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THE BOATMEN OF AVALON
“OF RECREATION THERE IS NONE SO FREE AS FISHING IS ALONE.”
THE public boatmen at Avalon own their own launches and supply all manner of fishing tackle to their patrons, the loan of which is included in the price charged for the day’s rental of the fishing boat.
The luxury of borrowed tackle is much enjoyed by the novice or casual fishing visitor, who does not appreciate until too late that his expenses have been greatly added to by breakage, for broken tackle must be replaced by the amateur and the lines supplied are often of ancient vintage.
The regulars have their own personal ideas as to rods, reels, and lines, and do not trust the outfits supplied by the professionals, but the innocent one-day casual fisherman has to learn by experience. If he returns to Catalina on a second visit he generally arrives supplied with tackle galore, for his visit has made him wise.
If you are unfortunate enough to lose a fish, it is the boatman who is disappointed, for he feels that it is his reputation as a fisherman that has been injured by your mistakes or your misfortune, and you rise or fall in his estimation according to your skill, or often your luck, in landing fish, for his reputation depends upon the fish that are brought home and weighed.
The amount of sport a fisherman enjoys at Catalina on his first visit to the island depends greatly upon the boatman he employs to guide him in his piscatorial efforts, for there are boatmen a-plenty to be had but they are not all good fishermen as well.
I remember the experience of a friend of mine a few years ago. He arrived at Avalon full of expectation and, having read Professor Holder’s books and learned much of the ability and fishing knowledge of one “Mexican Joe,” hunted him up and started out fishing.
SANTA CATALINA FISHING LAUNCH
Now Mexican Joe in the Professor’s day and at the time I would tell of was two different beings. Joe had grown old and careless and no longer took much interest in his trade. His boat and tackle were antiquated and what custom he had was owing to his past reputation, for he had been one of the earliest and best fishermen at Avalon.
My friend fished with fair luck and captured a few albacore. Towards sunset when some miles from land, the launch suddenly stopped and Joe began to tinker with the engine, but to no avail. After trying every trick he knew of he went forward and sounded the gasolene tank and informed my enthusiastic fishing friend that the last drop of gasolene had disappeared.
Joe was not at all disturbed at the situation, remarking that they would surely be picked up during the night or on the morrow. He was afloat on his home waters and quite happy.
After throwing the fish that had been caught overboard, much against the advice of my friend who saw the only food in sight wasted, Joe curled up and went to sleep.
Night had fallen and the wind began to blow, which caused a short sea that tossed the helpless launch about in a most uncomfortable manner. My friend sat in a chair all night, bracing himself against the tumbling waves, believing that his night as well as his day had come.
They were searched for the following morning and picked up many miles from Avalon.
The names of Professor Holder and Mexican Joe are both still anathema to my fishing friend, for he has not forgotten his night-long vigil in an open launch on a strange and inhospitable sea.
The boatmen are of many different nationalities. One of them, a Latin and a good fisherman, was employed by a giant cattleman from the western plains to take him fishing. He undertook to tell the cowboy how to fish: “Me-ester Snow,” he said, “you must not leeft your rod dat way but dis way.” —“Go on, you d—d dago, don’t you suppose I know how to fish?” had been the reply. A short time after the Westerner landed a fish by brute force and shouted:
“There is a fish for you, my dago friend, did I not tell you I knew how to fish?” “Yes, Mr. Snow,” said the boatman as he removed the hook, “you have a fish but, Mr. Snow, it is the leetlest fish I ever see!”
One season on my arrival at Catalina I found my usual boatman was employed for a few days so that I was obliged to hunt for a substitute. The fishing had been good and most of the boats were engaged by the week. The man who fell to my lot was a foreigner with a great reputation for finding fish if they were anywhere about. I was not impressed by his boat. It looked like a junk-shop. Rusted bolts, screws, hooks, and tools were piled in heaps on the thwarts, and the boat had apparently not been cleaned in many moons.
The boatman produced a very rusty hook and snood and proposed to bend it on to my line. I objected and handed him a new hook rigged to my liking. This was criticised and not approved of but reluctantly tied to my line, and I proceeded to fish.
A short time after the boatman touched me on the shoulder and remarked: “You men come from the East and tell us professionals how to fish.” I said nothing notwithstanding that the boot was on the other leg.
We combed the ocean all day with no result, for it was one of those still days at sea which makes one believe that the fish have formed a League of Nations with an agreement not to bite.
On the following day I hooked a large marlin and the fun began. I looked over my shoulder and saw the fish jumping ahead of the launch and became busy reeling in the slack line. When this had been accomplished I found to my horror that it led directly under the launch, the boatman having crossed the line. I shouted but the boatman calmly replied: “How do I know where the fish he goes!” The line fouled on the keel of the launch and parted.
SPEARFISH OR MARLIN
I sat with folded arms and watched that giant fish, irritated by the drag through the water of five hundred feet of free line, jump thirty or more times. The conversation that followed the final jump of that marlin was interesting; however, I hooked another fish and that one was safely landed.
Two days later this boatman had a novice fishing with him who lost a fine fish at the last moment, owing to the breaking of the wire snood—the rusty one I had discarded!
Swordfish and marlin have such great strength and weight that it is always wise to take no chances with tackle. It must be new, sound, and strong, for it is heartbreaking to lose a fish after thirty minutes, or in some cases hours, of hard struggle.
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