Fishing in Public

By "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley
By "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley

Talkin’ trash

Hey, folks. Hot enough for you? It’s warm enough for me, you can bet.

I’ll warn you right now: don’t look for any humor in this column. And for those who read this to make lighthearted conversation later, well, stop right here. Let me explain why.

First is the matter of Michelle. I lost my friend Diane as a copilot last year and it appears I’ve lost Michelle this year. Most unfortunate event, I assure you. She was such a ball to go fishing with. I’ll never, ever forget her stock phrase: murdering fish. But I’ve yet to hear from her in quite a while, so there you go.

Then along comes my good pal and mentor, Cliff. I had intended to do a column on illegal lobstering, which I used to do often on the trestle. But when I told Cliff he was dead set against it, even though I swore to God I’d return them to the sea as soon as I got ’em. As consolation he said he’d accompany me on a fishing outing and help me put something together. In an odd way, he certainly did.

We were down on one of my private piers I sometimes go to, having a reasonably good time. Not catching much, as I’d forgotten the tackle, but still eking out some fishing with one of those Christmas tree things. It’s a little gizmo that sometimes you can get lucky with.

Well, we’d been there about two hours when a couple of young people show up to cool their throats with some beer. We exchanged pleasantries and such, you know. They seem friendly enough. Then, to my horror, they’re throwing their empties into the drink! Right in front of me! Boy, did that get Cliff’s dander up, and you know how I felt.

Cliff gave them his opinion. Their response: “Well, it’s only a few dead fish.”

A few dead fish. Which further enraged Cliff. But how the fuck do you talk to these idiots? You can’t. They’d probably wait till we left and do worse stuff.

Now, another thing is this. I’ll not go into details, but I have it on good authority. I told you it’s been good fishing this year, and I was told that a couple of characters (I won’t say where) caught and kept eight stripers. Oh, come on! I can see some poor folks grabbing a couple to feed their kids or whatever, but this wasn’t the case at all. A couple of inconsiderate punks, overfishing and keeping them for nothing but bragging rights. Makes me puke.

And lastly, there’s this guy I know — not a great friend, mind you, but pretty close. We been down the same roads a lot. He was a big fan of this column — not to brag, but it has some bearing on this story. Because he got drunk and high and into the drink he goes. After all my fucking warnings! No excuse at all. I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall at times.

Instead of writing stories I should be writing about — again, this being the best fishing year in ages — I’m writing about ignorant people completely disrespecting our great waterfront, and my pal being drunk and foolish and killing himself.

I’m writing of walking around a waterfront that was such a joy and comfort to me at one time and seeing just as much trash and trashy people as there ever was. Picking up a newspaper everyday and reading about politicians and everyone else squabbling about the future of the harbor. And having to warn people not to touch fish that have scabs on their skin because they carry a disease that can be transferred to humans — a disease they got from people polluting the ocean.

Now granted, Diane and Michelle were indubitably my fault. But, you know, the whole picture is one of, at times, exasperation, and anguish, and dismay. Anybody out there wish to ease my melancholy attitude?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got a new disease: Gulf of Mexico Syndrome. But it surely saddens me, the direction we seem to be headed. Not good, folks. Not good.