FISHING AND ABALONE

MAY 1, 2007

Well, its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Uncertain cloudy weather yielded to suddenly bright, hot sunshine on Saturday and Sunday, causing all kinds of traffic conniption fits. Every time the weather changes people start driving their automobiles like Death Machines.

Understand New Orleans will celebrate Jazz Fest down there next week, and we are envious of all those folks hustling down for some serious music on the Delta for this year the Fest will kick off with renewed vigor after the Katrina disaster. Snafus and Contratemps shunted the Island-Life participation this year, which included surgery and an unscrupulous used car dealer, but rest assured, this situation will not last, for Island-Life will rise again! We will be reporting first hand from the Windy City for the Chicago Blues Festival in June, so stay tuned.

Up in Lake Woebegone, our Sister City, we hear the lake is clearing of ice and that is a good thing. Requires different fishing gear for those situations. Hope everyone is prepared. As for here, we have our fishing license, obtained with great ceremony from Big 5 Sporting Goods. The innocent gal behind the counter did not believe that a license to take trout from streams was required in California, until her boss reminded her thats what a license was for to start with.

As soon as we got that license the word went out along all streams and lakes among the trout there that we were on the loose again, so there was no hurry for other things, such as flies and such. They know we are coming and they sure act like they knew all along when we finally get there.

California trout are the savviest trout in the world by reputation, and many are the angler who hide behind bushes and rocks, lofting their hapless bait upstream to allow a natural-looking drift to tease those fellers into chomping down on a metal hook, or more likely not, only to return home with naught but sandwich wrappers and sunburn to offer. We have personally observed trout rise up, examine the fly, then turn away in disdain.

O the ignominy.

The trout in California are smart and unlike anything you may find in, say, Virginia or Georgia. In those places Field and Stream loves to document with four color photographs guys standing out there right in the middle of the stream not giving a good god damn if the fish see them or not. You aint gonna get away with that in California. No sirree.

In California, you get a stream wader, you get a pair of trout talking to one another, like,

Fred, there's some big galoot standing there trying to hook folks in the mouth.

Ok.

He's standing right there in full view, trying to hook somebody. You see that?

I seen that, Clem.

I don't think that is right, Fred.

Ok.

Fred, we gotta do something about this.

Ok.

Well you just go around and tell everybody there is some damn galoot there with a pole trying to hook somebody.

Ok. I go now.

That's is that for that feller's fishing, and he ruined it all by announcing himself.

Besides the fishing season, Summer is announced in Northern California by abalone divers dying and by windsurfers. Abalone is a queer sort of snail that looks horrifying in life and tastes like burnt rubber when dead and properly prepared. It tastes like chewy burnt rubber when not properly prepared. One harvests abalone by donning a suit to protect one's sensative flesh from the abrasion of rock and waves and intense sunburn and using a crowbar to wrest a creature from its natural home underwater into a cookpot.

Abalone harvesters fondly refer to the process as delightfully akin to repairing a VW transaxle while partially submerged underwater. Their eyes typically glaze over ecstatically when talking about this venture, which is known to produce sinusitus and death. Or worse.

This is a typically Californian occupation, and is one of those things of which we who live here find typically embarrassing and among the list of acts and features that other states describe as proof of natural Californian nuttiness, to our extreme outrage and displeasure.

We would like to put an end to things like this, and we try by instituting all sorts of regulations, like no abalone under seven inches may be retained, no matter how difficult the obtaining, and no air tanks or scuba gear allowed. No shotguns may be employed in taking abalone. Only snorkels distributed here my friend, which means that the abalone hunter must not only reach under dangerous places blindly with bare hands, but must hold his or her breath while doing so.

Only the officially approved abalone crowbar may be employed to yank these critters loose and only five per day on a special abalone endorsement stamp may be taken north of Monterey, with payment of the proper fee. No wonder the preparation of abalone involves hacking at it with a bowie knife before pounding the animal with a nine pound hammer until tough gristle remains. Heck, you would be furious at the end of all that as well, whether it involved taking abalone or mushrooms.

Since no scuba tanks are allowed while harvesting this indigestible creature, diving for abalone involves a multistage process. Find abalone, attach balloon, breath, return and pound the hell out of the thing until it yields. Breath again. Go back for more. Repeat for the next eight hours.

Had a friend who dived on down there looking for that abalone -- it got to be an obsession, since the abalone kinda figured out the game and all scooted down below, leaving precious few up above -- he dived down there so deep the salt water got up his nose and they had to drill him out with a kind of jackhammer and that part was no fun at all, jackhammers in the nose and all of that.

We don't understand why any sensible man would dive down into water where the fish all pee and do worse things to themselves and each other, but to each his own. Plenty of coprophiliacs out there, we guess.

They don't have abalone in Minnesota and we figure that has something to do with natural Lutheran common sense. Always been envious of all that. They could always find a way to get them seeded in Lake Itasca -- those smart boys have their ways -- but there's no yashur yonit when it comes to abalone. Too strange a prize.

Well Jan, here's a snail I pulled up out of the lake.

Ya, sure.

Looks a big one, this snail.

Better throw it back, Sven. It looks funny.

Ya sure. I guess so.

[Plash!]

If you know someone who harvests abalone, perhaps that person needs more ketchup in their diet. Ketchup has naturally mellowing ingredients that redirect people from such extreme behaviors like diving down too deep in fish pee and searching for sea delicacies in unnatural and dangerous places. These are the good times for MaryBeth and me.

These are the good times.
Ketchup and bonhommee
Life is flowing,
flowing like ketchup on your Abalone.
Ketchup! Ketchup! Ketchup!

Brought to you by the Ketchup Advisory Board. Not affiliated with NPR or any radio station that we know of. Even though we may like them an aweful lot. With ketchup.

Strange de Jim is out there right now, pounding with a ball peen hammer on a piece of old copper plate to be used in one of his monolithic sculptures. He pauses to hearken unto the train. Even as Suzie looks up from her book in the Old Same Place Bar. Somewhere, in the depths of the Stygian Night. a poodle unleases a blood curdling howl. And Officer O'Madhauen peers over his styrofoam coffee cup at the quarter moon hanging over the old weed-infested cannery.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.