Fishing in Public

by “Tackle Box” Billy Kelley

Speculations and resolutions

Hey folks. Cold, huh? You betcha cold. I think we might actually get a normal winter this year.

You know, I really hadn’t planned on another column this season. Why? No goddamn fish this year! And it weren’t just me. All my fish pals had real bad luck. Global warming? Laxer regulations? New Jersey? Is “laxer” a word? Or maybe it was just an off year, as sometimes happens. Who knows?

Anyway, as has happened before, Animal Planet changed my mind about writing. I happened to catch a TV show called River Monsters. Seen it? Actually, it’s usually kinda boring. Once you get past the piranhas, really, what can you say? Well, ’cept for this episode, that is. This guy, the star of the show, is getting his arm bit by some fish (the name of which escapes me now) and it’s really doing a helluva job on him.

It got me thinking: given half a chance, and given some more size, would a striper maybe hack me up like that? Now, I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s definitely well worth repeating. I’ve been bitten before by stripers and it don’t tickle. In fact, it hurts like a mother.

So, would it eat me given half a shot? Fucking A right it would. Not so fast as a bluefish, though. Those sons of bitches are holy terrors! If you made a scale of the most vicious of fish, blues would have no competition whatsoever.

Well, let me change that a bit. They would have competition — not from another fish, though. It’d be from Maine’s boss seafood, boss moneymaker, boss everything — even our damn license plate, for Christsakes! Yep: lobsters. You know why they got their claws clamped? So they don’t eat each other alive.

Sharks eat people, as a matter of course. But as I say, nothing like a bluefish. I even got a bit middle finger to fire at folks who don’t believe me. It needed some of the most expensive ’cillins in the whole drug store. Christ, they’re more than oxys! Kinda scary when the druggist says, “I hope they work. If not, off she goes.” Makes you get an attitude against blues, believe me. But of course the pills worked — I doubt I’d be able to write this otherwise.


This month is the anniversary of one of the most odd sea tragedies in history. In January 1999, three clam boats went down in 13 days. Certainly set no records or anything, but kinda weird, huh? See, down south of us they drag for clams as we drag up here for what we call groundfish — you know, cod, haddock and such. But what caused all three to go down in such a short period is the question.

There was no laws regarding clam vessels, was the big thing. And I suspect the crews all had a disease we’ll refer to as “green eyes.” They loaded the boats according to money, not safety. But like the Coasties said, boats don’t sink for just one reason. It’s a combination of things: overloading, stacking mishaps, crew plain tired (with no laws, you could work 7-24, and you know what that can lead to), the weather. Heck, it was January off the coast of New England. We don’t need a map to explain that one, do we?


So what about next season? I’ll tell you what. I’ve always done things what we call “the old way.” Well, no more. Next season I’m gonna try all the cute little gimmicks I can come across. Number one will be a lure called a Christmas Tree ’cause of its many colors. And that’s just for starters. I’m intent on visiting every fish department I can get to and try every trick I can find. Hey, after this disastrous year, how could I go wrong?

Of course I’ll report how this whole thing works, and any of my successes. But you could help me, also. You could report any new gizmo you happen to come across by writing or e-mailing this mag.

I do look forward to a new season of better fishing, with new experimentation, new ways of fishing. Like I say, why the fuck not, right? At least I’ll have a good time of things. After all, my philosophy has always been, It’s not what you catch but how much fun you have catching ’em.

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