Wednesday, January 2, 2008

fish or cut bait


The holidays are finally past us – not finally in the "thank god it's over sense" but finally in the "now we can get to everything we said we'd get to after the holidays" way. It is so easy to stack up tasks and duties behind barricades of "the holidays" – a perfect excuse to procrastinate. In a little less than two weeks we will headed to the hinterlands – literally. Kazakhstan – which I can now spell correctly sans spell-check, is next on our oversea work schedule. We need to put together lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations for teachers, pack bags, stow away sleeping pills, diarrhea medicine, passports and I need to buy some gloves. I wonder what horse meat tastes like? Stay tuned for pics and commentary from the road. Besides preparation for this trek, we've let all kinds of other tasks slide as well – this blog entry is the last ditch effort to ignore the responsibilities fogging the windows.

Of course that is not what this post is about – this posting is about sharks!

I have spent a fair amount of time atop and in water fishing for various, well fish. These excursions have been met with differng success. That is if you measure success by the amount of fish that are removed from said body of water. Sometimes not catching anything is the perfect day and, not being caught oneself is a pretty good thing too.

When fishing from the shore in North Carolina it is rather common to pull in sharks, we're not talking Jaws here – these little guys are barely a foot long. They're leathery and rough feeling like a deflated basketball rolled into the diameter of a paper towel tube. The diminutive buggers have some pretty sharp teeth though so it's a good idea to use some long nosed pliers to get the hooks out of their bony mouths. After the initial fun of catching a shark of any size – they become a nuisance on your line. Their only redeeming quality being that they look just like their bigger cousins and I've never heard of a swimmer getting a chunk taken out of the back of their thigh by one of these demitasse denizens of the deep.

On the other hand – when out deep sea fishing I have seen sharks big enough to make your heart beat a bit faster. Six or seven feet of shark will kick in a primal flight response usually reserved for encounters with a landlord flaunting a gun. One of these brutes slashing around on a wet deck will instantaneously turn a whole boat load of Hemmingway wannabes into the chorus line from Riverdance while a deck hand chases the beast around with a baseball bat like Barry Bonds in the throes of a 'roid rage.

We have friends who have a house in the Keys. Let me digress here a bit – I used to marvel at how starving artist writers like D.H Lawrence etc. would travel all over the world with no visible means of support – and now we, not being loaded by any stretch of imagination, are not quite starving artists traveling all over the world. Having friends who are gracious enough to put a pillow under your head goes a long way to these ends. Anyway – we are visiting these friends of ours in the Florida Keys. They live in one of the middle keys – a bit more laid back than Key West and its Conch Republic drunken weirdness.

Now this couple, amazingly enough writers and artists themselves – restrict most of their fishing to bagging snapper for the grill off of their dock. I on the other hand wanted to see if there was any larger fare to be brought to the kitchen so I drove to a far side of the island where I could wade out and cast into some of the dredged out boat ways to see what might be lurking below.

I gingerly walk out maybe fifty yards into the water – it is very shallow and warm around the keys – until I am waist deep and within casting distance of one of the boat ways I mentioned. I walk carefully because I am barefoot and there are all sorts of coral and other prickly things underfoot. So I begin casting past the boat way, reeling in, slowing down so the lure dips into the channel like a wounded baitfish. The sun shining, the water is sparkling; my mind is blank as I cast and reel, cast and reel – then – I see the fin.

It pops up like some cheesy B movie – slicing through the water toward my lure. Sharks are attracted to splashing – that's what I've seen on the Discovery channel at least. A calm retreat would be most prudent so I naturally throw the rod over my shoulder, turn my back on the fish and run flailing like I was on fire, splattering water in my wake – dragging the lure twenty feet behind me in zig zags which the shark continues chasing. If the shark had wanted anything to do with me it could have caught and tasted me with very little effort – luckily the lure was more interesting this time. This fish was definitely big enough to have done damage if it had been so inclined.

I was done fishing for that day – got back in our friends' car and drove back to the safety of their house and dock. Funniest thing – I kept checking the rear view mirror to be sure the shark wasn't following me – like it might have sprung legs and would be running alongside the car with a knife and fork. Turns out the shark were not what I needed to be most afraid of. In my haste to exit the water – I ran over coral and what I think might have been some type of sea anemones so that later that evening my feet swelled up to the size of coconuts.

All praise to the makers of Benadryl.

Okay, now I have to straighten up the kitchen and start getting serious about getting to everything we put off 'til after the holidays. Happy New Year. Hope you dredge up some fish stories of your own this year.

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