of my back pocket and put it over the beast while rubbing on it and telling the shark that it would be okay once I got the gaff out. No one said a word except the “fisherman” who was carrying on about his “catch”. I finally told him to shut the hell up and let me do what needed to be done. The crowd concurred and he quieted down.
It took a few minutes, but I got the gaff out with a minimal amount of blood which I sopped up with the towel. Then I picked up the shark and made a mistake.
Instead of just putting it back in the ocean, I asked the “fisherman” what he wanted to do with it. Was he going to keep it and eat it (they are edible) or should I throw it back? This decision clearly confused the “fisherman” and he started talking about having to ask someone before he could decide. I don’t know who this person was but I assumed it was his attendant who was nowhere to be seen. So, I put the fish over the rail with the intent of returning it to the sea. This led to a loud protestation by the “fisherman”, almost to the point of crying. So I handed him the fish and told him he only had about 5 minutes to decide or find whoever it was he needed to ask before the fish died. Then I went back to fishing, followed by most of the tourist who applauded me for my gentleness and respect for the shark, so I said a few words then went back to fishing, angry at myself for not putting the fish back in the ocean.
Later, I saw the “fisherman” carrying around the clearly dead shark with seemingly no idea what to do with it. I never did see who he was going to ask, which was probably a good thing, because he and maybe the “fisherman” would have gone over the rail with my steel-tipped shoes as propulsion.