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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The moment came, the striper was alongside. The investigator rose a little in his chair and looked squarely into his eyes. The striper eyed him back with an unforgettable look. There was no reproach in it. It seemed to say: "I have lived a long time and I have won more battles than I have lost. Better this than the sharks."

The gaff took him and he was boated. He weighed 47 pounds and surely was more than 20 years old.

Later, in the cocktail lounge of Ruschmeyer's Lake View Inn, Captain Scholz and the fishermen toasted the striper.

The striper himself could not be brought home by train, and so it was decided that his epitaph should be written on Ruschmeyer's menu: "Fresh-caught Montauk Striped Bass. Choice of two vegetables." Better that than the sharks.

Captain Scholz sipped his Scotch and soda. He looked up at a big striper mounted on the wall of the cocktail lounge and then he said firmly:

"I love that fish. And I'll tell you what he is. He's just a big, good-natured slob. He doesn't bother anybody, he just goes his own way and tries to keep out of trouble. He's no killer like the blue is. He's just a big, good-natured slob and what we should do is hook him, bring him up to the boat, pet him and let him go."

He pointed to the attache case lying at the investigator's feet. It was a sorry-looking bag, bulging with notes, wilted from the salt spray of the sea.

"What," said Captain Scholz, "will be the conclusion of your investigation?"

The investigator drained his glass of bouillon on the rocks, a mark of his new sophistication and a concession to his still queasy state of health. He signaled for a refill.

"Captain," he said evenly, "my conclusion will be that the striped bass is not to be investigated at all. He is to be experienced. No man can tell another what catching a striper is like."

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