Sitting here at the console thinking: whatever happened to the Monkeyface News? Hmmmm. Good question. I think its safe to say that the MFN ran into an unforeseen roadblock: my commercial fishing (non) ambitions.
By its nature commercial fishing (however small scale) is not something that one wants to talk about, share secrets about, or write about. Feel me? And since virtually all of my fishing activity of late is of the commercial variety, it becomes sort of difficult to find something to say... something that isn't giving away my hard won secrets. What I'm saying is, the limited commercial fishing that I do is not something I have any interest in seeing anyone else start doing. Of course, given the complete lack of financial viability they'd have to be desperados, idiots or madmen to engage in it. (Which of those three most pertains to me is still open to interpretation but I'm slowly making the case for all three).
Sing in me oh muse and through me tell the tale of that lunatic who got it into his mind to catch hook and line sand dabs.
It's true, yesterday I made an attempt to catch sand dabs, near shore, with hook and line--commercially. How many sand dabs do you have to catch at $2.50 per pound to break even on gas? Let's think about this.... one sand dab is about half a pound (if that!) Takes two hours to catch 10 pounds--on a good day. In other words, it's not likely I'm going to be buying a house any time soon on my sand dab income. And let me point something else out. Hook and line sand dab fishing on a small boat is a major pain in the ass. Or I should say a pain in the fingers, thighs, neck, hair, back, arms and feet. That is, anywhere the dozens of hooks you are using are likely to get stuck. Going with a lead, I decided to construct what amounted to a pile of massive Sabiki rigs, using 6 foot PVC sticks covered with hooks, weighted at both ends and attached to buoys. Mike and I dropped five of these puppies into the Pacific Ocean and then drove back and forth on the water retrieving them. Did they catch sand dabs? Yes. Was it the highwater mark of my life on the water? No. In fact it was something else entirely (my low-water mark?). If we are to make this a viable fishery, I'm afraid we're going to need a higher degree of organization. It was torture dealing with those sticks. Not just for my own perforated hands and arms, but constantly dis-entangling the hooks from every object they came into contact with. Yikes. There's gotta be a better way. Drag-netting anyone?
What else? Commercial sardine season just opened (last week). That gives me about ten more days to catch sardines inside three miles. (I know, Good luck with the hook and line sardine fishery buddy). Anyway, I actually went out and fished the last hand-operated lampara net in California (see video down below). Or I should say, the fisherman who possesses this ancient relic very graciously condescended to let me onboard his boat to see how it works. This fine gentleman is operating the live-well down in Princeton Harbor (technically speaking, he's catching the fish for it, Mikey is operating it) and catches live 'chovies, sardines and anything else he can get with his lampara net. This is the greatest example of artisinal fishing I can think of... other than me catching one eel at a time with a baited stick... and throwing a six foot Hawaiian casting net into the surf. I mean for Poseidon's sakes, the guy pulls in his lampara by hand! Seriously, if he ever gives up fishing he could be the champion arm wrestler of North America. You pull up a 90 foot lampara by hand every day and you will end up with biceps like herakles (note the Greek spelling).
` Herakles man-handles a sea monster (if you are as obsessed with these insane sword and sandal movies as I am, go here: peplums.blogspot.com... cool site... Sylvia Koscina, Grrrr!!).
Several fishermen had complained to me about the by-catch in this particul;ar fisherman's lampara net. Well, I was standing on the boat pulling in the net and the entire bycatch after one set was as follows: 6 bullheads (Pacific staghorn sculpin), 1 midshipman, two 3-inch English sole, another 3 inch juvenile starry flounder (thrown back alive) and 2 similarly-sized sand sole. In other words, at least as far as that set goes, comparatively speaking, a totally insignificant amount of fish. Kind of cool to see an English sole actually. Not the kind of species that anyone, except for a deep water dragger, fish buyer, fillet line worker or groundfish biologist is accustomed to seeing. Unfortunately I didn't think to snap a photo for my files. Wait... I think I took a shot of an English sole a few years ago...
Anyway... fall is in the air. My favorite time of year. Pumpkins in the fields down in Halfmoon Bay. Crab pots slowly materializing again. Salmon swarming in the rivers. And somewhere off the California coast, swarms of a silvery schooling clupeid species are maybe, just now, starting to get the itch.
PS: More tomorrow. Seriously!
Oh yeah... here's the latest cinematic masterpiece: