Since I was a little boy growing up on the Arabian sea in Bombay, the allure of freshly caught seafood was something that gave me immense joy. Fish caught daily graced our dining table at lunch where 6 kids sat and devoured shrimp, crabs, Mackerel, sardines, king fish and Pomfret during our one hour school break for a mid-day meal. Thursday’s were days to look forward to as I would always listen for the fish mongers with baskets balanced on their heads screaming “machi walla, pamplete, jhinga taza taza.” I would gaze out of our balcony to the sea and dream of going out on a boat and reeling in large ocean monsters that I could get our cook Ermine to prepare. The beckoning of the water and the call of the king fish and Indian salmon was always prevalent. Oh how I wished Dad would, let us go out on the rocks and fish!
I have since moved to the East Coast of the US and still hear the call of the water by the Atlantic. My love for seafood has not diminished. The only difference is I hear the call of striped bass, black bass, blue fish, fluke and tautog.
Once a year, a group of 8-10 of my friends charter a boat out of Groton, CT, and fish for striped bass. The annual trip is well planned and one we all look forward to. Every year I have to remind my sons that the fishing trip is coming up as I love it when they join me. Sometimes it’s just one, sometimes it’s the other and on the rare occasion it’s both my boys.
This year it was both. We woke up at 5 am drove the 150 miles to the dock and set sail. Everyone is always upbeat when the trip starts. We all anticipate the schools of fish we will hit. Only stripers will do for us. Dinner plans are being made by my boys. Justin decides the menu with fish we have not yet caught.
When we reach Fishers Island, the mate tutors us on the techniques. The boat stops and Cap’n tells us to drop our lines. No one is speaking, everyone wants to be the first to land one. We are not worrying about what it is. ..just thinking “Please lord let me be the first.” We reel in nothing. The boat is turned around and we start drifting again. Drop and reel, drop and reel, and the banter starts; “You should have brought the bananas!”,” It’s definitely the orange tic tacs – or the gum!, ” ” It’s clearly Oz” and “Where is Warry?”
Suddenly I get a hit! My rod bends, “fish on” there is a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation for all. Please let it be a striper; the line starts darting from left to right. It’s the first fish so I am willing it to be a striper. A striper – please – though it’s not moving like a striper. My weak city arms are aching (and this is only the first one). It comes up, a blue is the chant – a little disappointment, but I got the first one. The mate says “no gaffing right, it ruins the fish”. I’m so glad he remembered. We all cheer, then all around the strikes start, we start hauling the blues. Life’s good as now we know we won’t be made fun of by our spouses.
We turn around and start the process of jigging once again. This time it’s better. Mike pulls the first bass, then Dave, followed by Bryan. Justin is excited and calls for sushi for dinner. He wants to call Mom to get the sushi rice going! It’s only 11 am and other boats start to gather around us. But we are the only ones pulling fish – the stripers keep on coming up bigger with every cast. We change our location to another sand bank which also lures to buck tails and nothing stops them from biting. At 2 pm we have reached our limit and have to throw all the fish we are catching back. So we decide to stop:
19 striped bass, 30 blues and 10 smiling faces. Life’s good.
We pull into the dock, take our customary dockside picture, load our coolers, pack ice and make the drive back home. It is over 25 years since Bombay. But my minds eye takes me back and I dream. A good day of fishing beats any good day ……I can’t wait for June, 2013.