SI Vault
Gerald Holland
September 03, 1956
After a 2,000-mile quest the investigator finally comes to grips with the truth—and a striper
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September 03, 1956

The Striped Bass: A Detective Story

After a 2,000-mile quest the investigator finally comes to grips with the truth—and a striper

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"Not unless you're very small-and crafty," said Captain Scholz. "We're not going out far. Just along the shore. This is good weather for us. We've got a better chance in water that's just a little rough."

There were two other fishermen making the trip. One was an associate of the investigator, Arthur Brawley of Riverdale, N.Y. The other was an air-conditioning salesman named Johnny whose last name has been lost among the investigator's notes.

Captain Scholz went to the flying bridge and took the Lillian S. II out of the harbor as his mate rigged up the lines with golden nylon tassles known as the Jigit-Eel. For good measure the mate added a long strip of pork rind.

About 45 minutes out from shore Captain Scholz throttled her down for trolling. The weather was getting worse, the fog thicker. The Lillian S. II began to rock and roll and pitch and heave. Captain Scholz on the bridge kept peering this way and that through the mist. Below, the mate smiled and said, "It is a little choppy today."

The mate passed out the rods and instructed the three fishermen to "jig it," that is, to keep jerking the rod back and forth. This was intended to give any passing stripers the impression that a wounded eel was lurching by.

The weather got no better. The mate, looking around, peered sharply at the investigator, desperately jigging away, then went below and came back with a paper cup of water and two yellow pills.

"You look a little green," he said. "Take these. Some people say it's too late once you're out on the water, but I don't believe that."

The mate should have believed those people.

For two solid hours the three fishermen sat jigging. The investigator absented himself briefly, then returned to the task greener than before. Shifting his rod from one hand to the other, he jigged and he jigged and he thought back over the investigation. It occurred to him now that perhaps the soundest theory he had heard had been uttered by the fat man in the Snack Bar. There was no striper. It was a myth and a hoax, a fake and a fraud.

The sea was rougher than ever. Looking over the side, the investigator saw an ugly rock and he thought of Otto Scheer. He made a vow that if ever, by some remote chance, he were to set foot again on dry land, he would forswear forever such childish enthusiasms as this one and devote his leisure to some worthwhile project, say a study of the Great Books or bowling.

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