Friday, July 08, 2011

A Fish Tale

While sitting on the shore taking in the beauty of the Penobscot Bay on this sun filled day, I recalled the following story from my childhood days.  Now, keep in mind that I was not there as the events unfolded, but I’m passing on the story just as I recall it being told to me.  Y’all know that I would never embellish a tale so you can pretty much take it as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth or nearly so anyway.

It was summertime back in the early sixties.  My uncle had a 16 foot open fishing boat with a 25 horse Evinrude outboard motor attached to its hinny.  He and my cousin had launched it at city dock early one morning just as the tide was approaching it’s lowest point.  Any good fisherman knows that you stand a better chance of catching fish on an incoming tide so their goal was to “be on site” when the tide changed.  Here’s a facsimile of Unck’s Boat.


They were outfitted for mackerel but had hopes of coming across some stripper bass as it had been rumored that they were beginning to make their run up the bay.  And, with what they thought to be plenty of beer on board, away they went as the sun was rising over the bay.  They made their way across West Penobscot Bay toward the island of Isleborough.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, they had spent the better part of a twelve pack and several hours without even getting a nibble when all of a sudden my cousin’s line went taunt.  He commenced to “reeling her in” not having any clue as to what was on the other end of that line, but it gave him a pretty darned good fight none the less.  Finally he could see a good sized fish breaking the surface and, as he got it close enough to the boat, he gave it a good flip right into the boat.

Darned if it wasn’t a dawgfish which is a member of the shark family.  Every fisherman realizes that it’s a good possibility to snag a shark or a dawgfish while fishing on the bay so most of them carry a .22 pistol on board.  The idea is to pull the shark or dawgfish up close to the side of the boat and shoot it so that they can take it off the line saving their lures.  Well, in the midst of all of the confusion, Unck forgot that minor detail.   He grabbed his gun and commenced firing, managing to kill that fish with just three shots.  Oh, by the way, he also managed to put three brand new drain holes in the bottom of his boat.

When they threw the fish overboard, they realized that the water level in the boat was working toward equalizing that which was outside of the boat.  So Unck quickly tore off his shirt, grabbed his trusty knife, and made shreds of cloth to shove into the holes.  That slowed the inflow of water but didn’t entirely stop it.  So what else could he do? 

Unck downed the beer he was drinking, grabbed the last beer and downed it as well.  Then he took his trusty knife, once again, and cut the tops out of the beer cans and gave them to my cousin to initiate the bail sequence.  (A note here:  A true Mainer will not waste good beer by pouring it overboard, not even when time is of the essence.)

Next, Unck fired up the Evinrude and made post haste for the nearest point of land which happened to be a small uninhabited island just off Isleborough.  Once ashore, they pulled everything out of the boat, took the outboard off, and flipped the boat over to dump out the remaining water.

Then they gathered up some small pieces of drift wood and Unck whittled out three plugs with his trusty knife which they “tunked” snuggly into the holes in the bottom of the boat using a rock as a hammer.  Now having made the boat seaworthy once more, they loaded everything back into the boat and shoved off.

Everything seemed to be working out just fine so they went back to their fishing gig.  However, that didn’t last very long because, remember?  Unck had drank his last beer.  Everyone knows that you’ll never catch fish in Penobscot Bay without any beer in the boat (I think it might be the peeing over the side that attracts the fish, but I’m not sure).

To sum it up, there are two essential pieces of equipment that must be taken out to sea – a trusty knife and plenty of beer.  You can just never tell when they’ll be needed to save your life.  A .22 pistol is handy, but not necessary.  You can always just cut the line and let the shark or dawgfish swim off with your lures, but most Mainers are pretty thrifty and want their lures back. 

Tomorrow, lots and lots of photographs of our trip to Blue Hill, Deer Isle, and Stonington, Maine.

Take Care Until Next Time  - - - - - - -