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"Fish On!"

 

by Bronson Chang
July 2001

 

 

“I wonder what we’ll catch?” I said dreamily.

What if we catch a marlin!” my brother Houston responded.

My 11-year-old brother and I were snuggled under our fluffy colored blankets trying to go to sleep, trying to overcome the excitement. We were going deep-sea fishing! We weren’t going to watch “Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto,” we were going to be out there fishing and fighting a fish. I shivered and squirmed in bed as if bursts of electricity were shocking me and finally calmed down and fell asleep.

“Ring! Di dit… Di dit…! Ring! Aohaaa… Aohaaa!”

I shot out of bed as four different alarm clocks sounded exactly at three o’clock AM. I had dreamt of waking up and the time was now! After waiting three months for this day, counting down everyday, here it was! Yes! Finally! I got dressed faster than I ever did in my life, I smashed my toothbrush into my teeth and scrubbed them as if I had Sharpie marks all over it, and shouted, “It’s Fishing Time!” It felt twice as good as waking up on Christmas morning. I zoomed to my parent’s room and woke them. When my whole family awoke, we took our Dramamine, which helped prevent seasickness, and ate a small breakfast. I hurried everyone into our Volkswagen Volvo and was off to Haleiwa on the traffic-less road with only a few cars in the distance.

By the time we got to the Haleiwa Boat Harbor, it was 5:15 AM. We unloaded and headed down rows and rows of fishing boats. Then, there it was, one of the biggest boats of the harbor, the “Foxy Lady.” A 42-foot fishing boat with light blue streaks across its white body, varnished wood handrails, and a jet shaped nose reflected under the dreary lights.

We loaded the boat with our snacks and drinks and greeted our captain and deckhand. Our captain’s name was Jesse Lovett. He was a dark tanned friendly and helping Caucasian. He was shoeless, wore a blue fishing shirt with white lettering, and had a black fuzzy visor on top his bushy golden-brown hair. Our deckhand’s name was Bear; he sort of resembled a bear from his muscular body and his deep, raspy, roaring voice. He had a worn tan hat that rested on his dirty blond hair that stretched to the bottom of his neck, an overgrown moustache that covered his mouth, and a white shirt that never seemed washed. Our family checked out the boat and found it quite comfortable. It had two couches in the deckhouse, a radio/CD player, and a bathroom. A fighting chair with belt straps glistened on the wet deck. Just as I was about to sit down, the engine started! We were off! Ten whole hours of cranking and reeling action!

The water sloshed and foamed as two powerful motors ripped through it leaving a trail and disturbing the tranquil still ocean. We watched as the land we were on a few minutes ago slowly drifted away; we were out in the ocean free to roam wherever we wanted! When we were deep enough, Bear set out trolling lines for five short but thick poles with reels about the size of volleyballs. Jesse drove the boat deeper and deeper, dragging the colorful, shiny ten-inch lures behind. I saw my skinny, short, black-haired Philipino mom in the deckhouse; she didn’t look too good. She had a plastic trashcan right beside her and used it. She was seasick.

“Mom, you’ll be okay,” I tried to cheer her up. “Why don’t you come up top? There’s plenty of fresh air and a nice breeze up there.”

“Okay,” she coughed, “I knew this would happen; you owe me something for making me come on the trip.”

“No problem; I’ll do anything for this!”

Our whole family sat down on a cushioned bench on the top and talked with the captain. He told us that the key to finding fish is to follow the birds because the birds eat the leftovers of the big fish and should be in the same area.

SNAP!

“Bear, grab the pole,” the captain commanded. “Someone get in the chair!”

My brother hurried down the ladder and hopped into the chair. He got strapped in and started reeling. He tried with all his might and cranked very slowly; it seemed like he was trying to crank a five-ton brick lying at the bottom of the ocean. It seemed as if the line was going out instead of in until we saw an exhausted massive fish float to the clear blue surface. The captain told us to stand back as Bear tugged the line in hand over hand. The fish was on the boat! It flipped wildly but not for long after Jesse clobbered its head with three forceful strikes with an old wooden hammer. Everyone cheered and smiled. My brother was shocked; when he held it up, it stood up to his eyes! He had trouble gripping it and could hardly lift it! We weighed it and found it was a 24 pound ono! Bear flung it into the cooler and said, “Who’s next?”

I was so excited and couldn’t wait till I got to be in the hot seat. I went to the top and our family rode the waves and saw something big jump out of the water. It was a spinner dolphin! One, then two, then a whole group torpedoed with us gracefully.

An hour later we reached F buoy. It was a FAD (Fish Attraction Device) buoy. It was a faded, sun-worn, orange buoy that bobbed with the waves. Bear brought out two smaller poles and put a strip of pink surgical tube with a hook as bait at the end of the twenty pound test line. In a few minutes, WHAM! Bear yelled, “Fish on!” and handed the pole to me. I cranked and thought I had something really big. By the time I caught the fish my arm felt numb and sweat ran down my face. The fish flopped its six-pounds into the boat wildly. It had shiny skin with blue stripes. It was absolutely beautiful. When Bear unhooked my tuna, another fish was on. My eccentric dad got into the seat and started winding the reel like crazy. My father was a 160-pound Chinese with a long sleeved red shirt and shorts up several inches above his knees. He tired out quickly but got awarded the biggest tuna of the trip.

We fished at the buoy for about two hours, going back and forth and around the FAD. Both my mom and younger sister Rochelle caught some tuna and our cooler was getting filled with fish. Then we saw a mahimahi jump; it was the most beautiful fish I had ever seen.

“Chum the water!” shouted Captain Jesse.

Bear threw bits of fish into the water; then quick as a bullet a mahimahi shot by and grabbed it. Bear cut a bloody slab off one of the tunas we had caught and attached it to a hook. He sent it flying into the air, and it splashed into the surface of the dark-blue water. Before I could even look, Bear jerked the pole and yelled, “I’ve got ‘em!”

“Here, here, someone buckle into the fighting chair!” Bear quickly said.

I told my dad that he could get it, but he nudged me toward the chair. I smiled and jumped into the chair, ready to fight. I grabbed the pole and cranked the wet, golden, reel. Crank… Crank… Crank. Then the mahimahi jumped and flapped its glistening turquoise-yellow body in the bright sunlight trying to get loose. Not wanting to loose the beautiful fish I cranked even harder. Slowly it came closer and closer to the boat and with a quick sweep, Bear lunged over the side and gaffed it right through both slimy, quarter-sized, eyes. He flung it over the ledge and threw it into the cooler. Everyone congratulated me, and I felt a wonderful feeling inside me; I had just caught a big fish!

The next two hours we drove to another buoy, looking for a marlin! Our whole family looked tired and were napping and getting woken by collisions with fierce waves.

SNAP!

“We got a bite!”

Everyone hurried down the ladder and Houston slid into the fighting chair. He cranked, looking just as determined as before. The fish came in pretty quickly and was another ono. It was even bigger than the first, 30 pounds! Happy as can be, we continued trolling and headed to the harbor with our cooler full of fish. I tried to stay up but slept most of the way going back to the harbor, the Dramamine had overcome me.

When we got into the harbor we put up our fish flags to tell everyone what we caught. The shore fishermen all looked and seemed to say “wow” under their breath. It was a proud moment for the Chang family.

We unloaded all our fish and cut them up to fit Ziplocs. We ended up with a load of fish, over 100 pounds! We thanked the captain and Bear, and our family drove home with fresh fish that lasted for more dinners than you would imagine. I look at a picture of our family’s trip and it reminds me of one of the best experiences of my life.