I would imagine most of you have given up on Heymon by now. Many of you might not even know who I am. Who can blame you? I haven?t been fishing since lightning struck the primordial ooze somewhere off the coast of Australia and started the evolutionary chain reaction culminating in the Chordate Phylum, of which both fish and most men are members. However, even though bites were sparse in that ooze, I have not allowed myself to give up fishing completely. Why not, you ask, after meeting with such dismal failure in my career? Well, I have the Anchor Baby to train, don?t I? Besides, Sparks? makes my pathetic fishing skills look like Olympic gold in comparison.
After the long winter, Sparks and I decided to get our boat ready to fish a few weeks ago and to stop deferring the deferred maintenance. Got some new wiring put in and some other slight upgrades, and Sparks took the boat out for a test spin and a few casts. Thus tested, we put the Anchor Baby himself to the test last week. He?s been on the boat a couple times before, of course, but just for harbor cruises and sightseeing. We even went ?boatsitting? one day, which is where you go to In & Out Burger, get some fries and a double double, and sit and eat them on the boat in the slip. Funny, even when Sparks and I take the boat out of the slip it is just like boatsitting.
We decided that we would take the Anchor Baby out and try to get him his first fish ever, while Sparks and I go for our first fish of the year. I also wanted to test the Anchor Baby for ?Mal de Mer? which is part of the French code used when the boy can hear us talking and we don?t want him to know what is being said. Problem is, no one else knows French, so we have to start gesturing and it becomes a case of Charades, which is yet another French word that means, ?I rather enjoy primitive non-verbal communication?. Well, you can imagine how it would be if I simply said in front of the boy, ?Sparks, we're going to see if Nathan is prone to seasickness.? Nathan would ask what sea sickness is, and I would tell him to ask his mother, who would then tell him it?s when you throw up at the mere sight of the open ocean and have to go purse shopping instead. Then Nathan would ask, ?Dad, why am I throwing up and why do I want to go to Macy?s??
Since the Anchor Baby is not an early riser and crack of dawn start times were not essential anyway (he gets that from his mom), we got a leisurely midday start and got down to the boat to load up. Because I left the TV on the Smithsonian Channel one day, Nathan knows some marine terminology, like ?bow,? ?stern,? and ?Iceberg! Right ahead!?, so he made himself busy by asking if he could go to the bow, then said he was going to the stern. Once loaded, we headed to the bait barges. For a moment I thought about going to the barge, giving Nacho a 20 spot, getting half a scoop, and handing the Anchor Baby his first fish, a red nosed sardine. Of course, I would say, ?Nice fish, son? as I handed it to him. But I figured that might not count in the eyes of the Fishing Gods, even though the eyes of those ******** have never really looked in my direction anyway. So we decided to go towards area of the bait barges to see if any easy pickings were around in terms of mackerel or something. On the way out, Nathan looked through the binoculars for bird schools and boils, or possibly the nearest In & Out Burger. One thing that we did not need binoculars for was to see the halibut some guy on the jetty caught on our way out. He claimed to have caught it on 6lb test, and I would estimate it went 4 times the line test in weight. The thing almost flopped its way into a jetty crevice, but he managed to put it back in the net amidst the excitement.
Out at the bait barges we saw a couple of anchored boats, one of which was a pontoon party boat. They were catching something exceedingly small, but I did not want to put a multi hook Sabiki rig on the boy?s rod and have him inadvertently discover how fish feel when they are hooked. So I went with a small plastic that simply enthralled him. The rod I gave him a bit big for his 5 year old frame, but it was a coffee grinder hence expendable in case it went overboard. He may have needed a rail plate, actually. My strategy was to let that plastic bounce around the bottom until something grabbed it, while Sparks and I tried to fish some larger plastics thinking maybe more halibut would be on the chew. After about 5 minutes, Nathan said, ?I want to use that,? pointing to the rod holder. I told him that was cheating, which is why we have 6 of them around the rail. But I patiently explained that all of them were for Daddy, except for one amidships on the downwind side, which was reserved for Sparks.
As a kid typically does, Nathan kept saying, ?I want to reel in and see if I have anything.? Before I could respond, I heard Sparks say, ?Me, too.? I tried to explain to the two of them what a bite felt like and that there was no mistaking it, but nothing could stop them from winding it in and checking the terminal gear. After meeting with no success (surprised?) Sparks saw some marks on the meter. He also saw those other boats still pick at some little fish, so he said we needed to put a dropper loop on Nathan?s rig and some sort of bait. Well, the poor advanced planning from Anchor Dad (that has a ring to it, doesn?t it?) now became evident. It would have been wise for me to have gone to the store and got some frozen squid or shrimp or something to ensure a certain level of success for my son, but for some reason I thought mackerel were relatively easy to find and catch. However, I even though I am boat partners with Sparks mainly so I can brag about deducting the boat loan interest while mocking his nondeductible status as a renter and 1040EZ filer, he actually can bail Heymon out once in a while.
This time, Sparks decided to disassemble his delectable lunch sandwich and use the ham for bait. Sounded like a great idea to me, mackerel will eat just about anything. Problem was, instead of the bargain brand ham you?d expect him to have, Sparks splurged for the Boar?s Head Black Forest smoked succulent ham, or ?cochon? in French. I believe he offered his lunch meat only because the Anchor Baby is his godson. This ham was so tender that trying to keep it from falling off the hook was a challenge. Still, I weaved a piece onto a hook and dropped the line down. Maybe 2 minutes passed and the boy says, ?I want to reel in and see if I have a bite.? Of course, his bait was gone, so I rebaited with a somewhat more robust piece. Sparks was busy attempting to fool an unknown species of fish with the remainder of his ham impaled on a treble hook hanging from a piece of iron (?) while II dropped the Anchor Baby?s bait down once more.
This time, about 2 minutes passed before, ?Daddy, I want to reel...? ?Go ahead, boy,? I interrupted. ?Daddy, which way do I turn the handle, this way or this way?? ?Can you help me?? I helped control the rod while he reeled in the line, except for the moments when the reel was jammed against the gunnel not being able to rotate. Who invented these things? The boy continued to reel and danged if there wasn?t something on his line besides smoked ham! ?Wow, you caught something Nathan!? The boy immediately let go of the rod and fled to the helm to watch from a safe distance what had emanated from the depths of the sea.
Okay, if you are scripting a ?first fish? scenario for a little kid, you do something like a barely legal sand bass caught on bait and putting up a bit of a fight. You are hoping it is at least more spectacular than your own first fish, which in my case was a shiner perch wrapped in a huge piece of seaweed overpowered on Torrance Beach by a 9 foot surf rod and a crappie rig. (I ate the perch on general principle). But apparently we parents are handing the next generation a world worse than what our parents left us, because choking on that wad of premium ham was a sardine sized lizardfish (of all things). I was about to start saying some more French words, but decided to play this off as if it was as magnificent as the opening of an In & Out Burger Barge off Alamitos Bay. ?Wow, son! You got your first fish!? ?Let it go!? he implored, as if there was some chance in **** that we would be taking the thing home and mounting it, using it as a candle, or even eating it. ?We will, but let?s take a picture first.? It took a while to cajole the boy into a place where he was comfortable enough to get a photo, but he thrust the fish out in front of him as if he knew doing so would maximize its apparent size on camera, something I taught Sparks long ago.
After a burst of photos (never mind asking him to say ?cheese?) he said, ?Okay, let it go.? I had to extract the hook from deep in the gullet of the ravenous creature, and was trying to make quick work of it so it wouldn?t be a floater and I would have to fake the ?There it goes, swimming away healthy as a horse!? part of the release, but I got the thing freed okay. It drifted/swam slowly downward, and only just quickly enough that a pelican attracted by our antics could not quite grab it with a thrust of its gaping maw. I was thankful the pelican missed, because I would have had to explain to the Anchor Baby the ways of the wild a bit too soon. I?m already getting confronted with, ?Is bacon meat, dad?? ?Yes? ?What does it come from?? ?Pork, son.? Why tell him that it is actually a part of Piglet?s belly before you have to?
Excitement over as quickly as it arrived (like my marriage), the boy immediately managed to get his priorities in back in the correct order. ?I?m hungry, dad.? Well, all that ham made me hungry, too. We decided to run outside the breakwater to anchor and eat, and test the sea legs of my offspring while Sparks and I tried to fish the wall for some sort of bite of our own. We had to anchor a couple of times to get set up close enough to cast into wall. There were really no waves to speak of but on anchor there was some bobbing and weaving that would make any seasick prone person pukey. Anchor Baby had no issues.
I enjoyed a stacked ham and pepper jack sandwich (shhh, don?t tell Sparks about the ham) and off and on the boy would ask to fish, but he was more enamored with the chocolate chip cookies and oil tankers parked outside. Sparks and I cast at the wall a multitude of times, but only a slight bump once and nothing else to speak of. Eventually, the short attention span of youth prompted the boy to say, ?I?m ready to go home?. This did not immediately sit well with the boy?s godfather, who did not want to be out-fished by him. We tried one more drift inside at the spot that big halibut was caught earlier, on the outside of the jetty. We were fishing in a desert, and it figured since that area must get pounded by the boatless masses scrambling around the jetty every day.
On the way back in, we topped up the fuel and I took the boy to the restroom. We have not fueled that boat in a while, so it must have made our tank happy to see some fresh petrol. One new thing we discovered is that after we docked at the fuel dock, the fuel guy just stood there with the nozzle asking, ?Who?s gonna do the honors?? We were used to a full serve experience, but the guy said they don?t do that. ?Liability? was the reason he . So now I was paranoid that if we vented any fuel while filling up we would be beset upon by Greenpeace and immediately surrounded by oil booms and a full hazmat response, which we would be billed for. I was very careful not to top off.
Our boat being in a slip is supposed to make it easier to use and thus used more. Well, even though we abandoned the double load slip with the vicious cross current in Huntington Harbor to go to Long Beach, we still have issues docking the boat. We are in a tight channel, made tighter by large and expensive boats side tied behind our slip. This limits our channel width and our maneuverability. Docking should not be this nerve wracking. We used to grade our docking effort, but now we don?t put the added pressure on each other. Never mind that Sparks videoed my last effort, hoping for some sort of viral video YouTube notoriety, but I nailed it that time. I had no such pressure on Sparks, and even so he overshot the slip and had to do a par 2. But at least he rescued it without having to do a full go-around.
So there you have it, the Anchor Baby?s first fish, and he could not have been more stoked. Some of you may recall that we had tried to get him his first fish at the Fred Hall show in 2011, but he was afraid of success at that point even though he did learn to cast there. But instead of a captive Fred Hall trout, he caught a lizard fish on his own family?s boat. Personally, I don?t think it could have been more special for him (and me), and after a lizardfish his fishing career can only get better, right?
PS Next time I am going to have Sparks bring a squid on rye sandwich. Should work a little better.