Monday, March 07, 2011

Travel Tales (#1)

I stopped today on my bike ride and loafed around the fishing pier down by the south draw bridge.

As I stood there watching pelicans flap, flop, dive, and pose on the pylons, one guy caught a really nice Pompano. Pretty quick, and after a pretty good tussle, another fellow reeled in a small Manta Ray. Since the ray was actually hooked in a “wing,” I suspect he was not after the bait at all but just in the wrong place at the wrong time and got snagged. Whatever, the fisherman simply cut his loss by cutting the line and the ray swam free.

That little drama reminded me of another incident twenty or so years ago, also here in Florida. Clip and I were camped up at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, just across the sound from Pensacola. We were just hanging around on a fishing deck at sundown, watching folks fish. Suddenly, this guy sitting in a chair with a very stout deep sea pole hooked something very major. The fight was so great and lasted so long that many of us wondered aloud if the man had hooked onto a submarine from the nearby naval base. The fellow, rather short and rotund with a club foot, was sweating profusely. He also, by and by, kept all of us aware of what he thought he had on the end of the line—a whale, an orca, and a giant octopus were several guesses. His wife, a flaming red-head with tattoos, was a tough-looking customer who reminded me either of a biker gal or a bar owner.

Finally, after a fight of at least an hour, the man finally began cranking up his catch by the light of an overhanging lamp. There, in the glow, to all of our shock, was a giant sting ray hanging from the line, as wide and heavy as a dining room table top. But this was nothing compared to what came next. Attached to the first sting ray, was a second ray, just as large. It now became clear that the fish were mating and the stupid male would not relinquish his hard-won embrace, no matter what. Mystery now solved, the exhausted fisherman brought out a pair of pliers and cut his steel leader, allowing the amorous couple to return to the business of making more little rays.

Adding a final bizarre coincidence to the evening, I learned from the club-footed fisherman that he at one time lived in Topeka, Kansas (where I was living at the time), and he worked for Martinek Construction. Truly, this man was a real character; had he a peg-leg he would have been something right out of a pirate novel.


Scary Clown of the Day