The Native Sun

After I left Clayton’s place in 1971, following my motto of “Retire Early … And Often”, I retired for a while. It was good fun, but as usual, impending hunger eventually called me out of retirement, and I went looking for work. I walked the docks looking for a fishing job. I searched in Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay, and on down the coast.  On the commercial fishing docks in Sausalito, in San Franciso Bay, I finally came to a boat called the “Native Sun”. It was what’s called a “bait boat”, fishing for albacore tuna, AKA thunnus alalunga. I’d never fished on an albacore bait boat before. But I’d fished with lampara net for anchovy before, and they badly needed a crewman who could handle the lampara nets they used to catch the bait for the albacore. The previous guy who knew lampara nets had jumped ship for some reason, so they were short-handed.

The skipper’s name was Daryl. He was an Early Asian Immigrant, or as he called himself, an Indian. Hence the name of his boat. As I recall he was from one of the Plains tribes, and both a good seaman and a good man. He took a chance and hired me on, and was a pleasure to work for.

albacore tuna

Figure 1. Albacore tuna. 

First we finished provisioning the boat, food and fuel. Then, just before leaving for sea, we drove across the bay and set our nets right in the middle of the Oakland Ship Channel. It was a splash and dash operation, you can’t legally fish there because of the ship traffic, but that’s where the anchovies happened to be. Hey, I was just the crewman. We set the nets in the late afternoon after making sure no big ships were coming through. We caught maybe a tonne of anchovies, put as many of them in our “live tank” as it would hold, and released the rest. The live tank has sea water constantly pumped through the tank to keep them alive.

NOTE: More tales of following the wily albacore around the deep blue-water Pacific ocean follow. If you press the button immediately below marked “Continue reading →”, that’s what you’ll find. Please don’t bother complaining that it’s not science after you pushed the button, you’ll either get ignored or people will laugh at you.

Then we drove out under the Golden Gate Bridge on a late summer afternoon. Fog was streaming in through the Golden Gate as I slid once again underneath that magic structure. I love all of the views of the bridge, from offshore, from on land, from the hills of San Francisco … but my favorite view of the Golden Gate Bridge is from directly underneath, either returning from sea, or as in this case, leaving the City behind. Soon the land behind us vanished in the misty white.

Off of northern California, the albacore stay a long ways from shore, they like warm water. Inshore the water is cold from the upwelling currents, and thick and green with life. Because it is cold, the air above it often condenses, making a dense fog. We drove straight west, over a pea-soup green ocean in an impenetrable, sound-deadening fog. In a fog, your boat moves and moves, but it seems you never go anywhere. The landscape is always the same.

After a day and a half of motoring without moving, one morning we suddenly burst out of the fog bank into a tropical movie. Warm breezes. Blue sky. And best of all, blue, crystal clear ocean. I turned around. I saw a fog bank stretching from horizon to horizon behind me. I laughed out loud, the contrast was so great. That was the first time I’d ever seen that, the sharp dividing line between the cold green water coastal water and the warm blue oceanic water.

albacore tuna map

 Figure 2. Map of the wanderings of a couple of different schools of albacore tuna. SOURCE

The albacore range widely across the Pacific, coming by the California coast usually in the late summer and fall. As the map shows, during the rest of the year the schools of fish travel tens of thousands of miles around the Pacific.To find the fish, we motored over an endless sea, hour after hour. We towed a couple of lures on long poles out each side of the boat, and a couple of lures on short lines straight back. Then it’s just cruise, hour after hour, along the sea temperature the albacore prefer (58°-64°F, or 14.5°-18°C). We followed a temperature line, north or south, until we found the fish. When we found a school of albacore, then the game was on.

The first time (and one of the few times that first trip) that we got into the real fish was an education.  The fishing is done with short bamboo poles maybe nine feet (three metres) long. The fishing pole doesn’t have a reel, just a piece of strong line tied to the tip of the pole. The line is a bit shorter than the pole. At the end of the line it has a feathered jig with a stout, broad barbless hook.

First a “stage” was lowered over the side. It’s a long narrow steel mesh platform secured just above the surface of the ocean, with a knee-high rail to brace against. Five of us clambered down with the poles, wearing hip boots to stay dry. I was at the right hand end. Someone starting throwing dip-net-fulls of the live anchovies overboard. The school of albacore came up near the boat, voracious for the anchovies. The game is to flip the hook overhand into the water. A fish hits it instantly. You muscle it up out of the water with the pole and flip it straight over your head onto the deck. As it flies overhead, you shake the pole, the hook drops out of the fish’s mouth, and you whip the lure right back into the water.

At least that was the theory. They say that “The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory”, and I proved it that day.

I flipped my first cast tentatively into the water. Immediately, and I mean as soon as the feathered lure struck the surface, an albacore hit it. I was unprepared, and the ship was steaming forwards. By the time I got it out of the water, it was halfway down the line of five men.

And it was heavy! They weigh about 30 pounds (14kg), and they hit the line at full speed. Unprepared again, I tried to swing it up and over. I only got it head-high; I know that because it gave the last man in line a salty slap right in the face. He was not happy, but of course the other fishermen found it hilarious. The skipper, Daryl, screamed “Keep the damned hooks in the water.” I was ready for the next one, which came immediately, and flipped it up on deck. From then on, it was just work. It was like shoveling, except we were shoveling fish out of the ocean. We pulled the fish on board, one after the other, for maybe forty-five minutes. It was backbreaking labor. Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the fish were gone. We all climbed back up on the deck from the stage, my arms ached. I’d never fished like that in my life.

We fished there offshore for just under a month. Day after day of endless blue sky and blue water. Everyone got a suntan.

Unfortunately, the suntan was almost all we got, we didn’t find many fish. We came back in to port in Santa Cruz after about a month. We sold the fish to the fish buyers and ran the numbers. On an offshore boat like that, the shares were divided after the food and fuel is deducted. Basically, the operation first has to pay its own way. Then after that, the shares were figured. In this case, the money from the sale of the fish didn’t quite cover food and fuel. Again by the tradition of that time and place, the skipper had to pay that difference, the crew didn’t have to kick in any money.

But we didn’t make any money either, a month’s work and not one thin dime. I was bummed, royally bummed. Oh, well, I figured, I was in Santa Cruz, and my old girlfriend was living there. So I hitchhiked out to Camp Joy Gardens to see her. But she’d left the day before, seems she’d taken up with a good friend of mine and had hit the road. My spirits sank even lower, I’d hoped to see her. The sun went down, the fall wind was chill.

I hitchhiked back to Santa Cruz. I got propositioned on the last ride into town by some gay guy who’d stopped to give me a ride. I said no thanks. He started crying. It was that kind of night, depression on all sides. I got out of his car and I went to a riverfront bar in Santa Cruz and got really, really drunk. I walked back to the Native Sun, somehow negotiated the ladder down from the dock to the boat, poured myself into my bunk, and passed out.

When I woke up, the ship was underway. My head was pounding. My mouth was dry. We ran from Santa Cruz down to Moss Landing, to get fuel for the boat. I felt … well, tolerable when I woke up at sea, and I felt passable, at least, when we came into the harbor and tied up to the fuel dock.

But when we started pumping fuel and I got a big whiff of that diesel, my stomach rebelled. I hurried to the side of the boat and threw up over the rail. The crew, of course, found my lengthy heaves quite hilarious, I was the butt of jokes for days—”That Willis, he’s a hell of a fishermen, but he’s a sensitive kinda guy, wants to get a head start on everyone … so he starts puking while the boat’s still at the dock”.

no hurlingAfter I’d finished throwing up far too much slightly-used alcohol, and after we had finished refueling the Native Sun, we left the tall smokestacks of the Moss Landing power plant behind us in the gathering mist and went back out again, driving and driving and finally bursting through the wall of fog into the blue water dream world on the far side of the misty white, back out where every day was clear and warm. I worked on my tan, and learned more and more about the albacore and the ocean. And the fish were more kindly. We spent about a month and a half at sea, and when we came back to land and sold the catch, this time the boat and the crew made a little money. The albacore season was over, I said goodby to the crew, thanked Daryl, and the crew and I all left the boat. I’d built both my biceps and my bankroll up a ways … not a long ways, but it would pay for a bit more of early retirement, so that’s exactly what I did.

My regards to all,

w.

.

…  [2013] collected for Willis’s autobiography, entitled “Retire Early … And Often” …

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47 Responses to The Native Sun

  1. Rick Bradford says:

    My view is that manual labor is real fun if you don’t have to do it — maybe that applies to most endeavors.

    So if you can work your way into a place where you only have to do the tough stuff as long as it suits you, that constitutes a good life.

    “Retire a bit later”, keeping something back for a rainy day, maybe….. ?

  2. Wyguy says:

    I do love a good fish tale, TY Willis.

  3. Gil Russell says:

    Another fine “Eschenbach Reader” entry. Thanks Willis…,

  4. Again, Willis, thank you very much!
    A very good short story, a fisherman’s tale, with meteorology and navigation and food.

  5. Baa Humbug says:

    Should have kept at the tuna fishing Willis, you may have ended up an Olympic weight lifting gold medalist just like Australias own tuna fishing gold medalist from the 84 LA games Dean Lukin.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Lukin

  6. A small suggestion: a new tab named something like “Willis Stories” or “Resident Philosopher”. Run the posts as they are now but also place them in the new tab. Sorting them in chronological order may also be of interest.

    But then…
    If Willis has in mind publishing his stories, that format would “compete” with his book sales. While I enjoy “free” stuff, I also acknowledge that Willis should get paid for the work he has invested in writing these posts.

    Anyway, Willis, thank you for the “free stuff”. And when you want to get paid for your work, I’d like to buy a Kindle copy. Unless, of course, you autograph a first edition hard cover with a clever and pithy inscription. That could be worth a premium.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  7. tgmccoy says:

    Having lived on the southern Oregon coast and known people like the crew of the Native Sun.
    Enjoyed that -knew a Couple of Native skippers who boat owners. We were at a party given by
    the local Greenie Empress for their local “Save the Salmon” Champaign -which of course meant no fishermen-but she was trying to get them to support closing sawmills and Powerplants.She and he greenie cohorts would deal with the fishermen later…
    One of the Native Boat owners was there. “Buck” had been a fisherman all his life.He was bulit like
    a Kodiak bear-had a temper like one too.Anyway the Empress , came up and started speaking
    Spanish to Buck and offering him guacamole and salsa for his chips…”I’m not MEXICAN!!!’
    “I am Makah! ” Buck has look of a Kodiak about to deal with a Black Bear that invaded his berry patch.. Perlexed, Empress looked over at i and My wife.(This little shindig was at Wife’s sister’s
    place a B&B that had a huge dining room/livig room) Wife was invited and I was shanghied to go
    to the party.”So you’re related to Mr. McCoy?” “NO I am a Makah Indian!! you …(he wanted to add-he told me later “Green gilled, pasty blonde, econazi..” ) She said:”Oh if I’d known that, I
    would’ve had a Sage purification for you.!!” “I’m a Baptist! lady , and you can consider and and
    my crew gone!!” he whistled and three of his crew were there, and they left.This started a Cascade of Crabbers, Fishemen and locals to leave the room as Buck was the president of the Fishermen’s association . Party Over..I wanted to get back home anyway..
    Great Sea Story- as usual Willis…
    Keep it up..

  8. Mr Lynn says:

    Willis’s tentative book title, “Retire Early . . .and Often” reminds me of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, who also liked to take his retirement in installments. Makes a lot of sense—unless you’ve got kids.

    Not my business, but I wonder about the copyright implications of publishing on on free blogs. Under current law, anything you write is your own, but without any notices on the posts themselves, or on the site (anything on this one?), I wonder if a claim against others lifting material would stick. And how would that affect ‘real’ publication? But no doubt Willis and Anthony have thought about such matters.

    /Mr Lynn

  9. Chuck Nolan says:

    Nice story Willis.
    I too will eagerly purchase several hard copies of your autobiography.
    How about an audio book?
    cn

  10. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Mr Lynn says:
    March 3, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Willis’s tentative book title, “Retire Early . . .and Often” reminds me of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, who also liked to take his retirement in installments. Makes a lot of sense—unless you’ve got kids.

    Thanks, Mr. Lynn. Not true in my world, I certainly didn’t stop when our daughter was born …

    Not my business, but I wonder about the copyright implications of publishing on on free blogs. Under current law, anything you write is your own, but without any notices on the posts themselves, or on the site (anything on this one?), I wonder if a claim against others lifting material would stick. And how would that affect ‘real’ publication? But no doubt Willis and Anthony have thought about such matters.

    You don’t need to assert copyright, it’s inherent in the work. I don’t know what effect that would have on publication, though, it’s a good question and I’m still looking for a good literary agent to answer it.

    Anyone know of a good book agent who might like some work? I need one.

    w.

  11. Annie says:

    I enjoyed this further installment Willis. You’ve certainly lived life to the full!

    The only ‘Albacore’ I’ve come across is the wonderful dinghy I used to sail.

  12. Will the book be published with a notice of fiction or will there be foot notes with witness back up to prove it all true?

  13. Doonman says:

    Great story. That oceanic temperature break is real and unmistakeable. 55 degree green water to 61 degree blue water in about 100 yards. From year to year, the temperature break moves in and out from the coast anywhere from 20 to 200 miles.
    Central coast albacore is fine table fare. Known affectionately as the ‘Chicken of the Sea’. Only one issue, your caption says the albacore are also known as the big eye. This is incorrect, they are two different species, albacore is Thunnus alalunga and the big eye is Thunnus obesus.

  14. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Doonman says:
    March 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Great story. That oceanic temperature break is real and unmistakeable. 55 degree green water to 61 degree blue water in about 100 yards. From year to year, the temperature break moves in and out from the coast anywhere from 20 to 200 miles.

    It’s an amazing sight, and like you say, the break is perfectly distinct.

    Central coast albacore is fine table fare. Known affectionately as the ‘Chicken of the Sea’. Only one issue, your caption says the albacore are also known as the big eye. This is incorrect, they are two different species, albacore is Thunnus alalunga and the big eye is Thunnus obesus.

    A bit of research shows you’re right, always more to learn, I fixed the caption, thanks. The fishermen I knew called albacore “big eye”, but as you point out that’s a different tuna entirely.

    w.

  15. Doug Proctor says:

    What’s nice about the skeptic sites such as this (and Tallblokes, for instance) is that we can still have some laughs and learn something interesting, even if not relevant to CAGW. Warmist sites are so EARNEST.

    I have never owned Birkenstocks, but if were wearing some I would agree they were both useful AND subject for a good joke. Unlike the Birkenstock-wearers I’ve known.

    Thanks for these stories, Willis (And Anthony)!

  16. Willis Eschenbach says:

    fobdangerclose says:
    March 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Will the book be published with a notice of fiction or will there be foot notes with witness back up to prove it all true?

    Do you have a habit of making sleazy accusations of falsification without a scrap of proof, or is this a one-off kind of deal?

    Fob, you apparently haven’t had much experience with honest men like myself. I don’t lie about what I’ve done, I consider that an abomination. I have told the truth about the Native Sun as I know it, warts and all, just as I have told the truth about everything else in my autobiography.

    So you can stuff your nasty allegations right up the fundamental orifice you pulled them out of. Because perhaps they apply to you, fob, but I know they have nothing to do with me, so how about you just store them internally for a while longer?

    w.

    PS—You ask for witnesses? I have named and linked to a variety of people in my stories … I note that you haven’t even contacted them before accusing me of lying. But then, you haven’t said exactly what you claim I’m lying about either, typical of charming individuals like yourself, instead you just wave your hands and spew your vague nastiness without any details, examples, facts, or truth in them at all …

  17. Mark Bofill says:

    Doug Proctor says:

    March 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

    What’s nice about the skeptic sites such as this (and Tallblokes, for instance) is that we can still have some laughs and learn something interesting, even if not relevant to CAGW. Warmist sites are so EARNEST.

    I have never owned Birkenstocks, but if were wearing some I would agree they were both useful AND subject for a good joke. Unlike the Birkenstock-wearers I’ve known.

    Thanks for these stories, Willis (And Anthony)!

    ——————
    Well said Doug! I agree with everything except about the Birkenstock wearers. Oh, I’m sure you’re right about most of them not agreeing, but my wife loves her Birkenstocks and she’ll laugh at anything. Heck, she married me; if that’s not proof of a healthy sense of humor I don’t know what is! :)

  18. jorgekafkazar says:

    Rick Bradford says: “My view is that manual labor is real fun if you don’t have to do it — maybe that applies to most endeavors.”

    Yeah, I could sit and watch people do manual labor for hours.

  19. Harvey Harrison says:

    Willis: For all the good it did I went shopping for a literary agent and found one. Bad news is they haven’t sold a blessed thing so there is no point in recommending them, not that a Canadian agent would be of any help.
    Book publishing is not the industry it once was. Like so many other businesses they tried to defend what was instead of being in the vanguard of what will be.
    You do not need to worry about losing your copyright for many authors were discovered by having works serialized in magazines and newspapers. Those venues no longer exist to any extent but the Internet certainly does and reaches millions. At this stage of the game almost any exposure is good (within reason) and will lead to being seen by those who can get you into print.
    I wish to thank Anthony for giving you the space. To judge by the number of comments you receive this might even lead WUWT in a whole new direction. That is what the Internet is all about.

  20. RockyRoad says:

    Veracity? There’s far more truth in a story by Willis than a “scientific” presentation by Mann. In fact, they’re polar opposites–no complaints here.

  21. u.k.(us) says:

    fobdangerclose says:

    March 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Will the book be published with a notice of fiction or will there be foot notes with witness back up to prove it all true?
    =============
    If you could even give a flying tuna, and your comment was not just drive-by snark, you might want to research the claims yourself.
    You just might claim the “pull-its-err” prize.

  22. Jesse G. says:

    Willis – It wouldn’t hurt to put a copyright notice at the end of each story. In today’s electronic world it doesn’t really mean much but it’s a good habit to get into anyway. There are a lot of unscrupulous folks on the internet who will steal from you if they think it’s worthwhile. Example: I wrote a book on my adventures in Thailand. Originally I self-published and sold the books (paperback) via the internet. Later a publisher saw my work and offered to put it into general distribution through bookstores in Thailand. Sales were good and I had a couple of great reviews in local newspapers. A man from Germany read the book (English) and decided he could make money if the book was translated into German. He never contacted me or my publisher; he just did it. Eventually I discovered what he had done and demanded he stop. Legal action was not an option because lawyers make more money than God and I would never recoup the cost. In any event, put the copyright notice on everything you write.

    Chances of finding a major publisher for your autobiography are small. If you merely want to have hard copies of your work, it can be done relatively easily and for next to nothing as long as you are handy with a computer (which it appears that you are). Let me know if you need more infor.

    Jesse

  23. RockyRoad says:

    Willis asks:
    Anyone know of a good book agent who might like some work? I need one.

    I’d first look at the how-to books on Amazon regarding book publishing and copyrighting and follow their suggestions, for the game is indeed changing. A new approach is called “self-publishing” and one book about doing this, entitled “Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success” is even free!

    Now, I’m not a big fan of ebooks–I’d rather have pages to turn and write on, but there are similar resources for hard-copy efforts, too, even when self-publishing.

    In the past 10 years I’ve bought about 50 books from Amazon–all of the “used” variety and have been especially pleased with the quality. My savings have ranged from 40% to 90% depending on the age and popularity of the book.

    Start with cheap instructions from Amazon and go from there. And good luck getting your book published, Willis.

  24. redc1c4 says:

    that’s twice now that you’ve promised tasty, science free entertainment, only to lard the story down with science, facts, etc…

    Stop It!

    %-)

  25. beng says:

    I’ve seen the documentaries where tuna attack a bait-ball of small fish at literally blinding speed.

  26. Luis Anastasía says:

    It is an other tale of your incredible life. And, indeed, it is about science: physics, biology, oceanography and ecology at least.
    Thank you!

  27. Steve B says:

    Willis
    Amazon has a self publishing facility. You can write, convert to Kindle format then park it at Amazon (for a fee of course).
    Something to look into. If sales go ok then you can find a publisher for wider publication

  28. Willis,

    I self published my book Hedging Risk, about managing a hedge fund during the great economic crisis using a free plug in for self hosted WordPress that designed for digital download sales. It uses PayPal for the processing of all major credit cards. You completely control price, discounts, etca.

    Check out http://www.dyddpublishing.com for the working example. Buyers receive an email with a timed expire, limited download, link to the eBook. WordPress tracks your sales and keeps track of each buyer and their contact info if you need to refund anyone, its a snap.

    The buyers funds arrive at your paypal account in seconds, vs the 75+ days or more on average that it takes to get paid from Amazon, even after they have taken their 30% cut. I would suggest self publishing, and then making the book available at Amazon,and Barnes & Nobel as secondary random buyer locations.

    If you have any Q’s about setting it up, you can contact me at jack @ jackhbarnes.com

  29. Gary Hladik says:

    Willis, your story brought back a long-lost childhood memory of a TV documentary on tuna fishing. I don’t remember the exact show, but it went something like this one:

  30. A.D. Everard says:

    The various suggestions about Amazon are correct.

    If you go through Amazon (Create Space), you can produce a paperback. One of the set-up pages will take you through to Kindle for an e-book version.

    Their costs for this come out of sales, so there is no up front fee.

    The world of publishing has changed. Agents and publishers are locked into very narrow acceptances. They play safe with what they think are winners and take no chances with “unknowns” especially writers who are outside the box.

    Writers tolerated this for so long – and now are simply going around them. Adding to the problem is that publishers push their new books onto the shelves then straight off again with the idea of keeping up a rapid flow. The downside is that they are never on the shelf long enough for word of mouth to work – to publishers are literally shoorting themselves in the foot. Their idea of a solution is to speed it up even more. It doesn’t work. Book shops are going out of business fast.

    Amazon keeps your book “on the shelf” for as long as you want it there. You’ll have to promote it yourself, but hey, you have a spot right here and a following already. I think you’ll do all right.

    It might feel a little daunting to self-publish first time through, but it isn’t that hard, and you don’t come across as a guy who avoids a challenge. It also leaves you totally in charge and you can change things as you want to, when you want to.

    Cheers. :)

  31. Mr Lynn says:

    I’m glad to see a discussion of book publishing, and the nascent revolution in the electronic modes. My impression is that in books, as in the record industry, the majors are still relying on the star system: take a fair number of titles you know won’t sell for beans, and hope that one or two of them catch fire and strike it big. That’s really all it takes to make money, and I expect that the real action is still there, not in what used to be called ‘vanity’ publishing, electronic or not.

    I’m pretty sure that Willis’s engaging prose, plus his growing celebrity on this website, would be enough to catch the eye of an acquisitions editor, and a savvy literary agent could spark that interest. You need someone with the right contacts. Gad, some of the tales Willis tells could make the core of movie scripts, too. How about a comedy based on the exploits of Old Bill?

    I agree with Jesse G. (March 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm) that a copyright notice should be de rigueur on every post, not withstanding the current rules of ownership. Indeed, I’d follow the photographers and put a digital watermark on every post, if it were feasible (and not ignorable by simply copying text). But I tend to be paranoid about stuff like that.

    /Mr Lynn

  32. H.R. says:

    Willis; catching tuna the way you describe is every fisherman’s dream so long as the the dream only lasts for 30 minutes or so.

    I saw tuna caught with a pole and barbless hook only once and that was via a black and white film on B&W TV back in the 60’s. They didn’t go into the method – chum and a jig – so you filled in a detail that I’d wondered about for decades. Thank you sir!

  33. Willis Eschenbach says:

    My thanks to all for your suggestions. I’ll go back and add copyright notices to all of it, it’s inherent in the work but it never hurts to assert it. And I will follow up on Amazon, eBooks, Kindle, Paypal, and all the good ideas listed above. I have no idea how this will all play out, which of course is the charm of life; we don’t know what’s hiding behind the next bush.

    Regards,

    w.

  34. Willis Eschenbach says:

    H.R. says:
    March 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Willis; catching tuna the way you describe is every fisherman’s dream so long as the the dream only lasts for 30 minutes or so.

    I saw tuna caught with a pole and barbless hook only once and that was via a black and white film on B&W TV back in the 60′s. They didn’t go into the method – chum and a jig – so you filled in a detail that I’d wondered about for decades. Thank you sir!

    My thanks to you for the support, H.R. My life has been my fisherman’s dream … and it’s still happening. I’m planning to rig my kayak for fishing this summer and go see what Tomales Bay has to offer … my bozo plan is to pound nails during the week, go kayak fishing with my ex-fiancee on the weekends, write down my crazy life in between, continue my scientific research, get outside in the weather … what’s not to like?

    Most fishermen I know wouldn’t last thirty minutes flipping thirty pound (14 kg) albacore over their heads, it’s damn hard work. I’ve done that all my life, and I can still do it today. At my advanced stage of youth, I know that if I slow down I’ll stop … as a young man I used to fish with a whipcord-tough seventy year old Italian who could work us young studs into the deck. That’s my direction.

    w.

  35. Phil. says:

    I did a similar gig with some local fishermen in the Canary Islands. We fished for Skipjack tuna (a bit smaller than your albacore). We went out and first netted some live bait which we put in the live well then headed off to the pass between the islands (open boat). The gunwales had a pipe along it with holes every 6″ we the started drifting and pumped water through the pipe which sprinkled water on the surface, apparently simulating baitfish and threw some baitfish onto the surface. Pretty soon we had a school of skipjack boiling on the surface. Then with a pole like you described with a single hook which we put a live bait on and then jiggled it on the surface. The results were pretty much as you described, I fished one rod and the skipper another and we each had a crew man who unhooked the fish and baited the hooks for us. Great fun but very tiring!

  36. markx says:

    Mr Lynn says: March 3, 2013 at 8:41 am

    “…Willis’s tentative book title, “Retire Early . . .and Often” …”

    Absolutely loved a phrase Willis coined (or not) which I saw in an earlier story:

    Something along the lines of ” Through a series of mistakes, misunderstandings and coincidences …”

    I reckon it’d be an eye catching title.

    A Series of Mistakes, Misunderstandings and Coincidences -A Random Life
    ( …?…or -An Accidental Life? …other….)

  37. markx says:

    A Series of Mistakes, Misunderstandings and Coincidences -A Perfect Life
    ( ? …or other….)

  38. John Andrews says:

    Good story W. That was the way the Portuguese fishermen in San Diego did it when I was a kid.

  39. SAMURAI says:

    Willis-san:

    Here’s a story I think you’ll enjoy. A few years ago, just one 350kg tuna sold for a record… $360,000…

    This Bluefin tuna was caught off Hokkaido and auctioned during the first trading day of the year at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

    These huge fish are caught by one-man fishing boats using hand lines. When the big tuna gets to within 5~10 meters or the boat, the fishermen slips a donut shaped electrode down the taught line and electrocutes the fish. The fisherman needs to time the electrocution perfectly when it first touches the fish’s head, because if just the body is shocked, the tuna gets REALLY PISSED OFF!! and the fish is lost.

  40. Mr Lynn says:

    Gary Hladik says:
    March 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks, Gary, for that period documentary on tuna fishing and canning. From Willis’s account, it doesn’t sound like much has changed at sea. I wonder if the cannery is more automated than it was then.

    I think I’ll send that, along with a link to “The Native Sun” to my kids, who can in turn educate their kids (not yet of reading age, but love watching videos). Hard to understand the sourpusses who complain about Willis’s tales; I have learned much from every one.

    I still don’t understand how you flip the tuna off the barbless hook in mid-air, but I guess it is all in the wrist, like making a baseball curve.

    /Mr Lynn

  41. Gary says:

    Willis, the deal these days is self-publishing. Agents won’t touch anything that isn’t a sure-sell and then charge you too much for their minimal services. You have several of the main ingredients needed for success: interesting stories, a platform, and a following. All you need is the knowledge of how to self-publish which can be picked up from blogs devoted to the topic. Unfortunately, it’s also the most tedious part of the whole thing, but then you seem to like that sort of work. One other thing you need is a grammar cop/proofreader for the occasional slip and typo.

  42. H.R. says:

    @Gary Hladik
    March 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Re: B&W clip

    Hey! Neat! I think your clip was in queue and not visible when I posted.

    That looks like the clip I recall seeing except I only saw the fishing portion and a bit more. I’m guessing my older brothers hollered to me “You gotta see this!” when the fishing was showing because I still distinctly remember wondering how they caught the fish on what I thought were bare hooks. The clip showed them tying on the jigs and I know I didn’t see that part, which is what Willis related in his post. I had (have) the attention span of a gnat and I remember the beginning of the cannery part (boring to a little kid), so I must of wandered off because the end of that clip doesn’t ring a bell.

    Thanks again.

  43. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Mr Lynn says:
    March 4, 2013 at 5:22 am

    … I still don’t understand how you flip the tuna off the barbless hook in mid-air, but I guess it is all in the wrist, like making a baseball curve.

    /Mr Lynn

    The hook is thick, nearly as thick as a pencil, and the end is barbless, just tapered like the sharpened end of a pencil. If you allow even the slightest slack they’ll get off, so you just shake the rod as they fly over your head, and the hook comes right out.

    w.

  44. Phil. says:

    SAMURAI says:
    March 4, 2013 at 2:07 am
    Willis-san:

    Here’s a story I think you’ll enjoy. A few years ago, just one 350kg tuna sold for a record… $360,000…

    This Bluefin tuna was caught off Hokkaido and auctioned during the first trading day of the year at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

    This was surpassed this new year by one selling for $1.8 million! I recall selling one about the same size to the Japanese agent at the dock for a few thousand!

  45. Carl Brannen says:

    I was working at a company assembling house sized machinery (ovens in this case) and one of the employees was an ironworker. He and I had to drive a utility truck (not the type that needs a CDL) up from Arizona to the Seattle area. He spent hours telling me stories about construction jobs he’d worked on. Got into California and he took a wrong turn towards San Francisco while I was sleeping. When I realized we were driving towards the Golden Gate, I decided to go that way because it would be a big thrill.

  46. Perry says:

    Willis,

    Your tales of derring do are truly delightful. Being intrigued by the description of the barbless hook I googled for details and happened upon this gem.

    Have times improved?

    http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2011/04/hooks_protect_blufin_tuna_in_gulf_of_mexico.htm

  47. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Perry says:
    March 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Willis,

    Your tales of derring do are truly delightful. Being intrigued by the description of the barbless hook I googled for details and happened upon this gem.

    Your video was great, brought back memories of standing on the stage with with boat rolling … priceless.

    Glad to hear about the “weak hooks” in your linked article. Our habit of overfishing the key predators is not good for the ocean, and bycatch of bid predators when they are not targeted is just a crime in my book.

    Regards,

    w.

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