Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ask Me No Secrets

This is a short report, under this publication's rather elastic standards of brevity, because it ultimately involves the crafty application of guarded information.

Isaac and your narrator joined Secret Skipper on a nocturnal mission for white seabass.  It was to be an all-nighter at a secret venue where it was reliably rumored that white sea bass had recently stopped getting caught. We were working with a waning full moon. We left 'Pedro just before midnight on an impossibly romantic rendezvous with the unknown.  Conditions in the channel were clear on the deck with a canopy of clouds as we headed out to a spot we will never reveal, no matter what you do to us.

We were able to make some squid, but our mind-bending squid lights fizzled before we made less than a dozen pieces, which we used on both Carolina style rigs and the traditional bouncing squid tipped white jig.  We wore our black ninja terrycloth fishing jumpsuits and felt-bottomed fishing slippers to stay invisible, noiseless and cozy.  The water was surprisingly warm.  We have a sea temp gauge and the water in the bait tank felt close to 70.

Batman paid his inevitable visit to Commissioner Isaac at about 3 am, which proved to be the apex event of this entire ambush.  It grabbed a tipped white jig about four cranks off the bottom and set in the rod holder.  It took him around the boat before visually forcing us to admit that it was a ray (and a really nice one) when we got our jig back and set it free in what turned out to be a relatively cordial encounter. 

 We picked up a nice scoop of squid from two glowing supply spaceships that passed near us in an otherwise light-starved location in the  middle of nowhere.  They were escorted by a sub-pod of Risso's dolphin.  These large creatures were rhythmically rising to feed on the squid these craft were magnetically pulling to their lights. They snorted like war horses pulling impossibly stupendous chariots as they rose to loudly exhale bursts of mist into the blinding light that back lit them from the baitships.  With our profile broken up by blackened artillery mesh we strung up to aid in concealment, we  fished the dark and through the gray for nothing worth mentioning, but feel free to read on.

 Nobody near us seemed to have done any better on the targeted exotics, but we did not make direct eye-contact with anyone, so that we would help each other forget where we had been in the event we were interrogated individually. We hit Madness Reef for some nice Calico and pesky barracuda, but got no love from the yellows.

Secret Skipper then went below to unroll an ancient, smelly goatskin which swaddled an old map with fire-darkened edges.The  description of the operational depth we were seeking used the standard measure preferred by secretive meat-fishing socialites.  It of course involves a calculation of the buoyancy necessary to float a standard clipper ship's weather vane from that era over a course of 1.15 miles using only a raft of dead monkeys woven together with hemp.   He squinted up from the illumination cast by a whale oil lamp  hung in his cabin to give his strategizing more drama.

  "We're going to the Phlegmish Splat."

Isaac and I remembered the old stories of this legendary spot on the seafloor where red fish abound, along with other fierce denizens of this rocky mesa.  It got it's name from one of the old captains who ran  the Sea Sport for Eddie McEwan out of Pacific Landing in the 1960's.  He loved this spot, just like he loved chain-smoking Camels and expectorating enthusiastically from the bridge as gangion-loads of red fish came over the rail in the bad old days of rock-codding near the naval weapons dumping grounds.  Even though he could have used the scale and dead monkey conversion chart he keeps on board as an alternative calculation weight, Skipper used an abacus. It was an 81 monkey journey, so it would not be a short ride. 

"The only thing is that we can't talk about this spot, ever. So, for your own protection I am going to have to put you below and gag you on the way there.....You know, so you don't talk about it."

It seemed reasonable, so we went through a wardrobe door in the cuddy cabin below to play cribbage with gags on while Skipper cut his radar and ran in a zig zag pattern to keep us guessing.  When we got finally got there, we went down to the bottom with iron and pinned-on live squid connected to spectra by a fluoro top-shot. We watched a whale come up to check us out. 

We started catching a lot of nice reds, a ling that barely made legal, and assorted other rockfish. We bled them and got them on ice right away, since we love to eat reds more than some people love God.
Isaac got a chance to savor a moment with the always-yet-endangered salmon grouper as Skipper pulled on another red.
 These fish seemed to love the flatfall/squid combo and the Tady glow-white with squid, but geniuses think the real common denominator was the live squid.
We even got a young wolf-eel your reporter had to work out of its cave before inspecting and releasing it to ribbon its way back into the depths.

All in all,  it was a good call to turn and burn from an established top-secret spot to get to a nearly unreachable and completely unrememberable Piscatorium.

After a brief but productive session we returned to a spot closer to the mainland, looking for yellows, but enjoying a steady  calico bass bite periodically invaded by barracuda.

Skipper did his usual commercial-quality job of cutting up the catch, so we will feed our dinner guests this marine harvest in rare style.  By that I mean that at least during the main course of the meal, they will have to wear blindfolds....., so they won't be able to pinpoint the exact location of these fish.  It's a pretty understandable concern, so this is  completely normal. We will all take them off and light candles for dessert.

Not every plan hits its target, so it's wonderful to have this ancient knowledge available for salvaging a productive outing on these banzai excursions.
We learned a lot on this trip, especially how to make sure things learned in sacred confidence remain confidential.  We would ask that you don't run out like some copy-cat and get a dead monkey conversion app for your Iphone, because some things ought to be left to the old ways.
Those times may be largely forgotten, but

              These are the Days

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