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The alarm went off much too early, but a coffee later, I was geared up and ready to go. Five in the van for the hour's drive to Plymouth and a waiting charter boat and a benefit fishing trip for a friend who took his own life last year, leaving a wife and 2 children behind.
Depressing as the reason for the trip might seem, 50 men on a boat with a load of beer and fishing rods is always a good time
Being a full day fishing trip, the captain (my next door neighbor's brother) decided to take our 75 foot party boat out to Stellwagen Banks, an underwater formation 20 or so miles off the coast of Massachusetts, and one of the best spots for cod fishing in the nation.
The anticipation is high on the way out on one of these trips, everyone recounting previous excursions, the fish caught in the past growing in size and weight with every mile away from shore. High hopes that this morning fog would lift and we would have a perfect fishing day, everyone going home with a big bag of delicious cod filets ready for grilling that afternoon.
Stellwagen is not much to look at, the only way the old-school boat captains must have found it is by seeing the waves breaking in a different way over the banks, meaning a difference in depth. Modern boats have all kinds of ways of finding it, GPS, Radar buoys, and lowrance, a kind of sonar which shows the bottom and any fish that might be there.
280 feet down, we all felt our sinkers hit the ocean bottom, and there was nary a heart not beating with the excitement still to come as the big fish started to come over the gunwale. Unfortunately, a couple of hours later this still had not happened
Another hour in the swelling sea with a couple of fellas "chumming" over the side whether from hangover or still drunk combined with seasickness, our captain decided to take us closer inshore, as weather was forming and there still were no fish in the bin.
It took near an hour to get to the next spot, and sure enough, a couple of small cod came over the rail, but none big enough to keep. I myself was saved from being "skunked" by catching a useless dogfish (protected, they cannot be kept, and who would want to eat that ugly thing anyway). In the end, with 50 guys fishing, only 2 "keeper" cod and one small flounder was all we had to show for a long day on the ocean blue.
The skies clouded up, and at least we had a nice lightning show on the way back. In the galley, conversation was quiet, some of the men sleeping. Quite a different atmosphere from what it would have been had we had more success.
Just like life, I thought this trip, it starts out sunny and hopeful, but you finish up gray and empty handed. . .
Back home in the back yard, it was chicken wings and chorizo and beer. No fish this time.
The call it "fishing" not "catching," and a bad day fishing is still better than a good days work.
When I was a boy, one would have to bring a large trash can for all the fish. 30 years of overfishing and drag netting have taken their toll on the once plentiful New England ground fish. Nowadays you are lucky to catch even one. There must be a better way. Perhaps the cost of petroleum products for the factory ships and higher transport will lessen the burden on the fish. Cod and lobster should not be on the menu in Chicago anyway.