|Learning to Love the Toad Fish
Living aboard a cruising sailboat generally means that, at least periodically, you get to catch your own dinner.
Unfortunately, neither Frank nor Suzanne have ever been big "fishing people." Frank has fished off and on over the
past forty years but has never been particularly successful - he is one of those people who is very good at fishing but
not good at catching. Suzanne had never, prior to this trip, been fishing.
However, during the Norfolk In-The-Water Boat Show, Suzanne and Frank ran into Joey and Ayn Buettner, owners of a
30 foot sportfisher named Entropy. Joey and Ayn had been out to Rockhopper once before and so the meeting at
Norfolk was a bit of catching up. Frank and Suzanne were working the Mariners' School booth and Joey and Ayn
were manning a booth to get charter clients for the Chesapeake and Costa Rica.
Suzanne went to look over Entropy's booth and came back seriously excited. She had watched Joey's demo DVD
and wanted to give big boat fishing a try for her birthday (yes, ladies and gentlemen, Suzanne wanted to go fishing for
her birthday present - one more reason why the lady is a keeper!!). So we talked it over with Joey, worked out the
details and decided to go night fishing for stripers in the Bay.
We boarded Entropy about 1515 on Saturday
afternoon, having driven down to meet Joey and
Ayn on board. The plan was to leave from Crown
Pointe Marina, at the mouth of the York River and
run over to the Chespeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel,
where Joey had been getting consistent reports
of night time feedings and had had luck in the
past. Joey figured we'd get there a little before
sundown, get anchored in a good spot and be
ready by night fall.
Suzanne had one goal in mind - she wanted to
catch a fish as big as her leg. Frank had one
goal in mind - he wanted to make sure he did not
embarrass himself by chumming the ocean. The
only time Frank has ever been seriously sea-sick
was on a head boat out of Rudee Inlet about ten
years ago. He was very unsure of the idea of
being rocked at anchor for six or seven hours,
especially with predicted winds and seas.
Entropy left the dock at about four and we headed
out. The wind was coming in from behind our
starboard quarter as we ran across the bay, but it
was nowhere near as "sporty" as we had feared
and the run was very pleasant. Ayn and Frank sat
in the cockpit and watched the other vessels
head in, while Suzanne sat on the flybridge with
Joey and peppered him with periodic questions.
As we approached the bridge-tunnel, Suzanne
turned in her seat and yelled down "we see fish!"
on the fish finder.
We first tried to anchor on the Bay
side of the Bridge-Tunnel Island
Number Four but the seas and wind
were still both coming out of the
around something fierce. Joey
decided that discretion was the
better part of fishing and we slipped
around to the ocean side of the
island, where the island broke the
force of the current and wind and
everything smoothed out. Frank
had broken out the ginger snaps
and Motion-Eaze, but neither were
really needed. The Motion-Eaze, a
magic potion of pot-pourri dabbed
behind each ear didn't necessarily
fix any sea sickness, but it did make the diesel exhaust a lot
easier to take for all on board. Hey, whatever works, right?
ready for the evening. They had scored some spot and
some eels and we would be fishing live bait to start out.
Joey got three lines rigged and we started working the rocks
and drop-offs to see what was interesting. Early on, we got
some action on the island side of the boat, but we weren't
able to boat anything - they must have been huge, because
they kept getting away!
It was a little after
sundown when Suzanne
got her first real hit. Ayn
helped Suzanne set the
hook and the fish began
giving her a fight, taking
out line and making
Suzanne fight it back in.
As the annals of sport
fishing go, it wasn't up
there with fighting a five
hundred pound marlin, but
for a first time out, it was
pretty exciting. It got even
more exciting when
Suzanne finally got her
fishy friend up near the
boat and Joey announced
that she had caught a
Frank had made a comment earlier
about wishing we had had a chance
to bring the DVD Jaws with us and
apparently Neptune had decided to
provide the real thing.
Suzanne had gotten her wish for a
"fish as big as her leg" fulfilled in a
way she had not ever anticipated.
We boated the young sand shark,
Joey removed the hook and the
shark was ready for his photo op.
Suzanne, you will notice, was
careful to keep fingers and other
delectable body parts away from
Sandy, although she did play dentist
and take a look in his mouth (look,
Ma, no cavities!!). Then, it was
back into the bay with him.
Frank refused to be out done and
soon had a bite on his line. In
Frank's case, however, there was
no fight. Whatever was on his line
headed for the bottom and tried to
keep going. Once it came to the
surface, Frank realized why - he
had caught the nautical equivalent
of a 50's horror movie creature!
It was the truly ugly, venomous Toad
Fish! For those of you familiar with
the Toad Fish, this one was
apparently a standard sized,
standard ugly Toadie.
For those of you unfamilar with the Toad Fish, try to keep it that way - they are UGLY - and not too bright apparently.
This one for example, was back in the boat about ten minutes later, having not learned his lesson about eating slow
From that point on, we pretty much just fed the sharks, tossing whole bait fish in and getting heads and tails back.
The sharks were actually feeling the fish up to the point of the hook and biting just behind that. After a couple of
hours of feeling a snap and a wiggle, only to pull in the remains of the bait, we decided we'd had enough fun for the
evening and headed back in.
So, will we go out again? Probably, although not tomorrow - this fishing stuff is hard work. In fact, Suzanne and
Frank crawled into Entropy's vee-berth and slept all the way back to the dock!