Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Scott's Fish

When a big fish is on the line, landing it becomes the most important thing in the world. This is why I found myself swimming facedown in Long Island Sound the other day, kicking with my feet, holding a throbbing fishing rod aloft and hoping to make it across the channel before my lungs gave out. Let me explain.

Scott had given up.

Scott is my 14 year old cousin, a great kid, usually cheerful as can be, but now he sat glumly on the breakwater, his fishing pole abandoned on the rock behind him. At 6 am Scott had been the most energetic of my five cousins, all of whom woke up at dawn to come fishing. He barely stopped casting long enough to eat a breakfast donut. But that was over two hours ago, in which time we had landed exactly zero fish.

The five of us had fished all the way out to the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. Here's a satellite photo of the Fenwick side of the Connecticut river mouth. The breakwater we were fishing from forms the left side of the channel.

View Larger Map

Now, I need to describe the layout of the rocks around the lighthouse. Picture a cane with a curved handle, shaped like an upside down “J”. Most of the breakwater runs in a straight line out from the beach – the shaft of the cane. The lighthouse sits on a concrete platform at the very end of the breakwater – the topmost part of the cane. The curve of the cane is a little trail of rock that extends from the far side of the lighthouse platform opposite the main part of the breakwater, forming a pocket of sheltered water about 30 feet wide at the base of the lighthouse – the space between the curve and the shaft of the cane. You can see the lighthouse and breakwater in the satellite photo below.

View Larger Map

Still with me? OK! On to the story.

While Scott sat on the rock behind me, I made a cast from the breakwater that landed off the rocks at the far side of the lighthouse. I was using a jointed plug that wiggled through the water like a wounded baitfish, irresistible to any big bluefish cruising the waters of the river mouth. Sure enough, a big blue made a pass at the plug during the retrieve, and a shot of adrenaline coursed through my veins.

“Cast off that point,” I told Scott. “There’s a fish in there with your name on it.”

He jumped to his feet, the spark back in his eyes, and made a perfect cast that splashed down just past the end of the rocks. One heartbeat, two, three – then BOOM! The bluefish slammed his lure like an exploding depth charge and took off for Plum Island.

Scott had set the drag with just the right amount of tension, but this was a big fish and it took a lot of line before he could begin reeling it in. The fish was way out in open water, and made a run around the back of the lighthouse. The line wrapped around the point and began chafing on the rocks.

“Make it turn! Make it turn!” I shouted.

“I can’t stop it!” Scott yelled.

This was a problem. If Scott kept reeling, the line would break against the rocks. Even if he ran up to the lighthouse the angle would only become more acute and the fish would break off for sure.

We were not going to lose this fish. There was only one thing to do, and no time to waste.

“Give me the rod,” I told Scott as I stripped off my pants and shirt. “Run over to the end of the point and wait for me there.”

I needed to free the line from the rocks and get a clear angle for Scott to land the fish. The only way to do that was to bring the rod across the still water, and the only way to do that was by swimming. I jumped into the Sound, held the rod up high and started kicking, reeling up slack as I went. A couple of minutes later I had closed the gap. Miraculously, the fish was still on. I handed the rod up to Scott, who swung the line clear of the rocks and started reeling like mad.

It took another 15 minutes to land the fish, and when Scott finally pulled it onto the rocks the hook was barely attached to its jaw. It was so heavy we took turns carrying it down the breakwater and back to the house.

(Photos by Ari Kessler

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Blogger 虎。。。 said...

only you tim...only you would do this.... looks to have been great fun though...

1:37 AM  

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