The frenzy with
which the fish were foraging was imparted to us. Add to this the pounding surf,
the wind, the screaming birds, and now the sun rising red and swollen, possibly
portending an early end to the fishes' feeding and to our sport. Meanwhile, on
every other cast you hooked one. You grew impatient with the time it took to
subdue and land it before you could catch another. Down the line one man was
setting his hook, another pumping his bent rod, another beaching a fish,
another clubbing one. Seeking to cast farther, I stood in the surf now, wet to
my chin. All caution was thrown to that wild wind. The teeming ocean was
casting up its bounty to us. It was shortly to prove too much of a good
I was trying to
untangle a frantic tern I had caught on the wing. Beside me, Al was fighting a
fish. I heard a twang, like the crack of a rifle, audible above the wind. When
I had freed the bird I turned and found Al reeling in a slack line. It had
broken and he had lost his fish and with it his lure and wire leader. A moment
later the same thing happened to another fisherman. On my next cast it happened
We tied on longer
leaders. When, even with these, we lost lures, we reasoned that our lines had
been frayed on submerged rocks.
Our school offish
had multiplied and, their numbers goading them to competition among themselves
for the baitfish, they were feeding more voraciously than ever. Baitfish
exploded everywhere from the water. The birds collided with one another in
falling upon them.
Now on every cast
you hooked a fish, only to lose it. I watched one man alone lose what he told
me were 22 plugs, costing $3 to $4 apiece. Such was the spell of the place,
with the waves and the wind and the clamorous birds and the frenzied fish and
the very frustration of it goading you on. The more of them you lost the more
determined you were to land this one. And you would think you were going to.
You would regain line, feel the fish finally tire, its will and its resistance
weaken, walk it down the beach to somewhat quieter water. Then it was gone like
all the others, taking with it yet another of your lures. Al had been cleaned
out, was using mine and losing them.
mystified by what was happening to us. It was the man at the body shop who
later enlightened us. A native Nantucketer and a fisherman himself, he
explained that our trouble had been simply too many fish. When a bluefish, one
of a large school such as we had run into, is hooked, he told us, the others
bite the line, the swivels, even bits of weed caught on the line, mistaking the
motion these make in the water for that of a baitfish.
By 10 o'clock the
other fishermen, out of lures, or out of patience, or both, had departed,
leaving the beach to us. Al had gone through his half of my lures; finally I
lost my last one. We exhumed our fish, and I began to recover from the spell I
had been under.
I was not sorry
to quit, though I had had to be forced to do it. Only then did I realize how
tired I was—contented but tired, and sore all over—and I had yet to fillet and
freeze my share of all those fish as soon as I got them home.
And before I
could do that, as I remembered only now, I had to make the return trip over