Because of my concern for LA traffic (which seems a quaint memory now), I left my house at 4:30 and arrived more than two hours early for my hearing, which in turn was made last on the court's calendar, so that we argued to a judge in an empty courtroom, where no one could hear the final gurgle of a lawsuit being put to death.
Since the judge went my way, I was suddenly free to head out for one last trip with Secret Skipper and to meet Isaac for his one and only shot at these critters since he returned home from his 5 month trek through South America. The truth is that I had planned this victory party regardless of the outcome (It's a Victory party and Somebody has to win), so I was going either way.
On my way down to the harbor, I stopped in Long Beach to have a giant breakfast with my brother Charlie. He chose a place and navigated me to the Pot Holder, which is a great place to get some eggs and marijuana, as one might surmise from its name. After dropping my brother off at his office and heading across the bridge to Pedro, I discovered that I left my cell phone at the restaurant, but managed to go back and find it, even though I did not remember where it was and had no cell phone or brother to guide me.
I then met Secret Skipper down at Cabrillo Marina where I changed out of my black suit/wingtip getup and into my Grunden rubber Lobsterwear. Isaac soon showed up with sandwiches and other provisions which were loaded onto the boat in carts we tried to stay in front of on a ramp that was dramatically steepened by a big low tide.
The moon would be mostly full, but we had no fear of lunar-inspired failure, as this has been a season like no other. We had an experienced crew of three, which is the ideal number for getting the hard work done without having too many limits to try and fill in one night. Skipper is the ruler and driver, I am the buoy grabber and line puller, while Isaac expertly coiled all of the line off the wheel and onto the deck so that our lines were as straight as if we had soaked them in Jeri-curl.
The ride over to the Island of Romance was windy and bumpy as it has been most every time we have gone, but that just keeps the fair weather crowds thinner. Skipper had secured fresh salmon carcasses and we bought eighty bucks worth of live sardines from Mike at the San Pedro Bait Company barge. Mike entertained us with one of the greatest stories about the relationship between fishermen and seals that I have ever witnessed, complete with stage-worthy acting out of certain scenes. I am forbidden by an oath I took from repeating any of it in writing, but ask me some time when we are together and consuming something other than Corona.
We arrived at the island early enough to get all of our gear deployed by 4:30 pm and do a little bass fishing. We caught no little bass, nor did we get big ones, despite saving some of our sardines for bait. Each sardine we threw was expertly eaten by the big seals which relentlessly plagued our efforts. We resorted to throwing plastics in a kind of half-hearted way to kill time before the now daylight savings delayed darkness would envelope us and allow the bugs to crawl our way.
We were stoked to get our gear deployed early because soon two other boats came over to start sewing their hoop pattern around ours. We sort of had dibs under the loosely interpreted Law of the Fish, but that did not stop these otherwise friendly fellow piscatorians from placing some of their gear in our way.
We started pulling at 6:15 and got some action in the deepest set of 300 foot rigs. We moved into the mid-range hoops we set in 150-200 feet and got even better results, giving us six solidly legal bugs before we got to our last three shallow hoops, which produced no legals.
We rolled back out for another set of pulls and things began to thin out. We did manage four more legals in the mid range set and so had ten in 20 pulls, which is usually a damn good ratio, but this year has spoiled us with expectations of easier limits.
We then began a long process of pulling mostly empty hoops and took many pulls to get to eleven. At that point, we were concerned that limits might not be achievable, but we all knew it was probably our last trip and nobody was remotely ready to puss out and go home.
We took a break from the constant pulling and ate our chips and sandwiches as the seas and wind became progressively calmer. One of the other boats reset their gear on both sides of our set, so we were treated to them churning back and forth across our set to leave us bobbing in their wakes as they checked their own gear. It was a bit of a party foul, but nothing worth mentioning to them. The other guys stayed shallow and left relatively early after a couple of unproductive sets.
We had many more empty pulls on our way to thirteen good sized specimens after four sets, but there was still activity worth chasing, including more short lobster and a rare (in southern waters) dungeness crab in one of the shallow hoops. It looked like it had recently molted and was too small to keep, but it was a good sign.
We also snared a decent sized and very ornery scorpionfish, which we tried to extract with Isaac's brand new pliers. That sparkling tool disappeared into the sea before we could properly engage its services and so we left the fish in the hoop to shelter in place until it could extract itself after we sent it back down.
It was past ten pm and our rate of catch was pretty meager. We had not caught a legal lobster in more pulls than we would consider promising to achieve our limit of 21. Skipper, who was used to being back in his bed early this season, then boldly predicted that we were about to start hitting hoops that would be holding more than one legal. This wizard-like prophecy came true and what became our last set started producing in what was now a glassy ocean. Skipper made the decision to start recovering and breaking down our gear before we had limits, which I consider a risky insult to the vindictive attention of the Gods of the Sea. Apparently, the Gods of the Sea really did not give a shit about our attitude. We made our triple limit in that set and ended up throwing back four legals as we enthusiastically harvested the final banzai charge these delicious marine lemmings would make against us this season.
We were done pulling and had all of our gear stowed by 11 pm. The ride home on a dead flat ocean was like butter. We cleaned up the boat, aided by a much flatter ramp in the high tide, snapped a picture of the unfortunate occupants of our ice chest and then divided up our catch for the parties we would get to host one more time this year.
We were home by 2:35 am, which is still earlier than we generally achieve in other years when we often come home with fewer lobster. I had been up nearly 24 hours, so sleep was pretty easy to achieve, although I knew when my head hit the pillow that we were going to have to get up and leave for Raahagues gun club by 8:15 am with all our gear and two dogs for the NAVHDA Rattlesnake training and shotgun shooting we had signed up for earlier this year.
As for that experience, I just wish that they had allowed us to take pictures, as it is a fascinating process where the dogs are essentially taken on a walk with a trained handler to encounter several rattlesnakes, which my dogs now believe are capable of jolting them with electricity after they get a chance to see, smell, hear and get way too close, as puppies will do. It was clear that our instructor was a big fan of rattlesnakes and held them in high regard. I decided to pretend that I did too, or at least refrain from pissing him off by telling him how many I had killed in my own neighborhood (none in the last year).
In any event, both of my 11 month old dogs were appropriately rattled by the experience and we decided to just skip the shotgun shooting part of our plans and head back to Dana for a big fat breakfasty lunch and a nap that would prepare us for the live band reggae party our neighbors were throwing Saturday night. We advised our hosts that we would not be bringing any of our lobster to their party, but would instead selfishly invite them over the following evening for a more exclusive dining experience.
I had an all too wonderful time at the party and woke up a bit furry in the mouth and sore from lobstering and dancing about, but Sunday night was the positive payback for getting up off the deck and cooking up our last steak and lobster pigfest of the season.
Your narrator managed to snap the mandatory Lobster-years photo of Tommy and David, clean and prep these bugs and start putting together another surf and turf experience befitting a Resident of the United States.
Our hosts of the prior evening, Stacy and John, are seasoned veterans of our family's eat-what-we-kill lifestyle They arrived with beverages, their daughter Zoe and her two fellow students from Marquette University, Tessa and Sarah. One of these girls claimed to have never tasted lobster, so we had a mission.
Suffice it to say, that there was plenty to eat and even to take home for later consumption, as left-over lobster is one of the mightiest badges of pure luxury, in the same way as a donut side dish is regarded by some as a necessary passenger on any plate of surf and turf.
Well, things are certainly different now as real sequestration seems to have overtaken our carefree criminal lifestyle of consumption and interaction with one another.
By the way - Happy St. Paddy's Day even if this year's parade is more intimate than we would prefer.
Here's hoping that all of you are sheltering in place with something good to read after you get through this drivel, that you have more than the exoskeletons of lobsters with which to wipe your bums and that you never forget to remember that