And so… winter draws back and the days grow longer and the sun breaks thru the fog occasionally. (Oh my god, that was almost a Brian Hoffman sentence! Not sure if that’s good or bad). The citizenry of San Francisco starts instinctively shedding layers. The parks and piers
begin to fill up on Saturdays. Public launch ramps suddenly find themselves kind of busy—like to the tune of 21 boats at Oyster Pt. on a Friday.
To every season, tern, tern, tern. No terns yet—which means no “day fish”—which means no hawg stripers in the surf… but they’re coming. Rest assured, they’re coming.
A Herring Remains A Herring
Look, no matter how hard I try there’s no turning a herring or a night smelt into a sex symbol. Not when we have so many top of the line movie stars in our vicinity. Like really. (Okay let’s riff on this for a moment and see if it increases my blog hits—you will notice that following any blog post on the subject of eulachon I will invariably resort to low brow, heterosexual, gamesmanship, for the purpose of bringing my blog traffic back to an acceptable level). So I will now go out on a limb here and list (relax, not in the federal way) the ten sexiest fish in the San Francisco Bay Region (in descending order):
1. Chinook salmon
3. Steel head
4. White sea bass
5. Ling cod
6. Striped bass
7. California halibut
8. White sturgeon
9. Thresher shark.
10. Vermillion rockfish
No surprise that they all (except for that dinosaur catfish, Accipenser transmontanus) tend to prefer the summer. That’s kind of the way it is with the classic sex symbols, n’est pas? I suppose I could have mentioned green sturgeon, coho salmon, Pacific halibut, cabezon, or a few of the more colorful (and uncommon) rockfish species—like for instance: flag rockfish, treefish, tiger rockfish, et al. But it’s kind of hard for me to call a rockfish sexy. (Apologies to the occasional groundfish biologist who may check in here—but I did put S. miniatus on the list, did I not?). Although, at some point I may post a B list, which will no doubt include the redtail surf perch and a few of these wildly colored Sebastes species.
I should also add that it was difficult for me to put the white sturgeon up there—this fish has become mythic to me. It’s a recluse. And not typically beautiful in the way, say, a salmon or an albacore is beautiful. In fact, despite the footage I shot back in December, and the endless succession of phone calls I received about Alviso Creek, I don’t really believe the white sturgeon exists.
And although I did not, in truth, consider the monkeyface eel, (okay, maybe for the D List) I felt bad for not including her, like leaving my own daughter out of a beauty pageant. Likewise, Hypomesus pretiosus, which at this point, is no doubt the most familiar Latinate coupling of words for most of my readership.
Where was I? Oh right… I was justifying my selections. Could have gone with albacore as number one. But being that salmon have become so unattainable (and precious) in the last few years it just seemed right to put the Chinook at the top. Sorry, there's no denying she's our marquee fish. (Please, someone argue with me on this... let me know you're out there).
Sexy-ism Or Just Sexism?
Okay. This is gonna be fun. Just got an idea… For each species of super sexy fish I am going to turn back the clock and provide the classic-era Hollywood sex symbol that we here at the MFN nerve center, high above Golden Gate Park, think best represents it. I am sure there will be lots of arguments on this--that's what I hope, anyway. Again, there is no right or wong (as in: wong fa) here, it is simply our opinion and nothing more. Here we go:
1. Chinook salmon/Marilyn Monroe
For obvious reasons. First and foremost she is the archetype—the pin up girl par excellence. Secondly, it cannot be denied: despite her awesome beauty she is doomed. And in essence who really killed Marilyn? Just like the Chinook salmon… we all did.
2. Albacore Tuna/Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner, evidently showing more technique with a conventional Ocean City reel than Lombard of the Intertidal in his epic drain fishing video. The joke here is that she has literally caught herself (look at the line). It should be noted that Ava was quite skilled as a fisherwoman. Evidently, she'd walk to the shore, hold out a bucket and say: "Won't you little fishies please jump in my bucket?" In this manner, vast regions of the California coast were summarily depopulated of (male) fishes. The fact that no one in the NMFS or DFG has conducted a study of Ava Gardner's effect on our local (male) fish populations is utterly inexcusable.
This was actually a tough one. I had to think about it for a while. In the end I went with the A/A Complex. (Ava/Albacore). Mainly for the sake of alliteration but also because Ava should be in the top three (as should albacore)—and she doesn’t really match up with the salmoniformes. Also, there is a spitfire, hell-cat aspect to Ava Gardner (see Night Of The Iguana or The Barefoot Contessa), that might be likened to the unstoppable torpedo run of an Albacore... there's also an undeniable sanguine (is that the word?) aspect to both… and always the promise of a big payoff. But most importantly, like Ava, the albacore is simply this: one high class fish.
3. Steel Head/Brigitte Bardot
"Catch and release only"
This one requires little explanation. Both are just so gull durned beautiful—and completely unattainable. Catch and release only boys! (Do they have steelhead in France?)
4. White Sea Bass/Rita Hayworth
Sorry. Rita gets two pictures. (I know that pains you all--having to look at two pictures of Rita Hayworth).
Mark Won and his Rita Hayworth (if you haven't read this one, click here)
You know, I really wanted a platinum blonde for this, but a “white” sea bass isn’t so much white as dusky. And really, this is a drop dead gorgeous fish… who better than Rita Hayworth to represent it? (And, BTW she was platinum blonde in Lady From Shanghai).
5. Ling Cod/Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch in the cult classic, One Million B.C. Redefining our interpretation of "Homo erectus."
Can’t we just say for the record that a big ling cod is a brick house? Isn’t a brick house what Raquel Welch was? I mean wasn't she the walking definition of this term? Can’t really decide if this is way off or not… anyway, I'm going for it. Feedback is welcome.
6. Striped Bass/Lana Turner
Like the striper (Morone saxatilis) her beauty is somewhat lessened by how much she got around. There can be no denying that she swam through some pretty bad water. Consumed some questionable mudsuckers. Died broken and polluted. But still, no matter how high in heavy metals (mercury, platinum etc) Lana Turner… Lana Turner... Lana Turner!
I mean, really, I'm still having nightmares about that 30 pound striper I lost at Baker Beach, even as I stooped to grasp its jaw and the Hair Raiser flew out of its mouth! In fact that's exactly what Lana Turner is: the beautiful striper that you didn't quite land.
7. California Halibut/Bette Davis
A unique and curious looking species. Not so much sexy as worthy. Deeply (as in benthically) talented. So talented that she becomes sexy, out of sheer uniqueness and undeniable stature. And of course… there's the whole thing about the eyes. And no denying her bite.
Look again: It's got Bette Davis Eyes
8. White Sturgeon/Greta Garbo
As previously mentioned, this species, is a bit of a recluse. Doesn’t condescend to be caught in public very often. More of a legend really than anything else. Not so much a sex symbol as a goddess of the deep, dark and unexplored regions.
9. Thresher Shark/Gloria Graham
No one could slash you or throw boiling coffee in your face (see The Big Heat) quite like Gloria Grahame. And really, when it comes to dangerous yet sleek and graceful fishes, the thresher is tops. I love Gloria Grahame so much I may just have to break down and post my first haiku in weeks.
Gloria my love
Gangster’s moll par excellence
In your face Vince Stone! *
*(Vince Stone was the character played by Lee Marvin in The Big Heat. In Act 2, he throws burning coffee--or was it acid?--in Gloria's face. In Act 3, our beloved bites back--returning the favor in spades. Moral of the story: don't mess with a thresher, yo).
10. Vermillion rockfish/Ann Margaret
Had to go with a redhead for the Vermillion. Same kind of thing as the ling cod. Nothing particularly graceful or streamlined about Ann or Raquel or ling cod or vermillion rockfish. But be honest with yourself. Are they not worthy objects of your lust?
Wait... I need a color picture of Ann... let's see... is this one colorful enough?
Okay, that just about covers it. Yawn. Look at the time! Yikes. Gotta run. Camilladilla just looked this over and granted me permission to post it. So I'm golden.
Anyway... from 4 miles due east of the sexiest ocean on earth, this is Lombard Of The Intertidal, signing out.