One of my all time favorite movies is Endless Summer. In the documentary, two surfers follow the surf around the globe in search of the perfect wave.
The film has had two sequels but the theme is timeless. We all seem to be chasing something in search of something perfect.
Last week my summer came to an end. Mike Jordan, Charlie “Kingfish” Buhl and I decided to end our first summer of retirement chasing fish. I don’t know if there is a perfect fish to catch or if there is a perfect fish. From past experience, I am not even sure if there are fish. I know that they make themselves scarce when I am on the ocean, on a lake or in a stream.
There is a reason that it is called fishing and not catching. I know that reason. I also know that fish cost more per ounce to eat than any type of meat.
Do the math. You have to buy a license. You have to buy a pole or rod. You have to have a reel. The line is not cheap. Tackle can run into the hundreds of dollars.
If you decide to go out on a boat, that cost can run into the hundreds of dollars. Bait is a misnomer, but it is costly. Snacks and beverages for the trip aren’t free and are definitely necessary.
If, and I accentuate the word IF, you catch a fish and it is big enough to keep and that is a big part of this article, weigh it and the cost is about, by my calculations, $347 an ounce. I will never gripe about the price of fish at Jake’s or Roy’s. Now I know why they don’t even cook the fish at some Asian restaurants.
Going fishing was Mike Jordan’s idea (I am not placing blame, just stating the facts.). He called me. Right away I got suspicious. Mike is a vindictive individual and he thinks that he owes me a dirty trick.
Thirty years ago Mike was my assistant coach on a frosh football team at Ramona High School. I told him and my other assistant coach, Mike Callahan, that we were going to show the varsity who was serious about coaching football.
The varsity was going to start practice at 7 a.m. for the first day of Hell Week. I told both Mikes that the frosh team was going to start at 6 a.m. to go one up on the varsity.
I told them that I would make out the practice plans and I would give the plans to them at 5 a.m. at a breakfast at the Ramona Café. I also told them that the breakfast was going to be on me. (If you are going to tell one lie when setting up a prank, you might as well tell a couple of more to make the prank seem believable.)
Mike and Mike bit harder than any real fish on our trip.
On the first Monday morning of Hell Week, I got a call at 5:20 asking where I was. They were at the restaurant waiting for me. I just laughed and hung up and explained to them at the 9 a.m. practice that I changed my mind.
Mike Callahan got even with me on several occasions, but Mike Jordan has waited patiently to get even. So when he told me that he would pick me up at 4 a.m., I should have known better.
When he picked me up at 5:30, I figured out that we were even.
The night before I noticed a red sky. I recalled the poem: Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Whoever wrote that poem was probably in on the prank with Jordan.
We drove from Ramona to Poway to pick up Kingfish Buhl and proceed to our fishing guide’s house.
Captain Bill Erskine has a beautiful 21-foot fishing and pleasure craft named Miss Romona (Captain Bill is a better captain than a speller). We pulled the craft to Mission Bay’s Dana Landing.
While the mariners were getting the boat in the bay. Charlie and I did the important work. We bought ice. After the boat was in the water, Captain Bill gave us the safety lecture. He told us where the life jackets, flotation devices, fire extinguisher and GPS device were and how to use them.
I always get scared on a flight when the flight attendants go through the motions while the passengers ignore the video on safety procedures. I got more scared on the boat. With Mike, Charlie and me, a lot more could go wrong on a boat than on an airplane.
We drove to a barge that sold bait and bought some of the biggest fish that we would be able to keep on board the Miss Romona. I was the best at putting bait on the hooks and I got an award for it.
Captain Bill went slowly out of the harbor, but when he cleared the buoys Captain Bill hit the gas. The sea was rough to begin with (so much for the poem), but that only made it easier for Captain Bill to get more air than a motocross pro on every wave.
We went out a mile and worked our way north. We would stop, drift and waste bait and then move. On our first stop, Mike Jordan caught the only keeper of the day, a 12.000001-inch calico bass.
On our second stop, Charlie Buhl got his moniker, Kingfish, by catching a mackerel and yelling “Holy mackerel, Andy!” You have to be old to understand.
On the next stop, I pulled in a miniature calico bass. While I was yelling at the top of my lungs, “Get a gaff!,” Captain Bill grabbed my line and let the poor toddler loose.
Somebody other than me caught a fish that I thought was deformed. It had both of its eyes on the top of its head. I asked what was wrong with it. Captain Bill said it was too small. Charlie and Jordan said that it was a halibut.
I looked it up later that night on Google and found out that its eyes were supposed to be that way. I am glad that they didn’t understand my question.
Charlie then hooked up the biggest fish of the day. It was so big that a seal stole it from Charlie while he tried to reel it in. Charlie gave the seal several nicknames, none as nice as Kingfish.
We caught several mackerel, which can be used for bait for bigger fish. There were no bigger fish on the ocean than the three of us.
Mike tried to chum for fish. At least that is what he said he was doing. Captain Bill said that he was just seasick. Charlie and I almost joined him, but he gave up the chumming just before we joined him.
Our last stop was about a half a mile off the La Jolla pier. There Charlie caught a lizard fish. It looked exactly like a lizard only it was smaller.
Captain Bill saw a man in a kayak and asked him if he wanted our remaining bait. The guy peddled over to us and he and the good captain exchanged fish stories. He showed us a 30-inch halibut he caught with mackerel. He thanked us for our bait because he could catch more mackerel with it and hopefully catch more halibut.
On the way back, Captain Bill did his hydroplane impersonation with the Miss Romona and I did my yo-yo impersonation on the bow.
When we got inside the harbor, we got rid of the remaining bait. We threw it in the air and the sea gulls and pelicans would catch it in midair. Jordan put some on my back as I leaned in the tank to get the bait out. The sea gulls got a feast. Jordan, Kingfish and Captain Bill got a laugh. I got a stained T-shirt.
We returned to Captain Bill’s and cleaned the boat. Jordan took his time filleting the only fish we could keep.
It was a great way to end a summer. A bad day fishing is better than a great day working.