Fishing in Public


By "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley

Hey, fishing aficionados. I wish I could say the fishing’s great, but it’d be a complete falsehood. No, it’s still too cold as this goes to press. Next month they’ll be here for sure, if my name ain’t Tackle Box Billy.

In the meantime my fishing posse and I are chomping at the bit, just can’t be patient when we’re so close to the starting gate. Plus the problem is this: what the fuck do I write about? You think this is easy, writing a fishing
column when there’s no fish? You try it.

However, during a recent conversation with my good pal Ralphie, he started bitching about those “goddamn black ducks,” and something suddenly occurred to me. In my past columns I’ve painted quite the rosy picture of waterfront fishing, of quaint days sitting down on the Maine State Pier lazing away, sunny days with the fish just about jumping in the bucket saying, “Cook me! Cook me!” 

Whoa right there! Reality check. It seems I’ve been a little misleading and, whoops, can you believe it? Me, being somewhat biased? 

Well, I do believe it’s time to set the record straight. It’s nowhere near the Garden of Eden I’ve made it out to be. The piers are actually a place to be treated with much caution and, at times, a little trepidation, and a lot of respect. 

Why? Let me paint a somewhat bleaker picture for you, starting with the Maine State Pier itself. 

The worst thing, of course, is it’s easy to fall off. When I was young and foolish I’d actually jump right in on hot days. Now that I’m much older and wiser, I compare jumping off the Maine State Pier to falling into a Malaysian tiger trap, the kind with bamboo stakes in the bottom. And plus, you might land on what’s called a camel, those logs adjacent to the pier to protect the pilings. Ouch! Serious injury.

Also, just sitting on the pier can be dicey. You know, splinters, nail heads protruding — you see what I mean. And even if you’re lucky enough to get a bollard, they can be slippery and get hot on sunny days. 

Besides those obstacles are the nuisances, and number one is — you guessed it — seagulls. Lucky indeed is the angler who doesn’t get bombed while fishing. Not only that, they are the consummate thieves. Your bait, your catch, even your lunch are all in peril from these chew-and-screw mothers. I’m glad they don’t like PBRs. 

And they’re not the only felonious thugs down there. Getting back to those “goddamn black ducks” — cormorants, actually. These guys are a double whammy ’cause they can fly and swim. I’ve had those bastards take my fish right off my line whilst reeling him in. It’s like, “That’s mine, you son of a bitch!” They will piss you off. 

And then you’ll hear this often: “Oh, look at the cute seals. Aren’t they precious.” Well, I hate to tell you, I’ve heard that enough to make me puke. Let me clue you in. They’re the worst in a way. They use their cutesy good looks to lure you into a sense of passivity while they’re actually eating your supper. 

To put some context into this, if they compared to people, the gulls are the in-your-face muggers, cormorants the escape artists and seals the con men. And that’s not it for the animal kingdom. There are many you won’t see, being nocturnal rodents. And I’ve seen ’em all down there — coons, skunks, you name it. 

By far the worst, of course, are the rats. Not near as numerous as they were back in the day, but still plenty to go around. Unless you like night fishing, as I occasionally do, you probably won’t see them. But if you do spot one they are an ugly sight. 

Now, do not believe the myth that they’re as big as housecats, but they are dangerous in the fact they carry a lot of diseases like rabies, germs, vermin, and some other diseases science has not thought of yet. 

Moving right along, let’s consider what you might bring up. Worst of all is something called a sculpin. Jules Verne and Stephen King together couldn’t invent this fish in their wildest nightmares. I tell you, they’re right out of the dinosaur age. I’ve actually heard girls scream at the sight of these creatures. Grown men have asked me to unhook ’em for fear of touching them. No shit. Now, they’re harmless, really, but trust me, you’ll not ever forget the sight of these mini-ogres of the sea and you could even lose some sleep thinking about ’em. 

Then again, you might also bring up a crustacean. Lucky me, you think. Wrong. If you don’t handle a crab or lobster exactly the right way you’ll get a bite you’ll be telling your grandkids about. And plus, they don’t let go. I got bit right on the palm of my hand once and I remember it like it was yesterday, but in fact it was 25 years ago! Enough said? And if that’s not bad enough, you might get spotted by one of those coastal wardens who are always around till you want one. Big fine!

Those are the biggest pains in the butt. Now I’ll get into what I call the minor nuisances. The flies. Christ, the flies! Black flies, green flies, big flies, small flies, flies that bite, flies that get in your eyes, nose, mouth and beer. With fish, there’s no getting around ’em. Jesus. And so many other bugs — enough to send an Orkin man into retirement. Fleas, bees — name it, they’re there.

Then people. Oh, lovely people. Young delinquents, drunk, playing gangsta rap so you can’t hear yourself talk. Or the amateurs learning how to cast a line for the first time. I’ll tell you from much experience a mackerel jig in the side of the head is no walk in the park. And for some reason blood poisoning from a fish hook is worse than your garden-variety type infection. I actually came close to having nine fingers once. 

And the wind is another pain (pre-rolled joints are imperative). 

Now, with all those trials and tribulations, you’re thinking, Why? Why put up with all them hardships just to (hopefully) bring home some stinky fish? I mean, even your bait bites you (clam worms)! 

Because, for all that, it’s fun. It can actually be the most fun you’ll ever have. The memories will last a lifetime. And it’s kind of hard to boast about going to a fish market, isn’t it? Plus, if you bring your sweetheart it’ll do wonders for your love life. She will be impressed, especially if you catch something! I bring my camera. 

Now, that being said, it’s a very short season for fishing down there, so get your ass in gear and get down to the Maine State Pier while you still can. God knows it’ll be a condo someday. Like ol’ Bob Barker used to say, “Come on down!” Happy fishing!

%d bloggers like this: