Fishing in Public

By “Tackle Box” Billy Kelley

The macks are back 

Yippie hi-ho hi-ay! Today is the day! Going down the pier to catch some big ol’ fishies! I know I said something last month ’bout goin’ to check out the Presumpscot, but they’re here in the harbor at last, and I want some goddamned fish!

You know, I did some arithmetic. I calculated that for a person receiving food stamps — no kids or nothing, just a single person eligible for the regular allowance — what folks receive boils down to 2.77 cents a meal. So it’s almost necessary to fish to help with a grocery bill. Hang in there and pay attention and I’ll help you make ends meet.

I’m waiting for a pal right now who I’ve never fished with before. We got a mack pole and a striper pole all ready and waitin’ to go. One of my scouts (who’s very reliable, by the way) has just reported to me that he witnessed a guy who caught a 40-inch striper down off the new cruise ship pier.


Sea horses. Big trade value. Medicinal properties: kidney disorders, impotence, asthma. The bigger the better, they say. (Sorry, I’m just still cleaning out my notes.) Oh, and as you’ve probably already heard, it is true: the male of the species carries the luggage. This is possible because at mating the female transfers the eggs over to the male. Now back to fishing…


I jig for two straight hours and don’t get a thing. Now, what’s that about? I can see all sorts of herring. The mackerels should be right behind them, so why the heck ain’t I catching them? After about the first hour I definitely see the trouble: seals. Goddamn seals.

You know, I asked this girl last year to please don’t feed the seals. “Oh no,” she said. “It’s alright and it’s fun to feed them.” But as I said to her, why don’t you come back next year and see. I told her that she’d be gone but the seals would be back. Sure enough. Them goddamn seals got a memory like an elephant. I do hope she’s reading this wherever she is in her selfish existence.

Jesus, I can’t believe how fucking mad I am. And even worse, I see the seals are using whatever communications they use to spread the word. I seen the same thing happen in Monterey, California — a great site for fishing until the tourists or whoever comes around and feeds the seals.


You know, as much as I bitch about seagulls, they too have their niche in the animal world. Because what they do is, when some fish come up and float on the surface, seagulls pick off and eat any parasites that the fish is lugging around. I guess everyone has a purpose, huh? And even with the cold habitat of the Gulf of Maine there are about 40 types of worms and parasites on our fish. Not to worry too much, though.

The first job I ever had in the fish biz was a thing called “candling.” You put a bright light under the fish and the worms will stick right out like a sore thumb. So then you just take a pair of tweezers and voila, out come the perps, as we say in cops’ lingo.

You know, you even gotta have some respect for these little parasitic parasites. They’re like most ocean critters: very tough. They can make it through anything — anything but warm water.

But back to fishing. Not catching any macks today and I’m out of bait. So I’ll dig some worms, scout a new site, and all will go rolling along like always.


My luck has turned for the better for a change. I don’t have to dig no worms. What I done was procrastinate for a bit and then try fishing again and now I’m bringing the damn macks in like no fucking tomorrow! And what was real odd was we were fishing the wrong tide.

I brought my pal Bruce along. I call him a new recruit. He’s new to the mackerel thing but he’s not new to fishing, which is real good. So I don’t have to teach him his way around a jigger, how to cast, or any of the other mechanics of fishing, but I do get to teach him some of the details of saltwater fishing off the pier. Important stuff, such as how much and how far to lie. See, you have to lie about where you catch ’em (we don’t want no big crowd where we go) and how many you catch (exaggeration is the key here).

But back to Bruce. He doesn’t get it — not really — but his newness to the sport is actually a delight. I’m so used to the old hands you can’t tell a damn thing to. And he’s having a real good time as well. For the first time in ages I’m actually seeing someone laugh out loud.

And like I said, it’s a strange thing. We ventured out to fish without checking the tide. We caught eight fish in the low tide, which is definitely not supposed to happen.

The bad thing about our good adventure goin’ fishing is that Bruce is going out of town permanently, pretty quick. Good in a way, ’cause he’s got good fishing tales to tell faraway folks. Kinda bad, as I’m sure he’ll miss having such a good time as we had that day.

I forgot to mention: he caught a mackerel on his first darn cast. Now that is something to write home about.